Monday, April 30, 2012

Soggy, Series Recap, and Other Notes

The Twins and the Royals share last place in all of MLB with a .286 winning percentage. It's a good thing they have each other to beat up on.

Quick notes about the series:
  • Our old friend Jose Mijares earned the win for KC on Friday. I'm not sure how I feel about that.
  • Jason Marquis earned a "quality start"  for the Twins on Sunday. I'm also not sure how I feel about that -- namely because I really don't like the criteria for "quality start" (6 or more innings with 3 or fewer earned runs). But, hey, it's still better than the all-too-familiar "crappy start."
  • Josh Willingham wants us all to love him.
Early last week, when I discovered that I didn't really have plans for the weekend, I decided to hit up StubHub for some Twins tickets. Of course, I picked Saturday's game.

When my family and I left for Target Field, it was raining and we knew there was a chance that the game could be delayed.

Sure enough, when we arrived, the game was in a delay. So we found a dry, wind-protected place to stand. We ate some garlic fries (ok, kind of cold and a bit too garlicky) and drank some hot chocolate (excellent) and hung out. We talked to other fans and some vendors. And by the time they officially called the game, we realized that we'd had a really good time.

So the moral of the story is that Target Field is awesome, even if you don't get to see baseball.

Injury Watch
Joe Mauer took a foul ball off the inside of his knee on Sunday. It looked like he was in quite a bit of pain. He had been in every inning of every game so far this season, but he'll miss Monday's game. Hopefully, he'll be available to pinch hit if necessary. He's hoping to be in the lineup again on Tuesday.

Glen Perkins was unavailable out of the bullpen on Friday because he had fallen down the stairs at home and banged up his leg a little. He's fine; he pitched on Sunday. He tweeted a little update for everyone:
Roster Moves
Ben Revere was optioned back to AAA Rochester on Saturday to make room for the return of Josh Willingham from paternity leave. The timing kind of stunk; Sunday was the Ben Revere autographed bat giveaway day. 

Thursday, April 26, 2012

Genies, Series Recap, and Other Notes

Sometimes a baseball team loses games, and sometimes it refuses to win. And this series showed us perfect examples of both.

Tuesday's game was a genuine clunker by the Twins. It happens. No biggie.

Monday's and Wednesday's games, however, were totally winnable. And the Twins...didn't.

As much as leaving men on base drives me nuts, that's not the Twins' biggest problem. Obviously, the starting pitching is in a shambles.

We all knew that the problems weren't going to be all fixed this season, but, man, this it getting hard to watch.

But rather than whine and puzzle about the whole thing, I think I'll try to come up with some positive baseball things to remember about the series.

How about those awesome defensive plays, on Monday? Denard in the outfield, and then Carroll to Plouffe to Morneau in the infield. Hot.

Wednesday featured a really fun rally and almost made up for a bad start. And the bullpen was amazing.

So let's hope the starting pitching gets it together. If they can do that, the rest of it will fall together

Obviously, like the rest of us, Gardy is very frustrated with the starting pitching. Clearly he's tired of answering questions and criticisms about it. Probably because he's out of ideas.

I love Gardy's witty retorts in interviews, and his latest one is probably my favorite, even though he probably didn't mean it to be.

He said with exasperation, "we can't go out and buy people. We've got to make this work. I can't rub a bottle to make somebody pop out."

So what if he could invoke a pitcher-genie from a bottle? Who would it be? Would it be a genie who could actually pitch, or would it be a genie who could magically fix the guys Gardy has? Are there only three wishes, or is this the Barbara Eden-type genie who just blinks magic whenever?

So many questions. If you happen to run across a magic bottle next time you're antiquing or garage-saleing, pick it up and send it to the Twins.

Or maybe he just needs a bottle of good Scotch.

Injury watch
Chris Parmelee was hit in the head with a pitch on Wednesday. It was a very scary moment because he dropped to the ground right away and stayed down for quite a while. On Thursday, the Twins reported that he's doing better and he's listed as day-to-day. I certainly hope he'll be ok soon.

Roster moves
Josh Willingham was placed on paternity leave to be with his wife, Ginger, for the birth of their third son. And from the picture that Ginger posted on her twitter account (@gjwillingham), it looks like everyone is happy and healthy.

