Monday, September 5, 2011

Minor league season coming to a head

The Twins might be out of the playoff race but there is sill some exciting baseball being played in the minor league system of the Twins as each team gets close to the conclusion of their season. The New Britain Rock Cats are only one game behind the Reading Phils for the wild card spot in the playoffs. Alex Wimmers had the fantastic culmination of a season that started as a nightmare for himself. Also, two players got the call-up to the big leagues for the first time in their careers and will be debuting with the Twins in the next couple days.

Let's take a look at some of these headlines from down on the Twins farm system.

Wimmer's tosses a 7-inning no-hitter
It is hard to believe how far Alex Wimmers has come since the beginning of the season. For those that don't remember, the first start of the year for Wimmers was horrendous. In that first outing, he did no manage to record an out and he walked in three runs. Overall, he face six batters, walked them all, and was charged for four earned runs. He threw 28 pitches and only four of them were strikes. There was obviously something wrong with the mechanics of this young pitcher.

The Twins pulled Wimmers out of minor league action and spent time working with him on some of the basics of his mechanics. During the course of the season, he slowly worked his way back to pitch single innings, then a few innings, and eventually back into the starting rotation for the Miracle.

On Saturday night, everything came together for Wimmers and the Fort Myers Miracle. The team had already won the first half of a double header with the Jupiter Hammerheads by a score of 7-0. If the teams are scheduled for a double header in the minor leagues, the games are only scheduled for seven innings. In those seven innings, Wimmers would be masterful by facing the minimum of 21 hitters and only allowing two base runners to reach on walks.

The defense behind Wimmers made some great plays to back up their pitcher's performance on the mound. Danny Rams called a great game from behind the plate and he gunned down a runner trying to steal second to end the sixth inning. Aaron Hicks provided the only offense that Wimmers would need with an RBI in the fifth. Oswaldo Arcia had to make a leaping catch against the fence for the dramatic final out of the game.

Wimmers truly came full circle since his first start of the year. With the bad news about Kyle Gibson, the Twins need some positive news from their starting pitching prospects in the minor leagues. This start from Wimmers offered a glimmer of hope at the end of a long season.

New Britain clinging to their playoff hopes
The Rock Cats have one game remaining in the season and they stand a full game behind the Reading Phils for the last playoff spot in the Eastern League. That means on the final day of the season, the Rock Cats must win their game against the Trenton Thunder and the Phils must lose their contest with the Binghamton Mets. If situation does play itself out, the two teams would be tied for the final playoff spot. This would mean the Rock Cats would host Reading in a one-game play-off game on Tuesday.

The last week of games has been back and forth for the Rock Cats. The team has not been able to string together a series of wins to propel themselves into the playoffs. The last seven days have seen the team alternate wins and losses as the playoff race has hit it's hottest point. That pattern will have to end on Monday for the Rock Cats to have any chance at making the playoffs.

At the conclusion of the team's game today, the players will either be able to celebrate on the field or get ready for some of the call-ups that could be heading their way. It would be fun to have one team in the Twins organization get to taste the playoffs. The Rock Cats will have to take care of their own business first and hope that Reading falters at some point during their game.

Hendriks, Waldrop get the call for the first time
One of the best things about following the minor league system of the Twins is hearing about the players that get called up to the big leagues for the first time in their careers. This is the direct byproduct of all of the hard work and dedication that these players have put in during their time in the Twins organization. Liam Hendriks and Kyle Waldrop have each followed a different path to get their debut and it makes their appearances that much sweeter for fans of the team.

Hendriks has been outstanding this season for the Rock Cats and the Red Wings. His performance on the field will most likely garner him the Minor League Pitcher of the Year Award from the Twins organization. This is the second year in a row that he could have won the award but an emergency appendectomy cut six weeks out of his season in 2010. The 6-foot-1 right-handed pitcher from Perth, Australia has quickly become the best pitching prospect in the higher levels of the Twins organization. He will take the mound at Target Field on Tuesday night and it will be fun to see what he can show the Twins in the last few weeks of the season.

Waldrop has a much different tale to tell when it comes to making his debut with the Twins. He could have been a six-year minor league free agent after last season but he decided to stay with the Twins. That dedication is paying off for the team and the player with Waldrop getting the call for the first time in his career. After beginning his career as a starting pitcher, a shoulder injury forced the Twins to shift Waldrop to a relief role in the last three seasons. Waldrop has the chance to prove to the Twins that he belongs in the bullpen picture for 2012.

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