GameChat – Twins @ Rays #3, 12:40 pm

As bad as the Twins looked last night, they still have a chance to win this series over the Rays. All they need is to play good baseball and have Francisco Liriano pitch well.

Yeah… I know… but hey, it COULD happen!

Liriano is one of the guys definitely on the hot seat with the Twins (as I discussed in a post earlier this morning), but he’s far from the only one.

The line up looks pretty familiar. Justin Morneau’s still DHing. The sore foot apparently is well enough to hit, but not yet to the point where they want him on the field manning 1B. Clete Thomas seems to be establishing himself as the regular right fielder… though it’s hard to see exactly why that’s the case. I suppose maybe his defensive abilities out there are better than Ryan Doumit’s, but we need to keep expectations in check offensively. I can’t help but wish Joe Benson was hitting better than .180 in Rochester. Ah well.

TWINS

@

RAYS
Span, CF Jennings, LF
Carroll, SS Zobrist, RF
Mauer, C Pena, C, 1B
Willingham, LF Longoria, 3B
Morneau, DH Keppinger, DH
Parmelee, 1B Upton, B, CF
Valencia, 3B Rodriguez, S, SS
Thomas, C, RF Gimenez, C, C
Casilla, A, 2B Johnson, E, 2B
  _Liriano, P   _Niemann, P
  1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 R H E
Minnesota 0 0 0 0 0 2 0 0 0 2 5 0
Tampa Bay 0 0 2 1 2 0 0 1 x 6 5 1

I’m not sure what it says when an outing where Liriano gives up 5 funs over 5 innings is considered an improvement, but whatever it says, it can’t be good. I don’t see a solution where Liriano would be salvageable to the point where he starts actually helping the Twins again. The best they might hope for is to find some way for him to stop hurting the team so damn badly. I give him one more start and if we see nothing different, it’s time to make a pretty drastic decision.

Offensively, the only highlight to speak of was Ryan Doumit’s pinch hit bases-loaded base hit to drive in the Twins’ only two runs of the game. WTG, Ryan. – JC

Twins On The Hot Seat

As the Twins near the end of the first month of the season, things aren’t going very well. True, few fans really expected that things WOULD be going well, given the combination of last season’s record and the brutal April schedule that MLB saddled them with. Nonetheless, we can’t really be blamed for being disappointed with some of the performances we’re seeing on the field, thus far.

Given the way their most recent season or two have gone, we all had legitimate questions about what we could expect out of Joe Mauer, Justin Morneau and even Denard Span. We theorized that, if those three guys could somehow prove to be healthy, this team would have plenty of offense and that alone could allow them to threaten to play .500 ball. Guess what? All three players have been healthy and productive… but the team has still managed to lose twice as many of their first 15 games as they’ve won.

So, who’s to blame? More specifically, who’s roster spots… and perhaps even who’s future in Major League Baseball… are on the line already in this young season? Honestly, the list of underachievers on this Twins team so far is so long that it will be a challenge to list all the players with their heads on the chopping block in one post. But let’s try. We can certainly cover the names at the top of the list.

Alexi Casilla

Alexi Casilla – I’ve always loved Lexi. I admit to that bias, going all the way back to his time here in Cedar Rapids with the Kernels. He’s traditionally a slow starter, so it’s hardly a surprise to see him hitting below .250. But he’s not getting on base at a much higher rate and his fielding has been frustratingly inconsistent. With Brian Dozier hitting over .300 and sporting an .841 OPS through Saturday, you have to wonder how long Lexi’s leash is, at this point.

Of course, Dozier can only play one position and Casilla isn’t the only Twins infielder performing at a disappointing level. Which brings us to…

Danny Valencia - Unlike Casilla, I’ve never had a warm and fuzzy feeling toward Valencia. There’s something about his personality that just rubs me the wrong way. Then again, I don’t need to “like” a player to appreciate their talents if they’re contributing a little something to my favorite team’s success. So if Danny would… say… hit the friggin baseball once in a while, I’d overlook the whole personality thing. But he hasn’t done that. Not this year and, really, not last year. So exactly why should we assume he’s entitled to a regular position in the Twins line up?

Brian Dozier

Dozier could take his spot just as easily as Casilla’s. Either Casilla or Jamey Carroll would likely be an upgrade at 3B over Valencia defensively, making room for Dozier in the middle infield somewhere.

In fact, if the Twins really wanted to send a message (or if they could find another team foolish enough to take one or both of Casilla and Valencia off their hands), there’s another infielder in Rochester more than holding his own. Mike Hollimon was somewhat impressive during a short stint with the Big League club in Spring Training and he’s carried that production in to the season. He’s only hitting .256, but he’s getting on base and hitting with a little pop. In other words, he’s doing the things Valencia is supposed to be doing… and isn’t.

But let’s be honest, there’s one guy who’s Big League future is in even graver danger of coming to an end. We’re speaking, of course, about…

Francisco Liriano - Remember when he was known as “The Franchise”? If he’s been saving his money, maybe he’ll be able to buy a Popeye’s Chicken franchise, but his days as a starting pitcher for the Minnesota Twins are running short.

Francisco Liriano

We all know that Spring Training numbers are not necessarily predictive of regular season performance (if they were, Luke Hughes would be in his second year as a starting infielder for the Twins instead of awaiting word of his fate after being Designated for Assignment last week), but how in the world does a pitcher go from giving up just four runs on 10 hits in 18 Spring Training innings to the level of suckage we’re seeing out of Frankie now? An 11.91 ERA? 22 hits and 9 walks in 11.1 innings? Really?

Liriano’s facing the Tampa Bay Rays today… a Rays team that isn’t shy about swinging at pretty much anything that’s thrown near the plate. If he can’t put something together resembling a decent start against these guys, it might be time to think about moving on. Maybe Frankie can be effective out of the bullpen. Pitching one inning at a time gives a pitcher less to think about and, in his case, that has to be a good thing, right?

But who would replace him in the Twins rotation? It’s not like the organization is brimming with high level pitching prospects. Scott Diamond, however, is sporting a nifty little 3-0 record in Rochester, with a 1.47 ERA. If you don’t like Wins and ERA as measuring sticks (and, really, who does?), that’s fine. He’s also struck out 14 hitters and walked only 5 in his 18.1 innings of work and fashioned a nice 1.200 WHIP. He’s given up only one home run.

With Dozier and Diamond looking very good in Rochester, the Twins have some options… and while it’s only the end of April, we’ve seen enough of Casilla, Valencia and Liriano over the past several seasons to pretty much know that they are who they are… and who they are is not terribly good.

– JC