GameChat – Royals @ Twins #3, 7:10

It’s hard to find bad news on a day when Batgirl returns but there was a couple clouds on the horizon in the bullpen today.  Apparently, Fuentes tried to throw again and still had a stiff back.  That is telling staff that perhaps there is something more wrong so he’s getting an MRI.  I don’t like to think about backs & unexplained pain and MRI’s.

In a ‘clouds parting’ kind of discussion, Morneau talked to reporters today and epxressed that he VERY optimistic about coming back.  He still has symptoms but he says that he has more good days than bad days and I’m a fan enough to want to believe him so I will.  At any rate, I really hope that he’s back sooner rather than later because I really like the idea of making further progress in post-season positioning.  We’re only 4 games behind the Yankees afterall – no need to keep looking over our shoulder at who’s behind us, we should look forward and work for it!

Thome was a late scratch from the lineup – still waiting to hear why from folk working the clubhouse but for whatever reason, Morales is taking his spot in the lineup.

Kansas City @ Minnesota
Blanco, G, CF   Span, CF
Aviles, M, 2B   Hudson, O, 2B
Fields, 3B   Mauer, C
Betemit, 1B   Kubel, RF
Betancourt, Y, SS   Cuddyer, 1B
Pena, B, C   Morales, J, DH
May, DH   Young, D, LF
Gordon, A, LF   Hardy, SS
Miller, Ja, RF   Tolbert, 3B
Greinke, P   Duensing, P

 

  1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 R H E
Kansas City 0 1 0 0 0 0 0 0 2 3 8 1
Minnesota 0 0 0 0 3 0 1 0 x 4 5 0

 

You have to kind of figure Zach Greinke is counting the days until he can be a Free Agent and sign with the Twins, if only for the reason that he won’t have to pitch against them any more. I can’t think of any ace starting pitcher that the Twins have dominated like they have this guy. He actually pitched well tonight and for a while there were real concerns about the lack of hits coming off the Twins’ bats. But in the end, despite a bit of a shaky 9th inning by Mr. Capps, our guys had another win and, combined with the Tiger win, another full game added to their lead over the Bitch Sox in the standings. AND… that’s TWO SWEEPS in a row, gang!

The concern over the hitting finally melted away as the bottom part of the Twins order took over and decided they would not stand still for being shut out by the Landed Gentry (obligatory Batgirl reference). Matt Tolbert came through with timely hitting and Denard Span had a nice RBI triple after the boys at the bottom of the order rolled things over to the top again. For that, they both deserve a healthy slice of pie of their choice… but JJ Hardy’s pair of hits included his first Target Field home run, in to the bullpen, earning him a whole pie to himself, a la mode, if he’s up for it!

But Boyfriend of the Day honors go to Brian Duensing. We were concerned about the pitch count being racked up the first 2-3 innings, but almost before you could say “Go Big Red!”, it was the 8th inning and Brian was still shutting down the Royal hitters. Eight innings of 6 hit baseball and 7 strikeouts, while giving up only 1 run is BOD worthy! – JC

Fridays Are For Positive Thinking!

I tried brushing my teeth a few extra times between the end of the game last night and this morning, but I still can’t get the awful taste of last night’s game out of my mouth, so let’s replace last night’s stink-fest with a Friday link-fest of “think positive” posts and see if we can’t get some good mojo going around this place.

First, let’s all join k-bro in her efforts to help out our local food banks while we celebrate the Twins’ inevitable march toward the AL Central Division title. She’s pledging to donate two healthful food items to her local food shelf for every Twins victory in September. I’m in on that and I hope you’ll all join, too. Remember, the baseball gods like it when we make baseball related sacrifices and we need all the help we can get from the baseball gods right now (and remember how well this worked out for the Twins last September!).

Alex Burnett

Next, let’s get ready to welcome three new pitchers to the Twins (OK, for one of them, it’s more of a “welcome back”). LaVelle E Neal III has the up-to-date information. Alex Burnett is on his way back up to Minnesota and he’s bringing along relief pitcher Rob Delaney and starting pitcher Matt Fox. Fox will apparently make his MLB debut tonight against the AL West leading Texas Rangers. By the way, despite the frustration level we were feeling last night, apparently we weren’t all completely brain dead. I don’t remember who first

Rob Delaney as a Rock Cat

mentioned it so I apologize for not giving credit where it’s due, but as we discussed last night, the Twins will in fact make room on the 40-man roster for Fox by putting Justin Morneau on the 60-day DL

retroactively to when he was injured. That was almost 60 days ago so he could be reactivated any time that he shakes the post-concussion cobwebs (crossing fingers and toes).

