Change is a Challenge Tyler Grimes Has Embraced

A number of this year’s Cedar Rapids Kernels have had to make an adjustment to wearing a Kernels uniform this summer after playing last season for the Beloit Snappers, who were the Minnesota Twins Midwest League affiliate during the eight prior years. It no doubt felt a little odd to some of them.

But to Tyler Grimes, who was the Snappers primary shortstop much of last season, the change in geographic location was far from the most drastic of the adjustments he’s had to make.

Tyler Grimes (9) shares a light moment in the on deck circle with Kernels team mate Niko Goodrum

Tyler Grimes (9) shares a light moment in the on deck circle with Kernels team mate Niko Goodrum

A couple of weeks before the Snappers’ season ended, Grimes was informed by the Twins minor league field coordinator, Joel Lepel, that the organization intended to convert him to catcher during the fall instructional league. Grimes said he hadn’t caught since Little League.

“At first, I didn’t know how to take it,” Grimes said during an interview on Saturday. “There was a lot of things going through my head. I just didn’t know how I was going to approach it when I got down there, at first.

“I got down there and everything started working out and I started to like it more and more. But it was tough, don’t get me wrong.”

And now, how does Grimes feel after spending dozens of games behind the plate in the catchers’ gear that ballplayers have long dubbed, ‘the tools if ignorance?’

“It’s been a tough transition, but here in July I can honestly say I enjoy going out there each night that I catch and I’m having fun with it. It’s like a new love for the game. I’ve got a new challenge and I’m always up for a challenge.”

That challenge has had some down sides, of course.

“My body, I’ve got to take care of it differently. I wasn’t used to taking ice baths, but I’ve been in the ice bath a lot,” Grimes said with a bit of a smile.

As a shortstop, Grimes had some responsibility for communicating with his fellow infielders, but he’s learned those responsibilities pale in comparison to what he’s had to take on as a catcher. Being the team’s “quarterback” behind the plate hasn’t always come naturally to him.

“Yeah, it was a little mind-boggling for me at first,” Grimes admitted. “(Lepel) is always on me, ‘hey you need to be more talkative and let those guys know.’ I wasn’t used to that. I’m not really like that. I’m not too loud out there on the field. I kind of let my game play itself and keep my mouth shut.”

But Grimes feels that part of his game is progressing. “That’s coming more in to everything now, I think. At first, it was position for blocking and other mechanics. Now I’m getting used to that more and more. I’ve still got a lot to work on and I do every day. But the talking side of it, and getting to know your pitchers, is starting to come more and more.”

Grimes literally takes a very professional approach to his new responsibilities.

“It’s a tough thing when (pitchers) aren’t hitting their locations or not hitting the vicinity that you think it’s going to be. You’re trying to call a curve ball and those guys are trying to throw it for a strike and it’s in the dirt.

It’s your job to block the ball. At these levels, now, you need to block the ball. We’re not in college or high school, this is our job, this is what we’re paid to do. So I take a lot of pride in blocking now. Even if it looks bad or weird, I’m going to do whatever I can to throw my body at it.”

His manager, Jake Mauer, likes the progress Grimes has made this season.

“He’s progressing pretty good, starting to receive the ball better, throws great,” said the manager. “His game-calling has gotten better. If we can get him to receive a little bit better on the low pitch, which a lot of catchers have trouble with.”

“He’s come a long ways,” added Mauer. “He wants to catch, which is a good thing. He wants to be good at it, which is better.”

Tyler Grimes

Tyler Grimes

One aspect of the game that Grimes has had considerable success at this season is controlling the running game of the Kernels’ opponents. He has thrown out about 44 percent of opposing baserunners that have attempted to steal a base against him. That’s a percentage most Major League catchers would love to have.

“It always feels good when you throw somebody out,” admitted Grimes. “You can block a ball and everything like that, but once you throw somebody out, it’s kind of like, ‘ok, I’m starting to like this more and more,’ you know?”

Still, it takes a certain kind of fearlessness for a player to willingly adjust from playing a position that’s a relatively safe 100 feet or more away from the hitter to being the guy setting up right behind the hitter. As it turns out, Grimes comes by that trait naturally. He played hockey until a series of concussions forced him to give up that game and focus on baseball.

