GameChat – Twins @ Brewers, 7:10

Another road series in a NL ballpark means another opportunity to watch pitchers swing the bat . Whoopee.

The big news out of Twinsville today, of course, is that Justin Morneau had the cast removed from his wrist, it was still weak and, therefore, he would be having surgery on his neck next week and be out for at least another six weeks. If that made you say, “huh”, welcome to the club!

My first reaction was (1) how the hell does a medical staff let a pinched nerve that’s been an issue since March go until mid June without effective treatment? Does it seem to anyone else like EVERY player eventually needs a second opinion and… if so… shouldn’t someone start wondering about the competency of those providing so many bad first opinions? and (2) Joe Mauer needs to borrow Justin’s little-used 1B mitt and learn to use it.

Less than 20 minutes after tweeting something to that effect, Joe Christensen tweeted that Gardy apparently agreed and had communicated to Mauer that getting a 1B mitt might be a good idea. Mauer didn’t object (nice of him to be so gracious, wasn’t it?). It makes sense, especially if Mauer is going to continue to be unable to catch more than two games in a row.

In other news, Jim Thome may be activated after the game tonight and Jason Kubel & Denard Span seem to be improving.

TWINS @ BREWERS
Revere, CF Weeks, 2B
Casilla, A, 2B Morgan, CF
Mauer, C Braun, LF
Cuddyer, RF Fielder, 1B
Young, D, LF McGehee, 3B
Valencia, 3B Hart, C, RF
Hughes, L, 1B Betancourt, Y, SS
Nishioka, SS Kottaras, C
Baker, S, P Wolf, P

 

1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 R H E
Minnesota 0 0 0 0 0 3 0 0 0 3 6 0
Milwaukee 0 0 0 1 1 0 2 0 x 4 9 0

 

*sigh*  well… that could have sucked a little less…

I’m kind of waiting to hear if they do something with Thome after this game but they might wait until tomorrow…  I’ll add it if they do. – CB

UPDATE: Twins activate Jim Thome and option Rene Tosoni to Rochester, opting to keep 3 catchers (none of which can currently hit their way out of a wet paper bag). – JC

GameChat – Twins @ Giants #3, 2:45pm

We have two late scratches from the lineups today – you can probably guess who they are though. Mauer has a sore back and Nishioka has a sore hamstring. It does make a fan cross their eyes in frustration but we’ve been assured that both will be back tomorrow.

The other topics of conversation seem to center around who will be sent down after today’s game to make room for Thome & Nathan to come back tomorrow. Since Rivera is catching today, it does seem to suggest that perhaps the 3rd catcher out will be Butera. We’ll have to wait and see.

And let’s hope we have enough bats to get to Lincecum today – runs are fun as we proved on the first game of this series.

Minnesota @ San Francisco
Revere, CF   Rowand, CF
Casilla, A, 2B   Hall, 2B
Cuddyer, RF   Huff, 1B
Young, D, LF   Ross, C, RF
Valencia, 3B   Sandoval, P, 3B
Hughes, L, 1B   Burrell, LF
Rivera, R, C   Tejada, M, SS
Tolbert, SS   Stewart, C, C
Duensing, P   Lincecum, P

 

  1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 R H E
Minnesota 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 1 1 4 0
San Francisco 0 1 0 0 0 0 0 1 x 2 8 0

 

We knew that putting Duensing up against Lincecum was going to be a tough call today and I’m proud to say that he held his own pretty well! He totally kept us in the game in what would have been a fantastic outing in any other situation. I wish the battery could have done a bit better job of taking advantage of the opportunities we had which we knew would be few & far between. Yet, another 1-run game that we were on the losing side for. The good effort was admirable but a win would have been better.

In postgame news, Hoey has officially been sent down to Rochester in preparation for Nathan being back tomorrow. I still haven’t heard about who goes down to make room for Thome but I’m sure we’ll hear sometime soon.

The Final Countdown: 90 Games

Ten games ago, I wrote about how the Twins had pulled within 10 games of the Detroit Tigers with 100 games left on their schedule. The symmetry of that was too much to resist.

Since I just can’t get my mind to accept the possibility that the Indians could possibly be in the race for the long haul, I’ve been standing by my preseason contention that the AL Central would come down to the Twins, Tigers and White Sox. Based on this, we’re going to check in with the Twins’ progress every 10 games (if I remember to do so) in relation to where their real division rivals sit.

Trailing the Tigers by 10 games with 100 to play meant all they had to do was trim one game off that lead every 10 games in order to catch the Tigers by the end of the season. So today, as the countdown reaches 90 remaining games on the Twins schedule, where are things sitting?

