GameChat – Twins @ Angels #3, 2:35pm

You have probably already heard but just in case you have been under a rock called “working for a living” or some other extremely valid reason to be away from the social media round the clock news cycle, Joe Mauer & his wife, Maddie, welcomed their twin little girls into the world about 3:30 this morning. Their names are Maren Virginia and Emily Teresa and from the sounds of things, all is well and good.

Joe has been place on the Paternity list and is scheduled to be back with the team at the latest by Saturday. Drew Butera has been called up to sit on the bench in his absence…

Day games are still complicated even when they are on the west coast so no, I doubt I will get to follow along but I’m sure hoping for a sweep! That would be a great morale boost for the team and fans alike before we head off to tackle the more intimidating (to me) Mariners. I hope the boys give TDOW another great game!

Minnesota

@

LA Angels
Thomas, C, LF Shuck, LF
Bernier, 2B Trout, CF
Morneau, DH Pujols, DH
Doumit, C Trumbo, 1B
Herrmann, C, RF Kendrick, H, 2B
Plouffe, 3B Callaspo, 3B
Colabello, 1B Iannetta, C
Hicks, CF Cowgill, RF
Florimon, SS Aybar, SS
  Pelfrey, P   Weaver, P
1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 R H E
Minnesota 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 2 0
LA Angels 1 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 x 1 7 0

So when is an infield fly not an “infield fly”?

Ah well… if you’re only going to get 2 hits off of Weaver, you’re probably not going to win the game. Sounds like Mike Pelfrey had a nice outing, though, so that’s encouraging. – JC

Kernels roster changes but results don’t

With just 40 games remaining in their regular season schedule, now seems like a good time to step back and take a look at the state of the Cedar Rapids Kernels.

It’s almost laughable to even question whether or not the affiliation switch from the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim to the Minnesota Twins has been good for Cedar Rapids. Of course it has, by pretty much every measurement.

The Kernels have already qualified for the Midwest League postseason by virtue of their second place finish in the first half of the season and fan interest is up.

Attendance is up some, but even more telling, the fans who show up for games are enthusiastically engaged in what’s happening on the field. That has not always been the case at Veterans Memorial Stadium the past few years.

It certainly didn’t hurt that one of the Twins’ top prospects, Byron Buxton, got off to such an incredible start this spring. He drew fan and media interest from well beyond the local community.

But even after the inevitable promotion of Buxton to the Twins’ Class high-A affiliate at Fort Myers in June, the Kernels have continued to win games. That may come as a surprise to those so blinded by Buxton’s aura that they didn’t notice the Kernels roster included a number of other very talented players.

Jonathan Murphy

Jonathan Murphy

Of course, Buxton isn’t the only Kernels player the Twins have rewarded with a bump up in playing  level. The Kernels have seen about a dozen players, in total, promoted to Fort Myers already this season.

The Twins, as an organization, have a reputation for being conservative with their promotions. They historically have preferred to see most players spend at least an entire season, if not more, at most minor league levels.

No doubt, Kernels officials were hoping that trend would continue. In past seasons, the Angels seemingly couldn’t wait to promote players as soon as they demonstrated any level of productivity in a Kernels uniform.

Among position players, Buxton was the only key offensive contributor to be lost to promotion until J.D. Williams and Dalton Hicks were bumped up to Fort Myers about a week ago.

It’s not easy to replace players found in the top 10 of most Midwest League offensive statistical categories like Williams (on-base percentage, OPS), Hicks (home runs, RBI, slugging pct., OPS) and Buxton (almost everything), but players brought in to Cedar Rapids by the Twins to replace the departing hitters have done well.

Max Kepler

Max Kepler

Max Kepler joined the Kernels once he completed rehabilitating his injured elbow in Fort Myers. He arrived four days before Buxton was promoted and he has hit for a .263 average. Thirteen of his 31 hits have been for extra bases.

Jonathan Murphy is hitting .333 in the 17 games he’s played since his arrival at the beginning of July and Joel Licon has performed well in a utility infielder role since he joined the team in early June.

