August 2008

I Thought Leaving Seattle Would Solve Everything…..

Friday, August 29th, 2008

Just watched the five-hit performance by the local nine tonight  and I don’t believe what I just saw.

Maybe it’s my fault. I started popping off on the radio about how in 11 years on this beat I come to the park not wondering how the Twins will score runs that day. Now they can’t hit a bull in the rear with a snow shovel.

Alexi Casilla is 6 for 34 since coming off the DL.

Justin Morneau has had success, but he’s expanded his strike zone in recent days, which will catch up with him.

Joe Mauer has one extra base hit over his last 40 at-bats.

You can’t blame Nicky. He’s raised his average from .256 on Aug. 1o to .293.

The lads need to calm down and let their hitting talents show. They are good enough to hit good pitching. And they are good enough to hit pitchers like Eveland. Trying to do more usually leads to doing less. Getting through the rest of this road trip will be enough of a mental challenge. Don’t make it harder by squeezing the bat handle into sawdust and swinging at pitches they shouldn’t swing at.

They should go out tonight and have a good meal. Have a beverage or two. And pretend they’re driving to the Dome tomorrow.

They are 3-5 on this road trip…..

Don’t know if this helps, but…

Wednesday, August 27th, 2008

Are you down because of your squad? Worried that the postseason is slipping away? Have you decided to flee for the the cabin through Labor Day and won’t watch another game until then?

True, the Twins haven’t played their best ball in recent games. True, Seattle seems to be embracing the role of the spoiler. And, true, the Orioles look like a bunch of enablers right now. But there’s still a lot of baseball left and the division race can change over the course of a series.

A couple things to note:

The White Sox are  30-34 on the road – better than the Twins’ 28-35 road mark. But after wrapping up the series with Baltimore tonight they head to Boston for three games at Fenway Park, where they are 3-7 since 2004, then three obviously winnable games at Cleveland.

They’ll have one more road trip remaining. Four games against the desperate Yankees, three at Kansas City, where they have dropped two of three to the Royals in each of their last two trips there and had a bench-clearing incident the last time in town, then three at the Dome.

The White Sox bullpen is not a sure thing. They don’t know when key reliever Scott Linebrink will return from his shoulder problems. His comments about how he feels – plus the fact he can’t throw breaking balls – must concern the White Sox.

And Octavio Dotel has a 6.75 ERA this month and has given up five homers.

It’s not much, but I just don’t think this is separation week in the AL Central. A person who writes another blog mentioned that it might be a good time to take a break. I strongly disagree. Beat writers learn a few years into the gig that you don’t know what’s going to happen when you get to the park each day. If I were you, I wouldn’t touch the clicker.

And, for more entertainment, read here how those crazy Cubs fans are all over Barack Obama.

And one more thing: Ran into former Twin Al Newman yesterday and visited with him for awhile. Many of you have asked me about Newmie, so here’s an update:

Newmie has one foot in the, `private sector,’ working for Aflac. But he also hosts a weekly baseball show on 1280AM (The Patrioit). He’s on at 6 p.m. each Sunday, and Tim Laudner will be his guest this week.

Twins acquire Eddie Guardado from Texas [UPDATES]

Monday, August 25th, 2008

The Twins have acquired lefthander Eddie Guardado from the Texas Rangers in exchange for minor league righthander Mark Hamburger. The move brings back a fan favorite who helped the club win the AL Central division in 2002 and 2003.

Guardado, who earned the nickname, `Everyday Eddie,’ for his ability to pitch effectively for several straight days, is 3-3 with a 3.65 ERA and four saves in 55 appearances with Texas. He’s given up runs in four of his last five outings.

The Twins tried to land Guardado before the July 31 trade deadline but the Rangers’ asking price was too high at the time. Texas, at the time, was interested in one of the Twins’ nearly ready pitching prospects, like righthanders Jeff Manship or Anthony Swarzak or lefthander Brian Duensing.

Guardado, 37, debuted with the Twins as a starter in 1993 - at age 22 – and pitched for them until he left as a free agent following the 2003 season.  He became a reliever in his third major league season and worked his way up the bullpen pecking order until he replaced LaTroy Hawkins as the Twins’ closer during the 2001 season. He saved 45 and 41 games the next two years.

He’s also pitched for Seattle and Cincinnati, but missed most of the 2007 season because of Tommy John surgery.

