Friday, August 30, 2013

Talk to Contact: Episode 50.5

Episode 50.5 of the Twins baseball podcast,  Talk To Contact (@TalkToContact), is now available for download via iTunes or by clicking here.
We’re going old school this week and talking radio!  This week’s Twins topics include bad pitching, bad hitting, and the rise of Pedro Florimon.  We also discuss the Arizona Fall league assignments and Down on the Pond we talk about Matt Tomshaw’s THING!

You can follow me on Twitter (@NoDakTwinsFan) or read my writing at NoDakTwinsFan, and you can find Paul on Twitter (@BaseballPirate) and read his writing at! Oh yeah, Eric (@ERolfPleiss) pens some articles over at Knuckleballs blog.

If you enjoy our podcast, please take a couple extra minutes and rate and review us on iTunes (ratings and reviews have magical iTunes powers, which turns us into Matt Tomshaw’s THING and helps spread the word about our podcast.

Wednesday, August 28, 2013

Twins Minor League Report (8/28): Summers Shines

There was a ton of exciting action in the Twins farm system on Wednesday. Matt Summers took his Florida State League leading ERA to the mound for the Miracle. The Kernels were set to face off against former Twins pitcher Scott Baker as he works his way back from injury. New Britain found themselves in a back and forth contest that went well into the Eastern League night.

Let's check out what happened down on the pond.

Rochester Red Wings 5, Buffalo Bisons 2
Box Score
Scott Diamond made his fifth start since being demoted to Rochester. In those five starts, he has pitched at least six innings in four of them. On Wednesday, he scattered seven hits and gave up two runs that both came via the solo home run. He struck out five and didn't walk a man over six innings for his second straight quality start. Shairon Martis was asked to get the last seven outs of the game for his 11th save. He didn't allow a hit and only one runner reached base.

The top four hitters in the Red Wings line-up all combined for multiple hit nights. Antoan Richardson and James Beresford both went 3-for-5 out of the first two spots in the order. Eduardo Escobar and Chris Parmelee followed these two with 2-for-5 performances. Both of Parmelee's hits were doubles and Beresford and Escobar had doubles of their own.

After losing six games in a row, the Red Wings have won back-to-back contests. Darin Mastroianni extended his hit streak to 10 games. He's hitting .33 over his streak after going 0-for-14 during his rehab games with the team.

New Britain Rock Cats 8 , Trenton Thunder 9 (12 Innings)
Box Score
In a game that felt like it might never end, Nate Hanson pushed home a run with a sacrifice fly in the top of the 12th inning as the Rock Cats took their second lead in extra innings. The Thunder couldn't be silenced as the team slapped back-to-back two out singles in the bottom of the 12th to put runners on. Matt Hauser still only needed one out but the next batter cracked a single to left fielder Daniel Ortiz. A throwing error by Ortiz would end the game and the Rock Cats were tough luck losers.

Eddie Rosario had three hits and two RBI. Twins top prospect Miguel Sano went 0-for-4 but he recorded three walks. Reynaldo Rodriguez had two hits and they were both doubles to bring his season total to 33 two baggers. New Britain was 4-for-20 with runners in scorning position so there were plenty of missed opportunities.

Fort Myers Miracle 7, Palm Beach Cardinals 1
Box Score
The Miracle exploded for four runs in the bottom of the eighth inning and the team avoided a sweep at the hand of the Cardinals. Byron Buxton continued to be Byron Buxton going 2-for-4 with two runs scored and his 22nd stolen base at this level. He is up to 54 steals for the season. Matt Koch drove in two runs and added his seventh home run. Stephen Wickens and Kennys Vargas also got into the offensive act with each player knocking a double.

Matthew Summers was on the hill to start the game and he lasted through the sixth inning. During his time on the mound, he allowed one run on five hits with four strikeouts and two walks. It was his sixth victory of the year and he lowered his ERA to 2.47. The Florida State League can be considered a pitcher friendly league and Summers is leading the league in ERA.

In a rather dubious honor, Jhon Goncalves played in his 299th game for the Miracle, a new team record. The previous record of 298 games had been held by Nick Romero.

Cedar Rapids Kernels 1, Kane County Cougars 9
Box Score
Kane County is in the midst of a rough season and the team might have taken out some of their frustration on the Kernels. The Cougars pounced on Kernels starter Jose Berrios for five runs over five innings including two home runs. He walked three and struck out four while failing to pitch past the fifth inning for the second consecutive start.

In an interesting twist of fate, former Twins pitcher Scott Baker earned his first victory of the season after being beat around in his first four starts at this level. He pitched five shutout innings and held the Kernels to a single hit. His ERA was close to 10.00 before the game and dropped to 7.13 with this performance.

Elizabethton Twins 5, Pulaski Mariners 1
Box Score
The E-Twins didn't manage a single extra-base hit but they were still able to come out victorious versus the Mariners. Zach Granite did a great job out of the lead-off spot by scoring two runs and stealing his 14th base of the season. Mitch Garver went 1-for-4 on the night with two RBI. Logan Wade was the number nine hitter and he was the lone Twins player to collect more than one hit.

Kuo Hua Lo did his best to keep Elizabethton in the game. He limited the Mariners to one run on three hits by striking out five and never walking a batter. Ethan Mildren did a fine job in relief as he pitched two shutout frames and struck out three. Luke Bard closed the door for a perfect ninth inning.

GCL Twins 1, GCL Orioles 8
Box Score
Three multi-run innings from the GCL Orioles were enough to win a blow out against the GCL Twins. The Orioles pounded out 14 hits and scored eight runs including five runs in the last two innings against the bullpen for the Twins. Leonel Zazueta and Reyson Zoquiel were knocked around in the late innings. Sam Gibbons was charged with his third loss of the year after throwing three frames and giving up three runs on six hits.

Chad Christensen provided most of the offensive punch with a 2-for-4 effort. This included his third home run of the season. Jason Kanzler cracked a double in four trips to the plate but he was left stranded on the bases. Joel Polanco and Ivory Thomas each had a hit.

Tuesday, August 27, 2013

Twins Minor League Report (8/27): Colabello Named IL MVP

Chris Colabello's time in the major leagues this year hasn't been spectacular but he has been outstanding in his time in the minors. On Wednesday, Colabello was named the Most Valuable Player and the Rookie of the Year for the International League. This comes a year after finishing runner-up for MVP in the Eastern League.

Colabello has been a hitting machine for the Red Wings. He currently leads the league with a .352 batting average, a .427 on-base percentage, and a .639 slugging percentage. To go along with those numbers, he entered play on Wednesday with 24 home runs (5th) and 76 RBI (3rd) over 89 games.

