Have you seen the pictures of Phil Hughes surrounded by the media hoard before tonight’s game? Crazy. I don’t know what he said to them, but I bet he was thinking, “man, I’m glad I don’t have to put up with this crap every day anymore.”
Speaking of returning Yankees, Eduardo Nunez is in the Twins line up tonight… as the DH. And Josmil Pinto is riding pine, again. I just don’t get it at all.
Yes, it was a huge bummer that the Twins couldn’t pull off a win (even a walk-off) in honor of my birthday attendance last evening but at least it was a phenomenal night for baseball and we really had a good time. I will say this since it was my first time physically in attendance this season – all joking aside, give extra time to get through security than you are used to. The stuff they had added for the All-Star game (metal detectors and the whole shebang) really slows things down and makes lines much longer.
Today is every bit as nice so for those who can get away from work (not me) and get to be outside (not me) to enjoy a little baseball (again, not me), you will have a marvelous time.
Let’s hope Deduno can keep things on line enough (or just NOT enough) to get the Twins a win today!
Half of Twins Territory still thinks we’re morons, but “This is Talk to Contact.” You can download the new Talk to Contact (@TalkToContact) episode via iTunes or click here you can download the new episode, and if you want to add the show to your podcast player, this is the RSS Feed.
This week’s episode is highlighted by a lengthy interview with Jim Callis (@JimCallisMLB, MLBpipeline.com) who talks about the draft and a whole mess of Twins topics. The Baseball Pirate makes his return from defending the homeland and the whole gang is back together for the first time in a long time. The show starts out with a rousing discussion of which coach is the most important coach in baseball, and whether or not any of the players on the 25-man roster could be more important than the most important coach. Interesting things are happening.
Brian Dozier continues to impress, the Twins pitchers continue to distress (except for Punxsutawney Phil Hughes), and Eduardo Escobar continues to mash extra-base hits like it’s his job (because it is). Is Eddie Escobar playing over his head? Probably some, but could this also be the natural maturation of a player who’s been in the big leagues since his age-22 season?
Eddie Rosario makes his return from his drug suspension, Ben Revere hits a real life, honest to god, over the wall home run and Carlos Gomez says “It’s sexy batting clean-up!” All this and more on this week’s episode of Talk to Contact.
So my hubby is taking me out to the game with Baby Girl for her first Twins game and to celebrate my bday! I can’t believe it took me as long as it did to decide on the game for my special little bit of free time!
I don’t think he was surprised by the request at all.. after all, this is what he got me:
at any rate, I may try to pop in and visit with y’all from the game but we might be otherwise occupied! Win Twins!
So I’m actually a little disappointed but we have had a roster change in the opposition today – Yu Darvish who I would have liked to see pitch – pulled himself due to some sort of injury that I haven’t heard specified. Instead, Scott Baker – yes, THAT Scott Baker – gets to match himself up to a Twins starting rotation that once again, has the worst ERA in Major League Baseball with the numbers added by Mr. Nolasco last night.. So I wonder what Scotty is thinking tonight..
Let’s hope that Hughes can bring something better.
It wasn’t Phil Hughes’ best start of the year, but I’ll take 7 innings like that any time I can get it.
Oswaldo Arcia with a solo shot, that was nice. Joe Mauer with an RBI double that he PULLED to right field. Nice.
Glen Perkins gave up a lead off triple in the top of the 9th, but then slammed the door without allowing that runner to score.
Yet, here we were, watching the Twins, trailing by a run in the ninth inning and, despite having Arcia and Josh Willingham back with the team, we were still watching three shortstops playing the field for the Twins, including two of them in the outfield.
Thank goodness, huh?
Danny Santana’s bases-loaded squibber wasn’t pretty but it got Eduardo Nunez home. And that was only possible because Nunez performed a bit of acrobatics in avoiding a tag attempt by Rangers third baseman Adrian Beltre. And that took place only after Nunez drove in Arcia with a game-tying RBI single.
The 2014 MLB First Year Amateur Player Draft is right around the corner and hundreds of high school and college ballplayers are counting the hours before the Houston Astros go on the clock with the first pick of the draft on Thursday, June 5.
One year ago, Kohl Stewart was an 18 year-old pitcher anxiously awaiting the draft. Today, Stewart, who was selected by the Minnesota Twins with the fourth overall pick of the first round, is a couple of months in to his first full year of professional baseball.
Stewart sat recently and reflected on the draft a year ago and his progress as a starting pitcher this season with the Cedar Rapids Kernels, the Twins’ Class A affiliate in the Midwest League.
“I think that this time last year, we had just lost in the state finals in baseball,” recalled Stewart. “Then I was graduating from school and the draft was coming up. I was spending hours with my agent talking about what I wanted to do. There were a million different scenarios playing over in my head. I remember thinking, ‘if this happens, if this guy goes here and if this guy goes here.’”
