First week grades

I am giving the first weeks now, as everyone in the rotation has had a turn to pitch.  The team is 4-2 which considering the questions of their rotation, that is pretty good.  However, there are some glaring problems that are driving me nuts and causing concerns.  The Twins have a fairly easy first month schedule and if the can get a .600 – .700 record, we would be in great shape.  I think this team’s season will play out in the first month.  We could see the great potential or the roller coaster ride of pitching and defensive woes.

But, let’s begin . . .

Starting pitching: B+

I don’t see are reason why this shouldn’t be an A without Sidney Ponson’s horrible start last night.  Cy-tana was lighting it up on Sunday, to the point that if he gives a couple of more April starts like Sunday’s they will be giving him the Cy Young Award and possibly the MVP this year.  Bonser was solid, which is what to suspect from him.  He probably won’t be dominate, but he will take his turn pitch six to seven quality innings almost every night.  He will keep the team in the game.  Tonight, will be a tough test for him against the Yankees, but if he succeeds by getting his six and keeping them to three runs or less, I am ecstatic.  Ortiz showed he will not give up the big inning this first time around, versus his next opponent the Yankees.  Silva can pitch in short sleeves in the cold, which is pretty cool, but can he be consistent.  Can Ponson rebound?  We will be waiting on the last two in the rotation until the end of the month before the A is given to this group.

Starting Lineup: C+

Four players are hitting.  Luis Castillo knows how to hit the ball into the ground and Punto and Bartlett still haven’t figured that out.  Maybe they watched the old commercial of "Chicks dig the long ball."  Mauer, Cuddyer, and Morneau are at least hitting and hitting when they need to.  Hunter can’t hit in pressure situations, but will tatoo the ball when no one is on or the game is out of hand.  Kubel/Cirillo/White/Tyner are not getting solid contact on anything.  Kubel should be fine once given regular time.  That means PLAY HIM GARDY.  This guy can hit BETTER than Mauer with Morneau’s power.  Let him hit.  Otherwise, the team isn’t hitting.  Nothing is dropping.

Defense/Baserunning:  B-

Well, we have some major gaffs here, but a lot of good.  The only reason for the B- grade is Cuddyer still doesn’t know how to run the bases and Bartlett doesn’t feel he needs to actually play well to stay with this team.  Otherwise, Gardy has them running and running often which is good.  And everyone not named Bartlett have been fielding their position except Kubel needs to either play outfield and get a chance to run around or DH, stop flip-flopping people Gardy.  You are smart enough to make crazy decisions like that.

Bullpen: A

Reyes is scaring me, but everyone else is on track to dominate again.  Nathan is strong as ever.  Rincon/Crain/Neshek are pitching lights out and Guerrier has 6 innings already of 3 two inning outings.  It is crazy how good these guys are.  If Ponson or Silva falter, I think Guerrier may be given a spot start.  If he does, he may keep it.  We could then bring up Perkins to be the long reliever for this year with the idea he takes a starting role next year.

Overall: B

I am not sold that Ponson or Silva will make it the entire year.  I am seeing Ponson gone within the month and Silva sent to the bullpen for mop-up duty.  I just don’t see them being anything more than rentals for Garza, Perkins, Slowey, Baker, or Gassner.  Otherwise, the team is playing decent but need to shore a few things up.  Once they do, we will be the team to beat, competing with Cleveland for the Central Title.

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Been a while

Well the season is almost here and I can’t wait.  I have never been this excited about an upcoming season in my short life.  I remember the 1992 season when we were coming off the world series and we had great anticipation, but this year seems to be off the scale.  We have a stadium (just taking a long time to begin digging).  We have top-notch young players.  We have the ace of aces.  We have the king of the bullpen.  We have the crafty, fun-loving manager.  And now we begin the year with hope, just more the usual.

This will be a tough year.  Detroit and Cleveland improved.  Chicago still has resources even though I think they have fallen off.  Kansas City is even a team on the upswing, not their perpetual downswing like life is for a Royals fan. 

The Royals will sneak up on people, but still don’t have a bullpen or starters that strike fear.  Their middle infield is shaking and old.  They have the rookie of the year in Alex Gordon and a great player in Teahen being Gordon’s number two man for years to come.  They have some good prospects but they aren’t ready for anything big.

