GameChat – Padres @ Twins #2, 6:10

Yes, I know this post is going up more than five hours before game time and we don’t have line ups to post, but all the Knuckleballs actually have lives away from the internet today.

So, because we love all of our regular chatters so much, we’re putting up the Chatroll early… really early.

Enjoy the game, all!

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

Another 1-0 win! I’d like to start seeing a few more runs go up on the Twins’ side of the ledger in these games, but given how many 1-run games the Twins have lost this season, it’s sure nice to see more of them end with e win, lately.

Danny Valencia gets ice cream for his solo shot in the second inning, providing all of the game’s offense, but BOD could go to one person only… starting pitcher Scott Baker. 8 IP and only 4 hits and one walk, while racking up 10 Ks, leaving Matt Capps one inning of work for his 11th save.  WTG Scotty… keep up the good work!

Scott Baker

 

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GameChat – Padres @ Twins, 7:10

The Twins start a stretch of interleague games tonight when they open a three-game home series with the San Diego Padres.

A couple of Twins alumni are making their returns as members of the visiting Padres. Former Twins SS Jason Bartlett is in the line up for SD and relief pitcher Pat “Sideshow” Neshek makes his first return to his home town as a member of a visiting team. (Orlando Hudson is also a Padre, but currently is on their Disabled List).

But the big “return” tonight is the guy batting third for the Twins. Yes, ladies and gentlemen, Joe Mauer lives! In fact, he not only lives, but he’s apparently up for playing a little baseball. There’s been some questions floating around about what sort of reception fans will give Joe when he’s announced tonight and I think that’s a no-brainer… he’ll get a very enthusiastic “welcome back” from the crowd. If it’s anything less, I’ll be very surprised… and disappointed.

Mauer doesn’t deserve a free pass from fans and media and questions about why he’s missed so much time for “leg weakness” are fair, but tonight, the bottom line is that a guy who’s played an awful lot of very good baseball for the Twins is back in the line up. Welcome him back and hope he can help keep the W’s coming!

Let’s not forget that Glen Perkins returns to the Twins’ bullpen tonight, as well. Let’s hope he picks up right where he left off, as he was one of the few effective bullpen arms before his DL stint.

Tsuyoshi Nishioka is at SS again, but with Joe’s return, Nishioka has dropped to 7th in the batting order… which is about right, for now. Let’s see him get his timing down there toward the bottom of the order before we expect him to contribute from a more critical spot in the order.

I’m not sure I’ll be around for much, if any of the GameChat tonight, but for those who are, let’s hope Brian Duensing gets back on track… enjoy the game!

PADRES @ TWINS
Denorfia, RF Revere, CF
Bartlett, SS Casilla, A, 2B
Headley, 3B Mauer, C
Ludwick, DH Cuddyer, 1B
Maybin, CF Young, D, LF
Guzman, J, LF Valencia, 3B
Rizzo, 1B Nishioka, SS
Hundley, C Hughes, L, DH
Gonzalez, Ab, 2B Repko, RF
Richard, P Duensing, P

1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 R H E
San Diego 0 0 1 0 1 0 3 0 0 5 11 3
Minnesota 5 0 0 1 0 0 0 0 x 6 10 1

That ended up a little closer than it should have been!

It’s always nice to see our guys jump on the opposing pitcher for a bunch of runs early and that certainly happened tonight. Ben Revere gets kudos for a productive night at the plate and he got flat out robbed of a beautiful diving catch in the OF by a terrible call by the 2B umpire who ruled he trapped a ball that he totally caught.

Joe Mauer started his return with an RBI single and Danny Valencia got some BOD support for his line shot to the second deck for a home run.

But we want to encourage more pitching performances like this out of Brian Duensing and he certainly did his job tonight, giving up just 2 runs on 7 hits and 1 BB over 6 innings, while striking out 5 Padre hitters. So, for that, Brian Duensing is our BOD (but he’s sharing photo “face time” with Danny V)!

Brian Duensing (with Danny Valencia at 3B)

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Ben Revere: Should He Stay Or Should He Go?