It was quite the year for Colabello and the team will look for him to find some success at the big league level before the season is done. For now, here's a look at the minor league action from Wednesday across the Twins farm system.

Rochester Red Wings 6, Syracuse Chiefs 3
Box Score
Pat Dean hadn't made it out of the sixth inning in either of his last two starts but that all changed today. Over 7.2 innings, Dean gave up two earned runs and did his best to wriggle out of some jams. He scattered 11 hits and the Chiefs left multiple runners on base against him. It was the first win for Dean since August 5th.

The Red Wings were out hit by the Chiefs 13 to 5 but Rochester came up with some timely hitting to push across six runs. No members of the Red Wings were able to collect more than one hit. Eric Farris had a big two-run double to cap a five run first inning. The team batted .500 with runners in scoring position and this was a big reason for their success.

With the win, the Red Wings ended their six-game losing streak. It also means the club has assured themselves a winning season for the first time since 2008.

New Britain Rock Cats 1, Trenton Thunder 5
Box Score
New Britian got on the board first against Trenton but the Rock Cats would be shut out from the second inning on. In fact, the club was limited to four hits in 30 at-bats. Reynaldo Rodriguez and Nate Hanson each added a double to their season totals. Jordan Parraz had the team's lone RBI and Miguel Sano scored the only run even though he was held hitless.

Kyle Davies pitched the first two innings but he was removed after only allowing one hit and no earned runs. BJ Hermsen pitched the next four innings and the single run scored against him was unearned. Cole Johnson was saddled with the loss after surrendering two earned runs in the late innings of this one.

Fort Myers Miracle 4, Palm Beach Cardinals 5 (Game 1-- 8 Innings)
Box Score
Fort Myers was able to mount a comeback and send this game to extra innings but the team ended up falling short. Palm Beach took a 4-0 lead in the top of the fourth before the Miracle started the claw their way back.

Matt Tomshaw started for Fort Myers and he gave up four runs on four hits including two home runs. He struck out three and struggled with some control as he walked five men. Corey Williams came in relief and pitched two hitless innings. Zach Jones was charged with the loss as he gave up the go-ahead run in the eighth but he was still able to strike out the side.

Newly named AFL player Byron Buxton went 1-for-3 with a run scored and an RBI. He also threw out a runner at third base. Mike Kvasnicka went 2-for-4 with two RBI to bring his season total to 39. The team went 1-for-6 with runners in scoring position and they left seven men on base.

Fort Myers Miracle 0, Palm Beach Cardinals 1 (Game 2-- 7 innings)
Box Score
The story of this game for Fort Myers was Manuel Soliman. He pitched all seven innings for the Miracle while limiting the Cardinals to one run on eight hits. The lone run was scored on a second inning home run and Soliman had to work out of some jams in the sixth and seventh frames. Unfortunately, he earned the loss because the Miracle's offense was absent from this contest.

Byron Buxton had a hit, a walk, and a stolen base. It was his 21st steal since being promoted to Fort Myers and he has 53 steals on the season. Fort Myers had two hits in the bottom of the seventh but a tough luck double play ended the team's chances of a comeback victory.

Cedar Rapids Kernels 4, Peoria Chiefs 2
Box Score
After a couple of errors from shortstop Ryan Walker, the pitching staff for the Kernels didn't allow an earned run in this game. Miguel Sulbaran earned his second victory in his third start of the year for Cedar Rapids. He pitched six frames while striking out eight. Christian Powell and Dallas Gallant held the Chiefs in check for the last three frames for the team's 84th win of the season.

Mike Gonzales cracked his third home run to add an important eighth inning insurance run. Jonathan Murphy and Bo Altobelli added two hits apiece while Murphy stole his sixth bag. Joel Lincon plated a couple of runs that turned out to be the difference in the game.

Elizabethton Twins 6, Princeton Rays 4
Mitch Garver helped pave the way to this victory for the E-Twins. His two doubles and three RBI were part of two big offensive innings. Engelb Vielma and Bryan Haar scored two runs apiece along with driving in a run. Hitters two through six in the order all had a hit for Elizabethton and the team was 4-for-9 with runners in scoring position.

The E-Twins relied on the bullpen for a big chunk of this game. Andre Martinez pitched the first frame as he allowed three runs, one of them earned, on one hit with two walks. Josh Burris picked up his fourth win of the year as he pitched four shutout innings of relief. He struck out six men and limited the Rays to one hit. CK Irby and Aaron Slegers combined to pitch four innings without an earned run crossing the plate.

GCL Twins 1, GCL Rays 2
Box Score
Fernando Romero was outstanding on the mound for the GCL Twins. Over six shutout innings, he gave up two hits and he had five strikeouts to go along with no walks. It was the first time this season that he made it through the sixth frame. He also hasn't allowed a run in four of his last five starts.

The Twins managed four total hits in this game. Brian Navarreto led the way with a 2-for-4 effort including his 10th double. Alex Swim didn't start the game but he was an early defensive replacement for Jorge Fernandez. Swim knocked a double in four trips to the plate.

Sunday, August 25, 2013

Addressing Mauer's Concussion Situation

Joe Mauer won't be coming off of the concussion disabled list when he is first eligible. This probably isn't much of a surprise since the Twins are well out of the playoff discussion in the American League. Mauer has been told by the team to rest at home and report back to Target Field on Tuesday, the first day he could have come off the concussion DL.

When dealing with a player making $23 million a year, it makes sense to proceed with caution. The team needs Mauer to be healthy for the future and there isn't much of a hurry to get him back on the field this season. Minnesota will trudge on without him while looking to play a spoiler role to some of team's ahead of them in the standings.

For those that haven't been following the situation, Mauer took multiple foul tips off his catcher's mask in last Monday's game versus the Mets. The next day he experienced some dizziness during pregame batting practice and the team placed him on the 7-day concussion DL. Since being on the DL, Mauer has visited Mayo Clinic and everything came back clear from those appointments.

Catchers have been populating the 7-day concussion DL across baseball this season. As of this weekend, there were five catchers including Joe Mauer. Ryan Doumit, one of the Twins other catchers, was recently on the concussion DL and he wouldn't mind seeing some changes to the equipment worn by men behind the dish. This probably won't happen in the middle of the season but it could be something looked at by baseball in the offseason before next spring training.

Dr. Gary Green, MLB's medical director, said that the league is working on gathering information on the rash of catchers suffering from concussions. Foul tips and collisions at home plate come are part of the job description for the men wearing the mask. Green went on to say that around 40% of the players on the concussion DL have been catchers. This is a big percentage and it can be concerning for MLB and the fans of the game.

Fans in Minnesota have even more of a concern when it comes to catchers. Their best player and hometown star is a perennial All-Star catcher and fans want to see him on the field as much as possible. In recent years, the Twins have allowed Mauer to spend more time playing first base or getting at-bats as the designated hitter. This trend will likely continue as the team moves forward.

