July 18, 2012

Twins Notes: Liriano, Santana, Mauer, Blackburn, Capps, and Pavano

• How dominant was Francisco Liriano against the A's on Friday night? Not only were his 15 strikeouts the second-most in Twins history behind Johan Santana with 17 on August 19, 2007, his 30 swings and misses induced were the most by any MLB pitcher since ... Santana had 32 on August 19, 2007. I went back through the AG.com archives to find what I wrote about his incredible performance that day and shockingly it included a Jessica Alba comparison.

Liriano's first start following his brief demotion to the bullpen also came against Oakland and he overpowered the A's then too, giving him a ridiculous 24-to-3 strikeout-to-walk ratio in 14 innings against them since May 30. And it was good timing, as at least a half-dozen teams reportedly sent scouts to evaluate Liriano for a potential trade. Since rejoining the rotation he's thrown 57 innings with a 2.83 ERA, .170 opponents' batting average, and 67 strikeouts.

• Some fun facts from that Santana start on August 19, 2007: He struck out 17 in eight innings and then closer Joe Nathan struck out two more in the ninth inning, as they combined for 19 strikeouts, zero walks, and two hits allowed in a 1-0 shutout of the Rangers. Michael Cuddyer homered for the game's only run, C.J. Wilson pitched in relief for Texas, and the Rangers had a 38-year-old Sammy Sosa batting cleanup. And here was the Twins' lineup:

1. Alexi Casilla, 2B
2. Joe Mauer, DH
3. Torii Hunter, CF
4. Justin Morneau, 1B
5. Michael Cuddyer, RF
6. Mike Redmond, C
7. Rondell White, LF
8. Tommy Watkins, 3B
9. Nick Punto, SS

Oh, and Jason Tyner came in defensively for Rondell White late in the game. One not-so-fun fact about the game: Santana made just seven more starts in a Twins uniform.

• Friday's deadline to sign draft picks came and went without much drama for the Twins, who'd already agreed to deals with their first 11 picks weeks ago. Or so everyone thought. It turns out sixth-round pick Andre Martinez, a high school pitcher from Florida who originally agreed to an over-slot $260,000 bonus, ended up reworking his deal after a pre-signing physical exam revealed shoulder issues. He signed Friday for $80,000 compared to the $200,000 slot.

Another last-minute signing was 20th-round pick Zach Larson, a high school outfielder from Florida who agreed to a $190,000 deal that's nearly twice the slot value for picks after the 10th round. By saving money elsewhere compared to the slot values for various picks the Twins had plenty of extra money to throw Larson's way and in fact overall they spent about $300,000 less than their MLB-high $12.3 million allotment.

Ninth-rounder L.J. Mazzilli is the earliest Twins pick not to sign, as the Connecticut second baseman and son of longtime big leaguer Lee Mazzilli presumably turned down close to the $130,000 slot amount for the No. 280 overall pick. Mazzilli hit .339/.404/.548 with 16 steals in 58 games as a junior, but also committed 20 errors and was no sure thing to stick at second base defensively as a pro. In all the Twins signed 27 of 43 picks, including 14 of their first 15.

Mark Appel, the Stanford pitcher represented by Scott Boras who fell to No. 8 after being an oft-projected No. 1 pick and possible Twins choice at No. 2, ended up as the only first-rounder not to sign. He turned down $3.8 million, which is $900,000 more than slot and the most the Pirates could offer without forfeiting next year's pick. Appel can return to college for his senior year and be drafted again, while the Pirates get the No. 9 pick in 2013 as compensation.

• After going 3-for-4 with a walk (and a great diving catch) last night Joe Mauer is now hitting .333/.420/.462, which is nearly identical to his .324/.404/.470 career line despite offense being down across baseball. He leads the league in on-base percentage and ranks second in batting average, has hit .385 in his last 45 games, and is projected to be worth $26 million this year according to Fan Graphs. He's being paid $23 million.

Nick Blackburn is already back with the Twins after allowing one earned run in two starts at Triple-A following his demotion, but the bad news is that he managed just five strikeouts in 15 innings. He succeeded there by keeping the ball in the ballpark, but his ground-ball rate wasn't exceptional and as usual there's little reason to think pitching to that extreme level of contact is going to get the job done against big-league hitters.