Let’s just say there’s been some progress… and that’s putting it mildly… even after that clunker Wednesday night in San Francisco. Here are the REAL AL Central Division Standings with 90 games to play:

TWINS GAMES REMAINING: 90

TEAM RECORD GB
Tigers 40-35 -
BitchSox 37-39 3.5
TWINS 32-40 6.5

I don’t think any of us expected to see the Twins close this gap this fast. Yes, the BitchSox are sneaking up on the Tigers, too, but I think our guys proved they own the southsiders last week, didn’t they? We’ll keep them listed in the REAL AL Central Division Standings just because it looks tacky to only list one team other than the Twins, but if this race comes down to Twins and BitchSox, I like the Twins’ chances.

On the other hand, the Twins haven’t had any luck against the Tigers yet at all, so I like watching them lose to anyone who can step up and do the job. 

- JC

 

GameChat – Twins @ Giants #2, 9:15

The Tigers won and it’s looking like the Indians and White Sox may do likewise, so our guys will have to win again tonight to avoid giving back the game they gained on the leaders last night.

The good news today is that Joe Nathan and Jim Thome are expected to rejoin the Twins Friday in Milwaukee. Of course, that means a couple of roster spots to speculate about before then.

But first things first… time to beat up on the Giants again! I can’t say I know anything about the guy pitching for SF tonight, but he’s not only got an ERA below 2.00, but a batting average of .250. That’s enough to make some of our pitchers AND hitters jealous!

TWINS @ GIANTS
Revere, CF Rowand, CF
Casilla, A, 2B Burriss, 2B
Mauer, C Sandoval, P, 3B
Cuddyer, RF Huff, 1B
Young, D, LF Ross, C, LF
Valencia, 3B Schierholtz, RF
Hughes, L, 1B Crawford, SS
Nishioka, SS Whiteside, C
Blackburn, P Vogelsong, P

1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 R H E
Minnesota 0 0 0 0 0 0 1 0 0 1 5 3
San Francisco 0 2 0 0 0 1 1 1 x 5 7 2

I guess our dreams of watching the Twins go through the rest of the season without ever losing another game have come to an end, right? Yeah, there are bound to be some clunkers along the way. The thing is… this was really the first time I consciously thought, “boy, we REALLY miss Morneau, Kubel, Span, Thome, etc.” I mean, sure… it’s a no brainer that you want those guys back, but this game showed us how impotent the current roster really can be.

 

GameChat – Twins @ Giants, 9:15 pm, MLBN

ah… West Coast baseball…  *sigh* we’ll see if I can make it through the whole game!

Minnesota @ San Francisco
Revere, CF Torres, CF
Casilla, A, 2B Tejada, M, SS
Mauer, C Sandoval, P, 3B
Cuddyer, RF Huff, 1B
Young, D, LF Ross, C, LF
Valencia, 3B Schierholtz, RF
Hughes, L, 1B Hall, 2B
Nishioka, SS Whiteside, C
Pavano, P Bumgarner, P

 


1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 R H E
Minnesota 8 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 1 9 14 0
San Francisco 0 0 0 0 0 0 1 1 0 2 9 2

Boy, if you missed the first half inning of the game tonight, you pretty much missed the whole game! The Twins started the game with eight straight hits (half of them doubles) before Carl Pavano struck out for the first out of the game. Ben Revere followed with his second hit of the inning, driving in the 7th and 8th runs of the inning and sending the Giants starting pitcher, Madison Bumgarner, to the shower. Alexi Casilla capped of the scoring in the 9th inning with his second home run in as many games. The offense truly was a team effort as all the position players not only had hits in the first inning, but scored a run that inning, too.

Carl Pavano had another typical quality performance, working eight solid innings, giving up just two runs on nine hits, not walking anyone and striking out a pair of Giants. That earns him yet another BOD award from the GameChat crew!

Carl Pavano

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40 Days And 40 Nights

We’ve all heard the saying… “It’s a long season, anything can happen.” If any season has demonstrated the truth in that cliche to Twins fans, it’s this one.

The Twins started the season as at least one of the favorites to win the AL Central Division title. It took them less than a month to fall flat on their faces. They spent the next month digging themselves deeper in to a hole, to the point that, on June 1, they may not have been dead, but they were certainly on life support. While I resisted the urge here, there were already plenty of other places you could read about which pieces of the Twins were likely to be made available at the trade deadline. There was certainly little doubt that the Twins would be “sellers” for the first time in quite a while.

