May 12, 2010
J.J. Hardy had an amazing ninth inning last Tuesday versus the Tigers, making a game-saving play on defense in the top of the inning and then scoring the game-winning run after tripling in the bottom of the frame. Unfortunately, he hasn't played since then because of a wrist injury suffered sliding into third base on the triple and the Twins finally placed Hardy on the disabled list yesterday.
Hardy was diagnosed with a bone bruise after an MRI exam showed no structural damage and was told by a hand specialist that he should be ready to come off the DL when eligible May 20. Rather than replace Hardy with Luke Hughes or Trevor Plouffe or Danny Valencia the Twins called up Matt Tolbert, adding another light-hitting utility man to a roster that already included Nick Punto, Alexi Casilla, and Brendan Harris.
Tolbert is a Ron Gardenhire favorite because he's essentially a poor man's Punto, offering the same combination of false hustle, diminutive scappiness, and offensive ineptitude without any of the great defense. Gardenhire loves players like that and the Twins love to avoid making big changes in situations like this, which is why Tolbert got the call-up despite being a marginal big leaguer who was hitting just .232/.283/.348 (with six errors) in 27 games at Triple-A.
Bypassing a legitimate prospect in favor of the 28-year-old Tolbert means two of Punto, Harris, Casilla, and Tolbert will be in the lineup every day until Hardy comes off the shelf. Beyond that, the defense will also take a major hit because Hardy is an excellent defender and Gardenhire oddly refuses to shift Punto from third base to shortstop. For instance, last night Punto stayed at third base and Harris started at shortstop despite lacking the basic range for the position.
Gardenhire constantly praises Punto as an elite defender at any position and has often shied away from playing Harris at third base because his glove is shaky even there, yet inexplicably won't swap them because Punto is "spectacular at third base" and he's more concerned with not "changing too many guys" than actually putting the best defense on the field. By calling up Tolbert the front office took a similar approach to the roster and the combination is frustrating.
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• In addition to calling up Tolbert to replace Hardy the Twins also had Jose Mijares fly in from Rochester, presumably with an eye toward sending down a catcher and going back to their now-standard 12-man pitching staff prior to this afternoon's game. Mijares has been on the DL with a sore elbow since April 17 and was awful in two rehab outings at Triple-A, allowing five runs in 1.2 innings. He'd be the bullpen's third lefty behind Ron Mahay and Brian Duensing.
• In an odd little twist of fate, Hardy went on the DL less than 24 hours after the man he was traded for, Carlos Gomez, was placed on the DL by the Brewers. Hardy has hit .250/.299/.400 in 108 plate appearances, whereas prior to going down with a shoulder injury Gomez batted .276/.321/.447 in 84 plate appearances while going 6-for-6 on steals.
• Earlier this week I wrote about Kyle Gibson's impressive professional debut at high Single-A and as part of a slew of minor-league moves the Twins promoted the 2009 first-round pick to Double-A yesterday. His final stats at Fort Myers: 4-1 with a 1.80 ERA, .213 opponents' batting average, 40-to-12 strikeout-to-walk ratio, and nearly four ground balls for every fly ball in 43.1 innings spread over seven starts.