May 11, 2012

Twins Notes: Birthday boys, pimping, demoting, neglecting, and mocking

• Reminder: Gleeman and The Geek airs live on KFAN at 4:00 on Sunday. I can neither confirm nor deny that this week's show will just be me sighing into the microphone for an hour.

• Happy birthday to No. 1 prospect Miguel Sano, who turned 19 years old today and is hitting .303/.417/.655 with 10 homers and 20 walks in 33 games at low Single-A. Last week Sano hit a game-winning homer against the Angels' affiliate and the benches cleared because, as Cedar Rapids manager Jamie Burke put it: "I think he kind of pimped that home run a little bit." Here's more from Jeff Johnson of the Cedar Rapids Gazette:

Sano stood in the batter's box awhile to watch his homer against relief pitcher Carmine Giardiana. He trotted the bases, but virtually stopped a few feet before touching the plate, taking off his batting helmet as Kernels catcher Abel Baker barked at him.

Sano glared at the Kernels dugout after finally touching the plate, with Kernels players continuing to give him significant grief. He took a step toward Baker, and the dugouts began to empty, with umpires Fernando Rodriguez and Paul Clemons, as well as both teams' coaching staffs, doing a good job of squelching what could have been an ugly scene.

Also worth noting is that being annoyed by Sano's actions following the homer didn't stop Burke from effusively praising him as a player:

He's young, but he's one heck of a player, man. He's unbelievable. That's the best player I've seen here, by far.

Twins fans may remember Burke as the White Sox catcher who got destroyed by Torii Hunter in a home plate collision back in 2004.

Anthony Slama has never gotten an extended shot with the Twins despite dominating every level of the minors and was dropped from the 40-man roster after injuring his elbow late last season. He's healthy again, posting a 0.57 ERA with 27 strikeouts in 16 innings as Rochester's closer, which gives him a 2.35 ERA and 162 strikeouts in 133 career innings at Triple-A. Slama is 28 years old and has shaky control, but there's no excuse for ignoring him at this point.

Remember when the Twins signed Jason Marquis and Terry Ryan said "he throws the ball over the plate" despite the fact that his career walk rate of 3.5 per nine innings was the exact same as Francisco Liriano's? Through five starts Marquis has more walks (11) than strikeouts (10) in 27 innings and has thrown the same percentage of his pitches for strikes as Liriano, who's been banished to the bullpen.

Sean Burroughs and Clete Thomas cleared waivers after being designated for assignment by the Twins, meaning they'll both remain in the organization at Triple-A but no longer reside on the 40-man roster. Stockpiling that type of depth is a good thing, but in making room for Thomas in Rochester's outfield the Twins demoted No. 2 prospect Joe Benson from Triple-A to Double-A despite the fact that he'd already spent two seasons there.

Benson was off to a rough start, hitting .179 with 27 strikeouts in 28 games, but was hitting for power and drawing walks. At the time of the demotion Benson had a .584 OPS and Ben Revere had a .592 OPS. Demoting a 24-year-old back to Double-A for a third straight season because he struggled in 28 games seems odd, particularly when Chris Parmelee is struggling in the majors after skipping Triple-A following far worse Double-A production than Benson.

• Parmelee sticking in the majors because the Twins trusted September and March instead of a mediocre track record was misguided enough, but now he's not even playing consistently. Parmelee is a left-handed hitter, yet he's been on the bench for three straight games against right-handed pitchers. It'll be buried beneath the mountain of problems, but the handling of prospects Parmelee, Benson, Revere, and Liam Hendriks leaves a lot to be desired.

Dan Osterbrock was the Twins' seventh-round pick out of the University of Cincinnati in 2008 and spent four seasons in the farm system before injuring his shoulder and getting released this spring. Since then he's been extremely outspoken about the Twins' handling of his injury and other pitcher injuries. For instance, when it was announced that Scott Baker needed Tommy John surgery after the Twins initially said he could pitch Osterbrock tweeted:

Wait, the Twins allowed an injury to linger longer than a year without taking care of it?! Shocker.

Then in responding to various questions about his own health status, Osterbrock wrote:

Twins released me. My shoulder was hurting so instead of helping me out, they got rid of me.

I really enjoyed my time with the Twins, but I'm none too pleased with the way it ended and how it was handled.

Shoulder surgery Round 2 tomorrow morning. Looking forward to finally getting this fixed properly.

Surgery went well. Should be throwing soon. Special thanks to the Twins for completely neglecting the obvious injury I had.

Osterbrock also said in an interview with the University of Cincinnati's website that "they kept telling me that I was going to be all right and that I should try to play through it and I did for as long as I could." Because of the increasing number of questions about the competency of the team's medical staff Osterbrock's comments got some attention and the Twins were forced to respond. Not surprisingly they denied any wrongdoing.