That’s a fact he may regret letting Joel Lepel in on.

“(Lepel) likes to get on me, which is fine, because I can take it,” Grimes said, smiling. “Ever since then, he’s been like, ‘we’re going to be on you about it because if you’re a hockey player, you’re not scared of nothing.’

“But it is my mentality, catching is my mentality. I just had to get used to it and, like I said, I’m loving it now.”

He may be loving catching now, but there’s little question about which sport was Grimes’ favorite growing up – and it wasn’t baseball.

“We traveled in hockey from Houston to Canada,” Grimes related, concerning his time as a teenage hockey player. “Every spring break we’d go to Calgary and Toronto. Being from Kansas, a lot of people wouldn’t expect that. We actually had a good group of guys and we traveled all over and had fun with it.

“I tell you what, if I didn’t have the concussions that I have, then I probably wouldn’t be sitting here talking to you, to this day,” Grimes admitted.

Shortly after arriving in Cedar Rapids, Grimes had an opportunity to attend a Cedar Rapids RoughRiders United States Hockey League game. Did watching the RoughRiders make him feel like grabbing a stick?

“Oh man,” Grimes responded with a head shake. “I called my dad and said, ‘I’m going to have to leave.’ I ended up leaving because I can’t watch it. I haven’t put on a pair of skates since I was 17 years old.”

The teenage Grimes “retired” from hockey after a championship game.

“My friend actually passed away this past year and they had a little get-together skate and I couldn’t even go to that,” recalled Grimes. “I showed up to the funeral but I couldn’t go to (the skate) because I can’t put on another pair of skates or I’ll be done with baseball and that’s no lie.”

Grimes’ demeanor turns serious when asked about his family and how they keep up with how he’s doing during the season.

“I’m a big family guy. My dad’s my best friend. I’ve got four little sisters and my mom, so it’s a big deal to me,” said Grimes. “I’m really tight with my little sisters. I went to Wichita State and played there and the reason I why I chose there was because I wanted to watch my sisters grow up. Not only do I play for myself, but I play for them and I play for our last name. I take a lot of pride in that.”

Obviously, the Grimes are a tight-knit family.

“I can sit here and tell you everything about my family and tell you how tight we are, but there’s really no words to describe how me and my family are,” Grimes explained. “It’s about being real and that’s how my personality is. I think that’s why I like catching, because if a pitcher needs to hear something or a pitcher needs to tell me something, I’m not going to be afraid to say anything and that’s how I look at it. But yeah, my family is my everything.”

Tyler Grimes

Tyler Grimes

Grimes also is enjoying the time he’s spending with his Kernels baseball family this season, but he’s also quite philosophical about the life of a minor league ballplayer that he’s leading.

“Now that I’m here, you’ve got to enjoy these guys, got to enjoy the clubhouse, because you never know when your last day is going to be,” said Grimes. “Two of my friends just got released last week. It just happens that quick.

“All these fans that come out and support us would do anything to be in our position. You know what, sometimes as players, we get away from how we have it. Minor league baseball is a grind, but at the same time, if it pays off and you get (to the Major Leagues), you’re going to be accepting a pretty good check every two weeks.”

Whether he achieves his goal of playing Big League ball or not, Grimes feels his time in the minor leagues is preparing him for life after baseball.

“You meet guys in the clubhouse that you don’t like or you dislike or you love, you have to find a way to get along with everybody,” Grimes went on to explain, “because that’s what’s going to take our team to a winning team or a losing team or a mediocre team. You just never know.”

Grimes believes the Twins organization does a very good job of finding players with character.

“I don’t know how deep (the Twins) go in to background checks, but everybody in our organization is a classy guy. Everybody gets along,” said Grimes. “The friendships that you build, it’s not just towards baseball. You never know if  JD Williams is going to own a business or if Joel Licon’s going to be the owner of a hotel and you get put on with him and you guys just keep in touch. It’s just good because it’s more than baseball.

“As much time as we spend together and as much as we get on each others’ nerves, you can’t explain the minor league life to the outsiders. It’s just impossible.”

One thing Grimes could explain, however, was his feelings about playing baseball in Cedar Rapids this season.

