GameChat – Twins @ Indians #2, 12:05pm, Fox Sports 1

My apologies folk – we’re a bit out of practice for the season yet and apparently I’m the only watching to see if there’s a game going. I was unfortunately out shopping too late to get the gamechat up on time.

At any rate, if you’re having trouble finding the game on your usual channels, that is because it’s apparently on whatever is Fox Sports One in your area. Good Luck figuring that out. If you don’t know (I certainly didn’t), go to: http://msn.foxsports.com/watch/foxsports1

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Dozier, 2B Morgan, CF
Mauer, 1B Swisher, 1B
Willingham, LF Kipnis, 2B
Colabello, DH Santana, C, DH
Plouffe, 3B Brantley, LF
Kubel, RF Cabrera, A, SS
Pinto, C Murphy, Dv, RF
Hicks, CF Gomes, Y, C
Florimon, SS Chisenhall, 3B
  Gibson, P   Carrasco, P

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TWINS WIN!

Yes miracles can happen! It’s amazing how well things go when the pitching is kick ass…

However, today’s BOD is granted to Ron Gardenhire to congratulate him on his 1000th career win!

ron-gardenhire-shirt

GameChat – Twins @ Indians, 2:05pm

I desperately need baseball to distract me from the 8 in of new snow outside my front door. yeesh..

Soo…. That’s quite the lineup we’re facing.. I think that is a feeling Twins fans should get used to. We’ll just have to see how Pelfrey looks facing them…

Minnesota

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Cleveland
Dozier, 2B Morgan, CF
Mauer, 1B Swisher, 1B
Willingham, LF Kipnis, 2B
Colabello, DH Santana, C, 3B
Plouffe, 3B Brantley, LF
Arcia, O, RF Cabrera, A, SS
Suzuki, K, C Murphy, Dv, RF
Hicks, CF Gomes, Y, C
Florimon, SS Chisenhall, DH
  Pelfrey, P   Salazar, P

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yep… that was a whole hell of a lot of “looks vaguely familiar”…

GameChat – Twins @ White Sox #3, 1:10pm

so… last chance to leave a mark on the White Sox so far..

For the record, it’s stupid cold out there again and here in MN, we’re supposed to get anywhere from 5 to 10 inches of snow tonight depending on where you live.. *SIGH*  Spring is stupid.

Glad I have some baseball to watch…

Minnesota

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Dozier, 2B Eaton, CF
Mauer, DH Semien, 3B
Willingham, LF Abreu, 1B
Colabello, 1B Dunn, A, DH
Plouffe, 3B Garcia, A, RF
Arcia, O, RF De Aza, LF
Pinto, C Ramirez, Al, SS
Hicks, CF Flowers, C
Escobar, E, SS Garcia, L, 2B
  Hughes, P, P   Quintana, P

 

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Ok THAT was one weird game of baseball – and not just because the Twins actually won…

You start with an odd set up for baseball when a player strikes out but gets to 1B on a wild pitch – but isn’t unheard of. The oddness escalates when that player then gains 2B on an error – believe it or not, obstruction during the worst played rundown I’ve seen in ages. So yeah, the player that struck out is now on 2B… that was what really set the table for the rest of the game to follow.

The lead changed hands a couple times and Twins fans rarely expect anything good when they lose the lead in the late innings of a game. But due to the offensive heroics of both Chris Colabello (6 RBI) and Oswaldo Arcia (winning RBI), even the most cynical among us were pretty excited about the result – ESPECIALLY Arcia.during his 8th inning triple.

For their shared offensive glory (and especially since it appears that Cola is Arcia’s interpreter of choice), they share today’s BOD honors! Yay for the first BOD of the season!

Chris Colabello

Minnesota+Twins+Photo+Day+Arcia

Episode 77: A real live baseball player from the Major Leagues, Hot Dog!

The highlight of this week’s episode is an interview with Twins’ relief pitcher Casey Fien. We discuss the path his career took as he made his way from a 20th round draft pick to an Opening Day roster and what his strategy is when he’s out there on the mound. You can follow Casey on Twitter, @CaseyFien.
Look at this guy, so happy to be on the podcast!

