May 2008

Clean sweep: The power of the new beards

Thursday, May 29th, 2008

KANSAS CITY, MO. — With the Royals riding an 11-game losing streak, it was tough to tell if they were just plain terrible or if Kevin Slowey really was that good in Thursday’s 5-1 victory at Kauffman Stadium.

Either way, the Twins will take it.

Manager Ron Gardenhire said Slowey was the story but was quick to compliment Carlos Gomez and Alexi Casilla, who each reached base four times, atop the lineup.

“When they start getting on, it’s entertaining out there,” Gardenhire said. “You never know when they’re going to run. A couple of ill-advised [stolen base attempts by Gomez]. But that’s part of the game, too. Every once in a while you scratch your head a little bit, but it’s fun to watch them because they both come to play, and they’re playing very well for us right now.”

Lucky beards?

Joe Mauer and Michael Cuddyer had the whiskers growing pretty long tonight, so I had to ask them, “Playoff beards?”

“I think I forgot my razor,” Mauer said. “Just trying to clean it up a little bit. It’s getting out of hand.”

Then Cuddyer came clean. They’re not playoff beards, like the ones in the NHL. They’re not even lucky beards being grown since the 19-3 loss Saturday. (They’ve won four games since that debacle.)

“No, they’re homer-less beards,” Cuddy said.

In other words, they’re not shaving until they hit their next home runs. Cuddyer has one on the season and Mauer none. Mauer sure came close Thursday, hitting a ball off the center-field wall in the fifth inning.

Cuddyer, who singled home the Twins’ first run for his 19th RBI in 36 games, noted how the homer-less beard is a good incentive. His wife, Claudia, is not a big fan of the beard.

Delmon speaks

Delmon Young welcomed reporters for an interview after the game, saying he didn’t want to talk before the game because his streak was technically still alive.

Last year, he came off the bench three times for Tampa Bay, finishing with 162 games played.

“I’ll take a day off any time,” he said.

He even poked fun at himself.

“I’ve been having days off, except my stats keep going down,” he said. “This one, stays even.”

Asked if Tuesday’s inside-the-park play was on his mind when he missed Alex Gordon’s fly ball Wednesday, he said, “I just flat-out missed that ball. The night before doesn’t really bother me after about 30 seconds go by.”

Korecky optioned

The Twins optioned Bobby Korecky to Class AAA Rochester after the game, making room on the roster for lefthanded reliever Craig Breslow, who will be in uniform for Friday’s game against the Yankees.

Young gets a day off

Thursday, May 29th, 2008

KANSAS CITY, MO. — Delmon Young is not in the starting lineup for the Twins tonight.

His streak of 217 consecutive games played, the longest active streak in the majors, could come to an end, unless he is used off the bench.

Meanwhile, the Royals have optioned Billy Butler back to Class AAA Omaha.

Updates to come…

Update (6:20 p.m.): Manager Ron Gardenhire indicated Young’s break might last longer than one day.

“The other guy [Craig Monroe] did pretty good, so we’ll see,” Gardenhire said. “We’ll see what Monroe can do and go from there. We’ll give [Jason] Kubel a chance to go out in the outfield, once or twice, and we’ll see whatever happens here, I don’t know. Today? Tomorrow? I don’t know. We’ll see how he reacts today and go from there. See how his reaction is.”

Young, who has yet to hit a home run for the Twins, is in a 1-for-23 skid at the plate that has dropped his average from .286 to .258. Defensively, he had misplays in each of the past two games.

“There comes a time when you have to say he might need a little bit of a mental break. He’s fighting it pretty hard defensively. So, give the other guy a chance to see if he can get a swing out there. Watch a game sometimes. It helps every once in a while.”

Young was unavailable for pregame interviews, declining two requests.

Twins (27-25)

1. Carlos Gomez, CF

2. Alexi Casilla, 2B

3. Joe Mauer, C

4. Justin Morneau, 1B

5. Michael Cuddyer, RF

6. Jason Kubel, LF

7. Craig Monroe, DH

8. Mike Lamb, 3B

9. Brendan Harris, SS

Starting pitcher: RH Kevin Slowey

Royals (21-32)

1. David DeJesus, LF

2. Joey Gathright, CF

3. Alex Gordon, 3B

4. Jose Guillen, DH

5. Miguel Olivo, C

6. Mark Teahen, RF

7. Alberto Callaspo, 2B

8. Ross Gload, 1B

9. Mike Aviles, SS

Starting pitcher: RH Luke Hochevar.

Kauffman Stadium. First pitch: 7:05 p.m.

Twins claim Breslow to bolster lefthanded relief

Thursday, May 29th, 2008

KANSAS CITY, MO. — The Twins have claimed lefthanded pitcher Craig Breslow off waivers from the Cleveland Indians, and he will join his new team in time for Friday’s game against the Yankees, the Twins announced today.

Breslow was 0-0 with a 3.24 ERA in seven appearances for Cleveland this season. He allowed three earned runs, 10 hits and had five walks and seven strikeouts in 8 1/3 innings.

