Sunday, February 26, 2012

First Injury Paper Doll of 2012: Joel Zumaya

I didn't intend to start up the paper doll machine until the season started. After all, the point of it is to show who's been put on the Disabled List, and they don't really do that during Spring Training. But this one is a special case because ... well, I just feel so darned bad for him.

Joel Zumaya tore his right ulnar collateral ligament of the elbow (UCL) while throwing a bullpen session on Saturday. It was reported that right before the fatal pitch, he was "throwing gas."

The UCL is the Tommy John Surgery ligament. This is the ligament that attaches to the humerus (upper arm bone) to the ulna (the inside forearm bone). And, surprisingly, of all the arm injuries Zumaya has suffered, his UCL was fine. Until that one pitch.

The Twins knew they were taking a risk when they signed him. This is why they structured the contract so that he would only make $400,000 if he didn't make the team out of Spring Training. Now he'll be out for at least a year.

Now he has a big decision to make. He doesn't really need to go through a major surgery and all that difficult rehab. But if he ever wants to pitch again, he does. This decision is kind of a no-brainer for most pitchers, but I don't think it will be for him. He's already had several arm surgeries -- he missed all of last year after having surgery to replace the screw they put in to set the broken arm he suffered in 2010 (apparently the screw was too big, and the broken arm was suffered mid-throw while pitching to Delmon Young at Target Field). And in the previous four years, he never appeared in more than 29 games. In fact, his only "regular" year was his rookie year of 2006.

It's hard to say why he's so injury prone. I do wonder if his mechanics, or his tendency to throw unbelievable heat, have something to do with it. Maybe he's simply not built to throw 99 MPH. Although, if I remember correctly, he had two injuries that had nothing to do with baseball (his wrist due to over-playing the video game Guitar Hero, and straining his shoulder by ... I think ... helping his buddy move furniture).  Going through all that, and all the rehabilitation that goes with all that is huge. Having to do it all over again might just be too much.

Too bad. I was really looking forward to seeing him pitch. But more than that, I feel bad for him on a personal level. He was reported to be distraught -- understandably. The poor guy just wants to play baseball.

I want give him a hug.

Thursday, February 23, 2012

Sound Off: Three Catchers, or Not Three Catchers

I read LaVelle's piece about whether the Twins should carry three catchers on the roster. It's a good question -- should they keep three just so they have adequate fill ins in case one of them gets hurt, or should they free up that roster spot for, say, another utility guy or pitcher (how many pitchers they should have on the roster is another rant entirely)?

So here's the design the Twins will use if they go with three: the regular catcher will be Joe Mauer, the DH who can also catch will be Ryan Doumit, and Drew Butera will be bench catcher.

Joe Mauer should be fine in 2012 and will catch the lion's share of the innings. When he needs a "semi-day off," he can either DH, in which case Doumit can catch, or he can play first base, in which case Morneau can DH and Doumit can catch, thereby keeping all those bats in the lineup.

If they choose to go with only two, it'll probably be Mauer and Doumit. The risk with having only two catchers, of course, is that if whoever's catching gets hurt during the course of a game, the Twins lose the DH and the pitcher has to hit for the rest of the game. Besides, Carl Pavano really likes to have Butera as his personal catcher.

In a perfect world ... you know, when Joe Mauer is healthy and hitting and, well, being Joe Mauer, and Justin Morneau is healthy and hitting and being Justin Morneau, and Josh Willingham is healthy and hitting and being Michael Cuddyer -- wait -- well, you get the idea ... I don't mind having Butera in there once every five days or so. Yes, he's a sub- .200 hitter, but the other guys in the lineup hitting well make up for it. In a perfect world.

But it's not a perfect world. I'm not completely confident that everyone will be hitting like they're supposed to. Or even if they're hitting like they're supposed to, that it'll be enough. There may be plenty of holes in the lineup without Butera, there's no reason to intentionally make one with him.

Apparently, having to pull the DH so he can catch and make pitchers hit is a big fear of Gardy's. LaVelle's article pointed out exactly how many times that has happened, and it doesn't seem like it happens enough to worry about. Of course, there's always a chance that a pitcher can hurt himself while running the basepaths, but I'm not terribly concerned about that. These guys have played baseball for a long time; they know what to do out there. There's no more risk to a pitcher hitting than there is to a pitcher fielding a bunt.

Final conclusion: leave Drew at AAA.

Monday, February 20, 2012

Quick Notes: Feb. 20

The biggest news in recent days is obviously that pitchers and catchers have reported and are participating in baseball activities. Finally. However, there are a couple other news bits to mention since I last checked in.