After watching Ben Revere in Spring Training, I wrote somewhere that the Twins should keep him as their extra outfielder to start the season, rather than Jason Repko. Most others (including the Twins decision-makers) felt that Revere needed to play every day to improve the way the Twins felt he could. Tough to argue that point, but the things he brings to the table that other outfielders do not were just as apparent in March as they are now, so there’s reason to suspect that avoiding starting his service time too soon was a factor, as well.

Ben Revere

Since being recalled from Rochester June 2, Revere has gotten a lot of attention… almost all of it good. A lot of it has been for his offensive contributions and that’s justifiable… to a degree. He certainly can be a disruptive force on the bases, when he gets on base. But while he’s filled in adequately for Denard Span at the top of the order over the past week, Revere actually doesn’t get on base all that much. He seldom works a walk and he’s not exactly driving the ball.

But when he does get on base, he’s a definite threat to steal. In my book, it really doesn’t matter much whether a player doubles or whether he singles and steals 2B… especially when he’s likely to safely take an extra base on subsequent hits by guys behind him in the order.

He’s also earned recognition with his glove… and his legs… in the outfield. A lot of Twins fans thought they had a pretty fair defensive CF in Span, but Revere has opened some eyes to what real speed can do out there.

Over at Twins Fan From Afar, our friend Andrew has gone on record saying he wants Revere sticking around. He’s not alone. There have been others who have suggested that Jason Repko’s time as a Twin could be coming to a close as many of the Twins’ walking wounded begin to return to the roster.

I agree with a lot of what’s being written. I want Revere to be kept in Minnesota, too, but I won’t be satisfied with keeping him around merely as the bench outfielder. I want to see Gardy find an every day position for Revere and keep him in Minnesota, regardless of who comes off the Disabled List. It may not be the same position every day, but he should be in the line up at least 5 times a week.

During the offseason, I understood about Gardy wanting more speed… I was just confused by the fact that they would conclude the Twins needed more offensive speed to take advantage of the way Target Field’s outfield rewarded gap hitters, while at the same time not recognizing that the same factors meant they should be improving their defensive speed in the outfield, too.

We are all, including (at least I hope) the Twins management, now seeing how important it is to have some wheels in that big patch of grass between the infield dirt and the JumboTron.

Everyone is pointing out just how much the Twins’ pitching staff has improved… how their collective ERA has dropped… in the past couple of weeks. Gosh, I wonder if that’s because a dozen different guys who had been struggling to get anyone out suddenly all got good at the same time or do we think that… just maybe… it has something to do with balls that find their way over an infielder’s head are occasionally landing in a glove instead of all of them dropping on the green, green grass? I’ts funny how ERAs drop (and numbers in the win column go up) when the OF gap is where opponents’ batted balls go to die instead of splitting outfielders for doubles.

(By the way, despite a lot of people being upset over how mean Gardy was to poor Trevor Plouffe, I think Twins pitchers would agree that another reason their stat lines are looking better is that the middle infield is no longer giving opposing teams four outs every other inning.)

There have been a few things written lately about how the Twins no longer play baseball “the Twins Way.” Well, the “Twins Way” isn’t (or at least shouldn’t be) just about slapping the ball and running around the bases faster. It starts with playing solid defense and if the Twins are really interested in getting back to their roots, then keeping Ben Revere in the outfield somewhere (preferably alongside Denard Span when he’s healthy again) is an absolute must.

BUT, if that’s not the plan… if we’re going to go back to seeing some combination of Delmon Young, Jason Kubel and Michael Cuddyer manning 2/3 of the outfield because the Twins want all the offensive firepower they can get in the line up… if the only role Revere will play once everyone is healthy is that of a 4th (or 5th) outfielder and occasional pinch runner… AND if it’s true that service time had nothing to do with why Revere wasn’t given the extra outfielder spot over Repko out of Spring Training, then send him back to Rochester where he could continue to play every day, because nothing has really changed since the end of March.

In March, the Twins knew his arm wasn’t strong and that he’d need to learn to compensate for that. In March, the Twins knew he had little or no power. If it’s true that they felt the only way he would improve on his weaknesses was to play every day… to improve (or at least compensate for) his weak arm and to improve his swing to drive more balls in to the gap… then they should still feel that way.

If the reason for starting the season in Rochester really was all about giving him daily playing time so he continues to develop, then the same thing would be true once the regular outfielders are healthy. But if the real reason had to do with delaying service time, that ship has probably sailed. I guess we’ll find out what the REAL reason was in the next couple of weeks.