Chicago will finish fourth.  They traded away Garcia, their only big game pitcher, and McCarthy, their future number two guy, for a guy the Phillies believe won’t became even a valuable reliever (Floyd), a prospect who could be good but isn’t there, and a lower ranking prospect who is years away.  I believe they have set themselves up for years to come, but this year they will falter.  I think Pierzynski will finally wear out his welcome, and Guillen will no longer be the hot commodity.  I can see them breaking early and pitching in for next year.

Cleveland, Detriot, and Minnesota will all be competing for two spots in the post season. 

Cleveland just needs to hold on in the 6th, 7th, 8th, and 9th because their offense will score and a lot.  My only problem with Cleveland is platooning every position, just seems ridiculous.  Platoon in left, right, 1st, and 3rd just doesn’t seem to help anyone.  Their bullpen will be improved but not to a level where they don’t worry every night.

Detroit has all the same pieces that won last year with the addition of Sheffield.  They also have the same pieces that gave up a 12 game lead to end the season in second place with the addition of Gary Sheffield.  They will be good, but I am still not sold on Guillen, Ordonez, and Rodriguez holding up all year.  I also believe Monroe, Planco, and Inge will come back to their normalcy.  They will compete with strong pitching but they won’t sneak up and they won’t play at the same level in the first half of the season, more like their second half.

That leaves the Twins . . . Well they have Santana, Mauer, Morneau, Cuddyer, Nathan, and Hunter.  They have a solid lineup and the best bullpen in the business.  Their question is the starting rotation which has been up and down all spring.  Bonser, Ortiz, and Ponson have been solid.  They seemed poised to give the Twins 6-7 solid innings each night and then give it over to our bullpen.  The fifth spot will probably be Silva’s based on salary and Gardy’s love for the big lug.  But Garza will light up AAA and beg to be called up as soon as Silva falters which will be in the first two weeks.  The interesting part of the story could be the Twins potential to bring 12 pitchers.  The scenario has three possibilities.  One, Silva and Garza both stay up with Garza being a long-reliever and starter when Silva gives out. This leaves Durbin out the door and most likely out the Twins organization.  Two, Silva and Durbin stay with Garza starting in AAA.  The most likely scenario because Durbin they don’t mind making a reliever, but Garza is their number two starter of the future and they don’t want him to waste away not getting a regular turn.  This also gives them the option of calling up Garza and letting Silva work things out in the minors.  Three, is what I want to happen, the Twins bring Durbin and Garza and keep Silva in the minors to work things out.  Silva can reject the assignment and become a free agent, hoping someone will pay near the salary he is currently making(stupid decision), or he could accept the assignment work himself out until he finds that sinker and then the Twins have a major back-up plan if Garza, Ponson, Ortiz, or Durbin falter.

All that said, the Twins are sitting pretty.  GO TWINS!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

Shaky rotation???