Twins manager Ron Gardenhire also expressed some concern about head injuries in relation to catchers. "Baseball, I'm sure, is going to find more ways to protect them and I don't know what it is going to be. We had a long conversation with our trainer about all of the types of different things they can try to limit that blow on the mask, from shock absorbers to air-filled masks. I'm sure there is going to be a lot more talk now because of this rash" of concussions.

The Twins have been very familiar with concussion related issues over the last few seasons. Players like Justin Morneau and Denard Span missed large chunks of multiple seasons as they each tried to recover from concussion related symptoms. It has taken Morneau a long time to get back to the player he once was and he still doesn't seem to be all the way back.

Brain injuries are different for every person and that's what makes them so tough to understand. Twins fans hope Mauer's situation doesn't turn out like Morneau's drawn out recovery. The club has a lot of money relying on Mauer making a recovery and being a valuable player behind the plate.

Tuesday, August 20, 2013

Would a Johan Santana reunion make sense?

It has been five seasons since Johan Santana last wore the uniform of the Minnesota Twins. In the mean time, he has been dealing with multiple injuries and ineffective pitching performances. He missed all of the 2011 season as he dealt with a shoulder problem and he won't pitch in 2013 because of another should issue. Last season with the Mets, he tossed 117 innings with a 4.85 ERA and a 1.33 WHIP.

Not exactly the numbers Twins fans were used to seeing from their former ace pitcher.

Santana believes he will be able to pitch next season. In a recent interview with the New York Daily News, his agent said that Santana has been able to do things a lot easier after this surgery compared to his first procedure. He went on to tell one of his agents that he "isn't going out like this."

The 34-year old left handed pitcher will see his six-year, $137.5 million contract expire at the end of the season and this will make him a free agent for really the first time in his career. The Mets don't look to be players for Santana on the free agent market since they have a young rotation of arms as they look to rebuild in the strong NL East.

This opens the question about where Santana will head this offseason. Would it make sense for the Minnesota Twins to reunite with their former Cy Young winner?

There were good years and bad years for Santana in New York. Over the span of his six-year contract, he posted a 3.18 ERA with a 1.20 WHIP. Over his 717 innings on the mound, he had 607 strikeouts compared to 203 walks. His final record was 46-34 but his numbers don't tell the whole story. He is coming off one of his worst statistical years and his second major operation on his shoulder. One shoulder surgery can be a death sentence for a pitcher and a second surgery leaves more than one question mark.

Minnesota has taken on some recent low-risk chances on the free agent market. In 2012, the Twins signed Joel Zumaya to an incentive laden contract with the hopes of him rekindling his career. The same could be said about the contract signed by Rich Harden this offseason. Both players would never make it on the field at the big league level but this might be the type of contract facing Santana this offseason.

When looking at the Twins rotation situation for 2014, there hardly seems to be anyone with their name penciled into the rotation. Kevin Correia will likely get a spot since he is signed for $5 million. Others in the mix will be Sam Deduno, Kyle Gibson, Liam Hendriks, Vance Worley, and Andrew Albers. This isn't exactly a star-studded crew and none of these men are likely to be guaranteed spots going into spring training. This could mean that there is room to take a flyer on someone like Santana.

One of the reasons Santana originally wanted to leave the Twins was to get to a bigger market. There can be some benefits to being in this type of market. A player has the chance at more endorsement deals and the chance to play in front of a larger audience. He spent six seasons in the Big Apple and had to deal with their media and plenty of scrutiny along the way. Maybe it is time for him to get away from the hustle and bustle.

At the beginning of next season, Santana will be 35-years old and it's not really clear how much he has left in his throwing arm. He may never be able to get back on the mound at the big league level. He also has never had the opportunity to get back to the postseason since he left the Twins. A player in his position might want to head to a team with a chance to contend instead of a team rebuilding like Minnesota.

Some Twins fans might love to see Santana back in Minnesota because of the many years he spent dominating the American League. This isn't the same Santana though and no one knows what to expect as he rehabs his shoulder for the second time in two years. There are over 2000 big league innings on his left arm and that might be all of the juice he had in the tank.

Reuniting with Santana might be fun but it probably isn't in the cards...

Monday, August 19, 2013

Recapping Fifteen's 5K

Over the weekend, I had the opportunity to participate in a charity 5K race with connections to the Twins organization. Glen Perkins and his wife, Alisha, have sponsored this race for the last two years. They are passionate about raising money for the Cystic Fibrosis Foundation because two sets of close friends have children with CF. The race uses the slogan "Race today for more tomorrows."

People signing up for the race received one free game ticket for this weekend's series with the Chicago White Sox. Most of the seats were out under the giant scoreboard in left field and it gave runners a chance to enjoy all that Target Field had to offer in a game day setting. Unfortunately, the Twins weren't very successful in the three game series but that wasn't the point of this weekend.

On race day, runners gathered near Gold Medal Park in downtown Minneapolis. The race path went parallel to the Mississippi River for about a mile and a half before turning to head towards Target Field. There were a few hills near the end of the course that were tough to navigate but the best part of the race was at the end.

The finish line was near home plate inside Target Field. Runners didn't actually get to touch home plate but they came in near the bullpens in center field and followed the warning track all the way up past the visitor's dugout. Fans dressed like Minnesota Twins players were randomly given autographed memorabilia as they crossed the finish line.
As part of their entry fee for the race, participants received a Fifteen's 5K shirt and a medal with a baseball theme. This was on top of the ticket to the Twins game at some point in the weekend. At the end of the race there were plenty of snacks and other local products such as bags of Angie's Kettle Corn, Fisher Peanuts, and Old Dutch Potato Chips.

In the second year of the race, the turnout for the race was fantastic. They were able to double the amount of runners from 600 last year to over 1,200 this year. Every member of the Twins pitching staff with the exception of Sunday's starter Sam Deduno was able to take part in the race in some capacity. Most players were handing out medals to the race finishers at Target Field.

For me, it was a great weekend. I finished in the first grouping of people to cross the finish line with a time of right around 20 minutes. I received an autographed Glen Perkins baseball at the end of the race since I was dressed completely in Twins gear. Perkins was also nice enough to take a picture with me as he was handing me my medal.
If you are interested in donating money to the Cystic Fibrosis Foundation, here is a link to help get you started and the money will be added to the totals raised this weekend. You can also follow Fifteen's 5K on Twitter and Facebook also has a Fifteen's 5K page.

It was a wonderfully organized event for a very worthy cause. I encourage all Twins fans to make an attempt to be there for this race next year. Let's try and double their total runners for the second year in a row.