Matt Capps' return from the disabled list lasted all of five days, as he showed decreased velocity and was shut down again with more shoulder problems. That ruins whatever chance the Twins had of trading Capps before July 31, which is a shame because reportedly at least one team was actually showing interest. Suffice it to say that the Twins' decision to forfeit a draft pick in order to re-sign Capps for $5 million has gone about as well as expected.

Carl Pavano isn't close to returning from his own shoulder injury, so the even slimmer odds the Twins had of trading him before the July 31 deadline is officially gone. It's possible that he could return in time to make a few starts before the August 31 waiver trade deadline, but even that's no sure thing and obviously counting on Pavano to be effective enough to draw interest at that point would be wildly optimistic.

David Laurila of Fan Graphs interviewed Terry Ryan and the lengthy transcript is definitely worth reading, but here's one particularly interesting excerpt about the team's oft-questioned involvement with statistical analysis:

We never messed with that too much back in the '70s, but we did in the '80s and the '90s and the 2000s. We've been looking at that forever. ... People don't want to hear that out of the Minnesota Twins. But we've been looking at that forever. Way before some. We're not as deep as some, but we do believe in certainly doing our work, and that stat page is one big piece to the puzzle of putting players together.

Our scouts, and our people, will tell you if I'm looking at a player, and I go down and look at his line, and it doesn't add up, I've got to give him a call quick. I tell him, "This doesn't make any sense." His role, his skills and his statistical history, and you're going to tell me this? How do you get there? I believe in that.

All forms of information are good. I've drilled that into our people. Bring it on. All forms, let me sort it out. ... I read all that stuff, and sometimes it's so much information that I do get paralyzed reading it and taking it all in. You can spend as much time as you want on everything that is available. It's almost mind-boggling how much stuff is out there.

Ryan and other Twins decision-makers have adopted "we're into that even if you don't know it" as their response to those questions. And that's fine, although it's worth noting that, for instance, assistant general manager Rob Antony lacked familiarity with basic aspects of statistical analysis as recently as two years ago and even in the above excerpt Ryan talking about looking at stats isn't really what anyone would consider a new-school approach.

When people wonder if the Twins are involved with statistical analysis the questions aren't about literally looking at a player's stats--that much is assumed, no matter a team's public stance--but rather taking full advantage of new technology and the increasingly in-depth data available. They've recently hired some stat-heads and clearly want to keep things secretive, but what little Ryan and others do say about the issue leaves plenty of room for skepticism.

• Midseason prospect rankings are out and Baseball America moved Miguel Sano from No. 18 to No. 22, whereas ESPN.com moved Sano from No. 28 to No. 26. In other words Sano remains a top-30 talent as an all-around prospect and among hitters who don't play up-the-middle positions only Wil Myers of the Royals, Oscar Taveras of the Cardinals, and Nick Castellanos of the Tigers rank ahead of Sano on both lists.

• As part of their minor-league roster shuffling the Twins released Jairo Perez, who ranked 34th on my preseason list of the team's prospects. He hit .337/.413/.580 at low Single-A last year and .265/.350/.403 at high Single-A this year, which makes cutting Perez in July an odd move. On the other hand at age 24 he was very old for Single-A and didn't really have a clear defensive home. And now he's playing in an independent league.

Matt Maloney parlayed a good spring training into an Opening Day bullpen spot after the Twins claimed him off waivers from the Reds in October, but the soft-tossing left-hander coughed up 10 runs in 11 innings and not surprisingly passed through waivers unclaimed in May. He was even worse at Triple-A, allowing 33 runs in 24 innings, and now he'll be out until mid-2013 following Tommy John elbow surgery.

• Twins castoff Luke Hughes was released by the A's after hitting .223/.316/.338 in 42 games between Double-A and Triple-A.

This week's blog content is sponsored by Ballplayer: Pelotero, a controversial new documentary about baseball prospects in the Dominican Republic starring Miguel Sano as a 16-year-old.

July 11, 2012

Who should the Twins be selling and for how much? (Part 1: Pitchers)

With the league's second-worst record at 36-49 and an 11-game deficit in the AL Central at the All-Star break the Twins have made it clear that they should be sellers leading up to the July 31 trade deadline. Determining which players they should be willing to sell and how much they should expect to get in return is a more complicated question, so today I'll break down the pros and cons of pitchers potentially being shopped and later I'll do the same for hitters.


