Friday, May 30, 2008


Twins 4, Royals 3 (12 innings)
Twins 9, Royals 8 (10 innings)
Twins 5, Royals 1

What an amazing road trip. The Twins went 5-1 despite allowing as many runs as they scored (36). Always a good thing to concentrate the sucking into a single game!

I feel really bad for the Royals and their fans. We've been there, at least those of us who loved the Twins through the '90's. That the Royals renaissance has yet to take hold must be unbearable for their faithful. And after showing signs of being much improved just a couple weeks ago, to now be in the midst of yet another double-digit losing streak, how awful. And to have that streak prolonged after being comfortably ahead with 2 out in the 9th inning must be utterly soul-crushing. No wonder Guillen snapped.

Delmon Young made things a lot harder than they needed to be. Clearly, his attempt at a sliding catch in the 9th on Tuesday was ill-advised. I do appreciate the enthusiasm, but I would have flipped my lid if another game had been thrown away by defensive ineptitude. Incredibly, he was even worse on Wednesday. Kudos for Gardy for having the good sense to finally sit him down and end his undeserved consecutive-games streak. With that out of the way, he can more easily sit out several times over the remainder of the season.

Nick Blackburn and Kevin Slowey both took shutouts into the 9th inning. I know the Royals haven't exactly been lighting it up lately, but one has to be impressed with their progress this season. Livan Hernandez, meanwhile, got blown to bits once again, by the afore-mentioned team that hasn't been lighting it up. Who's eating the innings now? While the Twins talk of sending Boof to the bullpen and potentially releasing Bass or Rincon to make room for Scott Baker, I wonder when the conversation will turn to releasing Livan. Surely, the optimum time to trade him has passed us by.

Michael Cuddyer has been in a horrible slump, but it was easy to see why the hits were so difficult to come by on Tuesday and Wednesday. He went 3 for 11 in the two games (good for him, lately), the hits coming on fastballs knee-high on the outside corner that he poked into right or right-center. The Royals pitchers did a very good job of spotting their fastball in that location, then mixing in sliders or splitters that start in that location before diving out of the zone. With two strikes, it's difficult for Cuddy not to try to protect out there, but he ends up looking bad when the breaking balls land in the dirt. He may have to determinedly take 2 strikes in order to try to force pitchers to come back up and over the plate.

Gardy looked pretty good on Wednesday night, didn't he? He received a ton of criticism over the last week or so for using Joe Nathan so sparingly in close or extra-inning games. I agreed that after throwing just 10 pitches in the 9th on Tuesday, it would have been sensible to send him back out for the 11th. The Royals used their closer for 2 innings and 31 pitches. For some reason, that made him absolutely unavailable for Wednesday, and when the 9th spun out of control, they didn't go to Soria. I doubt he would have needed more than 3 or 4 pitches to dispatch Craig Monroe. Anyway, Monroe came through, and there was Nathan, fresh as a daisy, to collect the save for the Twins in the bottom of the 10th.

Carlos Gomez has had a much better May. I'll go over the numbers after Saturday's game is complete, but I don't think there's much he can do in the next 2 games to diminish his accomplishments this month. His overall approach at the plate has been better, and he's played much better defense. He's still got a ways to go, so I hope the trend continues throughout the summer. I won't say putting him on the team out of spring training was the right decision, but it doesn't look like such a bad decision right now.

Monday, May 26, 2008

Lamb Slaughters Tigers

Twins 9, Tigers 4
Tigers 19, Twins 3
Twins 6, Tigers 1

That's what I love about baseball. Your team can endure its most lop-sided defeat of the year, and yet you can still feel good when the weekend is over. Though the Twins were battered for 24 runs over the 3 games (8.31 ERA!), they did all their sucking in the middle game, and came away series winners. Though they've allowed 16 more runs than they've scored this season, they're 25-25, and only 3 games out of first place.

The Twins have pretty well settled who will be leaving the rotation when Scott Baker is ready to come off the DL in about 10 days. Kevin Slowey finally got the last out of the 6th inning, and has now averaged almost 5.2 IP with a 3.63 ERA and 1.16 WHIP in 4 starts since returning from the DL. Glen Perkins was great in his first 3 starts, but topped them all on Sunday. After allowing just 1 ER in 7.2 IP, he is now averaging over 6.1 IP with a 2.77 ERA and 1.19 WHIP. As for Boof Bonser, well, it hadn't been going very well, and Saturday was as bad as it can be. He allowed 8 ER in 3+ IP; over his last 4 starts, he's averaging just under 5 IP with a 10.37 ERA and 1.71 WHIP. This is not a difficult decision - Boof will almost certainly be sent to the bullpen.

To make room, someone else will have to go. That will be either Brian Bass or Juan Rincon, who joined Boof before the firing squad on Saturday. While Bass' line (1.1 IP, 7 ER, 7 H) may be more spectacularly horrid, he came into the game with a respectable 3.90 ERA, and had been doing a pretty solid job in the long-relief roll up to that point. Juan Rincon (2.2 IP, 3 ER, 2 H, 2 BB) was brought in to bail Bass out, and failed to do it. In his last 9 appearances, he's had just one perfect inning, walking 11 and allowing 10 H in 11.2 IP. That's all since Neshek went down and the Twins needed him to step up. One of those two is going to be DFA by the end of next week.

Dennys Reyes had a rough weekend as well, although I'd like to put his outings in context. It was always doubtful that he would be successful outside of the situational lefty role. In this series, he was asked to face 7 righties and 1 lefty. He got the lefty out. The righties went 4 for 6 with a BB. On Friday, though he was unable to retire anyone, he didn't pitch badly. The hits he allowed were:
*a 2-hop grounder 1 inch fair and 1 inch over the glove of Mike Lamb,
*a soft liner off the end of the bat that barely had enough mustard to clear the infield,
*a booming triple on a 3-2 pitch after Pudge had fouled off 4 good 2-strike pitches.
15 pitches, only 1 was poorly located. 93% were good! Still, let's try to keep him facing just lefties as much as possible.

Offensively, the star of the show was Mike Lamb, who went 5-7 with 4R, 2B, 3B, 2 BB and his first HR as a Twin. He still has time to cement his place in the lineup if he can keep raising his average over the next 2 weeks. If not, Brian Buscher is playing too well in Rochester to be denied much longer. And Jason Kubel delivered a clutch grand slam to win Sunday's game, capping a weekend in which he went 3-8 with a BB and 2 R. With Craig Monroe just 1 for his last 24 and a bunch of RHP taking the hill in the next few days, I suspect Kubel will get plenty of chances to build on solid numbers over the past week.

