Congratulations(?) Red Dog!

I guess congratulations are in order for former Twins catcher Mike Redmond. He’ll be announced as the new Florida Marlins manager at a press conference on Friday and there are only 30 of those gigs out there, so getting one of them after just a couple of years of managing at the Class A level in the Blue Jays organization is a big deal!

But there’s a part of me that feels bad for Redmond that he’s getting this opportunity with an organization as dysfunctional as the Marlins. I won’t go in to all of the issues with their ownership and front office, but suffice to say that Red Dog will have his work cut out for him. At least he’s getting a three year contract (then again, his predecessor, Ozzie Guillen, was dismissed after one year, despite having a four-year contract).

Redmond is certainly a familiar face in Miami, having come up through their organization. He also won a Championship ring with the Marlins, before moving on to the Twins, where he spent five seasons backing up Joe Mauer. Redmond finished his playing career with the Indians.

Despite being a backup catcher with the Twins, he was clearly a leader in the clubhouse during many of the Twins better seasons over the past decade. It comes as no surprise that he’s getting an opportunity to manage in the Big Leagues, though it’s happening a bit sooner than might have been expected.

Of course, the entire baseball world will anxiously wait to find out if Redmond imports his unique “naked batting practice” approach to his new club.

In any event, best of luck to Mike Redmond with his new opportunity!

- JC

Say, whatever happened to what’s his name?

We’ve been running into so many of our former players on opposing teams lately, like Nathan, Guerrier, Hunter, Hardy, Thome, Punto, Crain…. well, you know. With recent news on a couple more, it got me wondering about some of those guys we don’t hear so much about. Whatever happened to some of the players we used to spend practically every day talking about?

So I went and did a little looking around – not too much because I’m lazy so I’m sure there are lot more of our former guys out there doing things we wouldn’t expect or with teams we don’t see often. If you know of one I didn’t include here, feel free to share what you know! It’s always fun to to catch up..

One of guys we didn’t get to see even though we could have hoped for it was Lew Ford! He recently came up from the minor leagues with the Orioles and got his first hit in MLB since 2007. During that time he played in Japan, Mexico and with an independent league before coming back to the minor leagues in the Orioles system. I’m not sure what it is about the Red Sox and the Orioles but they seem to be a haven for former Twins. And he’s finally on Twitter so you can follow @CaptainLew20 there – anyone else have a little trouble believing that it took a geek like Lew so long to finally join the social media world of micro-blogging?!?! Of course, I found out information about another former Twin by following him! It turns out Terry Tiffee is playing 3B for the AAA Gwinnett Braves. The interesting part is that apparently he recently got called upon to pull a Butera! He pitched an inning in the 22-1 Gwinnett loss. His line: 1IP, 5ER, 4H, 2BB, 0K,45.00ERA.

Also rejoining the ranks after an albeit VERY brief stint in independent league baseball is Luke Hughes! The very same day he announced that he was joining an independent team, he followed up with an announcement that he was going to Las Vegas instead to play for the 51s in the Toronto Blue Jays system. I am hoping his return to the big leagues comes a lot quicker than Lew’s!

Also still in the minor leagues is former utility everything guy, Matt Tolbert. He’s doing well with the Iowa Cubs. He’s also hitting significantly better in the minor leagues than he was able to achieve in the bigs. I suppose that is to be expected for a guy who is used to facing major league pitching. But he’s getting more multiple base hits including a recent outing where he was only a homer short of a cycle. I wish him all the best!

Of course not all former Twins are playing in the minor leagues. Plenty of them are still playing well in their new homes. Interestingly enough, I happened to catch the end of the Cardinals game on the radio on my way home from work on Sunday. Sure enough, there was a former Twin. Kyle Lohse racked up win #12 and is probably their best starting pitcher. I think he could be a good example for Liriano to look to – a guy with a LOT of talent who really struggled with the mental readiness required to anchor a rotation. Clearly Kyle figured something out after he left us.