Francisco Liriano, 28-year-old starting pitcher

Why trade him? Liriano is an impending free agent with a maddeningly inconsistent track record that now includes following up an unexpectedly brief mid-May demotion to the bullpen with an extremely impressive eight-start stretch in which he held opponents to a .175 batting average with just one homer in 202 plate appearances and logged 49 innings with a 2.74 ERA and 9.5 strikeouts per nine innings.

Two months ago he was all but out of the Twins' plans and two months from now he'll be on the open market, so if a contender wants to trust that Liriano is again among the league's top starters and pay accordingly ... well, let them. Maybe the Twins actually trust Liriano's rebirth, but there's no guarantee he'd sign long term with free agency around the corner and if his asking price was, say, four years and $35 million that's an awfully scary commitment anyway.

Why not trade him? If the Twins' only options were to let Liriano walk for nothing, deal him for something, or make a risky long-term investment to keep him the trade route would likely be my choice, but under the new collective bargaining agreement they can also make a one-year, $12 million qualifying tender. If he accepts, they keep him for 2013 without a multi-year deal. If he declines, they get two draft picks as compensation when he signs elsewhere.


Jared Burton, 31-year-old relief pitcher

Why trade him? Essentially found money, Burton has been one of MLB's top relievers after the Twins plucked him off the scrap heap on a minor-league contract this offseason. It was a smart pickup, as Burton was an effective setup man for the Reds from 2007-2009 before arm injuries derailed his career, but no one could have expected him to be this good after back-to-back lost seasons and a 31-year-old with a history of arm problems isn't the safest bet going forward.

As the Twins sadly showed with Matt Capps every once in a while a contender is willing to vastly overpay for bullpen help at the trade deadline and turning a minor-league signing in November into a quality prospect in July would be quite a feat. He's been excellent, but 35 innings are still only 35 innings and selling high on a scrap-heap find and then diving back into the scrap heap in search of the next Burton makes plenty of sense.

Why not trade him? Because the Reds cut Burton loose before he reached free agency the Twins have him under team control via arbitration for next year at a relatively cheap salary. If he were an impending free agent trying to cash Burton in for whatever they can get might be smart, but with one-and-a-half more seasons at their disposal there's no rush to trade him and little reason to do so unless there's legitimately good value coming back in the deal.


Matt Capps, 28-year-old relief pitcher

Why trade him? Capps has actually been decent for the Twins, throwing 119 innings with a 3.55 ERA and 71-to-25 strikeout-to-walk ratio since they acquired him from the Nationals for Wilson Ramos in mid-2010, but the problem is that he's a setup-caliber reliever miscast as a closer, they inexplicably gave up a top prospect at a premium position to get him, and have vastly overpaid to keep him at $13 million for those 119 innings.

Some of that is Capps' fault, but most of that is former general manager Bill Smith's fault and the situation as a whole is an example of why focusing on "proven closer" instead of "good reliever" is so silly. With that said, when healthy Capps is a perfectly reasonable 28-year-old setup man who could help plenty of contending teams in a non-closer role and presumably even the Twins aren't crazy enough to pick up his $6 million option for next season.

Why not trade him? There aren't really any reasons for the Twins not to trade Capps, but there are reasons why Capps might not be traded. For starters he's currently on the disabled list with a sore shoulder that has sidelined him since mid-June. Beyond that he's owed about $2 million for the second half, plus a $250,000 buyout of his $6 million option for 2013, and the Twins might have to eat all of that money just to get a marginal prospect in return.


Carl Pavano, 36-year-old starting pitcher

Why trade him? Trading marginal prospect Yohan Pino to the Indians for Pavano in 2009 was a shrewd move and re-signing him for $7 million in 2010 was equally sound, but re-signing him a second time last offseason has proven to be a mistake. Pavano's age, injury history, and declining strikeout rate suggested a two-year, $16.5 million commitment was overkill and sure enough he's given them 285 innings of a 4.67 ERA for that money and is now injured.

Before unsuccessfully pitching through a shoulder injury Pavano was still a useful fourth or fifth starter and contenders that miss out on big-name trade targets often look to plug rotation holes with an innings-eating veteran. That's basically what the Twins were doing when they acquired Pavano in mid-2009, and as an impending free agent with no hope for draft-pick compensation he'd be a cheap, no-frills fallback option.

