Wednesday, July 31, 2013

Waitin' With the Wings: Andrew Albers

With the trade deadline coming and going, there could be some changes on the horizon with the Twins roster. These might not be immediate changes but the club is on the way to their third straight losing season and different players should be given an opportunity at the big league level. In the next couple of weeks, I will look at some of the names on the Triple-A roster that could earn a call-up before the end of the season. 

This series called "Waiting With the Wings" will profile multiple minor league players and the journey each of them has taken to get on the brink of making their big league debut. For some of these players, their path to this point has been full of plenty of ups and downs. That's one of the things that makes following the minor leagues so intriguing. There are only 25-men on a big league roster at any one given time and some men work their whole lives to get a taste of baseball's highest level.

The first profile in the "Waitin' With the Wings" series is left-handed pitcher Andrew Albers.
Player Profile
Name: Andrew Albers
Born: 10/06/1985 (27 years old)
Acquired: Minor League Free Agent (2011)
HT: 6'1"---WT: 195
2013 Stat Line: 11-4 record, 2.90 ERA, 1.21 WHIP, 112 SO, 31 BB, 124.1 IP

Andrew Albers was drafted in the 10th round of the 2008 MLB June Amateur Draft from the University of Kentucky. The San Diego Padres signed Albers and sent him to pitch with their rookie league squad in Arizona. He pitched in five games with the club for a total of seven innings but something wasn't right with his elbow. Albers had to undergo Tommy John surgery in April 2009. On his way back to the mound, he required another surgery to clean up some scar tissue. He made it back to pitching to hitters in the spring of 2010 but he was released by the Padres organization before he could make it back into a game.

The new path set out for his career would take him to independent baseball where he would pitch for Quebec in the Canadian-American Association. This was the same league where current Twins player Chris Colabello made his mark. Albers put up outstanding numbers over 40 games as he posted a 1.40 ERA and a 0.99 WHIP. He struck out 59 and walked 16 in 57.2 innings. He had made his own mark and he wanted to give affiliated baseball another chance.

To secure a spot with a club for spring training, Albers drove from Canada to Phoenix and then to Florida just to find a team to play with. In 2011, the Twins started him in extended spring training but he was quickly moved to Fort Myers and he finished the year in New Britain. Over 95.2 innings, he posted an 8-2 record with a 2.16 ERA and 80 strikeouts compared to just 14 walks. He was only asked to start seven games in the entire season and the Twins decided to change that approach for the future.

In 2012, the organization decided to shift Albers to the starting rotation on a full-time basis. This would be the first time since his Tommy John surgery where he would make more appearances as a starter than a relief pitcher. There were a few bumps along the way in his transition back to a starter. He would start 17 games at the Double-A level and he finished the year with a 3.67 ERA and a 1.26 WHIP in 103.0 innings. Some thought was given to sending him back to New Britain for the start of 2013 but he would get the opportunity at Rochester and he has made the most of it.

Albers has been the most consistent starter on what has been and up and down Rochester pitching staff. He leads the team in wins, innings pitched, strikeouts, and games started. His eleven wins make him the first Red Wings starter to reach that mark since Brian Duensing did it back in 2007. In his last ten starts, he has an 8-2 record with a 2.33 ERA and two complete game victories. There might not be much left for him to prove at the Triple-A level and the Twins might have to look at calling him up in the coming weeks if his performances continues at this level.

One thing hindering an Albers call-up is the fact that he isn't currently on the 40-man roster. If the Twins trade someone before the deadline, this could open a spot for Albers. The team could also remove some of the players on the edge of the roster that would be considered for removal from the 40-man at the end of season. Albers should at least be worth a September call-up to see what the left-hander can do against big league hitters. 

Tuesday, July 30, 2013

Twins Recent Trade Deadlines Have Been Underwhelming

For the Minnesota Twins, the last handful of trade deadlines have been mostly uneventful. This seems out of character for a team that has posted one of baseball's worst records in the last few seasons. There are different ways for a team to rebuild and the Twins were very active during last offseason by dealing away Denard Span and Ben Revere. Minnesota doesn't necessarily need to move away pieces that will still be with the club in the offseason.

That being said, it would make the most sense to say goodbye to Justin Morneau. His contract will be expiring at the end of the season and the Twins won't be in contention for the rest of the year. This would give him a chance to help out a contender and the club could go after him in free agency if they felt that was in their best interest.

Here is a look back at the moves made during the last three trade deadlines. Even though there haven't been any major moves in the last couple of years, there has been an impact on the depth of the organization. There have been ripple effects from dealing away one of the team's best catching prospects and last year's duo of players have helped the current team.
2012 Headline: Liriano dealt to White Sox for pair of players
The potential was always there with Francisco Liriano but the on-field results were spotty. Since his contract was expiring at the end of the year, it made sense for the Twins to deal him. Many fans thought the Twins should be able to get more for Liriano. Instead the club got back infielder Eduardo Escobar and pitcher Pedro Hernandez. Liriano went 3-2 with the White Sox and he posted a 5.40 ERA and a 1.52 WHIP over 11 starts. According to Baseball Reference, his time in Chicago was good enough for a 0.3 WAR.

Escobar has played 69 games over the last two seasons with the Twins. He has hit .217/.268/.303 with three home runs, two doubles, and two triples. He got plenty of playing time at the beginning of the year when the Twins were still trying to figure out their middle infield situation. He has been worth 0.3 WAR for the Twins. Henandez has started seven games and pitched in nine games for Minnesota. He has a 3-1 record with a 5.54 ERA and a 1.69 WHIP. He has added some depth to the minor league pitching staff but he probably won't have a long-term impact on the big league club.

2011 Headline: To trade or not to trade, that is the question.
There were expiring contracts like Michael Cuddyer and Jason Kubel on the 2011 squad but the team still wasn't able to make any moves before the deadline. After a brutal April and May, the Twins posted records above .500 in June and July. This might have given the front office a false sense of hope. Minnesota was only seven games under .500 in the first half of the year. At the end of July, the club had a 50-58 record and they were only seven games out of first place in the AL Central. Unfortunately, the second half of the season would be dreadful.

Fans were forced to have faith that the club would climb back into the race. This would never happen and Cuddyer and Kubel would leave the team in the offseason. There might not have been deals on the table for these corner outfielders and it is hard to know what goes on in the general manager's office. Still, it looked silly to have veteran players with expiring contracts on a club that was headed very close to a 100-loss season.

2010 Headline: Capps acquired for stretch run
In one of the most scrutinized deals in Twins history, Matt Capps was acquired from the Washington Nationals for prized catching prospect Wilson Ramos. The Twins were in the middle of another tight division race and the back end of the bullpen might have needed a little boost. Joe Nathan had suffered an elbow injury in spring training and the club had used Jon Rauch as closer for most of the first half. Adding Capps to the mix only strengthened the bullpen and he could have been a key piece if the club had gone on a lengthy run in October. As fans know, this didn't happen but the deal could have looked better with Capps closing out some games in the ALDS, ALCS, and even the World Series.

