Episode 101: A Fan’s View, with Howard Sinker

This week Eric and Jay are joined by long time podcast friend Chuck Ruether and new podcast friend Howard Sinker, from the Star Tribune.

travel
You can download the new Talk to Contact (@TalkToContact) episode via iTunes or by clicking here, and if you want to add the show to your non-iTunes podcast player, this is the RSS Feed.

Lots of chatter about the end of the season, what to look forward to in 2015, and how the Twins might go about finding a new manager, if they ever get around to getting rid of their current one.

Then plenty of the regular beer, baseball, and the news.

Thanks for listening, folks!

Enjoy the show.

If you enjoy our podcast, please tell your friends about us and take a couple extra minutes and rate and review us on iTunes. Ratings and reviews are how we pay for beer when we’re between paychecks.

Episode 87: When Cats Attack, Reviewing the Draft

If you’re listening to this podcast, you probably have more than a passing interest in Twins baseball. You’ve probably read about all of their draft picks, even guys drafted after the first few rounds, like Minnesota native Pat Kelly, who was taken in the 12th round. 

Baseball-funny-picture

You can download the new Talk to Contact (@TalkToContact) episode via iTunes or click here you can download the new episode, and if you want to add the show to your non-iTunes podcast player, this is the RSS Feed.

Jay is driving the episode this week, so prepare your ears for a little different sound, but have no fear, other than lots of cat noises in the background, the show is pretty stellar. We start the episode by saying goodbye to one of the most handsome red beards to ever grace the outfield grass in Minnesota, Jason Kubel. Kubel is gone, but highlighting this last week was the acquisition of Kendrys Morales who along with the emergence of Eduardo Escobar and Danny Santana gives the Twins arguably one of the best line ups in the American League. 

We talk a little draft, but save most of the draft talk for our guests from the Twins Hangouts (@TwinsHangouts), Jeremy Nygaard (@jeremynygaard) and Seth Stohs (@SethTweets). With the help of those two we dive into the draft and discuss the Twins moves and what it could mean for this club in the near and long term.

A lot of weird things have happened in the world of baseball this week, and we cover most of them when we go around the league, to include banana and mayo sandwiches, a Seminole Indian rain man and a “fatty mass with tentacles”. Yikes.

Thanks for listening.

You can follow Cody on Twitter (@NoDakTwinsFan) or read his writing at NoDakTwinsFan, you can find Paul on Twitter (@BaseballPirate) and you can find Mr. Jay Corn on Twitter (@Jay__Corn)!
If you enjoy our podcast, please take a couple extra minutes and rate and review our show on iTunes.   iTunes ratings and reviews don’t pay our bills, but we don’t pay them anyways.

Episode 85: Astatine, Jim Callis and the Most Important Coach in Baseball

Half of Twins Territory still thinks we’re morons, but “This is Talk to Contact.” You can download the new Talk to Contact (@TalkToContact) episode via iTunes or click here you can download the new episode, and if you want to add the show to your podcast player, this is the RSS Feed.

This week’s episode is highlighted by a lengthy interview with Jim Callis (@JimCallisMLB, MLBpipeline.com) who talks about the draft and a whole mess of Twins topics. The Baseball Pirate makes his return from defending the homeland and the whole gang is back together for the first time in a long time. The show starts out with a rousing discussion of which coach is the most important coach in baseball, and whether or not any of the players on the 25-man roster could be more important than the most important coach. Interesting things are happening.

Brian Dozier continues to impress, the Twins pitchers continue to distress (except for Punxsutawney Phil Hughes), and Eduardo Escobar continues to mash extra-base hits like it’s his job (because it is). Is Eddie Escobar playing over his head? Probably some, but could this also be the natural maturation of a player who’s been in the big leagues since his age-22 season?

Eddie Rosario makes his return from his drug suspension, Ben Revere hits a real life, honest to god, over the wall home run and Carlos Gomez says “It’s sexy batting clean-up!” All this and more on this week’s episode of Talk to Contact.

 

You can follow Cody on Twitter (@NoDakTwinsFan) or read his writing at NoDakTwinsFan, you can find Paul on Twitter (@BaseballPirate) and you can find Mr. Jay Corn on Twitter (@Jay__Corn)!

