October 2, 2012

Tsuyoshi Nishioka asks to be released, gives Twins a $3.25 million refund

No longer on the 40-man roster and destined to spend the final season of his three-year contract in the minors, Tsuyoshi Nishioka understandably decided that he'd rather return to Japan than call Rochester, New York home again. And so after two miserable years spent mostly at Triple-A and on the disabled list Nishioka asked the Twins to release him in exchange for forfeiting the remaining $3.25 million he's owed and they naturally obliged.

There's no doubt that Nishioka did the Twins a favor, as clearing his $3 million salary for 2013 and the $250,000 buyout of his $4 million option for 2014 from the team's books is like free money. He'll likely recoup the $3.25 million and then some back in Japan, where he was a .346-hitting, Gold Glove-winning star before leaving at age 26, so Nishioka tearing up the final season of his deal is more like a win-win situation than a selfless act of charity.

Nishioka wanted out, the Twins had no use for him, and at age 28 he can resume being a highly paid star player back home without having to ride the bus from city to city in the International League for another six months first. While not quite the same situation, a few years ago Kenji Johjima asked out of his contract with the Mariners in order to return to Japan and saved the team $15.8 million.

As for why Nishioka was such a colossal failure ... who knows. Nishioka joins Kaz Matsui as the biggest flops among Japanese hitters coming to the United States, but Ichiro Suzuki and Hideki Matsui became MLB stars, Johjima, Tadahito Iguchi, and Akinori Iwamura became quality regulars, and even Kosuke Fukudome and So Taguchi proved to be useful role players. And this season Norichika Aoki of the Brewers is one of the NL's best rookies.

Aoki arrived with considerably less fanfare than Nishioka, in part because he was four years older and in part because he was coming off a career-worst season in Japan. Whereas the Twins spent a total of $15 million to acquire Nishioka and handed him a starting job, Aoki cost the Brewers just $5 million and entered the season as a bench player. He began starting in mid-May and has hit .285/.352/.433 with 10 homers, 37 doubles, and 28 steals.

Aoki is 30 years old and hit just .292/.358/.360 in Japan last season, so his rookie production is very impressive and certainly unexpected. However, it's worth noting that Aoki's pre-2011 track record included hitting .358 in 2010, .347 in 2009, and .346 in 2008. Nishioka, on the other hand, was much more of a one-year wonder in Japan and his .346 batting average there in 2010 was driven by an insanely high mark on balls in play.

When attempting to project future performance multi-year track records are important in Japan too, although there was no way to predict that Nishioka would hit .215/.267/.236 and, unlike Aoki, he was right in the middle of his prime. Even the most conservative, pessimistic projections for Nishioka suggested he'd be a decent MLB hitter and plenty of people in the comments section here questioned me for projecting he'd hit "only" .275/.335/.375.

Defense is another issue, of course, and after watching Nishioka in the field it's hard to imagine what the Twins ever saw in him. It took Ron Gardenhire literally one week of spring training drills to conclude Nishioka didn't have the arm for shortstop and it took six games (and one Nick Swisher slide) to show he wasn't a fit at second base either. And yet in Japan he won Gold Glove awards at both shortstop and second base.

Nishioka failing with the Twins doesn't "prove" hitters or middle infielders from Japan can't make it in the majors any more than, say, Michael Restovich "proves" hitters from Minnesota can't make it or Brian Dozier "proves" middle infield prospects can't make it. It mostly just proved that Nishioka wasn't MLB material and the Twins erred in their evaluation of a player who also performed considerably worse than anyone could have reasonably expected.

And now at least it was a $12 million mistake instead of a $15 million mistake.

For a lengthy discussion about Nishioka check out this week's "Gleeman and The Geek" episode.

November 14, 2011

Twins Notes: Plouffe, Iwakuma, Wada, Thome, Krivsky, Toby, and Kiss

Terry Ryan revealed during a 1500-ESPN interview yesterday that Trevor Plouffe will be an outfielder going forward, which isn't shocking considering how awful he looked as an infielder despite playing 680 games at shortstop in the minors. He has the tools to be a strong corner outfielder defensively and with Jamey Carroll signed that may be the clearest path to at-bats, but before the middle of this year Plouffe had never played the outfield in seven pro seasons.