Thursday, August 15, 2013

Twins Minor League Report (8/15): Stewart Sets Career Highs

There were a few minor league moves to take place on Thursday. Outfielder Darin Mastroianni was due to come off the disabled list but he was in the middle of a hitting slump so he was optioned to Rochester. There might be a chance that he gets back to the big leagues this year but he had options left and it would be better for him to get his legs under him.

Outfielder Aaron Hicks has been dealing with a nagging injury. Rochester put him on the 7-day disabled list with a right heel bruise. Since he hadn't appeared in a game for a couple days, the move is retroactive to August 13th. In his six games after being demoted, Hicks was hitting .227/.320/.227 with no extra base hits.

Here's a look at what happened throughout the day on Thursday in the Twins minor league system.

Rochester Red Wings 4, Buffalo Bisons 2
Box Score
PJ Walters was coming off of his poorest outing of the season (2 IP, 7 R, 9 H) so it was important for him to get back on track. He tossed seven innings to pick up the win and this happened even after he had a shaky start at the beginning of the game. He scattered six hits and allowed two earned runs with three walks while striking out four. It was his fourth start of the season where he pitched at least seven innings.

Darin Mastroianni was optioned to Rochester on Thursday and he used the opportunity to break out of an 0-for-15 slump. He had a two-single in the top of the third. The Red Wings used some clutch hitting and a Bisons error to score three runs in the fifth inning. Eric Fryer scored two runs in the game and hit his third home runs of 2013. Eduardo Escobar went 2-for-4 with an RBI.

Edgar Ibarra and Michael Tonkin were great in relief of Walters. Ibarra pitched a perfect eighth inning and struck out two of the hitters that he faced. Michael Tonkin earned his 10th save by allowing one hit and striking out one in the ninth. Rochester relievers have picked up saves in 26 of their last 27 opportunities since the beginning of June.

New Britain Rock Cats 3, New Hampshire Fisher Cats 9
Box Score
The Rock Cats pitching staff couldn't buy a break in this game as the Fisher Cats pounced on them. New Hampshire scored nine runs on 16 hits. It took New Britian until the eighth inning to get on the board. This was too little, too late for the Rock Cats.

Trevor May started for New Britain and the results were so-so. He failed to get out of the sixth inning and he was charged with four earned runs on 10 hits. He was able to strike out 10 batters and he was still hitting in the low 90s with his fastball even after throwing over 100 pitches. His last three starts have been less than six innings, which isn't exactly where he needs to be.

Danny Santana had multiple hits for the third time in his last four games. He went 2-for-4 with a double and a run scored. Daniel Ortiz added two hits and an RBI. Dan Rohlfing was the only other hitter with an extra-base hit, his 13th double of the year.

Fort Myers Miracle 5, St. Lucie Mets 3
Box Score
Fort Myers ended their three game skid with a victory over the Mets. It looked a little scary in the early going as the club fell behind 3-0 after a couple innings. A big four run fifth inning helped to separate the Miracle and the bullpen pitched in with six shutout frames.

Byron Buxton was held to one hit but he was still able to score two runs and steal his 15th base of the season. His single stretched his hitting streak to nine games. Jhon Goncalves and Dalton Hicks both got two hits including a double for each of them. Hicks had an impressive night at the plate with two walks and two RBI. Levi Michael knocked his fourth triple. Stephen Wickens was also able to extend his hit streak to 10 games.

Matt Tomshaw got hit around and he was pulled out of the game after three innings. Luckily the bullpen was ready to perform. Tyler Duffy earned the victory after throwing three shutout frames with two strikeouts. Adrian Salcedo pitched two innings and only gave up one hit. Zach Jones struck out the side in the ninth but he did get into a little trouble with two walks.

Cedar Rapids Kernels 6, Beloit Snappers 5
Box Score
Adam Walker sent the fans home happy in Cedar Rapids with a walk-off double. Jonathan Murphy had started the inning with a single and Niko Goodrum followed this with a hit by pitch. Jorge Polanco tried to bunt to advance the runners but the Snappers got the lead runner at third. Walker stepped up to the plate and cracked his 28th double of the year.

The bullpen for the Kernels was outstanding. Tim Shibuya, Brandon Bixler, and Brian Gilbert combined for five shutout innings. There were no hits in the last five frames and only one batter reached base. Miguel Sulbaran made his first start since being acquired from the Dodgers for Drew Butera. He lasted four innings by giving up seven hits and four earned runs.

Elizabethton Twins 4, Johnson City Cardinals 0
Box Score
Three different E-Twins pitchers combined for a two hit shutout of the Cardinals. Kuo Hua Lo pitched the first five innings and gave up both of the hits. He struck out five and walked two and the victory was his first of the year. Luke Bard got into a little trouble with a couple of walks in his inning of work but he didn't give up a hit. Austin Malinowski was terrific in three strong innings by striking out six and never having a base runner reach against him.

A two-run first inning helped to put the E-Twins on top for good in this one. Rory Rhodes went 2-for-3 and he helped to keep a couple of innings alive. Stuart Turner knocked in a couple of runs with his single. There were no extra base hits for the E-Twins but it didn't matter with the way the pitching staff was throwing.

GCL Twins 4, GCL Rays 6
Box Score
Kohl Stewart set careers highs in strikeouts (5 Ks) and innings pitched (4 IP) but it wasn't enough for the GCL Twins to get back to their winning ways. In their last eight games, the club has lost seven. The defense behind Stewart was full of some holes as there were three errors. Three runs would be scored with Stewart on the mound but he was only charged with one earned run on five hits.

Ivory Thomas knocked in two runs as part of a 2-for-5 day. He added his second double of the year. Jason Kanzler notched his fourth triple of the season and he finished the day 2-for-4. Chad Christensen, Adonis Pacheco, and Ryan Tufts all had two hits and Nelson Molina scored two runs as the number nine hitter.

Talk to Contact: Episode 49

Episode 49 of the Twins baseball podcast,  Talk To Contact (@TalkToContact), is now available for download via iTunes or by clicking here.
This week Paul returns from the wilderness to banter with Eric and Cody about Andrew Albers who continues to impress and pitch well with his 86mph fastball, Brian Dozier and his silky smooth hair, the loss of Jamey Carroll, the return for Drew Butera and other happenings surrounding the Minnesota Twins.

You can follow me on Twitter (@NoDakTwinsFan) or read my writing at NoDakTwinsFan, and you can find Eric on Twitter (@ERolfPleiss) and read his writing at Knuckleballs!
If you enjoy our podcast, please take a couple extra minutes and rate and review us on iTunes (ratings and reviews have magical iTunes powers, which help us become warlocks and spread the word about our podcast).