Then things turned around again. I’m not sure how you manage addition by subtraction, but just at the time Jim Thome, Jason Kubel and Denard Span were added to the list of the Twins’ walking wounded, they started winning games. Lots of games. To the point where, now, even the national media isn’t so sure that the Twins will be selling players at the deadline.

That deadline (July 31), by the way, is 40 days from now. That’s the non-waiver trade deadline.

So the Twins have those 40 days to decide who they are this year. The players will play the greatest role in that decision. If they keep closing ground on the teams ahead of them, they’ll keep making the case that they’re contenders and GM Bill Smith should be looking to see if there are pieces he could add to the roster that would help this season. If they start giving up the ground they’ve gained, they’re likely going to be saying good-bye to some team mates over the next 40 days.

Yet, I’m not so sure this is an “either-or” situation for Smith.

Ben Revere

If Ben Revere doesn’t start to tank, the Twins could find themselves in a very unique position… that is, they could have a veteran corner outfielder to trade for good prospects and/or players that can improve their chances yet this season (but let’s not do the “closer” thing again, OK Bill?) and not be viewed as giving up on 2011.

When you look at the standings, it’s tough to identify many teams that will clearly be looking to trade away talent. It’s shaping up as a seller’s market and the Twins might be wise to take advantage of the situation.

If Span, Kubel and Thome all come back, I’d love to have Span and Revere manning two OF spots (as would, I’m pretty certain, the Twins pitching staff). That would leave the Twins with Delmon Young, Michael Cuddyer, Kubel and Thome with really no more than three roster spots available for them. Smith could certainly afford to trade one of them and arguably two, and not be seen as “giving up” on the season. With the way the market is forming, even Jason Repko might have some trade value.

The same could be the case with starting pitchers. Every one of the Twins current starters is looking good right now. They also have Anthony Swarzak apparently ready to step in to a rotation spot, they have Kyle Gibson pitching well in Rochester, and if Kevin Slowey comes back healthy, that makes EIGHT starting pitchers who could/should be holding down Major League rotation spots somewhere.

Might someone make an interesting offer for Carl Pavano? If the Twins are willing to eat some of his two-year contract, they might. Or maybe there would be interest in Nick Blackburn? Will Slowey have some value on the market? I’d be relunctant to trade a lefty because I think they want two of them in the rotation, so I’d probably hang on to Liriano and Duensing, but if the offer is right, there are arms apparently ready to step in without killing all chances of continuing to close the gap on the leaders.

The Twins obviously don’t have a lot of infield talent to spare, but I wouldn’t rule out the possibility that a team might look at the way Trevor Plouffe hits the ball and decide they’re a bit more willing to overlook his defensive shortcomings than the Twins have been. If the Twins don’t see him playing a role with the big club any time soon, now may be the time to get something for him.

The Baseball Prospectus site that calculates each team’s chances of making the playoffs still lists the Twins as only having a 5.9% shot. That’s not good. Then again, I think I read that it was .1% (yes, that’s one-tenth of one percent) back at the beginning of the month, so progress is being made. In fact, it’s up 1.1% since yesterday… and the Twins didn’t even have to play a game on Monday to make that move! With the way their AL Central rivals are playing, maybe the best idea would be for the Twins to just stop playing baseball and wait for everyone else to drop below them!

Bill Smith

The Twins are 7.5 games out of the AL Central lead. As tough as it is for us to get our heads around it, given all that’s gone on and how full their Disabled List still is, the Twins ARE contenders. But that doesn’t mean Bill Smith should sit on his butt for the next 40 days. There are deals to be made that can help the team in the future AND leave them in position to continue to contend this season. All it takes is a front office with a penchant for identifying talent, the ethic to work night and day to negotiate good deals, and the guts to pull the trigger on those trades.

The next 40 days and 40 nights will tell us if the Twins have that kind of front office.

- JC

Offday “Blog Club” Discussion: Hating

Since the season started, I’ve been trying to come up with new ideas for posts on offdays. Last season, we had a “This week in Twins History” series. I listed all the interesting things that had happened in Twins history during a particular calendar week. I liked it. It was fun. But a funny thing about history is that it tends to stay the same so writing the same sort of series THIS year would have been, well, redundant. Maybe I should have thought about that before starting that series and just listed a couple of things every week, so I’d have more stuff to mention THIS season… and next season… but, seriously, who among us really thought this blog would survive for a second season? Thank God there’s no Nielsen Ratings for blogs, right?

Anyway… I’ve come up with an idea.

Have you ever been a member of a book club? You know… where you all agree to read the same book by a set date and then you get together and discuss the book? No? Well, me either, actually. That always sounded too much like what they used to call Literature Class, to me. I like to read… I just like to do it on my own time.