Moving to the outfield full time also means Plouffe's bat will be held to a much higher standard and aside from a 50-game stretch at Triple-A this year he's never really produced like a corner outfielder offensively. He's batted .262/.316/.451 in 337 games at Triple-A and .226/.286/.382 in 103 games in the majors, so unless his two-month breakout in Rochester at age 25 is a sign of things to come Plouffe will have trouble hitting enough to be more than a platoon player.

According to Nippon Sports the Twins are interested in Japanese pitchers Hisashi Iwakuma and Tsuyoshi Wada, both of whom are outright free agents and can be signed without going through the posting process. Last winter the Twins reportedly finished runner-up for Iwakuma, who failed to sign after the A's bid (and were refunded) $19.1 million for his negotiating rights. He remained in Japan and had a 2.42 ERA in 119 innings, but missed time with a back injury.

Wada was even better, throwing 185 innings with a 1.51 ERA, but the 30-year-old left-hander may not have the raw stuff to thrive in the majors. I've seen Wada compared to Bruce Chen and Jamie Moyer as a strike-throwing southpaw with mid-80s fastball velocity and in talking to people who've seen him pitch in Japan the consensus seems to be that he's no more than a possible fifth starter.

As teams were bidding on Iwakuma last year there were some reports of him potentially being a No. 2 starter in the majors, but apparently those back problems sapped his already modest velocity this season. Iwakuma has more upside than Wada, but the 30-year-old right-hander likely projects as a mid-rotation starter even if his fastball returns to the low-90s. Intriguing, but unless the price tags are modest I'd be surprised to see either pitcher land with the Twins.

Jim Thome signed a one-year, $1.25 million deal with the Phillies, which is a price the Twins should have been willing to match. However, prior to being fired Bill Smith ruled out bringing back Thome because of how his inability to play defense limits the roster and it may have been a moot point anyway, as the future Hall of Famer loves Phillies manager Charlie Manuel and reportedly had been hoping to be traded to Philadelphia rather than Cleveland in August.

Thome will have a very limited role with the Phillies, who view him as only an emergency option at first base even with Ryan Howard potentially out for the entire first half. That means pinch-hitting and serving as a designated hitter during interleague games, which probably won't add up to more than 150 plate appearances. His attempts to recruit Michael Cuddyer to join him in Philadelphia might have a bigger impact than Thome's on-field performance.

Wayne Krivsky was Ryan's right-hand man prior to leaving the Twins to become the Reds' general manager in 2006, but returns now as "professional scout and special assistant to the GM." Joe Christensen of the Minneapolis Star Tribune looked into his role and says "Krivsky will scout 15 major league teams, with scout Kenny Compton handling the other 15." And he'll be stationed out of Kentucky, so Rob Antony remains the No. 2 guy in the front office.

Days before firing Smith the Twins denied the Orioles permission to interview vice president of player personnel Mike Radcliff for their GM opening, but several sources have suggested that was more about Radcliff's lack of interest in the job than anything else. Radcliff was the Twins' longtime scouting director prior to switching roles when Smith replaced Ryan in 2007 and is a big part of the organization, although Ryan admitted Radcliff was "spread too thin" recently.

• To put into context how odd the Twins' timing was in firing Smith: Eno Sarris of Fan Graphs reports that Smith was the first MLB general manager to be fired in November since 1950.

• Last month the Twins dropped Brian Dinkelman from the 40-man roster, making him a free agent, but the 28-year-old second baseman/corner outfielder has re-signed on a minor-league contract. Dinkelman's performance didn't warrant being called up to the majors twice this year, but he certainly took advantage of what may prove to be his lone opportunity by notching 22 hits in 23 games and the organizational solider will provide some veteran depth at Rochester.

• Rochester will also likely have right-hander Jared Burton in the bullpen after the Twins inked the former Reds reliever to a minor-league deal. Burton had a 3.47 ERA and 139 strikeouts in 161 innings from 2007-2009, but missed most of the past two years with shoulder problems that required surgery. He's exactly the sort of cheap, readily available player who makes giving 40-man roster spots to Matt Maloney and Jeff Gray so confusing.

LaVelle E. Neal III of the Minneapolis Star Tribune reports that Ron Gardenhire's son, Toby Gardenhire, will not be offered a contract after becoming a minor-league free agent. Nepotism got Gardenhire to Triple-A despite being a former 41st-round pick with a .232/.292/.274 career line, but his defensive versatility served a purpose for Rochester and ultimately at least they cut him loose based on merit.

