Episode 72: Reviewing the White Sox

You can put it on the board… YES! This week we are joined by lifelong Chicago White Sox fan Tom Flynn (@Mighty_Flynn) to check in on what’s been happening on the South Side of Chicago since the season came to a close. You can download the new Talk to Contact (@TalkToContact) episode via iTunes or by clicking here.

HawkBoard

We check in on just about every relevant ex-Twin, including Johan Santana, who threw off a mound for several teams and Matt Garza, who signed with the Brewers. Eric takes the gang through a quick round of pepper and eventually we get around to discussing other happenings in baseball, including the new rule concerning collisions at home plate. Strangely enough, Drew Butera is mentioned a handful of times throughout the podcast and there is even talk of a dog running a sausage race.

Thanks for the download. You can follow Cody on Twitter (@NoDakTwinsFan) or read his writing at NoDakTwinsFan, and you can find Eric on Twitter (@ERolfPleiss) and read his writing at Knuckleballs, and you can find Jay Corn on twitter @Jay__Corn! If you enjoy our podcast, please take a couple extra minutes and rate and review us on iTunes. Ratings and reviews have magical iTunes powers that will help Johan regain some of his Cy Young prowess.

Thanks for listening!

 

You can follow Cody on Twitter (@NoDakTwinsFan) or read his writing at NoDakTwinsFan, and you can find Paul on Twitter (@BaseballPirate) and read his writing at PuckettsPond.com!

If you enjoy our podcast, please take a couple extra minutes and rate and review us on iTunes. Ratings and reviews will help Jason Bartlett make the 25-man roster.

Episode 68: Franchise Futures and Twins Fest Review

The Talk to Contact podcast returns after a one week hiatus, and STILL no Alex Rodriguez talk (you’re welcome). You can download the new Talk to Contact (@TalkToContact) episode via iTunes or by clicking here.

rosario

 

After taking a week off to meet up in person at Twins Fest and the Winter Meltdown, the Talk to Contact boys are back at it again. After discussing some minor happenings in Twins Territory, including Chuck Knoblauch‘s eventual enshrinement in the Twins Hall of Fame, this episode is dominated by prospect talk, specifically a little game called the Franchise Futures Game. We cover most of the top prospects in the Twins system and debate how important each prospect is to the Twins organization as a whole. All that and more on this week’s episode.

 

You can follow Cody on Twitter (@NoDakTwinsFan) or read his writing at NoDakTwinsFan, and you can find Paul on Twitter (@BaseballPirate) and read his writing at PuckettsPond.com!

If you enjoy our podcast, please take a couple extra minutes and rate and review us on iTunes. Ratings and reviews do nothing for us, we just like talking about them.

Ghost of Twins Past Haunts the Twins’ Future

Scott Baker, Kane County Cougar

Scott Baker, Kane County Cougar

Almost exactly six years ago, I sat several rows up from home plate as Scott Baker took a perfect game in to the ninth inning against the Kansas City Royals. While he didn’t complete his date with immortality, it was the closest I’ve ever come to seeing a Major League no-hitter in person.

On Wednesday night, I watched Baker continue to try to work his way back to the Big Leagues with the Chicago Cubs with a rehabilitation start for the Kane County Cougars against the future Twins suiting up for the Cedar Rapids Kernels.

I never saw Baker get above 86 mph on the scoreboard, so even giving him an extra tick or two due to the Cedar Rapids scoreboard’s reputation for being slightly slower than the speed guns of the scouts who perch directly behind home plate most nights, the former Twins pitcher never hit any higher than 88 mph and he didn’t mix in more than a couple of off-speed pitches each inning.

But on this night, that was good enough to handcuff the Kernels as only a fifth inning infield single by Adam Brett Walker kept Baker from completing five perfect innings. Jorge Polanco and Travis Harrison each reached the warning track off of Baker in their first plate appearances of the night, but that was the closest anyone came to doing any damage to the former Twins star.