Alexi Casilla avoided the opportunity to have the Twins tell him that he's not as awesome as he thinks he is. He and the Twins settled on a one-year, $1,382,500 contract. The amount is a smidgen under the halfway point between the numbers the two sides exchanged, but still a nice raise for Casilla.

Ok, Alexi, now go be awesome.


Sounds like the biggest news out of Spring Training so far is that Joe Mauer is participating in all his catching duties and drills like any other catcher. This is newsworthy because, last season, it took three weeks into Spring Training before he could even participate. This delay caused him to rush himself in order to catch up, which turned out to be a one-step-forward-two-steps-back venture.

For what it's worth, I know a lot of fans (and some newspaper columnists) are frustrated with Mauer. Ok, fair enough -- last year was a crappy year for him. However, that's all it was ... ONE crappy year. It's way too soon to call his catching career over.

It's also too soon to call his contract a bust. Yes, his contract is a huge burden on the team. That's not his fault. Also, it's not fair to claim that should be considered less prone to injury just because he makes a lot of money. I seriously doubt his knees or hips or lungs or any other body parts know how much money he makes. In my opinion, any injuries he suffers and his salary should never be mentioned together.

So, I'm glad to read that this camp is starting out well for him. I have every confidence that he'll have a "good Joe Mauer" year this season. And the team will be better for it.


You need to check out the new enterprise by the TwinsCentric guys (Seth Stohs, Parker Hageman, Nick Nelson, and John Bonnes) called Twins Daily. This great site is not only an aggregator of their work and the work of other great Twins bloggers, but it's also an entire community experience. If you register to their site, you can participate in the forums or even write blog posts. It's a great way to catch up with your favorite Twins bloggers and fans and to find new ones.

Saturday, February 18, 2012

The Start of Something Great

Do you know what today is?
Do you know what's going on today?
Of course you do.

Today is the day when boys,
and men with boys' hearts,
gather by the hundreds
in places like Clearwater,
and Mesa, and Surprise,
and Fort Myers,
to participate in baseball activities.

They're perfecting their changeups,
and bunts,
and double-plays.
They're practicing covering first,
and running down flies,
and knocking the ball out of the park.

They're breaking in new gloves,
and new shoes,
and new routines.
They're greeting old friends,
and making new ones.
They're preparing their bodies
and minds for the new season.

And they're bringing their dreams.
Dreams as fresh as the grass beneath their feet
and as optimistic as the sun on their faces.
And their dreams may vary in the details
-- some dream of winning it all,
while some dream of making the big team --
their dreams are essentially the same.
They dream of besting the competition:
the other teams,
the other players on their teams,

And their fans are dreaming too.
On this day, we all have a small voice
that says "this is the year."

So our boys practice,
and play,
and prepare.
They'll bat,
and throw,
and catch.
And they'll make their fans very happy to see them.

Good luck boys.
Work hard and have fun.
The best is yet to come.

I wrote this poem about three years ago, so if you've been here for awhile, you might recognize it. I'm replaying it because I like it. Besides, I can't think of a better way to celebrate the start of Spring Training than with a hopeful poem.

Tuesday, February 14, 2012

Book Review: The Game From Where I Stand

Doug Glanville. The Game From Where I Stand: From Batting Practice to the Clubhouse to the Best Breakfast on the Road, an Inside View of a Ballplayer's Life. New York, NY: St. Martin's Griffin., 2010, 276 pp. ISBN 978-0-312-57309-6

I love a good baseball insiders book, and former outfielder Doug Glanville's The Game From Where I Stand is a pretty good one.

Glanville chronicles his baseball career and the state of the Game while he was in it. But he does more than just list a series of events; he goes deep into his topics giving great insight and smart, solid opinions.

The Game is intelligent and interesting. He gives fans tales and background they wouldn't ordinarily know. He informs and entertains without being condescending and absolutely doesn't disrespect anyone.

It was an interesting read, but I wouldn't necessarily call it a fun read. His writing style bugged me a bit -- it is prone to cliche and wordiness. And, from time to time, he'd turn a phrase that just seemed like he's trying too hard. It took me a long time to get through because, even though I was interested in it, it never gave me that "can't put it down" feeling.

All in all, it's a very good book and certainly worth your time. I recommend it if you're looking for a baseball fix. I'd give it a solid B.

Sunday, February 12, 2012

Quick Notes: Feb. 12

Right when I go and figure the Twins are done making moves, they go and make a move. However, it's not a move to get terribly excited about.

The Twins claimed outfielder Darin Mastroianni off waivers from the Toronto Blue Jays. This looks like it's mostly a minor league filler move. One has to be skeptical about claiming players off waivers -- after all, there's a reason he was put on waivers in the first place.