If you enjoy our podcast, please take a couple extra minutes and rate and review our show on iTunes.   iTunes ratings and reviews are the main way to get us kicked off of iTunes, again.

GameChat – Minnesota @ Cleveland, 6:05pm

It’s stunningly gorgeous in Minnesota today.. too bad for the Minnesota fans that suffered through that cold last week and can’t be enjoying the weather THIS week. It looks quite a bit cooler in Ohio right now.

I’m hopeful that the boys can come off the last winning series and bring that feeling into the division opponent battle. We’re doing pretty well against the Indians (and in our division) so far but that it’s way too early to make any determinations on how the division stands. I think Kyle Gibson is going to be a big factor in that determination – let’s hope that he is able to keep things rolling forward tonight.

Minnesota @ Cleveland
Dozier, 2B Morgan, CF
Fuld, CF Swisher, 1B
Plouffe, 3B Brantley, LF
Colabello, 1B Santana, C, 3B
Kubel, LF Chisenhall, DH
Suzuki, K, C Cabrera, A, SS
Pinto, DH Gomes, Y, C
Herrmann, C, RF Murphy, Dv, RF
Florimon, SS Aviles, 2B
  Gibson, P   McAllister, P
1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 R H E
Minnesota 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 1 1 8 0
Cleveland 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 3 1

And the Twins celebrate Cinco de Mayo with a Win!

Sure, it took them a little longer than you’d like it to, but a win is a win.

Kyle Gibson was VERY impressive. I mean, two hits in seven innings? Pretty tough to beat. And his bullpen didn’t hurt him in support either.

But when Eduardo Escobar enters the game as a late-inning replacement and hits a home run in the 10th inning to give the team their only run of the game, that’s BOD-worthy! – JC

Eduardo Escobar (photo: JC/Knuckleballs)

Eduardo Escobar (photo: JC/Knuckleballs)

Episode 81: Brian Dozier is Good at Baseball

Do you know who Kenny Wilson is? How about Brandon Waring? After this episode, you will.  You can download the new Talk to Contact (@TalkToContact) episode via iTunes or by clicking here.

Brian Dozier

With three off days in the last week, it’s been a bit of a slow week for the Twins. Alex Meyer learned to throw a nasty change up and Eduardo Escobar seems to have taken over the SS duties from Pedro Florimon. No one in the starting rotation is very good at throwing baseballs lately.

With so many off days instead of finding a hitter and pitcher of the week, we recap the first month of the season to look for a hitter and pitcher of the month.
And a big thanks to the guys from Twins and Losses for joining us to talk a little bit of baseball. You can follow them on the twitter too (@twinsandlosses).
Enjoy the show.

You can follow Cody on Twitter (@NoDakTwinsFan) or read his writing at NoDakTwinsFan, you can find Paul on Twitter (@BaseballPirate) and read his writing at PuckettsPond.com, and you can find Mr. 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 are the reason we get out of bed in the morning.

Twins’ Glass Half Empty or Half Full?

With one bad first inning on Tuesday night, the Twins fell from a first place tie atop the AL Central Division in to sole possession of next-to-last place.

Such is life in the second week of a six-month-long Major League Baseball season.

The Twins sit at .500 with a 4-4 record after winning their first two series of the season from Detroit and Baltimore, both of which were postseason participants a year ago. The latter series was also on the road. That ain’t bad.

The losses the past two games in Kansas City have been a bit hard to stomach, of course. Blowing a one-run lead and wasting a pretty fair performance by pitcher Kevin Correia (at least through his first seven innings) was galling on Monday and the five-run bottom of the first that the Twins coughed up to the Royals Tuesday night was way too reminiscent of the kind of starts the Twins endured last year from their rotation.

But, on balance, things could be a lot worse, right?

After all, the Twins have put together this .500 start while most of their best hitters have gotten off to what you’d have to be generous to call mediocre starts.

The Twins have three hitters with batting averages above .300 at this point and you’d have to add all of those three players’ plate appearances together to match the number of times the team’s regular position players have come to the plate. When Eduardo Escobar, Pedro Florimon and Wilkin Ramirez are leading your team’s offense, you know you aren’t hitting (in this case, literally) on all cylinders yet.

