Sunday, June 30, 2013

Twins Minor League Report (6/30): Kernels Keep Winning

The Twins had a back and forth game on a beautiful afternoon at Target Field. Unfortunately, the club came out on the losing side of their match-up with the Royals. There were home runs from Justin Morneau, Trevor Plouffe, and Clete Thomas but it still wasn't enough. The bullpen gave up four runs in the last four frames for a tough loss.

In minor league news, RHP AJ Achter was transferred to Rochester from New Britain. It will be his first trip to Triple-A. Achter had appeared in 24 games as a relief pitcher. He has a 2.27 ERA with 35 strikeouts and 19 walks in 35.2 innings. In a corresponding move, C/OF Dan Rohlfing was sent to New Britain from Rochester.

There were some close games and some hard fought victories in the Twins system today. Check out all of the action from down on the pond.

Rochester Red Wings 0, Syracuse Chiefs 2
Box Score
Liam Hendriks pitched a complete game but the offense didn't give him any support. He struck out four and walked one while limiting the Chiefs to two runs. The loss dropped his record to 1-6 and he hasn't won a game since the beginning of May.

The Red Wings had a tough time getting the offense going. Drew Butera was the lone Rochester hitter to collect more than one hit. Jeff Clement knocked his 10th double but he was the only person in the top five of the batting order to collect a hit. The bottom four batters in the order all had at least one hit.

Today's loss marked the first three game losing streak for the Red Wings since May 13-15. Rochester still ended the month of June with a 17-13 record. This was the second game of a 24 game stretch against opponents in the International League North Division.

New Britain Rock Cats 2, Reading Phillies 8
Box Score
The Rock Cats wouldn't score a run until the late innings and the Phillies were well in control by that point in the game. Two New Britain errors from Miguel Sano and Eddie Rosario resulted in some extra work for the pitching staff and the Rock Cats lost their series to Reading. It was their third loss in four games to end the month of June.

Matthew Summers was making his second start since being called up from Fort Myers. He pitched four innings and gave up five runs on seven hits. His control was a little all over the place as he walked four and struck out three. Out of his 87 pitches, 55 of them were for strikes.

Dakota Watts and Edgar Ibarra did a good job to keep the game close in the middle innings. They combined to pitch four innings and they limited Reading to two base runners. Matt Hauser pitched the ninth and he gave up three earned runs in the final frame.

Josmil Pinto didn't start at catcher but he still went 2-for-3 with a run scored from the DH slot. Daniel Ortiz went 2-or-4 with his 21st double of the season. Rosario tried to make up for his error with a double and a run scored but it still wasn't enough for New Britain.

Fort Myers Miracle 4, St. Lucie Mets 1 (Rain Shortened- 6 Innings)
Box Score
Fort Myers scored runs in four of the six innings to come out victorious in this rain shortened game. Bryon Buxton seems to be finding his swing at High-A. He went 3-for-3 in this game with his first double and first stolen base at this level. Every time he was on base, he scored a run and his average is up to .333 since being promoted.

Kennys Vargas went 2-for-3 with a double and two RBI to get his RBI total up to 61 for the year. With Buxton at the top of the order, Vargas could continue to add to this total in the coming weeks. Jhon Goncalves and Mike Kvasnicka each had a hit.

Jason Wheeler pitched 5.1 innings for his seventh win of the season. He scattered four hits and allowed one earned run. Ryan O'Rourke earned his third save by recording the last couple of outs before the rains came tumbling down. He struck out both of the batters he faced.

After losing four straight games at the beginning of the week, the Miracle have won two straight games.  The team will close out the series with St. Lucie on Monday evening.

Cedar Rapids Kernels 6, Peoria Chiefs 5
Box Score
The Kernels had won nine straight games coming into Sunday's contest with the Chiefs and it looked like their winning streak was going to come to an end. It took a little bit of magic from the Kernels in the bottom of the ninth to pull out their 10th straight wins. Max Kepler's RBI single was the only hit of the inning and it made the team walk-off winners.

Tim Atherton made his first start for the Kernels after appearing in 20 games as a relief pitcher. He pitched into the fourth inning and allowed three runs even though one of them was earned. He walked three batters and struck out two. Alex Muren and Tyler Jones pitched the last three innings and one unearned run was scored against them. Jones picked up his fourth win of the season.

The offense was lead by Jorge Polanco with two hits and two runs scored. Travis Harrison hit his 24th double and knocked in a couple of runs. In the game, Harrison did have his 17 error of the season at third base. Niko Goodrum got a start at first base and he added his 17th double while scoring a run.

Mike Pelfrey will make a rehab start for the Kernels on Monday night. It will be the final game of the series against the Chiefs and the club will be going for win number 11 in a row.

Elizabethton Twins 5, Kingsport Mets 1
Box Score
The E-Twins kept up their winning ways in the early portion of their season. Randy Rosario won his second decision after he threw five innings by striking out seven and allowing one earned run. The Mets only managed three hits against him and he didn't walk a batter.

Austin Malinowski and Brandon Peterson each pitched two frames and combined to give up two hits. Peterson struck out four batters and he has yet to let a run cross the plate. Malinowski had a good bounce back performance after allowing three runs in his last appearance.

Dereck Rodriguez went 3-for-4 with two doubles and a run scored. He also stole third base for his fourth steal of 2013. Bryan Haar hit his third home run of the season. Mitch Garver and Romy Jimenez also hit long balls and for each of them it was their first home run.