But the more I see of Revere, the more convinced I am that I was right in the first place. He should have been with the Twins from the outset of the season. He was good enough to play at this level and the Twins needed his speed in the outfield. I wanted to see that at the start of the season and I sure as heck don’t want to stop seeing it now.

I suspect the pitching staff feels much the same way.

– JC

When Did Catchers Become Caddies?

As expected, the Twins activated Joe Mauer and Glen Perkins after Thursday afternoon’s 1-0 win over the White Sox. I read a lot of different articles (and may have even written one) with projections about who might be sent packing to Rochester when those two Twins made their inevitable returns. Truth is, the choices seemed pretty cut and dried, so I didn’t even pay much attention when the media started Tweeting out the news following the game.

There may have been some question about which relief pitcher would get his ticket punched to Rochester, but Chuck James was certainly no surprise.

I guess there was a little drama about which of the two current catchers, Drew Butera or Rene Rivera, would get the bad news, but it was obvious to everyone that one of them would be wearing Red Wing colors by the weekend.

Well… not everybody, apparently.

Seems Gardy and/or Bill Smith had other ideas. Both current catchers are still Twins, meaning the Twins start interleague play with three catchers on their roster. Which can only bring one possible reaction from me…

WTF?

Let me get this straight. Gardy has insisted that Mauer wouldn’t be activated until he could resume full catching duties, not just occasionally wandering behind home plate for a few innings. So, Mauer is back and he says he’s feeling strong.

Drew Butera, BOD!

But instead of keeping Brian Dinkelman… a guy who’s hit .286 with an OPS of .698 (granted, in limited use)… a guy who can play infield and outfield… the Twins are keeping TWO back up catchers?

And let’s make no mistake here… they aren’t keeping either of those guys around so he can DH. Rivera’s batting average is 100 points LOWER than Dinkelman’s. And he’s the BETTER hitter of the current catching tandem.

What’s the big deal? Well, if the Twins put their best line up out on the field in any given ballgame, those nine players would be: Mauer (C), Cuddyer (1B), Casilla (2B), Hughes (3B), Nishioka (SS), Young (OF), Revere (OF), Repko (OF), Valencia (DH).

Rene Rivera

That leaves a bench of Tosoni (.158), Tolbert (.193), and our two backup catchers, Rivera (.186) and Butera (.169).

It’s bad enough having those guys on the bench this weekend at home against the Padres, but on Tuesday, the Twins go on the road for six games AT National League ballparks, which means there will be no DH. I suppose that might be good news because Gardy would have, for example, Danny Valencia’s sweet .216 BA available off the bench. But it also means that pitchers occupy the ninth spot in the batting order. For those of you who don’t watch much NL baseball, that means more use of pinch hitters.

To put that in perspective, ladies and gentlemen, recent Twins Hall of Fame inductee, pitcher Jim Perry, pitched in the Big Leagues for 14 seasons before the DH rule was enacted by the AL. His career batting average was .199.

Yes, if things stay as they are, the Twins will take on the defending World Series Champion Giants and the Milwaukee Brewers with a stable of potential pinch hitters consisting of four guys who have lower batting averages than Jim Perry did in his career. Brian Dinkelman’s .286 is going to look pretty good at some point next week, I think.

So why would they keep Butera AND Rivera?

The answer is actually painfully obvious to anyone who’s been paying attention.

We’ve all known Butera has essentially been Carl Pavano’s “personal catcher” for a year or more now. And now, for the past month or more, Rivera has pretty much become the same for Francisco Liriano.

I think Gardy is keeping three catchers because he doesn’t want to upset his two prima donna starting pitchers.

If I were Danny Lehmann, down in Rochester right now, I’d be attaching myself to the hip of uber-prospect Kyle Gibson so I could ride his shirttails to Minnesota. Clearly, the trend with the Twins is toward allowing their starting pitchers to each have his own personal catcher. I just hope one of the pitchers decides he can tolerate pitching to Mauer.

I guess if there’s an upside to this philosophy, maybe it’s that we’ve finally found a way to convince Mauer to work on fielding another position. If he’s only going to catch one of the five starting pitchers, hopefully he’ll deign to allow himself to be utilized elsewhere when the other four catchers are caddying their assigned pitchers through their starts.