So, no, I’m not suggesting we do a book club (though it might not be a bad idea in the offseason).

But what about a “Blog Club”?

We’ll pick a blog post… maybe one from another Twins blog… or from a blog focused on another MLB team… or maybe just a general sports blog. We’ll link to it in the morning of a Twins offday and maybe write a bit about our feelings about the subject in the post, then turn it over to you, our readers, to click the link, read the post and give us your comments.

I happen to like the idea, but then it’s my idea and I generally feel a pretty high level of support for most of my own ideas. But, of course, this could be a total disaster. It does rely two things I have very little control over.

1. It assumes we actually have readers.

2. It requires that at least some of those readers participate.

Neither is exactly a given, these days.

Let’s start with this blog entry from my personal favorite blogger/writer/author, Joe Posnanski. It’s entitled The Case For Rooting Against LeBron.

Posnanski grew up in Cleveland, so he’s not a LeBron James fan, but this isn’t really about LeBron. If you aren’t an NBA fan (and welcome to the club, I’m not either), it’s OK… it’s still a good read and worthy of discussion. If it helps you to get more interested in the topic, think of it as The Case For Rooting Against A-Rod. The case, as Posnanski makes it, is exactly the same.

I almost always agree with Posnanski, which is a bit scary, actually. I don’t almost always agree with anyone. So it’s a little comforting that, in this case, I don’t agree with him 100%.

Maybe only 90%.

Posnanski’s argument is that it makes no sense to hate an athlete who is, in Poz’s view, just an entertainer who’s created a character. We like players who play for our team and hate players who play for rival teams.

Obviously, Poz has never read the things some Twins fans have said/written about Nick Punto and Michael Cuddyer.

I just can’t buy the “just playing a character” thing. I know he’s correct in that there’s no way for most of us to know whether a given player is really a “good guy” or a “bad guy” who warrants our love or hate, respectively. But these guys don’t generally live in total isolation from their communities and fan bases, either.

I do think that fans of a team should, at least between the lines, be supportive of their players. It does, in fact, bother me when people say/write ugly stuff about any of the Twins players and I don’t understand how people’s brains can hold such vile thoughts toward some guys, much less how they can allow themselves to openly express those thoughts.

I’ve seen enough of Carl Pavano in spring training to know I don’t particularly care for him, personally. I think he’s overpaid for the value he provides. But I don’t carry those feelings in to a game. When he pitches well, I’m happy about it… I don’t sulk and lay in waiting until he gives up his next HR so I can talk about what scum I think he is. I also give him credit for things like the community work he participated in this past weekend in the Twin Cities. My view of him is based on VERY limited exposure and I readily admit that I could be quite wrong about him.

Compare that to the treatment that Punto and Cuddyer and Butera and, lately, Mauer all get among some segments of the fanbase.

It’s obvious that some people actually sulk when those guys have done well! Those fans aren’t even heard from when someone gets a game winning hit or goes on a hot streak (unless it’s to give a backhanded “building his trade value” comment). Are Cuddyer and Mauer overpaid? Yeah. But I don’t know anyone who wouldn’t take every penny from their employer that they could get. What’s worse is that people seem to hold it AGAINST these guys that they ARE active in the community or have reputations for being genuinely good people. That’s absurd, to me.

Unlike Posnanski, I don’t think our athletes are just playing good and bad characters like professional wrestlers and I don’t feel they should be treated like they are. These people are human and they have families and friends and some of them genuinely care about the fans. They want to be liked. Hell, we ALL want to be liked, so why wouldn’t they, too? Getting booed by opposing fans when you come to the plate is a sign of respect, in a way. Getting trashed by your home fans when all you’ve ever done is give your best effort for the team you play for and they root for… that’s just being hurtful and there’s no reason for that except that someone LIKES being hurtful.

I’ll criticize a player’s performance if I feel it’s warranted, whether it’s someone I like or someone I don’t. I’ll also celebrate a guy’s success, regardless of how I feel about him.

Now… go read Posnanski’s post and let us know in the comments what you think!

- JC

Movin’ On Up! 1 Down, 3 To Go!

The Twins’ dramatic win today over the Padres, combined with the Royals’ 5-4 loss to St. Louis, moves the Twins out of the AL Central cellar and up in to fourth place in the Division for the first time since May 8.

Our guys didn’t gain on the Indians, who outlasted the Pirates in an extra-inning game to gain a sweep of their own, or the Tigers, who slapped the Rockies around, or even the White Sox, who beat the D-Backs again. The Tigers remain 1 game behind Cleveland and the Bitch Sox are 5.5 games back of the leaders (just 2.5 games ahead of the Twins). The Twins have Monday off, while all three of the teams ahead of them start new interleague series on Monday.