Friday, June 28, 2013

Friday Links-N-Thinks

Another week of baseball's regular season has come and gone.

For the Twins there was plenty of news this week. The Marlins turned out to be pesky but they have been surprising more than one team in the National League so far this season. Kyle Gibson will be making his big league debut on Saturday and this is a moment to get a little bit excited about. Twins fans have heard his name for multiple seasons.

Ryan Doumit had a cool slide, Byron Buxton is good at baseball, and the trade deadline is approaching. All these things and more in the latest edition of "Links-N-Thinks.

My Weekly Rundown
Video of the Week: Ryan Doumit had to get a little creative on this play at the plate. He missed the plate on his first pass and he had to sneak back behind the catcher to score a run. I'm sure Oswaldo Arcia was happy since it added to his RBI total but it was still a funny play to watch unfold. Watch it again and enjoy your weekend!

Thursday, June 27, 2013

A Checklist for Kyle Gibson

The 2009 MLB Draft has to feel like eons ago to Mr. Kyle Gibson. He was supposed to be a high first round pick but some injury concerns caused him to drop to the Twins with the 22nd pick. In 2010, he went on a tear through the Twins farm system as he started in High-A and finished the year at Triple-A. The club named him the minor league pitcher of the year and he looked to be one step away from the big leagues.

Tommy John surgery would halt his progress in 2011 and he has been slowly working his way back to get ready for a special moment this weekend. On Saturday afternoon at Target Field, Gibson will get to walk out onto a big league mound for the first time. A life-long dream will be realized and there can be plenty of pressure when a person is making their MLB debut.

Here are some important tips for Gibson to keep in mind as he prepares for Saturday.

1. Don't shoot for a perfect game
Only 23 pitchers in major league history have accomplished this feat so it might not be the easiest mark to shoot for in your debut outing. There have been even fewer rookies to throw no-hitters (20) so this might also not be a realistic goal. The only pitcher to toss a no-hitter in his first major league start was Bobo Holloman in 1953. He only pitched one season and accumulated a 5.23 ERA. The last American League rookie starter to have a no-hitter was Clay Buchholz in 2007 and he did it in his second major league start.

2. Don't try to strike everyone out
There can be some worries surrounding pitchers as they come back from Tommy John surgery. Will they be able to regain their old form? Are they still going to be consistent on the mound? In his first full season back from Tommy John, Gibson has averaged 7.6 strikeouts per nine innings. During April, that number was close to 8.7 but he wasn't able to pitch further into games and his other numbers suffered. In 2010, his last full season before Tommy John surgery, Gibson averaged 7.4 strikeouts per nine innings. He spent the first two months of the season dominating High-A so those numbers can be a little skewed.

3. There are going to be some rookie moments
Bert Blyleven gave up a home run to the first batter he faced and he still went on to have a Hall-of-Fame career. At some point, Gibson will give up a long ball and runs are going to get scored against him. For the most part, he had done a good job of keeping the ball in the park this season by limiting opponents to four home runs in 92.2 innings. In his minor league career, he had a 1.22 WHIP and he average 8.5 hits per nine innings. There will be some base runners but it's important how he reacts when those runners are on base.

4. This season is about development
While the Twins are still in the vicinity of the .500 mark, this season is all about preparing players for the future. The key for Gibson is to be able to control his fastball. From there, his other pitches can be more effective. One of his biggest weaknesses this spring was some of his off-speed offerings. He's had almost 100 innings this season to get back his comfort level with his breaking pitches. Big league hitters can tee off on badly placed fastballs especially if there isn't a threat of a breaking pitch being anywhere near the plate. He needs to use all of his pitches and find some consistency.

5. Success can come in a variety of forms
Some Twins fans might consider this the team motto for the last couple of seasons. Gibson isn't going to be Matt Harvey or Gerrit Cole. Fans might think Gibson is that level of prospect because his name has been around in the Twins organization for a few years. Let's make something clear... he isn't an elite pitching prospect. In this Twins rotation, he could turn into the ace of the staff but that's not saying much. If he reaches his full potential, he should be in the Twins rotation for the better part of the next decade. He can be a solid number two or number three starter if he gets everything right. There will be flashes of brilliance and some rough outings along the way. He's the first of some high level pitching prospects to reach the majors and there will be plenty of pressure on him to succeed.

Wednesday, June 26, 2013

Twins Minor League Report (6/26): Sano's Big Day

MLB made it official on Wednesday afternoon.

Miguel Sano and Byron Buxton are the "future" and they will both be participants in this year's MLB Futures Game. This game features some of the best talent in the minor leagues from each organization. The teams are broken up into a World Team and a US Team so Sano and Buxton will be on opposite squads.

Because of some rainouts on Tuesday, there were a ton of games in the Twins system on Wednesday. Let's see who else is part of the Twins future.


Rochester Red Wings 9, Indianapolis Indians 7
Box Score
It took a whole lot of offense and some nail biting in the late innings but the Red Wings were still able to pick up their 40th win of the season. The win also assured the team of their first winning month of the year and their first winning month since last July.

Chris Colabello continues to destroy the International League. He went 2-for-4 with his team leading 18th home run. So far this season, he is hitting .369/.437/.663 with Rochester. Jeff Clement added two hits and his seventh double. Doug Bernier and James Beresford had two hits apiece. Colabello, Clement, and Beresford each had two RBI.

After going 3-for-4 with a double and an RBI in his first Triple-A game, Aaron Hicks wasn't as lucky in game two. He played in center field for the first time on his rehab assignment. He went 0-for-2 with an RBI and a walk. He was pulled early from the game.