The cost for Capps was a steep one. Wilson Ramos was working his way toward the big leagues and he had even had an impressive debut in Minnesota. The Twins already had Joe Mauer entrenched behind the plate so keeping Ramos around wasn't a necessity. Since joining the Nationals, there have been some injury concerns as he only played 25 games last season and a little over 30 games in 2013. He continues to hit for power and he has posted a career .271/.334/.447 batting line in the National League. Ramos hasn't turned into the next Johnny Bench and that might be a good thing for Twins fans.

Monday, July 29, 2013

Reviewing the Span and Revere Trades

The non-waiver trade deadline is closing in quickly and it is still tough to know what the Twins will do in the coming hours. Is Justin Morneau's Twins career over? Will Glen Perkins still be the guy at the back end of the bullpen? Can the Twins afford to part with Kevin Correia or Mike Pelfrey? There could be a lot of deals in the next couple days or there could be nothing but the sounds of crickets.

During the offseason, the Twins made a lot of noise by dealing two of their starting centerfielders, Denard Span and Ben Revere. Minnesota wanted to bolster their pitching depth and shopping their team controlled outfielders seemed to bring back the biggest return. From a drafting and scouting perspective, the Twins were taking a different approach to their pitchers and this deal was supposed to be a step in the right direction.

For those that don't remember, here's a timeline of the events that lead to both players being traded. The Nationals had been trying to work out a deal to acquire Span for multiple seasons. His concussion issues in 2011 might have held up a deal. On November 29th, the time was right and he was sent to Washington for former first round pick Alex Meyer. A hard throwing right-handed pitcher, Meyer looked to have the potential of a future top of the rotation starter.

Within the next week, Terry Ryan went into Dave St. Peter's office and said there might be a chance to move Ben Revere. The Phillies had been interested in the newly named starting center fielder for the Twins. It turned out to be a deal the Twins couldn't refuse. Revere headed to Philadelphia and in return Vance Worley and Trevor May headed back to Minnesota. Worley was a young pitcher with some big league experience and May was a hard throwing minor league pitcher with some up side.

All MLB teams have played over 100 games, which means their schedule is close to 65% complete. Let's look back at the parties involved in these offseason deals and see what the outcomes have been.

Denard Span, CF - Washington Nationals
MLB Stat Summary (99 Games): .266/.319/.370, 2 HR, 21 2B, 7 3B, 10 SB, 0.9 WAR
Things haven't gotten off to a great start for Span in Washington DC. He is a career .282 hitter with a .352 OBP but he has struggled to reach those marks this season. The Nationals have even moved him out of the leadoff spot in their batting order because their team needed some kind of spark. Entering this past weekend, Span had yet to hit a home run in a Nationals uniform. He has now hit long balls in back-to-back games and maybe he can get things going on the offensive side of the ball. Overall, the transition to the National League has been a little rough and the Nats had to have been hoping for more from Span.

Ben Revere, CF - Philadelphia Phillies
MLB Stat Summary (88 Games): .305/.338/.352, 9 2B, 3 3B, 22 SB, 0.7 WAR
Revere is currently on the disabled list after he broke his right foot from a foul ball. This was terrible news for the Phillies since Revere was in the midst of quite the hot streak at the plate. Over his last 15 games before the injury, Revere was hitting .431/.438/.538 with six extra-base hits. He was also in the middle of a 10-game hitting streak. It was looking like the Phillies were getting some of the best baseball out of Revere and now he will be on the bench for 6-8 weeks.

Vance Worley, RHP - Minnesota Twins/Rochester Red Wings
MLB Stat Summary (10 Games): 1-5 record, 7.21 ERA, 48.2 IP, 25 SO, 15 BB, 1.99 WHIP 
MiLB Stat Summary (9 Games): 6-3 record, 3.88 ERA, 58.0 IP, 34 SO, 17 BB, 1.41 WHIP
Worley was suppose to be able to stick in the Twins rotation for a couple seasons while some of the younger pitching prospects made their way to the big leagues. This didn't work out the greatest as he struggled mightily with the transition from the National League to the American League. Things have gone better for him in Rochester but this should be expected from someone with over 300 MLB innings. There may be a chance in the second half for Worley to get back to the big leagues but he has been the biggest disappointment out of all of the trade pieces.

Alex Meyer, RHP - New Britain Rock Cats
MiLB Stat Summary (11 Games): 3-3 record, 3.69 ERA, 61.0 IP, 73 SO, 27 BB, 1.31 WHIP
Meyer was off to a decent start to the year but a shoulder injury has held him off the field since June 1st. The Twins are being extra careful with Meyer since he could be a valuable part of the team's future. In many of the mid-season prospect ranking that have been released, Meyer has consistently been in the top-100 for all of baseball. A couple of weeks ago, it sounded like Meyer was getting close to being back on the mound. The minor league season ends in early September and the Twins are hopeful that Meyer will be able to get some more innings under his belt before that time.

Trevor May, RHP - New Britain Rock Cats
MiLB Stat Summary (20 Games): 6-7 record, 4.07 ERA, 112.2 IP, 113 SO, 50 BB, 1.40 WHIP
May has been as advertised from his time in the Phillies organization. There are going to be some strikeouts from this power-throwing right-hander but there is also some control problems. He is averaging 2.5 walks per start and this translates to 4.0 BB/9. That total would match a minor league low for May so he is making strides in the right direction. He has also stayed healthy and on the field and this can hold value to an organization. It will be interesting to see how many innings the Twins let May pitch before the end of the year. The last two years he has been around 150 IP.

Friday, July 26, 2013

Twins Minor League Report (7/26): Albers Does It Again

The story of Miguel Sano's benching after a slow home run trot has certainly taken on a life of it's own. There have been multiple websites and media outlets that have picked up the tale. He wouldn't play again on Friday and it will be interesting to see when he gets back on the field. He can be a difference maker to the Rock Cats offense and the team wants to try and get back to the .500 mark. Sano can help to make that happen.

Sano might be getting a lot of the attention for the Twins farm system but the guys actually on the field need some support as well. There were some great performances through multiple levels of the farm system on Friday night. It all starts in Triple-A with the man on the mound...

Rochester Red Wings 5, Norfolk Tides 2
Box Score
For the second time in his career, Andrew Albers tossed a complete game shutout and it helped propel the Red Wings into sole possession of the Wild Card lead. Before a leadoff homer by Luis Exposito in the 7th inning, Albers had stretched his scoreless streak to 13.1 innings and his earned run-less streak to 18.1 innings. He is the first Red Wings starter to win 11 games since Brian Duensing in 2007.

Oswaldo Arcia continued his hot hitting since being sent down. He hit his third home run in eight games and he has hit safely in seven of those contests. He finished the night 2-for-4 and he is batting .478 (11-23) with three home runs, two doubles, and six RBI since his demotion.

Deibinson Romero was in the middle of quite the run at the plate as well. He reached base safely in eight straight at-bats until a flyout in his last at-bat on Friday. During that streak, he went 5-for-5 with a home run, a double, and three walks. He was 3-for-4 on Friday with three singles.

New Britain Rock Cats 2, Reading Fightin' Phillies 7
Box Score
The Rock Cats out hit the Phillies on this night but a victory was still well out of reach. New Britain left nine men on base and the team went 2-for-6 with runners in scoring position. The Phillies were also able to pound out three home runs against the Rock Cats pitching staff while New Britain only had one extra base hit.