Ben Revere was called up to take Willingham's roster spot. And it sounds like he'll be given every opportunity to stick -- Terry Ryan and Gardy told him they didn't know how long he would be staying and it could be the rest of the season.

Sunday, April 22, 2012

Memories, Series Recap, and Other Notes

Yeah, this series could've been uglier, but it wasn't pretty.

Friday's game was nice and smooth on all levels -- Matt Capps even delivered an uninteresting save for smiles all around.

Saturday's game was a fun pitchers' duel -- until a really ugly sixth inning. And the Rays had smiles all around.

Sunday...ugh. Just...ugh!

Notes from the series:
  • I think the brief love affair with Clete Thomas may be cooling off. Turn out he strikes out a lot. Like, a lot a lot. So, while hitting a home run in his first game as a Twins was totally crush-worthy, strike outs are a total turn-off. Ew.
  • Don't look now, but I think Joe Mauer is healthy. So is Denard Span. They've both played in all 16 games so far this season (along with Josh Willingham and Jamie Carroll).
  • Nice job Josh Willingham on his 15-game hitting streak, tying with Kirby Puckett as the longest to start a Twins season. Too bad he couldn't extend it on Sunday. And, as the cliche goes, he can start a new one tomorrow.
Memories of Kyle Loshe
Francisco Liriano has me remembering back to 2006 -- the days I would shudder whenever Kyle Lohse took the mound for the Twins. I was so relieved when they traded him to the Reds. And, now he's doing all right for himself with St. Louis.

Liriano has a ton of talent, but Twins staff continues to struggle to get through to him -- similar to Lohse.

Sometimes a different coaching staff has success with a guy with a strong head. I'm just sayin.

Injury Watch
Justin Morneau took a nasty foul off his foot on Wednesday, so the Twins are being extra cautious about having him return to first base. It's probably pretty sore. Hopefully it'll feel better soon.

Roster Move, Sort Of...
After Luke Hughes was designated for assignment by the Twins last week, we was claimed off waivers by the Oakland A's. Best of luck to him.  

Saturday, April 21, 2012

I'd Like to Buy a Beer For...

White Sox pitcher Philip Humber for pitching a perfect game against the Seattle Mariners.

Yes, this is the same Philip Humber that was in the Twins system for awhile, acquired in the Johan Santana trade. At 29, he must have been a late-bloomer; he was a minor-league quality player until he hooked on with the White Sox last year. Since then, he's been a pretty good pitcher.

Today, his stuff was on and he was dominant.

So, as much as it pains me to buy a beer for a White Sox player, I'm a good baseball fan, and a big fan of perfect games, and I congratulate Philip Humber.

Thursday, April 19, 2012

Shaking Pitchers, Series Recap, and Other Notes

Did you know that it was possible for the Twins to win multiple games at Yankee Stadium? During the same year? The same series?

I bet you thought that only happened in video games. But it really happened. Really.

Not only did the Twins exceed expectations with this series, they also made it fun to watch. All the hitting is great. I like a lot of Twins hitting. Keep hitting, Twins. And if you want me to pick which kind of hitting I want, I'll take more of the homeruns, please.

Defense -- solid. I don't care what you say, Jamey Carroll is cool.

Yeah, the starting pitching was pretty shaky, but I liked how Carl Pavano and Jason Marquis outwitted their own demons and figured things out. Now they just need to teach the other starters how to do that. And then they all need to learn how not be shaky in the first place. Baby steps.

And the bullpen was actually pretty good. Although, I think Matt Capps should hand out oxygen masks and defibrillators to fans with every save opportunity.

Is it too soon to believe that the Yankee Stadium gremlins that have bothered the Twins that past decade-plus are finally getting old and weak?

How Do We Fix Liriano?
Francisco Liriano is back at doing his inconsistent pitching thing. In fact, his pitch selection and execution have been so aggravating, we should begin wondering if he's doing this on purpose or something. Is it his mechanics? Is it his head? Is it his arm? Is it the coaching?

We've been asking these questions for years, pretty much ever since he returned from his Tommy John surgery in 2008.

Unfortunately for him, he's on his last chance with the Twins. He's due to be a free agent after this season, and he may wind up sucky-pitching himself out of nice contract.

