Tuesday, July 17, 2012

Tuesday Morning Tidbits

After having their starting pitchers struggle for most of the series against the Oakland A's, the Twins made sure their pitchers didn't have to worry about giving up runs on Monday night. The Twins offense exploded for 19 runs against the Baltimore Orioles including seven runs in the first inning. This was more than enough for a rested Scott Diamond who hadn't pitched in over a week and a half. In all of this offensive explosion, it is interesting to note that the Twins only had one home run in the game and it came on a solo home run from Joe Mauer.

The Twins will hope their red hot hitting carries over to the second game of the series versus the Orioles. Zach Britton will be making his first start of the year for Baltimore and the Twins will have to try and figure out a pitcher that hasn't thrown in the big leagues since September of 2011. This could be a good thing or a bad thing for the Twins hitters so fans will just have to wait and see what tonight's contest brings.

Last week I promised readers a minor league report on Tuesday night before realizing that there was only one game for Twins affiliates that day. It was a pretty momentous occasion with Kyle Gibson taking the mound for the first time since Tommy John surgery so a full story was written about that over at Twins Daily. Tonight there is a full slate of games in the Twins farm system so make sure to check back later for what happened down on the farm. 

Willingham staying put... maybe
The trade rumors are going to continue to swirl in the next couple weeks and it seems that very few members of the Twins will be safe from the rumor mill. According to one American League executive, Josh Willingham might be the most valuable trade chip on the Twins roster but it sounds like the Twins are planning on keeping him around from the sound of things. Willingham joined the Twins as a free agent this offseason and signed a three-year deal for $21 million, which is a very good deal for the production that he has offered the team. 

As a 33-year old outfielder with limited mobility on the defensive side of the ball, Willingham might be at the peak of his value in the midst of his best offensive season. The fact that he is under contract for the next couple seasons for a very decent amount of money could mean that some teams would over pay to add him to their roster for a playoff push. The Twins seem to think that it would be best to keep Willingham around unless they are blown away by an offer from another club.

Over the course of his career, Willingham has never played more than 144 games in a season and he is on pace to play well over that amount of games in 2012. The Twins might be getting all that they can out of Willingham this year and the front office is going to have to decide when the team will be in contention again. Are the Twins going to be pushing for the playoffs in the next three years when Willingham is under contract? Or would it be better for the team to turn him into some prospects that could help the team in the future?

Target Field starting to be more home run friendly
In the third year of Target Field, it seems that batters have started to figure out what needs to be done in order to conquer the vast outfield walls. So far this season, Target Field has yielded 2.11 home runs per game which ranks right in the middle of the American League. The poor starting pitching for the Twins might be to blame for some of the recent rise in home runs but even the Twins have started to hit more bombs in their home ballpark. This is a change that could keep some players from complaining about what seemed like deep outfield fences in the first couple years that Target Field was open.

When Target Field first opened in 2010, there were only 1.43 home runs per game hit and that number ranked second worst in the entire American League. The 2011 season saw a slight rise in the number of home runs with their being 1.56 home runs per game, the third fewest in the AL. Check out Hit Tracker Online for information on every home run that has been hit at Target Field throughout the three year history of the ballpark. Those numbers could rise this week with the king of home runs at Target Field, Jim Thome, returning as a member of the Baltimore Orioles. 

Arcia cracks walk-off home run
The Rock Cats had an exciting finish to their first game of a double-header on Monday night. In a back and forth contest with the New Hampshire Fisher Cats, the game was tied in the ninth inning even though the Rock Cats had gotten out hit in the contest. The rally for the Rock Cats started with two outs in the ninth inning when Aaron Hicks hit a line drive to center field. Hicks would proceed to steal second base so the Fisher Cats pitched carefully to Chris Herrmann with first base open. After a walk to Herrmann, Oswaldo Arcia stepped to the plate with the chance to be the hero. 

Arcia worked the count in his favor by taking the first two pitches for balls before swinging at a slow breaking pitch in the dirt. The next pitch was outside again so the count moved to 3-1 and the pitcher had to put one near the plate. Arcia deposited the high fastball into the over the right field fence for a walk-off home run. It was his second home run since being called up to New Britain in June and it is his 10th home run overall on the season. At this point, Twins fans can start getting excited about what Arcia is doing in the minor leagues and he is making a push towards Target Field.

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