Miguel Sano was out of the line-up again after he "pimped" a home run earlier this week. This left the offense in the hands of the other men on the team. Danny Santana collected his sixth triple of the season. Eddie Rosario and Adam Pettersen each had two hits.

Pat Dean took the loss in this game after throwing seven innings and giving up four runs. He struck out eight and walked one but he did give up two home runs. It was the third straight loss for Dean but it was the first time he has pitched more than four innings in his last three starts.

Fort Myers Miracle 7, Clearwater Threshers 3
Box Score
Byron Buxton showed why he considered by many to be the best prospect in baseball. He belted two triples on the way to 2-for-3 night at the plate. He scored a run and drove in two runners. Anderlin Mejia also helped out the offense and extended his hitting streak to 14-games. The bottom three in the Miracle batting order provided some offensive punch. J.D. Williams, Andy Leer, and Levi Michael each had a double and a run batted in.

Jason Wheeler picked up his eighth win of the season by tossing five innings and allowing three runs on seven hits. Wheeler got into a little trouble in the sixth as he hit a batter and gave up three straight hits. The Threshers scored two runs and the bullpen took over from there. Nelvin Fuentes and Tyler Jones pitched four shutout innings to close the door on another Miracle victory.

Cedar Rapids Kernels 6, Peoria Chiefs 2
Box Score
The Kernels used a six-run seventh inning to slip past the Chiefs on Wednesday night. It took awhile for the offense to wake up as the club had one hit through six frames. Niko Goodrum and Jorge Polanco led off the inning with back-to-back doubles. Adam Walker hit a sac fly to tie the game. Eventually, Joel Licon hit a two-out double to plate two more runs. Jonathan Murphy would cap the big inning with a two-run single.

Kernels starter Brett Lee went five innings and allowed one earned run on six hits. He walked one and struck out four. Tim Shibuya earned the victory in relief by throwing two innings and giving up one hit with three strikeouts. It was the first victory of the year for Shibuya since he moved up from Elizabethton. David Hurlbut pitched two hitless innings to end the game.

Elizabethton Twins 1, Johnson City 3
Box Score
Hein Robb did his best to keep the E-Twins in this game but the offense wasn't there to back him up. He pitched into the eighth inning for the first time all season by scattering eight hits and three earned runs. He struck out eight batters and walked one but two home runs were tough to overcome. Andre Martinez recored the other two outs of the game on strikeouts.

The E-Twins were held to five hits and the team struck out nine times. Rory Rhodes led the offense with a 2-for-4 night after being held hitless in his last four games. Stuart Turner, Romy Jimenez, and Tanner Vavra added the other hits of the game but they were all singles. Six runners were left on base and the team only batted with a runner in scoring position four times.

GCL Twins 3, GCL Red Sox 7
Box Score
Jonathan Hinojosa was the lone member of the Twins to collect two hits in this game. He went 2-for-4 with a double and two RBI. Engelb Vielma scored two runs out of the leadoff spot. Alex Swim and Joel Polanco each added their fourth doubles of the season.

Plenty of pitchers saw action in this game. Leonel Zazueta started and went three innings by allowing one run on three hits. Luke Bard pitched in relief and he was only asked to get the first two outs of the fourth inning. Brandon Easton took his third loss of the season by giving up four runs on five hits in a little over an inning of work. Fernando Romero had some control issues as he walked four men over 2.2 innings.

Talk to Contact: Episode 46

Episode 46 of the Twins baseball podcast, Talk To Contact (@TalkToContact), is now available for download viaiTunes or by clicking here.
Clete Thomas, Oswaldo Arcia, Jeremy Guthrie
This week Eric's brother returns from a long journey at sea with the US Coast Guard and Eric and I clap for him. We talk about Clete Thomas, Drew Butera (known fondly to us as the Boat Anchor), and we drink way too many beers.

This might be the most enjoyable show I have ever recorded.

80 minutes of bafoonery.

You can follow me on Twitter (@NoDakTwinsFan) or read my writing at NoDakTwinsFan. You can follow Paul on Twitter (@BaseballPirate) or read his writing at Puckett’s Pond. And of course, you can find Eric on Twitter (@ERolfPleiss) and read his writing at Knuckleballs!

Wednesday, July 24, 2013

Twins Minor League Report (7/24): Vargas Saves the Day

Since the Twins were playing on the West Coast, their afternoon game with the Angels went into the early evening in the Central time zone. Minnesota won the first two games of the series before things got a little dicey on Wednesday. Jared Weaver looked excellent on the mound but a bad infield fly call might have cost the Twins a chance to sweep the Angels.

With Joe Mauer on paternity leave for three days, Drew Butera was called up from Rochester. He has spent the entire season at Rochester where he is hitting .215/.247/.316 in 86 plate appearances. For a 29-year old with close to 500 MLB at-bats, these totals aren't very good. To take the place of Butera on Rochester's roster, Jario Rodriguez was moved up from Cedar Rapids.

There were plenty of sights and sounds on Wednesday so let's go down on the pond for all of the action.

Rochester Red Wings 6, Lehigh Valley IronPigs 2
Box Score
A wild bottom of the eighth inning helped Rochester to separate themselves from the IronPigs. Three passed balls and one wild pitch resulted in five runs. July has been a very good month for the Red Wings as they are 14-7 since the calendar turned from June. The club is also a season high four games over the .500 mark.

One of the hottest relief pitchers in the Twins system has been Edgar Ibarra. In his last 22 innings between New Britain and Rochester, he has not allowed an earned run. The last earned run he allowed was back on May 21st at the Double-A level. He was credited with his first Triple-A victory in this game after recording the last five outs. PJ Walters went 7.1 innings and allowed two runs on six hits with six strikeouts.

Chris Parmelee hit his first home run since being sent back to Rochester. Oswaldo Arcia also helped the offense by going 1-for-3 with a double and an RBI. The Red Wings only managed four hits but all of the wild pitching from the IronPigs bullpen helped the team to come out on the right side of this game.

New Britain Rock Cats 1, Portland Sea Dogs 3
Box Score
For the first time in three days, Miguel Sano didn't hit a home run for the Rock Cats. He didn't really get the opportunity to hit as he was out of the line-up for the first time since he left the team for the MLB Futures Game. With their power hitting third baseman out of the line-up, New Britain had a tough time getting the offense off the ground.

Josmil Pinto continued his tremendous season with another multi-hit game. He provided the most offensive punch in the line-up by going 2-for-4 with a double and an RBI. Daniel Ortiz and Pinto are tied for the team lead with 23 doubles. Danny Santana went 1-for-3 with a run scored and a walk.

On the mound, New Britain only needed one pitcher for the entire game. Virgil Vasquez threw all nine innings while giving up three runs on seven hits. He struck out eight and only walked one. It was his second complete game since joining the Rock Cats and both of them have come against the Sea Dogs.

Fort Myers Miracle 3, Brevard County Manatees 2 (11 innings)
Box Score
It took a couple of big hits from Kennys Vargas and Mike Kvasnicka to help the Miracle to stage a late inning comeback. In the ninth inning with the Miracle down a run, Vargas launched his 15th home run of the season to tie the game. Kvasnicka would rope an RBI single in the top of the 11th inning to plate the winning run. It was his third hit of the night.