I look at our pitcher and realize two things.  One, they are not Sandy Koufax.  Two, they aren’t Hideki Irabu.  What I mean by this, they aren’t the greatest pitchers of history, but they aren’t the worst.  We have the best pitcher in the league to date in Johan Santana.  We have a lot of young, deep, exciting talent.  We also have struggling veterans trying one last time to make it special.  As much as the Twins are known for pitching, this is the first time we haven’t had two constants in our rotation since 1993.  We had Brad Radke for so long as the perennial with Bob Tewksbury to Johan Santana along side him.  Last year, Brad Radke passed the torch onto Johan as the leading man and walked off the mound for the last time, leaving the door open for someone to step up as a worthy number two.  We would have liked Francisco Liriano to be that number 2 and eventual number 1a to Santana, however, he was lost to the dreadred Tommy John.  That leaves loads of talent and fighting last hoorays.  We have Carlos Silva who better have caught a case of amnesia to forget the season he had last year.  He went from bad to worse.  With the promise of starting for his native country, he left spring training to sit and watch as a reliever.  The rest of the season was lost after that.  Next, we have Ramon Ortiz, once a fixture and workhorse of the Angels with so much potential.  He was not signed by the Angels and wasted in the National League where he wasn’t happy with hitting anything.  He has come back to the American League with the hope of resurrecting his career.  Ortiz will be counted upon to give the Twins one more year to "season" and ready their blue-chip prospects for next year or later this year.  Last of the veterans, we have Sidney Ponson.  So much has happened to him off and on the field, that this is literally his last chance to make it in baseball.  After showing how good he can be in 2003, he tumbled done to about nothing.  He is left with this chance to make a team that needs someone to eat innings for a bullpen that is the stringest and deepest in baseball.  The youth is best served in three groups.  The todays, the tomorrows, and the yesterdays.  The today prospects are Boof Bonser, Matt Garza, and Glen Perkins.  All are well documented as having ups and downs.  Bonser comes from the AJ trade (haha) and seemed to the after thought of the trade.  Joe Nathan and Liriano were making all of the highlights and buzz around the league while Bonser worked his way up.  He come on in the second half of the season to become reliable.   He wasn’t dominant or noteworthy but he was solid.  Bonser has the stuff and make up to battle through any start.  Garza was the toast of our Minor League system.  Shooting up to almost pitch over 50 innings, the year after he was drafted.  Garza as legit No.1 stuff but still the youth behind it.  He needs a year of refining his talents.  There is no need to rush him to start this year.  He could be good this year but let him figure out his offspeed pitches and location and watch him be great next year.  Perkins is arguably on par if not better stuff wise as Garza but he has more command and better use of his offspeed pitches, being lefthanded only helps his cause.  He has the tools to start now and do quite well, but again letting him settle for a season and learn how to pitch in the minors will only help him dominate later.  The future is Kevin Slowey.  A control freak Radke would be jealous of, he mixes his pitches and locations well for a young pitcher.  He doesn’t have anything that is over powering but he knows how to pitch to be effective.  Letting him pitch one year at the higher levels will let us know if his stuff could be good enough or does it just lack that punch needed.  The yesterdays are Scott Baker and JD Durbin.  Baker being the one passed over and needed a change.  He isn’t mention any more as a quality starter except versus the Yankees.  He as trouble leaving his pitches up in the zone.  He could be a 94 mph Brad Radke because he has great control of the lateral part of the strike zone, but he lets his pitches ride up and hitters crank them.  HE has great stuff and should do well unforunately he lost his chance last year which means he needs to find a home in the bullpen or wait until someone gets hurt or falter that is ahead of him.  JD Durbin . . . what can you say about him.  He has electric stuff that still amazes, but he seems to be passed by.  I don’t understand this one.  If he could prove himself healthy the Twins will keep him on the roster so not to lose him or have to trade him.  He has major league stuff and can pitch when healthy and the right mind set.  I believe he will surprise everyone this spring training and make the club in the bullpen to start and taking over for anyone that gets injured.

Bring Durbin along

The Twins need to keep Durbin.  He has electric stuff and has to stay.  He has had injuries but if we let this kid go, it will bit us in the butt.  Every team will try to claim him.  He has that good of stuff.  He will make it this year.  At least let him in the bullpen, I know Gardy wants to have two lefties but Dennys Reyes and the rest of the bullpen don’t have any trouble with lefties.  Our right-handed relief pitchers can handle lefties.  JD Durbin is good insurance as a spot starter and another long relief pitcher.  Matt Guerrier is good at that position, but what happens if two starters in a row last only 3 innings, we tax our bullpen totally hoping the next starter fares better.  I would like our chances better with another long reliever.  Also, I believe JD Durbin will take over for Silva at some point this year if we keep him on the staff.  This allows us to have a spot starter who can dominate.  We then bring up a Scott Baker for the long relief role.  We have groomed two amazing pitchers this way (Santana and Liriano).  JD Durbin just has had bad luck.  Give him a chance.

