April 2009


A quick thought about pitching

Thursday, April 30th, 2009

One way to help a bullpen improve is to keep it off the mound. One month into the season, Twins starters have tried to do their part.

The Twins have had starters pitch at least seven innings eight times in 22 games as opposed to 10 through 27 March/April games last season.

But….

Twins starters have pitched at least eight innings four times (three by Glen Perkins) this year, which didn’t happen in all of April last season. The Twins’ first eight-inning outing last year came on May 7 when Livan Hernandez tossed a complete game at the White Sox. Last year, Kevin Slowey didn’t get past the fourth inning in his one April start and Francisco Liriano threw a total of 10.1 innings in three starts.

Twins starters have thrown 134.2 of 193.1 innings this year (69.7 percent). Last March/April, they threw 146.2 of 228.2 innings (64.1 percent).

True, Liriano and Scott Baker haven’t won a game yet. But, overall, the rotation has protected the bullpen.

Some minor league notes

Wednesday, April 29th, 2009

The debut of the print edition of minor league notes will debut on Saturday, May 9. Until then, here are some updates.

THE HUNT FOR SHOOTER’S CONTROL

The Twins minor league think tank will head to Beloit over the next couple of days to bear down on righthander Shooter Hunt, who needs GPS to find the strike zone.

In four outings, Hunt has walked four, seven, six and six batters – that’s 23 walks. He’s faced 68 batters, 39 of them reaching base.

So Twins director of minor leagues Jim Rantz and minor league pitching coordinator Eric Rasmussen will be in attendance for Hunt’s next outing. Rantz has not ruled out the possibility of sending Hunt to the bullpen to clear his head and work on his control.

Hunt was the Twins’ sandwich pick between the first and second rounds of last year’s draft.

THE INJURIES

Infielder Ramon Santana is listed at 5 foot 9 and 165 pounds. Paul Molitor, a special instructor and scout for the Twins, said Santana isn’t much to look at, “but he swings the bat and the ball goes 450 feet.”

Santana entered the season a career .247 hitter with a .358 on base percentage, 20 home runs and 82 RBI in 195 minor league games. He got off to a hot start to Class A Beloit, batting .393 with three homers and 10 RBI in 16 games while playing short and second.

His hot start has been derailed by a badly sprained left ankle this week that he suffered while running the bases. He’s out two to three weeks.

Class AAA Rochester first baseman Brock Peterson is out with a sore shoulder.

Rochester outfielder Justin Huber, who just sorted out visa problems, homered in his first at-bat last week and doubled in his second at-bat – but pulled a hamstring and has been out ever since.

THE RETURN OF DREW THOMPSON

Matt Garza was taken in 2005 draft. So was Kevin Slowey.

But the Twins also took Henry Sanchez, Paul Kelly and Drew Thompson – who all have been broken down throughout their minor league careers. Sanchez has taken his inactivity to another level recently with a 50-game suspension for testing positive for a drug of abuse.

Kelly has had multiple surgeries on his left knee. Thompson, an infielder, had a stress fracture in his back in 2006, followed  by more back problems that forced him out for the entire 2007 and 2008 seasons. In fact. Thompson was thought to be leaning toward retirement a year ago.

But he hasn’t quit. Thompson, the son of former major leaguer Robbie Thompson, has been assigned to Beloit as he begins his latest comeback attempt.

Twins-Rays: Pregame

Tuesday, April 28th, 2009

Twins are 1-for-19 with runners in scoring position over their past two games. More to come, or just a phase?

Here are the pitching matchups for the Royals series this weekend:

Friday: Slowey vs Sir Sidney

Saturday: Perkins vs Bannister

Sunday: Baker vs Gil Meche 

5:36 Update: Joe Mauer will catch five to seven innings to night for Class A Fort Myers. He will not play in Wednesday’s 10 a.m. and instead will travel back to the Twin Cities, take Thursday off then play on Friday against the Royals.

If the Twins can win these last two games against the Rays they will be 11-11 without Mauer.

Michael Cuddyer said he should have walked twice yesterday. Ron Gardenhire said other players could have reached base just by letting Jeff Niemann walk them. Bad at-bats are on the rise.  James Shields throws four pitches but mostly is a fastball-changeup guy. Cuddyer, who is 2 for 3 against Shields, said being aggressive early in the count is the way to go with pitchers like Shields, but Shields isn’t afraid to throw breaking balls early in the count and first-pitch changeups the second and third time through the order. 

Lineups

Tampa Bay (8-12)

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

Pitching: James Shields

Twins (9-11)

1. Denard Span, CF
2. Alexi Casilla, 2B
3. Justin Morneau, DH
4. Jason Kubel, LF – 6-for-10, HR vs Shields
5. Joe Crede, 3B
6. Michael Cuddyer, RF
7. Brian Buscher, 1B
8. Jose Morales, C
9. Nick Punto, SS

Pitching: Francisco Liriano

Twins-Rays: Mini-update madness

Monday, April 27th, 2009

Joe Mauer was 1 for 2 with two walks and caught seven innings on Monday for Class A Fort Myers. He’ll catch again on Tuesday, DH Wednesday and should join the Twins on Friday.

Scott Baker fell to 0-3 but will take a run in which he retired 10 straight Rays into his next start. Baker finally found the adjustment he was looking for and kept the ball down better. “For the most part, I was where I needed to be,” he said. “They were able to string some hits together.”

Baker didn’t give up a homer tonight after giving up seven in his first two starts.

Jose Morales was charged with two passed balls on Monday, which might have moved him into the major league lead (late games are still going on). One of the passed  balls came during a pitchout. Never seen that before….

Jesse Crain said he feels good but wasn’t sure when he’ll throw in the bullpen as he works his way back from a sore shoulder.

Finally, Baker was squeezed on a two-strike pitch to Evan Longoria in the first. Longoria rifled the next pitch down the left field line that looked like it could have been foul but was ruled fair for a double. Twins manager Ron Gardenhire ran out to protest, but third base umpire Paul Emmel told him he was, “100 percent sure.” It was fair. Gardenhire couldn’t argue with 100 percent…. 

Twins-Rays: Pregame

Monday, April 27th, 2009

I’m at the tables tonight while Joe C. gets some down time. 

Twins relievers enter tonight’s game on a run of 10.0 scoreless innings and have posted a 2.45 ERA over their past seven games.

Justin Morneau is batting .358 with two homers and seven RBI over his past 12 games.

The Twins four save opportunities are tied for the fewest in baseball.

Lineups are not out yet. Repeat, the lineups are NOT available at the moment. Check back later.

3:58 P.M. UPDATE: Here’s the Twins’. Still waiting for the Rays.

5:20 UPDATE: Twins manager Ron Gardenhire said before the game that he would prefer to keep the hot-hitting Jose Morales on the roster even when Joe Mauer comes off the DL, as expected, on Friday. While it would be hard to carry three catchers on the roster, “it’s not impossible,” he said.

We’ll see. A lot of things can happen between now and Friday that could make it easier for Morales to stick around.  It’s not uncommon for someone to break down right when a roster move is about to happen.

Carlos Gomez will leave the team tomorrow for Florida, where his wife will have labor induced. He’ll re-join the team on Friday.

Jesse Crain played catch today and is expected to throw in the bullpen in a couple days. The Twins hope to activate Crain, out with a sore shoulder, on Sunday but could give Crain extra time if he needs it.

Rays (7-12)

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

Pitcher: Jeff Niemann

Twins (9-10)

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. Jose Morales, C
9. Nick Punto, SS

Pitching: Scott Baker