Those “scenarios” Stewart speaks of went beyond those of most of his peers. While all of the high school ballplayers likely to be selected near the top of the draft have the option of postponing their professional careers in favor of playing college baseball, Stewart had an additional option. He had a scholarship offer from Texas A&M football coach Kevin Sumlin to play quarterback for the Aggies.
Stewart and his agent certainly knew he’d be selected early on draft night. But that doesn’t mean he had made up his mind weeks before the draft that he’d be signing with whatever team chose him.
As draft day neared, however, things seemed to come more in to focus.
“I expected to go to A&M,” acknowledged Stewart. “A couple of days before the draft, I think, my agent I guess had kind of talked to some people and he kind of had an idea of what was going to happen and I even talked to Coach Sumlin a couple of days before it happened and he gave me his blessing. He wanted me to do what was best for me and that was another dynamic that I had to deal with, too. I kind of felt like I was letting him down. Having guys like that… he’s a really good coach for a reason. He had gone through that before. He definitely made the situation easier on me.”
Even having pretty much come to grips with the likelihood that he’d be signing a professional baseball contract rather than pursuing a major college football career didn’t make waiting any less stressful for Stewart.
“You kind of have that situation made up in your mind, but everything’s still got to happen. You’ve still got to sit there and the decision’s still got to be made,” said Stewart.
The anxiety of the wait didn’t mean Stewart and those closest to him didn’t enjoy the moment, however.
“I definitely enjoyed it. It was definitely a fun time for my family,” recalled Stewart. “I have a lot of friends that are really good baseball players that are playing in college right now. I got to experience what a lot of guys that I grew up playing ball with will probably be going through the same thing in a couple of years and to kind of share it with them was really special.
“But it was definitely really stressful. I would go to bed knowing I was going to have to make a really big choice and that was kind of hard. Every day it got closer to the draft, it was very apparent that I was going to have a very good opportunity with the Twins and I didn’t want to pass it up.”
Players do a lot of different things to relax on draft day. Some go hunting or fishing. Some play golf to take their minds off the draft and hope it passes the time more quickly.
Stewart enjoys hunting and fishing in the offseason and also really enjoys golfing. But on draft day, he chose to pass the hours leading up to the draft with friends and family.
“I remember waking up. I slept in late,” Stewart recollected, smiling a bit. “I told myself I don’t want to get up and have to worry about it all day long. I wanted to sleep in as long as I could. I think that lasted until about 6:30 that morning.”
After breakfast, Stewart spent time with one of his Select Team coaches (“He was blowing it up, having a good time with it, kind of looking forward to the night”) and with an older brother. “We went to a place called Mel’s Diner. It’s a small little burger place. I went there, had a good meal with him. I remember he went and bought a bunch of champagne and put it in a cooler. Then we went back to my house and a bunch of people showed up and we turned on the TV.
“It was good. It was definitely a day I’ll never forget.”
Now, a year later, coming out of Memorial Day Weekend, Stewart has a 1-2 record and a 2.93 ERA as a member of the Kernels rotation. Stewart struggled in a loss to Beloit on Monday, but had given up just three earned runs in his previous five starts combined.
Nearly two months in to his first full season of pro ball, Stewart talked about what he has found to be the toughest things to adjust to in professional baseball life.
One, the adjustment to going to the ballpark every day either to play or work out between starts, is commonly mentioned by first-year pro ballplayers.
“I think that’s kind of a cliché that everybody says, ‘you’re not used to playing every day,’ and you hear that so much, but it’s true,” said Stewart. “I think that most of us guys that haven’t played a full year are still kind of getting used to this kind of animal of 140 games in a season.
“I think definitely that’s been the hardest thing for me. And then being away from my home. There’s some days I’ve just wanted to pick up my stuff and go home. I think every kid goes through that.
“I mean, I haven’t had a freshman year of college yet, so I didn’t get to experience that kind of homesick feeling first. But I’m learning. I’m learning how to be a professional, to come every day and figure out that I’ve got a job to do.”
The other challenging adjustment is probably a bit more unique to a pitcher in Stewart’s rather unique situation as a multi-sport star in high school.
“Going in to the season, I hadn’t thrown a lot of innings,” explained Stewart. “I threw in high school seasons but football kind of kept me from (throwing after the season).
“I think I underestimated the amount of throwing that I’m going to be doing. But I think that everybody probably goes through that, even coming out of college. I think the two bullpens between every start (a byproduct of the Kernels’ six-man rotation). Ive never been used to that. Or throwing a bullpen the second day after you pitch, that was a new animal for me.