“I called my dad after about the first two weeks, and said, ‘I don’t know what the Big Leagues feels like, but this feels like the Big Leagues to me,” Grimes recalled, adding that the host family program was another aspect he appreciates about his Cedar Rapids experience.

Talking about the fan turnout for Kernels games, compared to other places he’s played, Grimes was effusive in his praise for the local support the Kernels fans have shown the team.

“To be able to play in front of an atmosphere like we go out in front of every night, it makes us enjoy what we’re doing,” said Grimes. “I actually feel like a professional baseball player here.”

Talk to Contact Episode 44: Minor Leauge Caps

Episode 44 of the Twins baseball podcast,  Talk To Contact (@TalkToContact), is now available for download via iTunes or by clicking here.

This week Cody and Eric get down on a bunch of Twins news from the past week+, including a mediocre Kyle Gibson, roster transactions, a surging Aaron Hicks and a slumping EVERYONE else.

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Down on the Pond is about the Twins’ recent #1 draft pick Kohl Stewart.  After that Cody and Eric talk beer, baseball, and the news.

76 minutes of unmitigated baseball talk.

 

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

2013 MLB All-Star GameChat!

Congratulations to Joe Mauer and Glenn Perkins of course for being in the All-Star Game. It’s god awful hot in NY tonight (much like Minnesota) so who knows what we’ll get for baseball tonight.

Sadly, I won’t be able to watch but I’m putting up a chat for those of you who CAN and would like to compare.

Instead of our usual lineup box, I’m posting info that will have all the available reserve positions as well as notes for how the players GOT to this game.  Hope you find it helpful! I also went through and bolded some players you should all take notice of – former Twins who are representing different teams now but still (or newly) at an All-Star level.

American League Starters

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National League Starters

C: Joe Mauer, Twins C: Yadier Molina, Cardinals
1B: Chris Davis, Orioles 1B: Joey Votto, Reds
2B: Robinson Cano, Yankees 2B: Brandon Phillips, Reds
SS: J.J. Hardy, Orioles SS: Troy Tulowitzki, Rockies
3B: Miguel Cabrera, Tigers 3B: David Wright, Mets
OF: Mike Trout, Angels OF: Carlos Beltran, Cardinals
OF: Adam Jones, Orioles OF: Carlos Gonzalez, Rockies
OF: Jose Bautista, Blue Jays OF: Bryce Harper, Nationals
DH: David Ortiz, Red Sox
Pitchers
Pitchers
LHP: Madison Bumgarner, Giants
RHP: Grant Balfour %, A’s LHP: Aroldis Chapman, Reds
RHP: Clay Buchholz *, Red Sox LHP: Patrick Corbin, D-backs
LHP: Brett Cecil, Blue Jays RHP: Jose Fernandez, Marlins
RHP: Bartolo Colon @, &, A’s RHP: Jason Grilli, Pirates
RHP: Jesse Crain *, White Sox RHP: Matt Harvey, Mets
RHP: Yu Darvish *, Rangers LHP: Clayton Kershaw, Dodgers
RHP: Steve Delabar #,Blue Jays RHP: Craig Kimbrel, Braves
RHP: Felix Hernandez, Mariners LHP: Cliff Lee, Phillies
RHP: Greg Holland %, Royals LHP: Jeff Locke *, Pirates
RHP: Hisashi Iwakuma &, Mariners RHP: Mark Melancon @, Pirates
RHP: Justin Masterson, Indians RHP: Edward Mujica %, Cardinals
RHP: Matt Moore @, Rays RHP: Sergio Romo @, Giants
RHP: Joe Nathan, Rangers RHP: Adam Wainwright &, Cardinals
LHP: Glen Perkins @, Twins LHP: Travis Wood, Cubs
RHP: Mariano Rivera, Yankees RHP: Jordan Zimmermann *, Nationals
LHP: Chris Sale, White Sox
RHP: Max Scherzer, Tigers
Reserves
RHP: Chris Tillman %, Orioles C: Buster Posey, Giants
RHP: Justin Verlander &, Tigers C: Brian McCann @, Braves
1B: Paul Goldschmidt, D-backs
Reserves
1B: Allen Craig, Cardinals
C: Jason Castro, Astros 1B: Freddie Freeman ##, Braves
C: Salvador Perez, Royals 2B: Matt Carpenter, Cardinals
1B: Prince Fielder, Tigers 2B: Marco Scutaro, Giants
2B: Jason Kipnis, Indians SS: Everth Cabrera, Padres
2B: Dustin Pedroia, Red Sox SS: Jean Segura, Brewers
2B: Ben Zobrist, Rays 3B: Pedro Alvarez, Pirates
SS: Jhonny Peralta: Tigers OF: Domonic Brown, Phillies
3B: Manny Machado, Orioles OF: Michael Cuddyer, Rockies
OF: Nelson Cruz, Rangers OF: Carlos Gomez, Brewers
OF: Alex Gordon, Royals OF: Andrew McCutchen, Pirates
OF: Torii Hunter, Tigers
DH: Edwin Encarnacion, Blue Jays