In order to make room on the 40-man roster, they designated RHP Esmerling Vasquez for assignment -- which means they have to trade him or pass him through waivers and put him on the minor league roster. The Twins claimed Vasquez off waivers at the end of last season.


It looks like I might have to make sure my injury paper doll machine is fully tuned up early in the 2012 season.

Luke Hughes sprained his shoulder in a home plate collision during an Australian Winter League game. He's been shut down 3-4 weeks. Which is kind of too bad, because his team, the Perth Heat, went on to win the Australian Baseball League championship, and he had to miss it.

I'll refrain from creating a paper doll for him for now. He's not due to miss much playing time during Spring Training, so he doesn't need one yet. However, if he, baseball gods forbid, suffers a setback or he doesn't heal as expected, I'll be on top of it.

Just a note to the players for anyone who is unclear: Having an injury paper doll is a bad thing. Continued good health is the goal here.


Spring Training is very close. The equipment truck has been loaded and is headed to Fort Myers. It's such a big task that everyone needs to lend a hand -- even TC the mascot:

Very exciting!

Monday, February 6, 2012

Right Around the Corner

Now that the spectacle of the NFL championship is over, thoughts of green grass, and leather gloves, and wood bats take over baseball fans' minds. Spring Training is right around the corner, and I bet you can't wait. I know I can't.

And, by now, it kind of looks like the Twins are done adding players and the Spring Training crew is set. If you're planning on heading to beautiful Fort Myers to visit our boys or if you're planning on listening to some broadcasts, you'll want to know who it is you should root for. So I decided to compile a helpful list.

Guys With Whom We're Acquainted
  • Scott Baker, RHP
  • Nick Blackburn, RHP
  • Alex Burnett, RHP
  • Drew Butera, C
  • Matt Capps, RHP
  • Alexi Casilla, IF
  • Brian Duensing, LHP
  • Luke Hughes, IF
  • Francisco Liriano, LHP
  • Jeff Manship, RHP
  • Joe Mauer, C
  • Justin Morneau, 1B
  • Tsuyoshi Nishioka, IF
  • Carl Pavano, RHP
  • Glen Perkins, LHP
  • Trevor Plouffe, IF/OF
  • Ben Revere, OF
  • Denard Span, OF
  • Rene Tosoni, OF
  • Danny Valencia, 3B
Guys Whose Names Sound Familiar, But If They Walked In Our House And Raided Our Refrigerators, We Wouldn't Be Sure If We Knew Them 
  • Joe Benson, OF
  • Scott Diamond, LHP
  • Liam Hendriks, RHP
  • Lester Oliveros, RHP
  • Chris Parmelee, IF
  • Anthony Swarzak, RHP
  • Brian Dinkelman, IF (non-roster invitee)
  • Phil Dumatrait, RHP (non-roster invitee)
  • Rene Rivera, C (non-roster invitee)
  • Anthony Slama, RHP (non-roster invitee)
Guys Who Will Be Wearing Twins Uniforms For The First Time But We Know Them From Other Teams
  • Jamey Carroll, IF
  • Ryan Doumit, DH/OF/1B 
  • Jason Marquis, RHP
  • Josh Willingham, OF
  • Joel Zumaya, RHP
Guys On The Twins 40-man Roster Who Make Us Say "Who?"
  • Oswaldo Arcia, OF
  • Terry Doyle, RHP (new)
  • Jeff Gray, RHP (new)
  • Deolis Guerra, RHP
  • Carlos Gutierrez, RHP
  • Matt Maloney, LHP (new)
  • Tyler Robertson, LHP
  • Esmerling Vasquez, RHP
Guys Whose Numbers Will Probably Be Greater Than 60 Because They're Non-roster Invitees
  • Aaron Bates, 1B
  • Jason Bulger, RHP (new)
  • Sean Burroughs, IF (new)
  • Jared Burton, RHP (new)
  • Matt Carson, OF (new)
  • Ray Chang, 3B
  • Samuel Deduno, RHP (new)
  • Casey Fien, RHP (new)
  • Pedro Florimon, IF (new)
  • Chris Herrmann, C
  • Mike Hollimann, 2B (new)
  • Danny Lehmann, C
  • Steve Pearce, 1B (new)
  • Luis Perdomo, RHP (new)
  • Wilkin Ramirez, OF (new)
  • Daniel Rohlfing, C
  • Aaron Thompson, LHP (new)
  • Daryl Thompson, RHP (new)
  • JR Towles, C (new)
  • PJ Walters, RHP (new)
  • Brendan Wise, RHP (new)
Wow, that's a lot of bodies...64 to be exact. 33 pitchers. 24 new guys. 12 guys with first names that start with J. 2 guys with initials for first names. 2 Diamonds if you count the one they'll play on.

I'm sure they're all ready to get this season started. I am.