Minnesota Twins Season Preview

Last season, I know first hand what Target Field did for Minnesota Twins fans. Sure, it gave us one of, if not the league’s best stadium. But it gave us false hope. It made us Twins fans think that without an ace and a lineup filled with major holes, we still had a chance to compete with the Yankees, Red Sox and Rays.

Well, if the AL Divisional Series was any indication, the Twins are nowhere close to where they need to be if they do in fact hope to make a run at the AL pennant this season.

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Minnesota Twins Start Offseason With the Right Choices

 

The Minnesota Twins are faced with loads of tough decisions this offseason. [Read more…]

Douchebracket Peter Christian Regional

By Peter Christian

We’ve expanded the field to 65 Douchey entities this year, which means only one thing: Play-in game. Yep, you read that right. Of course, I lobbied and begged and pleaded to get the play-in game in my bracket just because I had the perfect matchup of awful that would fit perfectly into a Douchebracket play-in game. It helped that no one else really cared enough to take the play-in game away from me too. Let’s get to that match-up first.

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In Their Own Words: A Twins-Brewers Conversation

twinsbrewersfans

By: Peter Christian & Melissa S. Wollering

When the Twins and Brewers aren’t playing each other, their fans are incestually cheering for each other’s teams. So instead of complaining or bragging about their team’s woes or strengths, Pete and Melissa have created conversations between members of the two organizations as they come together for their last interleague matchup of the season in Milwaukee.  You may recall, Milwaukee is Algonquin for “The Good Land” in the words of Alice Cooper.  Now to the words of General Managers Bill Smith and Doug Melvin.  Let’s listen in like a fly on the wall…

 melvinTwins Ryan Baseball

Bill Smith: Doug, I haven’t told you enough how impressed I was with you pulling off the CC Sabathia trade last year. That took some real cojones. I know for a fact I would never have the gumption to make a trade like that, especially now. Have you noticed how bad the two major trades I made have turned out for the team? Santana for a pile of poop from the Mets and then the Garza trade. That was dumb. Have you ever made a pair of boneheaded decisions like that in succession? How can I bounce back from that? Are the other GM’s around the league referring to me as the Chris Wallace of the MLB? Do you think this sport coat makes me look fat?

 

Doug Melvin: That sports coat does make you look fat, Bill. [Chuckles.] But Bill, my mustache makes me look I’m carrying a fuzzy caterpillar on my upper lip.  Thank you for the compliment but CC is the one who took the mound day after day, carrying us to the postseason. Without his dedication, I could have looked like Wendy Selig Prieb wearing clown makeup after a mid-week bender.

 

The Ray Durham pickup wasn’t bad either in ‘08.  But don’t forget I acquired Eric Gagne for $10 million.  There wasn’t even a market for Gagne when I coughed up that chunk of dough.  He blew so badly that Derrick Turnbow could have pitched better in a wind tunnel. I also paid $3.4M for Kevin Mench two days prior to signing Chris Capuano for about the same price. Not one of my finer moments.

 

Bouncing back isn’t always about new acquisitions.  Sometimes it’s about resigning those players who are working. I’ve steered clear of arbitration and it sounds as though you’ll have the option of playing chess with nearly 30 members of your 40-man roster who are under one-year contracts right now. Think about resigning guys like Slowey, Span and Young if they’re worth it at the end and don’t count out your injured, like Boof Bonser. Look at how Mauer recovered.

 

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Ryan Braun: Joe, you pulled something I would last time we visited the Dome, going 5 for 8 with 2 homers, 5 RBI’s and 7 runs. We’ll probably spend some time together at the All-Star game this year, won’t we? Well, you don’t have as much competition at your position, but… You know we have some things in common. They call you Baby Jesus. I don’t believe in Jesus but you may have heard them call me the Hebrew Hammer once or twice. 

 

Sounds like you had the flu this week, huh? Yeah, I’ve been feeling a little under the weather since me and my girlfriend split this week. You know ladies, I’ve been real heartbroken and what not.  Just trying to take it day-to-day. Andreena just wasn’t supporting all the PR gigs and parties I had to attend for my Remetee line. Speaking of a remedy, I’m sure there’s one for heartache now that I made my rounds on KISS FM in Milwaukee the other day….[We edited it at this point, because he just keeps talking about himself.]

 

Joe Mauer: Wow! You sure do like to talk… where do I start? Yeah, last time we played you guys I was feeling good. I really seemed to see your pitchers well, but I’m sure they were just having off days, the game of baseball is pretty cyclical and I know that I’ll have to endure some slumps in the future. It sure is nice talking to someone without them bringing up the whole hitting .400 thing. That gets kind of old. In fact, I just want to be left alone… wait, Ryan are you still talking? I’m outta here, I’m gonna go watch some tape and hit the cages.