Josh Willingham

Josh Willingham

Josh Willingham is off to a productive start, however. He’s hitting .280 with a couple of doubles and a couple of dingers. We’ll take that from the Hammer all year long. Chris Parmelee and Trevor Plouffe haven’t been great, but haven’t been awful either. Justin Morneau and Joe Mauer have not gotten off to great starts, so you have to figure the offense will improve as those two begin to warm up.

So things could be worse, offensively. Don’t believe me? Just imagine if Manager Ron Gardenhire had decided to plug Brian Dozier and his .174 On-base percentage in to the #2 spot of the order.

Then there’s the pitching. We’ve known all along that this team is going to live or die based on what kind of pitching they get.

Glen Perkins

Glen Perkins

Most of the good news is in the bullpen. Glen Perkins, Jared Burton, Ryan Pressly and Josh Roenicke, as a group, have not yet surrendered a run, earned or otherwise. They have 14 strikeouts (and seven walks) in 15 innings of combined work. Anthony Swarzak and Brian Duensing have also contributed positively out of the pen.

The results from the rotation members have been mixed. But, as with most things in life, it’s all relative. Compared to what we grew accustomed to seeing a year ago, maybe it hasn’t been all that bad.

Kevin Correia isn’t striking anyone out, but nobody really thought he would. What he has done is induce 23 ground outs and taken his team through the first seven innings of each of his starts. I think we’d take that all year long if we could get it.

There have been some encouraging innings out of some of the other rotation members, as well, but we need to see improvement there. That improvement could potentially start when Scott Diamond comes off the Disabled List in a couple of days.

Still, considering that the Twins pitchers are sixth in the American League in team ERA and their hitters are 12th in both batting average and OPS, you’d almost have to say it’s the team’s pitching that has them even as high as .500 at this point. Who would have expected that?

– JC

GameChat – Tigers @ Twins #2, 3:10pm

Ok, let’s try this again shall we? (Do it better this time.)

Game 2 of the season has a significant improvement in first pitch temperature – it’s supposed to be in the 50’s by that point but it’s already 10 degrees warmer than the warmest point of the game on Monday. Oh, and the wind isn’t trying to blow us away either. Those are important factors for fans and players alike.

I haven’t yet seen Correia pitch – nor will I today since I’m at work watching on Gameday – but I am intrigued to see what he can do for us.

Detroit

@

Minnesota
Jackson, A, CF Hicks, CF
Hunter, To, RF Mauer, C
Cabrera, M, 3B Willingham, LF
Fielder, 1B Morneau, 1B
Martinez, V, DH Doumit, DH
Dirks, LF Plouffe, 3B
Peralta, Jh, SS Parmelee, RF
Avila, C Dozier, 2B
Infante, 2B Florimon, SS
  Sanchez, An, P   Correia, P

 

1

2

3

4

5

6

7

8

9

R

H

E

Detroit

0

0

1

0

1

0

0

0

0

2

7

0

Minnesota

0

0

0

0

0

0

1

0

2

3

5

0

Well THAT was unexpected! They literally left this until the very last minute to pull this win out of their butt. But a win’s a win. I’ll take it. I’ll be happy about it. Congrats to Perkins for getting a win. That being said, the starting performance for Correia was pretty darn good. He went 7 innings (FANTASTIC in early spring) and only gave up 2 runs and a walk. I’ll take that any day.

Like Monday, it would have been nice if the offense had been able to string some things together earlier in the game than the 9th inning.

Just about everyone had to flee before the end of the game (including me) so BOD was a bit of a bare-bones affair but since the win was so late in the game, there wasn’t a lot of discussion really needed. Eduardo Escobar, by virtue of actually getting 2 RBI is today’s BOD!

Escobar-Eduardo-2

 

GameChat – Twins vs. Yankees – 6:05pm – FSN+

The big news tonight is that the Twins’ top prospect, Miguel Sano, will be starting at third base in place of the injured Trevor Plouffe.  So if you managed to tear yourself away from the Men’s NCAA basketball tournament for a couple hours, you are being rewarded with a glimpse of the future.  Unfortunately almost all of the other establish Big Leaguers stayed back in Fort Myers, so you’ll be seeing plenty of hot Drew Butera action this evening as well.