Adrian Salcedo picked up his fifth win of the season in relief. He had to pitch around an error in the 11th inning. Overall, he threw both extra innings without allowing a hit or a run. Matt Tomshaw had a good start for the Miracle as he tossed seven innings of two-run ball. He struck out six and walked one but he wouldn't figure into the decision.

Byron Buxton went 2-for-4 with a walk and two strikeouts. Buxton was matched in the hits department by Aderlin Mejia. He finished the night 2-for-3 with two walks and a run scored. Dalton Hicks had his first double at the High-A level and his 32nd double for the season.

Cedar Rapids Kernels 7, Peoria Chiefs 8 (10 Innings)
Box Score
Christian Powell ran into some rough moments in the early going of this game. All nine Chiefs batters came to the plate in the first inning but he was able to limit the damage to three runs. He wouldn't make it too deep into the game on the mound. He was pulled after 4.2 innings and giving up five runs on eight hits. His five walks really hurt him.

Adam Walker continued his hot hitting as he had three hits for the second consecutive night. He is in the midst of a six game hitting streak and he is batting .340 in his last 10 games. Mike Gonzales hit his first home run for the Kernels and he is 5-for-12 since joining the team. Jorge Polanco had multiple hits for the third straight game including his 25th double.

Elizabethton Twins 2, Kingsport Mets 3
Box Score
The E-Twins did their best to come back and tie the game in the top of the ninth inning but the Mets found a way to push across a walk-off run in the bottom half of the frame. Mitch Garver had two hits including his 2nd home run of the season. It was the only extra-base hit for the Twins. Stuart Turner and Carlos Avila each had two hits.

Josh Burris pitched 2.2 innings as the starter but there were some control issues. He allowed six walks while he did limit the Mets to three hits and one earned run. Brandon Bixler threw the most frames as he went 3.1 innings and didn't allow a run. Ethan Mildren got into trouble in the bottom of the ninth and he given his first professional loss.

GCL Twins 3, GCL Orioles 1
Box Score
The GCL Twins used a balanced offensive approach to win a close game with the GCL Orioles. Six of the nine starters for the Twins ended the game with a hit. Joel Polanco knocked in a run with his third double of the year. Jorge Fernandez hit a solo home run in the 7th inning. Overall, the team went 1-for-7 with runners in scoring position so there were some opportunities that were missed.

The pitching staff for the GCL Twins didn't allow an earned run. Sam Gibbons started the game and pitched four strong innings. He limited the Orioles to two hits and one unearned run. There were some control problems as he walked four men and had a wild pitch. Lewis Thorpe earned his first professional win by throwing two shutout innings and striking out three men.

Joe Mauer welcomes twin girls

The Royal baby watch took over most of the media coverage in the last week but the Twins celebrated their own important birth on Wednesday morning. Joe Mauer and his wife, Maddie, welcomed twin girls into the world. Their daughters were given the names Emily and Maren.

The Twins were a little early as their due date wasn't until August 31st. Most twins arrive early so Joe Mauer had to be quick on his feet to get back to Minnesota. Mauer was suppose to be in the Twins line-up on Tuesday evening but he was removed at the last minute since his wife's water had broken.

Twins fans won't be able to dream of a future Mauer batting in the line-up at Target Field. Maybe Joe and Maddie can shoot for having a boy on their next baby making session. For now, congrats goes out to the Mauer's on their first children. Maybe they can be stud softball players?

Tuesday, July 23, 2013

Twins Minor League Report (7/23): Sano, Buxton homer

The second half of the minor league season is well under way. Some of the Twins affiliates are trying to find their way into the playoff race. A few of the farm teams are trying to fight through some injuries and keep players on the field. It will be an interesting couple of months leading up to the playoffs.

Earlier on Tuesday, a roster move had to be made to fit Nick Blackburn into the rotation for Rochester. His promotion from Double-A meant another pitcher had to go the opposite direction. LHP Blake Martin made the trek from the International League back to the Eastern League. In 12 games, he had a 4.02 ERA and 25 strikeouts.

Let's see how Blackburn did in his first start back at Triple-A. Plus there were some fireworks from Sano and Buxton on this night.

Rochester Red Wings 1, Lehigh Valley IronPigs 8
Box Score
Nick Blackburn made his 2013 debut at Triple-A and things went rocky to say the least. He gave up six earned runs off of 10 hits and he barely made it through five innings. It was the most runs he has ever allowed in his 32 starts for the Red Wings. It was the first time the IronPigs had won at Frontier Field since August of last season.

An eighth inning double by Chris Parmelee scored the lone run of the game. On the night, Parmelee went 2-for-3 with that double and an RBI. Oswaldo Arcia had been ripping the cover off the ball since being demoted before the All-Star break. He had gone 7-for-11 with two home runs but he was pulled in the second inning tonight after going 0-1 with a strike out.

New Britain Rock Cats 7, Portland Sea Dogs 8
Box Score
The Rock Cats got out to an early 5-0 lead after multiple run innings in the first and second. Portland came back with a big five-run top of the fourth to tie the game. This would turn into a battle of the bullpens and the Sea Dogs had a little more bark in them.

Miguel Sano continued to be hot as he hit a home run for the second consecutive night. He also has homered in four of his last six games. He smacked a double in the earlier innings to help him finish 2-for-4 with two RBI. Josmil Pinto added his 14th home run of the season, a two-run shot.

Former MLB pitcher Kyle Davies made his Rock Cats debut on the mound. He got knocked around for nine hits and five earned runs in 3.1 innings. On a more positive note, he did strikeout six batters and he didn't give up any walks.

Fort Myers Miracle 4, Brevard County Manatees 10
Box Score
Byron Buxton hit a home run, legged out a triple, and scored three runs but it still wasn't enough. It was the first over-the-wall home run for Buxton at this level. Overall, Buxton went 3-for-4 and he added his fourth stolen base at this level. Dalton Hicks, Matt Koch, and Stephen Wickens all had two-hit games but none were for extra-bases.

Miracle starter Taylor Rogers had a tough time getting out of the middle innings. The Manatees plated six runs in the fourth and fifth frames including one inning where eight batters made it to the plate. He went five innings and gave up six runs on eight hits with three strikeouts. Chad Rodgers got pounded for four runs in his one inning of relief work.

Elizabethton Twins 4, Kingsport Mets 5
Box Score
The E-Twins did their best to come back in this game by scoring four runs in the eighth inning to take a one run lead. Unfortunately, the Mets had different plans as they would storm back to score two runs in the bottom of the ninth and come out victorious.

Romy Jimenez and Javier Pimentel both went 2-for-4 with a double. It was the seventh double of the year for Pimentel. Zach Granite also had two hits and an RBI. Starter Felix Jorge went five innings and gave up three runs on seven hits with two strikeouts. Brandon Peterson was saddled with the loss after giving up both runs in the bottom of the ninth.

GCL Twins 1, GCL Rays 3
Box Score
Four defensive errors didn't help the GCL Twins on this day. Only one earned run was scored by the GCL Rays and that made the difference in the final score. Jonatan Hinojosa had two fielding errors at shortstop, second baseman Will Hurt had a throwing error, and first baseman Chad Christensen added an error on a pickoff. Defensive mistakes will haunt a team.