Jose Berrios

Jose Berrios

Jose Berrios, the 19-year-old that Twins fans hope will be one of the anchors of a future Twins rotation, fared far worse.

Berrios has been tabbed as the starting pitcher in the first game of the Kernels’ postseason next Wednesday, but tonight he struggled with his control. Berrios walked three hitters and gave up five hits, including two home runs, as the Kernels fell 9-1 to Baker’s Kane County Cougars.

Minnesota Twins Podcast – Talk to Contact – Episode 23

Episode 23 of the Twins baseball podcast,  Talk To Contact (@TalkToContact), is now available for download via iTunes or by clicking here.

This week the Pleiss brothers spend way too much time discussing obscure state capitols and bantering on about MySpace and hipsters.   In between those strange and obscure conversations you can find plenty of talk about the Minnesota Twins, including a discussion about the 25-man roster, Frank Viola, prospect Luke Bard and former Twins around the MLB. Also making his Talk to Contact podcast debut it Jason from The Inverted W podcast (www.invertedW.com) to continue the series looking around the AL Central, this time discussing the Kansas City Royals.

If you enjoy our podcast, please take a couple extra minutes and rate and review us on iTunes (ratings and reviews have magical iTunes powers, which help us become more like summer time on the shores of Cape Cod.)

You can follow Paul on Twitter (@BaseballPirate) or read his writing at  Puckett’s Pond.

- ERolfPleiss

Minnesota Twins Podcast – Talk to Contact – Episode 17

Episode 17 of the Twins baseball podcast,  Talk To Contact (@TalkToContact), is now available for download via iTunes or by clicking here.

 
itunes pic

 
Once again the Twins’ twins get together to talk Twins baseball. This week Eric and Paul discuss the Kevin Correia signing (yuck), a look at the 2013 starting pitching rotation and the outfield, and the quick escalation of MLB player salaries. Later in the podcast they take a look at Rick Aguilera‘s career in Minnesota, what the offseason moves so far mean to the balance of power in the AL Central and they go Down on the Pond to take a closer look at Niko Goodrum before finishing off with a debate about the places each of them would like to be season ticket holders. Arguably the best 90 minutes ever recorded.

 

If you enjoy our podcast, please take a couple extra minutes and rate and review us on iTunes (ratings and reviews have magical iTunes powers, which help us become warlocks.)

You can follow Paul on Twitter (@BaseballPirate) or read his writing at  Puckett’s Pond.

- ERolfPleiss

Butterflies With Hiccups – Iowa Style

I’m taking advantage of a bit of extra free time I have this afternoon to do another post of random news items (if you use a very generous definition of the word “news”), most of it with an Iowa connection today.

I played hooky this afternoon and watched the Twins and White Sox. True, I had to deal with the Comcast broadcast out of Chicago due to the MLB blackout rules and that means listening to Hawk Harrelson, but that’s what the mute button is for, right? I hear he left the broadcast booth in the 7th inning of the Twins 18-9 blowout of the Sox on Tuesday night and I have to admit I wish I had witnessed that.

As this MLB season winds down, I’m rooting for two things: First, as many of you know, I’m a bit of an Orioles fan, so I still have a team in contention. I still think the Birds are doing it with smoke and mirrors, but I really don’t care how they get the job done, I just want them to beat the Yankees over in the AL East and get in to the playoffs. (Admit it, you wouldn’t mind seeing JJ Hardy and Lew Ford in the playoffs, either.) Second, I’m hoping that the White Sox end up on the outside of the playoffs looking in AND that they finish just close enough that their losses to the Twins this year account for their failure to qualify.

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Miguel Sano

Speaking of playoffs, I’m driving over to Clinton IA this evening to catch game one of the best-of-three playoff series between the Twins’ Midwest League (Class A) affiliate Beloit Snappers and the Clinton LumberKings (Seattle’s affiliate). Clinton finished the MWL regular season on a 10-game winning streak (the last three of which came against my Cedar Rapids Kernels). I saw all three of the Clinton-CR games this past weekend and I think Miguel Sano, Eddie Rosario and their Beloit teammates have their work cut out for them. Either way, at least I’ll get to check off another MWL ballpark with my visit to Beloit tonight.