Rochester's starter Cole De Vries pitched through five innings and kept the team in the game. He allowed four runs on eight hits including a home run. Cody Eppley ran into some trouble in the late innings as he gave up three earned runs in a little over an inning of work. Shairon Martis had to pitch the last 1.2 innings for his fourth save.

New Britain Rock Cats 9, Altoona Curve 2 (Completion of 6/25)
Box Score
The transition to Double-A hasn't been the easiest for Miguel Sano and the hits have been few and far between. After going 1-for-3 with a home run, maybe it was a sign of some good things to come. He has been hitting the ball hard but pitchers have been careful with him.

Curt Smith had a fantastic day at the plate by going 3-for-4 with a home run and four RBI. Nate Hanson only had one hit but he made it count with a triple and two RBI. Josmil Pinto punched his 17th double and he came around to score.

Matthew Summers had been the starter on Tuesday before the rains came. Bobby Lanigan picked up the game on Wednesday and he would earn his third win. He threw three innings and gave up three hits. Dakota Watts and Matt Hauser didn't allow an earned run in the last four innings.

New Britain Rock Cats 6, Altoona Curve 3 (7 innings)
Box Score
With his home run earlier in the day, something must have clicked for Sano. He went 2-for-4 in the second game of the day with a double and a triple. Out of his nine hits at Double-A, six of them have been for extra bases. Between the two games, he went 3-for-7 with three extra-base hits.

Tom Stuifbergen earned his second win with the Rock Cats. Over five innings, he spread out eight hits and limited Altoona to three earned runs. He struck out two batters and walked one. Edgar Ibarra finished off the last two innings while allowing one hit and securing his second save.

Daniel Ortiz went 2-for-4 with his third triple. Jordan Parraz hit a two-run home run to cap off a six-run first inning for New Britain. This huge first inning would be all the runs the Rock Cats would need. The club went 4-for-8 with runners in scoring position and the win brought the team back to within two games of the .500 mark.

Fort Myers Miracle 3, Jupiter Hammerheads 5
Box Score
The Byron Buxton era in Fort Myers isn't off to the best start. The club hasn't won in his first two games since his promotion. He got his first RBI at the High-A level in this contest. Buxton went 1-for-4 and he's had at least one hit in each game.

Tyler Duffy was making his fourth start since being called up from Cedar Rapids. He made it through six innings but he got knocked around for 12 hits and five earned runs. He struck out two batters and he didn't issue any walks. It was his third loss and he given up five runs in his last two starts. Corey Williams threw two innings in relief and he struck out four.

Candido Pimentel was the lone Fort Myers hitter with more than one hit. He went 2-for-3 with a double and a run scored. Mike Kvasnicka hit his fourth home run and it was only his 14th game. The Miracle will finish up their road trip with a three-game series against Jupiter.

Cedar Rapids Kernels 5, Burlington Bees 2
Box Score
In the month of May, Jose Berrios had yet to earn a victory but that streak came to an end on Wednesday. Last year's supplemental first round pick tossed seven outstanding innings. He struck out nine batters and didn't allow a walk. The Bees scored two runs off of him on five hits. In his last ten starts, it was the first time Berrios made it through seven innings of work.

Max Kepler continues to do his best to replace the offense lost with Buxton's promotion. Kepler hit his second home run in as many nights. Dalton Hicks went 2-for-4 with a double and two RBI. Niko Goodrum and Jorge Polanco each added a double to their impressive numbers this season. 

The Kernels improved to 46-28 with the win. Since the All-Star Break at the beginning of last week, the club is a perfect 6-0. They will look to continue that streak in the second game of the series against Burlington. 

Elizabethton Twins 5, Princeton Rays 4
Box Score
The E-Twins pounded out 15 hits and the club needed everyone of them to improve their record to 6-1. Bryan Haar went 1-for-4 with his first home run of the season. With three hits in the game, Bryan Santy had his first multi-hit game. Dereck Rodriguez, Javier Pimentel, and Ryan Walker all had two hits.

Felix Jorge pitched 5.2 strong innings by allowing one hit. He struck out six, walked three, and earned his first win. Austin Malinowski had a tough time finding the plate with three walks and his three runs allowed helped to keep the Rays in the game.

Dallas Gallant and Brandon Peterson finished off the last 2.1 innings. They limited the Rays to three hits and no runs. Each of these players struck out a batter and they have yet to allow a run this season.

GCL Twins 5, GCL Orioles 4
Box Score
Scoring two runs in each of the first two innings put the GCL Twins ahead but the GCL Orioles would claw their way back into the game with a three-run eighth inning. The Twins turned out to have just enough offense to win their third game of the year and the club is now one game over .500.

Mexican pitcher Leonel Zazueta made his second appearance of the year and his first start. He threw four shutout innings by scattering three hits and striking out two. He didn't walk a batter but he wouldn't figure into the decision.

Bruce Pugh got hit around a little in his inning of work. He was charged with all three runs but he did strike out three batters. German born pitcher Markus Solbach earned his first professional victory with two scoreless innings of relief.

Zach Larson hit a two-run home run to help the Twins to their early lead. Adonis Pacheco went 2-for-3 with a triple and a run scored. Alex Swim added two hits of his own. Overall, the team left six runners on base and they went 2-for-11 with runners in scoring position.