Speaking of pitching, perennial fan favorite, Pat Neshek is providing a show relieving for the Oakland A’s. Yes, his pitching is still as awkward looking as it always was. And we just faced Jose Mijares with the Royals but yeah, he just got claimed off waivers by the Giants so he’s off to a new home. A couple other former Twins pitchers are currently on the DL, again. I guess they didn’t just have that problem with us. Things are looking up for Johan Santana who is expect to make his return from rehab on Saturday. Things aren’t as rosy for Kevin Slowey. There’s a reason we won’t see him playing the Indians. He’s been out since May with what was reported to be a strained lat. On Friday, trainer Lonnie Soloff said Slowey’s actual injury is a fractured rib. “That takes a long time to heal,” said Soloff. I guess the Twins training staff isn’t the only one having trouble with diagnoses.

It’s not like pitching is the only thing we lose over time. Two of our biggest hitters from last year are with new teams this year. Michael Cuddyer was having a good season with the Rockies – hitting .260 with 15 home runs and 56 RBI — but has been bothered by a strained right oblique muscle and hadn’t played since Tuesday. Does that sound familiar to anyone else?

And my thanks to Thrylos who got me to go check out what is going on with Jason Kubel these days. He’s doing VERY well batting .281 with 23 homeruns. And as Thrylos pointed out, he’s lost a significant amount of weight so in some pictures, it’s hard to recognize him! That has to be a LOT easier on his knees. Yeah, that’s him all they way over on the left. I think he looks taller in addition to looking smaller.

Manager Nelson Prada and Hitting Coach Tommy Watkins

And there are the guys who aren’t playing anymore but are doing the best to pass on what they know to the next generation of players – they are coaching! I am amused by how many former Twins become Hitting Coaches.. really? But one we even get to interact with occasionally. JC just got see Tommy Watkins while visiting in Beloit because he’s still in the Twins system – coaching for us even! You can even follow him on Twitter: @TommyWatkins. He’s been fun to chat with.

Also filling the role as hitting coach are Doug Mientkiewicz and Jacque Jones. I’m very glad they are both still working in baseball but I have to admit that with Dougie especially, I wouldn’t have pegged him as a HITTING coach per se. But according to Utah’s Standard Examiner he’s making a big impact:

Baseball America, in their pre-draft player rankings comprised of both college and high school prospects, tabbed Rathjen as the 229th best draft-eligible player in the country. Had he been the 229th pick, he would have gone off the board early in the seventh round.

But instead of being taken where pundits predicted, he fell to the 11th round, and Rathjen seems pleased with how that’s worked out so far. He’s been given the opportunity to learn from Raptors hitting coach Doug Mientkiewicz, and the two have made a strong connection.

“(Mientkiewicz) was a player, and he was a good player, so he knows how to relate to us and explain things,” Rathjen said. “He can show us what we’re doing wrong and explain it in a way we can understand. For me, personally, that’s really helped.”

Already, Mientkiewicz has helped Rathjen speed up his timing and cut down his long, “metal-bat” swing to a short, direct-to-the-ball cut that’s more suited for wooden bats.

“He’s really done a solid job of (making adjustments),” Berryhill said of Rathjen. “He’s being able to recognize pitches a lot better, which means he’s getting better pitches to hit. He’s driving the baseball.”

I always wanted Dougie to get into coaching – hoped it would be for us like Tommy – because I really thought he had a gift for imparting his love of the game and ability to LEARN the needed skills on to others. I just never really thought it would be about hitting. It makes much more sense to me that Jacque Jones is doing the same thing for the Fort Wayne TinCaps in the Padres system. Since his last couple of playing years involved a LOT of bouncing up and down between the minors and the majors and from team to team, I am almost glad he decided to retire and go into coaching.

Last on my list today but most definitely not last in my baseball heart is Mike Redmond! He’s really making a name for himself Managing in the Blue Jays system. He has already been promoted to AA after a winning season with his A team, the Lansing Lugnuts, last year. His new team speaks pretty highly of him:

…the team will be operating under the guidance of a new skipper, former Major League catcher Mike Redmond.

Redmond made his managerial debut in 2011, when he took the Blue Jays A-ball affiliate, the Lansing Lugnuts, to the Midwest League Championship Series. Though the team fell in finals, the Lugnuts finished the regular season 17 games over .500 at 77-60, and won two post-season series under their rookie Manager.