• Tommy John surgery has already derailed the career of 2009 first-round pick Kyle Gibson and now 2010 first-round pick Alex Wimmers may be facing the same fate. Wimmers came back from extreme control problems last season to re-establish himself as one of the Twins' better prospects, but he's been shut down with a partially torn ulnar collateral ligament. Predictably the Twins are saying he can avoid surgery and will try rest and rehab. Good luck.

• Twins owner Jim Pohlad gave votes of confidence to Ryan and Ron Gardenhire, dismissing the notion that either man's job could be in jeopardy. That's certainly not surprising, but it's also worth noting that Pohlad gave Bill Smith a public vote of confidence in October ... and then fired him five weeks later.

Jared Burton served up two homers in his Twins debut and gave up a run two appearances later, but he's been unhittable since then. Literally. Burton has thrown 10.2 consecutive no-hit innings dating back to April 13. During that time batters are 0-for-32 with 11 strikeouts off him, getting on base only via two walks and two plunkings.

• Minnesota native Michael Wuertz held an open tryout for teams in mid-March and the Twins were in attendance, but six weeks later the once-dominant and oft-injured reliever signed a minor-league deal with the Reds.

• Since the Twins traded him to the Orioles last offseason J.J. Hardy has 38 homers in 709 plate appearances. During that same time the Twins' entire infield has combined for 52 homers in 3,828 plate appearances. This season Hardy is out-homering the Twins' infield 8-to-3.

• In starting the season with an MLB-worst 8-23 record the Twins have been outscored by 67 runs in 31 games while no other team has been outscored by more than 32 runs.

• How did Dan Haren lose to the Twins? He was hurt. At this point I'll assume that every Twins victory will be followed by the opposing pitcher revealing an injury within 48 hours.

Jim Callis of Baseball America published his first mock draft and it has the Twins selecting Georgia high school outfielder Byron Buxton with the No. 2 pick.

• Last and least, I guess now we know that Robby Incmikoski checks Twitter while he's working the game for FSN.

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  • Phil

    I was so hoping that Hunter-Burke link had the video.

  • sandbun

    If Gardy was capable of feeling shame he’d have resigned by now. The fact that he isn’t explains why no one in the clubhouse is either.

  • Son of Shane Mack

    The Twins medical staff makes Dr. Nick Rivera look like competent.

  • Ryan

    Of all the frustrating things currently going on the one that makes the least amount of sense to me has to be the Slama thing. What does the organization have against this guy?

  • Dave

    Alex Burnett has a photo Album of Twins Coaches.
    Slama does not.

  • neil

    Another depressing game to attend, to be sure. the light rail was packed at the 7th inning stretch.
    That was just surreal watching that pop fly drop in the infield, giving the feared Jays their 6th run; unrestrained booing did rain down from every direction.

  • Chris

    Handling injuries seems to be a very negative thing in the Twins system
    Something must change here…

    Ignoring Slama is another thing…what more he can do??? Twins system need a complete overhaul…..bad organization..really..bad..!

  • Heathcliff

    Yet Mauer’s middling performance goes unnoticed…. (I’m not suggesting the Twins trade him or bench him, but his lack of above average offensive output is disappointing).

  • http://www.mog.com/funoka funoka

    Thanks for the news on Sano. The Twins need about five more guys like that in the system — well maybe not the attitude — although Bryce Harper had a similar incident last summer.

    Speaker of the Nats, the Twins may have to look to them as a template. They were horrible for five years until last year and now have a good chance to win their division. They dumped guys with perceived value for prospects (i.e. Matt Capps)and had high picks like Harper and Strasburg. When they got close, they signed some free agents like Werth, Gio Gonzalez, and Adam LaRouche.

    I am a Twins fan first, but a Nats season ticketholder due to my location. I go back every summer and in recent years, it was fun to see all the folks in their Twins gear walking around. The Twins had so much goodwill, a new stadium, and hope. They need to make some trades, re-stock, re-load, and be honest with the fans and I think it will be less painful for all.

  • JB (the Original)

    WTH? It’s FRIDAY. Where’s the “Levity Links” column we could really use after this past week in Twins Territory?

  • Scott Stahoviak

    I agree – I was hoping for some non-twins related content to distract me from this atrociousness

  • jason

    quote from the BA article you linked:
    “This is one of the most volatile, erratic and weak drafts I can remember,” an American League front-office executive said. “The college position players have got to be the weakest group in 20 years. I’ve had some veteran guys tell me it’s the worst ever.”

    Figures we have a bunch of high picks this year.

  • Pedro Munoz

    How many times does this have to happen before the Twins figure out there is something wrong with the way injuries are being handled? Osterbrock’s comments make it sound like its even more common than the public knows.

    Two years ago I paid twice face value for Twins tickets on stubhub. I had three different offers of free tickets this weekend, two of which I turned down. That place is going to be empty by the end of the summer.

  • David

    This organization is becoming downright embarrassing. Really hard to root for them at this point.

  • Hugh

    Link-a-rama has to continue on Fridays.

    Especially with the season the Twins are having.