Hurt tried to make up for his throwing error with a good day at the plate. He went 3-for-4 with a run scored. Amaurys Minier had the only extra-base hit, his fourth double of the season. Damian Defrank started the game and scattered three hits over four shut-out innings. He struck out four and walked one. Stephen Gonsalves also pitched 3.1 scoreless innings in relief.

Monday, July 22, 2013

What's wrong with Scott Diamond?

Something isn't right with Scott Diamond.

The man who was supposed to be a calming force in the Twins starting rotation has become a punching bag for opponents. He hasn't won a game since June 20th and he gave up four runs in a little over five innings in that start. A sophomore slump has hit Diamond hard and it's tough to know what the Twins can do about it.

Since June 9th, Diamond has struggled mightily on mound. In his eight starts during that stretch, he has failed to make it into the fifth inning in four of them including the last three. He's given up 30 earned runs in 40 innings for a robust 6.75 ERA. Overall, opponents are hitting .312/.369/.547 against him and he has given up more than a home run per game in his last eight starts. These numbers are tough to look at but it might have been easy to predict that there would be some struggles.

There were signs of something wrong at the end of last season. Diamond was terrific in the first half by posting a 7-3 record and a 2.62 ERA with a 1.18 WHIP. There was some talk of Diamond making the All-Star team because of his strong pitching performance. The second half didn't go so smooth. His record dropped to 5-6 and his ERA expanded to 4.31 while his WHIP went up to 1.30. The end of his rookie season couldn't get there fast enough.

One interesting statistic to look at for Diamond is his batting average on balls in play (BABIP). If you aren't familiar with this statistic, here is a brief introduction lesson. BABIP tells us how many hits a pitcher is giving up when the ball is put in play. In this case, "put in play" means the ball stays fair and in the ballpark, rather than the play resulting in a walk, home run, hit by pitch or error.

Last season, opponents had a .292 BABIP versus Diamond. This mark ranked him in the top 20 in the American League. So far this season, Diamond's BABIP has risen to .319, the 43rd best mark in the AL. The only qualified AL pitchers with a worse BABIP are Bud Norris, Corey Kluber, Justin Verlander, and Joe Blanton. Most fans might think it's good for a pitcher to be on the same leader board as Verlander but that's not the case in this situation.

Another area where Diamond has struggled has been his ability to limit damage when runners get on base. In 2012, Diamond was able to leave runners on base at a 73.3% mark. This ranked him 16th among AL starting pitchers and ahead of players like CC Sabathia, Yu Darvish, and Matt Moore. So far in 2013, Diamond has the third worst LOB% in the AL at 67.4%. The only pitchers with a worse mark are Jerome Williams and Rick Porcello.

Let's take a closer look at the last two starts from Diamond and try and find where some of his struggles might have originated. Take a look at the strikezone plot map from Diamond's start on Sunday versus Cleveland. As you can see, there are a lot of pitches in the zone and a lot of balls left up. This looks a lot different compared to his previous start in New York.
Against the Yankees, Diamond seemed to have a different game plan or he was continuing to struggle with his control. Most of his pitches were well out of the zone and it's hard to believe he got anyone out with this kind of control. He might have been trying to avoid batter's hitting it into the short porch at Yankee Stadium but this might also show why he was only able to last 3.1 innings.
The Twins need to do something with Diamond. A trip to Rochester might be in order to get his head and control back where it needs to be. Fellow Canadian left-hander Andrew Albers also started on Sunday for the Rochester Red Wings. It could make sense to flip-flop these two men for their next few starts. Albers has a 10-4 record on the season and a 2.97 ERA.

Diamond needs to get fixed and this might be the right time for him to be demoted.

Talk to Contact: Episode 45

Episode 45 of the Twins baseball podcast, Talk To Contact (@TalkToContact), is now available for download via iTunes or by clicking here.
This week on the podcast, Cody and Eric break down the Twins’ recent series wins against New York and Cleveland, recap their 1st half Twins MVPs, and contemplate the future of Ron Gardenhire.

Down on the Pond they talk about Low-A Cedar Rapids Kernels’ RHP Dallas Gallant, and they even try and give away a “Magic in Minneosta” DVD, listen up for details.

To close out the show the two talk Beers from Around the World and then go Around the League, finishing with a couple of BOLD predicitons for the 2nd half.

68 minutes of internet money!

You can follow me on Twitter (@NoDakTwinsFan) or read my writing at NoDakTwinsFan. You can follow Paul on Twitter (@BaseballPirate) or read his writing at Puckett’s Pond. And of course, you can find Eric on Twitter (@ERolfPleiss) and read his writing at Knuckleballs!

Thursday, July 18, 2013

Handing Out Twins First Half Awards

At the beginning of the season, I devoted an entire week to make predictions about the upcoming MLB season. These predictions can be fun especially with all of the surprises that surround the game of baseball. I had the Toronto Blue Jays winning the AL East... oops. There are going to be a few swings and misses.

With the All-Star Game over and done with, let's take a look back at the first half of the season and see who's in line for each of NoDak Twins Fan's end of the season awards. There are some easy choices and some tough choices at this point in the season. Luckily there is the entire second half for the best players to separate themselves.

Each of the awards below has been named after someone that optimizes that award for the Twins organization. There are some legends from the past and even one current MLB player but all have had a significant place in Twins lore.
Harmon Killebrew MVP: Joe Mauer, C
Previous Winners: Josh Willingham (2012), Michael Cuddyer (2011), Joe Mauer (2010)
Josh Willingham has been banged up. Justin Morneau hasn't been hitting for much power. This leaves one clear option for the first half MVP. Joe Mauer was selected as the starting catcher for the American League All-Stars and he is one of the best hitters in baseball. His 4.0 WAR ranks him 9th among position players and he is the highest catcher on the list. On the Twins, the next closest WAR marks are Pedro Florimon (2.0 WAR) and Brian Dozier (1.7 WAR). Barring any injury to the face of the franchise, Mauer should walk away with the team's MVP award.

Johan Santana Pitcher of the Year: Glen Perkins, LHP
Previous Winners: Scott Diamond (2012), Carl Pavano (2011), Carl Pavano (2010)
The starters for the Twins have been rough to watch and this makes it hard to consider one of them as the top pitcher. There is a lot of baseball left in the season so someone like Sam Deduno or Kyle Gibson could continue to pitch well and take over this award. For now, the first half honor goes to Glen Perkins. He got elected to his first All-Star Game and he has the highest WAR among the pitchers on the staff. His 21 saves are the 9th most in baseball and he has posted a very good 0.808 WHIP. If the Twins find the right deal, Perkins could end up on another team before the deadline.

Rick Aguilera Relief Pitcher of the Year: Glen Perkins, LHP
Previous Winners: Jared Burton (2012), Glen Perkins (2011), Jesse Crain (2010)
One of the biggest positives this year has been the bullpen. There have been surprise performances from players like Casey Fien and Caleb Thielbar. After a breakout season in 2012, Jared Burton has run into some rough times this year. It shouldn't be any surprise with Perkins being named the winner for the first half. He has been consistent at the back end of the bullpen and fans have grown accustom to "Perk" being a shutdown closer. The lone player with a chance to catch Perkins might be Thielbar especially with the way he has thrown the ball in the last month. For now, Perkins gets the nod as the best bullpen arm for the Twins.

