May 26, 2010

Twins Notes: Hardy, Plouffe, Gibson, Perkins, Morales, and Ramos

J.J. Hardy came off the disabled list last night after missing 17 games with a wrist injury, so as expected the Twins optioned Trevor Plouffe back to Triple-A.  Plouffe made three starts at shortstop in Hardy's absence after Brendan Harris (eight starts) and Alexi Casilla (six) initially filled in, going 3-for-13 with a double and five strikeouts. It'll be interesting to see if Plouffe can resume his solid hitting at Triple-A or if he'll fall back into his underwhelming career norms.

Kyle Gibson turned in another excellent start at Double-A yesterday, tossing a seven-inning complete game while allowing just an unearned run. He induced 11 ground-ball outs, struck out four, and walked none to improve to 3-0 with a 0.84 ERA since a promotion to New Britain. Gibson is now 7-1 with a 1.53 ERA, .207 opponents' batting average, 3.5 ground balls per fly ball, and 60-to-14 strikeout-to-walk ratio in 64.2 innings between high Single-A and Double-A.

• I'm not sure how long it'll be available online since the St. Paul Pioneer Press' website remains a disaster, but John Shipley wrote a lengthy article about Glen Perkins' struggles at Triple-A. Perkins is 0-6 with a 9.09 ERA in eight starts at Rochester, serving up seven long balls in 33.2 innings while opponents bat .359 off him. Setting aside his clash with the Twins regarding the service time aspect of his injuries, it sure seems like Perkins' shoulder must not be healthy.

Jose Morales is back playing again following offseason wrist surgery, going 13-for-41 (.317) with two doubles and six walks in 11 games at Rochester. So far he's splitting time between designated hitter and catcher because of his injury and Wilson Ramos' presence at Triple-A. Drew Butera made his seventh start Sunday and is now 4-for-25 (.160), so presumably once Morales looks like his old below-average self defensively the Twins will make the switch.

• Ramos is just 5-for-39 (.128) since returning to Triple-A, making him 6-for-57 (.105) with 12 strikeouts versus one walk since collecting seven hits in his first two big-league games. He's batting just .160/.183/.302 overall in 25 games at Rochester, so it'll be a while before the folks clamoring for him to stick in the majors come out of the woodwork again.

Ron Gardenhire's son Toby Gardenhire is now Ramos' teammate at Rochester after being promoted to Triple-A despite hitting .225/.295/.250 at Double-A and .234/.298/.267 in 380 pro games. I've referred to Matt Tolbert as a poor man's Nick Punto, so I suppose that makes the defensively versatile and offensively inept junior Gardenhire a homeless man's Punto. I'll take a wild guess and say his father has dreams of him filling a utility role one day.

• Minor-league outfielder and former 13th-round pick Michael Harrington was suspended 50 games after testing positive for a performance-enhancing substance. Taken in the 2008 draft after a four-year career at the College of Charleston, he was hitting just .145 in 24 games at high Single-A this season and has a .231/.302/.363 overall line in 194 pro games.

• For some reason I watched a few A's games last week and twice saw Craig Breslow throw a scoreless inning. Breslow was a nice waiver-wire pickup for the Twins in 2008, posting a 2.89 ERA over 53 innings before they misguidedly cut him for Sean Henn in a "making moves just to make moves" decision I criticized at the time. Henn went 0-3 with a 7.15 ERA in 11.1 innings, while Breslow has a 2.57 ERA and 63-to-26 strikeout-to-walk ratio in 74 innings since leaving.

Randy Ruiz had a similarly strong run after being dropped by the Twins, batting .313 with 10 homers in 33 games for the Blue Jays last season, but played poorly and sporadically to begin this season before requesting his release to sign with a team in Japan. After over a decade of clobbering minor-league pitching to finally get his first chance in the majors at age 30, he likely finishes his big-league career with a .272/.332/.488 line in 238 plate appearances.

Jim Callis of Baseball America recently ranked the 20 best draft prospects since he joined the magazine in 1989, based strictly on their standing at the time of the draft. Stephen Strasburg tops the list and Joe Mauer is the final selection at No. 20, with two players the Twins passed on to select him in 2001 ranked No. 2 and No. 13.

Patrick Reusse of the Minneapolis Star Tribune has been agreeing with me a lot lately (or the other way around), this time about the silliness behind allowing the accumulation of a statistic determine bullpen usage. As he notes, because of "saves" managers regularly use their best reliever to protect a three-run lead and one of their worst relievers to protect a four-run lead.

• recently added Wins Above Replacement (WAR) data to its amazing collection of statistics, and Mauer has the top three seasons by a catcher since 2000.