Look at this guy, so happy to be on the podcast!

You can download the new Talk to Contact (@TalkToContact) episode via iTunes or by clicking here.
Besides talking to notable relief pitchers, we also spend some time “Down on the Pond” looking at the Opening Day starters for each of the Twins full-season minor league affiliates, and a hitter from each squad as well as they prepare for Minor League Opening Day on Thursday, April 3.
To find out who took home the first regular season honors for Twins hitter and pitcher of the week you’ll have to give us a listen, and there were actually a surprising number of candidates who’ve gotten the lumber out early this season despite what we’ve been saying during Spring Training.
Oh, and the trees are coming back to Target Field. Heck yeah!

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 keep our beers cold.

GameChat – Twins @ White Sox #2, 1:10pm

Let’s see if we can’t do a little better today than we did in the opener.. unfortunately, I don’t know that I expect better pitching which could end up being the story of the season… (just like the last three..)

But it’s a new season right? We all get a fresh start – even Kevin Correia.

Minnesota

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Chi White Sox
Dozier, 2B Eaton, CF
Mauer, 1B Semien, 3B
Willingham, DH Abreu, 1B
Kubel, LF Dunn, A, DH
Plouffe, 3B Garcia, A, RF
Arcia, O, RF De Aza, LF
Suzuki, K, C Ramirez, Al, SS
Hicks, CF Flowers, C
Florimon, SS Garcia, L, 2B
  Correia, P   Paulino, P

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ok, what happened to that fresh start?

gotta say that game felt awfully familiar.. a lot like yesterday. Correia let some in in the first couple innings but settled in after that to a fairly solid and respectable outing. Nothing spectacular but nothing egregious – pretty much like last year. We had some pretty solid hitting from Suzuki and Plouffe – but some ridiculously bad fielding from Plouffe and some unforgivably bad “bunting” from Kurt kind of knocked those positive feelings for a loop too.

What WASN’T familiar was Perkins blowing a save – and blowing it of his own accord because yeah, those were NOT good pitches.

That left us with a tie and extra innings.. and then some wild pitching from Deduno that proved less “effective” than he would like gave the White Sox the chance they needed to take the win.

Yeah, that frustration also feels awfully familiar…

GameChat: OPENING DAY 2014!! Twins @ White Sox, 3:10pm

opening day 2014

Well for good or ill, the 2014 Twins season is finally here! Whatever your opinion of the off-season this year, and/or the Twins preparedness, it’s really good to have baseball again!

Given my extremely “busy” Spring Training, I am excited to actually have a little time off to watch some early baseball this year. Of course, maternity leave ends sooner than any mom wants regardless of baseball season so my ability to watch (or manage) day games certainly won’t last long enough but I’m grateful for it today! Baby Girl and I are all geared up and ready for BASEBALL!! (as my little bro noted, I even put on MAKEUP for you people so you should appreciate the effort ;) )

Baseball opener

How about you?

Let’s hope that Nolasco has something to throw at the Sox today – something good anyway. Like I say at the start of a lot of seasons (ok ALWAYS), this year is going go however our pitching goes. We can bring back Kubel and Bartlett and like it or not but I don’t think that is going to be the determining factor of whether we do better than last year (or even better than the last time those guys were on the roster)…

But it’s opening day of a new season and EVERY team starts with a clean slate! Let’s see what they have to offer!

Minnesota

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Chi White Sox
Dozier, 2B Eaton, CF
Suzuki, K, C Semien, 2B
Mauer, 1B Gillaspie, 3B
Willingham, LF Abreu, 1B
Colabello, DH Dunn, A, DH
Plouffe, 3B Garcia, A, RF
Arcia, O, RF De Aza, LF
Hicks, CF Ramirez, Al, SS
Florimon, SS Flowers, C
  Nolasco, P   Sale, P

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Twins baseball is finally here!!  and boy does it feel familiar…

This is the 6th straight opening day that the Twins have fallen – and it hurts a little bit more that it comes at the hands of the White Sox, I have to admit. Once again, I was less than impressed with the outing from our starting pitcher. Nolasco just didn’t do much to claim the “ace” title and he might just have become De Aza’s favorite pitcher in the process. It’s only one game and I’m sure he’ll have better days to come but it wasn’t today.

