July 19, 2011

Twins Notes: Diamond’s debut, Mauer’s momentum, and Rauch’s return

Scott Diamond had a decent big-league debut, particularly for a mid-level prospect called up for an emergency spot start after posting a 4.70 ERA at Triple-A. He was very efficient early on and ended up using 90 pitches in 6.1 innings, allowing four runs on seven hits and two walks against an Indians lineup that ranks 11th among AL teams in OPS versus lefties. He served up a homer to Lou Marson, which is pretty tough to do, but also induced 12 ground-ball outs.

In terms of projecting his future performance Diamond looked basically like you'd expect based on his minor-league track record, showing good control and ground-ball tendencies along with mediocre raw stuff. He averaged just 88.9 miles per hour with his fastball, topping out at 90.3 miles per hour, and wasn't very successful with his off-speed pitches. Diamond struck out just one of the 26 batters he faced and also managed only one swinging strike on 90 pitches.

• In yesterday's doubleheader Joe Mauer made a pair of good defensive plays at first base in Game 1, threw out one of the two runners attempting to steal against him in Game 2, and was 6-for-8 at the plate while the rest of the Twins' lineup went 10-for-60 (.167). Mauer struggled initially after returning from a two-month stay on the disabled list and was hitting just .186 on June 24, but since then he's 27-for-72 (.375).

Mauer still hasn't shown any power yet, but he's hitting .375 with a .456 on-base percentage and .431 slugging percentage during the past 21 games, raising his batting average from .186 to .290 in three weeks. During that same time his on-base percentage rose from .234 to .361, which ties Denard Span for second-highest on the team. Oh, and the Twins are 19-15 when Mauer starts and 25-36 when he doesn't. It's almost as if he's still really good or something.

• In an interview with Tom Pelissero of 1500-ESPN assistant general manager Rob Anthony said that the Twins will be looking for middle relief help going into the July 31 trade deadline, which makes sense assuming they should be buyers at all. Glen Perkins has been fantastic all year in a setup role and Joe Nathan has thrived since returning from the disabled list, but with Matt Capps basically relegated to mop-up duties they could use another right-handed option.

Alex Burnett has been thrust into a high-leverage role almost by default and has the potential to some day be a viable late-inning asset, but for now he's an overmatched 23-year-old rookie with a 6.21 ERA and 20-to-13 strikeout-to-walk ratio in 29 innings and has struck out just two of the last 30 hitters he's faced. Joe Christensen of the Minneapolis Star Tribune speculates the Twins may try to reacquire Jon Rauch from the Blue Jays, which would certainly be interesting.

• Over the weekend the Twins released 25-year-old former 11th-round pick Steve Singleton, who'd been starting regularly at shortstop and second base at Triple-A. Singleton is hardly an elite prospect, but the release still raised eyebrows considering the Twins' organization-wide lack of middle infield depth and Rochester's ongoing struggles just to put a competitive lineup on the field thanks to the big-league team calling up most of their best hitters.

Sure enough, LaVelle E. Neal III of the Minneapolis Star Tribune reports that Singleton was let go due to "off-the-field issues." Singleton cracked my annual list of the Twins' top 40 prospects just once, ranking 33rd in 2009, but since then he's hit just .273/.320/.414 with twice as many walks (117) as strikeouts (58) in 265 games between Double-A and Triple-A. Singleton never projected as more than a potential utility man and even that seems like wishful thinking now.

Justin Morneau has been cleared to resume "baseball activities" three weeks after surgery to address a pinched nerve in his neck, which according to trainer Rick McWane means "he's ready to take ground balls, play catch, and run around." Swinging the bat will come later, so even setting aside the Twins' inability to get any injured players back within their initial return timetables this season Morneau is unlikely to be ready before mid-August.

• Last but certainly not least: Delmon Young's adorable reaction to Jim Thome's monstrous 596th career homer is now in GIF form. If he never played baseball and only reacted to Thome homers, Young would be my favorite Twin of all time.

This week's content is sponsored by Wholesale Gold and Diamond Distributors in Minneapolis, so please help support AG.com by considering them for your jewelry needs.

  • mike wants wins

    I wonder how long Twins’ fans will love Revere, despite the fact he can’t get on base at all right now. He looks more like a 4th/5th OFer to me than anything else right now. Those calls to trade Span remain ridiculous.

    Mauer can’t get RBI if no one is on base in front of him. Gardy got his speed, but all that speed is wasted going from the dugout to the batter’s box and back.

    The Twins should not be buyers. I will be really disappointed if they deal anything of value for middle relievers right now. I’d be ok with Delmon Young being dealt, though. Just another awful trade by Smith.

    Frankly, I’m terrified that Smith will make a trade at this point, given his history. However, he has managed to trade B or C prospects for legit middle relievers in the past.

  • mike wants wins

    forgot to mention, nice job by Diamond. He wasn’t great, but he wasn’t bad.