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There’s nothing really new on the Twins’ affiliation front for 2013. Now that the minor league regular season is over, teams that are interested in exploring new affiliation options (both MLB teams and minor league teams) can notify the MLB Commissioner’s Office or the president of minor league baseball of such. The teams are not allowed to state publicly that they’ve submitted that notification, however.

The powers-that-be will provide a list of potential affiliates to those teams by September 15. Then, and only then, are the various MLB and MiLB clubs able to start negotiating possible new partnerships with one another.

There was a new article posted online at the website of one of the local CR TV stations (KCRG) this week, but it really didn’t tell us much we didn’t already know. KCRG is owned by the same company (SourceMedia) as the Cedar Rapids Gazette and the report was written by the Gazette writer, Jeff Johnson, that covers the Kernels beat. Johnson has written about the affiliation issue a couple of times already this season and I think he has a pretty solid sense of what’s about to happen.

I’m optimistic, at this point, that I’ll be watching future Twins play baseball at Perfect Game Field here in Cedar Rapids for the next few summers, but the Kernels Directors (essentially, the team’s “owners”) still have a few questions they should be asking the Twins (such as, “Are you planning on buying a MWL team and moving it to St. Paul in a couple of years?”) before anyone is going to sign a deal. As soon as I hear more, I’ll post something, but I don’t expect to hear a lot before the end of September.

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Since this is an Iowa-centered post on a baseball-centered blog, I thought I would mention this little piece of news, as well.

How many of you have seen the movie “Field of Dreams”? Everyone? I thought so.

How many of you have visited the site near Dyersville, in Eastern Iowa, where the movie was filmed? Did you even know the site has been a mini-tourist attraction, complete with cornfield-bordered baseball field, pretty much ever since the movie was released? No? Well now there’s going to be even more of a reason for you to visit, especially if you have kids who play baseball or softball.

Go the Distance Baseball LLC plans to build a $38 million youth baseball/softball complex at the Field of Dreams site. The complex will include 24 ballfields of varying sizes (over and above the original field, which apparently won’t be altered).  The company received approval of a $16.5 million sales tax rebate from the Iowa Legislature & Governor last spring and now have a $5.1 million property tax rebate from the Dyersville City Council, as well.

New Field of Dreams complex (from their Facebook page)

Here’s the artist’s rendering of the site:

Sounds like Ray Kinsella is hearing more voices, doesn’t it? He and his tractor are going to be kept awfully busy plowing under all those other fields. Almost makes me want to get back in to coaching youth baseball. Almost.

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This is rivalry week down here in Iowa. It’s the week of the annual Iowa – Iowa State football game, which I know is of very little interest to much of anyone outside our state’s borders. But it’s a big deal here. It’s in Iowa City this year, which means that’s where I’ll be spending most of my Saturday.

I’m a Hawkeye season ticket holder, but I’m not “anti-ISU” like a lot of people are. I went to high school over in central Iowa, about 40 miles from Iowa State’s campus in Ames. My parents were even ISU season ticket holders for a few years (back in the days when Johnny Majors coached the Cyclones), so I saw a game or two back then. I enjoy taking jabs at my ISU-fan friends and co-workers, but I really don’t mind them having some success on the football field from time to time.

But not this Saturday.

The trophy case in the Iowa football complex that is built to hold the various traveling trophies that the Hawkeyes play for is empty at the moment, with all three of them currently in the possession of various rivals. It’s time the Cy-Hawk Trophy resumes its rightful place in Iowa City.

It may feel a bit lonely for a while, but come September 29, after the Gophers have been sent packing, Floyd of Rosedale will be there to keep it company.

- JC

Ebay and the Minnesota Twins

Photo credit: http://www.baseball-almanac.com

I really enjoy collecting random, mostly worthless, Minnesota Twins memorabilia.  My 1989 Kirby Puckett bottle cap coin might be the best example of this.  These types of coins are usually sold for $1 on Ebay, and even then, they’re over priced by the time you have paid for shipping.  Still, I could not help but buying up a handful of them and adding them to the growing pile of Twins junk collecting dust in the corner of my bedroom.