Monday, June 24, 2013

2013 Minnesota Twins Trade Candidates

The end of June is quickly approaching and this means it is a little over a month away from the July 31st trade deadline. Things have started to look a little better for the Twins but the club is still in the bottom half of the AL Central. This should mean the club will be sellers at this year's trade deadline.

As I have stated previously, the Twins focus should be on contending again by 2015. Joe Mauer will be the veteran bat in the middle of the line-up surrounded by other young players like Oswaldo Arcia, Miguel Sano, and Eddie Rosario. Even last year's number one pick Byron Buxton could be ready for the big leagues at some point in 2015.

Minnesota has one of the best minor league systems in baseball and the organization has the opportunity to improve their depth by trading away some pieces this July. Power hitters and members of the pitching staff can be valuable commodities at this time of year.

Let's look at a few of the names that could be floating around as baseball's hot stove starts to heat up.

Position Players
Justin Morneau, 1B
The former MVP is in the final year of his contract and it doesn't seem likely for him to be part of the next winnings baseball team in Minnesota. His ability to play first base and hit for power might be intriguing to more than one contending team. Morneau might be even more desirable for a team that has suffered an injury to their first baseman. That being said, there are some recent injury concerns for Morneau and his power has been almost nonexistent in 2013. A team trading for him wouldn't be making a long-term commitment so this could help to strengthen his market.

Josh Willingham, LF/DH
There were a few trade rumors swirling around last season when Willingham was in the midst the best season of his career. Things haven't gone as smoothly in 2013 but that still doesn't mean other teams won't be interested in adding him for the stretch run. Willingham is under contract for all of 2014 at a reasonable amount and this could also help to add to his trade value. He will turn 35-years old before next season and some teams might be scared away by his aging body especially teams in the National League where there isn't a DH.

Dark Horse: Trevor Plouffe, 3B
Minnesota has seen some flashes of good signs from Plouffe and this could make some other clubs interested in him. The former first round pick didn't work out as a middle infielder but he continues to improve at the plate and on the defensive side of the ball. Miguel Sano is working his way through the Twins system and he looks to be the Twins third baseman of the future. Deibinson Romero has also compiled some solid numbers in the minor leagues and it might be worth giving him a look at third base. This makes Plouffe expendable if the Twins want to move him.

Pitchers
Kevin Correia, RHP
There isn't going to be a ton of starting pitchers available at the deadline and this could be a positive for the Twins. So far this year, Correia has put together the numbers that the front office thought he would produce when they signed him to an offseason free agent deal. The Twins gave Correia a two-year deal so he is still under contract for 2014 at a rate of $5 million. It would be nice to dump that salary on a team looking to add a back of the rotation starter for their playoff push. He might not net a big haul but he could be worth a mid-range prospect or two if the market continues to be weak for starting pitching.

Jared Burton, RHP
Things have been a little rough on the mound in the last couple weeks for Mr. Burton. After last season's outstanding job as the team's set-up man, the Twins gave Burton an extension. Something isn't quite right with Burton and this might be a reason for the organization to ship him out of town. Contending teams can usually use another relief arm especially a veteran arm like Burton. He even got the opportunity to close a few games and some teams value this "skill." In the month of July, he will need to show some flashes of the pitcher he was last season or other teams aren't even going to consider him an option.

Dark Horse: Glen Perkins, LHP
Reports were out last week that Twins general manager Terry Ryan is going to want a haul in return for Perkins. The team's closer is under contract through 2015 with a team option for 2016. It's a very team friendly deal and that's a good thing for the Twins and their fans. If Perkins stays with the Twins, he could be the closer on Minnesota's next winning team. Ryan could also get an offer that is too good to pass up and this could mean Perkins is in another uniform by the end of July. It seems like a long shot at this point but anything can happen around the deadline.

Friday, June 21, 2013

Talk to Contact: Episode 42

Episode 42 of the Twins baseball podcast, Talk To Contact (@TalkToContact), is now available for download via iTunes or by clicking here.


Eric and Cody talk with noted Twins blogger Andrew Walter from http://twinsfanfromafar.blogspot.com/ to get an update on Twins uber prospect Miguel Sano and teammate Eddie Rosario. Along the way they go Down on the Pond and talk about MiLB pitcher Pat Dean.
They have a lot of fun talking Twins news, beer, and general baseball weirdness. They’re kind of a big deal.
88 more minutes of pleasure.

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!

Friday Links-N-Thinks

The Twins put together a solid series against the White Sox to earn a three-game sweep. The rival Sox are plummeting in the AL Central but it is still nice to beat a hated foe. Powerful offensive performances and some decent pitching helped to club in the series. Now it will be time to see what the team can do when they head out on the road for a couple of series.

Some of the other Twins headlines from this week included: Justin Morneau finally ended the longest home run drought of his career, Kevin Corriea put together a couple of solid starts, and Sam Deduno continues to impress. Everything seems to be going good in Twins Territory but this has been a streaky team this season and it's going to take more than a few wins to impress the fan base.

Here are some of the most enjoyable stories from around the web in the last week. Make sure to check them all out before you head out of the office for the weekend.
My Weekly Rundown
Video of the Week: After ending the longest home run drought of his career, the Twins had a little fun with their Canadian first baseman. Justin Morneau came into the dugout and he had to give high-fives to his invisible teammates. His real teammates were told by the manager to give Morneau the silent treatment. It was a funny moment especially since it had to be a big weight off of his shoulders to finally hit one out.