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Justin Morneau:  I’m telling you Prince… I think you and I are the best hitting left-handed first basement that play in Minnesota or Wisconsin, eh? I’m just kidding. You know what always makes me laugh? When they show the highlights of you hauling ass around the bases in the dome a couple of years back when you got that inside the parker… I know you get a lot of crap for your size, but man, you can move for a big guy. When was the last time you ran a 40 yard dash? I bet you could be a great guard in the NFL with that speed and size you could be devastating. I bet the CFL would sign you, I mean they signed Ricky Williams and Onterrio Smith. But seriously, why don’t you get more pub man? You have a better OBP, OPS, slugging percentage and more RBI than me and you are only hitting 20 points lower than me. You are on pace for a monster season, yet I’ve barely heard your name over the last month or so… What gives?

 

Prince Fielder:   I’ve put up consistently good numbers, so maybe that’s why? Publicity comes to guys who slump and then find their hot streaks, but for guys like me, the only story would be consistency. I don’t talk about my numbers, it’s all about how I can contribute to overall wins for the team. My size? A lot of people thought because I started going more veggie that I’d drop a lot of weight.  But I just eat more pasta with tofu and sprouts, some sweet potato chards ‘en glace’, it’s gourmet and it’s buck. I just eat more of it, man. And speed, I got speed. Everytime I try to steal a base, they all roll their eyes in the dugout, but hey.  Big guys gotta get in scoring position, too. Hey, you know, if y’all could send a few Midsummer Classic votes my way, I’d like to overtake Pujols, you know what I’m sayin? Holla at my boy Cameron, too.

bill-castro1Twins Mariners Baseball

Rick Anderson: It may look like I have a calm demeanor with my slow walks to the mound, my comforting Tom Selleck mustache and my jacket collar flipped up, but let me tell you Bill, I’m mad as hell. I work my ass off with these pitchers to get them prepared each and every day. Yet, somehow my guys continue to ruin a perfectly good start with one bad inning where they lose their mechanics and revert back to all of their bad habits. Tell me Bill, what am I supposed to do when Francisco Liriano can’t throw a slider within a foot of the plate when he is behind in the count? Or when Scott Baker inexplicably starts floating pitches waist high after 4-5 innings of painting corners low in the zone? I’m fed up Bill, I think I have an ulcer forming. Do you have a bottle of Jim Beam handy? How is your staff holding up?

 

Bill Castro: Creo que somos mierda fuera de suerte, los amigos. El Sr. Dave Bush tiene un brazo cansado y él puede perder su comienzo. Manny Parra todavía trabaja algunas cosas fuera en los menores. Nosotros no estamos seguros lo que haremos. Los tipos trajeron algunas cervezas sobre la otra noche y nosotros hablamos de ello. El Sr. Doug Melvin dice que podemos buscar otro principio pero necesitamos para figurar algo fuera mientras tanto.

(Translation): I believe we are shit out-of-luck, friends. Mr. Dave Bush has a tiny muscle tear and will miss his first start ever.  We brought up Mike Burns to pitch against you on Thursday. Manny Parra is still working some things out in the minors, although he struck out and forced a ground out with Manny Ramirez in AAA Tuesday.  Firecrotch is a possible option Saturday for Manny. ¿Ah? ¿En Engles? No, I mean Seth McClung. That’s what we call him. I was not speaking en Espanol this time. His ERA is 3.32 and he’s pitched the more innings than others. 

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Nick Punto: Billy Hall, do you ever wake up and think, “Holy crap! I’m a Major League Baseball player!” I do. All the time. In fact I still have to pinch myself that I get paid more than the league minimum. Do you wanna know a secret Billy? The contract I signed this past off-season, 2 years, $8.5 million, it was more than double of what anyone else offered me. Double! Did you know that I’m known as a defensive player but I’m getting outperformed at shortstop by Brendan Harris all while hitting .220 with an OPS less than .575? Now do you understand why I’m so excited to be a major league player? I knew that video of Gardy acting like Jame Gumb in Silence of the Lambs was going to get me places… I’m tellin’ you Bill, a strategically placed surveillance camera could be a great career move for you.