Friday, May 23, 2008

3rd Split: 7-9

So far it's been 1 step back, 2 steps forward, and 1 step back, arriving at 24-24 through 48 games. While that's not awful for a team that is 7th in the AL in hitting, and 8th in pitching, the record would look a bit better were the team in the middle of the pack in fielding. Instead of 13th (wha?).

Poor defense was the story in this split. The Twins committed 21 errors in their first 32 games - not good, but downright tidy compared to the 17 they made in the last 16 games. Those errors led to 14 unearned runs. And those numbers do not account for every dropped 3rd strike or overthrow. They certainly don't include any of the base-running mistakes that killed some rallies. If I had to zero in on 2 games where the defense cost a win, I'd single out the 6-5 loss to the Blue Jays and the 8-7 extra-inning loss to the Rangers. In each case, had a reliever (Crain and Guerrier, respectively) made a routine throw to 3rd base (and we're talking less than 50 feet, here), the Jays game would have gone to extras and the Rangers game would have been won. It was very much within the Twins' control to have won 1 or 2 more games in this split.

Starting pitching continued to be a strong point. The Twins got 9 Quality Starts in the 16 games, and came 1 out short of 2 more. As predicted, Kevin Slowey (3.63 ERA, 1.16 WHIP) out-pitched Livan Hernandez (5.30, 1.66 - anybody want him? He's 6-2!) over this stretch. Nick Blackburn (3.32, 1.42) continues to pitch deep into games with better results than Livan, and Glen Perkins has been a revelation (3.44, 1.20, 12/2 K/BB). Alas, Boof Bonser is headed the other way (7.72, 1.47), and is in jeopardy of losing his spot in the rotation when Baker or Liriano are ready to return.

Pat Neshek was lost for the season in the first game of this little cross-section, and the bullpen has been a mess ever since. While many members have managed to put up acceptable ERAs, only Joe Nathan and Bobby Korecky have consistently thrown strikes. Well, Dennys Reyes has thrown strikes, but they've all been hit. While the rotation remained stingy with walks, Rincon, Guerrier, Crain and Bass issued 32 BB in 38.2 IP. Not sustainable.

On the other side, the offense has picked up their patience - in fact, it was common to see them draw 5+ walks in a game. They averaged over 4 BB/game over this stretch, and the 67 BB in this split equalled the number the Twins drew in their first 32 games, raising the team OBP to .319 for the season. Carlos Gomez and Jason Kubel have doubled their walk rates and, not surprisingly, both now have OBPs far north of .300 for the month of May. Gardy has wisely diminished the playing time of the struggling Brendan Harris and Craig Monroe, and Alexi Casilla is off to a good start in his first week as a starter (.273/.370/.455, HR, 7 RBI - 2 E though).

The other welcome development has come in the slugging department. Though they continue to hit HR at an anemic pace, the Twins unleashed an onslaught of triples during this split, led by Delmon Young's 3. After hitting just 6 triples in the first 32 games, the Twins have hit 8 in the last 16, most of those coming in just over a week's time. Throw in the walks, and the Twins have managed to pull their OPS out of the bottom 4 in the AL.

The next 16 games feature a 7-game home stand against the Yankees and Orioles, and 9 road games against division rivals Detroit, KC and Chicago. The current winning percentages of those opponents are not impressive - can the Twins continue their improvement and take advantage?

Bold prediction: at least 2 veteran players will be dismissed before the 10th of June.

Thursday, May 22, 2008

Bad Breaks

Twins 11, Rangers 4
Rangers 10, Twins 1
Rangers 8, Twins 7 (10 innings)

Ugh. Another potential winning homestand thrown away by poor defense. Just as giving away base runners proved fatal against a good pitching team like the Blue Jays, giving extra outs is fatal against a good hitting team like the Rangers. The Twins gave Texas 10 unearned runs over the 4 games. Had they played solid defense, they would have won 3 of 4 (without having to go to extra innings), and might have kept Wednesday's game close.

Twins pitchers repeatedly failed to pick up their defenders. Bonser, Perkins and Blackburn were all cruising for 5-6 IP, but once their fielders let a play slip, they were all quickly chased from the game. They need to learn to bear down and keep the ball out of the middle of the plate when they get into tough situations.

Alexi Casilla had a terrific series at the plate (.333/.412/.600, HR, 6 RBI, 5 R)while Brendan Harris sat in the dog house, but his 2 errors led to 7 of the unearned runs.

Delmon Young kept the XBH parade going for the first couple games of the series, but he had a brutal afternoon on Thursday, going 0-5 and stranding 7 base-runners. He hit into 2 DPs, including one with the bases loaded in the 1st.

I'm not sure why Craig Monroe (0-4, 2 K) got the start today. The Twins will be facing 2 lefties over the weekend in Detroit, so he'll most likely get 2 starts there. I'm also not sure why Justin Morneau got the day off from the field, with a scheduled off day coming on Monday. Michael Cuddyer made a costly error at 1st in his place, and also gave up an infield hit in the 6th (which led to a run) which an actual first baseman might have had an easier time fielding.

The Rangers are a stupendous hitting team, so I don't blame any of the pitchers for giving up hits (the back-door slider Hamilton hit out for the game-winner today was a little up, but it's ridiculous how far he hit it to the opposit field), but the Twins generally had a good approach against their atrocious pitching staff, drawing 20 walks during the 4 games. It's weird to say it, but the piece of the Twins' game that has been the most lacking this month has been defense.

Span vs. Gomez

Gomez had, in my view, his best all-around game of the season today, going 4-5 with a HR, 3 RBI, 2 R, and a sweet diving catch in CF for the 2nd straight game. For the series, he went .467/.529/.867, reaching base in each game, raising his season line to .286/.318/.440.

I've realized that my problem with Gomez isn't so much his approach at the plate (which still needs a lot of work), but the fact that that approach is so glaringly wrong for the leadoff spot. He's drawn 4 more walks (+ 2 HBP) in May than April, but he'll need to show that kind of improvement every month before his isolated discipline is anywhere near where it needs to be to justify getting the most PA of anyone on the team. However, if he took his exact numbers to the bottom of the lineup (anywhere 7-9), I couldn't complain, particularly when he continues to outhit Young.

Span is unquestionably the better leadoff hitter right now. Despite falling off his absurd pace of the past week with an 0-14 over his last 3 games (including 6 K), his AAA line is still a terrific .327/.431/.471. Unfortunately, he's out of the picture for 3-4 weeks, thanks to a broken finger he suffered while attempting a bunt on Tuesday night. That leaves all my eggs precariously in Go-Go's basket.