Wednesday, June 19, 2013

Twins Minor League Report (6/19): Sano's 1st AA Blast

The Cedar Rapids Kernels are in the midst of their All-Star break so they were out of action on Wednesday night. This didn't stop the Twins from announcing that one of their top prospects, Max Kepler, would be joining that club. He had been at extended spring training as he worked to recover from an elbow injury. The power hitting outfielder will take over a corner outfield spot since Byron Buxton is manning center field in Cedar Rapids.

Liam Hendriks was also reinstated from the disabled list and this meant another move had to be made. Right handed pitcher Virgil Vasquez was sent from Rochester to New Britain as the corresponding move. It has been a rough season so far for Hendriks and it would be nice to see him put together some strong starts in the second half of the year.

Here's a look at Wednesday night's action in the Twins farm system.

Rochester Red Wings 7, Scranton/WB RailRiders 10
Box Score
Liam Hendriks returned to the mound on Wednesday night after missing over a month with right elbow inflammation. It was his first start since May 9th and there was certainly a little rust to work through. Over four innings, he surrendered seven runs on nine hits including two home runs. Out of his 77 pitches, 47 were for strikes but he limited his walks to two.

The bottom four hitters in the Red Wings line-up all had an RBI. Doug Bernier went 3-for-5 with four RBI and a triple. Dan Rohlfing, James Beresford, and Drew Butera all knocked in a run. Jeff Clement and Chris Herrmann each added a double.

The Red Wings had plenty of opportunities with runners in scoring position. Over the course of the night, Rochester went 5-for-15 with men in scoring position. The club also left 11 runners on base. Antoan Richardson stole his 14th base since joining Rochester and he now has 27 steals on the year between Double-A and Triple-A.

Rochester started the year 2-11, hot play in recent weeks has gotten the Red Wings closer to the .500 mark. The team has still won six of their last eight games and they are within striking distance of a wild card spot. A win tomorrow would split the two-game set with Scranton/WB.

New Britain Rock Cats 1, Erie SeaWolves 2
Box Score
After starting his Double-A career 1-for-17 with a single, Miguel Sano finally notched his first home runs since being called up to New Britain. His long ball broke a scoreless tie to put the Rock Cats ahead in the top of the seventh inning. Sano's home run wouldn't be enough as the SeaWolves scored two runs in the bottom half of the inning.

It was another tough luck loss for Pat Dean as he suffered his third consecutive defeat. In two of the three outings, he surrendered two runs or less and pitched into the seventh inning. The Rock Cats offense hasn't been able to support him when he is on the mound.

Matt Hauser did a fantastic job in relief of Dean. He recorded the last four outs of the game on four strikeouts. His ERA lowered to 1.23 and he has only allowed one run since being promoted to New Britain at the end of May.

Following last night's four hit game, Danny Santana had a couple of hits and his fifth double of the year. Eddie Rosario went 1-for-3 and he has hit safely in five of his six games since joining New Britain. Daniel Ortiz was the only other player to record a hit.

Fort Myers Miracle 5, Palm Beach Cardinals 8
Box Score
Jason Wheeler failed to pitch through the fifth inning for the first time since May 21 and the Miracle weren't able to dig themselves out of an early hole. It marked only the second time this season where Wheeler was saddled with the loss. He threw 4.1 innings, gave up eight runs, and got knocked around for seven hits.

The Miracle bullpen did a fairly good job in relief. Nelvin Fuentes, Jose Gonzalez, and Corey Williams pitched 4.2 innings and allowed two base runners while striking out seven. Fuentes entered in a tough spot with the bases loaded and he allowed all of the inherited runners to score. From there, he was able to settle down and the zeros started to pile up.

Kennys Vargas continued his power hitting ways with a double and two RBI. He finished the night 2-for-4 and he has had multiple hit in his last two games. Candido Pimentel and Mike Kvasnicka added a hit apiece. Stephen Wickens went 2-for-3 as he continues to get closer to a .250 batting average.

Those Damn Yankees: Chuck Knoblauch

Love 'em or hate 'em, the Yankees are headed to town in the beginning of July. This year marks the 10th anniversary of the first of four Twins postseason defeats at the hands of the Bronx Bombers, so we thought we'd take the opportunity to look back at what has been a lopsided -- but always entertaining and memorable -- rivalry between the two franchises. Over the next couple weeks leading up to the Yankees series at Target Field, various writers at Twins Daily will look back at some of the Yankee moments that stick out in our minds.

Chuck Knoblauch

The name alone can bring up a wide-range of feelings for Twins fans. From World Series champion to the business end of a flying sea of hot dogs, Knoblauch suffered through some highs and lows in Minnesota. These opposite ends of the spectrum are what make his story so intriguing. 

One of the biggest high points in Knoblauch's career had to have been the Twins run to the 1991 World Series. The rookie second baseman would put up strong numbers in the World Series by hitting .308/.387/.346. In the pivotal seventh game of the series, Knoblauch and shortstop Greg Gange appeared to deceive Lonnie Smith. Terry Pendleton hit a clear double but Knoblach pretended to start a double play and Smith only made it to third base. This run would be critical in a tight game.

During his time with the Twins, Knoblauch compiled some very good on the field numbers. From 1991-1997, he hit .304/.391/.416 with 210 doubles, 51 triples, and 43 home runs. His best three-year stretch was from 1994-1996 when he batted .330/.422/.491. Before he was traded away, Knoblauch accumulated a career 37.8 WAR which puts him in some elite company in the Twins organization.