My favorite method for acquiring these items is Ebay.  I usually search for “Minnesota Twins” and then sort by items ending soonest.  If I can bid on something that is ending in less than a minute, and pay less than $3, including shipping, I have no problem pulling the trigger.  Several weeks ago I was browsing the quickly expiring Minnesota Twins auctions and I came across a pair of game used pants worn by former Twins player and coach, Rick Renick.  The pants eventually sold outside of my modest price range, but ever since then I have been drawn towards the odd and outrageous Minnesota Twins items on Ebay.  What are the weirdest Twins things on Ebay, and do you need to own them?

To help you make that decision, here are my 10 favorite Minnesota Twins auction listings:

10. Do you have $3,595 extra dollars laying around?  Are you in love with the 1987 World Championship team?  How about buying a 1987 Minnesota Twins World Series trophy?! The item description makes no substantial claim of authenticity, and there is no indication who owned this trophy at the time of the championship (though the author would like you to think it might have been Kirby Puckett’s judging from the auction listing) Enjoy this  ”authentic “World Series trophy, it will definitely tie your memorabilia collection together.

9. For only $7.99 this autographed Boof Bonser photograph from 2007 could be yours.  Imagine how jealous your friends will be when they see this 8×10 beauty hanging on the wall of that old fish house that’s been sitting in your back yard for the past 10 years.  Buy this photo if you love awkward stares from number 4 starters.  Don’t buy this photo if you have a jealous lover, because when you love Boof, you cannot love another.

8. Remember when Francisco Liriano was terrible in 2011?  How would you like to own a piece of that miserable history with a Game Worn Jersey!!!  For just a tick under $400 (plus $12.99 shipping) you could own an official game used jersey, that the seller describes and probably maybe kinda sorta game used (at least it has been well worn).  If you have $412.98, and you have not yet bought this, you have the will power of Superman.

7. You might buy this next item if you are Delmon Young‘s biggest fan, and you love autographed rookie cards.  I can’t figure out if the seller is selling just a single card, or a set of four cards, with two that are nearly identical.  Either way, this lot will cost you $375.  Too pricey for me, but certainly not for an eccentric billionaire who hates defense, effort, and tiny lips.  Continue reading

Minor (League) Thoughts

Yes, I know, most of my thoughts these days can only be described as “minor” in nature. But I’m going to share a few of them with you, anyway.

My home town Cedar Rapids Kernels announced their 2012 schedule this week. The first thing I checked was to see how many home series the Kernels have with the Twins’ Midwest League affiliate, the Beloit Snappers. I was happy to see the Snappers will be coming to Cedar Rapids for three series next year… May 2-4, June 22-24, and  August 25-28. The May series is a mid-week series but the June and August series are weekend series.

I’m hopeful that some of the Twins’ better young prospects will be starting the season in Beloit and I always enjoy getting a look at the Snappers. By the way, I’m pretty sure Cedar Rapids is the Midwest League city closest to the Twin Cities. I only mention that in case some of you feel like a road trip. After all, it’s only fair… I have to make the same drive up to the Twin Cities to watch the Big club!

Speaking of the Midwest League, The Quad Cities River Bandits swept the Lansing Lugnuts to win the MWL Championship. So what? Glad you asked.

I mention this only by way of pointing out that runner-up Lansing finished the season 77-60, before advancing in the playoffs by winning the MWL Eastern Division title. Again, you ask, “so what?”

Well, I’d just point out that the Blue Jays’ farm club did quite well under their first year manager; a guy you may remember… Mike Redmond.

Lugnuts manager Mike Redmond (Photo: Rod Sanford/Lansing State Journal)

Yes, Red Dog not only led his young team to the championship series of the MWL in his first year of managing, he was also named the Midwest League Manager of the Year.

