GameChat – Twins @ Athletics, 9:05pm

This is certainly a different line up tonight. Danny Valencia and Tsuyoshi Nishioka have seats on the pine while the Twins field an infield of Mauer, Plouffe, Hughes and Tolbert.

Sure looks like the Twins could use Denard Span in their line up and Denard Tweeted earlier today that he expected to play his last game for Rochester tonight and then rejoin the Twins in Oakland. But, not so fast… Ron Gardenhire, who had previously been quoted as saying Span needed to play 3 straight games of nine innings for Rochester, now told reporters that he’d have to see Denard play 5-6 straight games.

WTF? Why?

There’s only one reason I can think of and I don’t like it a bit. It’s got to be the trade talk heating up.

If Span is healthy enough to be playing baseball, there’s absolutely no legitimate reason to keep him in Rochester instead of having him play those games for the Twins. None. Nada. Not when Gardy is throwing the kind of players on his line up card that we’ve seen the last couple of games.

Ah well… on with tonight’s game.



Revere, CF Weeks, 2B
Plouffe, 2B Crisp, CF
Mauer, 1B Matsui, DH
Cuddyer, RF Willingham, LF
Kubel, DH Jackson, C, 1B
Young, D, LF DeJesus, RF
Hughes, L, 3B Sizemore, S, 3B
Tolbert, SS Suzuki, K, C
Butera, C Pennington, SS
  _Liriano, P   _Gonzalez, G, P
  1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 R H E
Minnesota 2 0 1 0 1 1 0 4 0 9 12 0
Oakland 2 0 0 0 0 0 0 3 0 5 8 2

A 12-hit attack with the top four in the order all having multi-hit games and a starting pitcher who gives 7 strong innings. Those are the results we expected to see this season… even if the line up wasn’t exactly what we envisioned.

Joe Mauer, Trevor Plouffe and Michael Cuddyer provided most of the offensive fireworks, but we do want to encourage Frankie to provide more performances like this one. He coughed up the early 2-run lead by giving up a HR in the bottom of the first inning, but that’s all the damage done. Liriano was definitely helped out of a couple of jams by inning-ending double plays, but all told it was a very good performance, earning him our BOD honors.

Francisco Liriano

Span Trade Needed… And Soon!


You saw that headline and I hooked ya. Now it’s time to reel you in.

No, I certainly do not believe the Twins need to trade Denard Span for Drew Storen or any other package centered on a relief pitcher. They’re seriously talking about trading him for relief pitching? REALLY? I wish someone could give me an example of when another organization traded away a guy of Span’s talents and contract status for a damn relief pitcher. I don’t care if someone is calling to offer me Dennis Eckersly in his prime, unless Eck is going to be used at the top of the rotation, I hang up the phone.

In fact, the more I  look at this stuff, the more amazed I am that the Twins would even consider dealing Denard Span for anyone, really. They probably aren’t going to offer Delmon Young arbitration this offseason and both Jason Kubel and Michael Cuddyer are going to be free agents with no shortage of suitors.

Ben Revere, Aaron Hicks, Joe Benson, and/or others among the Twins’ reputably talented outfield prospects may indeed combine in some manner to give us a “golden era” outfield, but I don’t believe for a moment that such an era is set to begin in 2012.

Denard Span... Twins need to trade FOR him, not trade him away

So yes, Denard Span needs to be traded, but the trade that needs to happen is one the Twins can implement all by themselves. Span needs to be traded TO the Twins by the Rochester Red Wings… and it needs to happen really, really soon.

Hey, I admit I’m no doctor and I would never, ever, advocate doing anything that would put a player’s health at risk. That’s particularly true when we’re talking about something as important as the man’s brain. If Span’s concussion symptoms are hanging around similarly to what Justin Morneau’s did a year ago, then sit him out until they’re gone. No doubt about it.

But he’s not sitting down. He’s playing baseball almost every day… in Rochester. If he needs a few extra days off, that’s fine. But when he does play, it should be while wearing a Minnesota uniform!