Rod Carew Rookie of the Year: Oswaldo Arcia, OF
Previous Winners: Scott Diamond (2012), Ben Revere (2011), Danny Valencia (2010)
This could turn out to be a pretty good two-man battle but the first half award has to go to Arcia. Hicks was the logical choice at the beginning of the year since he had earned the starting job in center field. A horrific start to the season left some wondering if Hicks would be sent to Rochester. He suffered an injury that cost him a couple weeks and he has been on fire as of late. This could mean he has a chance to catch Arcia by the end of the year. A couple of weeks ago, it looked like Arcia might have a chance to be the AL Rookie of the Year. Things turned south quickly and he now finds himself at Triple-A. He is still near the top of the leader board in a variety of categories for rookies so he gets my vote.

Now it's your turn. What would your ballot look like for the top awards in the Twins organization for 2013? Leave a COMMENT and start the debate.

Wednesday, July 17, 2013

Twins Minor League Report (7/17): Rosario Sizzles

Much like the Major League squads, the best players at the Triple-A level gathered for their All-Star Game on Wednesday evening. The Rochester Red Wings had two representatives, Chris Colabello and Andrew Albers, and they both played roles in different parts of the game.

Colabello was the starting first baseman for the International League team and he batted in the third spot in the order. After not hitting any home runs in the Triple-A Home Run Derby, Colabello looked to make some noise with his bat. He actually got the scoring started with an RBI double in the top of the first. He would end the night going 1-for-3.

Albers pitched the fourth inning and things didn't go exactly perfect. The first two batters reached on singles and a passed ball moved both men into scoring position. He coaxed a ground out for the next batter but that meant a run crossed the plate. With a runner on third and one out, Albers struck out the next batter for out number two. The final batter of the inning was able to hit a ball hard but it was right at the center fielder.

New Britain Rock Cats 4, Harrisburg Senators 3
Box Score
The Rock Cats pounded out 11 hits to squeak out a one-run victory over the Senators. The win brought New Britain to within two games of the .500 mark. Since the All-Star Game last Wednesday, the club has posted a 3-4 record. Tomorrow marks the start of an important eight-game home stand over the next seven days.

DJ Baxendale did admirably on the mound by pitching 5.2 innings and limiting the Senators to two runs. He gave up five hits and struck out two batters while walking one. After starting the year 7-0 with the Miracle, his victory on Wednesday put him with a 3-3 record at Double-A. He's allowed two earned runs or less in his last three outings.

Eddie Rosario has been on a tear lately. He's in the midst of a seven-game hit streak and in his last 10 games he is batting .366/.409/.561. In this afternoon's contest, he went 3-for-5 with half of the team's RBI. Rosario is hitting .306/.374/.494 with 12 extra-base hits in his 31 games since being promoted.

Danny Santana did a good job of setting the table ahead of Rosario. He went 2-for-4 in the game with his 16th double and he scored two runs out of the leadoff spot. Santana has a nice five-game hitting streak of his own so he and Rosario are doing a fine job at the top of the line-up.

Fort Myers Miracle 6, Dunedin Blue Jays 4
Box Score
Kennys Vargas came up with a big two-run double in the top of the ninth inning to stop the Miracle's losing streak at six games. Recent games had Vargas deep in a 1-for-18 slump and he had already gone 0-2 in the game with two strikeouts. The big hit from Vargas wasn't the only story line to follow from this game.

DJ Hicks, in his Florida State League debut, got the Miracle on the board early with a two-run home run. Byron Buxton helped to add to the lead when he hit a flyball that got lost in the lights. He would end up at third base and he eventually came in to score. Aderlin Mejia, Matt Koch, and JD Williams each added two hits.

Tyler Duffey was excellent on the mound but he ended up with a no decision. He lasted seven innings shutout innings while allowing one hit. Throughout the game, he had to work around four walks but it helped that he was able to strikeout seven men.

The Miracle had been winning in the eighth inning before a rough night from Nelvin Fuentes. He gave up four hits including the go-ahead grand slam. After the Vargas double, Zach Jones game in to earn his tenth save of the season with only one base runner reaching on a walk.

Cedar Rapids Kernels 7, Lake County Captains 6
Box Score 
This game would continue long into the night as neither club could gain the advantage. Both teams managed big four run innings in the early portion of the game before reaching a stalemate in extra-innings.

Christian Powell was on the mound to start the game and he made it through five innings after a rough fourth. Overall, he gave up five runs on seven hits including two long balls. He wouldn't be around for the end of this game as it turned into a battle of the bullpens. Dallas Gallant was asked to record five outs and he did so by striking out all five of those men. There were some wild moments in between as he had a couple of wild pitches and base runners were on in both frames that he worked.

David Hurlbut also struck out five batters and he had to come into a tough situation with a runner at third base. One unearned run was scored against him but he only allowed one hit in over two innings of work. The Kernels struck out 19 men with the help of two strikeouts apiece for Alex Muren and Tim Shibuya in the last two innings.

Jorge Polanco helped to stop what seemed like an endless game. His RBI single in the top of the 12th inning was the first run for the Kernels since the sixth inning. Earlier in the game Jeremias Pineda hit his second home run of the year, a three-run shot. He ended the night 3-for-5 with four runs scored.

GCL Twins 3, GCL Rays 4
Box Score
The bullpen for the GCL Twins gave up three runs in the final three innings to cough up the lead. The Rays took an early lead by scoring in the bottom of the first. The Twins would come back and score three runs in the fourth and fifth frames to take back the lead. Unfortunately, it wouldn't last and the team dropped one game under .500 and 2.5 games out of first place.

Zach Larson powered the offense with two hits including his fourth home run of the year. Chad Christensen had the only other extra-base hit with a triple and he would come around to score. Alex Swim has a five-game hitting streak after going 2-for-4 with an RBI.

Alex Wimmers continued his comeback from Tommy John surgery. He pitched two innings and gave up one earned run. He was able to strikeout three batters but he did walk a couple of men. Stephen Gonsalves tossed three innings, struck out three, and gave up his first run of the year. Daniel Sattler was charged with the loss after giving up two runs on four hits in one inning.

Tuesday, July 16, 2013

What does the Twins roster shake-up mean?

The Twins needed to make some kind of change during the All-Star break because the team scuffled in the week's leading up to the Mid-Summer Classic. There was going to be some players sent packing to Rochester and some fresh faces on the Twins roster. It had to happen and there were going to be some surprising names that would come up in the discussion for demotion.

There is pressure on multiple people in the Twins organization to find a way to be respectable in 2013. Ron Gardenhire is in the last year of his contract and he needs to show the organization something so they will renew his contract for next year. Terry Ryan had a hand in putting together this roster and he needs to see some of the talent translated onto the field.

Coming out of the All-Star break there will be some new names on the bench and in the line-up. Maybe these new faces will help the team to win a few more games. Overall, this wasn't a team that was going to be fighting for a World Series crown so all of their moves need to be focused on the future.

Here is a look at each of the players that was demoted and what the future might hold for each of them.