• All beat writers work on their game stories while the game is still going on, and unfortunately for Kelly Thesier of sometimes the rough draft makes its way online.

• It sounds like Rick Reed enjoyed his time in Minnesota about as much as Twins fans did.

February 14, 2010

Twins Notes: Perkins, Morales, Butera, and Snow

  • Joe Christensen of the Minneapolis Star Tribune penned a lengthy, well-done article detailing Glen Perkins' strained relationship with the Twins stemming from his arm injury and the team's subsequent service-time shenanigans. While the two sides officially settled the grievance filed on Perkins' behalf by the players' union, the 25-year-old left-hander is clearly still upset about the whole thing costing him as much as $500,000 and sounds like someone who expects to be traded:

    I guess I really found out the hard way that it's a business. I spent my life cheering for that team. I got drafted by them and got to the majors quick, and two weeks later we're in the playoffs. I had a really good year in '08, and everything was rosy. You find out the hard way that it doesn't really matter.

    I think I'm more prepared for this year than I ever have been. I feel like I'm going into an uphill battle [for a roster spot], but I'm fine. My arm's healthy, and I feel like I'm a major league pitcher. I'm sure if they don't think that, then someone else does.

    I'm hardly plugged into the Twins' front office, but have heard from multiple sources "with knowledge of the situation" (as reporters so often phrase it) that the team is basically just waiting for Perkins to show that he's healthy this spring before trading him. Perkins simply isn't good enough for the combination of injuries, inconsistent performance, and an off-field grievance not to cause a team to sour on him and the Twins apparently tried to trade him to the Padres for Kevin Kouzmanoff earlier this offseason.

  • Last week the Twins had to clear a spot on the 40-man roster for Orlando Hudson, and presumably one of the reasons for dropping Jason Pridie rather than Drew Butera is that Jose Morales sounds less and less likely to be ready for Opening Day following wrist surgery. Morales began experiencing wrist problems in September, but waited until last month before deciding on surgery and then for some reason delayed actually going under the knife for another two weeks.At best he'll be cleared to resume baseball activities in mid-March and even a slight setback would rule him out for Opening Day, so the Twins will likely need a third catcher to begin the season. Butera was seemingly placed on the 40-man roster for just this type of situation and the Twins previously talked him up as a great defender behind the plate, but now LaVelle E. Neal III of the Star Tribune reports that "there are some concerns about Butera's catching skills."

    Butera has hit .214/.296/.317 in the minors, including .211/.268/.292 in 99 games at Triple-A last year, so if his "catching skills" are anything less than amazing he's essentially a worthless player. His place on the 40-man roster was a mistake to begin with and now the Twins are hesitant to even let him fill in for Morales, with Ron Gardenhire beginning to stump for Wilson Ramos. Butera is awful, but I'd hate to interrupt Ramos' development and start his service time just to back up Joe Mauer for a couple weeks.

  • Early on this offseason there was speculation about the Twins re-signing Orlando Cabrera, mostly because Gardenhire repeatedly made it obvious that he'd love to have him back. Instead the front office dealt for J.J. Hardy to replace him at shortstop and then signed Hudson to start at second base, which is the only other position Cabrera has played. Cabrera ended up signing with the Reds for a one-year deal that guarantees him $3 million and includes a mutual option for 2011. Twins were smart to pass.
  • Dave Cameron of Fan Graphs wrote an intriguing article about Mauer's unique, opposite field-driven hit chart and suggests that teams should employ separate infield and outfield shifts to neutralize him.
  • Whoever runs the Twins' official Twitter account posted two photos of a snow-covered Target Field:
    Click the picture to see the full-sized versions. I bet at least half that snow will be gone by Opening Day.
  • Unfortunately my day job precluded me from actually being involved in the project, but that won't stop me from recommending that anyone who likes this blog should get the recently released Twins Annual 2010 from Maple Street Press. I've previously worked with Maple Street Press on a couple of non-Twins publications and know that they always put out high-quality products, and their inaugural Twins offering is spearheaded by John Bonnes and features a great writing lineup from the blogosphere and beyond.In addition to the Twins Geek, the list of contributors also includes Seth Stohs, Nick Nelson, Phil Miller, Howard Sinker, Parker Hageman, Phil Mackey, Darren Wolfson, Judd Spicer, Josh Johnson, Stew Thornley, Jim Thielman, Andrew Kneeland, Dan Wade, and Adam Peterson. You get 128 pages full of great Twins writing, full-color photographs, and top-notch design work for just $12.99, all while helping to support a blogosphere that churns out so much great content for absolutely free all year. Go buy it.

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