April 2008

Mauer back in the lineup again; Baker, Everett pass tests

Wednesday, April 30th, 2008

Joe Mauer is catching a day game after a night game, as Twins manager Ron Gardenhire seems to be taking advantage of the team’s two off days this week to go with the same lineup as Tuesday for today’s series finale against the White Sox.

Update: Adam Everett (strained right shoulder) will be activated from the disabled list in time for Friday’s game after a successful fielding session this morning. Everett said his shoulder felt the best it’s felt in a long time, and I saw him make several strong throws across the diamond.

The Twins will likely announce the roster move after the game. The guess here is that Brian Buscher will be sent back to Class AAA Rochester to make room for Everett.

Scott Baker felt good in a bullpen session this morning, so he is on track to make Saturday’s start against the Tigers.

Francisco Liriano is pitching for Rochester as I write this. Track his progress here.

Postgame update: The Twins did indeed activate Everett and send Buscher to Rochester.

White Sox (14-12)

1. Nick Swisher, 1B

2. Orlando Cabrera, SS

3. Jim Thome, DH

4. Jermaine Dye, RF

5. Carlos Quentin, LF

6. Joe Crede, 3B

7. Brian Anderson, CF

8. Juan Uribe, 2B

9. Toby Hall, C

Starting pitcher: RH Nick Masset

Twins (12-14)

1. Carlos Gomez, CF

2. Brendan Harris, 2B

3. Joe Mauer, C

4. Justin Morneau, 1B

5. Michael Cuddyer, RF

6. Jason Kubel, DH

7. Delmon Young, LF

8. Mike Lamb, 3B

9. Nick Punto, SS

Starting pitcher: RH Nick Blackburn

Metrodome. First pitch: 12:10 p.m.

Gomez returns to lineup for Twins

Tuesday, April 29th, 2008

Carlos Gomez is back in the lineup for the Twins, as they get set to face Gavin Floyd and the White Sox tonight. Gomez had been out since Friday with a sore calf.

Update: Manager Ron Gardenhire said Adam Everett (strained right shoulder) could be activated from the DL in time for Friday’s game. Everett is eligible to come off the DL on Wednesday, but the team wants to see him go through another on-field workout on Wednesday.

Scott Baker (strained groin muscle) will test the injury in a bullpen session Wednesday morning. Gardenhire said if Baker feels even the slightest hint of pain, he will head to the DL.

“We’re going to be very careful with this thing,” Gardenhire said. “He’s going to have to have no issues for us to put him back out there. The plan is to have him throw Saturday [against Detroit], but that could change tomorrow with his bullpen session.”

White Sox (14-10)

1. Nick Swisher, CF

2. Orlando Cabrera, SS

3. Jim Thome, DH

4. Paul Konerko, 1B

5. Jermaine Dye, RF

6. A.J. Pierzynski, C

7. Carlos Quentin, LF

8. Joe Crede, 3B

9. Juan Uribe, 2B

Starting pitcher: RH Gavin Gloyd

Twins (11-14)

1. Carlos Gomez, CF

2. Brendan Harris, 2B

3. Joe Mauer, C

4. Justin Morneau, 1B

5. Michael Cuddyer, RF

6. Jason Kubel, DH

7. Delmon Young, LF

8. Mike Lamb, 3B

9. Nick Punto, SS

Starting pitcher: RH Boof Bonser

Metrodome. First pitch: 7:10 p.m.

White Sox frustrated heading into series at the Dome

Tuesday, April 29th, 2008

Chicago White Sox manager Ozzie Guillen was not happy after his team’s effort Monday, in a 3-3 game against Baltimore suspended after the 11th inning because of rain.

“We stunk,” Guillen told reporters. “I’m tired to see the effort like that.”

I watched the game, looking to update the numbers in this story, as the White Sox and Twins begin a two-game series at the Metrodome tonight.

White Sox (14-10, stats below count suspended game, too)

Batting average: .242 (ranked last of 14 teams in AL)

Runs per game: 5.2 (1st)

Walks: 109 (Tied for 3rd)

On-base percentage: .338 (7th)

Home runs: 34 (1st)

Twins (11-14)

Batting average: .261 (5th in AL)

Runs per game: 3.8 (13th)

Walks: 51 (Last)

On-base percentage: .303 (Last)

Home runs: 13 (13th)

Tonight, the Twins face upstart White Sox RHP Gavin Floyd (2-0, 2.84 ERA). I spoke to a major league scout yesterday described the way Floyd is coming into his own. His best pitch always has been a curve ball. The difference this year, is he’s been better at getting into good counts with his fastball, allowing him to use the curve as an out pitch. (Are you listening Francisco Liriano?)