For some additional insight in to Matt Fox, I suggest taking a look at Seth Stohs’ post over at sethspeaks.net. Not only has Fox worked hard to get this opportunity, but he also pitched to Drew Butera in college at Central Florida. With Joe Mauer having caught 13 innings last night, you have to figure

Friday's starting pitcher, Matt Fox

tonight will be a Golden Knight reunion. (That HAS to be good karma, right? and the baseball gods smile on the MLB debuts of guys who overcome injuries and work hard to achieve their dreams, right? Come on… tell me I’m right… please?)

Also from LaVelle’s blog post, this note of interest provided by the folks at the Elias Sports Bureau:

Brian Duensing tossed two innings of relief two days after a 6⅔-inning start. He was the first major-leaguer in more than 10 years to throw at least two innings in relief in a game that followed by only one or two days a start of more than six innings. The last pitcher to do that had been Steve Woodard of the Brewers in May 2000.

Just one more reason to be impressed with Duensing. It’s really great to see a guy overcome the disadvantage of having to attend the University of Nebraska and become one of the best young pitchers I’ve seen with the Twins in quite a while. (Don’t mind me, just practicing my Cornhusker-bashing for when they become part of the Big Ten next year.)

Speaking of the Huskers, I know it isn’t the least bit Twins-related, but I’m really excited with the new Big Ten division alignment for football and the subsequent schedules for 2011 and 2012 announced by the conference this week. My Hawkeyes get a new “final game” of the season against Nebraska on Thanksgiving weekend, which should be a terrific game. Fortunately (for Iowa anyway), they also get to continue playing the Gophers every year, although it will no longer be the last game of the season. By the way, I’m really looking forward to making the trip up to Minneapolis this November for my first look at TCF Bank Stadium (or, as we refer to it down here, “The New Kinnick Stadium North”).

Finally, let’s wrap up with a reminder that the Twins, even coming off of last night’s clunker and with all of the challenges facing them, have a couple of really important things going for them that we can all be thankful for:

1. They still have a 3.5 game lead over the Bitch Sox in the standings.

2. They don’t have to put up with Manny Ramirez’s bullshit just to retain any semblance of playoff hope.

The baseball gods are going to smile down on the Twins this weekend. I can feel it! - JC


Boyfriend of the Month for August: Dead Heat at the Wire

The folks who have gathered in our GameChats handed out 22 Boyfriend of the Day (BOD) awards in August (a few more than the actual number of Twins wins because we had some co-BOD games mixed in there). Heading in to the final game of the month, there were no fewer than eight players tied for the lead in the Boyfriend of the Month battle. That’s a far cry from the month of July when Delmon Young had his monster month and walked away with BOM honors.

But before we get to this month’s BOM award, let’s take a glance at where the race for Knuckleballs’ Boyfriend of the Year stands heading in to September. This race is all but over, folks. It will take someone getting awfully hot down the stretch to overtake DY’s lead in the BOY race, given that he holds a 12 to 7 lead over Francisco Liriano on the year. Frankie’s grip on “runner up” honors is much more tenuous, however. Fellow rotation members, Kevin Slowey and Carl Pavano have racked up 6 BODs each, while the group of Joe Mauer, Jason Kubel, and Danny Valencia all are still within reach of Liriano with 5 BODs a piece.

Turning back to Boyfriend of the Month… as it turns out, it was very appropriate that Valencia and Michael Cuddyer wrapped up the month of August with co-BOD performances against the Tigers on Tuesday night. Heading in to that final game, those two guys joined Mauer, Liriano, Slowey, Jim Thome, Scott Baker and Brian Duensing with two BOD awards during the month, making August by far the month with the largest number of players earning multiple awards.

But with their efforts on Tuesday, Michael and Danny did just enough to separate themselves from the pack and earn co-Boyfriend of the Month awards for August! – JC

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

P.S. A huge thank you to Joe Christensen at the Star Tribune for sending out via text message (and his blog) a link to this column by Sports Illustrated’s Steve Rushin. It’s a terrific read for anyone who saw games at the Met, the Dome and Target Field (and a pretty darn good read even for those who didn’t). If you only have time to read one more article online today, make it that one. – JC

Minnesota State Fair!