Why not trade him? Much like with Capps there's no reason not to trade Pavano but plenty of reason why he might not be traded. For one thing he's on the DL with a shoulder injury that dates back to May and could still be there on July 31. That makes it tough and perhaps even impossible to sell him, let alone sell him as an innings-eater, and the Twins would have to eat the remaining $4 million he's owed to even start a conversation for a low-level prospect.


Nick Blackburn, 30-year-old starting pitcher

Why trade him? Blackburn has been bad, hurt, or bad and hurt since the Twins mistakenly handed him a four-year contract in 2010. They erred simply making a long-term investment in a mediocre pitcher with a miniscule strikeout rate and overstated ground ball-inducing ability, but the other issue is that Blackburn was already under team control via arbitration through 2013. Had they smartly gone year-to-year with Blackburn he'd have been cut long ago.

Instead he's being paid $4.75 million to pitch at Triple-A and is owed another $5.5 million next year, although at least his $8 million option for 2014 can be declined without a buyout. Since signing the deal Blackburn has a 5.51 ERA in 65 starts and ranks dead last among all starters in strikeouts per nine innings (4.2), batting average against (.309), and slugging percentage against (.500). And if they don't trade him, you know he'll be back in the rotation eventually.

Why not trade him? Well, it's not like they'll get anything for him. It's possible they could find a taker if they ate his entire deal, but that won't save any money and certainly won't fetch any kind of useful prospect. Admitting that he's a sunk cost and wiping the slate clean might be addition by subtraction, but with next year's rotation wide open they'll need someone to start games and why dump Blackburn only to spend more signing another washed-up veteran?


May 2, 2012

Twins Notes: Butera, Burroughs, Mauer, Morneau, Pavano, and Guerra

• I was on KFAN this morning, sitting in for a couple segments on Paul Allen's show to talk Twins and blogging and all sorts of other stuff. You can listen to my full appearance here.

• After playing every inning of the first 21 games Joe Mauer took a foul ball off his knee and sat out Monday. He returned last night as designated hitter, but the Twins felt the need to add Drew Butera as a third catcher while designating Sean Burroughs for assignment to make room on the roster. Butera was hitting .279/.319/.419 in 15 games for Rochester, which is simultaneously terrible for a 28-year-old at Triple-A and the best numbers of his career.

Burroughs was signed to a minor-league deal in December and the 30-year-old former top prospect impressed the Twins during spring training, winning an Opening Day bench spot. In theory he was a nice fit, offering a left-handed bat and solid glove at third base to complement and perhaps even push Danny Valencia, but in practice he got three starts and 17 at-bats in a month. He's barely played since 2005, let alone had any success, so he may clear waivers.

Justin Morneau gave everyone a scare when he exited Monday's game with soreness in his surgically repaired left wrist and immediately flew from California to Minnesota to be examined by team doctors. Now he's on the way back to the West Coast after an MRI exam showed no structural damage, but Morneau revealed that the wrist was bothering him before Monday and the Twins have said that Friday is the best-case scenario for being back in the lineup.

Thursday is a scheduled off day, so that absence isn't quite as long as it sounds, but giving him 15 days to heal up on the disabled list would seemingly be worthwhile. Instead the Twins will keep Morneau on the active roster, which is something they've done too often with injured players in recent years and becomes particularly problematic when combined with a 13-man pitching staff and Butera. Last night's bench was literally only Butera and Trevor Plouffe.

Carl Pavano managed zero strikeouts Friday for the third time in his last 33 starts and his average fastball has clocked in at just 86.6 miles per hour this season, down from 89.0 mph in 2011 and 90.1 mph in 2010. Pavano signed a two-year, $16.5 million contract with the Twins after throwing 221 innings with a 3.75 ERA in 2010, but since then he's logged 255 innings with a 4.38 ERA and just 4.2 strikeouts per nine innings. At age 36 he's running on fumes.

Deolis Guerra's overall numbers at Double-A last year were ugly, but his success shifting to the bullpen in the second half earned him the No. 27 spot in my Twins prospect rankings. He picked up where he left off at New Britain with a 0.71 ERA and 15-to-1 strikeout-to-walk ratio in 13 innings, at which point the Twins promoted the last remaining piece of the Johan Santana trade to Rochester and he debuted there with three scoreless innings Saturday.