How exciting (gulp)!

Monday, May 19, 2008

Rochester to the Rescue

Twins 7, Rangers 6 (12 innings)

What game of firsts! Alexi Casilla hit his first HR, a 3-run shot, and has more homers than Delmon Young or Joe Mauer. Bobby Korecky got his first W and, because Gardy threw the kitchen sink at the Rangers in the 9th, his first hit. And new call-up Howie Clark delivered the game-winning hit. Three guys who weren't on the team a few weeks ago came in to clean up a big mess. It feels good now, but this game would have been agonizing to lose.

Boof Bonser recovered from 3 straight shaky starts to get the Twins into the 7th inning with just 2 R allowed on 3 H with 5 K. All 3 hits were for extra bases, including 2 HR, but they were solo shots, and the Twins were leading 5-2. After allowing 2 singles to put runners at 1st and 2nd with one out in the 7th, Rick Anderson came out to talk to Boof. He promptly got the come-backer he needed to start an inning-ending double-play. Unfortunately, he made a terrible throw, and everyone was safe. The next pitch was drilled into left-center for a 2-run single, and the Rangers were back in the game, and Boof was out. Had the Twins lost, they could have once again blamed a failure to execute a fundamental play.

The relief pitching was at turns brilliant and ugly. Obviously, Korecky was magnificent, rescuing Juan Rincon from a bases-loaded, one-out jam in the 11th. Rincon allowed a double and a walk, and after starting the next hitter with a ball, Anderson went out to remind him that this was not the time to be tentative. When the next pitch missed, Gardy was so ticked that he tried to take Rincon out mid-batter - which is not allowed; once the coach visits, the pitcher has to finish that AB (you learn something new every day!). Guerrier was terrific in saving Bonser from a jam in the 7th, but then he and Dennys Reyes got knocked around for 2 runs. Joe Nathan needed just 5 pitches to get through the 10th. I guess you don't want to use up your closer in the first game of a series, but I doubt he was tired, and could have come out for the 11th.

Oh well, it all worked out.

Mile Low

Twins 4, Rockies 2
Rockies 3, Twins 2
Rockies 6, Twins 2

My wife and I were furiously working on curtains for the nursery this weekend, so I didn't get to watch any of the Twins/Rockies "action" after Friday night. My condolences to all the poor bastards who did. How excruciating to see so many men left on base, while quality pitching was being wasted. It's amazing to me that these two teams combined for just 19 runs in 3 games. Neither one is playing very well right now.

The Twins went 3 for 8 with runners in scoring position on Friday (+2 SF). Backed by Nick Blackburn's strongest start in almost a month (7 IP, 2 ER, 6 H, 5 K), decent relief pitching (OK except for the walks) and a Kamikaze catch from Gomez to end the game (I never said he couldn't go get it out there!), they came away with a win.

I was peeking at the scoreboard every now and then on Saturday. "Wait a minute," I thought, "is that Livan Hernandez with a no-hitter into the 6th inning? The Rockies must be in worse shape than I thought!" Amazing how quickly that 0 R on 0 H turned into 3 R on 8 H, huh? Still, given his typical run support, that should have been win number 7 for Livan. (Anybody want him?) It should be noted that the Rockies started each of their last 3 innings of this game with XBH - all of those guys scored. The Twins' offense managed just 2 R despite putting 12 men on base, going 1 for 7 with men in scoring position and stranding 9.

On Sunday, the Twins began each of their first 2 innings of batting with XBH, and had a 1-out triple in the 3rd, but none of them scored. 0 for 8 with RISP right there. For the game, they went 1 for 12. Kevin Slowey came one out short of a Quality Start, but allowed the last 4 batters to reach (after allowing only 4 to reach in the first 5.2 IP). Once again, the penultimate hitter ground out a long AB (10-pitch walk to Brad Hawpe) - maybe something to watch out for in the future.

The best news of the weekend came from Delmon Young, who doubled his season XBH total from 4 to 8, raising his season line to .287/.328/.348. A couple more series like that, and maybe we can all relax about his power potential.

Thursday, May 15, 2008


Blue Jays 6, Twins 5
Blue Jays 3, Twins 2 (11 innings)

Wellllll, that wasn't so good, was it?

After impressively taking 3 of 4 from the defending World Series champs, the Twins managed to turn this into a losing home stand. And though the Blue Jays pitched pretty well and had many long ABs, the Twins really have their own misplays to blame for the losses. Bad throws, missed fly balls, imprudent baserunning and pitching that was too tentative at times were rampant in the series. Had the Twins been able to clean up even one or two misplays, they likely would have come away with at least one win.

The hitting was actually rather timely. The Twins came back from early deficits in each game and did a good job of forcing the Jays' starters to throw pitches (6.1 IP, for Halladay, is knocking him out early). Sure, a lot of people were stranded, but it usually came on a ball hit well, but right to where a defender could track it down. Another foot here or there and the run column might have looked pretty close to what it was against Boston. Most encouragingly, this series saw the resurgence of Jason Kubel, who, despite his head-down running that got him thrown out at the plate, has re-established himself as someone the Twins can look to to get on base and drive in runs.

Span vs. Gomez vs. Young

I'm not going to quibble too much with Gomez today. Obviously, it was a shame that he got himself caught on the basepaths last night immediately after his speed had forced a hit and error. But I found myself wishing that he was involved in the tight game this afternoon. When he came in late, I was hoping his speed could make a difference somewhere. He gave the ball quite a ride on a 2-strike pitch to end the 10th, and it took a pretty good over-the-shoulder catch by Kevin Mench to keep the game tied.

Every day this week, I check the Rochester box score and throw up my hands in amazement that Denard Span has managed to improve upon his already stratospheric OBP. Tonight he was 2-3 with a BB, raising his season line to a preposterous .369/.470/.536, a 1.006 OPS! He also had an OF assist, though he was caught stealing for the 3rd time. While I suppose Gomez isn't really playing badly enough for Span to take his job over, let me make another proposal:

Delmon Young is hitting .263/.309/.296 for a pathetic .605 OPS. He has played every game this season, and is showing no potential to drive the ball. While Span isn't going to remind anyone of Manny Ramirez, he can surely perform better than Young. Now, with Young being a Rookie-of-the-Year runner-up, he won't be sent to the minors, but he doesn't merit an everyday job, either. So how about a Span/Gomez/Young platoon, with each of them getting about 2/3 of the ABs between LF and CF? The bullpen would probably have to drop to 11 pitchers, which is a dicey proposition at this time, but it's something to think about. Span is just playing too well to stay in AAA much longer.