 

Bill Hall:  Last time a camera was strategically placed near me I told ’em I was pissed for getting benched despite what’s turned into a 2-year-long slump. I told ’em “play me or trade me” last season and Brewers fans booed me for 3 months solid. This year I’m ‘platooning’ with Mat Gamel, some punk-ass prospect with beginners’ luck who gets the start everytime Macha anticipates my failure against righties. So what if I have the lowest batting average since 2002, when I first started in Milwaukee? I’m changing my batting stance. Plus, Gamel can’t field like I can. He can’t strut up to the plate to some bad ass Paul Wall rap like I can. He doesn’t even know who Paul Wall is. Do I pinch myself, Punto?  Hell no. I’m making $6.8 Mil this year and sittin’ on my duff while I earn half of it. All I’m trying to do is get better. Every Mother’s Day I use pink bats and I work hard to promote awareness of breast cancer. Meantime, the city of Milwaukee treats me like I’m the disease.

 Twins Gardenhire  Baseballmacha

Ron Gardenhire: Ken, I’m not gonna lie to you, I’m barely going to prepare for this series. Between all of the flood issues at your stadium, your pitching staff falling apart like a perfectly smoked babyback rib and the fact that we own you; I don’t think I’m going to have much to worry about… well, other than Andy (Rick Anderson), he’s been pretty jumpy lately. I think we may need to look into getting him some anxiety pills or something… he makes me uncomfortable when he starts twitching. I find it hard to talk to him about the pitchers because of it, so I’m always guessing as to whether I should leave my starter out there to get out of the jam or if I should go to the bullpen. It seems I’ve been getting burned a lot no matter what I choose. Either way, I should be able to relax in your city… hey, the visitors clubhouse and dugout weren’t affected by the flooding were they?

 

Ken Macha: Well, we told our players to stay away from the ballpark Monday on their day off because Miller Park flooded late Wednesday and it took a long time to fix. Hundreds of employees have working around the clock. The guys had to go to each substation and get the electricity back on section-by-section. The training room and batting cages were pretty heavily damaged. The field is main priority.  It’ll be pretty barebones, but it’ll be allright.  We replaced the carpet and had to do some work on the visitors clubhouse, just a little. You’ll be allright in the dugout.

 

As for the matchup, we’re glad our guys won’t have to face Kevin Slowey again. Thanks for moving him to the back of your rotation, works for us. Don’t worry about Andy. At least he doesn’t speak to you in broken English while mariachis get piped into through your soundsystem. We thought of smuggling in one of Castro’s brother’s uncle’s farmhands from Tijuana and putting him in Manny’s uniform for the next start, but we found some logistical problems along the way.

 

We’ve lost five straight games to you over this season and last, so we need a win here. I think the scoring is the key. You outscored us 23-8 in that last series and we’ve got stop some of those runs defensively and score some of our own.  Gardy, you want to get some Red Stripes and nachos after Thursday’s game? I know this great little place on your way to the airport….

 

MW: That about wraps it up, doesn’t it Shirts? Twins took one so far…are you going for the SEASON sweep? Here’s to salvaging one, Crew! By the way, Pete (Shirts) and I would like to wish our fellow colleague David Kay a very Happy Birthday this week.

 

PC: That does wrap it up… quite the characters on these upper midwest teams. Thanks for spying with me Melissa, Happy Birthday to David K. and Go Twins!

Minnesota Twins: Pass the Anti-depressants

By David Palmer

This must be what it feels like to be bi-polar.  We’re not even fifty games into the season and the roller coaster ride is killing me.  I’ve never experienced so many mixed emotions so early in a season before.  I hate to make light of depression, but as Frank the Tank so eloquently put it in the movie “Old School,” we’re streeeaaking!

The Twins might be the streakiest team in baseball right now, we lost six games in a row at the mausoleum know as New Yankee Stadium and “The Cell” on the south side of Chicago, before breaking out of the coma Uma Thurman style for 20 runs in the final game of the road trip.  Since then we’ve coasted to three more easy victories at home against the suddenly sucky Brewers.  Interleague play could not have come at a better time.

This most recent hot streak coincided with a tweak to the lineup, Joe “Baby Jesus” Mauer sliding up into the number 2 hole.  This gives Him and Morneau extra at-bats, and when Span gets on base there is nobody to  hit into a rally killing double play ahead of them.

Speaking of Joe Mauer, is there a better hitter in baseball right now?  I’m thinking…no.  I don’t know where this sudden burst of power came from, but I can tell you that the last two years all those fly balls that are now going over the fence in left center field, were falling at the warning track.  He has already surpassed His homerun output from all of last season (9) in 22 games!  He couldn’t do much extra weight lifting this offseason because of his surgery and subsequent SI inflammation.  We won’t mention the S word, but I highly doubt that anybody ever accused Joe of juicing.  Could it be that he is only now peaking as a hitter, even after two batting titles?