Wednesday, August 14, 2013

Twins Minor League Report (8/14): Atherton Sparkles

The Twins bullpen had been solid in recent weeks before laying an egg at the hands of the Cleveland Indians on Wednesday afternoon. Casey Fien gave up three runs and later in the game Glen Perkins and Ryan Pressly allowed some late inning runs. Joe Mauer had five hits and came within one hit of tying Kirby Puckett's team record of six in a game.

There was some exciting action this evening as multiple teams were part of walk-off wins. Not all of those walk-offs were in favor of the Twins farm system so you will have to find out what happened down on the farm.

Rochester Red Wings 3, Buffalo Bisons 8
Box Score
The Red Wings are in the last leg of their season long 11-game road trip. Entering tonight's game the club had been 5-3 on the road trip and the club had won 14 of their last 20 games. The club will return to Rochester on Saturday and play 14 of their last 16 regular season games at home. Unfortunately, there wasn't enough magic on Wednesday evening.

Rochester scored early to take a 3-1 lead through five innings but the Bisons would score seven runs over the last three innings. After making a spot start at the major league level last week, Liam Hendriks was back in the Red Wings rotation. Through six innings, he gave up three runs on six hits. Aaron Thompson took the loss after giving up three runs in less than two innings on the mound.

Jeff Clement got the scoring started for Rochester by cracking his first triple of the year. The scored Chris Parmelee who had just notched his eighth double. Deibinson Romero would cap the first inning scoring with a double of his own. Clement was the lone batter to have a multi-hit game as the club was limited to five hits.

New Britain Rock Cats 2, New Hampshire Fisher Cats 7
Box Score
BJ Hermsen hasn't been used too much as a starter this season after winning the club's minor league pitcher of the year award last season. Today marked his 12th start of the year and it might have been one of his most effective. He pitched five innings and gave up two earned runs. It was his ninth loss of the season and three of those losses have come in his last four starts.

Danny Santana continued his good offensive season with his fifth multi-hit game out of the last ten games he has played. He ended the night 2-for-4 with his 24th stolen base. Dan Rohlfing also added two hits including the team's only extra-base hit, his first home run of the year at Double-A. Evan Bigley and Reynaldo Rodriguez each had a hit.

Fort Myers Miracle 3, St. Lucie Mets 4
Box Score
The Miracle looked well on their way to their 71st win of the season but the Mets staged a 2-run rally in the bottom of the ninth to steal the victory. Fort Myers had gained the lead back in the eighth inning after a pitch plunked Stephen Wickens. DJ Hicks followed the hit by pitch with a double to score Wickens and the Miracle had a one run lead.

Byron Buxton helped to get things going in the early portion of the game. He drew a walk in the first inning, stole second, and Wickens slashed a single to score Buxton from second. Buxton also helped with the second run of the game by advancing the base runner, JD Williams, ahead of a Levi Michael sac-fly. Buxton stole three bases in the game and extended his hit streak to eight games.

Taylor Rogers did very well on the mound. He tossed seven inning and scattered six hits while giving up two runs. It was the third straight game where Rogers struck out five batters or more. Tyler Jones was saddled with the loss after coughing up the lead in the ninth. It was his second blow save of the year.

Cedar Rapids Kernels 3, Beloit Snappers 2
Box Score
A Tyler Grimes single in the bottom of the ninth made the the Kernels walk-off winners. Cedar Rapids has won six of their last seven games to push their lead in the Midwest League Western division to two games.

After falling behind earlier in the game, the Kernels got their offense going in the bottom of the third. Joel Licon started the inning with a single and he extended his hitting streak to 12 games in the process. Jeremias Pineda scored Licon with a double later in the frame. Jonathan Murphy singled in Pineda to tie the game at two.

Tim Atherton was fantastic on the mound as he went eight innings and struck out 11, the most by a Kernels pitcher in 2013. Both of the runs scored against him were unearned and he only gave up two hits. At one point in the game he retired 16 men in a row. The inning and strikeout totals were career highs for him.

GCL Twins 1, GCL Rays 7
Box Score
There have been some struggles for the GCL version of the Twins. The team has lost six of their last seven games while barely averaging two runs per game. This theme played itself out on Wednesday afternoon as the team came up short against the GCL Rays.

On the offensive side of things, three members of the Twins were able to record hits. Alex Swim led the way with a 2-for-3 effort including his fifth double of the season. His extra-base hit set-up the only run the Twins would score. Jason Kanzler and Ryan Tufts had the other hits with Kanzler recording a double and an RBI.

Pedro Hernandez made his second rehab appearance and the results were much better than his first outing. He tossed four shutout innings on two hits with four strikeouts. Seth Wagner ran into the most trouble on the mound as he allowed three earned runs in less than an inning of work. His control was a problem as he walked four men and struck out one.

Monday, August 12, 2013

Dozier, Rosario and the Future at Second Base

It has been quite the 12-month span for Twins second baseman Brian Dozier.

On August 14th of last season, the Twins had seen enough of him at shortstop with the big league club. They demoted him to Rochester after 340 plate appearances in his rookie campaign. Many thought he would be back as a September call-up but the call never came. Dozier was forced to live with a bad taste in his mouth for the entire offseason.

Brian Dozier entered the 2013 season not knowing if he would have a starting job with the Twins. The 26-year old middle infielder was shifting to second base and the club was having a competition in spring training for the starting role. Dozier would beat out other light hitting options like Jamey Carroll and Eduardo Escobar. Dozier had flopped when he had previously been giving a starting job but the Twins were willing to give him a second chance at a new position.

April and May weren't outstanding for Dozier. He combined to hit .214/.259/.299 with seven extra-base hits in 168 plate appearances. Unfortunately, he had more strikeouts (35) than hits (33) and he was only able to draw nine walks. It was a rough start to Dozier's sophomore season and the Twins were going to need to see some kind of improvement to keep him in the line-up on a daily basis. 

Things started to go in the right direction during the month of June. In 26 games, Dozier found his swing by hitting .257/.389/.514 with five home runs and four doubles. He posted a .902 OPS for the month and the Twins were even willing to give him some at-bats in the lead-off spot. His batting average for the season went from .214 to .228 and he raised his OPS from .558 to .673.

In recent weeks, Dozier has been on quite the hot streak on the offensive side of the ball. Since July 21st, he is batting .304/.364/.595 with three home runs, two triples, and 10 doubles. In this span of 18 games, the Twins have posted an 11-7 record and Dozier' presence at the top of the line-up has helped the club along the way.

Second base is an interesting position for the Twins as the organization starts to look to the future. Dozier seems to be settling into a nice groove at the big league level but he soon might be feeling a little pressure from the minor leagues. Minnesota was unhappy with their lack of talent in the middle infield a couple of seasons ago and the organization decided to move Eddie Rosario, one of the club's best hitting prospects, from the outfield to second base.