Speaking of playing well in AAA, Francisco Liriano needed just 93 pitches to complete 8 IP in tonight's game, allowing 7 H and only 1 BB with 4 K. Not enough Ks, but a 1.00 WHIP! Deep into the game! Let's give him a couple more starts to be sure, but it seems like he may finally be starting to put it together.

On to Colorado - how far can Justin Morneau hit the ball at altitude?

Tuesday, May 13, 2008

Worn Out

Blue Jays 5, Twins 3

This game was great example of how working counts leads to victory. Both starting pitchers went 5.2 IP. Kevin Slowey needed 107 pitches to get there. Jays starter Litsch needed just 70! The Blue Jays relentlessly battled Slowey until he made mistakes. Both of the walks he allowed came on full counts. Several ABs lasted more than 5 pitches, capped by Scott Rolen's 15-pitch marathon that took Slowey over 100 pitches and set up the 2-out HR by Matt Stairs. Overall, Slowey did a nice job, throwing 2/3 of his pitches for strikes, and coming just 1 out short of a Quality Start.

The grinding continued when the bullpen took over, as the Jays forced 37 pitches from Matt Guerrier in 1.1 IP. The only efficient pitcher was Dennys Reyes, who threw just 3 pitches to 2 batters. Unfortunately, both batters got hits, and he finally allowed his first ER of the season. Brian Bass did a pretty good job in his 2 IP, allowing only 2 BB.

The offense couldn't sustain any rallies tonight. It didn't help that Monroe and Young didn't hit. Monroe's 3 K night may finally bring everyone back to reality regarding his likely effectiveness vs. RHP. What a thrill to see Jason Kubel get a pinch-hit HR! Is he ready to break out? The Twins need him hitting the way he did in the 2nd half last year if they're to have any hope of staying in the Central Race.

Span vs. Gomez

2-4 with a HR seems like a pretty good night for Gomez, but his 2 outs were both Ks, bringing his season total to 39. He also uncorked his 5th error when he needlessly sent a throw on a one-out single into the dugout. Still, his line for the season is now .277/.306/.418 for a .724 OPS. As Nick pointed out earlier, since his benching in Oakland, he's hit .345/.390/.582, with a 13/3 K/BB ratio, and 7 SB in 9 attempts, but he's made 4 errors. Still, clearly an improvement.

Yet I'm amazed again to check the Rochester box score and see that Denard Span is performing even better. Tonight he went 2-3 with a HR, BB, Sac bunt, and SB. His AAA line is now .338/.440/.468 for a .906 OPS(!) Since Gomez' benching in Oakland, Span's combined numbers are .348/.451/.493, with a 16/13 K/BB ratio, 10 SB in 12 attempts, and just 1 error. How much longer can he be denied a spot somewhere in the Major Leagues? If you want to argue that Gomez is still playing better, you certainly can't deny that Span is outplaying Delmon Young.

Like Magic

Twins 7, Red Sox 3

Looking at the scoreboard, one might think that the Twins really beat up the Red Sox tonight, that Livan Hernandez recovered from a shaky first inning to baffle them the rest of the way.

Not exactly.

True, he gave up all 3 runs on 4 hits in the 1st, then scattered 6 hits and a walk over the remaining 5 IP, earning yet another quality start. But in the 2nd and 3rd innings, sandwiched around the 2 hits and a walk he actually gave up, were 4 balls absolutely scorched right at people: Morneau made a diving stop on Sean Casey, Dustin Pedroia's liner landed right in Livan's glove, Manny Ramirez hit a liner to deep CF that got to Gomez in about 2 seconds, and Varitek ended the 3rd with a liner to deep left. Boston swung the bats well enough to have 4 more hits off Livan, and heaven knows how many more runs would have resulted.

But, at the end of the day, he's tied for he AL lead in wins at 6-1, and his 3.90 ERA looks pretty nice.

Anybody want him?

Juan Rincon did a nice job in relief, allowing just a walk in 2 IP. He was aided by the very special catch Cuddyer made in right field - Pedroia's liner bounced off Micheal's glove, the top of his head, the bill of his cap, and back into his glove. (Pedroia had to be shaking his head after this game.)

I loved the offensive approach vs. Clay Buchholz. He's been struggling with his control, and the Twins decided not to be too aggressive with him. Sure enough, he rewarded their patience with 5 BB in 4.1 IP. Another fine game for Craig Monroe (2 RBI 2B and 2 BB) despite a K - we may never get to see Jason Kubel again. Delmon Young had 2 H and 2 RBI (despite a K). Mauer, Morneau and Cuddyer went 5/10 with 2 BB and 5 R.

Wins like this are exciting, and very encouraging, but I'm not sure winning is sustainable with the overall quality of play of the Twins right now. Livan is very hittable, the offense doesn't hit a lot of XBH, doesn't walk enough, strikes out too much (especially Monroe, Young, Harris and Gomez). I hope this is apparent to Bill Smith, and that he intends to use some of the organization's resources to upgrade various positions as the season moves along.

Span vs. Gomez

Gomez went 1 for 4, and his hit was just like the one from Friday - knee-high on the outside corner, driven into RF. Love it. 2 more K, though, giving him 37 on the season, 4th in the AL. The company he keeps in the top 10 are all swing for the fences guys like Jim Thome, Richie Sexson, and Jack Cust. Since his magical Cycle night in Chicago, he's reached base 6 times in 23 PA (.261 OBP) and struck out 8 times.

Meanwhile, every night I check the Red Wings box score, and every night, Denard Span has gotten on base at least once. Last night, he had his best night of the year, going 3-5 with a 2B and HR. That raised his line to .324/.425/.419, an .844 OPS. If the team really prefers Gomez for 2008, then they need to start shopping Span - with those numbers, he should be worth a decent IF prospect.

Monday, May 12, 2008

The Power of Pink

Twins 7, Red Sox 6
Red Sox 5, Twins 2
Twins 9, Red Sox 8

It was a bit of a hectic weekend for me. My parents came to visit for Mother's Day, so I spent most of my time with them. Though they are Twins fans as well, we didn't get a chance to watch/listen to any of this weekend's games after about the 6th inning on Friday. Looking up what I've been able to about the games, I'm very pleased that the Twins will have a chance to win this series against arguably the best team in the AL. At worst, it'll be a split, and that would be fine, too.