A native of Seattle, Washington, Redmond spent 13 seasons as a catcher at the Major League level with three different Clubs (1998-2004 with FLA, 2005-2009 with MIN & 2010 with CLE), batting .287 with 13 home runs & 243 RBI in 764 career games.

I honestly couldn’t be happier for him and still really wish we could snag him away to help the Twins minor league system (and eventually the majors!) I think he has a long future in baseball ahead of him.

As I said at the beginning, if you know of someone else I didn’t mention here today, feel free to share! Obviously I love finding out what has happened to someone since the days I wrote their names in my scorebook.

**note: as I was putting the final touches on this post, in the space of about 10 minutes, I was lucky enough to see Brad Radke on TV and see a story about Corey Koskie tweeted out!! Bradke was discussing the American Indian Community Center in Minneapolis that he had recently helped remodel and the story about Koskie, you can read better for yourself: Koskie finds peace of mind.

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

 

 

Twins: Foreign/Domestic, New/Old, Friend/Foe

Just a few things that have come up around TwinsWorld lately that we haven’t gotten around to commenting about yet.

International Flavor:

Hope this is "our" Javier Pimentel. If not... oh well, worth a try, right?

In the past week, the Twins have submitted the high bid for the rights to negotiate with Japanese infielder Tsuyoshi Nishioka and signed the supposed #10 prospect in the baseball-rich Dominican Republic, 17-year-old infielder Javier Pimentel. This continues the trend, started a couple of years ago, of the Twins flexing their international muscles more than a bit. They’ve had a strong presence in Australia for some time, but they’ve now made a name for themselves in the European, Latin American and Japanese markets, as well.

You have to give the Twins front office credit for not waiting for the increased revenues from Target Field before starting to bolster their international scouting organizations. Rather than waiting until the ballpark opened to start the long process of establishing a presence, learning how things worked, and getting to know the markets, they started doing all of that pretty much as soon as they had a deal in place to build the ballpark. As a result, now that the money is available, they’re already a recognized “brand” in those markets and it appears we’re seeing the fruits of those labors starting to be realized.

Red Dog gets a gig:

The Big Lug

Our old friend Mike “Naked Batting Practice” Redmond has been announced as the new manager of the Blue Jays Midwest League affiliate, the Lansing Lugnuts. It will be interesting to hear whether his BP style (if you can call being naked a “style”) is passed along to his players. Red Dog will be hanging out with Lansing mascot “The Big Lug”, who is certainly no TC Bear (but then, who is?). In any event, I’m already looking forward to seeing Red when the Lugnuts travel to Cedar Rapids to face the Kernels in 2011. Good luck NBP!

Keeping an Eye on the Competition:

It’s starting to look like it may be difficult to recognize some of the Twins’ AL Central competitors in 2011. The Tigers have been the media’s big “winner” in the free agent market so far, having added Victor Martinez and Joaquin Benoit to their ranks. It doesn’t look like they’ll have familiar faces Jeremy Bonderman, Nate Robertson and Maglio Ordonez  around any more (though word is that they could still re-sign Mags). Detroit had something like $50 million in contracts come off their books after this season, so they’re still looking to add more. I have to say, though, that I think they’re overpaying for what they’re buying. I understand they probably had to overpay to get the guys they wanted, but in a year or two, I think they’ll be saddled with contracts they wish they didn’t have.

The bitchiest Bitch Sox?

The White Sox could very easily have neither Paul Konerko nor our old friend AJ Pierzynski in uniform next season. GM Kenny Williams always pulls some sort of surprise signing out of his butt so I’m sure they’ll make a splash yet. But they apparently don’t have a lot of salary room and his deals seem to almost always blow up in the Sox’ face, so it’s hard to worry too much about them getting a lot better. Admit it though… it won’t be nearly as much fun hating the Bitch Sox if their chief bitch, AJ, isn’t around, will it? On the other hand, if he gets no other offers and has to return to Chicago on some sort of minimum wage deal, that might be kinda humorous. As for Paulie, I hope he finds a nice place to play ball… preferably in the National League. I don’t want to see him back in Target Field unless it’s in the World Series… or he’s wearing a Twins uniform (or both). [UPDATE: Appears I may have spoken too soon. The Sox have signed Adam Dunn to a 4-year, $56 million deal and still are interested in bringing Konerko back. If they manage to sign both, there's no doubt they'll be improved. Twins should hope they stop at Dunn and let him play 1B]