And, unfortunately for the Twins, there aren't many options to deal with him. They can't really send him to the already full bullpen because they don't really have any other starters to replace him with. I guess they could try to trade him, but frankly, I don't think they'd really get anything valuable for him. And I'm pretty sure they've already tried all they can to fix him.

He just makes me want to walk up to him, grab his shoulders, and shake him. Then flick him on the forehead.

Injury Updates
So, after Scott Baker assured everyone that the surgery he was having on his flexor tendon had nothing to with his ulnar collateral ligament, he wound up having to have that ligament replaced after other words, he indeed needed Tommy John surgery.

It turns out that Tommy John surgery was kind of always a possibility. If it hadn't been, the doctor and his team would have performed the flexor tendon procedure arthroscopically. However, they did a full-on, cut him open operation in case they found a surprise in there, which they did.

I'm not so annoyed with the misdiagnosis. It happens. As great as MRIs are for visualizing tissue structures, they are still only pictures. Sure, there are ways to render the images to make things easier to see, but they're still only pictures. If the ligament damage was hiding, it's not like the doctor can go inside the picture and move things around to get a better look; he actually has to go inside the patient and move things around.

No, the misdiagnosis isn't so bothersome. It's the fact that no one seemed to take this injury too seriously for two years now. Especially lately. As Baker was pitching a rehab game during Spring Training, Rick Anderson and Gardy were calling him out telling him he should "air it out" more.

It's particularly bad timing for Baker because of his whole contract status. The Twins have that $12.5 million option on him for 2013, and that's way too much money for him. So, he'll hit free agency while still rehabbing from Tommy John surgery. Not exactly a recipe for a fat contract.

In other injury news, Glen Perkins missed a couple of games with a sore arm, but he seems to be fine now. Also, Nick Blackburn missed a start with a sore arm, but he's hopeful to make his next one.

Roster Moves
It's great news that Jason Marquis's daughter is getting better. So Marquis was able to finally join the Twins and make his first start. He had been pitching at AA, so they technically had to call him up.

In order to make room on the 25-man roster, the Twins designated Luke Hughes for assignment. Since Hughes is out of minor-league options, they have to pass him through waivers if they want to send him to AAA. They may also release or trade him. They have 10 days to decide.

I feel really bad for Luke. When Spring Training broke, he tweeted how happy he was that, after 10 years, he finally landed on a big league Opening Day roster. Now in the last few days, he's tweeted how surprising and strange this whole thing is. I hope he lands somewhere and has a great season.

Sunday, April 15, 2012

Stranded, Series Recap, and Other Notes

So much for the Texas Rangers not being able to win in Target Field. Prior to Friday, the Rangers were 1 - 9 in Target Field.

Looks like they got over whatever was bothering them.

The Rangers didn't really blow the Twins away; the Twins failed to capitalize.

Key Notes from the Series:
  • That relay play on Sunday by Thomas to Casilla to Mauer to mow down Adrian Beltre at the plate was a thing of beauty. I love things of beauty created by the Twins; I want more of them.
  • I'm glad that Joe Nathan received a warm, but not overwhelming, reception as he came out to pitch the ninth on Saturday and Sunday. I didn't attend the games, and I'm not sure how I would've reacted (I gave a standing ovation to Mike Redmond when he came to Minnesota as an Indian -- the only person in my section to do so but I didn't care). But I'm not sure that I'd be terribly excited to cheer for Joe, because the Twins really needed a rally. I probably wouldn't done anything.
  • I don't like Glen Perkins any more. (That's not true. I think I jinxed him when I said that I thought he wanted me to love him, so I figured I'd try to reverse it...just don't tell the baseball gods.) I wonder if we need to be concerned about him because he just doesn't seem like himself.
  • Liriano. What the hell?

A Case for Clutch -- My Aggravation with Men Left On Base
A common debate in my household is whether  there is really such a thing as a clutch hitter. I am quite adamant in my belief that the idea of a "clutch hitter" is a myth. There is no such thing as clutch.

Yes, I agree that there are timely hits that make a baseball game exciting, but they're just that -- timely. While it's true that hitters change their approach a bit depending on the situation (score, inning, number of outs, and count), there is really very little affect on the outcome. A good hitter will likely have the same result in "clutch situations" as he would in regular situations. If a hitter really could "turn on a switch," he'd have it on all the time. Guys want to get hits every time they come to the plate -- or at least they should (unless they've been asked to sacrifice, which is a rant for another day). I wouldn't want a guy on my team who was only a good hitter if there were men on base.