Rosario has played parts of this season with the Fort Myers Miracle and the New Britain Rock Cats. In 102 games, he has hit .311/.363/.479 with nine home runs, eight triples, and 26 doubles. He has struck out a career high 75 times with 46 of those Ks coming in 50 games at Double-A. Rosario had a huge month of July for the Rock Cats. He batted .353/.394/.549 with three home runs and nine doubles.

The Twins will look for Rosario to be the second baseman of the future but how soon will the future arrive at Target Field?

Dozier's recent hot streak makes it easier for the Twins to keep Rosario in the minor leagues. Earlier this season it would have been easy to think that Dozier wouldn't have a job for Opening Day 2014 because Rosario would be making his debut. That plan might have changed and this could give Rosario time to master the Triple-A level before being asked to face the pressures of the big leagues.

It seems likely that next spring there could be slough of top prospects in the Twins major league camp during spring training. Miguel Sano, Byron Buxton, and Eddie Rosario could all get a taste of what it's like to be one step closer to the big leagues. Sano and Rosario could be fighting for a starting job or they could be on their way to Rochester.

In the end, Rosario is only 21-years old and he will be 22 at the beginning of next season. There isn't exactly a rush to get him to the big leagues and to start his arbitration clock. If Dozier continues to play the way he is, the Twins will be happy to give him at-bats until Rosario is busting down the door to the major leagues.

With the Twins recent history of middle infielders, it's certainly better to have multiple solid options at second base than a bunch of question marks. 

Sunday, August 11, 2013

Fishing for the Biggest Marlin

"My big fish must be somewhere."--- Ernest Hemingway, The Old Man and the Sea

Marlin fishing can be an adventure.

These beasts of the ocean can weight upwards of 1,000 pounds and it can take quite the fight to get them into a boat. Fishing for these animals can take a lot of time and patience. It also takes the right tools and skills to reel in one of these giant fish. 

Over the weekend, a story came out in the Boston Globe that discussed the possibility of the Twins making a play for Giancarlo Stanton, the 23-year old slugging outfielder from the Miami Marlins. The Twins farm system has plenty of depth at multiple levels and they have the resources to trade away a few prospects to land the budding superstar. 

The article does go on to say, "The Red Sox might be in a better position than the Twins because the Twins have to rely on their top players to come up and man several positions." One baseball executive said, "The Red Sox have veteran players so their need to keep their best guys isn't as severe. So if they can trade them off for a young player like Stanton, they wouldn't have to fear about thinning out as a result."

Stanton is in the middle of his fourth MLB season and his 162 game average for home runs is 39. For his career, he is a .265/.350/.536 hitter and he has hit over 30 home runs in each of the last two seasons. During the 2013 season, Stanton has career lows in batting average and slugging percentage. This could be a good chance for the Twins to buy low on a player that is under team control for multiple seasons. 

At the trade deadline, there was plenty of talk about Stanton being dealt from a struggling Marlins ballclub. Word around baseball was the Marlins were turning down any suitors that came calling for Mr. Stanton. Miami doesn't have to rush to move him because he is still pre-arbitration eligible. He will be arbitration eligible in 2014 and the earliest he could reach free agency is 2017. 

There are plenty of resources in the Twins system that could land them a top player like Stanton. Byron Buxton is considered by many to be the top prospect in all of baseball. Third baseman Miguel Sano might be the best power hitter to come through the minor leagues since Stanton. The article also mentions other young players like Kyle Gibson, Alex Meyer, Eddie Rosario, Travis Harrison, and Daniel Santana. 

The Twins organization has invested over $9 million in signing bonuses to Buxton and Sano. One would think that these players would be untouchable but it could take a player of their caliber to make this deal happen. It's hard to know which player the Twins would be more willing to trade. Most likely both players are untouchable because they are part of the long-term rebuilding process for the organization.

Could the Twins put together a package of players that doesn't include Buxton or Sano and still get a deal done?

It seems likely that the Marlins would want some young pitching in return for Stanton. The Twins made moves last offseason to add some depth to the starting pitchers in their system. Meyer and Trevor May have done decently since coming to the organization but it might be a step backwards to include them in another offseason trade. 

Recent draft picks like Kohl Stewart and Jose Berrios are both young and they have plenty of upside. Minnesota's starting pitching has been one of the biggest issues in recent years. Flaws with the pitching staff could be the main reason for back-to-back 90 loss seasons. It seems more likely for the Twins to deal away from their minor league positional player depth than from their up-and-coming starting pitchers.

What would it take to get Stanton? 

It sounds like the Marlins would have to be overwhelmed to even consider dealing him. If the Twins would be willing to part with Sano and a couple other position players, the deal could get done. That still might not be enough for Miami and the Twins are in the middle of a rebuild. Stanton might be worth five extra wins a season but that might not be enough to turn the franchise around. Especially since the Twins have so many holes at different positions.

If the Marlins are willing to part with Stanton, the Twins have the goods to get the deal done. The question remains... Would the Twins be willing to thin out their system for a player like Stanton even if he is the biggest fish on the market?

Now it's your turn to take on the role of Twins GM Terry Ryan. If you were sitting in his spot, what players would you consider dealing for Stanton? Leave a COMMENT and start the discussion.

Saturday, August 10, 2013

Talk to Contact: Episode 48

Episode 48 of the Twins baseball podcast,  Talk To Contact (@TalkToContact), is now available for download via iTunes or by clicking here.
Paul went camping this weekend and we never heard from him, so while he’s PROBABLY not dead, he CERTAINLY isn’t on the podcast this week.  Don’t fret, because we’re joined by Jesse Lund (@TwinkieTown) from to talk all things Twins and Twins blogging, and Cody and I do our regular exciting Twins talk.  Join us for 84ish minutes of baseball noise.

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, August 8, 2013

Waitin' With the Wings: Josmil Pinto

With the calendar already flipped over to August, there could be some shake-ups coming to 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 was left-handed pitcher Andrew Albers and he had a terrific MLB debut this week. Now it's time to look at a position player and a bat that could be asked to make an impact. Profile number two in the series looks at catcher Josmil Pinto.
Player Profile
Name: Josmil Pinto
Born: 3/31/1989 (24 years old)
Acquired: Signed as a non-drafted free agent (2006)
HT: 5'11"---WT: 210
2013 Stat Line: .311/.410/.480, 14 HR, 25 2B, 70 RBI, 61 R

Pinto had been considered a solid prospect before this season but his run through the Eastern League and the International League has him moving up the Twins top prospect rankings. The 24-year old catcher has been with the organization since he was 17 and he has worked all the way from the Venezuelan Summer League to the Triple-A level. One thing has been clear through all of the levels and that is the fact that he can hit.

