For the most part, we’ve understandably been picking over and over again at the things that have turned the first half of the season into a disappointment. Right now, it feels like time to take notice of a few things that have kept the season from being even worse, things that give some reason for hope during the second half and for coming seasons. (And things that aren’t named Johan, Justin or Torii.) This isn’t an attempt to avoid the reality of the Twins being in rough shape right now. But there’s only so much that we can post and comment about some of the staples we’ve been posting and commenting about, right?
*The bullpen work of Pat Neshek and Matt Guerrier. Very early in the season, i was concerned that Neshek wouldn’t make an attempt to deal with left-handed batters, but he’s shown that to be a foolish concern. Guerrier, with his four pitches and inning-eating arm, has helped the Twins through the injuries to Crain and Reyes and Rincon’s inconsistency.
*Mike Redmond’s heroic service. Yes, hero is an overused word, but when Joe Mauer took as long as he did to heal from his leg injury, Redmond stepped in and caught almost every day for more than a month and did it quite well. He had an .805 OPS during that time and handled a fragile pitching staff with toughness. At some point in his career, he’s entitled to a week of catching without getting dinged up. At some point in his career, he’s going to manage the Twins. More on that some other time.
*Jason Bartlett on the bases. With little notice, Bartlett has 17 steals in 18 attempts. If he can turn out other offensive numbers closer to what he did in ’06, the Twins’ eventual replacement for Castillo at the top of the order should be a no-brainer. Yes, he has 15 errors. That happens to shortstops. Derek Jeter has 13, you know.
*Luis Castillo playing through the pain. His offense has slipped through the last month, but I suspect that Castillo has played a dozen games where many others would have asked out of the lineup. I don’t think he’s a good long-term investment, but I appreciate what he’s done since joining the Twins. The defense hasn’t been bad, either.
*Michael Cuddyer’s arm. Sometimes, a high number of assists for an outfielder means that other teams are willing to test a weak arm. Not the case here. Cuddyer has 15 assists so far this season. Incredibly, nobody else in the majors has more than 10. And only eight guys in all the majors have more than 7.
Feel free to add to the list or comment on my choices. But let’s take a day’s break from debating Torii’s contract, whether Johan is really the Lord of Pitching and the other constants.