Everyone knows He only struck out once in all of high school, and raced through the minors like Tony Montana through a pile of blow.  But He just turned 25 last month and that is usually when a hitter’s mental approach starts catching up to his physical ability.  Did I mention he’s hitting .438 basically without a Spring Training.  Ray Allen was born to shoot a basketball, Michael Phelps was born to smoke bongs, I mean swim, Peter Christian was born to call people out, and Joe Mauer was born to hit.  Scary stuff for pitchers in the AL.

Nick Punto update: Punto continues to get everyday playing time, mostly at shortstop where he is hitting a scorching .187 (thru Sunday).  This includes a cool 4 for his last 31 at-bats, all of which were singles.  Mario Mendoza has nothing on Punto.  Did I mention his OBP in May is .249!  How is that even possible?  His numbers are insulting enough; I don’t even need to further comment.

I am officially starting the “Get Jesse Crain the f*** out of here” petition.  He was supposed to be a 7th or 8th inning setup guy for us this year.  Although I’ve never had much faith in him, Gardy and the rest of the coaches seemed to think he deserved a spot in the ‘pen as a late inning guy.  He has an ERA of 7.62 and a WHIP of 1.46 so far this year in 16 appearances.  Not exactly what you want out of your setup man.  He is no longer the type of pitcher who is going to blow 96-98 mph fastballs past hitters like he could pre-arm surgery.  Apparently he thinks he can still do that with low 90’s stuff and very average breaking pitches.  Even the nicknames for Crain are sad (but amusing): “Crain Wreck,” Jesse “That doesn’t look like LaTroy Hawkins” Crain, and my personal favorite “The Wrecking Crain.”  I guess Canada giveth (Morneau) and they taketh away.

I hope we can hold on to this euphoric feeling for an extended period of time before the inevitable valley.  The true test comes very quickly with AL East powers Boston and Tampa Bay coming up.  Hopefully, like the Brewers, they decide to send their AAA affiliate to play us.  With that said, I’m getting hungry, do you think KFC is still open?

TSB Summer Summit 2009 Recap: Double Take

By Melissa S. Wollering

See Part One For: Peter & David K. Reunion, Banks ‘State of the Summit’, Townie Bar Icebreaker, Potato Salad.  New: LOST, NL/AL Central Draft Recap, 2009 Ozzie Guillen Cornhole Tournament, TSB ‘That Guy’ Hat Trick Award, Summit By the Numbers, Black Market Liver w/Transplant

 


LOST

Some had seen it two or three times; others became immersed in it for their first.  However, Saturday morning over breakfast, the TSB gang gathered ‘round the television’ to watch the season finale of LOST like a 1960’s family holding hands, watching the friggin’ Lawrence Welk Show.

ABC definitely underestimated the commentary coming from this a group of sportswriters. So vivid was the discussion, that Daniel Flaherty’s death recap resembled the day Ronald Reagan’s body lie in repose in the Reagan Library. Jacob grew to become the most iconic figure NOT present at the Summit in physical form.  And last, but not least, Peter Christian’s famous soliloquy regarding Sun will forever be immortalized in David Palmer’s fantasy team name, Get F***** Sun.

NL/AL Central Draft Recap

That brings us to the surprise highlight of the weekend: the impromptu NL/AL Central 25-man-roster fantasy baseball draft held on Saturday afternoon.

With Bloody Mary’s in-hand and a 30-second on-the-clock selection limit, everyone reached down the depth charts to create the perfect fantasy roster complete with minor-league prospects. If you failed to make your selection within 30 seconds, you automatically received Nick Punto.  We’re proud to tell you there was 100% compliance with the time limit. Other fantastic team names include ‘Little White Balls’, ‘The Muffin Identification Squad’ and ‘***** *****’s Fat Black Sheep T****’s.  We can’t disclose everything that occurred at the Summit…

2009 Ozzie Guillen Cornhole Tournament

Ozzie would have shaken his head and started wildly gesturing signals to the pitcher if he knew Schmidt & Banks, Melissa & Palmer and Peter Christian & David K were being paired together for his first cornhole tourney. Old school Andre Agassi & Steffi Graf were played by Palmer & Melissa. Andre’s long hair was held back by a single sweatband as Steffi plotted the stabbing of Monica Seles.