Still… I’m not wild about the trend.

– JC

GameChat – White Sox @ Twins #”3″, 12:10

I like beating the White Sox… let’s do it AGAIN! oh yeah, and the big story for today is Nishi’s return to the lineup – playing SS & batting 3rd. This should be interesting.

Chi White Sox @ Minnesota
Pierre, LF Revere, CF
Ramirez, Al, SS Casilla, A, 2B
Quentin, RF Nishioka, SS
Konerko, 1B Cuddyer, RF
Pierzynski, C Young, D, DH
Rios, CF Hughes, L, 1B
Dunn, A, DH Valencia, 3B
Beckham, 2B Rivera, R, C
Morel, 3B Repko, LF
Buehrle, P Blackburn, P

 


1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 R H E
Chi White Sox 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 8 1
Minnesota 0 1 0 0 0 0 0 0 x 1 4 2

Yes, I know it’s just a two game series but it’s still a SWEEP of the BitchSox!

Kinda says it all, doesn't it!?

I played hooky this afternoon to go home and watch the game and at the end of the game, I was the only person in GameChat. You would think that when there’s only one voter in Chat to cast a BOD vote it would be a pretty easy thing to determine. But not really.

It was nice to see Tsuyoshi Nishioka back on the field and the Sox certainly gave him plenty of fielding opportunities at shortstop. He had 8 assists and made a couple of additional very nice fielding plays where he wasn’t quite able to get the throw to 1B in time for the out. His arm is clearly not as strong as Lexi’s, but he looks comfortable over there. He did boot one ground ball that coulda/shoulda been a DP. Welcome back Nishi!

The Twins got the win today, but let’s not kid ourselves, this was not a really good game for the Twins, as a team. Four hits? Two errors? Mark Buehrle pretty much dominated this line-up… with one exception. Michael Cuddyer showed that he still owns Buehrle. He had two hits, including the one he launched in to the bullpens to lead off the second inning, accounting for the only run by either team in the game.

Nick Blackburn threw eight shutout innings without really breaking much of a sweat. He walked one, struck out one and spread 7 hits over the 8 innings. I admit I was queasy about bringing in Matt Capps to pitch the 9th inning, especially with Adam Dunn due up in the inning, but while Capps gave upa single to Dunn, he shut down everyone else to earn the save.

In the end, my right brain and left brain couldn’t agree on a BOD, so we’re going to have co-BODs today… Blackie and Cuddy.

Nick Blackburn

Michael Cuddyer

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Respect The Streak? Not This Time

For weeks, we’ve been moaning and groaning about the bad luck that’s befallen the Twins this season on the injury front. As the injuries mounted, so did the deficit the Twins faced in the standings.

For a while, we fans held out hope… if only they can keep things reasonably close until guys could get healthy. But they didn’t. In fact, not only did injured players not get healthy, but more players got hurt. Until it reached the point where only the most avid “prospect watchers” among us even recognized the names of some of the players wearing the Twins uniform.

And hope faded almost to black.

Almost.

And then a funny thing happened. These guys started to win.

Sure, they weren’t playing the Yankees and Red Sox (or even the Rays, Orioles or Blue Jays, for that matter) any more, but last I checked, all the games count the same in the standings, regardless of who the opponent is.

And they kept winning. They swept four from the Royals. They took 2 of 3 on the road from the AL Central leading Tribe. They took 3 of 4 from the AL West leading Rangers.

They aren’t making the errors (mental or physical) that they had been making. The pitchers aren’t giving up runs the way they had been. They finally managed to burn the assbats and started hitting the ball hard… and often. The new guys started hitting… then the few remaining regulars started hitting.

Yes, the Twins are on a winning streak… and you don’t have to be someone who’s watched Bull Durham 391 times to know that you don’t f… fool… with a winning streak. You respect the streak.

But Ron Gardenhire and the Twins are about challenge Crash Davis’ conventional wisdom. They really have no choice. But I’m betting it bothers Gardy at least as much as it does me… probably more.

