May 16, 2007

Twins Notes: Crain Out, DePaula In, Neshek Reading

  • For the second time this month, Pat Neshek was interviewed at ESPN.com. The latest version had Buster Olney asking the questions via e-mail and included an interesting response from Neshek regarding his worries about how his blog would be received by teammates. However, this was by far my favorite back-and-forth:
    Olney: How many hours per day do you usually spend on your computer, and what are your favorite sites?

    Neshek: Probably about 2 hours a day on the net. I always start it by checking some e-mails, checking the baseball blog sites, newspapers, google, stocks, eBay, rotoworld player news, fantasy baseball sites, tmz.com, deadspin, my site, then back to all the sites to see if anything new has popped in ha ha 🙂 ... I probably visit about 25 sites before I start my day ... I'm an info freak and feel like it's a big reason why I have advanced.

    I already knew that Neshek reads AG.com, because he's linked to it on his site, but it's nice to hear that he's also a regular reader of my Rotoworld work. Along with writing the "Daily Dose" column, a big part of my Rotoworld duties involve writing 100 percent of the "Rotoworld player news" for all the AL teams each morning--when Neshek says that he's checking them out--so perhaps I'll try to sneak in a secret message to him at some point. Any requests, Pat?

  • Nick Punto's error meant that all six runs Jesse Crain allowed Tuesday were unearned, but giving up four hits and hitting a batter made his outing plenty ugly anyway. Crain was placed on the disabled list immediately after the game and the initial diagnosis is that he has both a torn rotator cuff and a torn labrum. It won't be official until Crain gets a second opinion later this week, but that's essentially the worst-case scenario for a pitcher, multiplied by two.

    Either injury would knock Crain out for this season and likely keep him sidelined into next year, and the combination of injuries would put his career in jeopardy. It's a tough blow for the Twins on a number of levels, because Crain has filled an important middle-relief role for several years and was part of the bullpen depth that could be used to deal for an impact hitter. Beyond that, the Twins signed Crain to a three-year contract this spring rather than negotiate year-to-year deals through his arbitration eligibility.

    Here's what I wrote about the deal back in March:

    Even when the three-year deal runs out following the 2009 season, the Twins will still have Crain under their control for one more year, his final arbitration-eligible season. In other words, he's still their property through 2010, just like he was before the three-year deal. All this does is give the team some cost certainty and give Crain some insurance in case he suffers a major injury.

    The key sentence is obviously the last one and Crain should be thanking his agent today.

  • Julio DePaula was called up from Triple-A to take Crain's place on the roster and in the bullpen. Originally signed out of the Dominican Republic as a 16-year-old in 1999, DePaula is a right-hander who induces a ton of ground balls with a sinker-slider combo and has a 2.85 ERA in 347.1 minor-league innings spread over six seasons. Now 24 years old, he had a 3.15 ERA, 10-to-7 strikeout-to-walk ratio, and .209 opponent's batting average in 20 innings at Rochester prior to being called up.

    DePaula split last year between high Single-A and Double-A, posting a 2.09 ERA, 53-to-33 strikeout-to-walk ratio, and .215 opponent's batting average in 82 innings. Since the beginning of last season, he's served up a total of four homers in 102 innings while sporting a 2.5-to-1 ground ball-to-fly ball ratio. In other words, DePaula is the type of pitcher Carlos Silva would be if his reputation was anything close to accurate. He doesn't have a huge upside, but I like DePaula's odds of being a solid middle reliever.

  • Following Sidney Ponson being let go over the weekend, Joe Christensen of the Minneapolis Star Tribune wrote an interesting piece about how he had to balance rooting for Ponson with reporting on his struggles in an unbiased way. The short version is basically that everyone liked Ponson, but he simply didn't get the job done.
  • Like many things with the Twins it took about a year longer than I would have liked, but Ron Gardenhire has finally decided to flip Punto and Jason Bartlett in the batting order. I suspect the move had far more to do with Punto's struggles than anything Bartlett has done, but whatever gets him away from the bottom of the lineup is fine with me. Since being called up from Triple-A last season, Bartlett has hit .296/.360/.371 in 504 plate appearances. Punto has hit .274/.342/.354 over that span.
  • After hitting .190 in 16 games with the Twins last year following a midseason trade, former No. 1 overall pick Phil Nevin has decided to call it a career after a dozen seasons. Whether because of their tendency to overvalue washed-up veterans or merely by coincidence, Nevin joins Bret Boone and Jesse Orosco in retiring right after an unsuccessful recent stint with the Twins. I was all set to add Tony Batista to that list, but then the Nationals went and handed him a roster spot.
  • Given what I wrote on the subject yesterday, suffice it to say that I wasn't surprised to see Silva struggle last night against the Indians. Silva's ERA rose 64 points from the outing, but much like with Ramon Ortiz, his secondary numbers suggest that there's still plenty of "correction" yet to come. The Twins have now paid $9 million to go 9-14 when Silva, Ortiz, and Ponson start for them, and that threesome has combined for a 4.99 ERA in 131.2 innings.
  • Mike Venafro made some noise during spring training by tossing 10 scoreless innings, but ultimately failed to land a spot on the Opening Day roster. The decision to cut Venafro was met with some amusing gnashing of teeth by a certain segment of the team's fan base, but he accepted a demotion to Triple-A, no doubt hoping to follow the same path that Dennys Reyes took last season to a full-time bullpen job (and multi-year contract).

    Instead, Venafro showed how meaningless spring-training numbers are by beginning the season with a 5.40 ERA in 11.2 innings at Rochester. With several other left-handers in the bullpen at Triple-A and no Reyes-like promotion to the majors in sight with Glen Perkins serving as the Twins' second southpaw reliever, Venafro requested a trade last week and got it. The Twins sold his contract to the Blue Jays for what the Official Twins Beat Writer of AG.com, LaVelle E. Neal III, reported as one dollar.


  • Once you're done here, check out my latest "Daily Dose" column over at Rotoworld.

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