• Other minor leaguers to leave the organization as free agents include Andy Baldwin, Dusty Hughes, Chuck James, Jake Stevens, Allan de San Miguel, Jair Hernandez, Chase Lambin, Paul Kelly, Yangervis Solarte, Jeff Bailey, and Brandon Roberts. Hughes and James pitched for the Twins this year, Kelly is a former second-round pick, Baldwin is a friend of AG.com, and Lambin was the subject of a Grantland article, but only Solarte resembles any kind of prospect.

• Getting a veteran middle infielder with very strong on-base skills was obviously nice, but I've stumbled across the primary reason the Twins signed Carroll:

Presumably "shorter than Gene Simmons' daughter and Shannon Tweed" wasn't prominently featured on the scouting report.

August 3, 2011

Twins Notes: Familiar names, logjams, ugly OBPs, and rotation issues

• It's always difficult to dig through all the rumors and speculation at the trade deadline to get a sense for what actually happened with deals that fell apart, but when it comes to the Twins' talks with the Nationals about Denard Span the various reports form something resembling a consensus. It sounds like the Twins were willing to build a deal for Span around Drew Storen, but the Nationals balked when asked to include infield prospect Stephen Lombardozzi as well.

There are other stray details that appeared in some reports but not others, such as the Twins' interest in outfielder Roger Bernadina or the Nationals trying to substitute Tyler Clippard for Storen as the reliever centerpiece, but ultimately the starting point of the talks was Storen for Span, with Lombardozzi's inclusion proving to be the hurdle that tripped everything up. And if that's true, it should be scary for Twins fans.

Trading a 27-year-old center fielder with good on-base skills, plus defense, and a team-friendly contract that runs through 2015 for a 70-inning reliever is a fundamental mistake in logic--not to mention player evaluation--that you'd think the Twins would've learned to avoid at all costs after last year's Wilson Ramos-for-Matt Capps swap with those same Nationals. Lombardozzi would've tipped the scales a bit back in the Twins' direction, but not that much.

His father, Steve Lombardozzi, played four years with the Twins, hitting .233/.307/.345 in 423 games from 1985-1988. Father and son are both second basemen and occasional shortstops with good strike-zone control, plus speed, and modest power. Stephen has advanced through the minors more quickly than Steve and his numbers project slightly better, but he didn't crack Baseball America's top 10 Nationals prospects and is no sure thing to become a solid regular.

Lombardozzi's performance in the minors is good but not great and built around a .300 batting average. That's obviously a positive thing, but he's managed just 16 homers in 417 games and averaged only 55 walks per 600 plate appearances, including just 28 free passes in 473 trips to the plate between Double-A and Triple-A this season. With minimal power and iffy patience it's tough to project a big impact in the majors from a .298/.370/.412 hitter in the minors.

Storen is a very good, young, and cheap reliever and Lombarozzi is a decent enough prospect who should settle in somewhere between nice utility man and mediocre starter. Together they have plenty of long-term value, but not enough to part with a good, young, and cheap center fielder with a .366 career on-base percentage. I'm relieved the Twins passed on the deal, but also worried the Nationals merely temporarily saved them from again overpaying for saves.

• I'm very curious to see how Ron Gardenhire handles the outfield logjam now that Span has returned from a two-month stint on the disabled list following his June 3 concussion. Last night against a right-handed pitcher Span started in center field and Ben Revere was on the bench, but presumably the Twins won't keep the 23-year-old Revere around in the big leagues unless he's starting at least somewhat regularly.

That could be accomplished pretty easily by platooning Revere and Delmon Young in left field, but Gardenhire has never seen the value of platooning and has yet to see the value of sitting Young versus right-handed pitching, against whom he's hit just .263/.298/.340 this year and .283/.315/.405 for his career. Either way, Span will provide some much-needed on-base skills atop the lineup after Revere got on base at a measly .301 clip in 52 leadoff starts.

Apparently the Twins wanted Span to see some action as a corner outfielder in Rochester, but he refused (or maybe declined, depending on your preferred wording choice). Rhett Bollinger of MLB.com reports that "Span didn't want to play in any games in left or right field during his rehab stint." Or as Gardenhire phrased it: "We talked before, about doing that in the minor leagues, but we didn't get that done. So he's in the big leagues, in center field."