With all that being said, after the Twins left 15 (!) baserunners stranded during Saturday's game, I'm pretty much begging for clutch.

Roster Update
The Twins claimed OF Clete Thomas off waivers from the Detroit Tigers. Gardy wasted no time putting him in the lineup, and Thomas wasted no time making an impression by hitting a big homerun.

Scott Baker was moved to the 60-day DL to make room for Thomas on the 40-man roster, and Ben Revere was optioned to AAA to make room on the 25-man roster.

I've gotta admit that I'll miss watching Ben Revere play, but I do understand the reasoning. He's too young to be sitting here and wasting away on the bench, and he needs to become a better batter before he can play every day here. Consider this an investment in his future.

Injury Watch
Nick Blackburn left Saturday's game early after experiencing discomfort in his shoulder. He had an MRI, which came back normal. The Twins are calling it a cramp. Let's hope so.

Thursday, April 12, 2012

Fun With Ridiculous Stats, Series Recaps, and More Notes

The Twins have completed two series now, and after completely embarrassing themselves from the gate, they've rallied to make their record somewhat more respectable.

I'm going to ignore the Orioles series because, frankly, I was unable to pay a lot of attention to it. I had to watch the three games in bits-and-pieces. Apparently, I didn't miss much.

I was lucky enough to attend the Twins home opener. I was happy to be back at Target Field, even though I didn't partake in any of the new food items (I stuck with a good old reliable brat). I did partake in some delightful hot chocolate. Twice. Because it was damn cold.

Here's a picture I took from our new season ticket seats.

It was fun to see the 2006 Division Champ Twins throwing out the first pitch, especially Brad Radke, but as you can tell from the picture, I didn't really get a good look. I did, however, get enough of a look at the actual game. It wasn't my favorite.

What is my favorite? Twins wins, of course. And, I was beginning to get a nagging feeling that that they didn't remember how to do that. I'm so glad that they didn't forget.

Notes From the Series:
  • I'm glad to see Justin and Joey finally hitting. Things are exciting when they're both in the lineup and hitting well.
  • I think Josh Willingham wants me to love him; that's why he keeps hitting all those huge homeruns. I'm also not too worried about his defense; I think he'll get better at that.
  • I also think that Glen Perkins wants me to love him. Did you see how he made a fool out of Albert Pujols? O...M...G...
  • I wish that Matt Capps wanted me to love him. I'm trying as hard as I can to give him a chance, but he's making it really hard. He's serving up way too much interesting.
  • I can't think of anything bad to say about Chris Parmelee. Not that I want to or anything, but I just thought I'd note that. Keep it up, rook.
Jeff Gray Knows How to Win

Right-handed reliever Jeff Gray leads the club in wins. In fact, he has all of them. Well, both of them.

And the amazing fact is that his combined pitch count for his two wins is ... three. He earned the win on Wednesday after recording an out with a single pitch. On Thursday, it took him twice as many pitches to complete the same feat.

Obviously, the Twins batters sitting in the dugout while he's on the mound are so inspired by his efficient pitching that when they finally come to the plate, they are compelled to take the lead and not let go.

Or, it could be that the pitchers' win stat is really dumb.

Injury Update
Scott Baker announced that he will have surgery to repair his flexor pronator tendon, an injury that has been bothering him since last season.

This is not the same injury that requires Tommy John surgery. That is a ligament replacement. This is a tendon.

Ligaments connect bone to bone; tendons connect bone to muscle. Also, tendons communicate with the brain causing the muscles to react. This particular tendon allows the forearm to rotate while the arm is flexed (imagine flexing your arm, keeping your shoulder and elbow still, and rotating your palm).

The recovery time for this is likely to be six months, so his season is over. And his tenure with the Twins is likely over too. The Twins have a team option on his contract for 2013, but it's for $9.25 million, which is probably too spendy for a guy just coming off a significant injury. So he'll be a free agent trying to convince teams he's fine. Bummer.

Tuesday, April 10, 2012

A Fan Base Divided

So, the Twins have had a bit of a tough go of the start of the 2012 season, huh? And, apparently, there's nothing like going winless for the first four games to divide the fans.

