July 5, 2009

Twins Notes: All-Stars, Injuries, and Internationals

  • As expected, Joe Mauer, Justin Morneau, and Joe Nathan were picked as All-Stars yesterday, with Mauer voted in as the AL's starting catcher. Mauer, who also started last year, will be playing in his third All-Star game in five full seasons. Morneau has yet to be chosen as a starter, finishing behind Mark Teixeira and Kevin Youkilis in the fan voting this year, but will be making his third straight appearance. Nathan has now been an All-Star in four of his six seasons with the Twins.
  • As is often the case when a pitcher uncharacteristically struggles--think of Glen Perkins six weeks ago for the most recent example--the Twins placed Kevin Slowey on the disabled list Saturday while revealing that he's "battled pain in his wrist for a while." Anthony Swarzak replaces Slowey, rejoining the rotation three weeks after heading back to Triple-A following five starts filling in for Perkins. While he wasn't as good as his 3.90 ERA the first time around, Swarzak is a nice luxury to have on call.

    As for Slowey, he's scheduled to be examined by a wrist specialist in Baltimore after giving up 11 runs over six innings in his last two starts. Slowey was 10-2 with a 4.04 ERA and 67-to-14 strikeout-to-walk ratio in 14 starts prior to the back-to-back rough outings, but according to Ron Gardenhire had trouble "opening doors and things like that" even before the injury began to impact his pitching. Swarzak will face the Yankees on Thursday after posting a 2.34 ERA and 43/16 K/BB ratio in 10 starts at Rochester.

  • Jesse Crain has struggled since last month's demotion to Triple-A, giving up four runs on seven hits and six walks in seven innings. He does have 11 strikeouts, but Crain has a long way to go before he's an option again. At the time of the demotion Gardenhire talked about Crain needing to focus more on throwing a sinker and he again stressed that over the weekend, but as noted previously in this space Crain's slider was actually responsible for his past success and the Twins pushed him away from that.
  • LaVelle E. Neal III of the Minneapolis Star Tribune, Jorge Arangure of ESPN.com, and various other sources agree that the Twins are legitimate contenders to sign Miguel Angel Sano, a 16-year-old from the Dominican Republic. The scouting reports on Sano are obviously glowing, particularly in regard to his offensive potential, but there are questions about his true age and his reported bonus demands of $4 million would be five times as much as the Twins have ever handed out to an international player.
  • What was your favorite moment from the Sean Henn era? Craig Breslow was lost on waivers so that the Twins could add Henn to the bullpen six weeks ago, at which point my take was that Breslow "is just a better pitcher, period." Since then Breslow has a 2.95 ERA and 14/5 K/BB ratio in 18.1 innings for the A's, while Henn earned a return to Triple-A by allowing nine runs with a 9/8 K/BB ratio in 11 innings for the Twins. Shockingly, his track record meant more than hyperbolic talk of a "95-mph fastball."
  • Brian Duensing was called up from Triple-A to replace Henn in the bullpen, but his first appearance came as a long reliever rather than a left-handed specialist. Which makes sense, because Duensing has started 101 of his 106 pro games--including 56 starts at Triple-A--and despite being a southpaw hasn't been significantly better against lefties than righties prior to this year. He was 25th on my list of the Twins' top prospects heading into the season and at 26 years old deserves a chance in some role.
  • Every once in a while Jim Souhan puts aside the shticky attempts at humor and mid-90s pop-culture references to come across as a human being capable of rational thought and self-awareness:

    Remember a few years ago, when Torii Hunter, a few Twins coaches and some jerk of a local columnist questioned the durability of Mauer and Morneau? Now the M&M Boys seem to be competing with each other for innings played.

    Of course, not writing that drivel in the first place would have been even better.

  • Patrick Reusse, on the other hand, sadly appears to be falling further and further into the "get off my lawn" phase of his career, beginning his Saturday column with a weird rant against a random Tigers blogger (of course) who criticized the team's deal for Edwin Jackson. Reusse used the first 200 words of a 700-word column to quote and then mock a writer named Matt Wallace from a blog called "Take 75 North," yet I'm guessing that fewer than a dozen Star Tribune readers have ever heard of either.
  • According to Chris Jaffe of The Hardball Times, the motley crew that the Angels trotted out against Eric Milton in September of 1999 is the fifth-worst lineup ever to be no-hit.
  • David Brauer of MinnPost reports that having to shell out an extra $4 million in ballpark costs hasn't kept the Twins from adding relief help, so the front office's aversion to actually addressing weaknesses remains the reason.
  • After getting a few bites from the Pirates the Twins released Luis Ayala and ate his $1.3 million deal.

  • Once you're done here, check out my "Circling The Bases" blog over at NBCSports.com.

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