I'm not yet convinced Revere in center field and Span in left field is better than Span in center field and Revere in left field anyway, but it's an interesting situation given how much criticism Joe Mauer took during his rehab assignment for insisting on playing catcher. Young has never played right field for the Twins despite a strong arm being his only asset defensively, so unless Gardenhire changes his mind on that issue we'll see Span or Revere in right field soon enough.

• So far this year 16 hitters have gotten at least 100 plate appearances for the Twins and 10 of them have an on-base percentage of .300 or lower (the AL average is .322):

                     PA      OBP
Danny Valencia      425     .289
Delmon Young        295     .295
Ben Revere          269     .300
Justin Morneau      231     .281
Luke Hughes         198     .296
Drew Butera         168     .210
Tsuyoshi Nishioka   171     .259
Matt Tolbert        159     .250
Trevor Plouffe      117     .291
Jason Repko         111     .287

No other team in Twins history had more than seven position players notch 100 or more plate appearances and a .300 or lower OBP. We're seeing some historic ineptitude when it comes to getting on base. As a whole the current team's .309 on-base percentage is the Twins' lowest since 1981 and their first sub-.320 mark since 1984.

• According to general manager Bill Smith the Twins finished runner-up in the winter bidding for Japanese right-hander Hisashi Iwakuma, as the A's easily topped them $19 million to $7.7 million. Contentious negotiations followed and the two sides couldn't agree on a deal, so the A's were refunded and Iwakuma headed back to Japan. And now Jerry Crasnick of ESPN.com reports that Iwakuma has hired a new agent with an eye toward coming to MLB in 2012.

Crasnick notes that because Iwakuma has now played 10 seasons in Japan he can become an outright free agent without the need for bidding, posting fees, or exclusive negotiating rights. He'll simply hit the open market in November alongside other free agent pitchers, which likely takes the Twins out of the running even if Tsuyoshi Nishioka's extreme struggles following a $15 million investment haven't already soured them on pursuing other Japanese players.

• Last spring I criticized the Twins for handing Nick Blackburn a four-year, $14 million deal, as they already had him under team control via arbitration and minuscule strikeout rates meant it would be hard to sustain his status as a mid-rotation starter. Sure enough, since the signing his 4.2 strikeouts per nine innings is MLB's lowest rate and Blackburn has a 5.00 ERA and .302 opponents' average in 291 innings. He's owed $4.75 million in 2012 and $5.5 million in 2013.

In his last seven starts Blackburn has given up 39 runs on 58 hits and 13 walks in 33 innings, allowing opponents to hit .387 with a .607 slugging percentage. Brian Duensing hasn't been nearly that awful, but his rough patch dates back much further. After last night's loss Duensing has a 5.14 ERA in 92 innings spread over 16 starts since May 1, allowing opponents to hit .290 and slug .458. And just a reminder: Kevin Slowey has a 4.42 career ERA as a starter.

• Capps has quietly strung together seven straight scoreless outings since being stripped of closer duties in mid-July, although recording just two strikeouts in 21 plate appearances during that stretch doesn't exactly inspire confidence. Overall this season Capps has struck out just 12.1 percent of the batters he's faced, compared to 19.3 percent last season and 18.7 percent for his career. He's also allowed more homers (eight) than walks (six). Brad Radke approves.

This week's content is sponsored by Minnesota's leading variable frequency drive company, IDEAL Service, so please help support AG.com by considering them for your industrial electronic needs.

April 11, 2011

Twins Notes: Nishioka, Hughes, Cuddyer, Nathan, Slowey, and Burnett

Tsuyoshi Nishioka got relatively positive news on his fractured fibula, as doctors determined he won't need surgery and could potentially return in 4-6 weeks. It was sad to see Nishioka on the field supporting himself with crutches during the home opener ceremonies, particularly since his parents flew in from Japan, but the Target Field crowd gave him a nice welcome and even a six-week recovery timetable could mean returning to the lineup by the end of May.

One interesting subplot with Nishioka's leg injury is whether he was fully prepared to deal with runners like Nick Swisher sliding hard into second base (or the general vicinity) in an effort to break up double plays. Baserunners in Japan typically don't engage in takeout slides and after watching Nishioka during early spring workouts bench coach Scott Ullger noted that "mak[ing] sure he clears the bag at second base so he doesn't get killed" was an issue.