There were some positives though. Suzuki looked great in his new uniform and drove in all three of the Twins runs. The rest of the lineup didn’t look horrible so I think if we can actually get the pitching on the right path, we could win some games!

See what I mean about sounding familiar?

Final Twins Cuts: Much Ado About (Almost) Nothing

There seemed to be much consternation in some corners of the Twins blogosphere the last couple of days as the final roster decisions became evident.

Alex Presley began spring training as a competitor for the Twins centerfield job. He leaves spring training a member of the Astros after Houston claimed him from the Twins on waivers.

Lefty pitcher Scott Diamond and 1B/OF Chris Parmelee had inside lanes on roster spots entering camp, but neither made much of an impression on the Twins. In fact, they obviously didn’t make much of an impression on anyone else, either, since both players cleared waivers. Both are now members of the Rochester Red Wings (AAA).

Saturday, catcher Dan Rohlfing was sent to Rochester, as well, in a move that was generally expected.

It’s hard to make an argument that any of the players who didn’t stick with the Twins were unfairly deprived of their roster spots. In fact, almost immediately upon learning he’d been passed over in favor of Kyle Gibson for the fifth spot in the Twins rotation, Diamond told reporters he agreed with the Twins’ decision.

No, none of these players really impressed, so that’s not where the disagreements come from.

The problem many fans seem to have is with regard to a couple of players that DID make the Twins Opening Day roster; veterans Jason Kubel and Jason Bartlett.

Jason Bartlett

Jason Bartlett

The argument is that neither Jason put up spring training numbers that were any better than other, younger, players who were let go.

That’s a valid point. Kubel hit just .196 this spring and yet, remarkably, outhit Bartlett by over 100 points. Still, both were officially added to the Twins roster on Saturday.

I would agree with those who claim they didn’t “earn” their roster spots, but I’m not getting worked up over it because, frankly, nobody else earned those roster spots, either.

It’s not a case of Bartlett and Kubel being handed spots while young players who are likely to be significant parts of the next generation of competitive Twins teams are being blocked from getting valuable Major League experience. Diamond and Parmelee could yet become serviceable MLB players, but when you project the lineups/rotations of the next great Twins teams, neither are likely to be listed.

Likewise, while Presley certainly could contribute as a spare outfielder capable of playing some centerfield, losing him is not debilitating. By mid 2014, if the Twins decide another guy capable of playing CF would be nice to have, they’ll still have Darin Mastroianni around somewhere to call on. But, honestly, you know the Twins front office is silently hoping the next CF that joins the big league club is Byron Buxton.

The Twins candidly stated that Bartlett and Kubel are on the roster because nobody proved they were clearly better than those two guys, they have significant Major League experience with winning ballclubs, and it was clearly felt that the young players with the Twins could benefit from seeing how that kind of veteran conducts himself on and off the field.

That roster decisions are made based on such “intangibles” rubs some fans the wrong way. I understand that. But in the absence of tangible advantages demonstrated by someone else, I have no issue with going the route that provides some veteran leadership. And if having a couple more familiar names on the roster gives casual fans more reason to attend a game or two early in the season, too, that’s fine.

The young players that showed that they deserved to stick with the team to open the season are on the squad. Kyle Gibson, Sam Deduno, Josmil Pinto, Oswaldo Arcia and Aaron Hicks may all be part of the next great Twins teams and all of them earned their roster spots. If any of them had been held back to make room for Bartlett and Kubel, I’d have been disappointed.

But that’s not what happened.

So with the last two roster spots, the Twins decided to keep a couple of guys who have more past than futures on the field, yet provide a clubhouse presence that the organization thinks might be helpful in developing the aforementioned young players instead of a couple other guys who likely don’t have significant futures, either. I honestly can’t argue with that logic.

