June 2008

Twins-Tigers: Batting ninth, position nine….

Monday, June 30th, 2008

The lineups haven’t been released yet, but I was told that Carlos Gomez remains in the leadoff spot while Denard Span, who was called up on Sunday to replace the injured Michael Cuddyer, is batting ninth.

I’m a little surprised that Twins manager Ron Gardenhire didn’t bat Span leadoff and drop Gomez to ninth. We’re a ways away from his pre-game presser, so I’m guessing at this point that Gardy doesn’t want to switch things up too much if he has to. And, if Span gets on base, Gomez could get one more fastball to hit. Span-Gomez-Casilla, however, is still a great relay team.

Mauer, Morneau and Kubel are batting 3-4-5. Bobby Seay and Casey Fossum are the Tigers’ left-handed relievers.

5:39 Update: Gardy said that Gomez has batted leadoff all season and didn’t want to move him from that spot with things going so well right now. He knows Gomez isn’t a prototypical leadoff hitter but, “when he goes to the plate in the first inning, I don’t look away.”

As for the three lefties, the manager said he’ll take his chances against lefty relievers with Mauer, Morneau and Kubel. I’m guessing that Craig Monroe will start instead of Kubel tomorrow against lefty Nate Robertston.


Kubel told me a couple weeks ago that Robertson gives him more trouble than any lefty in the league. I looked it up, and he’s right: Kubel is 0 for 11 with 5 K’s against ol’ Nate.

Tigers (41-40): 1. Edgar Renteria, SS. 2. Placido Polanco, 2B. 3. Carlos Guillen, 3B. 4. Miguel Cabrera, 1B. 5. Marcus Thames, LF. 6. Gary Sheffield, DH. 7. Ivan Rodriguez, C. 8. Ryan Raburn, RF. 9. Curtis Granderson, CF. Pitching: Armando Galarraga.

Twins (45-37): 1. Carlos Gomez, CF. 2. Alexi Casilla, 2B. 3. Joe Mauer. C. 4. Justin Morneau, 1B. 5. Jason Kubel, DH. 6. Delmon Young, LF. 7. Brian Buscher, 3B. 8. Brendan Harris, SS. 9. Denard Span, RF. Pitching: Glen Perkins.

Twins-Brewers: Alexi Casilla leaves game with injury

Friday, June 27th, 2008

8:40 p.m.:Moments after Nick Blackburn gave up a long home run to Corey Hart, Alexi Casilla came out of the game and was replaced by Nick Punto. We’re still wating to learn why, so we’ll let you know when we find out.  

8:55 Update: Casilla has a sprained left middle finger. He dived into first base after getting a bunt hit in the third, then dived to his left to get Prince Fielder’s grounder in the fifth and came up wincing. He’s day-to-day.

The Twins are going for their 10th straight win. The Brewers have won 8 of 10. A crowd of 30,000 is expected at the Dome tonight to watch two of the hottest teams in baseball.

Twins manager Ron Gardenhire has what could turn into his standard lineup going tonight.

Update:  Dennys Reyes is having a MRI on his right knee. He apparently tweaked it during his outing in San Diego and the Twins don’t want to take any chances with it. So Craig Breslow will get the call to try to shut down Prince Fielder in the eighth ininning tonight

Jason Kubel killed the ball today in b.p. He had fans in the upper deck in right scrambling for several long balls.

Carlos Gomez tried to kill the ball, didn’t and was getting so mad at himself that Tony Oliva had to calm him down.

Joe Vavra and Delmon Young were seen talking hitting, again. Hmm… Vavra said he watched tape of all of Young’s 2007 at-bats and he looks the same now as he did then.  That, to me, sounds like pitch selection is the main problem. Opponents have him expanding the strike zone, so being more selective would help.

Brewers (43-35): 1. Rickie Weeks, 2B. 2. J.J. Hardy, SS. 3. Ryan Braun, LF. 4. Prince Fielder, DH. 5. Corey Hart, RF. 6. Russell Branyan, 3B. 7. Joe Dillon, 1B. 8. Mike Cameron, CF. 9. Jason Kendall, C. Pitching: Seth McClung.

Twins (43-36): 1. Carlos Gomez, CF. 2. Alexi Casilla, 2B. 3. Joe Mauer, C. 4. Justin Morneau, 1B. 5. Michael Cuddyer, RF. 6. Jason Kubel, DH. 7. Delmon Young, LF. 8. Brian Buscher, 3B. 9. Brendan Harris, SS. Pitching: Nick Blackburn.

What has gotten into the lads?

Thursday, June 26th, 2008

I woke up this morning in need of a nice cup of coffee, but before I did that I turned on the computer to look at boxscores and stats.

I ran across the following, and suddenly didn’t need the caffeine kick:

I don’t know how long it will last, so I better make a big deal out of this now.

Who would have believed that the Twins are outscoring teams like the Yankees? Or leading their division in runs? Or scoring despite being so power deficient?

They don’t have a leadoff hitter (or their leadoff hitter is actually batting second), their No. 5 hitter has three homers, their left fielder has underperformed.

But they have a lot going for them right now.

Joe Mauer: You can knock him for his lack of power, but there’s no one else on the team more qualified to bat third, and he’s done it well.