Hey folk, it’s that time of year again!  I thought I would make sure you knew where to go to get your baseball fix while doing the Fair thing.  The Twins and FSN have their little shindig set up on the South East corner of the fair by the Snelling entrance.  If I remember correctly, it’s a big tent on the East side of Judson between Underwood and Cooper.   How about a helpful Map

Of course they have tons of Twins gear and such that you can pick up.  They have official Minnesota Twins Baseball licensed merchandise plus an exhibit of Twins baseball memorabilia and interactive activities for children and adults.  They also have free stuff and prize giveaways.  At the very minimum you can get Twins bags and schedules for next year!  Here’s the Fair promotional guide that you can look through for deals – baseball and otherwise!

I will admit that I really did only the most basic of searching for this and while I tried to find out if there was a schedule of player appearances at the Twins site and they didn’t have any Fair related info for current players.  But here’s a link to the alumni players who are going to be there. 

I did at least grab the link to the daily schedules.  If you know what day you are going, you can check to see what’s going on that day.  Of course, I have gotten the word from TC Bear that he will be in the parade every day at 2 pm so if you haven’t gotten your Twins fix by that point in the day, you know where to go.

And just because I found it and couldn’t resist sharing, here’s a little insight from April this year into what some of our Minnesota boys think about all that food on a stick!

A kind concessionaire named Brandi looked at the menu behind her and summarized it thusly: “How much more Minnesota can you get? Everything on a stick!”

Such adventuring spirit hasn’t quite infiltrated the home team, which, during the yearly Minnesota State Fair, tends to find itself in pennant races. Finding a walleye-on-a-spike veteran was harrowing.

Manager Ron Gardenhire? Nope.

“I’ve seen my buddy Walleye walk with a stick because he’s so drunk,” he said.

Reliever Brian Duensing? Negative.

“I don’t know if I could trust it,” he said. “The stick scares me. If it’s one a plate, sure. I might try it. I’m sure it’s not bad.”

Second baseman Orlando Hudson? You can’t be serious.

“I ain’t eating no fish on no damn stick,” he said. “I eat bass, crappy, walleye. But not on no stick. That don’t sound right.”

Everything else was fine. “This is a great town,” Hudson said, and it got even better when the threat of baseball contracting the Twins forced the city’s people to save their team. They could’ve said no. They could’ve done a bootleg job. Instead, they’ve got this new jewel in the middle of their city, set up and finished with a spike.

You know, I really think it would be fun to walk around the Fair with a couple of these guys on their first time!

GameChat – Angels @ Twins, 7:10

Quick injury update: Yes, Nick Punto is back on the DL – my heart just kind of breaks for him. He reaggravated the hamstring that was supposedly healed.  And the team proved me wrong yet again because, no, no matter how badly I think we need it, they did not bring up a pitcher.  Tolbert is up to give us that flexibility of infielders and such.

As far as the game tonight, I’m kind of excited to see Dan Haren pitch but maybe that’s just because I like LOOKING at Dan Haren.  I’m willing to admit that is a possibility.  I would definitely like to see the offense be a little busier tonight than they were last night and I’m NOT goign to be ok with more LOB.  I hope that Duensing holds his own and goes deep into the game with a lot less struggles than Frankie and Pavano had.  Let’s go boys!

LA Angels @ Minnesota
Abreu, B, DH   Span, CF
Kendrick, H, 2B   Hudson, O, 2B
Callaspo, 3B   Mauer, C
Hunter, RF   Kubel, RF
Rivera, J, LF   Cuddyer, 1B
Napoli, C   Thome, DH
Aybar, E, SS   Young, D, LF
Wood, B, 1B   Valencia, 3B
Bourjos, CF   Hardy, SS
  Haren, P     Duensing, P

 

  1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 R H E
LA Angels 0 0 0 1 0 0 0 0 1 2 8 0
Minnesota 1 0 3 3 0 0 0 0 x 7 11 0

 

THAT went MUCH better.  How nice of the boys to give me exactly what I asked for!  And how nice of them to do such a great job while Jim Crikket was there to witness it!  The offense remembered how to hit and Duensing went out there and nailed it down, inning after inning!  More than anyone, I think the bullpen appreciated that.  But yeah, going 8 innings is something I think every coach, fielder and fan loved too. 

For any normal game,  Kubel going 2/4 with a homerun, a double and 3 RBI would probably be enough to earn him the BOD.  But not tonight.  Tonight it was great but it was only enough to get him a great big frosty adult beverage (can you tell I just left the bar?).  Heck, we’ll even throw in an adult beverage of choice to Jim Thome because, seriously, I am shocked to see just one triple from him in a season but multiples??  are you kidding me? Dude, maybe he needs a shot of 5 Hour Energy instead.