Out of all of the levels from where Pinto has been promoted, the Dominican and Venezuelan Summer Leagues provided the most challenges at the plate. In over 220 plate appearances during his time in the VESL, he had to work to hit .251/.336/.344 with 11 extra-base hits. These struggles would continue in the DOSL as his batting line dipped to .193/.327/.269 over 171 at-bats. The Twins were looking for more out of Pinto and they hoped he would be able to find his swing when he started playing in the States.

The next two seasons would be fantastic for Pinto in the rookie leagues. He would hit for average (.329 BA) and power (.541 SLG and 13 extra-base hits) with the GCL Twins but this was only the beginning of what was to come. In 2009, he moved up to Elizabethton and really found his power stroke. He knocked 13 home runs and 14 doubles in a little over 200 plate appearances. By the end of the season, Pinto was hitting .332/.387/.610. Things were moving in the right direction and now it was time to tackle a full season schedule.

Pinto would spend parts of the next two seasons in the Midwest League with the Beloit Snappers. There can be some adjustment to a full slate of games on the schedule and it took some time for Pinto to feel comfortable at the dish. He batted .227/.293/.383 with 11 home runs and 24 doubles over 109 games. The Florida State League was his next level on his path to the big leagues and this can be a tough league for hitters to find success. Pinto continued to make adjustments and he hit .282/.340/.440 with 53 extra-base hits in 570 plate appearances at High-A. The time was right to move to the upper levels of the Twins farm system.

At the end of the 2012 season, Pinto got a brief taste of life at the Double-A level. He found success almost immediately and this could have helped his breakout year in 2013. New Britain was very good for Pinto as he had a batting average over .300 for the first time since rookie ball. Even with the higher batting average, he was still able to hit for consistent power. His .896 OPS was the highest for him at any full season league and he hit 16 home runs and 27 doubles in 505 at-bats. It was a great run through the Eastern League and the time was right to move him to Rochester.

So far, Pinto has been limited in his time at AAA. He has played in six games since being promoted and he has 23 plate appearances. It is a very small sample size but Pinto is hitting .364/.391/.455 with two doubles. He has yet to hit a home run with Rochester but it seems safe to say that won't last too long. Minnesota has used a lot of the players on the 40-man roster at some point this season and Pinto is now only a phone call away.

The defense side of the ball has continued to be a work in progress for Pinto. During his time in the minor leagues, he has thrown out potential base stealers 33% of the time. To put that number into perspective, Joe Mauer has a career 33% caught stealing percentage and he has multiple Gold Gloves in his trophy case at home. Since leaving Beloit in 2011, Pinto has allowed 13 passed balls in 165 games behind the plate. He needs to continue to work on his game calling skills but his offensive threat might be too much to ignore.

It helps that Pinto is already on the 40-man roster and Ron Gardenhire loves to have extra catchers on his bench. This could mean a September call-up for the young catcher. Pinto had the option of becoming a minor league free agent at the end of last season but he decided to stay with the Twins organization. For both parties involved, this move seems to be paying off and he could make his big league debut in the coming weeks.

Wednesday, August 7, 2013

Twins Minor League Report (8/7): Robb Tosses Shutout

While the Twins finish up their series with the Royals, there could be some reinforcements on the way. Josh Willingham and Darin Mastroianni are both on rehab at the Triple-A level and this could mean both men are back with the big league club in the near future. A healthy Willingham could be a sight for sore eyes to Twins fans.

Miguel Sano returned to the line-up of the Rock Cats last night after missing four games with a tight hamstring. He wasted little time making his mark as he fell just a triple shy of the cycle. There were other familiar names and story lines across the farm system.

Here are the highlights from Wednesday night's action.
Rochester Red Wings 5, Durham Bulls 4
Box Score
Rochester continues to find ways to win games at one of the most important parts of their season. The Red Wings scored runs in the second, third and fourth innings and relied on their pitchers to hold the lead. With the win, the Red Wings have won their first ever series at Durham Bulls Athletic Park in 16 tries. It was also the team's first season series win over the Bulls since 2008.

Josh Willingham and Darin Mastroianni were both on rehab assignment with the Wings. Willingham wasted little time making his presence known as he hit a solo home run in his first plate appearance. Later in the game, the designated hitter drew a walk and finished the night 1-for-3. Mastroianni collected two RBI but he was held hitless before being pulled for a pinch runner in the fourth.

Logan Darnell earned the victory but he labored to get through five frames. He spread out three earned runs and six hits to keep the Bulls far enough away. Luis Perdomo and AJ Archter pitched the next three innings and limited the Bulls to one run on three hits. Michael Tonkin was lights out in the ninth as he pitched a perfect frame and struck out two for his ninth save.

New Britain Rock Cats 3, Akron Aeros 7
Box Score
Multiple hit nights from Danny Santana and Eddie Rosario weren't enough to push the Rock Cats to victory. Santana added his seventh triple as part of a 2-for-4 game. Jordan Parraz smacked a 2-run shot for his tenth long ball of the season. After his monster night last night, Miguel Sano went 1-for-3 with a walk.

DJ Baxendale started the game on the mound but he found a few struggles along the way. He tossed six innings and gave up four runs on nine hits. Along the way, he had four strikeouts and three walks. Matt Hauser didn't do so well in relief of Baxendale. He gave up three runs in his one inning of work. Jose Gonzalez stopped some of the bleeding by giving up no runs over one frame.

Cedar Rapids Kernels 7, Beloit Snappers 4
Box Score
Cedar Rapids sits near the top in their division for the second half but they were visiting the division winners from the first half on Wednesday. The Kernels used a big five run fourth inning to push their lead to 7-0 before the bullpen had to hang on in the end.

As part of the Kernels big fourth inning, Niko Goodrum hit a three-run home run. He compiled four RBI and finished the night 2-for-4. Jonathan Murphy helped the offense out of the leadoff spot by going 3-for-5 with two runs scored. Joel Licon and Michael Quesada each added a double.

Brett Lee had his shortest outing of the season by being pulled after three innings. He didn't give up a run and the Snappers only managed two hits off of him. There might have been some kind of injury or other reason to pull Lee. David Hurlbut was asked to pitch five frames and he didn't do too badly. He gave up one earned run and struck out seven. Madison Boer earned his third save by throwing a perfect ninth inning.

Fort Myers Miracle --, Charlotte Stone Crabs -- (Postponed)
Weather got in the way of the Miracle trying to end their recent losing streak. The club has lost four of their last five games and they are three games out of first place in the second half standings. Since the Miracle already clinched a playoff spot by winning the division in the first half, their current record isn't as important. 