It’s too early to know for certain how well Mike Gonzales will fill in for the departed Hicks, but the big first baseman has four hits in his first eight at-bats as a Kernel. Gonzales hit .289 and stroked 15 home runs for the Beloit Snappers in 2011. He missed much of his 2012 season in Fort Myers and after starting this season again with the Miracle, a wrist injury has sidelined him for the past several weeks.

On the pitching front, the Kernels lost Taylor Rogers before most fans even got to know him. He made three unimpressive starts for the Kernels before being moved on to Fort Myers. Jose Berrios, a supplemental first round draft pick in the 2012 First Year Player Draft and one of the top pitching prospects in the Twins organization, essentially took Rogers’ spot in the Kernels rotation.

The subsequent promotion of Tyler Duffey in early June left a much more significant hole at the top of the Kernels’ rotation. Duffey carried a 2.78 ERA and a 0.943 WHIP through nine starts when he left Cedar Rapids.

Josue Montanez initially worked from the Kernels bullpen after his promotion to Cedar Rapids in June, but has shown some potential since joining the rotation about a month ago.

Perhaps even more critically, the Kernels have seen four important members of their bullpen earn promotions. Matt Tomshaw and Manuel Soliman had contributed a total of 59 innings of work over a combined 30 appearances before they were promoted. Last week, the Twins elevated Steve Gruver and Tyler Jones, who had combined to provide a formidable left-right relief combination late in games.

Reliever Alex Muren has been relatively effective since arriving from extended spring training in early May, and the early returns from more recent additions Madison Boer, Dallas Gallant and Tim Shibuya are encouraging.

But the bottom line in baseball is all about wins and losses.

The Kernels were 44-28, for a .611 winning percentage, with Buxton on the roster. Since his promotion four games in to the second half schedule, the Kernels are 17-9 (.654) and they are leading the MWL West Division by three games over first half champion Beloit.

It’s certainly too soon to know what effect losing the four players promoted a week ago will have on the team’s fortunes. However, the Kernels have won five of the first six games played (all on the road) since Hicks, Williams, Jones and Gruver got their well-deserved promotions.

On Tuesday, the first member of the Twins’ draft class of 2013 was promoted to Cedar Rapids when seventh round pick Brian Gilbert was added to the Kernels’ roster.

Roster turnover is just a fact of life in minor league baseball. When the local team starts out winning a lot of games, it’s probably because a lot of players are performing very well and players that perform very well deserve promotions to the next level in the organization.

One way to measure the strength of an organization is to look at how a minor league team performs after a number of their best players are promoted. If the new players perform well and the team continues winning, that’s a very good sign.

So far, that’s what we’re seeing in Cedar Rapids. That bodes well, this season, for the Kernels and for the Twins in the long run.

GameChat – Twins @ Angels #2, 9:05pm

The Twins just know how to win. Simple as that folks.  The Twins are just at the beginning of a string of 20 games against teams with records under .500, so they should play pretty competitive baseball for the next few weeks.  It will be fun while it lasts, as they run into the Tigers and Indians for what seems like two straight weeks after this is over.

Should be fun tonight with Kyle Gibson on the mound.

EDIT: Joe Mauer was a late scratch from the lineup and is headed back to Minnesota because his wife’s water broke. The babies were not due for another month, so let’s hope everything is okay for the Mauers.

 Minnesota Twins

@

Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim
 Dozier, 2B  Shuck, LF
 Carroll, 3B  Trout, CF
 Morneau, 1B  Pujols, DH
 Doumit, RF
 Kendrick, H, 2B
 Colabello, DH  Callaspo, 3B
 Thomas, C, LF  Trumbo, 1B
 Herrmann, C, C  Conger, C
 Hicks, CF  Cowgill, RF
 Florimon, SS  Aybar, SS
   Gibson, P    Hanson, P

Time to start a winning streak.

