March 29, 2006

Twins Notes

One of the lessons I've learned since appearing in Sports Illustrated last week is that the easiest way to become "famous" is to simply trick someone who is already famous into believing you're famous too. In other words, once you get one person with some clout believing it, the rest is easy.

In addition to e-mails from just about everyone I knew back in junior high, offers to do numerous radio shows across the country have been flowing in since last week. I almost always turn those down, because calling in to a show that I've never heard before to talk to people I can't see doesn't sound like fun to me (in fact, the few times I've done it has sort of freaked me out).

However, one offer that I just couldn't turn down is appearing on a prominent local television show. As usual I'll keep the details to myself until everything is set in stone later this week, but it should be pretty cool. I'm confident that my fame clock is at 14 minutes and ticking, because otherwise you guys are going to get sick of me pretty quickly.

With that little tease out of the way, here are some Twins notes ...

  • If you thought going 5-11 with a 4.89 ERA in 182.1 innings with the Twins over the past two seasons was the end of Terry Mulholland's career, think again. Mulholland, who turned 43 years old earlier this month, has won a spot on the Diamondbacks' Opening Day roster. Normally I'd make some sort of snide remark here, but Mulholland was actually quite a bit better than I thought he'd be last season, posting his first better-than-average ERA since 1999.

    UPDATE: In order to keep Mulholland on the roster, the Diamondbacks will risk exposing both Koyie Hill and Luis Terrero on waivers, potentially losing two relatively valuable young players for absolutely nothing. See, it's not only the Twins who make odd roster decisions.

  • Chris Kline of Baseball America spent a day in Twins camp earlier this week and had some interesting notes about the organization's middle-infield depth, Jason Kubel's recovery from knee surgery, Henry Sanchez's power potential, and how quickly Glen Perkins can get to the big leagues.
  • If the Twins are truly looking to add a big bat to the bench -- as opposed to whatever Ruben Sierra qualifies as -- they'd be smart to take a look at Erubiel Durazo. Durazo missed most of last season with a significant elbow injury and was cut loose by the Rangers this week, but he hit .321/.396/.523 as recently as 2004. That comes out to a .919 OPS, which is a number Sierra hasn't reached in 19 big-league seasons. In fact, Sierra hasn't even cracked an .800 OPS since 2001.

    One knock I've heard against signing Durazo as a bench player is that he won't stand for not playing regularly, but I doubt that's the case now that he's had the rude awakening of only receiving a minor-league contract during the offseason and then being released during spring training. Another likely knock is that Sierra is a switch-hitter, whereas Durazo is a left-handed hitter. Normally that's an important consideration, except Durazo has been far better against lefties over the past three years:

                 AVG      OBP      SLG      OPS
    Durazo .288 .365 .461 .826
    Sierra .235 .281 .407 .688

    The act of switch-hitting isn't really what has value, it's actually being able to produce good results regardless of what hand the pitcher throws with. Sierra can't do that, while Durazo has shown in the past that he can. Toss in Sierra's measly .261/.314/.434 line against right-handed pitching over that same span, compared to Durazo's .280/.379/.462, and the upgrade would be considerable. All of which means, of course, that it'll never happen.
  • Speaking of guys the Twins should have signed ... Tony Graffanino, whom I talked up as a utility man in this space Monday, was claimed off waivers by the Royals yesterday.
  • Ron Gardenhire continues to make life as difficult as possible for Jason Bartlett, adding to the mountain of evidence showing that the Twins stink at bringing along their young position players. Rather than get worked up about Gardenhire jerking Bartlett around in the media on a daily basis while talking up the likes Juan Castro and Nick Punto, I've decided simply to let the whole thing play out. There's no sense getting upset about the situation if Bartlett ends up beginning the season as the starter anyway (if his hamstring injury doesn't put him on the disabled list).

    And if he doesn't, there'll be plenty of time to complain while we watch Castro and Punto eat up outs. Incidentally, if the Twins begin the season with Tony Batista (career OBP of .298) and Castro (career OBP of .271) as the left side of their infield, they should never again be allowed to pretend that want to (or know how to) genuinely improve the offense. It's like someone making a New Year's resolution to lose weight by only eating at McDonald's.

  • Speaking of Batista ... After showing up to camp out of shape and getting off to a brutal start, he managed to string together a few hits and some nice defensive plays last week. That was enough for me to get quite a few e-mails and comments from his ever-present supporters. Predictably, Batista quickly went back to stinking. Here's what Tom Powers wrote about his defense in yesterday's St. Paul Pioneer Press:

    Batista, who had been struggling at the plate, had a rough day in the field. He booted a ball and had another skip past him for a double.

    And here's what Joe Christensen wrote about Batista's hitting in Monday's Minneapolis Star Tribune:

    Twins third baseman Tony Batista went 0-for-4, lowering his average to .222 and his on-base percentage to .255.

    Still, the Twins remain committed to keeping Batista as their everyday third baseman. They actually like his defense, and he is tied for the team lead with three home runs in 45 at-bats.

    "Hopefully, Tony will be able to get this thing done," Gardenhire said. "It has not been looking great lately, but they told me that's what you're going to get."

    That's some quote from Gardenhire. I continue to be amazed that Terry Ryan (whom I assume is the "they" Gardenhire is referring to) is responsible for this entire situation. But hey, Batista might hit 25 homers!

  • In addition to serving up depressing quotes about Batista, Christensen did a nice job answering six major questions facing the Twins with less than a week until Opening Day. Among Christensen's "best guesses": Michael Cuddyer, Bartlett, and Sierra will each begin the season on the disabled list; Scott Baker will begin the year in the rotation and Francisco Liriano will be in the bullpen; Lew Ford will start in right field until Cuddyer returns, with Kubel at Triple-A; Dennys Reyes will get the final bullpen spot over the choice, Willie Eyre.

    UPDATE: The Twins cut Reyes this morning, meaning both Liriano and Eyre will make the Opening Day roster. Thanks for reading, Mr. Ryan. Oh, and tell Mr. Gardenhire that I also said not to make Liriano a LOOGY.

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