Justin Morneau: He’s third in the AL in RBI as he continues to evolve as a hitter.  By that I mean his pitch selection continues to improve.

Alexi Casilla: He’s worked with Joe Vavra and Rochester coach Riccardo Ingram to shorten his swing and not drift as he swings. He’s taking good at-bats and sets the table for Mauer and Morneau. And he has more RBI than Mike Lamb, Delmon Young, Brendan Harris and Craig Monroe – and as many as Carlos Gomez – in just 37 games played.

Other stuff: Harris has hit well the past week or so. Brian Buscher has provided from third base – which isn’t what we’re used to. Jason Kubel could hit 20-25 homers on a team that sorely needs power.

Stats: The Twins are batting a major league best .314 with runners in scoring position. They are second with a .279 average with two-out RISP situations. They are third in the majors in close and late situations (kind of an odd stat, but I’m rolling right now), batting .277.

I don’t think Casilla is the only reason, but since he was called up on May 13, the Twins are averaging 0.7 runs a game more than before.

The Twins are on pace to score 783 runs, up from the 718 they scored last season. 

A couple other things: The Twins’ run diifferential is only plus-6 – it’s taken awhile to work off the fat from the White Sox series – but Arizona made the playoffs last season with a differential of -20.
And the Twins’ piostseason odds have taken a noticaeble leap, according to Baseball Prospectus. I remember them being in the single digits before the streak. Now the Twins have closed the gap on the Tigers.

Slowey….and a programming note

Wednesday, June 25th, 2008

The results are definitely better for Twins righthander Kevin Slowey lately. He’s won his past three starts, during which he’s posted a 1.35 ERA.

He’s been throwing two bullpen sessions with pitching coach Rick Anderson between starts, the normal session two days after starts then a 4-5 minute touch-up session a day later to make sure he’s sharp. Anderson has tried the same thing with Glen Perkins, tonight’s starter.

I expected that Slowey would take a while to adjust to major league hitters, and he’s in that process now. He’s far from overpowering, so he has to have pinpoint control and get one step ahead of hitters.

He needed 55 pitches to get through three innings on Tuesday. While San Diego didn’t hit him too hard, he had trouble finishing off hitters and some at-bats ran long. That’s the big hurdle he needs to clear now – putting hitters away – and he’ll really take off.

I’ve said this before, but Scott Baker had the same trouble a couple years ago. Now he’s the Twins’ most reliable starter. If Slowey can take that next step, Twins manager Ron Gardenhire won’t have to debate a pitching move after six innings and 92 pitches.

In other news, I’m filling in for Rock Bottom Radio from Noon to 2 p.m. today on KFAN.  Phone lines will be open.

Update: Just wanted to point out that the umpire who appeared to step into Mets manager Jerry Manuel on Tuesday before tossing him from the game was Brian Runge. Runge is the same umpire who tossed Ron Gardenhire from a June 15 game in Milwaukee. Gardenhire then was fined for time-wasting.

Monday afternoon musings

Monday, June 23rd, 2008

Is there such a thing as a Milwaukee Surge? The Twins think so.

“The last three years we’ve played poorly going into Milwaukee, and the last three years we’ve come out of Milwaukee playing well.”

The Twins have won eight of their last nine games, starting with a win on June 13 at Miller Park after Ron Gardenhire addressed the team.

In recent years, the Twins have played poorly heading into Milwaukee but turn things around there.

2008: Twins enter Milwaukee losers of 8 of 10 but then win 9 of 11. Gardenhire addresses club.

2007: Twins enter Milwaukee losers of 10 of 13 but then win 10 of 13. Players call a meeting and decide that everyone will cut their hair short. Joe Nathan calls his wife to warn her. Nick Punto worries that his hair won’t grow back.

2006: Twins enter Milwaukee losers of five straight but then win 8 of 12 – this was when Francisco Liriano opened the series with his first win as a starter and Tony Batista hit a grand slam.

2005: Twins enter Milwaukee losers of 9 of 13 but win seven of eight. Two of the losses were against the Brewers though.

What is it about Milwaukee? The Beer? They want to stick it to Bud Selig?

Twins manager Ron Gardenhire guessed it’s because so many Twins fans show up it feels like a home game. “It’s a good atmosphere. They are around the hotel. They are screaming and yelling. It’s one of those things that uplifts you pretty good.”

  • Now that Miami is out of the College World Series, the Twins will sit down this week with first-round pick Carlos Gutierrez (RHP) and 26th rounder Adan Severino (OF).
  • The Twins also haven’t signed their supplemental round pick, righthander Shooter Hunt, but I haven’t heard about any snags.
  • I have heard that it may not look good for the Twins in trying to sign sixth-round pick B.J. Hermsen (RHP) and 29th rounder Joe Loftus, from Holy Angels. It looks like they will attend Oregon State and Vanderbilt, respectively. This happens. Teams take a shot at persuading kids to not go to school and it often doesn’t work out.
  • First-round pick Aaron Hicks was 2 for 4 on Sunday for the Twins Gulf Coast League team in his first full game as a pro. His debut game on Saturday was cut short by rain.

That’s all for now. You’ve got Joe C. for the San Diego trip before the Twins return for a three-team homestand.