For tonight’s game though, the boxscore really says it all.  Duensing went up against a pitcher MANY Twins fans would have liked to see as a possibility in our starting rotation (including me).  He kicked Dan’s ass.  Haren just didn’t look like the hot pitcher I’ve seen in the past – maybe it was that he just doesn’t do facial hair as well?  I don’t know but Duensing came out the winner in tonight’s comparison and given how BADLY we really needed a good outting from our starter and how fun it was to see him get 6 k’s, I’m not at all surprised that the chat chose Brian Duensing for today’s BOD!  Congrats!

And sorry, Jamar, apparently our library is a bit short on the Duensing shots – of the ones we have so far, this really is the best.  I”ll make it a personal goal to be sure to get an even better one for you sometime soon!  I’m sure I could go steal a pic off some other site somewhere but we like using our own!

GameChat – A’s @ Twin #2, 6:10 pm

I love good exciting baseball games but I’m hoping for a little less of the extremes tonight – last night wore me out.  Is it too much to ask for a nice start from Duensing, good fielding from the defense and some fantastic offense all to work together for a win without the head-banging dramatics?  Maybe…

Oakland @ Minnesota
Crisp, CF   Span, CF
Barton, D, 1B   Hudson, O, 2B
Suzuki, K, C   Mauer, C
Kouzmanoff, 3B   Kubel, RF
Ellis, M, 2B   Cuddyer, 1B
Davis, R, RF   Thome, DH
Cust, DH   Young, D, LF
Carter, LF   Valencia, 3B
Tolleson, SS   Casilla, A, SS
  Cahill, P     Duensing, P

 

  1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 R H E
Oakland 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 3 0
Minnesota 0 0 1 0 0 0 0 1 x 2 8 0

 

Now that I’m recovered from fits of tremors and drooling, I’ll see what I can do to describe how awesome that was!  A TRUE pitchers duel and BRIAN DUENSING WON!!!  It was just fantstic.  A complete game shutout for the young rookie and done with style too.  His teammates annointed him with the traditional shaving cream pie in the face which made for an entertaining postgame interview – his general opinion was that shaving cream doesn’t taste very good.  Of course, from the smile on his face after the last out – facing just 29 batters – my guess is that the taste of shaving cream will be soon forgotten.  It also made choosing a BOD a very easy task today.  Congratulations, Brian!

Given the closeness of the game (especially until the bottom of the 8th), the chat also awards assorted pastries to Orlando Hudson and Joe Mauer for their part in tonight’s win.  Thanks guys!

Let’s Not Rush to Judge “the Trade”

Matt Capps

As I went to bed last night, I still wasn’t sure how I felt about the Twins trade of premier catching prospect Wilson Ramos along with minor league pitcher Joe Testa to the Nationals for closer Matt Capps and half a million dollars cash. This morning, I’m still not sure how I feel about it.

I admit I haven’t had time yet to read many of the reactions from the rest of the Twins blogosphere, but I do feel most of this community tends to overvalue the Twins’ prospects, so I’m guessing the reaction in the blogs will be largely negative. TwinsGeek John Bonnes found eight things he didn’t like about the trade, while over in Section 219, Howard Sinker seemed to offer a conditional thumbs up to the deal.

I’m not a terribly patient person, by nature, but I’m going to suggest we all try to exercise some patience here. There’s no doubt in my mind that this trade makes this year’s Twins better. How much better? That’s certainly a fair topic for debate. Capps is probably a moderately better closer than Jon Rauch, but that’s only part of the story. Adding a reliever at the top of the bullpen food chain has a ripple effect which means (or should mean, anyway) that the Twins would actually be replacing their LAST arm in the pen with Capps.

Who you feel that person is depends on how you personally feel about Ron Mahay, Jose Mijares and Nick Blackburn. Mahay and Mijares are lefties and with Brian Duensing in the rotation, it seems unlikely they’ll be sent packing. There’s also an argument to be made that Blackie, if he’s ever going to regain his effectiveness, needs to pitch regularly in Rochester rather than waiting around for a long relief spot in Minnesota. But if he leaves, who exactly IS the Twins long reliever who can go 3+ innings if the starting pitcher struggles early? [EDIT: I realized I should have also included Anthony Slama on the list of guys that could be bumped to make room for Capps. Sitting here thinking about it, unless they decide Blackburn needs regular starts, he's probably the guy on his way out for now.-JC]

Then there’s that $500,000 that the Twins are getting back from the Nationals. What’s that all about? We can certainly all speculate about just how close the Twins are to being maxed out on their payroll for the year, but it just seems odd that half a mil would have a major bearing on that issue. I mean, that’s a good chunk of change for you and me, but for a Major League Baseball team?