NOTES
* Chosen on Player Ballot, injured
@ Injury replacement
# Final Vote winner
## Final Vote winner, injured
& Chosen on Player Ballot, pitched Sunday
% Replacing Sunday pitcher

Let’s hope that I didn’t forget anyone! Enjoy all!

 

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So the AL breaks the win streak the NL had going… it’s about time!

I think the story for tonight’s win was all about the pitching. AL pitchers just had some REALLY amazing NL hitters off-balance for most of the night. They were able to get a couple hits here & there but never put anything together.

2013 All-Star Game MVP is Mariano Rivera who came out and pitched the 8th inning with a fairly ceremonial entrance to an empty field with Enter Sandman playing behind him. To see both dugouts standing and applauding a true All-Star on the field was a special moment for players and fans alike.  Congrats Mo.

Tell us Your Favorite All-Star Game Moment and WIN!

With the MLB All-Star Game upon us, we don’t have a whole lot of Twins stuff to talk about, so it’s a good time to give something away.

In a fortuitous coincidence, the good folks at A+E Networks Home Entertainment and MLB Productions have offered us some stuff to give away in conjunction with the release of MLB Productions Films on iTunes.

Here are the details that the sponsors would like us to pass along to you, our readers:

Baseball fans are now able to experience their favorite films in an entirely new way, as titles from the Major League Baseball Productions Film & Video Archive are now available digitally.  Over 100 titles are now live on iTunes, which already includes hundreds of classic games as well as podcasts and award-winning mobile apps from MLB Advanced Media, including MLB.com At Bat, the top grossing sports app of all-time.

Aside from MLB Bloopers and Prime 9: MLB Heroics, available programming includes The Best of the Home Run Derby and “Prime 9: All-Star Moments;” Official World Series Films dating back to 1947, including the 1969 and 1986 films; the first season of “This Week In Baseball,” which originally aired in 1977; a documentary offering a fresh perspective on Jackie Robinson’s life and career; recent productions including a comprehensive film chronicling every era of World Series play and documentaries created to celebrate notable anniversaries for the Mets, Astros and Red Sox; bloopers titles highlighting the funniest MLB moments; and many other titles.   Any of these films can now be downloaded from the iTunes store (www.iTunes.com/MLB). Prices range from $1.99 for individual episodes of “Prime 9” and “This Week in Baseball” to $19.99 for the Official 2012 World Series Film in HD.

In return for that promotional announcement, we’ve got two copies of the Minnesota Twins Magic in Minnesota: Remembering the 1991 World Series Championship DVD to give away.

To be eligible for one of these DVDs, just tell us about your favorite All-Star Game moment… or maybe your LEAST favorite ASG moment… or maybe your FIRST ASG memory. Just tell us something about an All-Star Game that stands out in your memory in the comments section and we’ll put your name in a hat from which we will draw two winners next Sunday, say about noon.

For me, my favorite All-Star Game memory might be Torii Hunter stealing a home run from Barry Bonds.

Then again, the first vivid memory I have of an All-Star Game was Pete Rose barreling in to Cleveland Indians catcher Ray Fosse, back when players still took the game seriously.

But what say you?

GameChat – Twins @ Yankees #3, 12:10

Kyle Gibson gets his first start at Yankee Stadium today as the Twins try to accomplish the near-unthinkable… win a series against the Evil Empire in New York.

