March 2, 2010

Twins Notes: Slowey, Casilla, Jimerson, and Man Strength

  • Kevin Slowey missed the final three months of last season after wrist surgery to, as he describes it, "cut down some tendons and pull out some tissue and bones that were no longer necessary and just kind of floating around in there." His recovery process included around four months of rehab, but even now Slowey told David Dorsey of the Fort Myers News Press that the two screws surgically inserted into his wrist may keep him from ever feeling the same:

    I don't know that I'm going to ever feel the same like I did before. But that's OK. You know, I've got two screws in my wrist. So I shouldn't expect to feel like I felt before. ... I hope that things go well. I expect to go out and compete. If things don't go the way I want them to, it won't be because of any lack of preparation or lack of effort.

    Prior to the wrist injury Slowey went 26-15 with a 4.36 ERA and 239-to-48 strikeout-to-walk ratio in 312 innings spread over 54 career starts to emerge as a crucial long-term part of the Twins' rotation at age 25, so obviously that quote is kind of a buzz kill. Slowey tends to be relatively blunt when interviewed, so hopefully he was painting an overly pessimistic picture of his status, but even late last season there were rumblings about the screws hurting his range of motion. For a control pitcher, that sounds scary.

  • Aaron Hicks is 19th on Baseball America's annual top 100 prospects list, with Wilson Ramos (58), Kyle Gibson (61), and Miguel Angel Sano (94) also cracking the list. That sounds about right to me, as they were the first four names on my list of the Twins' top 40 prospects and in reviewing the system as a whole on Monday I called them "four of the top 75 or so prospects in all of baseball." If you're curious, Braves outfielder Jason Heyward and Nationals starter Stephen Strasburg topped BA's list.
  • David Brown of Yahoo! Sports spent some time at Twins camp last week and as always came away from it with some amusing stories, including Ron Gardenhire heckling Justin Morneau about Olympic hockey, Delmon Young joking that he shed 30 pounds this offseason "to be able to catch the balls hit to the warning track" off Carl Pavano, and standing 6-foot-11 making Jon Rauch just the second-tallest right-handed relief pitcher in the clubhouse. Too much good stuff for me to quote it all, so check it out.
  • John Shipley of the St. Paul Pioneer Press notes that Alexi Casilla surrendered his jersey No. 25 to Jim Thome in exchange for "a very nice" Rolex watch. Thome may have been better off just waiting out Casilla, because he's out of minor-league options and seemingly doesn't have a place on the Opening Day roster. Casilla will try to increase his versatility by getting some spring reps in the outfield, but Nick Punto will be around as the backup infielder and actually has a little MLB experience in center field too.
  • After losing Jason Pridie via waivers the Twins inked Jacque Jones and now Charlton Jimerson to minor-league deals, presumably as outfield options for Rochester. Two years ago I talked to a Triple-A pitcher who called Jimerson "the best player I've ever played with" and then repeated it after I stopped laughing long enough to realize he was being serious. I can sort of see how someone could form that opinion just by watching Jimerson, who looks good and has tons of athleticism, speed, and power.Jimerson is a good center fielder and has averaged 25 homers and 40 steals per 150 games between Double-A and Triple-A. Unfortunately he also has perhaps the worst approach at the plate in all of pro baseball, averaging 203 strikeouts versus 29 non-intentional walks per 150 games. In his last stint at Triple-A, two years ago, Jimerson had an absurd 80-to-3 strikeout-to-walk ratio in 55 games. Seriously, in 219 plate appearances for Seattle's affiliate in Tacoma he whiffed 80 times and drew three walks.

    Not surprisingly Jimerson also batted just .233 with a ghastly .250 on-base percentage and .688 OPS, although if you're not into sweating that small stuff he did go deep 11 times and swipe 14 bases. All of which is a long way of saying that Jimerson is a 30-year-old with a .258/.312/.456 career mark in the minors who swings at everything and would be laughably overmatched in the majors. However, as Bob Matthews of the Rochester Democrat and Chronicle points out, Jimerson is also worth rooting for.

  • Perhaps joining Jimerson in Rochester is Mike Maroth, who got an invite to spring training as part of his minor-league deal. Maroth was once a decent back-of-the-rotation starter for the Tigers, but is most famous for being MLB's last 20-game loser and hasn't pitched in the majors since posting a 6.89 ERA in 2007. He caught the Twins' eye by going 3-0 with a 2.60 ERA in the Puerto Rican winter league, but even that included a poor 15-to-13 strikeout-to-walk ratio in 35 innings. He's just filler at age 32.
  • Susan Slusser of the San Francisco Chronicle reports that the Twins were also close to inking Brett Tomko to a minor-league contract, but he opted to re-sign with the A's. Tomko put together a half-dozen good second-half starts for the A's last season, but then suffered an arm injury that he's still recovering from and was 6-19 with a 5.81 ERA over the previous two seasons. He's also 37 years old, so it wasn't much of a loss.
  • Last but definitely not least, John Sickels' lengthy interview with Howard Norsetter is a must-read, if only because the Twins' international scouting coordinator uses the phrase "man strength" in referring to skinny shortstop prospect James Beresford. They not only covered a wide range of topics, Norsetter gave really interesting, thoughtful responses. Whether you want to learn more about specific prospects or the international scouting process as a whole, the interview is a fantastic read.

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