Oswaldo Arcia
Season (59 Games): .257/.317/.408, 6 HR, 11 2B, 25 RBI, 63 SO
Last Month (22 Games): .262/.319/.676, 2 HR, 2 2B, 10 RBI, 26 SO
The Future: Just a few weeks ago, it looked like Arcia was one of the front-runners for the American League Rookie of the Year Award. A lot has changed in the last couple weeks. Over that time, he hit .108/.132/.108 with 16 strikeouts in 37 at-bats. There was no power from Arcia and one had to wonder if there was some kind of injury bothering him or maybe he was embarrassed about taking a pop-fly to the face. He is too valuable to the club to be at the big league level and not getting consistent at-bats. Something had to be done to get him focused in at the plate.

Arcia is still only 22-years old and he only has a little over 100 plate appearances at the Triple-A level. It might be good for him to get a month or so in the minors. This can give him a chance to get his head back on straight because the Twins need him for the next few years. Chris Herrmann will get some of the at-bats vacated by Arcia and he figures to also be in the Twins rebuilding plans. This gives the club a chance to see a little more of Herrmann at the big league level. Arcia's power hitting ability should be a staple in the Twins line-up as the team tries to rebuild but something just wasn't right going into the All-Star break.

Eduardo Escobar
Season (55 Games): .214/.268/.328, 3 HR, 2 2B, 9 RBI, 23 SO
Last Month (11 Games): .120/.154/.240, 1 HR, 0 2B, 1 RBI, 7 SO
The Future: Escobar surprised a lot of people with his performance in the first month of the season. He wasn't an everyday starter but he hit .378/.395/.541 with three extra-base hits in 38 plate appearances. Minnesota has struggled at different points of the first half to find production from the shortstop role. Pedro Florimon had a rough start to the season and Escobar did a decent job filling in when he was asked to do so.

The Twins are basically swapping out the 24-year old Escobar for 33-year old infielder Doug Bernier. In 92 games for Rochester, Bernier was hitting .295/.370/.407 with 15 doubles. It seems like there is more of a chance for Escobar to have a long-term role as a utility man for the Twins. He is younger than Bernier by almost a decade but age didn't stop the Twins from making the move. This move might allow Escobar to get more playing time at Rochester and then the Twins can see where he fits into their plans. Now the Twins will have aging veterans Jamey Carroll and Bernier as their back-up infielders. Maybe they can swap "back in my day" stories on the bench.

Chris Parmelee
Season (83 Games): .223/.303/.372, 8 HR, 12 2B, 20 RBI, 66 SO
Last Month (22 Games): .222/.306/.444, 3 HR, 5 2B, 6 RBI, 20 SO
The Future: This was suppose to be a make it or break it season for Parmelee. Things aren't really working out in his favor in 2013. He has struggled to make consistent contact at the plate and the power he showed in the minors hasn't translated to the big leagues. Some of his struggles might be from the fact he is playing most of his games in the outfield after being used more as a first baseman in the upper levels of the minors. The Twins still gave him plenty of time to figure out his position and some of his challenges in the batter's box. Maybe a couple weeks at Triple-A will wake up his swing since he had an OPS of 1.102 last season in Rochester.

Since it seems likely for Justin Morneau to be in a different uniform by the end of the month, one would think Parmelee could be the man to take over first base. It now seems more likely for Chris Colabello to be the man to get more playing time at the corner infield spot. Colabello got a brief taste of the big leagues earlier this year but he continues to be a force in the minors. Last year he was one of the top five players in the Eastern League and this season he is in the discussion for the best player in the International League. His batting line of .354/.432/.652 with 24 home runs and 24 doubles look like video game numbers.

Monday, July 15, 2013

Twins Best One-Time All-Stars

Sporting News had an interesting article up in the middle of last week, which looked at 20 memorable one-time All-Stars. There are going to be guys every season who make the All-Star team and won't be back for the rest of their careers. Especially with the new rules allowing the managers to add extra pitchers to the team if starters on the roster pitch on the Sunday before the break.

It sure seems like a lot of players end up on the roster and that might not necessarily be a good thing. But that is a different story for a different day.

There are plenty of players in the history of the Twins to make one All-Star appearance with the club. Hall-of-Fame pitcher Bert Blyleven made one All-Star appearance with the Twins. World Series hero Jack Morris also qualified for the Mid-Summer Classic while in Minnesota. Players like this would make other All-Star appearances with other clubs so this disqualified them from the following rankings.

Here are the top five players to make their lone All-Star appearance while being a member of the Twins.
1. Brad Radke: 45.6 Career WAR
There were some rough seasons during the career of Brad Radke and it seems like he should have made more than one All-Star team with the collection of players on his team. In 1998, Radke made his lone All-Star appearance. He wasn't having that great of a season but he was coming off of a 20-win season in 1997 and a third place finish in the Cy Young voting. Radke pitched the 4th inning of the game and he gave up one run on two hits with a strikeout and a walk. He was able to keep the ball in Coors Field so that was a plus on a night where there were multiple home runs.

2. Kent Hrbek: 38.2 Career WAR
During his first full season as a big league player, Hrbek was elected to the All-Star Game. It was the 1982 season and the Twins were still working their way back into contention. There were a lot of young players on the roster and Hrbek was hitting over .300 with some power. He was one of four first basemen on the roster and he was one of the last players to get into the game. With a man on first base and the AL trailing by three, Hrbek pinch hit in the top of the ninth inning. He hit a flyball to short center field and his brief All-Star Game career was over.

3. Roy Smalley: 27.8 Career WAR
Smalley never really put up the offensive numbers that would be worthy of putting him in the All-Star Game. His batting average was always low but he did have a higher slugging percentage. The 1979 season might have been one of his best as a professional. He played in all 162 games for the Twins and he would make his only career All-Star appearance. Smalley hit 24 home runs and knocked in 95 runs that season while playing good up he middle defense. He started the '79 All-Star Game at shortstop and he was the lead-off hitter for the AL squad. Smalley went 0-for-3 in the game with an intentional walk.

4. Scott Erickson: 24.9 Career WAR
After leaving the Twins, there were plenty of up-and-down moments in the career of Scott Erickson. He would pitch in some of the most important games of his life as a 23-year old pitcher on the Twins 1991 World Series squad. In that season, he tied for the league lead in wins and he finished second in the Cy Young voting. Jack Morris would start the '91 All-Star Game and Twins closer Rick Aguilera would be used as a set-up man. Erickson wouldn't get into the contest and he would never make it back to the Mid-Summer Classic.

5. Tom Brunansky: 21.7 Career WAR
In 1985, Brunansky wasn't exactly in the middle of one of the best seasons of his career. He ended up hitting .242/.320/.448 with 27 home runs and 90 RBI. His batting average was lower than his career average but he continued to hit for power as a corner outfielder. Since the 1985 All-Star Game was being played in Minneapolis, Brunansky became an important figure for Twins fans to follow. He would compete in the first ever home run derby even though he wouldn't emerge as the victor. In his one plate appearance in the game, Brunansky hit a groundout to the shortstop.

Just missed the list...
Eric Milton: 15.8 Career WAR
Milton and fellow Twins pitcher Joe Mays were both elected to the 2001 All-Star Game. A decent first half of the season was probably what got Milton elected. His ERA was under 4.00 and he had eight victories to his name. The second half of the season would be a little rough as his ERA ballooned to 5.01. Mays would make an appearance in the '01 All-Star Game but Milton was left on the bench even though he hadn't pitched in a game for six days.