Media experts keep talking about how the Royals have all these great young players coming up through their system and that now is the time for them to trade Zack Greinke. I’m on record already as wanting the Twins in on that action if the Royals are serious about letting him go, but after reading that his “partial no-trade” clause expires at mid-season (meaning after that date, the Royals are not limited with regard to who they can trade him to), I don’t really expect KC to get serious about letting him go until the trade deadline. And as for the Royals actually getting competitive… I’ve heard it all before, so pardon me if I’m skeptical until I see evidence on the field above the AA level.

Finally, there’s the Indians. I haven’t really heard or read anything of interest about Cleveland except that they’re the only team I’ve read about (other than possibly the Twins, of course) having an interest in signing Nick Punto. I guess if there’s one franchise around who could use a Tiny Superhero, it’s the Indians. By the way,we’re hearing that one of the things Nishioka is known for over in Japan is… wait for it… yes… sliding head first in to first base. Sigh.

New Road Jersey:

In case you missed it, the lone change to the Twins’ uniform options in 2011 will be a new alternate road jersey. It’s a navy blue jersey with the same “script Minnesota” across the chest that the grey road jersey has.

The Twins dropped the very popular navy “block MINNESOTA” road jersey from their options a couple of years ago and, since then, the only alternate road jersey has been the same “script Twins” jersey that’s also worn at home.

Twins new "alternate" road jersey for 2011

As others have pointed out, the Twins tended to wear their navy jersey most of the time, at home and on the road, through the middle third or so of the season. The home whites and road greys seemed to be worn regularly early and later in the season and some people wondered if it had to do with superstitions among the players.

While I’m certainly not going to reject that possibility, because ballplayers are notoriously superstitious, I think there’s actually a more likely reason. The navy jerseys are made of much lighter weight material and during the dog days of June, July and August, the players (especially the starting pitchers, who have traditionally chosen the jersey they want to wear for their starts) opt for the coolest jersey among their choices. Conversely, they were more likely to wear the heavier (and warmer) white or grey jerseys during the cooler spring/fall parts of the season.

While the new road jersey will hopefully give them a second light-weight option, the real question that you would think someone would get around to asking is, “Why can’t they make a second set of white/grey jerseys out of the cooler material?”

Anyway… maybe we should keep track, here at Knuckleballs, of how many times each jersey is worn by the Twins next season. It seems like one of those interesting, if not at all important, pieces of information that would fit in nicely around here.

- JC

Twins Offday History Lesson: May 24-30

Getting ready for another series with the Evil Empire this week and starting it off with an off day. Once again, it’s a good day to take a glance back through Twins history*.

May 24 has seen monumental performances from a couple of all-time Twins legends:

1964: Oriole Milt Pappas gave up the longest home run in the history of Baltimore’s Memorial Stadium to Twins slugger Harmon Killebrew… a 471 foot shot to left-centerfield. Unfortunately, the Twins lost the game, 8-7.

Extra Innings? No problem for Kaat.

1972: Jim Kaat pitched 11 innings of the Twins’ 12-inning, 1-0 win over the Royals and pitcher Dick Drago. Drago went all 12 innings but gave up an RBI single to Rod Carew in the 12th. Wayne Granger got the save for Kaat. Amazingly, this was nothing really unusual for Kaat, who pitched more than nine innings 18 times in his career… winning 10 of those games.

May 25, 1977 saw one of the most impressive doubleheader performances in Twins’ history. In game one of the twi-night doubleheader in Boston, the Twins took advantage of a wind blowing out to CF and hit .500 for the game, as a team (24 for 48), in their 13-5 win. The game featured the last of Rod Carew’s five 5-hit games. In the nightcap, Lyman Bostock tied a MLB record for outfielders with 12 put outs (and his 17 put outs for the doubleheader was also a record), as the Twins swept the doubledip from the Red Sox with a 9-4 win. Also of note, twenty years later, on May 25, 1997, the Twins retired the #34 jersey of Kirby Puckett.