It was too bad that Boof got lit up on Friday, especially because his defense let him down a bit. Because Mauer lost track of Kevin Youkilis' swinging third strike in the dirt, the Sox were able to score 2 runs they didn't deserve in the second (2nd straight game Boof has had an inning extended on a wild pitch K). In the 5th, the leadoff single deflected off Boof's leg was played with far too little urgency by Harris, I thought. Delmon Young took a terrible route to Mike Lowell's 2-run double - he might have had an opportunity to catch it.

Too bad that Perkins' debut was diminished by the back-to-back HR leading off the 7th, turning a sterling start (6 IP, 1 ER) into merely Quality. Blackburn had what has lately turned into a pretty typical game, allowing 4 R on 9 H in 6 IP. He hurt himself by hitting 2 straight batters to leadoff the 3rd inning. His defense hurt him with a throwing error on the 2nd half of a potentially inning-ending DP in the 4th. Lots of baserunners, but his line could have been better in spite of them.

The bullpen pitched well on Friday, but got touched for 2 R in 3 IP on Saturday and 4 R in 3 IP on Sunday. Only Dennys Reyes escaped unscathed - even Joe Nathan got dinged for 2 R. Still, as their 5+ runs/game in the series proves, the Sox are going to get their hits and runs - they lead the league in BA, OBP and SLG by a healthy margin, and they're 3rd in SB to top it off.

The key to this weekend's wins was that the Twins scored plenty of runs themselves. Mike Lamb, Adam Everett and Craig Monroe all (finally) contributed key hits. I'm not sure what Jason Kubel was doing in the lineup on Friday vs. LHP Lester. He came into the game 4-24 vs. lefties. Between Lester and reliever Okajima, that line is now 4-28. If he's not careful, Kubel is going to play himself right out of the lineup.

Perhaps most satisfying was the performance from Carlos Gomez. He reached base in every game, delivered what I consider to be his most impressive hit of the season (a line-drive RBI single to right on a pitch knee-high on the outside corner - that's right, go with it!), and extended the Twins' improbable comeback against elite closer John Papelbon in the most improbable way - he laid off 3 straight pitches out of the zone after falling behind 1-2. He then stole second to get himself into position to score the winning run. He drew his 5th walk of the year the following night.

I'll be watching closely to see whether Gomez has made a real change in his approach. If he thinks about his ABs the way Denard Span does, his superior tools should easily lead him to better results. Through the weekend, by the way, Span was hitting .304/.415/.348, 13 BB/15 K, 11/13 SB, hopefully raising his trade value if nothing else.

New Additions

Pat Neshek will have to go to the DL, and Nick Punto will be joining him. Neshek is likely done for the year, a huge blow to the depth of the bullpen. Bobby Korecky will likely stick around in the bullpen, at least until Scott Baker is ready to come back. In place of Punto the Twins recalled Alexi Casilla. While his BA has not been impressive at Rochester (.219), his OBP has been excellent (.350), especially considering how few hits he has. He has 18 BB/18 K through 32 games. He's got pretty good speed and a strong arm, so his ability should be adequate to replace Punto.

Friday, May 9, 2008

Up and Down

Twins 13, White Sox 1
White 6, Twins 2

As the runs started pouring in during the 9th inning on Wednesday night, I thought to myself, shouldn't we be saving some of those for tomorrow? Sure enough, those 6 tacked-on runs could have helped the Twins a lot more on Thursday afternoon.

Livan Hernandez had a ridiculously good game, the likes of which I don't expect to see very often again. Anybody want him? I have a feeling the Red Sox are going to be a little harder on him next week.

Kevin Slowey made his first appearance since the first week of the season, and was very sharp for 4 innings. He gave up 3 XBH in the 5th, including 2 HR. I would have liked to see him come out for the 6th, see if he could make the adjustment and rally for the Quality Start; he was only at 83 pitches. However, the ball was definitely up on both homers, so maybe the 6th would have been a disaster.

Speaking of disasters, Pat Neshek's elbow "tweak" is of great concern. The Twins can ill-afford to be without their door-slamming setup man for very long.

The Cycle

Oh, for Heaven's sake.

It was fore-ordained that, hours after I ripped him again, Gomez would lead-off the game with a HR (just like last time). His statistically spectacular evening prompted some bloggers I respect very much to ask rhetorically: "Still want to send him down?"


Some impartial observers at ESPN have the right perspective, especially this from Jayson Stark:

On the one hand, as he proved Wednesday, he's a cycle waiting to happen. On the other, it took that cycle to nudge his on-base percentage to a measly .306. In terms of defense, one scout said, "I don't see a whole lot of difference between him and Torii [Hunter], other than name and reputation." But in terms of offense, the same scout said that he's "like a toolbox without a key."

You can't say it much better than that. If the fact that he hit for the cycle demonstrated that he had found the key, I'd change my mind about him. But he's the same guy he's been all spring. The hits just happened to fall in for him.

Of the four hits he collected on Wednesday night, the HR was the most impressive: Gomez quickly turned on a knee-high, inside cutter (probably didn't cut enough for Buerhle's taste), and hit it really hard. The triple was an absolutely flat changeup up in the zone, and he crushed it. He was sawed off on the double, the LF took a bad route to the ball, and it would have been a single if he hadn't dove for it. The single was deflected by the pitcher, and the dugout waited with baited breath for the official scorer's decision. A better fielding pitcher makes that an easy come-backer.

Gomez smacked a couple of poorly located pitches, and he had a couple of bleeders fall in. And there's your cycle. No indication that he's made any adjustments, no reason to think another big slump isn't in his future. Meanwhile, there's a guy at AAA who gets on base 44% of the time and hits the cutoff man. Until I see a change in his approach, I don't think Gomez is the most effective guy in the system to be getting more ABs than any other player. No matter how good he looks when he's hot.

Thursday, May 8, 2008

2nd Split: 10-6

The Twins made up for a lackluster start to the season over the past 3 weeks, thanks mainly to 7 straight wins at the Dome. I hope that's an indication that the home cookin' is back in full swing - they're going to need every advantage they can get. The next 7 games against the Red Sox and Blue Jays will be a good test of how far the Dome-field advantage will carry the Twins.

The offense picked up a bit, but it's still wildly inconsistent. The Twins were shut out 3 times in their 6 losses this month, and were 1-hit in another. Most of the offense came in three blowout games: 12-6 vs. Texas, 11-1 vs. Detroit, and 13-1 vs. Chicago. The 36 runs the Twins scored in those 3 games nearly equaled the 38 runs they scored in the other 13.