Tsuyoshi Nishioka

Starting Thursday afternoon, the first of the Twins’ walking wounded returns to the line up. Tsuyoshi Nishioka has been out of action so long that this will be his first appearance in a game at Target Field. He’ll play shortstop, which means Alexi Casilla moves to second base. For all the talk about rookie Ben Revere and the pitching staff, it has quite possibly been Casilla whose performance, at bat and in the field, has been most responsible for the Twins’ recent success. Now he’s changing positions.

Joe Mauer

Friday, Joe Mauer is expected to take his rightful place behind the plate and in the heart of the batting order. He’s done neither for two months (and the season is only 2 and a half months old). It’s a no-brainer, of course. Mauer HAS to return to the line up if he’s healthy. Drew Butera and Rene Rivera are making more contact than they had been, but there’s a reason Mauer’s the starting catcher. Actually, there are about 23,000,000 reasons.

And that’s just the beginning. Over the course of the next week to 10 days, we can expect to see a lot of familiar faces return. Glen Perkins was arguably the most effective (only effective?) member of the bullpen when he went down. He’s due back by the weekend, but he’s rejoining a bullpen that’s been much better, perhaps because everyone there now has pretty well defined roles. Where will Perkins fit and will he be as effective as he had been?

Remember when Jason Kubel and Denard Span were the only hitters even coming close to performing at expected levels? They haven’t been in the lineup during this surge… but they will be returning before long. Who’s At-Bats will they be taking and… perhaps more importantly… who’s spots in the field will they be taking? There’s no question that the OF defense has improved since Ben Revere was recalled June 2.

Joe Nathan and Jim Thome are also on the road to recovery. They’ll be taking roster spots from a couple of guys who have contributed to the Twins’ recent success, too, but how certain are we that they will outperform the guys they’ll be replacing?

The last to return will possibly be the most recent to go on the DL, Justin Morneau. But has anyone else noticed that Luke Hughes and Michael Cuddyer are actually doing a better job defensively at 1B than Morneau had been?

Don’t get me wrong… I’m very happy to see these guys coming back. But I’m just old-school superstitious enough to be nervous about the timing, too.

If all of these guys come back and perform at the levels we expected from them when the season opened, the Twins may not only catch the rest of the Division, but absolutely destroy it. I just wish I was more confident of that.

One thing I’m pretty sure about, though, is that the Rochester Red Wings are on the verge of getting much, much, better.

– JC

GameChat – White Sox @ Twins #2 (kind of), 7:10

Lots of goings on at Target Field today – and the extra-sized press corps has returned.  Nishioka is back in Minnesota! He’s not in the lineup tonight. In fact, tonight’s lineup is exactly the same as last night.  We’ve sent a guy down to AAA to make room though – Dusty Hughes – so Nishioka will be showing up in the lineup any day now. The other news is that Mauer is also supposedly returning on Friday! His rehab is good and he and Nathan teamed up for a little joint rehab – a bit of testing each other I think. At any rate, both reportedly felt very good with the results and Mauer is champing at the bit to play.

But neither of them are playing tonight so we’ll have to hope that the boys we currently have are ready to go. I think the rain is supposed to be done once we get the game going so even if we have some sprinkles, they should be able to get the whole game in – so the weather men say. Not sure about their batting average though.

Chi White Sox @ Minnesota
Pierre, LF Revere, CF
Ramirez, Al, SS Casilla, A, SS
Quentin, RF Cuddyer, RF
Konerko, 1B Young, D, DH
Pierzynski, C Hughes, L, 1B
Rios, CF Valencia, 3B
Dunn, A, DH Dinkelman, LF
Beckham, 2B Tolbert, 2B
Morel, 3B Butera, C
Floyd, P Pavano, P

 


1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 R H E
Chi White Sox 0 0 0 0 0 1 0 0 0 1 6 0
Minnesota 0 0 3 0 0 0 0 1 x 4 11 0

Hey, guess what… one of the ESPN Baseball Tonight guys has discovered that the Twins are playing some baseball! Barry Larkin mentioned the Twins are playing well and, in his opinion, aren’t out of the AL Central race! That may be the kiss of death. But tonight, the Twins sure looked like the team we hoped they would be all season.

Revere, Casilla, Cuddyer and Dinkelman (that’s right, I said Dinkelman) all had two hits tonight, earning our undying thanks. Cuddy gets extra ice cream from the post-game dessert bar for stealing not one… not two… but THREE bases off of our old buddy AJ!