1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 R H E
Minnesota 0 0 1 0 0 0 1 1 0 7 10 15 0
LA Angels 0 0 0 2 0 0 0 0 1 0 3 10 0

What a finish!  For the 2nd night in a row the Twins almost give one away in late innings.  Tonight the Twins did give up the lead in the 9th, but stormed back in the 10th, capping things off with a Chris Herrmann grand slam to put the Angels away.

I was long asleep, but  Herrmann certainly gets BOD for his 3-5 night with RBI after not expecting to start tonight.

Chris Herrmann

 

“Hello, Good-Bye” Poll

You say yes, I say no
You say stop and I say go go go, oh no
You say goodbye and I say hello
Hello hello
I don’t know why you say goodbye, I say hello

This is the time of year when, like it or not, there’s a lot of discussion going on about who will or will not be wearing a Twins uniform a week or two… or a month or two… from now.

The reality is, when your favorite Major League Baseball team is not a contender in July, there will almost certainly be changes made. Maybe you’ll see a managerial change. You will see player changes.

Fans will be saying “hello” to some new faces… and they’ll be saying “good-bye” to some favorite familiar faces. That’s baseball, especially when your team is in the middle of its third consecutive losing season.

Let’s try to make a few predictions concerning who we’ll be saying “good-bye” to.

Ron Gardenhire

Ron Gardenhire

The easiest off-season prediction to make relative to the Twins was that manager Ron Gardenhire’s job status would be a hot topic by the end of July. Gardenhire’s Twins have lost almost 100 games in each of the past two seasons and it would seem almost inevitable that the total will be at least 90 losses in 2013.

That was predictable. Since the losing season was predictable, so was Gardenhire’s hot seat.

Of course, the reason the losing season was predictable is that the roster that General Manager Terry Ryan and the rest of the front office assembled for Gardenhire before the season started was underwhelming.

I’ve never been overly impressed with Gardenhire’s game management philosophies, but I also believe that the job of a manager is a lot more about managing the clubhouse than managing individual games.

A manager is only as good as the players he’s given to work with and I think pretty much everyone, including his boss, now knows Gardenhire was dealt a pretty lousy hand this season.

If the manager has lost the clubhouse… if the players have tuned him out and no longer respect his voice… then he should be replaced. I’ve not heard nor read any indication that such is the case, however.

Given that, I not only expect Gardenhire to remain the Twins manager through the end of this season, but also to be brought back for 2014 and beyond.

There are plenty of other possible changes to the Twins worthy of discussion that are far more likely to take place, however.

This time of year, trades are at the top of the list of discussion topics.

Terry Ryan

Terry Ryan

A year ago, I published my list of top five most likely Twins to be dealt before the end of August. At that time, the list was, in order from first to fifth, Franicisco Liriano, Denard Span, Danny Valencia, Alexi Casilla and Josh Willingham.

In a poll we attached to that article, our readers agreed with my top three choices, but felt Matt Capps was more likely to be traded during the season than Casilla and Willingham. In fact, almost nobody agreed with me on Willingham being a trade target.

In the end, the Twins had almost nobody that anyone really wanted to trade for a year ago. Liriano and Valencia were traded during the season, Span was dealt in the off-season and Casilla parted after the season, as well.

The Twins are sellers this year, once again, but is Ryan likely to see any greater interest among his fellow GMs than he did a year ago?

I’m not sure Ryan will trade more than just a couple of players, again, but the level of interest… and thus the ultimate return for those players… should be greater this season.

Here’s my list of the five Twins players most likely to be wearing another team’s uniform by the end of August this year:

  1. Justin Morneau: He’s in the last year of his contract with Minnesota and there reportedly are teams calling about him. He’s not going to bring the return he would have if he were his old home run hitting self, but if the Twins will pay a chunk of his remaining salary (and there’s absolutely no reason they shouldn’t), there are contenders that may be willing to give up a prospect with some talent. If they end up just giving Morneau away as a salary dump, Twins fans should justifiably be enraged.
  2. Jared Burton: He’s had a few struggles and hasn’t been as reliable as he was a year ago, but there are a lot of teams that could use relief pitching and Burton is likely drawing interest.
  3. Ryan Doumit: The Twins like his versatility. Other teams will like that, too.
  4. Glen Perkins: If it were me, I wouldn’t trade Perkins unless someone agreed to way overpay for a “proven closer.” Unfortunately for the Twins, most teams (other than the Twins themselves, historically) are not inclined to overpay for a proven closer. If you want an indication of whether Terry Ryan believes the Twins can contend next year or whether it will be at least 2015, watch what he does with Perkins. If he’s traded, it may indicate Ryan expects the All-Star Game to be the biggest Target Field highlight of 2014.
  5. Trevor Plouffe: Is Terry Ryan ready to annoint Miguel Sano as the Twins’ starting third baseman beginning in 2014? If so, Trevor Plouffe could be dealt.

Others: Could Kevin Correia or Mike Pelfrey be traded? Maybe, but I think not.

Pelfrey is pitching better and if that continues, he may have some value, but he’s making little enough that if he isn’t dealt in July, he could be “blocked” by teams claiming him to prevent a waiver trade in August. I also could see the Twins extend Pelfrey for another season before this summer is over.

I think Ryan feels vindicated by Correia’s season and intends to keep him for the second year of his contract.

What do you think?

Who do you think will no longer be wearing a Twins uniform by the end of August? Let us know in the poll below. We’ll add Ron Gardenhire to the list to choose from in the poll so if you really believe he’s likely to be axed this summer, you can reflect that in your choices.

Who do you feel is MOST likely to NOT be wearing a Twins uniform by the end of August? (Choose up to 5)

  • Justin Morneau (69%, 25 Votes)
  • Jamey Carroll (53%, 19 Votes)
  • Jared Burton (47%, 17 Votes)
  • Brian Duensing (31%, 11 Votes)
  • Ryan Doumit (28%, 10 Votes)
  • Glen Perkins (22%, 8 Votes)
  • Mike Pelfrey (19%, 7 Votes)
  • Trevor Plouffe (17%, 6 Votes)
  • Casey Fien (14%, 5 Votes)
  • Kevin Correia (14%, 5 Votes)
  • Scott Diamond (8%, 3 Votes)
  • Ron Gardenhire (3%, 1 Votes)
  • Joe Mauer (3%, 1 Votes)
  • Josh Willingham (3%, 1 Votes)
  • Aaron Hicks (0%, 0 Votes)
  • Chris Parmelee (0%, 0 Votes)
  • Brian Dozier (0%, 0 Votes)

Total Voters: 36

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GameChat – Twins @ Angels, 9:05pm

arrgghh.. the bane of my blogging existence – west coast baseball.

I’m sure that any number of west side knuckleballers are ecstatic with each visit to the left coast because at least then they get prime time baseball instead breakfast games or some such idiocy. So, TallDrinkOfWater and Twink – these games are for you. I gotta figure out how to get teach one of you how to put up the box score when the games are over and I’m passed out in the other room…

ANYWAY.. back to baseball!

So the lineup looks a little different than you’re used to seeing.. that Bernier kid (no clue how to SAY that properly) that no one knows except the minor league geeks is batting second. I don’t know if it’s the start times or the younger and younger kids in the lineup that is making me feel old but.. yeah.

Minnesota

@

LA Angels
Dozier, 2B Shuck, LF
Bernier, SS Trout, CF
Mauer, C Pujols, DH
Morneau, 1B Kendrick, H, 2B
Doumit, RF Callaspo, 3B
Plouffe, 3B Trumbo, RF
Colabello, DH Hawpe, 1B
Thomas, C, LF Conger, C
Hicks, CF Aybar, SS
  Deduno, P   Blanton, P

 

1

2

3

4

5

6

7

8

9

R

H

E

Minnesota

0

2

0

2

0

0

0

0

0

4

12

0

LA Angels

1

0

1

0

0

0

0

1

0

3

9

1

Woohoo!! I’m so glad that TDOW got to see a great game of baseball in which HER team won!! The Twins aren’t always so good at doing that for their fans – especially fans in far flung areas of the country…

That being said, while I really really really TRIED to stay awake for the whole game, I just couldn’t do it. My husband managed to see the end though and TDOW kindly came back to the chat and gave her revelations of game end as well. But from what I’m hearing, (I made it through the 6th inning) things continued to the end much like they were in the first half.