The most consistent players during this stretch have been:

Boof Bonser - Pitched at least 6 innings in each start, with a 3.79 ERA and 1.16 WHIP. His strikeout rate has increased over his last couple starts - after just 14 K in his first 5 starts, he has 13 in his last 2.

Joe Mauer - Hit .383/.491/.553 with 6 doubles and a triple. He reached base at least once in each game he played.

Joe Nathan - Collected 6 saves in 7 appearances with a 1.00 WHIP. Only run allowed in a mop-up stituation.

It's been good to see (as I predicted) several players get on the HR bandwagon, including Harris, Monroe, and Gomez with 2 each. Just because some other people have chimed in doesn't mean that Morneau and Kubel should stop, though. I can't wait for Lamb and Young to finally hit one.

Here's my bold prediction for this next stretch: Slowey will have a better ERA than Livan.

Can the Twins keep up this pace, currently good enough to give them 86 wins on the season? I would be all kinds of delighted if they could pull that off. How long will that pace be good enough for first place in the surprisingly struggling AL Central?

Wednesday, May 7, 2008

As Bad As It Gets

White Sox 7, Twins 1

Yeah, that's about the worst game you're going to see. Pathetic effort from the offense, mediocre start, poor relief pitching, and the defense threw the ball around. Oh well, if you're only going to get one hit, you might as well get all your other sucking out of the way, too.

Blackburn didn't do too badly, giving the Twins another quality start. Too many walks, though.

Was anybody surprised to see Joe Mauer be the one who broke up the no-no? He's as hot as it gets right now.


On a more positive note, Francisco Liriano had an effective, er, not terrible outing for AAA on Monday, allowing just 1 R on 2 H in 5 IP with 4 K. He's turned the corner, right? Well, there were the 4 BB, and he only threw 48 of his 87 pitches for strikes. So there's still some work to be done there. But it certainly seems to be a step forward.

Span vs. Gomez

Each CF made an error last night (Gomez' was, predictably, of the exuberantly overthrowing variety). Gomez, like the rest of the Twins' lineup, didn't hit squat, lowering his season line to .261/.287/.360, a .647 OPS, and holding at 13/14 SB. Span has been a busy boy the last couple of nights, collecting 5 H and 1 BB with 3 SB. That raised his AAA season line to .333/.443/.353, a .796 OPS and 11/13 SB.

Aaron Gleeman has been using some interesting metrics to measure the Twins' performance the last couple of days: Win Probability Added (WPA) and Outside Swings Percentage (OS%). Even after he adjusted the WPA ratings to reflect Gomez' importance as CF and Span's poor performance relative to actual RF, Span still wound up with a better rating than Gomez. And in the OS% post, Gleeman cuts off the PAs of rated players at 40, excluding Span, who has just 34 so far. Had he included Span, everyone could have seen that his OS% of 15.8% is even better than that of Joe Mauer (16.9%).

I can't help but conclude, as I have since spring training, that Span is more ready for the Big Leagues right now than Gomez. Sigh.

Sunday, May 4, 2008

Jim Leyland Knows Baseball

Twins 4, Tigers 1
Twins 7, Tigers 6


Ha! How satisfying to watch the Tigers bullpen get battered around a couple of times this weekend, after they'd been so good for 2 weeks. And how satisfying to see the Twins 'pen do their job, allowing just 1 R in 11 IP. The wheel keeps turning, and this weekend the Twins were on top.

The pitching staff faced considerable adversity this weekend. What a job by Brian Bass, earning his first Major League win with 4 terrific innings of relief after Scott Baker tweaked his groin. Again. He may have just won himself the opportunity to spot-start against Boston next weekend. Boof Bonser hung in there after a nightmare first inning in which the Tigers managed to find holes on good pitches, strike out on good pitches and reach anyway, run the bases. 45 pitches in the first, yet Boof still managed to complete 6 IP, allowing no further damage. (Amazingly, Brian Duensing of the Red Wings also gave up 6 runs in the first inning then pitched into the 6th, and he was facing the Tigers' AAA team. What are the chances?)

Joe Mauer carried the team all weekend, reaching at least twice in every game. His double off Kenny Rogers in the 4th on Sunday broke up the perfect game, and he came around to score a run. His single in the 7th was the difference in the game. I love it - but when are the homers coming?

As unlucky as the Twins were in the 1st inning, they got plenty of breaks themselves in the winning rally, starting with Carlos Guillen's fielding error on what should have been the 3rd out. Gomez chopped an IF hit, and after Harris' ground-rule double (the only bad break of the inning), Mauer's single bounced just out of reach of 3 fielders. 4 runs they had no business scoring - I love it!

The Wisdom of Jim Leyland

Jim Leyland wisely criticized his offense for allowing Bonser to stay in the game so long, calling attention to how the 5-pitch 2nd inning Bonser had let him off the hook. Sounds like something I would say.

Where he's gone wrong this season is in his use of Justin Verlander, who is so far showing splits reminiscent of Boof's 2007: he's dynamite for 5-6 IP, then goes out to start one more inning even though he's over 90 pitches and gets walloped.

Opening Day: 2 ER in 6 IP, faces 2 batters in the 7th, both score. 3.00 ERA becomes 6.00.
April 12th: 1 ER in 7.1 IP, then BB, HBP, single load the bases. At this point, he's at 102 pitches. He stays in for 3 more batters (including lefty AJ Pierzynski) and ends up giving up 6 ER in 7.2 IP. 1.23 ERA becomes 7.05.
April 27th: 2 ER in 5 IP, tagged for 4 ER in the 6th. 3.60 ERA becomes 9.54.
Saturday: 2 ER in 6 IP, he comes out for the 7th even though he's at 99 pitches. His old buddy Craig Monroe follows a 4-pitch walk to Delmon Young (that should have told Leyland something right there) with a 2-run HR. 3.00 ERA becomes 5.14.

His WHIP is excellent, then all of a sudden there are walks, hit batters, extra-base hits. And there's Leyland leaving him in there for 2 or 3 more hitters. If Verlander were playing for Gardy, I bet his ERA would be in the 4.00s instead of the 6.00s.

Leyland has been quoted as saying there will be a drastic shakeup to the Tigers lineup. Carlos Guillen has made 3 errors in 6 games at 3B, not a huge step up from Cabrera's 5 E in 14 games there. Meanwhile, Brandon Inge, an excellent defensive 3B, sits on the bench. The Jacque Jones/Marcus Thames platoon is the one consistently weak spot in their lineup.