I don’t think it’s realistic to expect the Twins to continue winning games at the pace they’ve been on as they not only go on the road, but do so against the defending World Series Champion (and current NL West leader) San Francisco Giants and the current NL Central leading Milwaukee Brewers.

But a 9-1 home stand is nothing to sneeze at and after this 6-game road trip, they’ll come back home for another nice long home stand.

Five weeks ago, the Twins trailed the Royals by 7.5 games in the standings. Today, they passed the Royals and are taking aim on the team ahead of them, the White Sox, and there’s no sign of any “quit” in this team.

I’m already on record as saying the Indians simply don’t matter and I stand by that. Take a look at their schedule between now and the All-Star break and tell me they won’t be lucky just to stay in the top three of the standings. They get the Rox, the Giants, the D-Backs, and the Reds before hosting the Yankees and Blue Jays just ahead of the break.

The White Sox will very possibly be looking up at the Twins in the standings by the break, but the Tigers will be a lot tougher to close the gap on. Their schedule is softer and I’m betting they’ve got a three game lead in the division by the break.

It’s too early to know whether the Twins will use this stretch of success to springboard them up in to serious contention as the summer goes on, but a while back I wrote that I would be happy if they’d just show the kind of effort and skill that would make it fun to watch them again… and they’ve certainly done that.

Whether or not the Twins WILL turn themselves in to legitimate contenders remains to be seen, but I think we’ve reached the point where nobody should dare tell them that they CAN’T do exactly that.

- JC

GameChat – Padres @ Twins #3, 1:10 (sorry it’s late!)

My deepest apologies folks – demands of Fathers Day have made the day a little harder to predict than I was able to plan for.. here you go!!

 

San Diego @ Minnesota
Denorfia, LF   Revere, CF
Bartlett, SS   Casilla, A, 2B
Headley, 3B   Mauer, DH
Ludwick, DH   Cuddyer, RF
Guzman, J, 1B   Young, D, LF
Maybin, CF   Hughes, L, 1B
Hudson, O, 2B   Nishioka, SS
Venable, RF   Rivera, R, C
Johnson, Ro, C   Tolbert, 3B
  Moseley, P     Liriano, P

 

  1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 R H E
San Diego 0 0 0 1 2 0 0 1 0 4 11 1
Minnesota 1 0 0 0 0 0 3 0 1 5 7 0

 

SWEEP!!!!  AND it even made the Twins hit SEVEN on the winning streak which I think is a record this season (I didn’t look it up to be sure but that’s my recollection.) It actually was a great game to watch but I’m not going to take too much time for a wrap up today – still doing family stuff.  Here’s a link to the Play by Play if you are curious. But the heroes of the game really were unexpected…  Alexi Casilla started it with a solo homerun in the first inning… but the big one was in the bottom of the 9th – Drew Butera hit the winning RBI.  For that, he gets today’s BOD! (and a face full of shaving cream from his teammates.. )

Drew Butera, BOD!

A Wild Red Wing Weekend

Here’s a little something to check out before the Twins go for a sweep of the Padres this afternoon.

The Rochester Red Wings have had a tough season, largely because the Twins’ injuries have decimated their roster. Of course, as the Twins get their regulars back, the Wings should get a bit better, as well.

Also, it doesn’t hurt when a couple of rehabilitating Twins show up for a few games in Rochester. For example, does this guy look familiar?

Photo: an rong xu, Democrat/Chronicle

Joe Nathan made an appearance with the Red Wings in the 7th inning of the second game of their doubleheader Saturday night and you can read all about that here.

As you can tell, the Wings were sporting some fancy jerseys. If you like the Star Wars jersey Joe’s wearing there, you can have it for yourself! They’re being auctioned off for charity, along with a set of powder blue throwback Twins jerseys the Wings wore Friday night and a set of blue Fathers Day jerseys they’re wearing for today’s game.

Last night’s game finished with a bit of extra-curricular activities, as a 2B Steve Singleton was on the receiving end of a hard and late slide as he took a throw from Trevor Plouffe for an inning-ending force play. Plouffe had some choice words for the Indianapolis manager, bringing Rochester manager Tom Nieto out to join the fun. In fact, both benches emptied before order was restored.

You can read all about it at Jim Mandelaro’s blog. If you aren’t a regular reader of Mandelaro’s work at the Rochester Democrat and Chronicle, this is a good time to change that!

- JC