August 11, 2009

Twins Notes: Infielders, Relievers, Draft Picks, and Rips

Some notes I typed up last night while trying to ignore the Twins getting blown out by the Royals ...

  • Signed to a minor-league contract last month in the hopes that he could provide a viable alternative at second base down the stretch, Mark Grudzielanek was released Monday after going 8-for-30 with zero extra-base hits and two errors in eight games at Double-A. Twins minor-league director Jim Rantz explained that "it just wasn't the right fit." Grudzielanek had a slightly different take, saying that "they just wasted my time." Sounds like both were probably right and 12 months off hurt the 39-year-old. Oh well.
  • David Eckstein apparently turned down a potential July 31 trade to the Twins, telling Padres general manager Kevin Towers that he'd prefer to stay in San Diego for the rest of the season. You may recall that Ron Gardenhire campaigned for the Twins to sign Eckstein two years ago, so it's not surprising to hear that they went after him again. Gardenhire has always loved speedy, diminutive middle infielders who have no power and look like they're trying really hard, and Eckstein is the king of that group.
  • Russ Springer and David Weathers can be added to the long list of quality veteran relievers who've changed teams for little in return while the Twins fail to address their bullpen issues for the 15th month in a row. Also on that list: Cla Meredith, Rafael Betancourt, Joe Beimel, Tony Pena, and John Grabow. And that's just from the past month. They won't part with a mid-level prospect for a veteran arm and they won't call up Robert Delaney or Anthony Slama from the minors, which is a maddening combination.
  • There's been little said about contract negotiations with first-round pick Kyle Gibson, but that figures to change one way or another because the deadline to sign him is Monday. Gibson's agent explained recently that the University of Missouri right-hander is "100 percent" recovered from the forearm stress fracture that caused him to drop from consensus top-10 pick to the Twins at No. 22 overall. Talks with Gibson will apparently go down to the wire, but the Twins have already signed their next nine picks.
  • Speaking of draft picks, 2003 fourth rounder David Shinskie has opted to retire from baseball at the age of 25 to compete for the starting quarterback job at Boston College. Shinskie led his high school team to the Pennsylvania state championship as a senior and has four years of eligibility remaining after the 6-foot-4 right-hander went 24-30 with a 4.61 ERA and 224-to-101 strikeout-to-walk ratio in 336 innings spread over seven seasons as a minor-league pitcher.
  • Gardenhire ripped into both Nick Punto and Brendan Harris following Sunday's loss to Detroit and a few days before that Mike Redmond came as close to ripping into Gardenhire as you'll see. Redmond had an unproductive at-bat as part of the Twins going 0-for-13 with runners in scoring position in a loss to Cleveland and then hinted afterward that he shouldn't have been in the lineup against right-hander Fausto Carmona to begin with. Here's some of Joe Christensen's game story:
    Redmond cited some numbers, explaining why Fausto Carmona was a tough assignment for him in the first place. ... Redmond is 0-for-6 in his career against Carmona, including another failed chance with a runner on third base and one out in the fourth inning.

    "I did the best I could," Redmond said. "That's a tough draw for a backup player. That guy's nasty. I haven't hit a ball out of the infield off him yet. That's the way it goes. Righties hit .170 off him, and lefties hit about .370 off him."

    Redmond's own splits are just the opposite. He is batting .181 against righthanders, .382 against lefties. But with Joe Mauer getting a day at designated hitter, Redmond drew the righthanded Carmona after missing lefthanders David Huff and Aaron Laffey earlier in the series.

    I'm happy to see this issue brought up by Redmond and Christensen, because it's something that I've complained about for years now. During their careers Joe Mauer is 25 percent better against righties than lefties and Redmond is 26 percent better against lefties than righties, which makes them an ideal combo if used correctly. However, as the above excerpt notes Gardenhire often ignores that in planning Mauer's rest and Redmond's starts. Redmond facing a righty like Carmona is all kinds of wrong.

  • Last week longtime Twins reliever Eddie Guardado became just the 21st pitcher in baseball history to appear in 900 games, which is pretty amazing for a former 21st-round pick who had ERAs of 6.18, 8.47, 5.12, and 5.25 in his first four seasons. Guardado is the Twins' all-time leader in games pitched with 648, which is 32 percent more than second place Rick Aguilera at 490 and 67 percent more than active leader Joe Nathan at 387. Everyday Eddie ranks 26th on my list of the top players in team history.
  • Matthew Futterman of the Wall Street Journal wrote a very nice article about Rick Knapp, who after a dozen years as the Twins' minor-league pitching coordinator left the organization to become the Tigers' pitching coach. Normally it'd be easy to root for Knapp, who got his first big chance at the age of 47, but unfortunately for the Twins he's helped the Tigers go from 12th in runs allowed last season to sixth in runs allowed this year while not surprisingly cutting their walks by eight percent.
  • Arizona has always fancied claiming discarded Twins prospects off waivers and the Diamondbacks now have both Alex Romero and Trent Oeltjen playing regularly in their banged-up outfield. Romero is batting .291/.349/.380 in 86 plate appearances and Oeltjen is 12-for-24 (.500) with three homers since being called up last week. Back in 2007 my list of the Twins' top prospects included Romero at No. 18 and Oeltjen at No. 23, but neither ever made it to Minnesota.
  • Bloomberg News reports that "the Pohlad family ... stands to gain about $110 million from PepsiCo Inc.'s takeover of PepsiAmericas Inc., the second-biggest bottler of Pepsi-Cola." My suggestion? Take that money, let it collect interest for about six months, and then give everything to Mauer.

  • Once you're done here, check out my "Circling The Bases" blog over at NBCSports.com.

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