  • SoCalTwinsfan

    As long as Smith goes after setup relievers and not closers, I’m not worried.

  • BR

    I am so looking forward to the inevitable Hicks-for-Rauch deal. Prospects are overrated anyway…

  • Max

    hahahah! I can’t get over how awesome DY’s reaction to thome’s moonshot is

  • Dave T

    Diamond gave up 4 runs in 6 innings. I suppose that’s about what we should expect from an emergency call-up, but as far as I’m concerned, he’s barely qualified to pitch at AAA and I hope he never gets called up again.

  • Brady

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  • jimbo92107

    Scott Diamond was adequate, a soft-throwing finesse pitcher whose career will depend on great defense and good offense. Last night, he got very little help from a punchless Twins offense. They need to shuffle the lineup for a couple weeks until Span and Kubel return.

    Joe Mauer should bat second. This would immediately double the runs scored by Ben Revere, whose speed and on-base percentage have been wasted by Alexi Casilla’s flailing from both sides of the plate. Mauer’s surging bat would drive Revere to second and third base on a regular basis, providing opportunities for…

    Danny Valencia to bat third. Your top RBI guy should be in a position to drive in even more runs, rather than batting fifth or sixth. That also makes room for…

    Trevor Plouffe to bat clean-up. This kid’s got serious power, and he should be parking balls in the seats as number four. Let him go up there and see how far he can hit baseballs.

    Michael Cuddyer should bat fifth. There, he protects Plouffe and provides an experienced, skilled bat to keep rallies going. With a little pressure removed, watch Cuddyer’s batting average go up by 15 to 20 points, and his power numbers would hold steady.

    After that, Delmon, Thome/Hughes, Nishioka, Casilla. As a ninth batter, Casilla is better than Nishi as a lead-in to Revere.

  • Pedro Munoz

    “This would immediately double the runs scored by Ben Revere, whose speed and on-base percentage have been wasted by Alexi Casilla’s flailing from both sides of the plate.”

    The problem isn’t the players around Revere in the lineup. The problem is that Ben Revere really, really sucks. His numbers (.266/.300/.305) are just awful. The “flailing” Alexi Casilla actually has a better on-base percentage than Revere, who has no business playing regularly in the major leagues, much less leading off. The Twins game up short on a huge day yesterday, and no one came up shorter than Revere, who went a combined 0 for 9 from the leadoff spot. No one can drive you in when you can’t get on base. When Span comes back, we need to send this turd to the bench, if not AAA.

  • mike wants wins

    Revere has been quite bad offensively, but he’s been as good defensively. I’d be cool with him as a 4th OFer right now. I’d be ok with him as your third best OFer, if you have Span and Kubel/Cuddy producing. But, he can’t be your leadoff hitter, not with those numbers.

  • BR

    Revere would be an excellent 4th OF when Span returns. Can be a late-innings sub in CF or LF and pinch run. Basically, a better version of Repko.

  • steelwon

    Wierd that the pitching looked better with Young hurt and Cuddy at 1st and the twins went on a tear. Defense can make this team go if Grady pushes the right buttons. I can’t wait till its, Revere in left, Hicks in Center and Span in Rt. Balls in the air will not land. The crazy thing I would do to get production from the infield is make Mauer start taking balls at 2nd. That makes room for Morneau and Kubel(dh) in the line up. Cuddy is at his best as a utility guy.

  • Pedro Munoz

    Yes, Revere is a better Repko. He isn’t going to replace Young full time because his hitting is as bad as Young’s defense. 0 for 13 now in the bIggest series of the year. Christ, Mauer gets every other day off- can’t we sit Revere for a day?

  • http://aarongleeman.com aarongleeman

    Christ, Mauer gets every other day off

    Mauer has started 12 straight games and 20 of the past 21 games.

  • jimbo92107

    True, Ben Revere has had a lousy last few games offensively, but other than that he’s been quite good. I see that he does have a problem adjusting to sinker ball pitchers like Masterson. He was pounding the ball weakly into the dirt all day. Time will tell if he can learn to meet those balls a fraction of an inch higher on the bat.

    Meanwhile, when Span gets back I still think Mauer should bat second. Your best bat should follow your best on-base guy.

  • http://bigleaguewiffleball.com/ Jon L.

    It’s nice to see Mauer starting to play better, but it may be too late for the Twins to make a run. But…..who knows, there could be some magic!

  • Pedro Munoz

    “Mauer has started 12 straight games and 20 of the past 21 games.”

    Not at catcher.

    “True, Ben Revere has had a lousy last few games offensively, but other than that he’s been quite good”

    No, he hasn’t been quite good. He’s been terrible. He has no power and doesn’t get on base. And it you look at his minor league record, there is no reason to expect he will get better.

  • Pedro Munoz

    Two-run error by Revere today. At least he got a hit to bring his series total to 1 for 16.