August 11, 2008
Twins Notes: Cuddyer, Casilla, Liriano, Everett, and Korecky
Cuddyer hasn't ruled himself out for the remainder of the year, optimistically saying over the weekend that he's "expecting to be back" and wants to "contribute in some capacity" even if it means returning for just a handful of September games and a potential playoff run. Of course, when he landed on the DL with a finger injury in June the hope was that Cuddyer could come back within a few weeks, but instead he was on track to return six weeks later before Jones' line drive found him.
His impending return had set up Ron Gardenhire for a decision, but now instead of having to squeeze Cuddyer, Delmon Young, Jason Kubel, Denard Span, and Carlos Gomez into four lineup spots he'll continue to give the healthy foursome each everyday playing time. It would've been interesting to see who lost at-bats to Cuddyer, because while benching Gomez or even demoting him to Triple-A briefly may have been the obvious move there's a good chance that it wouldn't have been Gardenhire's move.
Given his poor pre-injury offense and the huge defensive upgrade that came from replacing him with Span in right field, not getting Cuddyer back perhaps isn't as big a blow as it seems. Waiting for him likely kept the Twins from adding a right-handed bat via trade and his .283/.370/.443 career line versus left-handers definitely would've come in handy, but Randy Ruiz can do a solid job against southpaws anyway and despite his big contract Cuddyer just isn't that great an all-around player against righties.
Interestingly, Joe Christensen notes that if Liriano remains on his current schedule 10 of his 11 starts will come against the AL's six worst offenses, with three matchups against Kansas City and two each versus Seattle, Oakland, and Cleveland. Christensen writes that he's "not sure if the Twins purposely planned it this way," but whatever the case it's probably a good thing for Liriano's short- and long-term success. He's definitely setup to thrive.
Rather than actually using the team's best, highest-paid pitcher in a crucial eighth-inning jam or in the extra innings of a tie game, Gardenhire let Craig Breslow lose the game in his third inning of work. If you're curious, Nathan last pitched on Friday, when he threw 14 pitches, and threw a grand total of 50 pitches during the first nine days of August. Once again, Gardenhire held him back for a save situation that depending on your point of view either never materialized or emerged full force in the eighth inning.
Nathan was all set for his usual three-out, ninth-inning save when two hits off Matt Guerrier, a Dennys Reyes wild pitch, and Adam Everett's two-out throwing error let the lead slip away in the eighth. "I just threw it away," Everett said. "You can slice it and dice it and word it anyway you want, but it cost us the game. You know we got Nathan coming in right there ... so I'll take that one for the team. It stinks, but that's the way it is." Despite a two-month DL stint, Everett's shoulder pretty clearly still isn't right.
Of course, Hernandez had a 6.87 ERA since mid-May and failed to make it out of the fifth inning four times in his last 10 starts with the Twins. As the typically criticism-free Associated Press game recap pointed out: "Hernandez had allowed a major league-high 199 hits and .341 opponent batting average before he was waived. A move to Coors Field, coupled with nearly two weeks off, wasn't the antidote to those problems." Shockingly, there really isn't an antidote for "being a horrible pitcher."
In other words, the bullpen is struggling and Korecky has a 3.29 ERA with a 63-to-20 strikeout-to-walk ratio in 63 innings at Triple-A, but he's still there because the Twins want a 29-year-old in his seventh pro season "to work on his changeup." Apparently Brian Bass has mastered his changeup despite using it on just 4.9 percent of his pitches while amassing a 5.01 ERA. Remember when Jason Bartlett got stuck at Rochester supposedly "working on his infield leadership"? Same thing.
Righthander Bobby Korecky has been solid as the closer, entering Friday 5-4 with a 3.34 ERA and 19 saves. He was called up to the Twins briefly in May and pitched 10 1/3 innings--earning a victory over Texas on May 19. The Twins want him to work on his changeup, which he will need in the majors, but it's hard for him to work on the pitch in closing situations.
Once you're done here, check out my latest "Daily Dose" column over at Rotoworld.