By Joe Christensen
La Velle weighed in with an opinion about the batting order a few weeks back, and Ron Gardenhire really let him have it. “Nice blog,” Gardy kept saying, and while it was all in good fun, it was a reminder that beat writers — those of us who face these guys every day — walk a fine line when stating our opinions. La Velle probably is chuckling as he reads this, knowing I’m about to weigh in on the batting order, sitting 1,928 miles away (according to Mapquest) from the visiting manager’s office at Angels Stadium.
When the Twins finished sweeping the White Sox last week, I talked to Nick Punto, who had drawn three walks in the series finale, and he seemed to be distancing himself from his April struggles. I don’t have the data to prove this, but it seems as Punto has gone, so have the Twins. Right now, he is in a 2-for-21 slump.
With Joe Mauer targeting Friday for his return from the DL – assuming all goes well in Fort Myers – I think the Twins need to use it as a new beginning for the lineup. Mauer should move to the No. 2 spot, with Punto moving to the No. 9 spot.
The Twins have been outscored 46-21 in the first inning. That means, opponents are consistently getting the psychological edge that comes from playing with the lead. One remedy could be fixing the lineup so that a pitcher has to face the pesky Luis Castillo followed by Mauer, the on-base machine, and then immediately into this lineup’s teeth of Cuddyer, Morneau and Hunter.
With Kubel heating up, that’s a nice development for the No. 6 spot. Then, from 7-9, it’ll be up to those guys – especially Bartlett and Punto — to get on base, and keep churning the lineup over to the stalwarts at the top.
Punto is batting .237 with a .333 on-base percentage in the No. 2 spot. From the No. 9 spot, he is batting .280 (7-for-25) with a .419 OBP. Put it this way: If the lineup shakeup comes Friday, I won’t be surprised. I know the Twins have talked about it internally, and by now, we all can see that it’s time.