Luke Hughes came up from Triple-A to replace Nishioka and started at second base Friday and Saturday, but Ron Gardenhire turned to Michael Cuddyer there yesterday. Cuddyer also made one start at second base last season, but before that hadn't started there since 2005. Sacrificing defense to get an extra bat in the lineup works in theory, but Cuddyer's defense at second base is likely beyond bad at this point and his bat isn't sacrifice-worthy versus righties.

Cuddyer hit .261/.319/.423 versus right-handed pitchers during the past three years, including .265/.307/.393 off them last season. That isn't enough production to warrant regular playing time against righties, let alone regular playing time at the expense of weakening an already shaky defense. It also doesn't say much for the Twins' faith in Hughes if they don't think he's a superior option at second base than an outfielder with a .261/.319/.423 line versus righties.

More than anything though it speaks to Gardenhire's inability to see that Cuddyer is no longer a quality regular against right-handers. He told reporters prior to yesterday's game that using Cuddyer over Hughes at second base was a way for him to get Jason Kubel and Jim Thome into the  lineup together versus a righty, but Gardenhire should have been willing to make that happen by benching Cuddyer versus righties anyway. Loyalty is clouding the manager's vision.

• Regardless of who sees most of the action at second base the middle infield defense will be ugly. Hughes' glove has never had strong reviews, Cuddyer last played second base regularly when Cristian Guzman was his double-play partner, and Alexi Casilla has predictably been shaky so far at shortstop. Combined with the standard lack of range from Delmon Young and Kubel (or Cuddyer) in the outfield and the defense is now poor in at least four of eight spots.

• For those of us clamoring for middle infielders past: J.J. Hardy might miss six weeks with an oblique strain and Nick Punto is on the disabled list following hernia surgery. Orlando Hudson is healthy and oddly batting third in the Padres' lineup.

• I'm pleasantly surprised that Gardenhire chose to move everyone up one spot in the batting order with Nishioka out rather than insert a weak hitter at No. 2 like he's done so many times before. Denard Span, Joe Mauer, and Justin Morneau being three straight lefty bats atop the lineup isn't ideal, but I've long clamored for the team's two best, most patient on-base threats to bat directly in front of the team's best power hitter, without anyone "scrappy" in between.

Hopefully they get an extended chance to make it work, at least versus righties. Against lefties it would probably make sense to break up the lefty bats with Young or perhaps even Cuddyer at No. 3. Against lefties Span and Mauer remain good OBP threats, but Morneau isn't quite as devastating and both Young and Cuddyer had a higher OPS than him off lefties during the past three years. Either way, anything that keeps a weak bat from the No. 2 spot is good.

Joe Nathan appears to be gradually increasing his velocity and improving his command as he comes back from Tommy John elbow surgery. He's still not throwing anywhere near as hard as he did prior to going under the knife, but Nathan went from 88-91 miles per hour in his first outing to 90-92 miles per hour Saturday, which is a bigger step than it probably looks like. He can have success as a closer throwing 92 mph, but 88-91 makes things awfully tough.

And as if you didn't already have enough reasons to root for Nathan's return to dominance he apparently scooped up some dirt from the mound after the final game at the Metrodome, kept it for 18 months, and then mixed the dirt into the Target Field mound prior to Friday's opener. FSN showed video of it and Kelsie Smith of the St. Paul Pioneer Press wrote a nice article about the whole thing, all of which makes me like Nathan even more than before.

Kevin Slowey joined Nishioka on the disabled list with a sore shoulder, putting his transition to the bullpen on hold after just three relief outings. Based on his raw stuff and track record Slowey has a shot to be a setup-caliber reliever, but staying healthy is now the biggest issue following wrist surgery in 2009, a triceps injury last season, and his current shoulder problems. Gardenhire opined that he's "going to have to learn ... to warm up a little better" as a reliever.

In the meantime Alex Burnett got the call from Triple-A to replace Slowey despite being behind fellow right-handers Jim Hoey, Kyle Waldrop, and Carlos Gutierrez in the bullpen competition this spring. Waldrop and Gutierrez aren't on the 40-man roster yet, so the choice likely came down to Burnett or Hoey. Burnett struggled in the second half last season in both Minnesota and Rochester, but still projects as a solid reliever long term. He may not be ready yet, though.

• Since the beginning of last year Carl Pavano has a 3.65 ERA and .273 opponents' average in 15 starts with Drew Butera catching compared to a 3.98 ERA and .259 opponents' average in 19 starts with Mauer catching. Butera is a defensive specialist and better at limiting steals, but given the small difference in performance and even smaller sample sizes involved the notions that a Pavano-Mauer pairing doesn't work or Butera is some kind of miracle worker are silly.