It might seem like half of the Yankees are injured, but a top of the lineup featuring Brett Gardner, Ichiro Suzuki, Robinson Cano and Kevin Youkilis can do a lot of damage, especially if Liam Hendriks is missing his spots.

Enjoy the game!

 Minnesota Twins

@

 New York Yankees
 Hicks, CF  Gardner, CF
 Dozier, 2B  Suzuki, I, LF
 Clement, DH  Cano, 2B
 Parmelee, 1B  Youkilis, 1B
 Sano, 3B  Hafner, DH
 Mastroianni, RF  Boesch, RF
 Benson, LF  Nunez, E, SS
 Butera, C  Nix, J, 3B
 Florimon, SS  Stewart, C, C
 _Hendriks, P  _Phelps, D, P

Despite striking out a combined 15 times, the Twins picked up a Spring Training win against the Evil Empire, 6-1.  Even more impressive, the Twins pitchers, Liam Hendriks, Cole De Vries and Pedro Hernandez held the Yankees to just one hit!  Hendriks and De Vries pitched four innings a piece with Hendriks allowing the only hit and an unearned run.

Miguel Sano did not disappoint in his first Spring Training appearance going two for five at the plate and adding a nice defensive play at third base that included a corner-to-corner throw to get the runner by half a step at first base.

All in all a pretty enjoyable game, and any time the Twins beat the Yankees, there is much rejoicing.

1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 R H E
Minnesota 0 0 0 5 0 0 0 1 0 6 10 1
NY Yankees 0 0 0 1 0 0 0 0 0 1 1 3

There was a lot of discussion after the game when we were voting on the Boyfriend of the Day (BOD, the equivalent of a game MVP).  There were votes for Drew Butera and his 3 RBI, votes for the pitching staff’s one-hitter, and a vote apiece for Aaron Hicks and Miguel Sano.  Since no consensus could be reached (and Spring Training stats don’t matter) I get to pick whoever I want.

Congratulations EDUARDO ESCOBAR!  Escobar was one-for-one with an RBI as a late inning defensive replacement for Brian Dozier.  I’m more confident by the day that Escobar will be on the roster for Opening Day, so consider this your formal introduction to the Twins utility infielder.

Escobar-Eduardo-2

 

Minnesota Twins Podcast – Talk to Contact – Episode 29

Episode 29 of the Twins baseball podcast,  Talk To Contact (@TalkToContact), is now available for download via iTunes or by clicking here.

World Baseball Classic

World Baseball Classic

This week on the Talk to Contact Podcast, the brothers Pleiss discusss, among other things, their plans for the weekend, Anthony SlamaHudson BoydBob Allison and Roy Halladay, among other Twins related topics, to include Aaron HicksJamey Carroll and some dude named Eduardo Escobar. Paul gets drunk early in the podcast, Eric tries to remain competent and everyone has a good time. Happy St Patrick’s Day everyone!

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 the Liam Hendriks find the strike zone).

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

– ERolfPleiss

 

 

Do Twins Have Any Answers Yet?

We are about at what could be considered the half-way point of the Twins’ Spring Training, believe it or not. We’re hitting that point a little early this spring because of the way the World Baseball Classic has caused an elongation of the process. But regardless of how we got here, with all of the question marks the Twins had when pitchers and catchers reported to Ft. Myers, it’s as good a time as any to check in to see if any of those questions are any closer to being answered.

Will the Twins rotation be better?

Of course, the smart-ass answer to that is that it could hardly be worse than it was last season, so it almost has to be better. But based on early appearances, the “real” answer is also, “yes, it will be better.” Of course, it’s way too early to predict how much better.

Scott Diamond

Scott Diamond

With Scott Diamond as yet untested in games, all we’ve really been able to see are the newly acquired pitchers (Vance Worley, Mike Pelfrey and Kevin Correia) and the young pitchers trying to translate minor league success in to Major League careers (Liam Hendriks and Kyle Gibson). To be fair, holdovers from last season such as Cole DeVries and Sam Deduno also have to be considered in the mix, but unless those guys show something that makes everyone believe they’ve significantly improved, the fact remains that if they’re part of the Twins rotation for a significant part of the season, it probably means the answer to this question is that the rotation has not improved enough to make a real difference in the Twins short-term fortunes.