On May 26, 1997, the Twins and A’s fought a battle of attrition that the Twins eventually won 12-11 after a long line of relief pitchers in both bullpens failed to hold opposing hitters in check. It was not an insubstantial list of arms either, as Goose Gossage, Rick Honeycutt, Dennis Eckersley, and Rick Aguilera were all among the relievers who got knocked around. By the time the Twins had the W, the game had seen 5 lead changes, 30 hits and 15 walks off of 13 pitchers and the teams had left a combined 22 runners on base. Rookie George Tsamis eventually recorded the win for the Twins, his first (and only) career W. Tsamis finished his night in a local hospital with a stomach ailment.

On May 27, 1983, Twins relief pitcher Rick Lysander became the first Twins pitcher to lose both ends of a doubleheader as he was the pitcher of record in the Twins’ 7-4 and 2-1 losses to the Tigers in Detroit.

May 28 has seen a couple of unremarkable, yet unusual, events in Twins’ history… both in the last two years:

2008: Craig Monroe had one of his few highlights as a Twin in the 9th inning of a game in Kansas City. A Carlos Gomez single scored 2 runs to bring the Twins within an 8-5 score with two runners on base and Gardy elected to have Monroe hit for Alexi Casilla. Monroe took a Joel Peralta pitch over the left field wall to tie the game. Justin Morneau’s 10th inning HR won the game 9-8.

2009: A close call at the plate in the top of the 7th inning of a game vs. the Red Sox resulted in umpire Todd Tichenor ejecting Twins catcher Mike Redmond for the first time in his 12 years as a big leaguer. Ron Gardenhire earned his own ejection moments later. But Tichenor wasn’t finished. In the bottom of the 7th, Tichenor also ejected Boston catcher Jason Varitek, for arguing a ball/strike call, and followed it up by throwing out Boston manager Terry Francona. Despite Tichenor’s best efforts, the two teams keep enough players eligible to finish the game and the Sox win 3-1.

May 29 has seen a couple of impressive feats, exactly 20 years apart:

1962: The Twins wiped out Cleveland 14-3 on the strength of first inning grand slam home runs by both Harmon Killebrew and Bob Allison.

1982: Twins current backup catcher Drew Butera is reputed to be a fine defensive catcher and has shown off his arm already in 2010. Perhaps he comes by that prowess naturally. On May 29, 1982, Twins catcher (and Drew’s father) Sal Butera set a Twins record by throwing out four baserunners in a game. Yankees Ken Griffey Sr., Graig Nettles, Bobby Murcer and Willie Randolph were the victims.

The Metrodome saw a couple of “firsts” on May 30:

1986: In a game against the Red Sox, Roy Smalley became the first Twin to hit home runs from both sides of the plate in the same game.

1992: Tiger Rob Deer popped out on consecutive trips to the plate, both times to Twins SS Greg Gagne. What’s so unique about that? Nothing… except that both popups also landed in Gagne’s glove after first ricocheting off of the Metrodome ceiling.

That’s a wrap for this week’s History Lesson! Now let’s get ready for the inevitable humbling of the Evil Empire!- JC

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*We pull this information from a few different sources, including (but not necessarily limited to) Dave Wright’s excellent book, “162-0, The Greatest Wins!”, as well as some  internet sites like “Twins Trivia” and “National Pastime”.

 

GameChat – Cleveland @ Minnesota #2, 7:10pm

Mike Redmond, how I miss you.  *holds a burning lighter in the air*

Cleveland @ Minnesota
Cabrera, A, SS   Span, CF
Sizemore, CF   Hudson, O, 2B
Choo, RF   Mauer, C
Kearns, LF   Morneau, 1B
Hafner, DH   Cuddyer, RF
Grudzielanek, 2B   Kubel, DH
Peralta, J, 3B   Young, D, LF
LaPorta, 1B   Hardy, SS
Redmond, M, C   Harris, B, 3B
  Huff, D, P     Liriano, P

 

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

 

Chat consens gives BOD to Francisco Liriano and shares assorted baked goods with Michael Cuddyer and Brendan Harris for completing the successful game circle of pitching, hitting and defense!  (maybe they’ll even share a cookie with RedDawg for old time’s sake!)