• Another potential bullpen option, Kyle Waldrop, is on the comeback trail after an elbow injury cost him a spot on the Opening Day roster. I'm skeptical of Waldrop's ability to be more than a decent middle reliever because he's already 26 years old and his strong ground-ball rate comes along with underwhelming velocity and few strikeouts, but he certainly warrants more of an extended opportunity than Jeff Gray.

• As has too often been the case recently Twins management subtlety cast some doubt on the legitimacy of Scott Baker's elbow injury before a second opinion from outside the organization led to Tommy John surgery. In speaking to the local media following surgery Baker addressed what Jon Krawcynski of the Associated Press described as "whispers both inside and outside Target Field":

I knew I wasn't crazy. I knew there was some speculation that maybe I was babying it or taking it easy, but good grief. I did everything I possibly could to get better and to try to pitch with it. But that just wasn't going to happen.

When an injured player has to defend himself amid speculation that his injury isn't as serious as he claims and that speculation is fueled at least in part by the team that's obviously not a good situation. Toss in the ongoing questions about the competency of the Twins' medical staff and it gets even worse. On the other hand, Baker also admitted injured pitchers "are not always completely forthright with the staff" and made it clear that he doesn't hold a grudge.

• As expected Ben Revere's return to Minnesota was brief, with the end of Josh Willingham's paternity leave sending him back to Triple-A. Revere is still better off playing in Rochester than mostly sitting in Minnesota, although Sunday being "Ben Revere bat day" at Target Field perhaps wasn't the best timing (or planning) by the Twins.

• In an effort to beef up the Double-A and Triple-A teams the Twins signed a bunch of veteran minor leaguers during the offseason, yet some reinforcements were still needed a month into the season. Joe Thurston is the latest veteran to join Rochester, although once upon a time he was a promising prospect in the Dodgers' system. Now he's 32 years old with 184 games in the majors and 1,485 games in the minors, including 5,000 plate appearances at Triple-A.

Ron Gardenhire will be away from the team for this weekend's Mariners series, missing all three games to attend his daughter's college graduation from Southwest Minnesota State. Bench coach Scott Ullger will fill in as manager, as he's done on a few other occasions.

Luke Hughes' time as Oakland's starting third baseman was short-lived, as he went 1-for-13 with three errors in four games and the A's signed a washed-up, recently released Brandon Inge to replace him. Hughes was designated for assignment, so he's back on the waiver wire.

• Congratulations to Delmon Young for making the front page of the New York Post. MLB suspended Young for seven days following his arrest on assault and hate crime charges, presumably because an eight-day suspension would have made Hanukkah jokes too easy.

• Willingham was a smart free agent signing and has been amazing at the plate so far, but his defense in left field has been just short of Delmon-esque.

Interesting note from Twins media communications manager Dustin Morse: Saturday was the ninth time weather caused a delay or postponement in 174 total games at Target Field.

• Compared to this same time last year MLB-wide attendance is up 1,700 fans per game overall, but the Twins' attendance is down an MLB-worst 5,000 fans per game.

• For his career Valencia has hit .328/.378/.491 versus left-handers and .243/.282/.369 versus right-handers, which is one of the more extreme platoon splits you'll see and along with iffy defense makes him a poor fit in an everyday role. By the way, that play was ruled a "double."

• After last night Denard Span has 76 career steals and has been picked off 26 times.

No. 11 prospect Adrian Salcedo was hit in the face by a comebacker while pitching Monday at high Single-A and suffered a broken nose.

This week's blog content is sponsored by One Stop Insurance, which helps Minnesotans find the best value and protection in an insurance company. Please support them for supporting AG.com.

April 2, 2012

Drew Butera loses his scholarship as Twins set Opening Day roster

"No scholarships." That's how Terry Ryan stressed not handing players jobs this year simply because they had jobs last year. Tsuyoshi Nishioka was the first casualty and now Drew Butera joins him in Rochester after two years in Minnesota. Butera's job was in jeopardy as soon as Ryan Doumit signed, but Ron Gardenhire's fear of catching emergencies and the Twins' aversion to ditching marginal guys for whom they develop an affinity had me skeptical.

Actually replacing replacement-level players is a step in the right direction, although Butera remains on the 40-man roster and, considering Joe Mauer's injury history and Doumit's shaky defense, there's a good chance he'll be back. Butera stuck around despite the lowest OPS of any non-pitcher with 300 plate appearances since 1990 because the Twins loved his defense, liked him as a person, and believed he had a big influence as Carl Pavano's personal catcher.