But a complete game bitch slapping of the BitchSox certainly warrants BOD honors for Carl Pavano!

Carl Pavano

Guest Post – Kirsten’s Letter To Santa Bill Smith

We’ve got a really good group of regular readers and we have a good time (usually) hanging out together during Twins games in our regular GameChats. One of them, Kirsten, made the mistake of agreeing to do some guest posting. She tells us that Eric gets the credit for the idea behind this post. Apparently either Eric or Kirsten (or both) had a little bit too much to drink and decided these two gentlemen are, in fact, the same person:

 

 

Dear Santa Bill Smith,

I’ve been a pretty good fan this season. I have tried to be patient and stay focused on the positives, but alas, I’m only human, and could not pass up the opportunity to make my demands… ahem… requests known. I’m a good baker, so if you bring me these things, I’ll make you approximately one metric ton of cookies.

1.) Bullpen help: people whined about Guerrier a lot, but I sure do miss being able to put him on the mound every day for 2-3 innings and feel reasonably good about it. Rauch was pretty good for my confidence too. Now I find myself begging the Baseball Gods to let the starting pitchers pitch forever…. even when they suck. Swear to God, Joe Nathan makes me as twitchy as he is when he pitches.

2.) Harry Potter injury healing: I never really read the books, but from what I understand, you can drink something and it makes your bones heal! Sounds like you need to come up with some of that magic, stat.

3.) President Pelton’s Weather Machine: at my Alma mater, the President of the University had a weather machine that he busted out for all important events. This weather machine was so powerful that it could even make the sun appear on demand in Oregon. He has left the university, so now’s your chance to snag it!

4.) More fun promotions: I’m not a huge Mauer fan, but my friends and I got a lot of prank mileage out of Joe Mauer Sideburn Night. An alternative suggestion might be food specials or letting the fans pick the walk up music for the players for a game. If nothing else, we’d rip each other to shreds about something harmless instead of personal matters.

With warmest regards,

Kirsten

P.S. If you thought I was going to ask for something else, shame on you.

What do you guys think? What would you ask Santa Bill Smith for?

 

GameChat – White Sox @ Twins, 7:10pm POSTPONED

UPDATE: Tuesday night’s game has been postponed due to rain… no make up date announced.


Looks like the rain could play a significant role in the game tonight (including whether it gets played at all). Let’s cross our fingers.

Justin Morneau got a cortisone shot in his wrist and could be headed to the DL.

Tsuyoshi Nishioka told the Japanese press that he would be returning to the Twins Wednesday… supposedly sharing a plane ride with Glen Perkins, who’s scheduled to pitch some for the Red Wings tonight. The Twins have not confirmed those Japanese press reports.

Here are the posted starting line ups.

WHITE SOX @ TWINS
Pierre, LF Revere, CF
Ramirez, Al, SS Casilla, A, SS
Quentin, RF Cuddyer, RF
Konerko, 1B Young, D, DH
Pierzynski, C Hughes, L, 1B
Rios, CF Valencia, 3B
Dunn, A, DH Dinkelman, LF
Beckham, 2B Tolbert, 2B
Morel, 3B Butera, C
Floyd, P Pavano, P

 

Tough Decisions This Week

The Rochester Red Wings must cringe every time the phone rings in their office this season. Almost every player on their roster who’s shown any ability to play the game of baseball this season has been plucked from their clubhouse and given a ticket to Minneapolis (with Kyle Gibson being one obvious exception).

As difficult as it has been for Ron Gardenhire to keep 25 healthy bodies in the Twins clubhouse this season, his job may be getting even tougher this week. The Twins currently have eight players on the Disabled List. What could be worse than that? How about having eight players all ready to come OFF the Disabled List at one time?

Now, if the Twins were still playing like a bad American Legion team, the way they were throughout April and a good chunk of May, this would be no problem. You celebrate the return of all the “real” Twins and happily send Red Wings manager Tom Nieto back the players you’ve borrowed from him. But now, just as virtually every player on your DL is due back in uniform, you’ve got a team of young players who have been winning a lot of games.