Guardado is making $2 million this season, and indications are that the Twins are picking up the rest of his salary, which is a little more than $400,000. Guardado also gets a $100,000 bonus for being traded to a AL Central team and a $250,000 bonus when he appears in his 60th game. The guess here is that the Twins will pay those bonuses.

Hamburger, 21, was 1-2 with a 4.17 ERA  and 13 saves in 27 games with Elizabethton, Tenn., of the Appalachian League. He was named the league’s closer of the year and was named to the All-Star team.

It will be a great story if Hamburger reaches the majors – not because of the name. He was signed out of a Twins tryout camp in June of 2007. He throws in the mid 90′s, and the Twins official I spoke with on Monday said Hamburger has a good chance to reach the majors.

The Twins later today will announce the move that will clear space on the major league roster for Guardado.

Update: There are indications that the Guardado will arrive in Seattle in time for tonight’s game – but the Twins are still contemplating how to make room on the roster for him.

4:05 p.m. update: This will be my final update. Joe C. has unpacked in Seattle and will take it from here.

Guardado is on a flight from Kansas City to Seattle and will arrive in time for tonight’s game.

I mentioned above that Guardado will receive a $250,000 bonus once he appears in 60 games. I’ve been informed that he gets another $250,000 once he appears in 65 games. It’s still unclear who will pay these bonuses. There’s a chance the teams will split the difference. Guardado already has earned $1 million in bonuses this year.

He’s third in the AL with 23 holds. Opponents are batting .206 against him – and he’s holding lefties to a .172 average. Not bad for someone who’s hitting 85-88 on the gun.

He was on the disabled list with a sore shoulder earlier in the season but has had no problems since then.

In addition to the names mentioned above, Boof Bonser and Tyler Robertson’s names also came up in talks. Robertson is one of the Twins’ top pitching prospects, but was shut down recently with shoulder problems. He’s already seeing positive results during rehab. Robertson’s father, Jay Robertson, is a Rangers scout.

A Rangers scout clocked one of Mark Hamburger’s fastballs at 96 during a recent outing.

Defense! (Clap! Clap!) Defense! (Clap! Clap!)

Monday, August 25th, 2008

 I know there’s been a lot of talk about eighth-inning bullpen woes during the Twins-Angels  series, but giving away outs was just as bad.

Brian Buscher and Carlos Gomez had their moments over the weekend, and it’s not far-fetched to think that they should have landed in Seattle on Sunday after a 3-1 series win if plays are made.

Most of Buscher’s problems have been with sailing his throws. He’s adequate with the glove. It was very unfortunate that he had breakdowns in both areas in the same inning.

And Gomez should have caught two drives hit near the wall over the weekend. I agree that the balls were smoked, and some of the toughest plays for outfielders are when balls are hit right at them. But Gomez is good enough to catch both those balls. 

While I think the Twins anticipate Buscher to have his moments in the field, they should expect more from Gomez. And maybe that’s the worst we’ll out of Gomez this year. He’s made so many fine catches that his missed plays are glaring.

The loss on Sunday was unfortunate, but they left L.A. with two wins. The starting pitching stepped up. The hitters, for the most part,  took good at-bats (does Delmon Young look dangerous when he’s ahead in the count, or what?). It looks like the intensity level kicked up a notch as they try to prove they can win on the road. I now feel my prediction of a 7-7 road trip may fall short.

Also heard today: Class A Beloit outfielder Ben Revere will have his left knee examined on Tuesday in the Twin Cities by team physician Dr. John Steubs. Revere apparently has some loose particles in the knee.

Bass accepts assignment to Rochester

Thursday, August 21st, 2008

Righthander Brian Bass has accepted his assignment to Class AAA Rochester and will join the team either today to tomorrow.

Bass, who was outrighted to Rochester on Wednesday, sounded as if he would take some time to check his options before accepting the move. I guess it didn’t take long for him to make up his mind.

The Twins are expected to announce their Arizona Fall League assignments either today or tomorrow. I’m sure that will get Seth’s antennas up! I was told today that Luke Hughes will not play in the AFL this year but will play winter ball. That may be the best thing for him as the Twins appear committed to him learning third base.

Can’t wait for spring training next year to see Brian Buscher (with a year under his belt), Danny Valencia and Luke Hughes in camp.