It sure is too bad the Twins’ minor league managing/coaching staff was too full of great baseball minds to find room for Redmond, isn’t it?

I’m sorry, that was a bit snide, I know. But I can’t help but wonder what a combination of Redmond, as manager, and Tom Brunansky, as hitting instructor, would do with an opportunity to run things in Rochester next season.

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I noticed an item over at springtrainingonline.com about the good folks who run Lee County (FL) making plans to work with the Twins on upgrading their Spring Training home, the Lee County Sports Complex. (It’s also the home of the Ft. Myers Miracle… to continue with the minor league theme of this post.)

Outside Hammond Stadium

Hammond Stadium in Ft. Myers is a nice stadium. Not great, but nice. From the outside, it’s actually pretty impressive, with Churchill Downs-type spires. But inside, it’s just not really anything special. The stadium was built in 1991 and it could definitely use some updating, but it’s nowhere near the worst spring training stadium in the Sunshine State (the Blue Jays’ stadium in Dunedin would get my vote for “worst” stadium, from among the nine I’ve visited). But Hammond is far from the nicest, as well.

The point that captured my attention in the article was a brief mention that the Twins’ lease, which runs through 2020, includes a clause that requires Lee County to maintain the facility, “at the same level as the five newest Florida spring-training facilities.”

Lee County just built the Red Sox a new $75 million facility down the road from the Twins’ complex, so I’d guess Lee County just raised their own ante a bit. I haven’t been to the five newest stadiums, but I can say with certainty that the Twins do not currently train in one of the five best facilities in Florida.

I’m not exactly sure how they would determine what the five “newest” stadiums are, for that matter. If it’s based purely on when the stadium was built, that’s one thing… those stadiums would range from Boston’s new facility that opens next spring to the Yankees’ Steinbrenner Field in Tampa which was built in 1996.

But a number of stadiums have had major face-lifts much more recently than that. If you measure based on the year a stadium underwent a major remodeling job, the most recent (after the Red Sox) would be the Orioles facility in Sarasota, the Rays’ park in Port Charlotte, the Phillies’ facility in Clearwater and the Tigers’ Lakeland complex. I haven’t been to the Lakeland ballpark, but the other four would rank above the Twins’ in my view. So would the Yankees’ Tampa facility and the Mets’ park in Port St. Lucie.

The Twins have been selling out just about every spring training game the last couple of years, so in the unlikely event that the Twins decided to start looking for a new spring home, communities across Florida and Arizona would trip all over themselves to bring the Twins in. I doubt that the Twins would get in to a serious battle with Lee County over an escape clause in their lease, but they have every right to expect to see the county make an honest effort to live up to the terms of their agreement.

OK, that’s enough on that subject. Thinking about it just makes me anxious to get down to Ft. Myers in March and the Twins have a whole lot of work to do before then.

- JC

 

 

Last Man Standing… and Other Peoples’ Words

Just under a year ago in my post-mortem of the Twins’ 2010 season, I reviewed the list of players that we were likely going to be saying good-bye to over the offseason and offered my own humble predictions concerning which would be returning and which would not. I wasn’t far off, either. Then again, how tough was it to predict that Randy Flores wouldn’t be coming back to Minnesota?

As things turned out, by my count, the Twins parted ways with 11 Major League players between the time they were so rudely dispatched by the Yankees in the ALDS and Opening Day 2011. Most of those players managed to find some form of gainful employment with other teams. In addition to the aforementioned Flores, here’s a list of others that Twins fans bid farewell to last offseason:

Ron Mahay, Jon Rauch, Brian Fuentes, Matt Guerrier, Jesse Crain, Pat Neshek, Orlando Hudson, Brendan Harris, and JJ Hardy.

Do you see the common thread running between all of these players?

Yes… they are all going to have the same view of the MLB post-season that their former Twins team mates are going to have… from the outside looking in. They may not have all ended up playing for last-place teams as bad as the one they left behind in Minnesota, but none of them hitched their wagon to a playoff team.