There's no doubt that Butera did a good job controlling the running game despite Pavano barely paying attention to runners, so the pairing may have been a good fit and may have even helped Pavano. However, evaluating catcher defense is very complicated and assuming something is true because a pitcher thinks it's true doesn't always show itself in the results. In terms of preventing runs Butera catching Pavano was the same as Mauer catching Pavano:

Pavano with Butera catching: 294 innings, 4.14 ERA.
Pavano with Mauer catching: 201 innings, 4.08 ERA.

Butera is a good catcher who can't hit. And not just "can't hit" like most bench players "can't hit." He's historically awful, hitting .178/.220/.261 for the Twins after hitting .214/.296/.317 in the minors. There are plenty of good-glove, no-hit players in the majors, and rightfully so in many cases, but good defenders with absolutely zero hitting ability belong in the minors and by sending Butera there the Twins set the position player side of the Opening Day roster:

   LINEUP                     BENCH
 C Joe Mauer               IF Luke Hughes
1B Chris Parmelee          IF Sean Burroughs
2B Alexi Casilla           OF Ben Revere
SS Jamey Carroll           OF Trevor Plouffe
3B Danny Valencia
LF Josh Willingham
CF Denard Span
RF Ryan Doumit
DH Justin Morneau

My assumption is that Doumit will be the primary right fielder because he's one of the team's best hitters, has experience there, and presumably wasn't signed to mostly sit on the bench regardless of his position. However, if demoting Butera means that Gardenhire will use Doumit as more of a true backup catcher then Trevor Plouffe would seemingly be in line for most of the starts in right field or at least a time-share with Ben Revere.

Chris Parmelee parlayed a big September call-up and strong spring training into the starting first base job, with the Twins deciding that the best chance of keeping Justin Morneau in the lineup is at designated hitter. Morneau may prove healthy enough to return to first base and Parmelee may show that his mediocre track record is more telling than his most recent 100 at-bats, in which case the Twins could shift Doumit to DH and use Plouffe/Revere in right field.

They certainly have no shortage of first base/designated hitter/corner outfield options, which should be good for an offense that scored the second-fewest runs in the league last season, but they're also lacking a true backup middle infielder should 38-year-old shortstop Jamey Carroll or oft-injured second baseman Alexi Casilla need time off and it's unclear to me what role there is for Sean Burroughs unless he eats into Danny Valencia's starts at third base.

On an individual basis this is far stronger than the typical Twins bench during the past decade, although that admittedly isn't saying much. Burroughs, Plouffe, and Luke Hughes are each useful hitters and Revere is at the very least a useful fourth outfielder, but in terms of actually putting that collection of individuals into practice as a functioning bench the lack of a quality defensive middle infielder could get tricky. And speaking of tricky, here's the pitching staff:

   ROTATION                   BULLPEN
SP Carl Pavano             RH Matt Capps
SP Francisco Liriano       LH Glen Perkins
SP Liam Hendriks           LH Brian Duensing
SP Nick Blackburn          RH Anthony Swarzak
                           RH Jared Burton
   DISABLED LIST           LH Matt Maloney
SP Scott Baker             RH Alex Burnett
SP Jason Marquis           RH Jeff Gray
RP Kyle Waldrop

Injuries are keeping the Twins from beginning the season with their preferred 12-man pitching staff. Scott Baker is on the disabled list with an elbow injury, so 23-year-old Liam Hendriks will step into his rotation spot. Jason Marquis has been away from the team following his daughter's bicycling accident and the Twins will take advantage of an early off day on the schedule to skip his first turn in the rotation, which means they'll have eight relievers initially.

Kyle Waldrop would have been one of those eight relievers, but he's on the DL with an elbow injury of his own, leaving space in the bullpen for a pair of early offseason waiver claims (Matt Maloney and Jeff Gray), a non-roster invitee on a minor-league contract (Jared Burton), and a 2011 holdover with a 5.40 ERA in 98 career innings (Alex Burnett). Once everyone is healthy one or two of those guys will lose their spot, but that's a very shaky middle relief corps.