Joe Nathan

Kevin Slowey is just starting to throw, so his return isn’t as imminent as the others, but Glen Perkins and Joe Nathan are going to be ready to return to the bullpen in the next week or two. The current bullpen is consistently shutting down opponents (finally)… so who loses their job when Perkins and Nathan return? How confident are you that those two guys will immediately be as effective as the pitchers they replace?

As tough as those choices may be, things only get tougher when you ponder the decisions coming up with regard to the position players. Jason Kubel, Jim Thome, Joe Mauer, Denard Span, and Tsuyoshi Nishioka are all scheduled to come off the DL at roughly the same time.

The decision concerning which catcher departs to make room for Mauer will be tough enough. Drew Butera has been with the team for most of the past two seasons, but Rene Rivera is reportedly out of options [UPDATE 6/15: Latest information is that Rivera is NOT out of options, which makes the rest of this paragraph moot. Butera and Rivera are therefore essentially on even footing], while Butera still has options remaining. That means the team would have to risk sending Rivera through waivers if they want to keep Butera. That said, the Twins will need to clear a 40-man roster spot for Mauer, so they may be willing to take that risk with Rivera. But you have to wonder if the Twins want to face the possibility of Steve Holm being the fallback option if Joe Mauer’s return is short-lived.

Luke Hughes and Matt Tolbert

As tough as that decision may be, it’s nothing compared to how Gardy and GM Bill Smith will go about finding room for the others. Seth Stohs detailed the performances of the current position players over the course of the past 10 games over at SethSpeaks.net and it would be tough for me to find one or two non-catchers that I’d be anxious to pull out of the current line up, never mind more.

I’d love to get Span, Kubel and Thome back. But do you really want to see Ben Revere benched or, even worse, sent back to Rochester? I don’t. During the offseason, I wrote that I wanted to see more speed in the Twins outfield and now that they have it, I don’t want to give it up.

Tsuyoshi Nishioka

The Twins made a three year commitment to Nishioka and it’s very possible that he’ll end up being worth every nickel of the money they’ve sunk in to bringing him over from Japan. But we haven’t seen enough of him to know that for sure. What we do know is that Alexi Casilla, Matt Tolbert and Luke Hughes have all been batting over .300 (with three doubles each) during the recent stretch of success. How comfortable are you with the prospect of plugging in the unproven Nishioka in place of one of those guys?

We’ve poked a bit of fun at the line ups that Gardy’s been turning in, with references to them being “Red Wings” line ups and comments about how they resemble line ups you’d expect to see at spring training road games. But they’re also line ups that have been WINNING and the Twins still have a lot of winning to do if they’re going to dig themselves out of the hole they’re in.

So who’s time with the Twins is drawing to a close?

Brian Dinkelman’s cup of coffee with the big club is probably about over. In fact, don’t be too surprised if he is passed through waivers to make room on the 40-man roster for Nishioka. Rene Tosoni is also a logical candidate to return to Rochester.

So, if we assume Slowey will be headed to Rochester to join their rotation and that Dinkelman, Tosoni and one of the catchers will be departing, that leaves us just three more players to drop to make room for those returning. Two will be pitchers… but which pitchers? Might the Twins be ready to insert Anthony Swarzak in to the rotation and, if so, would Brian Duensing be likely to head down to Rochester so he continues to get regular starts? Of the rest, you could make an argument that Jose Mijares is the most deserving of a free trip to Rochester.

And what about the remaining position player that we must bid farewell to? I don’t see Revere, Hughes, or Tolbert going anywhere. Is it time to give Danny Valencia a wake-up call? Or is it possible that Jason Repko’s run with the Twins might be nearing an end?

These will all be critical… and difficult… decisions. Two players are going to have to pass through waivers and could be claimed by other organizations, so the Twins must choose wisely. The current roster has been making an impressive run and in the process, they’ve closed the gap between themselves and the division leaders. Shaking up the roster at this point is a risk, even given the talent level that’s returning.

As early as a week from now, we may be seeing a line up that includes Joe Mauer, Justin Morneau, Jim Thome, Jason Kubel, Tsuyoshi Nishioka, and Denard Span. It will certainly look a lot more like the line up that we expected to see when the Twins broke camp in Ft. Myers. Whether that’s a good thing or not remains to be seen.

– JC