Weighing all of this brings me to only one logical conclusion. Bill Smith isn’t done yet.

I realize MLB Trade Rumors is reporting that the Cubs and Dodgers are talking about a deal to send Ted Lilly to LA and they mention that the Twins (and other teams) have “cooled” on Lilly. But whether it’s Lilly or someone else, I’m betting (or at least hoping) Smith is fairly certain he’s going to land a lefty starting pitcher. It may or may not be before Saturday’s non-waiver deadline, but that’s really a pretty soft deadline these days because of the size of contracts the players involved have. They pass through waivers pretty freely.

If the Twins do pick up a LH starter, it frees them to push Duensing back in to his role as the team’s long reliever AND top lefty out of the pen. That sends either Mahay or Mijares packing (I’m guessing Mijares to Rochester). Of course, the Twins don’t have Ramos around to deal for a top lefty SP any more, but I have to figure the teams they’re talking to about such players weren’t after Ramos (if they were and Smith dealt him for a reliever, then I’m completely baffled at the logic). And maybe that $500K gives the Twins some flexibility in terms of taking on more of the next trade target’s salary and thus not having to part with as much talent in the deal? I dunno. Just spitballing here.

So I’m holding off on passing judgment… for now. If it turns out this is it… and the Twins spent arguably their top trade chip for a relief pitcher, then that’s going to be tough for me to swallow. I was all for trading Ramos, but it just seems like that’s not a fair return, given Capps’ contract situation (he’s going to start getting very expensive the next year or two… probably too expensive for the Twins to keep). But after the series of deals Bill Smith made in August last year that, despite not all being widely popular at the time, turned out very well for the Twins, I’m going to sit back and hope this is all part of a larger plan to strengthen more than one area of the roster and prepare the Twins for a playoff run. – JC

Friday Hot Dish

Way down south, where I’m living (in Iowa), it’s called a casserole. But as I recall from my younger years in Minnesota, up there it’s a hot dish. Either way, to me it’s still a bunch of stuff thrown together, cooked, and if you’re really good at it (or really lucky), it turns out tasty, satisfying and filling. So that’s the purpose of this post… throw a few things together and, since I’m not likely to be really good, I’ll hope to be lucky.

It didn’t take long for the Twins to completely disregard my suggested roster moves. In fact, not only did they NOT make the moves I recommended, even the one move that I said “we all know WILL happen this weekend” isn’t going to happen this weekend. JJ Hardy won’t be rejoining the Twins for their series against JJ’s former team, the Brewers, this weekend. I’m getting a bit more concerned about this slow-healing wrist. A couple of our readers added comments taking issue with my suggestion that it might be time for Brian Duensing to slide in to Kevin Slowey’s spot in the rotation. Whether my suggestions turn out to be as far off base as they’re already starting to look, only time will tell. Let’s see where things stand in 2-3 weeks.

By the way, given that Hardy isn’t ready yet, it makes perfect sense to have Trevor Plouffe join the team this weekend. Luke Hughes is on the DL and Matt Tolbert can’t return to the Bigs until 10 days after he was sent down, so Plouffe makes sense. Let’s just hope Gardy isn’t tempted to use him as a late-game defensive replacement in a close game. Trevor has eight errors already this year.

Joe Mauer... moving up TSN's "Best Player in Baseball" list.

The Sporting News polled 125 baseball “experts” (apparently my ballot was lost in the mail) to find out who they thought the best 50 players in baseball are. Guess what!? Joe Mauer isn’t #1! Yeah, that Pujols guy over in the National League (or as I call it, Class AAAA) got the nod for the second year in a row. But Joe’s on Albert’s heels at #2 after moving up 37 spots from last year’s poll. Seriously… these experts thought Joe was the 39th best player a year ago? I mean… I know he missed April with back issues so maybe the votes last year were influenced by what was then Mauer’s “current performance”, but 39th?

Doc not impressing the TSN 'experts'?

The Twins’ other representative in the top 50 is another head-scratcher. Justin Morneau is ranked 23rd by these experts. If current performance is important, how is Doc’s 2010 not being recognized? He’s off to arguably the best start of his career. And he’s DROPPED 9 spots from last year?