Floyd went 0-2 with a 7.94 ERA in two starts against the Twins last year. Michael Cuddyer is 2-for-5 with one home run off him, and as La Velle mentioned in his preview box, Justin Morneau took him deep in his first two at-bats on July 6.

Twins waiting for Young’s free-swinging style to click

Monday, April 28th, 2008

In case you missed this, ESPN.com’s Jayson Stark weighed in last week on Delmon Young’s swing-happy start with the Twins:

The Young and the Take-Less Dept.: Speaking of which, it’s no CIA secret that Delmon Young likes to takes his hacks. According to Bill James Online, in fact, he already has chased 50 pitches outside the strike zone this season — way more than Albert Pujols (19) and Chipper Jones (18) combined.

But Young’s new manager in Minnesota, Ron Gardenhire, told Rumblings this spring that the Twins made a conscious decision not to overemphasize plate discipline as they let Young evolve as a hitter.

“I watched Torii Hunter for like 10 years,” Gardenhire said. “You think Torii hasn’t swung? You know what? There’s nothing wrong with swinging. That’s why they give you a bat. This kid’s 22 years old. He’s got everything ahead of him. So let it fly. Learn as you go. He’ll learn the strike zone.

“To start telling a guy to just ‘take, take, take,’ sometimes that’s just not human nature. You don’t get to the big leagues, and you don’t become a big league player, by ‘take, take, take’ and get walks. Some people are paid to drive in runs. You think David Ortiz goes up there to walk? He’s paid to drive in runs. He walks because we walk him. On purpose. And that’s what’s going to happen to Delmon as he goes along, too. Right now, they know he’s going to chase a little bit, but that’s OK. I’ll take my chances with him letting it fly.”

I don’t have the subscription to BillJamesOnline.com, for the updated stat on out-of-strike zone swings. Young went 8-for-25 on the Twins’ six-game road trip, leaving him at .257/.287/.309 with no home runs and eight RBI.

Liriano less of a concern for Twins than their sputtering offense

Friday, April 25th, 2008

Star Tribune baseball editor Dennis Brackin greeted me yesterday by saying, “So, who are you trying to send to the minors today?”

A few minutes later, a slew of us tracking the Twins on the Internet were cracking up when Carlos Gomez went deep to start the game. Put that in your Around the Majors pipe and smoke it!

Looks like a day off did the young man some good. Let’s see how that home run swing and subsequent bunt single translate into his attempts to get on base this weekend in Texas.

But then … yes, about The Franchise?

The season outlook darkened considerably for the Twins, when Francisco Liriano fell apart. Some in the office were in full doom-and-gloom mode. The concerns I kept hearing were pitching, pitching, pitching.

Here’s what I say: Pitching isn’t this team’s main concern. It’s still the offense.

Liriano might look lost, but the Twins have enough depth to keep their starting pitching engine churning. Kevin Slowey is on the mend. Brian Duensing (2-3, 2.40 ERA) and Kevin Mulvey (2-1, 1.16) are knocking on the door at Class AAA Rochester.

Nick Blackburn and Scott Baker have settled in nicely. Boof Bonser and Livan Hernandez — a combined 62 innings pitched and 7-for-10 in quality starts — have been OK.

Take away Liriano’s three games, and Twins starters have combined to go 7-6 with a 3.64 ERA. That ERA would rank third among American League starting staffs.

Let’s face it, the Twins rushed Liriano. They had reports that he wasn’t ready following his April 8 start for Rochester and called him up anyway. It was a reasonable gamble, considering Liriano’s pre-surgery talent, but it backfired.

Now, assuming Liriano is headed back to the minors, they must keep him focused. He must keep himself focused no matter the weather conditions or defense behind him. Forget the slider. Forget the change-up. He has to command the fastball, or none of it matters.

Meanwhile, the Twins get Michael Cuddyer back from the DL tonight. This is no small thing. He is their No. 3 hitter. He had a great spring batting between Joe Mauer and Justin Morneau.

After a shaky first series against the Angels, Cuddyer was 2-for-2 against Kansas City and looked like a machine on the basepaths that night before he dislocated his right index finger.

It might take Cuddyer a while to regain his timing, but his mere presence should make the lineup better.

Listen, the offense has to get better. The Twins are averaging 3.6 runs per game, second worst in the league. If that doesn’t improve, the rest is irrelevant. You could turn back time to 2006, bring back Johan and the rookie Liriano, and the Twins would be in a heap of trouble with run production like that.