Tonight's game will be made up as part of a double header later this month in Port Charlotte. The date and time of this game have yet to be announced. These two teams will continue their series tomorrow night at Hammond Stadium.

Elizabethon Twins 3, Johnson City Cardinals 0
Box ScoreThe story in this game was all about Hein Robb. He earned his first victory of the season in dramatic fashion. Before today's game, Robb hadn't lasted further than 7.1 innings and he was averaging under 6 innings per start. Robb was terrific by scattering two hits over nine shutout innings. He struck out nine and didn't walk a batter. 

On the offensive side of the ball, the E-Twins didn't put on a clinic but they scored enough to support Robb's outstanding pitching effort. Mitch Garver and Dereck Rodriguez each went 1-for-4 with an RBI. Tanner Vavra notched his first extra-base hit with a double. Romy Jimenez had multiple hits for the first time in his last ten games. 

GCL Twins 1, GCL Orioles 2 (10 Innings)
Box Score
Lester Oliveros continues to work his way back from Tommy John surgery. He has yet to give up a run in a game and that streak continued today. He tossed two shutout innings on Wednesday by giving up two hits and striking out one batter. Chih-Wei Hu started the game and surrendered one run on one hit over three frames. Jose Abreu earned his third loss of the year by giving up the go-ahead run in extra innings.

There wasn't a ton of offense to speak of for the GCL Twins. Four of the team's starters were held hitless. Overall, The team compiled six hits over 10 innings with Jorge Fernandez being the only player with multiple hits. He went 2-for-3 with a run scored and a walk.  Jonatan Hinojosa had an RBI and he finished the day 1-for-4.

DVD Giveaway: Twitter Fight for 1,000 Followers

To celebrate the inclusion of many new MLB Productions Films being available on iTunes, A&E Entertainment has asked me to hold a contest to get the word out about their new product line. The winner of this contest will either get a DVD copy of "Magic in Minnesota: The 1991 World Series" or "Baseball's Greatest Game: Game 7 of the 1991 World Series." Both of these movies are perfect for any Twins fan.

In order to be eligible for the contest you must follow me on Twitter and retweet the following message. This is part of my campaign to get closer to the 1,000 followers mark.

Here is what A&E had to say about their new product:

Baseball  fans are  now able to experience their  favorite  films in an entirely  new way, as titles  from the Major League Baseball Productions Film & Video Archive are now available on iTunes.  Over 100 titles are now live on iTunes, which already includes hundreds of classic games as well as podcasts and award winning mobile apps  from MLB Advanced Media, including At Bat, the top grossing sports app of all-time.

The available programming includes The Best of the Home Run Derby and “Prime 9: All-Star Moments;” Official World Series Films dating back to 1947, including the 1969 and 1986 films; the first season of “This Week In Baseball,” which originally aired in 1977; a documentary offering a fresh perspective on Jackie Robinson’s life and career;  recent productions including a comprehensive  film chronicling every era of World Series play and documentaries created to celebrate notable anniversaries for the Mets, Astros and Red Sox; bloopers titles highlighting the funniest MLB moments; and many other titles.

Any of these films can now be downloaded from the iTunes store ( Prices range from $1.99 for individual episodes of “Prime 9” and “This Week in Baseball” to $19.99 for the Official 2012 World Series Film in HD.

Tuesday, August 6, 2013

Talk to Contact: Episode 47

Episode 47 of the Twins baseball podcast,  Talk To Contact (@TalkToContact), is now available for download via iTunes or by clicking here.
Top Google Image Search Result for “sexy baseball fans Twins Minnesota mustache”

For the first time in many moons Cody takes a break and Paul and Eric are forced to go it alone. We talk about Aaron Hick’s demotion to AAA, whether or not the Twins are “rebuilding” and who the winners and losers were at the trade deadline. Adam (AJ) Pettersen is this week’s minor league prospect profile; will he ever get a cup of coffee in the big leagues? Google image search black holes, good summer beers and lots more on this week’s episode of the Talk to Contact podcast.

Enjoy 67 minutes of fun.

Thursday, August 1, 2013

Target Field has been kind to Sam Deduno

Entrenched in the middle of another losing season, it can be tough to look at the Twins roster and find some positives. There are going to be disappointments but sometimes there can be good mixed in with all of the bad.

Sam Deduno fits this mold.

He was a surprise for the 2012 Twins team and this still didn't save his spot on the 40-man roster in the offseason. Every MLB team had a chance to claim him and no one took the opportunity to add him to their club. Deduno went back into the Twins minor league pool and a successful World Baseball Classic might have given him the confidence he needed to make some adjustments.

It has been a new and improved Deduno in 2013. His career walk rate entering this season was 6.1 BB/9 and he has cut that number almost in half to 3.3 BB/9 this season. He averaged 1.2 HR/9 at the end of last year and he has reduced that number to 0.5 HR/9. With seven wins to his name, he already has a career high. Decreasing walks and keeping the ball in the park have helped to make Deduno a more effective pitcher.

One of the things that might have helped Deduno the most could be his numbers while pitching in the friendly confines of Target Field. So far this season, his ERA at home (2.33) is more than 1.30 point lower than on the road (3.65) and his 0.963 WHIP at home is outstanding. He has given up one home run at Target Filed compared to three home runs on the road.

These numbers are great so let's jump into them a little deeper.

Opponents put up pretty decent numbers against Deduno when it came to hitting against him in the past. From 2010 to 2012, opposing batters hit .248/.371/.399, which translates to a .769 OPS. He has actually been worse than that on the road this year. In eight games, the opposition has hit .262/.340/.383 including 14 extra-base hits. When Mr. Deduno gets on the mound at Target Field this year, he has limited the opposing team to a .212/.278/.293 batting line.

While the above numbers have improved for Deduno at Target Field, opponents have also found it more difficult to make hard contact. At home, the opposition has a line drive percentage of 14.4% and that number goes up to 19.1% on the road. He is also getting more ground balls at home, as his ground ball percentage is 64.4% compared to 61.8% on the road.

When Deduno is at Target Field, men reach base against him at a lower rate but he is also better at leaving them on base when they do reach. At home, he has posted an 80.4% left on base percentage. On the road, he has only been able to post a LOB% of 74.9%. Deduno's home numbers could look even better if he wouldn't have hit four men with pitches. In fact, he hit three men at Target Field in his second start of the season. If those hit bats men were taken out of the equation, Deduno would be even more impressive at home.

Overall, Deduno has looked greatly improved in front of the hometown crowd but there are plenty of games left in the season. He has started four more games on the road than at home and this difference in sample size could play a role in the numbers described above. Most surprising might be the fact that Deduno has shown some semblance of being a quality addition to the Twins starting rotation.

Not too bad for a guy that no teams wanted to claim when he was made available in the offseason.