The panel, as described by TSN, “included 18 Hall of Famers, 12 Cy Young award winners, 8 MVPs, 15 rookies of the year, 3 batting champions, 3 home run champions, 9 Silver Slugger award winners, 18 Gold Glove winners, 6 ERA champions, 4 World Series MVPs, 2 relievers of the year, 7 managers of the year, 5 former executives, 6 media members and 9 team broadcasters.” Sounds like a bunch of old men, to me.

Apparently senility has set in among some of those old “experts”.

It wouldn’t be a JimCrikket link fest without something from Joe Posnanski, of course… so I’m going to link to two of Joe’s recent efforts. Don’t worry, they’re both short.

First, Poz (I don’t know if that’s really a nickname he uses, but if it isn’t it should be) looked at the Hanley Ramirez fiasco and posed the question “What if it had been Jeter?”  He’s also given us a peek inside the Sports Illustrated tent and, as someone who’s giving some thought to buying an iPad in the near future, I found his “Sports Illustrated for iPad” posting of some interest.

You may have noticed how I’ve avoided any mention of last night’s loss to the East Coast Bitch Sox in Boston. It was aggravating on so many levels, but I think the thing that stood out the most, right from the start of the game, was the absolute joke that particular umpiring crew has become. Since the Twins have a “history” with some of those guys (remember Brendan Harris not being allowed a time out and having a pitch zip by him while not even looking?), it was probably predictable. But rather than me ranting today, I’ll just send you over to k-bro’s place to see her scientific (I’m sure) diagram of the strike zone last night.

I guess I need to get a little real work done this morning, so that’s enough for now. Check back later… if I come across any other interesting ingredients for today’s hot dish, I’ll add them as the day rolls on. – JC

UPDATE 1: I did mean to include this post from Jim Manelaro concerning the Stephen Strasburg “event” in Rochester. Strasburg, the uber-phenom of the Washington Nationals who is being kept busy mowing down minor leaguers until the Nats can be sure he won’t qualify for “super 2″ arbitration status in a couple of years, pitched against the Red Wings Wednesday night.

He pitched well (although newly promoted Twin Trevor Plouffe did get one hit off him). As you’d expect, the Rochester stadium was overflowing (with a significant number of fans wearing Strasburg T-shirts sold at the stadium by the Red Wings!) and when Strasburg was finally relieved of duty, he was given a huge ovation as he left the field. However, he apparently did not acknowledge the ovation with the traditional “cap tip”, causing much of the ovation to turn to boos. This has apparently become a bit of a “thing” now. So my questions, working backwards a bit, are:

1- Why is it a big deal that Strasburg didn’t tip his cap to the opposing crowd?

2- Why would an opposing crowd be THAT enthusiastic in the first place toward an opposing pitcher?

3- What the heck were the Red Wings thinking when they printed up T-shirts and turned their entire crowd in to an 8,000-strong Syracuse/Strasburg love fest? (Yes, I know, money.)

4- I want to know what the Red Wing players… and for that matter the Twins organization… thinks of Rochester’s bizarre promotion of an opponent? (If I were a Red Wing player, I’d have been pissed!)

UPDATE 2: This one made me laugh and almost cheer a bit, as well. Seems the people who run the city of Los Angeles decided they should boycott the state of Arizona over the issue of their controversial immigration law. Now, this blog is not the place for me to express my feelings regarding the law itself, but I REALLY don’t like it when the people on either coast (who think they know everything and that the rest of us should do things the way the folks on the coasts tell us to) start throwing their weight around.

So THAT’S why I found this response from an Arizona Corporation Commission (an oddly named agency that oversees electrical power plants in Arizona) member to the Mayor of Los Angeles hilarious:

“If an economic boycott is truly what you desire, I will be happy to encourage Arizona utilities to renegotiate your power agreements so Los Angeles no longer receives power from Arizona-based generation.”

Seems Los Angeles gets about 25% of their electricity from power plants in Arizona. Oops.

Yeah, I know it’s unlikely they could actually withhold electricity from LA, but any time someone is willing to stand up and say “stick it, jerk!” to bullies, I love it. I also know this article has almost nothing to do with baseball… except let me say that if Bud Selig actually does change his mind (what mind?) and pull the 2011 AllStar game from Arizona over this issue, the good people of Arizona should tell Bud to “stick it”, too. Immigration is a serious issue and should be dealt with by serious people… and that leaves out Bud Selig (and the LA City Council, too).

The Twins Roster – What to do, what to do?