If I were Leyland, I'd consider this: put Gary Sheffield in LF, make Cabrera the DH, bring Guillen back to 1B, and reinstate Inge as the regular 3B. I doubt Sheffield could be as much of a liability in left as Cabrera/Guillen have been at third. And I doubt Inge could be any more disappointing a hitter than Thames/Jones have been. He at least can get on base (14 BB in 101 PA vs. 12 BB in 135 PA for Thames/Jones). If the Tigers had solid defense with a legit on-base threat in the #9 spot, they might start to reach their potential.

Span vs. Gomez

Gomez had 2 ABs on Sunday with men in scoring position: with Punto on 3rd and one out in the 5th, he hit the ball straight up, and Punto was stranded. With runners at the corners and 2 out in the 7th, he hit the ball straight down, and legged it out for an RBI infield hit, extending the rally. I hope he learns something from that. His recent hot streak has improved his line to .271/.297/.374, a .671 OPS through 26 games. He's 13/14 stealing bases and has scored 17 R.

Span picked up his first XBH since spring training today. He has reached in every game he's started for Rochester this season. He's hitting .279/.404/.302, a .706 OPS through 11 games. He's 8/10 stealing bases and has scored 9 R.

Friday, May 2, 2008

Good Luck

Twins 11, Tigers 1

"Everything worked the way I wanted," Hernandez said. "So I'm lucky."

You can say that again. Despite allowing 10 baserunners, Livan managed to wriggle his way out of some jams to complete 7 innings, allowing only Magglio Ordonez' solo HR. Amazing.

I realized after his last start against Texas that the best game plan against Hernandez is to take 4 pitches every time you come to the plate. At that point, the count will either be 2-2 or 3-1 (or you're already on first base). Then try to hit the ball to the opposite field. It started out looking the Tigers would have the patience to do that, seeing 16 pitches despite going in order in the first. Then, beginning with Magglio's homer, 4 straight hitters reached to load the bases with 1 run in and nobody out in the 2nd. Luckily, the next two batters were Pudge Rodriguez and Jacque Jones, who combined to make 3 outs on the next 3 pitches. Those two are the only weak links in that lineup - thank goodness they were the ones coming up in that situation.

One thing I noticed watching the game tonight - Livan looks a lot better when the ump has a wide strike zone. He also did a nice job of changing speeds and keeping his pitches out of the middle of the plate.

So, he looks pretty good, right? Wily. Crafty. Eating innings. Taming the ferocious Tigers lineup. Anybody else want him? Happy to trade you...

"Our offense kind of exploded," said third-base coach Scott Ullger.

You can say that again. The underwhelming-in-April trio of Carlos Gomez, Jason Kubel and Delmon Young combined to go .545/.615/.727 with 2 R, 2 RBI, 2 SB; Gomez surely would have had another run had he not been conked out by a throw from Pudge in the 5th. The steady-in-April quartet of Harris, Mauer, Morneau and Cuddyer went .444/.500/.778 with 7 R and 7 RBI. Even the slow starting former Astros each notched a hit.

11 runs is often a series' worth for the Twins, so I'm a little concerned that they blew their wad in a game they were already winning, and tomorrow they'll probably lose 6-4. Then again, maybe this is a continuation of the offensive awakening that began to stir late in the last road trip. We'll see how they do against Verlander and Rogers this weekend.

The Go-Go Show

Gomez had quite a game before he was knocked out in the 5th. He walked(!) leading off the game, stole second, and scored. He was hit by a pitch for the first time this season in the 3rd, and later scored. He stroked a 2-strike single leading off the 5th, setting up his collision with Pudge's throw while stealing his 13th base of the year. He had to make 2 throws into the infield, each missing the cutoff man by a mile.

When Gomez had his best full-season OBP in 2006, he was hit by a pitch 19 times in 430 ABs. In his minor league career, he averaged a HBP every 33 ABs; he was hit 3 times in 125 ABs with the Mets last year. It took him 102 ABs to get HBP this season. This is a part of his game he needs to bring back!

But why would any pitcher risk hitting him, when they can get him to expand the outside part of the zone? Tigers starter Galarraga did a terrible job pitching to Gomez tonight. A 5-pitch walk, HBP, and 2-strike hanging slider made life pretty easy for Go-Go. And he did a good job of making those mistakes costly.

(By the way, Span's line tonight: 2-4, BB, 3 SB and probably 0 overthrows of cutoff men)

Thursday, May 1, 2008

April Review

Twins Record: 13-14
(2nd in AL Central by 1.5 games)

With the first of six months of the season in the books, the Twins find themselves on pace to finish the season about where they were last year: 78-84. This is certainly within the range that most folks were projecting prior to the season. What's been surprising is how well the Twins' young pitching staff has performed. With the exception of Francisco Liriano (who was simply not ready to return to the big leagues following Tommy John surgery) and the quickly injured Kevin Slowey, the Twins' young pitchers have combined for quality starts in 11 of 17 outings, with an average of just over 6 IP, a 3.88 ERA, and 1.27 WHIP. They are reassuring the team that their presence in the rotation will not be overly taxing to the bullpen, and Slowey's return next week should only enhance the success of the group.

The bullpen did not fare well early on, costing the Twins a couple of games they were leading after 7 innings. Most of the veterans in that group seem to be settling in, so I expect that situation to go better for the rest of the season.

Offensively, the Twins are last in the league in OBP, and near the bottom in OPS and HR. Only Mauer and Morneau have drawn more than 6 walks. Only Morneau and Kubel have hit more than one home run. On the plus side, the Twins are leading the league in SB (thanks mainly to Gomez and Young). There are signs that some of the hitters are beginning to warm up - they'll have to if the team is to improve in May.

And now, evaluations for players who have had at least 12 ABs or 8 IP:

Getting It Done

Justin Morneau
I'd like to see the average a little higher than .268, but he's earning his money by leading the team with 6 HR, 22 RBI, 11 BB, 48 TB, .495 SLG% and .840 OPS. He has yet to make an error at first base. We'll see if Cuddyer and Kubel can keep him protected.

Brendan Harris
He's settled into the #2 spot. He's struck out too many times (22), but his other numbers are about where I was hoping to see them (.287/.337/.389).

Matt Tolbert
He started out the season scorching hot, and has settled into a .700 OPS through 50 ABs. He's also stolen 3 bases in 4 attempts, and has made just 1 error in 59 total chances at three IF positions. The last man to make the team has earned his spot so far.

Nick Blackburn
And how about the last pitcher to make the team? We thought he'd maybe just keep Liriano's spot warm for a couple of starts, but he's ended up leading the starters with 38.1 IP and a 3.52 ERA through 6 starts. Maybe Baseball America knew what they were talking about after all...

