April 6, 2011

Twins Notes: Hallelujah, payrolls, handshakes, stats, and mountains

Joe Nathan's velocity wasn't much better last night, as he continued to work at 89-91 miles per hour with his fastball, but compared to his first post-surgery outing Sunday his command was vastly improved and he relied far less on off-speed stuff. Oh, and throwing a fastball past Derek Jeter to end a game is always fun.

• At some point the starting pitchers will have to avoid digging a big hole right away, but Brian Duensing recovered well from a rough first two innings. He allowed four runs in seven innings overall, but that's actually a pretty solid effort considering the Yankees averaged 4.6 runs per seven innings at home last season.

• I'm curious to see if Ron Gardenhire will make a habit out of turning to Matt Capps for more than one inning now that he's not holding him back for ninth-inning leads. Early in his career Capps was very durable, logging 160 innings in 161 appearances during his first two seasons, but once he became a full-time closer in 2008 his usage lessened considerably.

• Old friend Luis Ayala got the Yankees out of a jam in the 10th inning, which is remarkable for a guy who was washed up when the Twins signed him in 2009. Ayala followed up a 5.71 ERA in 2008 with a 5.63 ERA in 2009 and then didn't pitch in the majors at all last season, yet there he was getting high-leverage work for baseball's only $200 million team. I'm just glad I didn't have to make good on this promise. Are the North Stars still good?

• Speaking of payrolls, USA Today crunched the numbers and found that the Twins rank ninth in Opening Day payroll at $112.7 million. That's second in the AL Central behind the White Sox at $127.8 million and the Tigers aren't far behind at $105.7 million, making it the only division with three $100 million teams. Of course, with the Indians at $49.2 million and the Royals at an MLB-low $36.1 million it's also the only division with two teams under $50 million.

Justin Morneau has had plenty of hard-hit balls through five games, but an even better sign for his comeback from last year's concussion might be that he can remember all these different choreographed, teammate-dependent handshakes:

My favorite is making it rain with Danny Valencia, which should be the title of a show on FSN.

Joe Christensen of the Minneapolis Star Tribune wrote that the Twins are more involved with statistical analysis than their reputation suggests and based on his quotes vice president of player personnel Mike Radcliff certainly sounds very open to sabermetrics, but as of last year the front office's highest-profile decision-makers had only a rudimentary understanding of most new-school numbers and Christensen says they "have yet to hire a full-time statistical expert."

According to Bill Lankhof of the Toronto Sun the Rockies "were all set to pick" Denard Span with the ninth overall selection in the 2002 draft, but instead took Canadian lefty Jeff Francis. I have no clue who the Twins may have nabbed at No. 20 had Span not been there, but some of the players picked in the next 10 spots were Jeremy Guthrie, Jeff Francoeur, Joe Blanton, and Matt Cain. They did well to get Span, obviously, although it didn't always look that way.

• I was encouraged by Gardenhire benching Michael Cuddyer against a right-hander Monday, but we'll see if that was an acknowledgment that Jim Thome and Jason Kubel are far superior options versus righties or merely a convenient day off for Cuddyer.

Seth Stohs has a breakdown of the Twins' minor-league rosters at Rochester, New Britain, Fort Myers, and Beloit, so you can see where all their top prospects are headed.

Kevin Slowey and R.A. Dickey are going to climb Mount Kilimanjaro together in January.

Rhett Bollinger, who replaced Kelly Thesier as the MLB.com Twins beat reporter last month, now has his own blog in addition to being on Twitter.

• My favorite part of the StarTribune.com re-design? LaVelle E. Neal III's popped collar look.

  • Mike in SD

    I miss Kelly, but Rhett Bollinger is doing okay. He really needs to get on some podcasts or on 1500ESPN though. Because of his original twitter picture, the voice I “hear” when reading his stuff is that of Roman from Mr. Sunshine.

  • Pat

    Did anyone else have trouble finding last night’s game on TV? I have Charter Cable and FSN had alternative programming running and MLB network had the game listed, but was showing the Red Sox game instead.

  • Aaron P.

    Tuesday night’s Minnesota Twins vs. New York Yankees game was blacked out for many households in Minnesota due to cable contract disputes. The blackout affects Charter, CableOne, Dish Network and MediaOne subscribers.

    Here’s a link to the whole article.

    http://www.myfoxtwincities.com/dpp/news/twins-yankees-blackout-apr-5-2011

  • Pat

    thanks for the info, Aaron..that really sucks though..why is it always the customer who gets the raw deal?

  • Kopy

    My favorite Morneau handshake is definitely bowing with Nishioka.

    I was a little nervous when, yesterday, Bollinger referred to Repko as “pesky” in a headline, but I’m going to give him more time to adjust.

  • Tom

    Climbing Mt. Kiliminjaro? Isn’t that like Hiking the Appalachian Trail?

  • TMW

    It’s crazy how this Nathan/Capps situation has basically fooled Gardy into employing proper closer management. He’s using his best reliever (currently Capps till Nathan is back to full strength and command) in the highest leverage situations.

  • Andy

    I’d watch Making It Rain with Danny Valencia.

    Also, I’ve heard Kilimanjaro rises like Olympus over the Serengeti.

  • DavidRF

    I’m surprised that Slowey’s contract would allow him to climb a mountain. I know the “no basketball” clause is fairly standard in contracts these days, but I guess you can still go to Africa and climb a mountain?

  • Zach Morris

    Pat,
    I, along with almost all of my (college) friends, am a Charter customer. The Twins stage an amazing come back and all we were able to see was Nathan strike Jeter out. A few people have said that we should call Charter and complain. I don’t think that will do too much though.

  • brian

    Andy wins today with that one.

  • mike wants WINS

    heh, I always liked Toto for some reason that I still cannot explain to this day….

  • Susan

    Nice 2-strike hit by Nishi in the 10th.

  • Stuart

    Awesome, Andy.

    David, Climbing Kilimanjaro doesn’t require any special mountain-climbing skills and isn’t especially dangerous. It’s basically a multi-day hike. Most fit people make it to the top without a problem.

  • mike wants WINS

    Not sure why Mauer can’t DH, and have Kubel in the OF….

  • scot

    Its probably like climbing Mt Fuji in Japan, all you need are some good hiking shoes and to be in decent shape. NO special equipment is necessary.

  • Marshall Garvey (MarshaltheIrish)

    Loved the handshake vid! Makes me even happier to see Morneau back.