I’ve stayed away from watching the Twins the last couple of games, partially of necessity and partially by choice, but I’m ready to get back in the game. I figured a good way to jump back in would be to share my wisdom with Gardy and Bill Smith on the subject of what roster moves should be made.

I know they say you don’t mess with something that isn’t broken, but let’s be clear… even though the Twins have won several more games than they’ve lost, this roster is at least cracked, if not broken. You don’t carry 13 pitchers, even for just a couple of days, and even pretend that all’s well.

One roster move we all know WILL happen this weekend is that JJ Hardy will be coming off the Disabled List. What’s less clear is who will be removed from the 25-man roster to make room for Hardy. The most likely move will be to send pitcher Jeff Manship back to Rochester since, according to media reports, he was brought up just to give the Twins some bullpen depth in Boston after the pen got used and abused in Toronto earlier in the week. In all likelihood, that’s the only move the Twins will make this weekend… but that doesn’t make it the only move they SHOULD make or even the best move they COULD make.

Casilla should have been Hardy's replacement.

But before I get to my wish list of roster moves, let me take a step back and discuss the Hardy situation briefly. Yes, it will be good to get JJ back and yes, he’s been a very good defender and no, you dare not underestimate the value of his defense to his team and specifically to his pitching staff. That said, I really would love to know why the heck Gardy hasn’t simply plugged Alexi Casilla’s name in to the lineup in Hardy’s absence instead of moving players around the infield like chess pieces. Specifically, I’d like to know what it is that Brendan Harris has done to warrant getting as many starts in Hardy’s absence as Casilla has.

Look, I like Casilla… always have. But I’ve also been a bit of a fan of Harris, so this is not a personal preference thing on my part. This is a “the numbers couldn’t possibly make things any more obvious” thing. Hardy’s offensive contribution so far this year has been pretty pedestrian, but that’s OK for your #8 hitter. His .250/.299/.400 line (batting average/on base pct/slugging pct) isn’t great but it’s tolerable at this point in the season.

But when faced with replacing Hardy for a couple of weeks, why in the world would you give as much playing time to Harris (.181/.277/.264 on the season and .148/.179/.185 the past two weeks) as you do to Casilla (.273/.351/.364 on the season and .294/.400/.471 the past two weeks)? It’s not like Harris is better defensively at SS, either. It just baffles me. In fact, even with Hardy coming back, I’m not sure I wouldn’t be starting Casilla until I’m sure JJ is 100%. Ah well.

Now about that roster.

Valencia isn't ready to replace LNP... yet!

What you won’t hear from me is a loud cry to “bring up the guys from AAA!” I believe there is generally a reason why some players are in the Bigs and some are in Rochester. And let’s face it, the Red Wings aren’t exactly ripping up the International League folks. After getting blown away by Nationals phenom Stephen Strasburg last night, they’ve got the worst record in the I-League. So I’m not going to rant about how half their roster should be promoted while the Twins send a bunch of guys packing who have been contributing (in various degrees) to the Twins success this season. For example, count me as one vote against bringing Danny Valencia  and/or Trevor Plouffe up until they show more (Valencia more power and Plouffe more glove) in Rochester.

But that doesn’t mean there isn’t anyone down there who could improve things for the Twins, either.

First, there’s no point in screwing around with the position players. You add Hardy and leave it at that. But the pitching staff… oh my… yes there are some improvements that could and should be made there.

This is perhaps a good time for me to say I wish people would stop with the “Rauch is doing so well that the Twins don’t really miss Nathan” crap. Jon Rauch has been great. But wouldn’t you love to have him being great as Nathan’s set-up man, instead? You’d basically be shortening every game the Twins led after 7 innings to a 7 inning game.

But we’ve got to deal with the situation as it is, without Nathan, and they’re going to have to get down to a 12-man staff to make room for Hardy. As I mentioned, sending Manship down to Rochester is the easy call. But is it the only call or even the right call? Well, kinda.

I do believe you send Manship down. In fact, I don’t quite understand why he was the choice to be brought up in the first place since he really hasn’t been Rochester’s best pitcher (or even their best starting pitcher… among a group of pretty poor starting pitchers). In fact, I can only think of one reason to keep Manship with the Twins… and that’s so you can use him as your long reliever while you send Brian Duensing down to Rochester.

Why send a guy who’s pitched as well as Duensing has down to AAA? Only one good reason… to have him stretch his arm out so you can bring him back up and plug him in to the rotation. When he’s ready, you call him up and give him Kevin Slowey’s spot, move Slowey to the long relief role and send Manship back down.