Good News for the Twins

Well all the news out of Twins camp is positive.  The change in attitude of Ponson, the health of Durbin, and the health of Kubel.  I believe this will be the team to beat in the American League.  Yes other teams added pieces and signed major players.  The Twins did what they do best and stock pile quantity of pitchers and players and let them compete.  The formal for success is to find the right group of guys.  Not the most talent group, look at the 1996-2000 Yankees, their big names hitter wise were Bernie Williams and Paul O’Neil.  Not exactly Barry Bonds, Wille Mays, or Hank Aaron.  But that group of guys were great together.  The Twins have talented individuals, but they also have quality individuals.  Torii, Mauer, Morneau, Nathan, and even Santana, who should be the most ego laden person ever because he is the best, are all humble and excited.  They love to play the game.  They believe in themselves and the player next to them.  Not one of tham questions how good the guy next to him is, they know he will perform.  This teams greatest question is how to deal without Brad Radke and Francisco Liriano . . . well do what you did last year and rally around each other and compete to be the best.  THEY WON THE DIVISON WITH BOTH RADKE AND LIRIANO DOWN.  DOn’t get me wrong it will be tough to over come, but they did play almost .600 ball without those two guys (in large part because of Santana).  This team has the makings of greatness for THIS season and BEYOND.  Ponson is happy and conifident again, Ortiz is professional and driven, Durbin has the stuff and will make this team.  I believe the roster will be
Catchers:
Joe Mauer, Mike Redmond
Best tandem in all of baseball
Infield:
Justin Morneau, Luis Castillo, Jason Bartlett, Nick Punto, Jeff Cirillo, and Alejandro Mechado
The starting infield is set until Punto or Castillo get hurt and then Cirillo steps in at third (good deal) and Alexi Casilla steps in at second (great deal).  Mechado will cover the middle infield better than Luis Rodriguez so he gets the nod.  We need to keep Bartlett, Castillo and Punto fresh to run around and reek havoc.
Outfield:
Torii Hunter, Michael Cuddyer, Rondell White, Jason Tyner, and Jason Kubel
The starting outfield positions are set even though I think White becomes expendable shortly allowing Josh Rabe to come up and step up.  Lew Ford will be traded away for a low level prospect so he can get a chance to play.  Or White gets hurt and Lew Ford takes over left field and does well.
Starting Pitchers:
Johan Santana, Boof Bonser, Carlos Silva, Ramon Ortiz, and Sidney Ponson
Behind Santana, the players and coaches are saying the right things to make me believe Ponson and Ortiz will eat-up innings and keep us in games.  This gives Glen Perkins, Matt Garza, and Kevin Slowey time to season and learn to better their pitches.  Scott Baker will be traded to get more prospects for the middle infield.
Relief Pitchers:
Joe Nathan, Juan Rincon, Dennys Reyes, Pat Neshek, Jesse Crain, Matt Guerrier, and JD Durbin
Our relief corp is set except for maybe an extra left-handed arm.  I believe Reyes doesn’t need it, nor does the rest of the group.  JD Durbin makes it as a long relief and spot starter.  He may make it into the starting rotation if Silva falters.

It Begins with the Twins

As my first installment of my first blog, it is fitting that it is about my favorite team . . . The Twins.  They continue to be the team in Minnesota that I can respect.  They don’t have hoolums and thugs running around with nothing to do.  I am a huge fan that hasn’t been dissapointed in a long time with the Twins.  I look forward to this season like no other because we have a future that isn’t shaky.  I may be in three years, but for the next two years we will field one of the top teams in the league without being that most expensive.  I believe this team has the makings of being great.  The signing of Ramon Ortiz didn’t set-off fireworks anywhere but if Rick Anderson can before his magic and get these guys back to where they are formidable, they were the best pick-ups this offseason.  In a market where career .500 pitchers are making more than Morneau, Mauer, Cuddyer, Nathan, and Hunter, getting 10-12 wins out of two free agent pitchers for 5 million total is not a bargain but amazing.  The problem I have with the signing is we have begun to get away with what made our teams great over the past five years.  Relying on young talent and letting them blossom in the majors.  Everyone of our championship teams relied on young pitching and hitting to get us to competitive levels.  I see that we have the potential again with Perkins, Bonser, Garza, Durbin, Slowey and Baker to have great young talent compete and push themselves toward greatness.  I believe Bonser will be the stud workhorse our No.2 guy for years (Radke) used to be.  Garza will be a stud in a short while but I would like him to grow a little bit more before handing over the keys.  Perkins is probably the most polished and fearless of the above named pitchers.  He could be really great.  Our rotation in the future with Santana, Liriano, Bonser, Garza and Perkins will be the best in all of baseball.  This isn’t even getting to my darkhorse canidates who could make the team this season and do great.  JD Durbin and Scott Baker . . . they are the ultimate sleepers for this year.  I believe this could be Durbin’s chance to impress.  I believe he will make the team as a long reliever and spot starter.  He will come in and replace an injured or ineffective Silva or Ortiz and shine.  I hope the Twins give him a fair shot.  Scott Baker will be a good pitcher who will make a team really happy but I don’t think it will be with the Twins.  I think trading him would be the best for both parties.  Giving us a chance to get a slugger at third and giving him a chance to shine ffor a team that needs him, but he could figure it out and make this team, which I hope will happen.  I would prefer to have Garza and Perkins in AAA for one more year and brought up as subs not relied upon to control the fourth and fifth spots.  Give it to guys on their last leg.  Desperation will bring out the best in Ponson, Durbin, Baker and Ortiz.  Let the kids who have talent wait one more year to be the man.  The candidate to get ignored this year is Slowey.  He could be good but I want to see him pitch against higher competition that could kill weak fastballs.  He however could be the second coming of Brad Radke and Greg Maddux.  In the case, let him sit one or two more years and then let him loose.