The good news is that, on balance, the leading candidates for rotation spots have not looked too bad in their first few outings. Worley looks like what we expected him to be, a legitimate mid-rotation arm. Pelfrey isn’t yet hitting his normal pre-Tommy John surgery velocity, but he hasn’t had any sort of medical setback that we feared he might have given his accelerated rehab schedule. Corriea missed a little time to be with his wife for the birth of their new son and showed some rust in his first game back on Thursday, but he hasn’t been getting rocked the way you might have expected if you believed all the harpoons directed toward him by writers and fans since signing with the Twins. Finally, both Hendriks and Gibson have had ups and downs but have generally demonstrated why they’re considered legitimate rotation options to start the season with the Twins.

Scott Diamond is scheduled to get his first Spring Training start on March 18 so we may not know until the final week of camp whether he’ll be ready for the Opening Day roster. That said, if the Twins had to open the season with a rotation of Worley, Pelfrey, Correia, Hendriks and Gibson, I could live with that and feel somewhat confident that said rotation would lead to better results than we saw in 2012, despite the obvious shortcoming of being without a lefty until Diamond returns.

Who’s going to be the centerfielder?

The Twins entered Spring Training telling us that three players would compete for the CF job… their 4th outfielder from 2012, Darin Mastroianni, and two young outfield prospects trying to make the Opening Day roster for the first time, Aaron Hicks and Joe Benson. 

Aaron Hicks

Aaron Hicks

The competition going in seemed set up in a way that made job Hicks’ to lose. He’s definitely the player with the highest ceiling and it was just a matter of whether he would prove to the decision-makers that he’s ready for prime time, despite never playing an inning of AAA baseball. If he failed to impress, Mastroanni was likely to get the job, by default. Benson’s only real shot to win the job would be if Hicks and Mastroianni both failed miserably and/or don’t survive Spring Training healthy.

Thus far, it’s been all about Aaron Hicks. He already has three home runs after leading off both Wednesday’s game against Puerto Rico’s WBC team and Thursday’s game against the Phillies with home runs. The former wasn’t “official,” of course, since it came in an exhibition game, but the latter came against Cliff Lee.

UPDATE: Almost before I could get this article posted, Hicks hit ANOTHER home run in that Phillies game Thursday afternoon. At this rate, he’s going to screw up his chances to open the season as the Twins’ leadoff hitter by showing too much power. That said, two words of caution for Twins fans who might be tempted to read too much in to Spring Training power displays: “Luke Hughes”.

UPDATED UPDATE: Hicks has hit a THIRD home run in that Phillies game. Just… wow.

There’s still a lot of games to play before Opening Day and it wouldn’t be unheard of for a rookie to start hot and then begin tightening up at the end of the spring as the pressure of knowing he’s really playing for a spot in a Major League starting line up hits him. Still, you definitely have to say that Hicks has grabbed hold of this opportunity with both hands.

Who’s going to get the middle infield jobs?

It was generally assumed that three of the four infielders competing for middle infield spots would move north with the Twins, while one headed for Rochester. However, while Brian Dozier and Pedro Florimon appear to be the early leaders in the race for starting positions at 2B and SS, respectively, it is now looking like both Jamey Carroll and Eduardo Escobar could stick, as well. Carroll brings a veteran presence along with the versatility to play multiple positions. Escobar, though, has been impressing coaches with his glove and, it turns out, could serve as an “emergency” catcher. His bat, frankly, may not be much more of a threat than Drew Butera’s, but he would provide much greater utility around the field than Butera would. This decision could come down to the wire in late March, so stay tuned.

In the end, none of the questions have truly been answered yet, but we can definitely see the roster starting to take shape. The first round of roster cuts could be announced almost any time, now that the minor league camp has opened up and pitchers are starting to get stretched out to four innings or so. Still, with several players still participating in WBC games, there will continue to be plenty of opportunities for young players to impress someone.

For now, the two most important things Twins fans need to hope for are (1) that the potential rotation members continue to improve as Spring Training rolls on, and (2) that Joe Mauer and Justin Morneau return from the WBC healthy.

– JC