That said, the guys wearing Evil Empire uniforms resemble the real Yankees about the way Rick Moranis and his minions in “Spaceballs” resembled Darth Vader, et al, in Star Wars. The resemblance is almost more for comedic effect than anything else.

Still, winning would be better than losing. It would be particularly nice to get a W from Captain Cheeseburger.

Across town from where the Yankees and Twins are playing, Twins prospects Miguel Sano and Byron Buxton will be playing in the annual Futures Game at 1:00-ish at Citi Field. Sano is starting at 3B for the International team and Buxton is starting on the bench for the USA team.

I’ll be watching the Kernels take on the Bowling Green Hot Rods at 2:00 here in Cedar Rapids.

If you can’t find any baseball to watch today, you just aren’t trying hard enough! – JC

TWINS

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YANKEES
Dozier, 2B Suzuki, I, CF
Mauer, C Almonte, LF
Morneau, 1B Cano, 2B
Doumit, RF Hafner, DH
Plouffe, DH Wells, V, RF
Hicks, CF Overbay, 1B
Thomas, C, LF Nunez, SS
Carroll, 3B Cruz, L, 3B
Florimon, SS Stewart, C, C
  _Gibson, P   _Sabathia, P

 

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Well, HOT DAMN!! We just took a series IN New York! We haven’t done that since 2001!!!

Of course, it wouldn’t be a Yankees game without the usual umpiring fiascos…  what’s UP with that anyway!?! seriously? I want it on the record that I despise horrible umping even when we WIN. Gah.. just gives them all a bad name and most of them don’t need the help!

But there was a lot of good things about today’s game – people stepping up and having good games all over our lineup. Let’s start with the rookie getting a W in NY. Yep. So that happened. Gibson did well and even though he only went 5 innings, let’s just put that down to the fact that it’s pretty darn miserably hot – there and here.

Florimon, Carroll and Dozier all had fantastic games – I’m really pleased with all of them and Morneau seems to finally have clicked again although his numbers and his actual plate appearances were kind of an odd thing. He was 3/5 but all the ones he hit hard were out – the rest were just weird or ridiculous misplays. The smile on his face during the post-game interview tells me he’ll take it.

My last mention of the day is Trevor Plouffe who filled the DH position today – he seemed to like it getting 3 runs and 2 hits today and just by that additional run, manages to earn today’s BOD!

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Additional Note: Twins are sending Parmelee, Arcia and Escobar down to start getting more AB’s and better swings during this All-Star break. They are bringing up a few young folk including Hermann.

GameChat – Twins @ Yankees #2, 12:10

You know, you look at the line up the Yankees are putting out there right now and you just can’t believe that’s a New York Yankees team. It’s just as hard to understand how the Twins simply can’t beat them.

Maybe Sam Deduno hasn’t had time to figure out he’s not supposed to beat any team wearing pinstripes in Yankee Stadium.

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Dozier, 2B Gardner, B, CF
Mauer, DH Suzuki, I, RF
Morneau, 1B Cano, 2B
Doumit, C Wells, V, DH
Plouffe, 3B Overbay, 1B
Parmelee, RF Almonte, LF
Hicks, CF Cruz, L, SS
Thomas, C, LF Gonzalez, Al, 3B
Florimon, SS Romine, A, C
  _Deduno, P   _Hughes, P, P

 

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YES!!!

The losing streak is OVER! Both of them, even! 6 game losing streak AND 6 consecutive losses to the Yankees. It feels good to have the boys on the winning side of things this time.

That being said, we still haven’t solved the RISP problem – the boys just decided if they weren’t going to have the guy behind them bring them home, they were just going to have to get home on their own – 3 homeruns in today’s game from Plouffe, Doumit and Florimon! It was great to get the long ball though because it was such a morale booster!

And what is it about the officiating at Yankee Stadium?!?!?! Gardy got tossed after a HORRIBLE (not even close or rational) call at 1B. Clete Thomas was called out for interference/leaving the base path. You know what is funny about that call? Video is really great to show if a runner ever does that.. and sure enough, never happened. No clue where that call came from – even Overbay looked a little surprised. Gardy was more than surprised of course – and as Ron Coomer predicted the moment the call was made, Gardy was tossed for explaining to the ump exactly the relative positions of his head and his ass.