Nick Punto

But there is one name I left off that list. Yes, one player that the Twins could find no use for will be playing extra baseball this season.

Nick Punto is going to the playoffs.

Punto had a pretty typical Puntoesque season for the St. Louis Cardinals. By that, I mean he spent a  fair amount of time not playing baseball, appearing in only 63 games. But when he played, his numbers were more in line with the 2008 version we saw in Minnesota than what we had seen in his last two seasons. He hit .278, got on base at a .388 clip and had a respectable .421 slugging percentage. That’s good for an .809 OPS.

That’s nothing to scoff at, especially when you put it up next to many of the members of the chorus line of mediocrity that populated the Twins infield this season.

Anyway… like it or not, if you’re a Twins fan that likes to root in the playoffs for teams with guys you’ve come to know because of their recent service with the home town team, Nick Punto is carrying that banner.

Delmon Young

Of course, Nick isn’t entirely alone. The Twins did, after all, make a couple of in-season deals that sent players to contenders. Things didn’t work out the way we hoped they might for Jim Thome in Cleveland, but Delmon Young and his Tigers will be in New York on Friday night to do battle with the Evil Empire. I’m hoping he and his new team have better luck in that crusade than he did with the Twins a year ago.

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Finally, it feels like I’m not doing my job as a blogger if I don’t mention something about Wednesday night’s baseball games on the final night of the regular season. In fact, I really wanted to write something about how I sat watching four games on my laptop and a fifth on the television all evening long… how I cheered for my adopted Orioles and for the Rays (someone has to, because nobody seems to do that, even in the Tampa Bay area, right?). It was an amazing night of baseball, but words escaped me on Thursday.

It’s just as well, because as is almost always the case, the people who get paid to do this kind of thing captured everything much better than I could have anyway. So I’m going to just drop a couple of quotes on you from Joe Posnanski and Jim Mandelaro and urge you to go read their stuff.

Mandelaro is the Rochester beat writer for the Red Wings and an unabashed Red Sox fan. As you read his “Heartbroken” post, I’m sure the frustration will sound familiar. He’s hurt, he’s angry, he kicks ass and names names. It’s not all that different than the feelings so many of us expressed about the Twins for the past several months. He finished with these sentiments, with which I believe most Twins fans can relate:

My Red Sox heart is broken. I’m not embarrassed to be a Sox fan, but I am embarrased for this edition of the Sox. I hope they are, too. It will be a long winter. In the meantime, I will now pull for my second favorite team in baseball: The APYs. Never heard of them? Stands for Anyone Playing the Yankees.

When you’re finished with Mandelaro’s post, go check out Joe Posnanski’s. He pretty much always captures these events perfectly and this time is no exception. The entire “Baseball Night in America” post is worth reading, but since Joe’s posts are even longer than mine, I’ll just give you a little taste here:

Funny, if I was trying to explain baseball to someone who had never heard of it, I wouldn’t tell them about Wednesday night. No, it seems to me that it isn’t Wednesday night that makes baseball great. It’s all the years you spend waiting for Wednesday night that makes baseball great.

I couldn’t have said it better, myself.

So I won’t even try.

- JC

Spring: A Time of Change

It’s never easy to say good bye to friends and make no mistake, Pat Neshek was our friend. Some of us got to “know” Pat via his blog while he was still working his way up through the Twins’ minor league system and when he and his funky sidearm delivery made their MLB debut, he already had a sizable fan base. That was the same year that he made the AAA All-Star team on the strength of a huge voting block of devoted electronic followers.

And “Sideshow” was good, too! He was a dominant set up man for the Twins in 2006 and 2007. Being a “local boy” in the Twin Cities certainly didn’t hurt his popularity, either.

In typical Neshek style, Pat broke the news of his own waiver by the Twins via Twitter, along with the message that he had been picked up by the San Diego Padres, where he’ll be reunited with other former Twins like Jason Bartlett and Orlando Hudson.