The optimists insist that four games is too small a sample size to get too worked up about yet, and the pessimists see that all the flaws aren't being fixed. And each side keeps insisting that the other is nuts.

Who's right?

Well, both.

After suffering through a despicable 99-loss season, fans are understandably eager to see signs of improvement. Spring Training may have had some glimmers of promise, but many of those glimmers have snuffed out now that the season is here. Batters are still banging the ball into the ground for outs. Defenders are still fumbling about. Pitchers are still serving cookies. It's hard to find anything to hope for.

However, with 158 games left in the season, there is still plenty of time to make adjustments and improvements. The health is better. Certain positions are better. It won't take much for a few key guys to find their groove. The luck is certain to change soon.

I guess the real picture is somewhere in the middle. It's important to remember that, while the mess of 2011 won't likely be completely solved in one year, the playoff teams aren't so far away that there's no going back.

Thursday, April 5, 2012

Don't Worry, Be Happy -- For Now

Happy New Years' Eve, Twins Fans!

Tomorrow at 2pm Twins Territory time, Denard Span will dig in the batters' box at Orioles Park at Camden Yard against RHP Jake Arrietta and begin the 2012 Twins season.

And it's been a looong time coming. We all endured a long, cold off-season trying to remove the stench of the 2011 season from our collective memories.

But now that's over. Now, ... today, ... none of that matters. We get to be excited. We get to be optimistic. We get to be confident.

Today, we don't worry about records, or injuries, or errors. We don't fret about bobbles or blunders. We don't even consider that our hearts may get broken.

Today, we think that anything can happen. We dream of great things.We hope for the best.

Today, it doesn't matter that the experts don't expect much of this team.

Today, ... we believe.

Monday, April 2, 2012

I Like the Roster, Even If I Wouldn't Have Predicted It

The Twins 25-man roster has been set, and I'm pretty excited about it. However, there are some surprises (at least for me) on it. Namely:
  • There are only two catchers on the roster and neither of them are named Drew Butera. We all know that Gardy loves having three catchers on hand in the miniscule chance that one of them gets hurt while the other one is the DH, or something like that. But no more of that. Joe Mauer needs to stay healthy and Ryan Doumit will get his at bats as a bench catcher, first baseman, and outfielder. The Rochester Red Wings will enjoy the talents of Drew Butera.
  • Justin Morneau is not the Opening Day first baseman. After what I'm sure was much thought, reflection, and deliberation, Justin decided that it would be in his and the team's best interests for him to be a full-time designated hitter, at least for awhile. And it looks like Chris Parmelee will be up to the task to be a decent first baseman, jumping up from AA last season and sticking.
  • It looks like Jason Marquis will start the season on the Bereavement List (3 to 7 days). He's been away from the team for a couple of weeks to see to his daughter who was seriously hurt in a bicycle accident. Fortunately, her condition is improving and he will be able to rejoin the team in time to break camp. However, since he's been away a pretty long time, he's probably not stretched out enough to start a game for awhile. A combo of adding Liam Hendriks and using a four-man rotation for awhile should allow Marquis enough time to catch up.
  • A couple of non-roster invitees actually made the roster: infielder Sean Burroughs and RHP Jared Burton. That had to be cool for them.
  • And the Twins have already invoked the Disabled List. Maybe this is a good thing -- last year, the Twins proudly didn't use the DL coming out Spring Training, only to use it eleventy-billion times during the season. Maybe using it a little before the season will be a good sacrifice for the actual season. Or something.
And since I brought up the DL, you know what that means...

RHP Scott Baker has been placed on the 15-day disabled list, retroactive to March 26th, with tendonitis of his right elbow.

Baker's elbow has been troublesome for awhile now. He missed 58 days last season with a forearm flexor strain. I don't know if this tendonitis is related, but I wouldn't doubt it.

It sounds like he may back as soon as he is eligible and that the Twins are being cautious. They have the luxury early in the season, with a lot of off days, to do without him for a little while.

RHP Kyle Waldrop has been placed on the 15-day disabled list, retroactive to March 30th, with a right elbow strain.

This must have been crushing news to Waldrop, who was having an excellent Spring Training and was set to break camp in the majors.

His injury doesn't sound serious, and again, it seems as if the Twins are being extra cautious with him.

It's unclear whether he'll be added to the 25-man roster once he's healthy, but there's no reason to believe he won't be.