This will give the Twins two lefthanded relievers in the bullpen, allowing them to protect lefty Dennys Reyes from getting overused.

To make room on the 40-man roster, the Twins transferred Pat Neshek (strained elbow) to the 60-day disabled list. They need to make another roster move to make room on the 25-man roster, which will likely involve sending a reliever back to Class AAA Rochester.

‘A tale of two games’

Thursday, May 29th, 2008

KANSAS CITY, MO. — My game story (revised three times) was all about the big comeback, and I touched some more on Delmon Young’s tough week in the notebook.

Twins manager Ron Gardenhire called this one, “A tale of two games.”

He said he wondered how he was going to explain all his team’s defensive atrocities (OK, that’s my word).  Notably:

(*) Mike Lamb played Billy Butler’s chopper into a base hit to start the fourth inning. Lamb was too deliberate there and seemed to get his feet tangled before making a poor throw.

(*) Delmon Young was charged with his first of two errors with the throw home on David DeJesus’ single. Lamb was the cutoff man, and Gardenhire thought Lamb should have grabbed it.

(*) No excuse for Young missing Alex Gordon’s fly ball that inning, however.

Carryover from a tough week?

“I don’t even know how to answer that question,” Gardenhire said. “He just missed a fly ball. I don’t know what carryover is. This is the big leagues.”

OK, about that comeback

Gardenhire said he was really pleased with the at-bats in the ninth. The hitters went to the plate and took a strike, except for Craig Monroe who missed a take sign and swung at a 3-0 pitch. Monroe fouled that one off and certainly made up for it two pitches later.

Asked if it was hard pulling hot-hitting Alexi Casilla for Monroe, Gardenhire said, “I knew Lexi’s going to give a good at-bat and take pitches and work the count. But you’re also looking for a bomb there, too.

“I mean, how many times are you going to get two-out base hits in a row? I know Lexi’s got two three-run homers or something like that, but I think Monroe is a little more accomplished hitter, and has a chance to hit a mistake if you get one up, and he did.”

Monroe was on the bench even though he has better numbers than anybody on the team against Zack Greinke (7-for-18 with two homers and five RBI).

“I told him you were probably supposed to play today anyway,” Gardenhire said. “That’s probably why he hit a home run. I think probably the game owed him that home run.”

Wednesday lineups: Twins/Royals

Wednesday, May 28th, 2008

KANSAS CITY, MO. — Delmon Young has played in 216 consecutive games, the longest streak in the majors, and he’s back in the Twins’ starting lineup tonight.

The Twins will face Royals righthander Zack Greinke. Craig Monroe is a career .389 (7-for-18) hitter against Greinke, but he’ll be on the bench. A look below at how the Twins’ starters have fared against Greinke, as Kansas City looks to snap its nine-game losing streak.

Updates to come…

Update (6 p.m.): Twins manager Ron Gardenhire sat Carlos Gomez for a game in April, after he had gone 0-for-5 with four strikeouts. On Tuesday, Delmon Young went 0-for-6 and had a costly defensive misplay. Asked if he considered a similar mental break for Young tonight, Gardenhire said:

“Gomez was a little different scenario. He was swinging like a madman and needed to shorten his swing up and we had a talk about shorting his swing up and putting the ball in play.

“Delmon — if it comes to that, it comes to that. I’m not afraid to do those things. If a guy needs a mental break, I give it to him, whether they want it or not.

“Tonight’s a night where Delmon needs to get back out there. He had a tough night last night, and you put confidence in him by putting him back out there. Let him try to get rid of that feeling. I don’t want him standing around with it for a couple days. Get back out there and play.”

In other words, it’s not a consecutive games streak issue. Gardenhire simply wants Young to get back on the horse.

Note: Nick Punto is ready to return from the DL. He went 2-for-4 with a walk in an extended spring training game today and felt no pain in his left hamstring. His wife, Natalie, is due to give birth on Friday, so Punto could be activated Saturday.

Twins (26-25)

1. Carlos Gomez, CF (Has never faced Greinke)

2. Alexi Casilla, 2B (2-for-7)

3. Joe Mauer, C (3-for-15)

4. Justin Morneau, 1B (4-for-17)

5. Michael Cuddyer, RF (4-for-11, 1 HR)

6. Jason Kubel, DH (1-for-6)

7. Delmon Young, LF (0-for-2)

8. Mike Lamb, 3B (Has never faced Greinke)

9. Brendan Harris, SS (Has never faced Greinke)

Starting pitcher: RH Livan Hernandez

Royals (21-31)

1. David DeJesus, RF (Has never faced Hernandez)

2. Joey Gathright, CF (1-for-6)

3. Alex Gordon, 3B (4-for-6)

4. Jose Guillen, LF (2-for-12)

5. Miguel Olivo, DH (4-for-14)

6. Mark Teahen, 1B (1-for-5)

7. Billy Butler, DH (1-for-6)

8. Alberto Callaspo, 2B (2-for-6)

9. Tony Pena, SS (Has never faced Hernandez)

Starting pitcher: RH Zack Greinke

Kauffman Stadium. First pitch: 7:05 p.m.