“I think that going in to a couple of starts, I felt like my arm was dead. I think that my arm was learning how to adjust to that feeling and I think that now my arm is starting to build on it. I think that now my arm is getting stronger and I’m kind of building back up to that strength that I was at.
“I think that those two things were probably the toughest for me, but I think that as time goes on, I’m getting more used to it every day, so I think I’m doing alright.”
As a result of Stewart’s limited work in high school, he and the Twins clearly had a plan for Stewart to follow heading in to the season. Not only pitch count limits and innings limits, which are commonplace for teenage pitching prospects, but also plans that focus on learning his craft.
Stewart explained the plan and assessed his progress so far.
“I’ve definitely had some good starts and I’ve had some bad starts. I think going in to the season, they hammered some things in to my head that they want me to get done, such as fast-ball command. They want me to pound the zone. They want me to be efficient. They want me to pitch. They don’t want me throwing a lot of pitches. There’s a pitch count on me for a reason. They want me to be able to go as deep as I can in to games without running my pitch count up.
“One thing that they really want me to do is fast ball command. They don’t want me to get behind in counts and then have to work from behind. So, I think that focusing on that stuff with Ivan (Kernels pitching coach Ivan Arteaga) and our catchers, I think that’s really helped me a lot.
“So I think that getting these innings in and learning to get the change-up over. I hadn’t thrown very many change-ups and my change-up now is something that I go to a lot against lefties. And really, just getting ground balls and keeping the ball out of the air. I think I lived up in the zone in high school because I could. I used to just throw the ball as hard as I could and that’s not really pitching. I’ve had to learn to command the zone and not feel like I have to overpower everybody.
“Going in to the season, I’m trying to build on every start, but I think that the approach that I have right now that Ivan and Jake (manager Jake Mauer) and I have gone over, I think that the plan we have going in to every start is pretty good. I think that I like where things are headed, but I think that I have a lot of work to do.”
College football season doesn’t start for a couple of months, but Texas A&M and every other major program recently wrapped up their spring practices. Did that give Stewart an itch to get on the practice field and throw the football around?
“I didn’t have time for it,” replied the pitcher. “I was so busy figuring out what I was doing and stuff, just trying to get better.”
Not that football is forever banished from his mind, of course.
“Whenever I watch them on TV, I always get that itch,” admitted Stewart, “but I think everybody kind of enjoys watching those things on TV. I think when I go to the games, I feel like I’m there kind of part of the team. There’s always going to be a part of me that’s there. There’s always going to be that closeness that I have with those guys that are in that class.
“But they know that I’m doing what I love and I wouldn’t rather be anywhere else.”
The Kernels return home to Cedar Rapids after Tuesday’s matinee series finale in Beloit. They’ll be home for six games (three vs Wisconsin and three vs Burlington). Friday night, May 30, is another special jersey promotion. It’s “Star Wars” night with white/black “storm trooper” themed jerseys that will be auctioned off via silent auction with proceeds going to a charity. The first 1,000 fans through the gates Friday also get a free Star Wars t-shirt.
Yes, I know, Josh Willingham and Oswaldo Arcia won’t make anyone’s list of ‘best defensive outfielders’ in MLB baseball, but at least neither of them have spent the past 10 years making a living playing shortstop.
More importantly, we’d like to hope that the arrival of Willingham and Arcia will mean fewer games where the Twins try to get by on 3-4 hits for an entire game.
I’ve got plans for the day, so I won’t be around to see or hear the game, but let’s hope our guys can put the weekend road sweep behind them and start a little winning streak of their own. – JC
I sat down to write a Memorial Day post that captures the meaning of this Holiday and quickly determined I couldn’t do better than Babs did a year ago. So, rather than pale by comparison, I’ll simply re-post her contribution. Enjoy your holidays, but pause at some point today to remember. – JC
We’ll come back to baseball later today, of course, but I want to encourage all of our readers to take a moment’s pause today. For all those who have served in our nation’s military, we thank you. For all those families who have sacrificed, we thank you.
But in the true recognition of Memorial Day and it’s history, we remember those who fell in the service of this country and we honor their memory. This is not Veterans Day -although I esteem them highly and am very glad to have them with us. This is Memorial Day – the time to remember those who never came home paying a cost none of us have ever paid.
There is no way to pay the debt owed for the privileges I enjoy. I can only recognize the depth of loss.
We encourage all our readers to enjoy their Memorial Day in whatever manner they choose but to take a moment during the day to remember those we’ve lost. We use this quote a lot but considering Memorial Day was born out of the Civil War, it seems appropriate.
… The world will little note, nor long remember what we say here, but it can never forget what they did here. It is for us the living, rather, to be dedicated here to the unfinished work which they who fought here have thus far so nobly advanced. It is rather for us to be here dedicated to the great task remaining before us — that from these honored dead we take increased devotion to that cause for which they gave the last full measure of devotion …