April 2009

Cuddyer warming up after a cold April start

Wednesday, April 29th, 2009

Michael Cuddyer was batting .210 with a .254 on-base percentage and a .306 slugging percentage after the Twins’ nightmarish doubleheader in Boston last week.

But he is slowly getting his swing going now. He went 1-for-2 with two walks and an RBI in the Twins’ 8-3 victory over Tampa Bay on Wednesday.

Granted there were bigger developments for the Twins on this night. Joe Mauer was in the building, getting ready for Friday’s return. Nick Blackburn had another strong start, despite feeling ill. Denard Span, Brendan Harris and Justin Morneau each had three hits apiece.

But this team needs to get Cuddyer going, too. He has drawn seven walks over the past four games, leaving him at .224/.318/.316. Of course, the Twins expect Cuddyer to be a run producer, and with seven RBI and one home run, it wound up being an unproductive April.

At least there were signs of promise at the end, and Cuddyer could be another hitter who benefits from Mauer’s return, especially if Mauer resumes getting on base at his .399 career clip.

“We always watch Cuddy, and when he’s starting to use the middle of the field and go the other way, that means he’s seeing the ball a little deeper in the zone,” Manager Ron Gardenhire said. “That means he’s staying back a little bit better. And that means he’s going to draw some walks, and that’s when he’s swinging the best.

“You can see he starts flying off the ball and starts trying to do a little too much and gets in trouble, but when he starts using the middle part of the field, that’s when he’s really going good, and he’s getting a lot better right now.”

Wednesday lineups: Twins/Rays

Wednesday, April 29th, 2009

Here are tonight’s starting lineups. (Updates to come.)

Update: Mike Redmond had an MRI exam on his right shoulder, and is available tonight only as an emergency catcher, Manager Ron Gardenhire said.

Redmond said he’s hoping he’s ready to play by Friday, but everyone knows that’s when Joe Mauer will be activated from the disabled list.

Redmond said his groin injury hasn’t bothered him since the first weekend of the season, but the shoulder has been affecting his throws all season.

Asked about the MRI, Redmond said, “They found a Bud Light in there.” No, he hasn’t lost his sense of humor. His last trip to the disabled list was in 1998, and he’s in no hurry to go back.

(*) Jesse Crain (right shoulder stiffness) felt good in a bullpen session, and could be activated from the DL by Tuesday. Crain will throw bullpen sessions Friday and Sunday before the Twins set a target date.

(*) Manager Ron Gardenhire said he’s leaning toward putting Mauer right back in the No. 3 spot, when he returns. The hope is that Alexi Casilla will rediscover his form from last year in the No. 2 spot.

(*) Mauer will be in the Metrodome tonight getting final clearance from team doctors to come off the DL. 

RAYS (8-13)

1. B.J. Upton, CF
2. Carl Crawford, LF
3. Evan Longoria, 3B
4. Carlos Pena, 1B
5. Pat Burrell, DH
6. Ben Zobrist, RF
7. Dioner Navarro, C
8. Akinori Iwamura, 2B
9. Jason Bartlett, SS

Starting pitcher: LH Scott Kazmir (3-1, 3.97 ERA)

TWINS (10-11)

1. Denard Span, CF
2. Brendan Harris, SS
3. Justin Morneau, 1B
4. Jason Kubel, DH
5. Joe Crede, 3B
6. Michael Cuddyer, RF
7. Delmon Young, LF
8. Jose Morales, C
9. Alexi Casilla, 2B

Starting pitcher: RH Nick Blackburn (1-1, 4.44 ERA)

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

Postgame: Two missed chances cost Twins in 4-2 loss

Sunday, April 26th, 2009

CLEVELAND — The Twins comeback fell short in a 4-2 loss to Cleveland today, and there were two big missed chances.

After scoring two runs in the seventh inning, the Twins had one out and the bases loaded, with Justin Morneau and Jason Kubel due up, when Indians manager Eric Wedge summoned lefthander Tony Sipp.

The Twins are used to seeing LHP Rafael Perez in those situations. Sipp was just called up from Class AAA Columbus on Wednesday. He struck out Morneau with a 94-mph fastball, and got Kubel to wave at an 85-mph slider.

“You tip your hat to the kid because he made good pitches, and also, he had the little advantage that we hadn’t seen him,” Twins manager Ron Gardenhire said.

Then in the ninth, the Twins put the first two runners aboard against Cleveland closer Kerry Wood. Gardenhire said he considered having Denard Span bunt the runners over but opted against it, and Span grounded into a 4-6-3 double play before Brendan Harris struck out, ending the game with Morneau in the on-deck circle.

“Span is a very good fastball hitter,” Gardenhire said. “So I probably could have bunted them over and taken a shot there — if we get it down with a guy throwing 94. You don’t know if that’s going to happen either.

“But taking a shot and at least getting Morneau to the plate, that’s the only disappointing part. But we elected to — or I elected to — let him swing there. But the young man out there, Mr. Wood, throws the ball very, very hard.”

Sunday lineups: Twins/Indians

Sunday, April 26th, 2009

CLEVELAND — Kevin Slowey really only had one at-bat where he was on the defensive Saturday night. Only once did he go to a 2-0 count, and that was against Shin-Soo Choo in the fourth inning.

Choo, who has become a quietly dangerous force for Cleveland, took a good rip at the 2-0 pitch, fouling it off, and then Slowey threw another ball, making it 3-1. Travis Hafner was on second base after hitting a double, and Slowey was pitching with a three-run lead.

So in this most dire count of the evening, with Choo ready to pounce, what did Slowey throw? A change-up. Choo took another good swing, but his timing was off just enough, as he flied out to deep right field.