The critics point out that Ron Gardenhire may be relying on Bartlett to fill in as the fourth outfielder, despite having no outfield experience at any professional level. That’s a fair point, too. But I watched Bartlett play a few games in the outfield in Florida and I have to say he looked like he knew what he was doing out there. Enough so, anyway, for me not to get too worked up over the fact that he might see a little time out there occasionally.

Now, if you want to argue that Bartlett and Kubel are getting roster spots that woulda-coulda-shoulda gone to other players from outside the organization that would have provided more punch to what is clearly looking like another punchless Twins offense, I heartily agree. But the decision to bypass other external options was made weeks and months ago and I see that as a separate set of decisions than what we’re talking about here.

From what I’ve seen of the Twins pitching this spring, I think the rotation will be considerably improved over last year’s disaster. But the offense remains offensive and, at some point, I think the front office is going to realize they could have… and should have… done more to shore it up during the offseason.

But fretting over whether Bartlett and Kubel should have made the team over Presley and Parmelee? That’s the very definition of Much Ado About Nothing.

- JC

Kernels Roster Could Include Familiar Faces

The final week of spring training is a big week for the new batch of Kernels getting ready to head north to Cedar Rapids.

On Thursday, four days before the Kernels will break camp in Fort Myers and head north, the roster for the Kernels still included 29 names. That’s four more than the 25 players that will make up the club’s Opening Day roster.

That means at least four of the current group being managed by Jake Mauer on the back fields of the Lee County Sports Complex will be staying behind for Extended Spring Training in Fort Myers.

On top of that, each of the other levels in the Twins organization, from the Major League club through each of the three minor league levels above the Kernels, all also were a few players over their Opening Day limits. As players at higher levels get “sent down,” they can bump other players down to the next lower level, as well.

After Thursday’s game with the Red Sox’ Class A affiliate, I spoke briefly with a pair of potential Kernels who, while similar in age, demonstrate two different perspectives as they prepare to open the 2014 season.

Catcher Michael Quesada was drafted as a 20-year-old by the Twins in the 24th round of the 2010 Amateur Player Draft out of Sierra College in Rocklin, California. He played only three games in 2010 after signing with the Twins and has spent the past three years moving step-by-step up the organizational ladder.

Michael Quesada

Michael Quesada

Quesada spent most of the 2013 season with the Kernels, getting in to 62 games while sharing catching duties with a number of other backstops that passed through the Kernels roster during the year. He didn’t set the world on fire with the bat, but improved his game-calling behind the plate and showed off a strong arm.

A week ago, Quesada was getting an opportunity to work with the Twins’ Class AA group,. But as catchers on the Major League side of the camp were sent down, setting off the natural chain reaction at the minor league levels, Quesada was likewise destined to drop a rung.

However, instead of dropping one rung, to the Class high-A Miracle, Quesada was returned to the same Kernels roster he was part of last season and where it appears he’s likely to open the season alongside other returning players, such as infielder Joel Licon and pitcher Hudson Boyd, among others.

If the drop bothers Quesada, he doesn’t let it show. Rather, he talks of appreciating the opportunity to see how things are done at a higher level in the organization, while looking forward to starting another season with the Kernels.

“Yeah, it was a good experience just to see more mature players, how they handle themselves,” said Quesada. “I’m just coming back (to Cedar Rapids), looking to play as much as possible and get (at-bats). I had a great time in Cedar Rapids last year, so I’m real excited to come back. It’s going to be a good time.”

Despite being less than a year younger than Quesada, infielder/outfielder Chad Christensen has just started his professional career. Christensen was drafted by the Twins in the 25th round of last year’s Amateur Draft and played just 47 games for the Twins’ lowest rookie level team in the Gulf Coast League following the end of his senior season at the University of Nebraska.

Typically, a player like Christensen would be targeted to spend the next couple of months in Extended Spring Training before joining the Twins’ Appalachian League squad in Elizabethton, Tennessee. Then, depending upon performance, he could work his way up to the Kernels later in the summer.