  • Rob

    Robby always seems like kind of a dbag, especially on Twitter. Using the term “bro” only strengthens the argument.

  • thegeneral13

    I enjoyed the content today. I can recreate the link-o-rama content on my own, but not spot-on (if sobering) analysis of the Twins. Thanks to Aaron for continuing to do solid work despite a really depressing start to the season and a bleak-looking future.

    Or maybe Aaron is just so depressed by the Twins’ outlook that he’s only going to write about them on Friday and every other day will be a link-o-rama….

  • Mike

    If Sano has an attitude lets hope Gardy is gone before he hits the Major League level. Attitudes aren’t allowed only milk toast bowling buddies!

  • @_2244

    While I don’t disagree with your Tweets calling out Smalley, I thought you were a little out of line with Robby. Dude corresponded with you while he was working, and seemed to be decent about it. I guess I didn’t see the need to give him what I perceive to be a snarky remark. I’m inclined to think Robby couldn’t care less if you click the volume or channel buttons on your remote.

  • Pedro Munoz

    Sano is already in Gardy’s doghouse. He also hits too many home runs for Gardy’s liking, but Vavra should be able to fix that when the time comes.

  • Jeff H

    Totally disagree with _2244 above. At worst, it was even between the two of them. Robby is sticking up for “his guy” because he perceived Aaron was mocking his comment. First of all, it was an absurd comment, and the entire FSN crew from top to bottom is trying too hard to make light of the fact that they have to cover the worst team in baseball for 162 games this summer. Second, Aaron didn’t attack Smalley personally – he didn’t say “Roy is stupid” or “Roy was a terrible baseball player”. Aaron disagrees that Marquis has been a solid performer this year, and he expressed that. It was Robby that fired back and Aaron explained that if you provide nothing but a direct quote and a statistic, it’s the information itself that does the mocking, not the messenger. If Aaron wrote that same tweet and Marquis’ ERA was 2.80, it wouldn’t have made any sense.

    Robby has just as much a right to be on Twitter as Aaron, and if he disagrees fine. But I would struggle with any of the FSN crew becoming part of the “discussion” about these players because their job is package the Twins as a television show, and they obviously can’t do the effectively or impartially when they’re never going to say “This is a horrible, unwatchable product for anyone except the most diehard or gullible of fans”.

  • http://vikesgeek.com vikesgeek

    Looking forward to the mid-June rematch with the Pirates when the Twins can reassert their Spring training strengths.

  • TMW

    I’m not following Callis’s line of thinking on Buxton over Zunino.

  • @_2244

    Upon further review, I see Robby’s initial response was to a “broadcast Tweet” from Aaron. Seeing as how Aaron’s initial Tweet was not directed at Robby or FSN, I know see another side of this. Please strike my initial post from the record. My apologies for calling you out, Aaron. Mea culpa.

    That is all.

  • Chris

    So is it crazy to suggest that Sano should be fast tracked, look at B. Harper?? why not?

  • Brian

    I’m holding out hope for Appel at #2. He and Kyle Gibson could help as soon as 2013. Lord knows the Twins need the rotation help, and will have the open slots.

  • herb

    The only people completely responsible for this mess are the Pohlads, who after being handed Target Field decided to cut their payroll. Cut it. They didn’t expand their payroll and get real players in here. They cut it. It is also obvious they aren’t spending money on prospects, or on top-notch coaching or scouting or management at the minor league level. This is a cynical, low-buck operation from the top down.

    So the heck WHAT if Casilla, or Valencia, or Plouffe or Revere or anyone else is “in Gardy’s doghouse”? They should be, they are barely major-league players. Is anybody else interested in them? If so, maybe we can trade them! With the exception of maybe, at best, a half-dozen players, the entire 40-man roster is filled with old minor-leaguers, failed journeymen, weak prospects, and other teams’ rejects.

    It isn’t their fault they suck. They just aren’t as talented or focused as other players in this game, and the few guys who are decent can be avoided by our opponents because they are surrounded by sub-mediocrity. That isn’t Gardenhire or Anderson or Vavre’s fault either. You can’t coach someone to have talent. This entire team lacks talent.

    So everybody here is calling for Gardenhire’s head. Well newsflash, with all the evidence we have before us of the Pohlad mindset, who do you think we will get to replace them? Joe Torre? Yeah, right. More like Joe Blow, formerly manager of the Jackson, Mississippi Central High School girl’s softball team.

    What needs to happen is for people to STOP GOING TO GAMES. The Pohlads are in this for the buck. When they are gone, we will start winning again.

  • Karl

    That’s the real pickle – If a restaurant was staffed will incompetent waiters, cooks with no talent and a manager handcuffed by his poor staff – customers would cease showing up and paying for a meal. Eventually the business would be forced to close their doors.

    This for a million reasons will not happen at Target Field, and even if it did – the revenue stream provided by the TV deal and advertisers would simply afford the ownership further excuse to cut the payroll and hire less talented players to fill out the roster.

    Yikes.