Look, if Alexi Casilla hadn’t pulled a hammie, a few days more or less of Denard entertaining fans at Frontier Field instead of playing for the Twins might not be a huge deal. But Lexi DID pull that hammie and he’s out for what the Twins witchdoctors say will be 2-3 weeks, which means we’ll be lucky to see him in a Twins uniform by this time next year, given the track record of the Twins’ medical staff (and I use that term loosely).

Did you see that line up Ron Gardenhire fielded in the final game of the Rangers series last night? Rochester wouldn’t be able to win an International League game with a line up that has Matt Tolbert, Ben Revere and Tsuyoshi Nishioka batting back-to-back-to-back in the 9, 1 and 2 spots, respectively… though I think I’d be OK with sending them down to let them try!

That may be being a bit harsh, I know. Tolbert actually got a couple of hits in his return last night, so the Twins certainly didn’t lose that game because of his presence. But as much as we all enjoy Revere’s approach to the game and appreciate the boost he gave the Twins when it was needed most, his performance at the top of the order has been really bad lately.

And then there’s Nishioka.

I am trying, for the life of me, to figure out why he’s still holding down a regular spot in the Twins line up while they are still considering themselves playoff contenders. Manager Ron Gardenhire has, as we all know, been known to stick with “his guys” through thick and thin (and thinner and thinnest), but I don’t recall many guys getting the level of patience Nishi has. Nick Punto, in his worst times, performed better than what we’ve seen this season out of Nishioka.

The man is a ground ball machine. You would think that just the law of averages would mean a few more of those ground balls would find holes in the infield, but they don’t. They aren’t hit hard enough to get through any but the most minute gaps and he’s not the fleetest guy from home to first base, so he’s not beating many of those infield grounders out.

Maybe I’m not seeing what Gardy is, because of everyone on his bench, he’s the last guy I would have moved up to the 2-spot in the batting order when Lexi went on the DL. As a matter of fact, since I’m advocating a “trade” with Rochester for Denard’s services, let me strongly suggest that it be Nishioka who gets sent to the Red Wings in return.

Tsuyoshi Nishioka... good chance he just grounded out.

The quotes from Gardy about this guy are consistently about how they still believe he can be a good ballplayer and they don’t want to destroy his confidence. I get that. It’s admirable. But do they think he’s an idiot and doesn’t see for himself that he’s hitting for sh*t? What’s more demoralizing for a player’s confidence, getting benched or continuously being overmatched by even the most mediocre Major League pitchers?

I keep hearing the excuses… the pitchers throw harder here, the strike zone is different in the US than Japan, he got a “star” level of respect from Japanese umpires and he’s getting “rookie” respect (e.g. none at all) from MLB umpires, his injury set back his learning curve.  blah, blah, blah. I don’t care.


I know the Twins have few other middle infield options. Matt Tolbert is barely replacement level, Trevor Plouffe would make the Jolly Green Giant leap to catch throws from SS, Luke Hughes doesn’t play short, and now Casilla is out of commission. At least Nishi is making the routine defensive plays at shortstop (and a few not-so-routine plays, as well), so I know there’s a case to be made that he’s the best of a bad bunch of options. But as long as we’ve still got a couple of days before the deadline, maybe Bill Smith can find someone with a spare AAA shortstop who occasionally will get the ball out of the infield. If not, I’d probably be fine with letting Tolbert or Plouffe get another shot, rather than continuing to watch Nishi flail away at the plate. It’s just too painful to watch and it has to be even more painful for him to experience.

The Twins are probably not going to get back in contention. I know that. And if they’re ready to throw in the towel, so be it. I can’t really argue against that, at this point. If that’s the case, then yes, let Nishioka keep trying to see, nevermind hit, American League pitching if we no longer care about winning games. Give Denard all the time he might need to get his game back together and be able to contribute 9 innings for 3, 4, 5 days in a row… whatever. Let’s get innings for Hughes, Plouffe and whomever else might warrant an extended look.

But, Bill and Gardy, don’t tell me you’re serious about getting back in to contention when you’ve still got Nishioka in your batting order, much less up near the top of it. It just makes you sound like idiots.

– JC