But Christensen, who attended Washington High School in Cedar Rapids, is still a part of the Kernels group just four days before camp breaks and is squarely in the mix for one of the final spots on the Opening Day roster with the Kernels. That would mean spending 2014 playing before friends and family in his hometown.

Kernels manager Jake Mauer has said he’d like to have the flexibility that a player like Christensen brings to the table. Mauer indicated he’d have no qualms about playing Christensen at either corner outfield position, either corner infield position, or even at shortstop on occasion.

Nonetheless, Christensen is well aware that his roster spot with the Kernels is precarious and he’s still got work to do over the final few days of spring training in order to nail down that spot.

“I’m still trying to do what I can to make this team so that’s kind of where I’m at,” Christensen said on Thursday. “(Playing in Cedar Rapids) would be real exciting, I grew up there and everything. It would be a lot of fun to come home.”

Some athletes have been known to struggle with playing at the professional level in their hometown, but Christensen doesn’t believe he’ll feel an extra pressure from playing in Cedar Rapids, if and when that opportunity arises.

“No, I’m not so concerned about that,” he said. “Just trying to keep focused on the field and separate the baseball from the friends and family. I’ll be excited about it.”

A year ago, the Kernels were at or near the top of the Midwest League in almost every offensive category. But the hitters that made up the heart of the batting order a year ago have all moved up at least one level entering the new season and Quesada allowed that this year’s Kernels will take a different approach to win games.

“We’re not really trying to match (the 2013 Kernels hitters),” acknowledged Quesada. “We’re just trying to put more runs up on the board (than the opponent) that day. Maybe it’s two, maybe it’s one. But no, we don’t have the offense of last year, but our pitching is going to win us ballgames.”

The Kernels pitching corps is expected to include a number of the Twins organization’s top young arms during the course of the 2014 season and Quesada is clearly impressed with the pitchers he’s been working with.

“The pitching staff is going to be less experienced, but with way better stuff. They’re going to have live arms, young guys that are learning how to pitch. It’s our job, myself and (fellow catchers) Mitch Garver, Bo Altobelli and (pitching coach) Ivan Arteaga to teach them. They’re definitely good throwers right now, but they have a big opportunity to turn in to some serious pitchers. I’m really excited to work with them.”

Quesada’s work this spring extends beyond the field, as a number of those young pitchers are from Latin America, which can present a communication challenge for a catcher.

“I’m working with Ivan right now to get my Spanish a little better to where I can go out to the mound and talk to them, so they’re comfortable. I’m trying to make their lives as easy as possible because it’s going to be a fun pitching staff to work with.”

Thursday was likely my final look at the Kernels in spring training. I’m planning to go to the Twins/Red Sox game on Friday afternoon and, alas, my flight home from not-so-sunny-but-warmer-than-home Florida is early Saturday morning.

- JC

Episode 76: Roster Construction, Predictions and “Your Mom”

On this week’s show there is a lot of discussion about recent subtractions (and an addition) to the Twins roster as they continue to trim down to their 25-man roster. Jason Kubel will make the team and both Scott Diamond and Vance Worley will be pitching elsewhere in 2014.

This week’s show is brought to you by Hangout and Talk Twins with Seth Stohs and Jeremy Nygaard. Make sure to check out their show!

We discuss who is the last man in/out as the Twins trim the roster to 25 and then we take a look ahead at who will be the division winners and playoff contenders for 2014. You can download the new Talk to Contact (@TalkToContact) episode via iTunes or by clicking here.

Mike Pelfrey is all smiles after Gardy and Glen Perkins prank him in the clubshouse. Photo Credit: Steve Mitchell-USA TODAY Sports

Mike Pelfrey is all smiles after Gardy and Glen Perkins prank him in the clubshouse. Photo Credit: Steve Mitchell-USA TODAY Sports

We take a closer look at Twins pitching prospect and Eden Prairie native, Madison Boer before wondering aloud how Max Scherzer could possibly turn down $144 million.