And the presumed late-inning options don't inspire a whole lot more confidence aside from Glen Perkins as the primary setup man. Matt Capps has plenty of questions to answer at closer coming off a disastrous season, Anthony Swarzak seemingly lacks the raw stuff and bat-missing ability for a high-leverage role, and Brian Duensing still needs to show that he can consistently get right-handed hitters out after flopping as a starter.

Aside from overpaying Capps it's a bullpen built on the cheap with failed starters, waiver wire pickups, former mid-level prospects, and injury comebacks. Odds are at least one solid reliever will emerge from that group because that's just how relievers work--my money would be on Burton, assuming he's healthy--but in the meantime things could get pretty ugly as Gardenhire searches for someone dependable beyond Perkins.

March 30, 2012

Link-O-Rama

• I'll be on 1500-ESPN radio tonight from 7-8 talking Twins and other stuff with Darren Wolfson, so tune in or listen online.

Carl Pavano was targeted in an extortion attempt by a high school classmate who claims to have had a relationship with the Twins pitcher and it gets even crazier from there.

• Who are the Twins' top five prospects? I'm glad you asked.

This conversation, in my mind: "Oh my god, you're so good looking!"

• I decided to buy The Hunger Games book before seeing the movie and it was so good that I read all 374 pages in one sitting. Being labeled a "young adult novel" obscures the fact that it's darker and has more violence than 99 percent of "adult novels."

• On a related note: People, still the worst.

Sarah Hyland seems like fun.

• For anyone interested in advertising on AG.com and supporting the site's free content, click here for the details of my new "sponsor of the week" program.

Stephon Marbury is a huge Sinead O'Connor fan, obviously.

• This week's "Gleeman and The Geek" episode unwittingly started an odd Twitter feud between two groups of people, so you'll probably want to hear it.

• Never forget, Geraldo Rivera boxed Frank Stallone on Howard Stern's show in 1992:

Rivera got pummeled, which might explain a lot these days.

Michael K. Williams as Ol' Dirty Bastard? Oh, indeed.

• Minnesota native, former Gophers star, and JCC basketball legend Jack Hannahan is the Indians' new starting third baseman.

Joba Chamberlain's gruesome injury made me think back to fifth grade when a classmate got a trampoline and I went to her house about 15 times in a month ... and then never again. Fifth grade was weird, but at least my ankle stayed inside my skin.

Marion Barber was a rookie at 22, a Pro Bowler at 24, and is finished at 28. Being an NFL running back is scary, but I'll never forget that amazing Barber-Laurence Maroney backfield.

• There's actually one profession that ages someone more rapidly than NFL running back.

• I can't believe I never thought of this for my prom.

Joe Morgan liked Adidas before he disliked Moneyball.

• Not only did I lose 150 pounds in one year my cousin-in-law (which might not actually be a thing, but you know what I mean) has lost 110 pounds.

Carnie Wilson, on the other hand, tried to cheat the system and failed. So she did it again.

• Hall of Fame soul singer Bobby Womack has been diagnosed with colon cancer.

• Which one word best describes how Tim Tebow feels about being traded to the Jets?

Tebow and The Pointer Sisters have something in common.

• I was sad to see him go, but congrats to my longtime Rotoworld teammate Gregg Rosenthal for his new gig at NFL.com. Great writer, great guy, and hugely responsible for my career.

• As part of replacing Rosenthal one of my favorite writers from way back, Michael David Smith, is the new managing editor at ProFootballTalk.

Royce White declared for the NBA draft, so the Gophers only missed one really good season.

• I finally saw The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo. Another great David Fincher movie and, unlike most foreign remakes, an equal or perhaps even better version than the original. It also gave The Social Network opening breakup scene new meaning.

Josie Long was an exceptionally charming guest on "Stop Podcasting Yourself."

• One of my favorite podcasters, Marc Maron, will soon have his own television show.

• I've always had a phobia of talking on the phone, which is rough because it's needed to set up therapy for the phobia and also because it's really dumb. But after hearing from people on Twitter and reading this I'm surprised to learn it's relatively common. Brains are weird.

• If you watched the season premiere of Mad Men you should read this and then read this.

• Happy birthday to my grandpa, Mel Gallop, who recently turned 89 years old and celebrated by complaining about Drew Butera over lunch with me.

• Finally, this week's AG.com-approved music video is Womack's classic "Across 110th Street":

« Newer PostsOlder Posts »