I asked Slowey how common it is for him to throw 3-1 change-ups. He said it was the right pitch for “a power-hitting lefty who swings very well. It’s something I need to continue to work on, to throw a pitch like that in a count like that.”

Slowey doesn’t get much practice. This year, in 113 opposing plate appearances, Slowey has reached a 2-0 count just six times (5 percent). For comparison, Francisco Liriano has reached a 2-0 count 14 times in 96 opposing plate appearances (15 percent).

That’s one reason Slowey is 3-0 with a 4.44 ERA, while Liriano is 0-4 with a 7.06 ERA.

Note: Check back for Sunday’s lineups later in the morning.

Update: The lineups have been posted. We’ll use this as the game thread, and I’ll post updates as they come.

Update: Joe Mauer had a thought Saturday night, “Maybe, they were right,” Manager Ron Gardenhire said.

Mauer felt some expected soreness in his legs, catching back-to-back games for the first time since last September. “Catcher’s butt,” Gardenhire called it.

So it sounds like Mauer will go back to the original plan and return to the Twins for Friday’s game against Kansas City. He’ll catch Monday and Tuesday for Class A Fort Myers, and be the DH on Wednesday. Thursday is a day off for the Twins and Fort Myers, giving Mauer a day of rest.

Gardenhire also has said Mauer won’t be catching five games a week when he returns. He’ll probably catch two games and then sit, and those won’t be DH games, they’ll be full days off. The Twins have Jason Kubel and four other outfielders who need at-bats in the DH spot.

(*) Carlos Gomez is leading off today. With Span getting a breather, there won’t too many options. Nick Punto has led off once this year, but he is 0-for-12 against lefties.

Gomez has been sulking this week. He threw his batting gloves into the stands after striking out in his one at-bat Saturday night. Gardenhire had a little chat with him this morning. I’ll have more on this in my notebook.

Gorgeous weather again today. April in Cleveland. Who knew?

(*) By the way, check out this wild game Class AAA Rochester played Saturday, a 17-14, 13-inning loss to red-hot Scranton/Wilkes-Barre (Yankees). Each team scored one run in the 10th, 11th and 12th.

That’s eight straight losses for Rochester. Scranton is 14-1. Rochester hit six home runs, but shortstop Trevor Plouffe made a costly error with two outs in the ninth.

In the Rochester Democrat & Chronicle, longtime Red Wings beat writer Jim Madelaro called it “one of the strangest, wildest, most entertaining games in Frontier Field history.”

Rochester’s bullpen is spent. Sounds like Brian Duensing and Philip Humber will both pitch today, trying to give the relievers a rest.

TWINS (9-9)

1. Carlos Gomez, CF
2. Brendan Harris, 2B
3. Justin Morneau, 1B
4. Jason Kubel, DH
5. Joe Crede, 3B
6. Michael Cuddyer, RF
7. Delmon Young, LF
8. Jose Morales, C
9. Nick Punto, SS

Starting pitcher: LH Glen Perkins

INDIANS (6-12)

1. Grady Sizemore, CF
2. Asdrubal Cabrera, 2B
3. Victor Martinez, C
4. Shin-Soo Choo, DH
5. Ryan Garko, 1B
6. Jhonny Peralta, SS
7. Mark DeRosa, RF
8. Tony Graffanino, 3B
9. Trevor Crowe, LF

Starting pitcher: LH Aaron Laffey

Progressive Field. First pitch: 12:05 p.m.

Saturday lineups: Twins/Indians

Saturday, April 25th, 2009

CLEVELAND — Carl Pavano has faced the Twins only once, on April 9, 2007, when he pitched seven innings in an 8-2 victory for the Yankees.

That turned out to be Pavano’s final start of 2007, and it was one of only nine victories Pavano gave the Yanks over the course of his four-year, $39.95 million deal.

Pavano, 33, reached free agency again last fall and signed a one-year, $1.5 million deal with the Indians. He opened the year as their No. 3 starter, but he is 0-2 with a 9.69 ERA.

His first start was a disaster, a one-inning, nine-run outing at Texas, but he has pitched six innings in each of his last two starts. Last Sunday, he held the Yankees to one run on four hits over six innings — confounding them yet again — before New York broke out against the Cleveland bullpen for a 7-3 victory.

Tonight, he gets another crack at the Twins.

Updates to come…

Update: Joe Mauer told Manager Ron Gardenhire to “keep an open mind” about activating him from the disabled list before next Friday’s target date.

Gardenhire said Mauer will catch nine innings Monday for Class A Fort Myers (after catching seven innings tonight and serving as the DH on Sunday). After Monday, if everything keeps progressing, it sounds possible that Mauer could rejoin the Twins on Tuesday.

Gardy said Carlos Gomez will be back in the lineup Sunday but said he’s trying to give the center fielder a break to clear his mind. Gomez and his wife are expecting their first child any day, so there is a lot on his mind.

TWINS (8-9)

1. Denard Span, CF
2. Alexi Casilla, 2B
3. Justin Morneau, 1B
4. Jason Kubel, DH
5. Joe Crede, 3B
6. Michael Cuddyer, RF
7. Delmon Young, LF
8. Mike Redmond, C
9. Nick Punto, SS

Starting pitcher: RH Kevin Slowey

INDIANS (6-11)

1. Grady Sizemore, CF
2. Mark DeRosa, 3B
3. Victor Martinez, 1B
4. Travis Hafner, DH
5. Shin-Soo Choo, RF
6. Ben Francisco, LF
7. Kelly Shoppach, C
8. Tony Graffanino, 2B
9. Asdrubal Cabrera, SS

Starting pitcher: RH Carl Pavano

Progressive Field. First pitch: 6:05 p.m. (Central)