• Thome's homer yesterday went really, really far.

January 3, 2011

Twins Notes: Pavano, Fuentes, Thome, Iwakuma, Nishioka, and James

• With the Brewers out of the free agent starting pitching market following their trade for Zack Greinke various reports have Carl Pavano deciding between the Twins and Nationals. If the speculation about it coming down to which team offers him a three-year deal proves true fans should hope the Twins bow out. Signing a 35-year-old pitcher with an extensive injury history to a three-year pact that would surely be worth at least $25 million is just asking for trouble.

• They made no legitimate effort to re-sign Matt Guerrier or Jesse Crain and seemingly have no interest in bringing back Jon Rauch, but Ken Rosenthal of FOXSports.com reports that the Twins are still talking to Brian Fuentes. Fuentes showed that he still has plenty left in the tank at age 35 and he'd be worth re-signing for, say, $10 million over two years, but it seems likely that he'll be able to get more money or an opportunity to close elsewhere.

• Many people have been assuming that Jim Thome re-signing was only a matter of time, but LaVelle E. Neal III of the Minneapolis Star Tribune reports that Thome wants to "make up for what he didn't earn last season." It's tough to blame Thome, because he was certainly worth far more than the $2 million or so the Twins paid him in 2010. On the other hand there aren't many openings for pure designated hitters and he hasn't really been linked to other teams.

Bringing back Thome would be great if the price is reasonable, but it's also worth remembering that he wasn't a regular until Justin Morneau's concussion in early July, starting just 34 of the first 84 games. Thome and a healthy Morneau along with Jason Kubel, Michael Cuddyer, and Delmon Young would give the Twins five players for four lineup spots, and it's hard to imagine Ron Gardenhire benching Cuddyer versus righties no matter how much sense it would make.

• General manager Bill Smith revealed during a recent interview with Patrick Reusse and Phil Mackey on 1500-ESPN that the Twins finished runner-up in the bidding for Japanese starting pitcher Hisashi Iwakuma, which took place about four weeks before they won the bidding for infielder Tsuyoshi Nishioka. According to Smith the Twins bid $7.7 million for Iwakuma, which was nowhere near the A's winning bid of $19.1 million. And ultimately he didn't sign.

Based on Iwakuma’s reported asking price the Twins likely would have balked at his demands too, but had the posting fee been $7.7 million instead of $19.1 million it's possible he would've asked for significantly less money or the Twins would've had more room in the total budget for the acquisition to offer him a palatable deal. Whether that would've changed their pursuit of Nishioka is unclear, but Iwakuma is considered an elite Japanese pitcher.

Dan Szymborski is gradually publishing his annual ZiPs projections at Baseball Think Factory and the Twins are his latest release. Before checking out the list keep in mind that no fan base has ever looked at projections for their team's upcoming season and concluded they were too optimistic. So, try not to be a homer. ZiPs projects Nishioka to hit .281/.337/.403 based on his track record in Japan, which is pretty close to my quick-and-dirty projection of .275/.335/.375.

• One interesting name among the Twins' latest batch of minor-league signings is left-hander Chuck James, a former top prospect who found success in the Braves' rotation before injuries sidetracked his career. James went 11-4 with a 3.78 ERA in 119 innings as 24-year-old rookie in 2006 and started 30 games with a 4.24 ERA in 2007, but struggled mightily in 2008 before undergoing surgery to repair a torn rotator cuff and labrum in his shoulder.

He missed all of 2009, but came back very strong last season in the Nationals' system by going 10-1 with a 2.32 ERA and 69-to-11 strikeout-to-walk ratio in 66 innings between Double-A and Triple-A. James was an extreme fly-ball pitcher with a fastball that topped out in the high-80s even before going under the knife, so resurrecting his career is a long shot, but he's still just 29 years old and will be worth keeping an eye on at Rochester.

• After trading Jose Morales to the Rockies for reliever prospect Paul Bargas the Twins signed veteran minor-league catchers Steve Holm and Rene Rivera. They've both had brief stints in the big leagues, but neither can hit and they're definitely Triple-A caliber. Joe Mauer and Drew Butera are the only catchers on the 40-man roster, so presumably Holm and Rivera will vie for the spot behind Butera on the "hopefully he only has to start once a week" depth chart.

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