Knoblauch's Twins tenure didn't end the greatest as he suffered through some of the toughest years in Twins Territory. He wanted to go to a winning team and the Twins didn't look to be moving in that direction. The club would trade him to the New York Yankees following the 1997 season for a package of players. Minnesota got the best years out of Knoblauch and there would be some dark moments ahead for him.

Two future All-Stars, Cristian Guzman and Eric Milton were among the players that were part of the Knoblauch deal. In a strange turn of events, Knoblauch left town because he wanted to win and the players he was traded for would be part of Minnesota's new winning tradition. Here is how the package of players fared in their Twins careers:
  1. Eric Milton 14.7 WAR (6 seasons)
  2. Cristian Guzman 7.5 WAR (6 seasons)
  3. Brian Buchanan 0.3 WAR (3 seasons)
  4. Danny Mota 0.0 WAR (1 season)
While the Twins got back a value of 22.5 WAR, Knoblauch would produce 7.4 WAR during his time in a Yankees uniform. He would help New York to three consecutive World Series Championships from 1998 to 2000. Knoblauch had important home runs in the 1998 and 1999 series and the Yankees won the American League pennant every year he was with the team. 

Things weren't all positive during his years in New York. In 1999, he began to have a tough time making throws to first base. This condition would worsen enough in 2000 that he began to play more time at DH. In 2001, he didn't play a game at second as the team moved him to left field and this allowed Alfonso Soriano to slide into the line-up.

One of the most memorable moments in Metrodome history took place after Knoblauch moved to the outfield. When the Yankees visited Minnesota at the beginning of May 2001, things turned ugly in the outfield stands. It was "Dollar Dog Night" so fans had access to plenty of cheap ammo. Minnesota was still trying to get back to respectability in the AL so tickets were cheap. This lead to some poor decisions from the Metrodome faithful.

In the bottom of the sixth inning, the Twins took a three run lead on a Matt Lawton single. The fans had plenty of rounds of beer and hot dogs in them by this point in the game. As excitement rang from the crowd, hot dogs and other objects were thrown on the field.  PA Announcer Bob Casey did his best to calm to raucous crowd but it wasn't until manager Tom Kelly walked out and spoke with the fans that things would finally get back to order. 

Overall, Knoblauch put together some solid numbers in his 12-year MLB career. His post-playing career has been filled with more than one black eye and this has tarnished some of his on the field legacy. Some Twins fans will remember the solid second baseman that helped the club to win a championship. Others will think of flying hot dogs and steroid accusations. 

Either way, Knoblauch is a very polarizing figure. It also doesn't help that he was a damn Yankee.

Monday, June 17, 2013

The Curious Case of Kyle Gibson

The middle of June has come and gone and there is no sign of Kyle Gibson in the Twin Cities.

Teams like the Rays and the Mets are calling up top prospects like Wil Myers and Zack Wheeler because the deadline has passed for players to qualify for Super Two status. This means the Rays and Mets can control these high level players for a big chunk of the next decade.

Gibson has a different story than some other players. The former first round pick entered the Twins system with three years of college experience. This allowed him to move through the organization at a fast pace in 2010. Tommy John surgery was the only thing that could slow him down on his way to the major leagues.

Now Gibson has worked his way back to the form he showed before his injury. Over his last 10 games, he has a 6-2 record with a 2.89 ERA. In 65.1 innings pitched, he has 54 strikeouts and 20 walks. He also has two complete game shutouts during that stretch and that's more than he's had in any professional season.

It sure seems like Gibson is ready so what's the hold-up.

At the beginning of June, the reasoning used by Twins general manager Terry Ryan was the team was looking for more "consistency." In his three starts since that interview, Gibson has pitched at least six innings and he has given up three earned runs or less while striking out a total of 14 batters. By looking back even further, Gibson hasn't been pulled from a game before the sixth inning since the middle of May.

The consistency is there but Gibson isn't getting the call.

One of the problems for Gibson is the improved performance of the Twins starting rotation. In the month of May, the Twins staff had the third worst ERA (5.06) in all of baseball. They ranked last in strikeouts and opponents had a higher batting average against the Twins than any other team. This lead to some changes like Deduno's call up and Vance Worley's demotion.

Since the calendar switched to June, the Twins pitching numbers have been greatly improved. Minnesota ranks seventh in all of baseball for team ERA this month. The club's WHIP and hits allowed are right in the middle of the pack. 

During the team's last 18 games, the team has gone 11-7 and the starters have helped to keep the team in games. So far in the month of June, here is what the starting rotation has done:
1. Sam Deduno (3 Starts): 2.00 ERA, 18 IP, 1.28 WHIP
2. PJ Walters (3 Starts): 2.41 ERA, 18.2 IP, 1.55 WHIP
3. Kevin Correia (3 Starts): 4.00 ERA, 18 IP, 1.50 WHIP
4. Scott Diamond (3 Starts): 5.51 ERA, 16.1 IP, 1.47 WHIP
5. Mike Pelfrey (2 Starts): 4.05 ERA, 13.1 IP, 1.05 WHIP 

The Twins have said that Gibson will be on an innings limit and it is expected to be in the range of 130-140 innings. He currently sits at 85.2 innings and that means his next start will likely push him over the 90 innings mark. This would leave him with less than 50 available innings at the big league level this season. 

All of the Twins moves this season should be focused on the future. It might have been good for Gibson to get some more experience at the Triple-A level and his performance this spring proved that he needed to work on some things in the minors. It is just tough to know how much longer the Twins can wait to call him up.