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 help us in our quest to create a land grant university in Minnesota to help budding young podcasters create radio gold.

Kernels Roster Taking Shape

There was no rain in Fort Myers on Wednesday. That’s the good news. The bad news is that it was pretty breezy and high temperatures for the day barely, if at all, reached 70 degrees.

I know that sounds good to a lot of people, but I had to wear long sleeves much of the day at the ballpark and was a bit chilly eating dinner outdoors tonight!

But I toughed it out, because I know my readers expect me to do whatever it takes to get the story.

Today, that story comes from the minor league side of the Twins organization. Rather than watch the Twins and Pirates at Hammond Stadium, I fought the Daniels Parkway traffic toward the Red Sox complex to watch the Twins’ Class A groups take on their Sox counterparts.

After the game, Kernels manager Jake Mauer shared some thoughts about the way his club is shaping up as they enter the final few days of camp. Mauer indicated that just a handful of roster spots are still unresolved.

One player still “on the bubble” with the Kernels as final decisions are being made is Chad Christensen, who prepped at Cedar Rapids Washington High School before playing ball for the University of Nebraska. Christensen was drafted by the Twins last June and played last summer for the Twins’ Gulf Coast League rookie level affiliate in Fort Myers.

Chad Christensen

Chad Christensen

It sounds like the Kernels’ manager would like to bring Christiansen to Cedar Rapids next week.

“Chad’s been working real hard and he’s somebody that gives us some flexibility. He’s played both (corner) outfield positions and both corner infield positions and I wouldn’t be afraid to put him at shortstop once in a while,” said Mauer. “We’ve got about six or seven guys we’ve got to make decisions on and he’s in that mix, but there’s no doubt that he’s somebody we’d like to take north with us.”

Mauer knows his squad of Kernels is going to have to take a different approach than last year’s team, now that last year’s power hitters have moved up the organizational ladder.

“We’re going to have to be real good at the small things right away,” the manager acknowledged. “We’re going to have to run the bases well. We’re going to have to be able to execute the small game, hit and runs, getting bunts down, doing things like that. Try to create runs that way.”

According to Mauer, there should be five or six familiar faces for Kernels fans to welcome back to Cedar Rapids.

Among the likely returnees are catchers Michael Quesada and Bo Altobelli.  Said Mauer, “We plan on taking both those guys north, along with (Mitchell) Garver. We’re probably going to take three (catchers) to start, at least.”

That means flexibility will be key among other position players because, according to the skipper, he expects the final roster to contain just 12 position players, allowing 13 roster spots for the pitching staff that will once again utilize a six-man starting rotation.

It’s that pitching staff that many in the Twins organization, as well as their fans, are anxious to see.

“I think we’ll be starter-heavy. We should have some quality arms, starting-wise,” said Mauer. “We’ve got a lot of young, quality arms. It just depends on how many we decide to bring up with us.”

In particular, there are a number of pitchers that will push their fastballs consistently in to the middle-to-upper 90s on the speed gun, including young Dominican pitchers Yorman Landa, who was hitting 96  mph in Wednesday’s game, and Randy Rosario. In addition, the Twins’ first round pick in 2013 (and second pick overall) Kohl Stewart is a hard throwing 19 year old who is still on the Kernels roster as camp is drawing to a close.

As Kernels fans know, however, the team’s success is not solely determined by the players that start the season with the club. Between injuries and promotions, it’s equally important to have talented players at the lower levels of the organization preparing to join the Kernels as the season develops.

According to Mauer, there’s plenty of potential mid-season help available, as well. “You know we’ve got some young boys down there, too, (Lewis) Thorpe and (Stephen) Gonsalves. Kids that have some pretty good arms that we’ll probably see at some point throughout the year.”

The Kernels will break camp on Monday. There will be a “Meet the Kernels” event open to the public at no charge on April 1 at Veterans Memorial Stadium in Cedar Rapids and Opening Day  is Thursday, April 3, when the Kernels host the Clinton Lumber Kings.

- JC