Now, last but not least, we come to the obvious question everyone is asking. When are the Twins going to give up on Jesse Crain? The answer should be “now”. It is time to designate him for assignment and, if the Twins can’t get anything for him in a trade, eat the $1 million or so they’d owe him and release him. Even saying that, I believe Crain will go on to have a productive career somewhere else. I just don’t think the Twins, in a year in which they believe they have World Series expectations, can afford to have even one pitcher that they clearly have lost all confidence in.

Anthony Slama and his old school stirrups are ready NOW!

So when Crain is gone, who takes his place in the bullpen? Here’s where the Twins have a number of options. Rob Delaney, Kyle Waldrop and Anthony Slama have all been very effective in Rochester and, that being the case, it makes even less sense to keep calling Crain’s number and holding your breath, closing your eyes, crossing your fingers and hoping for the best when he takes the mound. My preference, for what it’s worth, would be Slama.

Will any of these moves actually happen this weekend? Besides the Hardy-for-Manship swap out, probably not. Slama probably won’t make his Twins debut until June so the Twins can postpone his arbitration eligibility an extra year. By the way, I think that kind of thinking is fine when you are just trying to be competitive and build for the future, but when you have a chance to win NOW, it’s just silly… and I feel the same way about the Nationals delaying Strasburg’s MLB debut for the same reason. They’re going to end up a game or two out of making the playoffs and have only their frugalness to blame. I just hope the Twins aren’t looking back and feeling the same way.

 In any event, whether it’s this weekend or two weeks from now when the service time issue is no longer a concern, here’s my recommended roster:

Starting position players: Mauer, Morneau, Hudson, Hardy, Punto, Young, Span, Cuddyer, Kubel.

Bench position players: Thome, Casilla, Harris, Butera (yes, I agree with having Morales and Ramos in AAA… for a little while longer).

Starting Pitchers: Liriano, Baker, Pavano, Blackburn, Duensing.

Bullpen: Rauch (closer), Guerrier (set-up), Slama (set-up/mid relief), Burnett (mid relief/set-up), Mahay (mid relief/LOOGY), Mijares (LOOGY), Slowey (long relief/spot start).

Now… would someone please pass this along to Gardy and Bill Smith? They don’t seem to be returning my calls. Or maybe I should try Tweeting it… I heard Pat Neshek say Gardy really likes the whole Tweeting thing, right? – JC

Catching Rays

They say “every picture tells a story.”

I didn’t take a whole lot of pictures at the Twins game up in Port Charlotte against the Rays today, preferring to generally enjoy the game and the company out on the “boardwalk” above right center field. You get a very different perspective out there.

There are observations to be made by the particularly attentive photographer/fan in the cheap seats, though.

For example, this afternoon, I glanced down from my spot above the outfield to notice Nick Punto and Orlando Hudson casually standing deep in the outfield chatting. Now, this might not be unusual if not for the fact that, although both had already been replaced in the Twins lineup, the game was still very much in progress. I wasn’t close enough to hear EXACTLY what was being said, but I’m pretty sure it went something like this…

Punto: I still don’t know why Bill Smith signed you, Hudson. I’m better than you are!

Hudson: What’s your name again? I thought you were the batboy.

Punto: That does it! I’ll show you! We’re gonna race… right here… right now!

Hudson: (Laughing) We can’t do that, there’s a game going on! We shouldn’t even be standing in the outfield.

Punto: It’s OK. As long as you’re with me, Gardy won’t say anything. He likes me.

Hudson: OK, if you say so…

Punto: It’s fine… he won’t even notice. Just stand with your hands on your knees and act like you’re watching the game. Then when Gardy turns his head, we go!

Punto: (puff, puff, puff)

Hudson: Are you sure you aren’t the batboy?

Punto: I win!

Hudson: Wait a minute… you were serious?

Punto: You know, Hudson, you’re alright after all and I suppose there are some things you can do better than I can… but I bet I slide in to first base better than you do!

Hudson: (laughing) Nicky… it’s never even occurred to me to TRY!

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One more picture from today’s game… this one’s for you, jamar

Former Nebraska Cornhusker Brian Duensing winds and delivers... "Go Big Red!"

Finally, once again this year, Howard Sinker of the Star Tribune has been gracious enough to post some of my spring training observations on his “A Fan’s View from Section 219″ blog. If you’d like to read more about my trip to Ft. Myers, join me there! – JC

P.S. Extra credit for whoever can identify the movie from which, “it never even occurred to me to TRY,” comes from.