Thursday, July 11, 2013

Talk to Contact: Episode 44

Episode 44 of the Twins baseball podcast, Talk To Contact (@TalkToContact), is now available for download via iTunes or by clicking here.

This week Cody and Eric get down on a bunch of Twins news from the past week +, including mediocre Kyle Gibson, roster transactions, a surging Aaron Hicks and a slumping EVERYONE else. 

Down on the Pond is about the Twins' recent #1 draft pick Kohl Stewart. After that Cody and Eric talk about beer, baseball, and the news. 

76 minutes of unmitigated baseball talk.

You can follow me on Twitter (@NoDakTwinsFan) or read my writing here at NoDak Twins Fan. You can follow Paul on Twitter (@BaseballPirate) or read his writing at Puckett’s Pond. And of course, you can find Eric on Twitter (@ERolfPleiss) and read his writing at Knuckleballs!

Wednesday, July 10, 2013

Twins Minor League Report (7/10): Stewart Impresses

The New Britain Rock Cats didn't have a game on Wednesday evening but multiple players from their team were taking part in the Eastern League All-Star Game. New Britain was also the host city for the event and there were plenty of ESPN personalities at the event since it is so close to the headquarters of the four letter network.

Danny Santana started the game at shortstop and was the leadoff hitter for the Eastern Divison. He went 0-for-2 with a strikeout. Josmil Pinto was the only player on his team with multiple hits. He played the whole game at DH and he went 2-for-4 with a double. Daniel Ortiz started the game in center field but he was held hitless in two plate appearances.

Trevor May was asked to pitch the second inning in front of the hometown crowd. He faced the eight-nine-one hitters for the West squad so it wasn't exactly the meat of the order. He recorded all three men in order with a fly out, a line out, and a strike out looking.

Rochester Red Wings 5, Scranton/WB RailRiders 1
Box Score
Chris Colabello continued his tremendous season with his 23rd home run of the season. His 3-run shot put the Red Wings out on top in the first inning and the club didn't look back. It was his second home run in as many nights. He finished the day 2-for-5 and he was the only Rochester hitter with multiple hits.

On the mound, Liam Hendriks looked like the vintage Triple-A Hendriks from previous seasons. He threw eight shutout innings by striking out six and walking two. In his last three starts, he has averaged 7.1 innings and he has a 0.81 ERA. There have been some rough moments for Hendriks this season but he seems to be finding a better groove.

Derek Jeter was on a rehab assignment and he lead-off for the RailRiders. He started the game at shortstop and ended up going 0-for-3 in the game. Hendriks was even able to strike out Jeter looking in the sixth inning. Jeter also had some tough defensive moments at shortstop.

Fort Myers Miracle 0, Jupiter Hammerheads 3 (Suspended- 5th Inning)
Box Score
Inclement weather forced the game between the Miracle and the Hammerheads to be suspended. The game was stopped in the bottom of the fifth inning with a runner at first and Andy Leer batting. The plan is to complete the game on Thursday starting at 5:05 pm and this will be followed by Thursday's regularly scheduled game. Look for a full report on both games at Twins Daily tomorrow.

Cedar Rapids Kernels 6, Dayton Dragons 12
Box Score
It was a rough night for Kernels pitchers. Christian Powell started the game and got knocked around over three innings. He surrendered six earned runs on nine hits. Caleb Brewer also had a tough night as he gave up five runs on four hits in two innings of relief.

Dalton Hicks hit his 28th double of the year and he knocked in two runs in the game. JD Williams did a good job out of the leadoff spot by going 3-for-5 and he scored two runs. Travis Harrison added two hits. Max Kepler had a rough night as he went 0-for-4 with three strikeouts. It was the first time since June 29 that he struck out more than once in a game.

Elizabethton Twins --, Bristol White Sox -- (Postponed)

Rain got in the way of this game between the Twins and the White Sox. The game will be made up on Thursday as part of a doubleheader. After getting out to a fast start out of the gate, the E-Twins have struggled so far this week. The club has lost three games in a row but they still have a 12-6 overall record and they sit at the top of the Appalachian League's West Division.

GCL Twins 1, GCL Orioles 2 (10 Innings)
Box Score
The GCL Twins couldn't find enough offense to pull out the victory but there were some positives from this game. First round pick Kohl Stewart made his second professional appearance. He tossed three shutout inning with only one hit allowed. Four Orioles were victim to a Stewart strikeout and he didn't walk a batter.

Stewart didn't start the game because Brandon Easton was asked to begin the day on the hill. He pitched the first three innings and scattered two hits. One seemed to be his magic number today as he allowed one run, had one walk, and struck out one batter.

There wasn't a ton of offense to brag about. The team managed four hits in ten innings of baseball. Zach Larson had his fourth double of the season. Brian Navarreto was responsible for the lone run with a solo home run in the second inning.

Who is Michael Tonkin?

The Twins announced on Tuesday that Michael Tonkin would be called up to make his MLB debut. The 23-year old right-handed relief pitcher has been in the Twins organization since 2008. He was drafted in the 30th round that year out of high school and he spent the last six seasons working his way through the minor leagues.

Tonkin was used as a starter in the lower level of the minors and he got mixed results. In 2009, he started nine games for the GCL Twins and posted a 3.62 ERA with 60 strikeouts over 54.2 innings. The next year he was asked to start 12 games for Beloit and his ERA continued to rise. He threw 65 innings at the High-A level and his ERA ended up being 4.29.

The front office decided to go in a different direction with Tonkin entering the 2011 season. He would be moved to the bullpen to try and take advantage of his ability to strike out batters. It was a tough transition as he threw 76.2 innings for Beloit and had a 3.87 ERA. His WHIP was an ugly 1.383 but he did strikeout 69 batters.

It had to be a tough offseason for Tonkin as he took some bruises in his first two trips through the Midwest League. Minnesota would send him back to Beloit for the start of 2012 and it seemed like something finally clicked. He pitched 39.0 innings for the Snappers and had a 1.38 ERA with an eye-popping 53 strikeouts. He moved to Fort Myers and continued to post solid numbers.

The Twins decided to send Tonkin to the Arizona Fall League during last offseason. In what is considered a tough pitching environment, Tonkin held his own. Over 14.2 innings, he had a 2.45 ERA with seven strikeouts and three walks. His 0.75 WHIP was the second best mark on his AFL club. This performance stood out and the Twins were ready to put Tonkin on the fast track.

Tonkin started 2013 by tossing 24.1 innings for New Britain. In 22 relief appearances, he had a 2.22 ERA with 30 strikeouts and eight walks. This was enough to earn him a promotion to Triple-A. Since arriving in Rochester, Tonkin has been very good. He has thrown 14.2 innings and limited opponents to two earned runs. He posted a 0.955 WHIP with 16 strikeouts and three walks.

His 6-foot-7 frame on top of weighing 220 pounds allows him to be quite the presence on the mound. It also helps that he can scare opponents with a fastball in the upper 90s with some movement. His slider is also a very good pitch. It sits in the mid to upper 80s and it can be thrown for strikes on a regular basis. There have been some issues in the past with his mechanics but he seems to have gotten those under control.

Tonkin was just added to the 40-man roster this past offseason. The club probably didn't expect him to make it this far in 2013 so it will be some good exposure for him to get a taste of the big leagues. It sounds like the club could keep him around if he is able to perform well.