Maybe that was what was necessary because the 1-1 tie didn’t last long after that..

The real story for today is Samuel Deduno. He really kept the Yankees off balance – like he did when he faced them last time in Minnesota on July 4th. At least this time, his colleagues gave him the win! 7 solid innings with only 1 earned run is just about the best we have seen from any of our pitchers lately! So today, he earns our BOD!

Sam Deduno (Photo: Ed Zurga/Getty Images)

Sam Deduno (Photo: Ed Zurga/Getty Images)

GameChat – Twins @ Yankees, 6:10pm

Our sincere apologies for the late post!! I had to work late and apparently my Knuckleballs compatriots are otherwise occupied or at least not baseball engaged.

[currently under rain delay - may last awhile]

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NY Yankees
Dozier, 2B Gardner, B, CF
Parmelee, RF Suzuki, I, RF
Mauer, C Cano, 2B
Morneau, 1B Wells, V, DH
Doumit, DH Almonte, LF
Plouffe, 3B Overbay, 1B
Arcia, LF Nunez, SS
Hicks, CF Cruz, L, 3B
Florimon, SS Stewart, C, C
  Diamond, P   Kuroda, P
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Minnesota 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 8 0
NY Yankees 0 0 0 0 2 0 0 0 x 2 6 0

The good news is that after the rain delay, the Twins and Yankees did get the game in.

The bad news is that after the rain delay, the Twins and Yankees got the game in.

The Twins outhit the Yankees 8-6.

Yet… and I know this is a shock… the Twins lost to the Yankees. Again. -  JC

GameChat – Twins @ Rays #4, 11:10am

After 13 innings of baseball that completed less than 12 hours ago, I’m sure that NO ONE is actually ready for playing again now…

Considering the series the Rays had before us included a sweep of the White Sox, they are seriously on a roll. I would LOVE for the streak they have going to come to a conclusion right about now even though the Twins are major underdogs going into this game.

That’s a role our boys are fairly familiar with and sometimes manage to overcome. I have my fingers crossed for Pelfrey today though because the only guy who didn’t pitch last night was Perkins… yeesh.

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Dozier, 2B Joyce, LF
Carroll, 3B Myers, RF
Mauer, C Scott, DH
Plouffe, DH Longoria, 3B
Parmelee, 1B Loney, 1B
Arcia, LF Johnson, K, 2B
Hicks, CF Lobaton, C
Thomas, C, RF Fuld, CF
Florimon, SS Rodriguez, S, SS
  Pelfrey, P   Moore, M, P

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sadly, fairly predictable… It was a close game though and Pelfrey actually pitched quite well. Glad to be leaving Florida though.

GameChat – Twins @ Rays #3, 6:10

If you had told me before the season started that the line up the Twins are using tonight would be something they’d be using in July, I’d have said, “that team must be in trouble.” And they are.

It looks a lot like the kind of “B” line up that Gardy has been known to trot out there for a day game after a night game. But the day game is tomorrow.

Meanwhile, the Rays swapped out their RF and their C and otherwise went with the same line up as the first game of the series.

Anyway, let’s hope Kevin Correia can get some guys out tonight. – JC

 

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Thomas, C, RF Jennings, D, CF
Carroll, 2B Scott, DH
Mauer, DH Zobrist, 2B
Morneau, 1B Longoria, 3B
Doumit, C Loney, 1B
Arcia, LF Myers, RF
Hicks, CF Johnson, K, LF
Escobar, E, 3B Molina, J, C
Florimon, SS Escobar, Y, SS
  _Correia, P   _Hellickson, P

 

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GAHH!!!!!

13 INNINGS OF TEASING US!!!

Actually, this was NOT a bad game of baseball – this was a pretty well duked-out pitchers duel and you know darn well we come into that gun fight with a knife. BUT the boys actually did a pretty good job at defense – Aaron Hicks was on FIRE! (and something tells me he’ll be feeling the efforts in the morning.)

Sadly, we just couldn’t hold it and they won with a walk-off in the 13th. Sad that there were hardly any fans there to see that kind of game.