August 16, 2006

No, I'm Not Dead

Before I get to the usual assortment of Twins-related notes, I'd like to apologize for the lack of a new entry in this space yesterday. I rarely take a day off and almost never do so without an explanation of some kind first, which is probably why some of you wondered if I had finally been tracked down by Luis Rivas or went driving with Koren Robinson.

I'm still alive, but needed some time off after spending most of the past two days in relatively intense contract negotiations that included fun stuff like conference calls and lawyers. I can't quite spill the beans just yet, but hopefully within the next week I can reveal all the details. For now, suffice it to say that I'm very excited about the opportunity and what the future holds.

With that unique apologetic tease out of the way, here are some Twins notes ...

  • After watching him toy with the Indians Monday night, it's hard to believe Twins fans were actually worried about Johan Santana a couple weeks ago. Santana has had back-to-back dominant outings, and now sports a 27-to-6 strikeout-to-walk ratio and .151 opponent's batting average in 21 innings this month.

    Santana improved to 5-0 with a 3.50 ERA since the All-Star break, which gives him a remarkable 35-3 record and 2.12 ERA in the second half since 2003. Santana is also 12-0 over his last 19 home starts and 18-1 in August since 2002. And last but not least, Santana improved his historic career winning percentage to .709 (73-30).

  • Of course, Joe Christensen of the Minneapolis Star Tribune reports that Santana is dealing with ongoing blister problems:
    "I've been dealing with a blister and a split nail for at least three weeks now," Santana said.

    That was a revelation, actually, since Santana had said nothing publicly.

    [...]

    This time, Santana benefited from an extra day's rest between starts. Monday's open date gave the blister more time to heal, and it wasn't until the late innings that it started wreaking havoc with his slider again.

    [...]

    "It's going to stay there for a while," he said, staring at the finger. "But the good thing is my nail is growing back, so it's not like before, when I was missing a quarter of my nail. So now it's OK."

    It may seem like a minor problem, but blisters can actually have a huge impact on pitchers and have been known to linger for months (and occasionally even seasons) at a time.

  • Clearly upset that his batting average had plummeted all the way from .377 to .355 since he went 5-for-5 against the Royals on August 6, Jason Bartlett bumped it back up to .369 with a 4-for-4 game last night. In 15 games so far this month, Bartlett is hitting .453 (24-for-53) and already has five-hit and four-hit games, two three-hit games, and a two-hit game.

    Plus, word is that he's been yelling "I got it!" really loud on infield pop ups.

  • For the second time this week, the Seattle Post-Intelligencer had an interesting Twins-related note:
    At the time of his first home run of the season Monday, Willie Bloomquist had gone 418 at-bats without a homer. According to the Elias Sports Bureau, that was the fourth-longest current homerless streak among non-pitchers in the majors, behind Jason Tyner (948), Joey Gathright (525) and Luis Ordaz (440).

    Not only has Jason Tyner now gone 952 at-bats without a homer in the big leagues, he managed a grand total of two homers in 3,063 minor-league at-bats. I don't know for certain, but I'd bet on neither of them actually going over a fence.

    UPDATE: According to eyewitnesses, both of Tyner's professional homers did indeed go over a fence. Amazing. Also, Tyner reportedly claims to have never hit an inside-the-park homer in his life and was thrown out at the plate in an attempt to do so at Rochester.

  • Remember earlier this week, when I commented on the "completely contradictory information" the two local newspapers had on Francisco Liriano's injury status? Turns out, I wasn't the only one who noticed. Here's what Kelly Thesier of MLB.com wrote yesterday:
    Some confusion between the Twins coaching staff and the trainers had led to a few reports that Francisco Liriano might be playing catch Tuesday. That was not the case, as Liriano will not be able to do any sort of throwing until he undergoes a medical evaluation this weekend to test the strength of his shoulder and see if the pain has diminished.

    One problem with covering a baseball team is that you're really only as informed as the teams wants (or is able) to make you. It's a shame, because I liked the version about Liriano being scheduled to throw yesterday a whole lot better.

  • Speaking of Liriano, here's an interesting note from the San Diego Union-Tribune:
    The Giants came to regret trading Single-A pitcher Francisco Liriano ... But the Padres, too, should have regrets, said their former international scouting supervisor, Bill Clark, who recalled that Padres scout Bill Bryk urged the club to work out Liriano after staging a private workout with him in the summer of 2000.

    "We had Liriano at our complex in the Dominican Republic," Clark said. "He was 16 years old and he threw about 94 miles per hour and he knew what he was doing. He wanted play the outfield but his agent, [Don] Nomura said he would pitch for San Diego for $400,000. That was a lot of money for San Diego, but we thought he was worth it. I had an annual total budget of $1 million. I needed the money but couldn't get it."

    Nomura confirmed that he represented Liriano at the time but declined further comment. The Padres got poor results from their international program on Clark's watch and fired Clark in September 2003.

    The Twins have some similar sob stories, including one about Miguel Cabrera, but it's still nice to read. Hopefully Liriano can bounce back from his current arm problems and make quite a few teams sorry they ever let him go.

  • Finally, here's an odd note about Ron Gardenhire from the Cleveland Plain Dealer:
    Twins manager Ron Gardenhire has changed his diet after missing four games from July 31 through Aug. 3 with an intestinal virus that cost him "16 to 17 pounds."

    Gardenhire rejoined the Twins on Aug. 4 after being hospitalized for a day because of dehydration. Gardenhire says he's stopped drinking beer and eating red meat.

    "I feel better," Gardenhire said. "I don't wake up with a headache after those ugly losses."

    And to think, I've been wasting eight months on diets and elliptical machines.


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