Deduno had a ROUGH first inning that had us all terrified of what the progress of this game was going to be like but we managed to get out of that only giving them 1 run – he owes SOMEONE a steak. But after that, he “settled down” into his ridiculously wild self and had them chasing balls all over. He had 5 BB and 5 Ks in his 7 innings and while I never really appreciate those numbers being the same that way, for him it might be just the way the numbers end up looking but can’t really describe how effective his pitching actually was the way the boxscore does. He’s definitely improved/matured into a SOLID starting pitcher and is likely the one I trust the most these days to give us a good game of baseball – for that he gets a beverage of his choice on us.

Joe Mauer also continued to do his Mauerly thing getting three hits and all the while catching Deduno which is getting to be an art-form. Mind you, they are doing a pretty good job behind the plate of making that art look easy and instinctive. He also gets the beverage of his choice – a tall glass of Land O’Lakes milk perhaps?

I was especially proud of the lineup full of young kids – wow do we have a lot of young guys getting their first taste of big league ball in this batting order. Especially Bernier who made his MLB debut among family and friends because he grew up just a couple hours away. I’m sure he made them very proud with his first hit and a couple really nice plays at short stop! I’m always impressed with solid fielding when a guy comes up. Colabello and Hicks also did well getting solid hits and even a run but the real ‘new kid’ story of tonight was Clete Thomas. This kid is really starting to grow on me! SOLID hitting including the game’s only Homerun, a double, 2 Runs 2 RBI and a couple LOVELY catches that brought a tear to the eye. For that, he was voted the BOD! I believe it’s his first! Congrats Clete Thomas!

Clete Thomas

Talk to Contact Episode 45: Breaking Down the All-Star Break

Episode 45 of the Twins baseball podcast,  Talk To Contact (@TalkToContact), is now available for download via iTunes or by clicking here.

ron-gardenhire-shirt

This week on the podcast, Cody and Eric break down the Twins’ recent series wins against New York and Cleveland, recap their 1st half Twins MVPs, and contemplate the future of Ron Gardenhire.

Down on the Pond they talk about Low-A Cedar Rapids Kernels’ RHP Dallas Gallant, and they even try and give away a “Magic in Minneosta” DVD, listen up for details.

To close out the show the two talk Beers from Around the World and then go Around the League, finishing with a couple of BOLD predicitons for the 2nd half.

68 minutes of internet money!

 

You can follow Cody on Twitter (@NoDakTwinsFan) or read his writing at NoDakTwinsFan.  You can follow Paul on Twitter (@BaseballPirate) or read his writing at  Puckett’s Pond.  And of course, you can find me on Twitter (@ERolfPleiss) and read my writing at Knuckleballs!

– ERolfPleiss

GameChat – Indians @ Twins #3, 1:10

The Twins have an opportunity to gain a series sweep over Cleveland today, but they’re likely to need a better start out of Scott Diamond than they’ve been getting out of him in his past two starts. He does seem to do a bit better at home than on the road, so maybe that’s a reason to have some hope.

Diamond’s battery mate will be Chris Herrmann, who’s getting a rare start behind the plate for the Twins.

INDIANS

@

TWINS
Stubbs, CF Dozier, 2B
Cabrera, A, SS Herrmann, C, C
Kipnis, 2B Mauer, DH
Swisher, DH Morneau, 1B
Santana, C, C Doumit, RF
Reynolds, Ma, 1B Plouffe, 3B
Brantley, LF Thomas, C, LF
Raburn, RF Hicks, CF
Aviles, 3B Florimon, SS
  _Masterson, P   _Diamond, P
1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 R H E
Cleveland 0 1 2 0 3 0 0 0 1 7 9 1
Minnesota 0 0 0 0 0 0 1 0 0 1 2 1

Well, that was a pretty ugly way to end a series. Two hits? That’s a load of crap.