Boof Bonser
Boof is right behind Blackburn with 36 IP and a 3.75 ERA. His 5 quality starts should give everyone confidence that he has the stamina to pitch deep into games now. He's managed to win 2 games despite receiving just 10 runs of support in his 6 April starts - show Boof some love, Offense!

Joe Nathan
Another guy earning his big contract extension, Nathan is 9/9 in save opportunities with a 0.82 ERA, 1.00 WHIP and 9.00 K/9. Can't ask for much more than that.

Dennys Reyes
It was crucial that several of the Twins' bullpen members revert to their 2006 form this season, and Reyes has delivered. He has yet to allow an earned run in 12 appearances.

So Far, So Good

Joe Mauer
Mauer is leading the team in average and OBP - no surprise there. But he has yet to hit a homer, and hasn't shown as much gap power as I expected from his spring training ABs. 3 of his 7 XBH have come in the last week, as well as 4 of his 9 BB, so he's heading in the right direction.

Michael Cuddyer
Obviously, Cuddyer hasn't had much of a chance to make an impact this year thanks to a 3 week DL stint. He's done pretty well in the 10 games he's played, batting .297/.350/.405, but with just 1 HR, 1 double, and 2 BB. I hope we'll see more of those in the coming weeks.

Nick Punto
Punto has been doing about as well as I'd hoped so far: his average of .256 is a nice middle-ground between his excellent 2006 and atrocious 2007. He's put up a decent .326 OBP with 3 SB from the #9 spot with only 1 E in 55 TC from 4 positions. He'll likely return to the very spare use he was receiving early on now that Everett is coming off the DL.

Craig Monroe
Monroe has delivered as advertised so far this year with a .255/.300/.426 line almost identical to his career numbers (.256/.303/.446). Surpisingly, he's hit far better vs. RHP - I don't expect that to continue - and has generally had very good ABs (4.2 pitches/PA). He hasn't taken ABs from Kubel, and filled in competently when Gomez was out for a couple games last weekend.

Denard Span
Span delivered about league-average BA (.258) and OBP (.324) in limited time, mostly playing out of position in RF. He was 3/3 in SB attempts. Not bad for his first taste of the big leagues.

Pat Neshek
Neshek had two ghastly appearances on the first road trip in which he allowed 5 ER on 6 H in 1.2 IP and cost the Twins 2 games. In his 11 other appearances, he's gone 10.1 IP, 0 ER, 3 H, 3BB, 11 K. He'll be OK.

Scott Baker
Plagued by poor health througout the spring, Baker has been effective when he's been able to take the hill. 6 HR in 30 IP is a lot, but they all came with the bases empty vs. the Tigers and White Sox - they're going to hit their homers, so it's great that he was able to keep the damage minimal.

Jesse Crain
Like Neshek, Crain had a bad time in Detroit, giving up 3 ER on 2 H and 1 BB and costing the Twins a win. Other than that, he's allowed just 2 ER on 5 H and 2 BB with 7 K in 7.1 IP. His velocity and the sharpness of his breaking stuff is remarkable considering the shoulder injuries from which he's recovering. Hopefully he can contribute even more as the season goes along.

Brian Bass
Bass has gotten a lot of work in long relief this month (17.1 IP), and has been competent for the most part. He got beat up on the last road trip (5 ER on 11 H and 3 BB in 6 IP), but has otherwise been solid in situations where the Twins needed somebody to eat up some innings - particularly for a rookie.

Livan Hernandez
I can hardly believe I'm putting Livan in this category, but his nearly 6 IP/start, 5.05 ERA and 1.46 WHIP are about the best that could be expected of him. However luckily, he's managed to keep the Twins in 5 of the 6 games he's started.

Need to Pick It Up

Delmon Young
Because he was brought in to replace Torii Hunter's pop in the middle of the order, Young's 0 HR and .314 SLG% have to be rated a disappointment. However, he's been very good in the field, throwing out 4 baserunners and routinely holding opponents to singles on balls hit into the corner. His 6 SB in 7 tries are second on the team, so he's got 3 of the 5 tools working. And in his last 8 games, he's 10 for 30 with 3 BB for a .394 OBP. Hopefully the power is coming soon.

Carlos Gomez
Ah, Gomez. Though he's on pace to set a team record for SB, he has walked just twice for a .279 OBP. He is often a spark, but his erratic play is just as often a liability. Physically ready for the Majors; mentally barely out of high school.

Jason Kubel
Kubel is getting every chance to prove himself an everyday player, but hasn't quite made the most of it. His 4 HR, 16 RBI and .144 IsoP are second only to Morneau, but his BA and OBP are far lower than I would have expected. Too many strikeouts (20), not enough walks (3), too many useless 1-pitch ABs (2 for 16 when he puts the first pitch in play). He needs to chill out.

Mike Lamb
Another of the many new Twins who got off to a terrible start this season, Lamb was hitting just .145 through his first 16 games. Over his last 7, though, he's hit .333, so he may be loosening up. Still waiting for his first HR.

Adam Everett
Nobody expected Everett to hit well, but .185/.214/.222 is beyond awful. On top of that, his defense hasn't been as good as advertised (3 E in 9 games). Hopefully it can all be attributed to his bad shoulder, and now that it's healed, the real Adam Everett will appear (such as he is).

Mike Redmond
With all the off-days this month, Redmond barely averaged a start per week, so his 2 for 13 start is no real reason for concern. With only 2 off-days between now and mid-June, he'll get much more regular time, and plenty of opportunities to show that he's the same steady backup he's been for the past 3 seasons.

Matt Guerrier
Guerrier didn't have a great spring, and it carried into the first couple weeks of the season. He got away with some wildness against the Angels and Royals, but the White Sox and Tigers made him pay, tagging him for 6 ER on 6 H and 2 BB in 2.2 IP. Since then, he's settled down, allowing 1 ER on 7 H and 2 BB in 8.2 IP. Keep that going.

Juan Rincon
Like most of the bullpen, Rincon got knicked early on, but since his first appearance vs. the Angels, he's allowed 3 ER on 7 H and 2 BB (1 intentional) with 9 K in 9.1 IP. He's allowed 2 solo HR in that span, which is a bit of a concern (when he was lights-out from 2003-2006 he kept the ball in the yard), but otherwise he's on the right track.

Francisco Liriano
Simply not ready to return to the Majors.

Considering that most of the team has underperformed to some extent, the Twins are very fortunate to still be in the mix of the division race. Hopefully their play will improve along with their rivals' in May.