As the starters continue to pitch well, Gibson gets one step closer to reaching his innings limit with each start in Rochester. If the Twins don't call him up before his limit, the club will be missing out on a opportunity for him to gain some big league experience. Rookies can have some ups and downs and it would be nice to get some of those out of the way in 2013. 

Gibson is part of the plan for the future but it's hard to see what the club's plan is for the present. The 25-year old has been through a lot in his professional career and it's time to take the training wheels off and see if he can make it ride at the big league level.

The Future of Trevor Plouffe

Plouffe reentered the Twins line-up this weekend with a bang. This was great to see from the former first round pick but one has to look at the future of Twins baseball and wonder what his place will be with this organization. It seems as if the Twins are still a couple years away from contending and that could mean some changes for the 27-year old Plouffe.

Twins fans will best remember Plouffe for his Ruthian like hot streak during the middle of last season. In a stretch of 14 games, he hit .375/.397/.982 with 10 home runs and four doubles. It looked like the Twins had found their man at third base but a hand injury would slow him down. Fans were left wondering what version of Plouffe the Twins would have in 2013.

So far this season, Plouffe has missed time on the 7-day concussion DL and this was quickly followed by another DL trip for a leg injury. He has played in 39 games and he has hit .264/.344/.457 with five home runs and 10 doubles. His batting average is higher than any point at last season and this has helped some of his other numbers to improve.

One of the problems facing Plouffe in the future could be the players coming up through the minor league system behind him. Deibinson Romero has put together strong numbers this season at Double-A and Triple-A. This leaves him a step away from the big leagues and the Twins might be willing to give him a look at some point this season.

Further behind in Plouffe's rear-view mirror is uber prospect Miguel Sano. The Twins recently promoted Sano to Double-A and some of the best prospects in baseball don't even make a stop at Triple-A. Sano will probably be in New Britain for the rest of this season but that doesn't mean he couldn't be in the mix for the starting third base job in 2014.

In the past, there have been some questions about Sano's ability to stick at third base. He was a little raw at the hot corner and one of his biggest improvement areas over the last couple of years has been his defense. Last season, he had 42 errors in 361 chances at third. This season he has 12 errors in 170 chances.

As we gaze into our crystal ball and look toward the future of Twins baseball, there are a few different situations that could transpire for Plouffe...

1. Move to a corner outfield spot: When Michael Cuddyer didn't work out at third base, the club moved him to a corner outfield spot and this is where he truly began to flourish. He would earn his lone All-Star selection as an outfielder and he became a strong veteran presence in the clubhouse. Plouffe would need to continue to make improvements at the plate and if he can make those adjustments, this seems like the most likely path.

2. Stay at third base: If Sano has to be moved from third base to first base, this would leave a hole at a corner infield spot. For the majority of his minor league career, Plouffe was a shortstop so he has been learning some of his third base skills on the fly. Plouffe has been below average on defense when compared to the rest of the league so he would need to continue to improve.

3. Find another team: There is a strong crop of minor league players moving through the organization and this youth movement could push Plouffe to the side. The Twins have control of Plouffe through the arbitration process until 2018. He would be 32-years old and his production level might be less than what the Twins would have to pay him. This could mean a new organization for Mr. Plouffe.

Overall, the Twins hope Plouffe's performance on the field makes it an easy decision to keep him around and in the line-up on a daily basis. Sano might have a lot to say about Plouffe staying at third base but a corner outfield spot might be a welcome sight for Plouffe as he gets closer to 30.

There are a lot of variables to the equation of Trevor Plouffe's future. Fans can hope he figures things out at the plate and in the field to become a strong veteran player on some Twins team's that should be back near the top of the American League Central.

Sunday, June 16, 2013

Talk to Contact: Episode 41

Episode 41 of the Twins baseball podcast,  Talk To Contact (@TalkToContact), is now available for download via iTunes or by clicking here.

On Episode 41 Cody and Eric talk about some high profile prospects earning a Minor League promotion, review the draft and prospect rankings infused with new talent, and talk about Denard Span and Ben Revere taking the field against the Twins. They discuss the release of long time MiLB favorite Anthony Slama, and they try and figure out who is the Twins’ best starting pitcher (protip: they have no idea!).
Down on the Pond this week is James Beresford, and on Beers from Around the World it is the return of BREADY BEER!
The boys then go Around the League and answer a couple of email questions. All together 88 minutes of pleasure for your ears.
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!

Friday, June 14, 2013

Friday Links-N-Thinks

After a rough road trip over the last week, the Twins returned home to face a Phillies team with it's own share of struggles. Minnesota won the first two games of the series but both games were close. The Tigers come to town for Father's Day weekend and this marks the start of nine straight games against AL Central opponents.

This can become a crucial part of the schedule if the Twins want to stay in the hunt for a division crown. The club has a winning record so far in June and that is a good way to get back to the .500 mark. So far this season, the Twins are 9-15 versus AL Central foes.

There has been plenty of news from around Twins Territory this week so let's dive into the latest edition of "Friday Links-N-Thinks."
My Weekly Rundown
Video of the Week: Byron Buxton and the Cedar Rapids Kernels were featured on FSN North earlier this week. Buxton didn't disappoint as he had a great day at the plate and he made one of the best defensive plays you are going to see all year. If you haven't seen this catch yet, here it is. If you have seen it, you should probably watch it a few more times. It never gets old.