 

GameChat – Indians @ Twins #2, 6:10

The Tony Oliva mural along one wall of the Legends Club

The Tony Oliva mural along one wall of the Legends Club

First of all, Happy Birthday, Tony Oliva! Oliva was one of my boyhood idols and I love that he remains part of the Twins family. He’s actually scheduled to be in Cedar Rapids next weekend and I’m looking forward to that.

Tonight, Kevin Correia goes to the mound. He seems to have been having a little trouble with the home run ball the last few starts, so let’s see if that trend can be reversed tonight.

INDIANS

@

TWINS
Bourn, CF Dozier, 2B
Cabrera, A, SS Plouffe, 3B
Kipnis, 2B Mauer, C
Swisher, RF Morneau, 1B
Brantley, LF Doumit, RF
Santana, C, C Colabello, DH
Giambi, DH Hicks, CF
Reynolds, Ma, 1B Thomas, C, LF
Chisenhall, 3B Florimon, SS
  _Kluber, P   _Correia, P
1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 R H E
Cleveland 0 0 0 0 0 2 0 0 0 2 5 1
Minnesota 0 0 0 0 0 3 0 0 x 3 6 0

Well that wasn’t exactly overwhelming force, but a 3-2 win is still a win!

The M&M guys were the only Twins with multiple hits and the team was only 1 for 7 with runners in scoring position, but all that really matters is that our guys scored more runs than their guys.

Kevin Correia did give up another home run, but overall a six-inning start where you only give up two runs is pretty good these days. The bullpen closed things out successfully the last three innings.

In the end, everyone in the GameChat at the end of the game (that would be me) agreed that Correia earned BOD honors.

Kevin Correia (photo David Goldman/AP)

Kevin Correia (photo David Goldman/AP)

GameChat – Indians @ Twins, 7:10pm

So the boys are back in Minnesota and the weather is perfectly timed for some GLORIOUS baseball. The heat streak has resided for the last week with ridiculous heat indices but now that has changed – at least the humidity has gone to tolerable levels. It’s still in the 80’s but suddenly that doesn’t matter – it is just a lovely summer evening for baseball.

The way the rumor mill is going, everyone quick enjoy the M&M boys – including their bobblehead to 10k fans tonight – before Morneau is traded somewhere else for a paltry nothing on a soft market..

MnMboysbobblehead

 

So other than another losing season and the possible loss of a popular player for no particularly good reason, let’s just try to enjoy a great weekend of great baseball weather and see if we can’t take down a beatable division rival!

leveland

@

Minnesota
Bourn, CF Dozier, 2B
Cabrera, A, SS Plouffe, 3B
Kipnis, 2B Mauer, C
Swisher, 1B Morneau, 1B
Brantley, LF Doumit, RF
Santana, C, DH Colabello, DH
Chisenhall, 3B Hicks, CF
Gomes, Y, C Thomas, C, LF
Stubbs, RF Florimon, SS
  Kazmir, P   Pelfrey, P

 

1

2

3

4

5

6

7

8

9

R

H

E

Cleveland

0

0

2

0

0

0

0

0

0

2

4

2

Minnesota

0

0

0

0

0

2

0

1

x

3

6

0

Now THAT is how you come back from the the All-Star break! (and come back in the game for that matter..)  It really was a beautiful night for baseball. And wow the Indians had some HORRIBLE defense out there – Defense was the theme for tonight.

There were also some great stories from tonight: Mauer got the game-winning base hit in the 8th which is normally enough to earn you a BOD, Dozier with some gorgeous fielding and baserunning, Perkins finally getting to use all that ASG energy to get his Save..

But BOD tonight goes to Pedro Florimon! He’s the one who got us to the tie in the first place, had two different miraculous solo fielding plays, a stunning double play with Dozier but in general understanding and playing GREAT baseball on both sides tonight. LOVED it. Defense lost this game, and Defense won it. Great job boys.

Florimon at bat