While you couldn’t help but root for Neshek to find the magic he showed us before undergoing Tommy John surgery a couple of years ago, it was becoming clear that he was not in the Twins plans for 2011. He wasn’t missing many bats in his handful of appearances this spring and his velocity, while better than last year, still has been a few clicks below the low 90s he routinely hit at his best.

Neshek still had one minor league option year left, so the Twins could have sent him to Rochester to start the season, but going to San Diego represents a fresh start for Pat and I hope he makes the best of that opportunity.

A Day in Dunedin

Florida Auto Exchange Stadium, Dunedin

I made the 2+ hour trip up the highway to the Tampa/St. Petersburg area this morning to watch the Twins take on the Blue Jays in Dunedin. The Florida Auto Exchange Stadium was one that I had not yet attended a game at, so I was anxious to see something new. I won’t say that I regret my decision, but I wasn’t overwhelmed by either the stadium or the Twins performance there.

The Thirst Inning Lounge, inside the stadium

The ballpark is easily the worst of the 8 or so spring training sites I’ve been to. I did have a terrific Italian Sausage before the game and I certainly appreciated the air conditioned Thirst Inning Lounge, where I spent an hour before the game watching basketball, but other than that, this was really just a bad ballpark. With all the communities in Florida and Arizona trying to lure teams in to their areas, I’m surprised the Jays can’t do better than this.

The game wasn’t without its highlights, even though the Twins managed to get shut out 3-0 by the Jays.

Scott Baker threw four good innings. The only run he gave up scored on an RBI single that glanced off the glove of a leaping Alexi Casilla in shallow centerfield. Baker struck out six, walked none, and gave up 3 hits in his four innings. The pitchers that followed all did OK, I guess… but they were nowhere near as solid as what we’ve seen the last few games. Matt Capps, Dusty Baker, Phil Dumatrait and Jeff Manship all gave up some hits. Manship managed the odd combination of giving up a two run home run AND striking out the side in his inning of work.

I also got to watch both of the Hughes boys, pitcher Dusty and infielder Luke. Like the fan-friendly guys our Twins are, they even posed together for a picture.

Luke Hughes (1B) and Dusty Hughes (P)

My own personal highlight of the game came in the eighth inning when Daniel Santana, a minor league infielder called up to finish the game at shortstop for Casilla, lined a foul ball in my direction. Actually, it wasn’t just in my direction, it curved directly at me. I’d like to say I caught the ball bare-handed, but I didn’t. I used two hands (my Little League coaches would be proud), but it smacked my hands and fell at my feet. I then picked up the only MLB foul ball I’ve ever had hit to me and handed it to the boy sitting next to me. I really don’t need another baseball at this point in my life and I’d like to think he’ll enjoy it much longer than I would. Besides, I’ll have these bruised fingers to remember the event by for some time to come, I’m sure.

Jon Rauch, Blue Jay

The ninth inning gave us the opportunity to see yet another former Twin, as Jon Rauch closed out the game on the mound for the Jays. Big Jon was only hitting 87-88 mph with his fastball but that was enough, combined with his towering gaze, I guess, to cower the various minor leaguers finishing the game for the Twins.

On Deck: Where’s Crikket?

Tomorrow will be the last game I’ll be attending on my trip down here this spring as the Twins travel to Bradenton to play the Pirates. Just a reminder that the game will be televised on FSN (and, one assumes, MLB.tv). CapitalBabs has found her way home and that means there SHOULD be a GameChat set up (I think).

As I mentioned during the GameChat last Monday, you all are invited to play “Where’s Crikket?” during the game. I have a ticket for the first row, down the left field line. (At least the ticket says “Row 1″… I suppose it’s possible there’s a row of “Premium” seating in front of it, but I don’t recall Bradenton having those the last time I was there.)

I’ll even give you a little help… the only clean sportshirt I have left is a white one, so there’s a pretty good chance that’s what I’ll be wearing. I’m also wearing the same cap you can see perched on my head in my picture here at Knuckleballs.

Let me leave you with a little air guitar, courtesy of these two fans competing in a contest between innings in Dunedin today!

- JC