Wednesday, June 12, 2013

Twins Minor League Report (6/12): Double-A Debuts

With two rainouts on Tuesday, there was a duo of double headers on Wednesday night. Miguel Sano, Eddie Rosario, and Angel Morales all made their Double-A debuts. Jason Wheeler helped the Miracle to win even with a new core of players in their everyday line-up. The Kernels had a chance to clinch a playoff birth.

Earlier today I released an updated list of the top 10 prospects in the Twins organization. There was a new name at the top of the list and two other players sneaking into the top 5. Newly drafted high school pitcher Kohl Stewart is on the list but where does he rank?

Lots of members from my top ten list were in action on Wednesday. Let's see what happened down on the farm!

Rochester Red Wings (Schedule Off Day)
It's the last scheduled off day of the month for Rochester. In fact, the club will play 20 games in the last 19 days of June. The Red Wings have lost four of their last six games so the team would like to get back on track as they play four games at home over the weekend.

Rochester has a 30-36 record and the team sits eight games out of first place in the International League North. Over their last ten games, the Red Wings have gone 6-4 so things are moving the right way. The first goal is to try and sneak back closer to the .500 mark and that can start this weekend.

New Britain Rock Cats 1, Altoona Curve 7 (7 Innings-Game 1)
Box Score
The Double-A debuts for Miguel Sano, Eddie Rosario, and Angel Morales didn't exactly go as planned. New Britain's pitching staff was roughed up for seven runs in the loss. The new trio of players went 1-for-6 with a run scored and an RBI.

Sano made three plate appearances that resulted in a walk, a ground out, and a deep sac fly. Rosario had one of the team's three hits in the game and he scored the lone run. Reynaldo Rodriguez went 2-for-3 with the only extra-base hit for the Rock Cats. As a team, New Britain went 0-for-5 with runners in scoring position.

Pat Dean lost his second consecutive start and he was hit around a bit in less than six innings of work. He surrendered nine hits and five earned runs while striking out one. 62 of his 86 pitches were strikes so he was near the plate for most of the evening.

New Britain Rock Cats 1, Altoona Curve 3 (7 Innings- Game 2)
Box Score
For the second game in a row, the Rock Cats struggled to push runs across the plate. Only three players were able to collect hits and that will make it tough to score. Danny Santana went 1-for-3 and scored a run. Eddie Rosario picked up his second hit at Double-A and Sano added his second RBI on a sac fly. The team left five runners on bas and went 0-for-4 with runners in scoring position.

Trevor May started on the mound and he did his best to keep the Rock Cats in the game. He pitched into the seventh inning and allowed three runs on five hits. He struck out eight and limited his walks to three. He was out pitched on this night by former Twins minor leaguer David Bromberg. In six innings, Bromberg gave up one run on two hits and struck out 12.

The loss drops New Britain three games under .500 but the team will look to salvage the last game of the series with Altoona tomorrow.

Fort Myers Miracle 6, Daytona Cubs 3 (7 Innings- Game 1)
Box Score
Jason Wheeler continued his stretch of strong starts in the Florida State League. In the make-up of Tuesday's washed out contest, Wheeler tossed five strong innings and limited the Cubs to two runs on four hits. There was a little trouble with control as he walked five batters and struck out three. It was his sixth win of the season and he improved his record to 6-1.

Anderlin Mejia paced the new look Miracle line-up with three hits including his fifth double. Jhon Gonclaves and Stephen Wickens each added a double and two RBI. Former Gopher Mike Kvasnicka had his first multi-hit game since joining the team earlier on Monday.

Zach Jones picked up his seventh save of the season by getting the last four outs of the game. Three of the four batters he faced ended up striking out and he lowered his ERA to 1.46. Over his last ten games, Jones has only given up four hits and two earned runs.

Fort Myers Miracle 5, Daytona Cubs 4 (7 Innings- Game 2)
Box Score
Dayton made things interesting by scoring four runs in the last three innings but the Miracle were able to hang on for a nail-biting win. It was the club's 43rd victory and the team has only lost 20 games.

Some of Miguel Sano's powerful swing must have stayed at third base for Fort Myers. Stephen Wickens was playing in the position formally occupied by Sano and he hit his first home run of the season. For the game, Wickens went 2-for-4 with a couple of RBI. Aderlin Mejia and Jairo Rodriguez each had two hits and an RBI.

Matthew Summers only pitched four innings but he didn't allow a run and he struck out six. After not walking more than three batters in any of his last 10 games, Summers issued five free passes in this game. Taylor Rogers was credited with the win and Corey Williams picked up his ninth save.

Cedar Rapids Kernels 12, Quad Cities River Bandits 4
Box Score
A huge eighth inning helped the Kernels to clinch a first half playoff birth. Cedar Rapids entered the frame tied with Quad Cities but the club would see eight runs cross the plate. With their win and the River Bandits loss, the Kernels are guaranteed one of the two playoff spots for the first half.

Jose Berrios pitched six strong innings by not giving up an earned run and striking out six. There were multiple errors on behind him that meant two unearned runs ended up on his final line. Steven Gruver would pick up the win but this came after allowed two runs to score in the seventh.

Travis Harrison might of had his 15th error at third base but he continued his strong season at the plate. He went 2-for-3 with his 10th home run. Jorge Polanco collected four hits including two doubles and two RBI. Uber-prospect Byron Buxton went 3-for-6 with his 15th double and his 48th and 49th RBI.

Since the Kernels have now clinched, Buxton will probably be making his way to Fort Myers in the next week or so.