May 9, 2005


Last night's punchless loss to Daniel Cabrera and the Orioles was tough to take, but there was a wonderful piece of news in this morning's Minneapolis Star Tribune that makes it all better:

Second base belongs to Punto

BALTIMORE -- Nick Punto has officially usurped Luis Rivas as the Twins' starting second baseman.

Manager Ron Gardenhire didn't want to make a big announcement, but he confirmed the decision before Monday's game against the Baltimore Orioles.

"Right now, Punto's playing second base and he's playing very well," Gardenhire said. "It's not like a platoon there. I'm going to play him, and mix in Luis whenever I possibly can, just like I have the other guys."

The righthanded-hitting Rivas had started only three of the past 11 games at second base, with his past two starts coming against lefthanded pitchers. The switch-hitting Punto made the other starts at second base in that span, all against righthanders.

"I can't do anything about it," Rivas said. "I have to keep working hard. It's tough for me because I've always been in every game."

Rivas, who had been the starter since 2001, said he started pressing too hard once he realized his job was on the line. He is batting .204 with a .273 on-base percentage; Punto is batting .234 with a .319 OBP after going 0-for-4 in Monday's 3-0 loss to Baltimore.

Gardenhire said he didn't have a formal meeting with Rivas to explain the situation, but third base coach Al Newman has spoken to Rivas about it.

"I'm sure he'd rather be out there every day playing," Gardenhire said. "But like I said all along, we're going to put the best team out there. And he wasn't getting it done there. He had a bad stretch, and the other guy was playing well."

Said Rivas: "I'm just fine. I'm with the team, and we're winning."

Somebody pinch me, because I think I'm dreaming.

I remain skeptical that this isn't just another in the long line of motivational ploys the Twins have tried in an attempt to turn Luis Rivas into something other than a horrible baseball player, but at the very least it's a really strong motivational ploy. So remember May 10, 2005, because if we're all lucky it might just mark the end of the long and painful Luis Rivas Era.

Nick Punto is little more than a run-of-the-mill utility infielder and I am by no means suggesting that he is a massive upgrade over Rivas or the long-term answer at second base for the Twins. But if Punto is who the team needed to finally force Rivas to his rightful place on the bench, then that's good enough for me.

Rather than comment further on this momentous occasion that has taken such a long time coming, I think I'm just going to bask in the glory of it for 24 marvelous hours. I imagine this is what it felt like when, say, the Berlin Wall tumbled to the ground. Ding dong, the witch is dead. Now, can we get that $1.625 million back?

Today at The Hardball Times:
- Whither the Closer? Part Two (by Steve Treder)
- I'm Batty for Baseball Stats (by Studes)

Today's Picks (29-19, +$1,100):
Minnesota (Radke) +130 over Baltimore (Bedard)
Kansas City (Greinke) +180 over Toronto (Halladay)

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