‘Euro’style Peter and David K. donned zip-up sports jackets in bright colors, tight-ankle jeans (not really) and cigarettes. Guweinnen means ‘win’ in German.  Ja, ja.

After several rounds, the championship game matched ‘Euro’style against New School Agassi/Graf, with a bare-headed Agassi and pregnant Graf. Peter & David K. went on to win the 2009 Ozzie Guillen Cornhole Tournament with class and style, despite blustery conditions.

“There was a wicked wind coming from the East and it really affected our play,” says Agassi.  “Steffi and I are going to train in a wind tunnel during the off-season to prepare for the next Tournament.  We’re thinking we’ve got a fair shot after some intense bean-bag technique sessions and endurance drills.”

“We were awarded this shiny, gold trophy with words engraved on it,” says Peter.  “Go on David, touch it.  We won this.” The TSB group unanimously voted to leave the winners alone so they could celebrate.

TSB ‘That Guy’ Hat Trick Award

After a stellar game of Texas Hold’em, ballots for the first TSB ‘That Guy’ Award were tallied.  The Hat Trick award represents the man who epitomizes intelligence, hilariousness and sports-nerdiness.  A second vote was taken after Paul Schmidt and David Palmer (Or was it Jacob and Sun?) were tied for votes.  In the end, Paul Schmidt was awarded the ‘That Guy’ Award, complete with trophy.

“I am honored,” says Schmidt.  “But I also feel like I deserve it.  I mean, seriously, I drafted some of the best players to my fantasy team this weekend, I helped people pronounce Asdrubal Cabrera’s name and I argued the heck out of Peter and David K. in support of JaJuan. I also told Melissa that ‘they don’t make them like her’ in Milwaukee and that she should always wear a tennis skirt while cleaning the grill. If that’s not brown-nosing, I don’t know what is. I mean, what more do you want?”

Summit ‘By the Numbers’

Last, but certainly not least, the TSB Summit offered participants a vast array of beverages including domestic and local craft brews, wine, champagne and the finest vodka and whisky assortment of any middle to lower-tier shelf. To better gauge future consumption and compare statistics for future Summits, we offer this.

4 Cornhole Games Played
4 Beer Pong Games Played
36 Plastic Cups Recycled
106 Cans/Bottles Beer Consumed
105 Cans/Bottles Beer Recycled
1 Can Used for Cigarette Butts
12 Burgers, 7 Hot Dogs and 12 Brats Consumed
4 Pounds of Potato Salad Gone
24-16 oz. Bottles of Water Used to Rehydrate

Black Market Liver w/Transplant

Bottom line, scientists from around the world are collaborating in anticipation of the next TSB Summit.  They are teaming up to orchestrate what will be a close study of the inner-workings of one of our favorite and most important organs: the liver.

‘The Liver Capacity Test’ is designed to track the function and processing speed of the liver. It begins at a reasonable time on a Friday evening, approximately 1-2 hours after the subject has had his/her first beverage.  It tracks the function and processing speed of the organ over the course of the next 48 hours. 

Peter Christian was the first test subject in this experimental/initial stage of clinical trials.  He reported mild-to-moderate intoxication Friday evening, severe intoxication early Saturday until potato salad consumption, mild intoxication Saturday during the day and increasing drunken severity during the wee hours of the morning Sunday.  On Sunday, he reported what (in lamens’ terms) is coined a mild ‘hangover’, with symptoms lasting for another 18-24 hours.

“I was ill to begin with and started the weekend off with some cold symptoms, some coughing,” says Peter. “By Monday morning, I believe my body began to reject the DayQuil I had been taking without my minimum accompaniment of three drinks.  Is that bad?”

Hours later, Peter had googled ‘black market liver’, to which he found a surprising number of results.

“Can they include a manual for do-it-yourself liver transplant surgery along with the organ on ice?” asked Peter.

 

Final Remarks

We could not have wished for a better, more productive Summit such as this one.  We worked hard, we drank harder and the memories made will last a lifetime.  Or until the next Summit, which will indefinitely come first.

The 2009 TSB Winter Summit is tentatively scheduled for fall or early November, before the winter weather makes Wisconsin roads terrible and before collegiate and professional sports go ape sh** for their respective seasons.

We’ll see you there!  Until then, Get F***ed Sun!

Minnesota Twins Extraordinarily Mediocre

David Palmer

As we wrapped up the first month of the Major League season the Twins had to win their last two games to finish April at .500.  With an 11-11 record, they are the definition of average, mediocre, consistently inconsistent or whatever adjective you want to insert for a team that has more ups and downs than Lindsey Lohan.  I think it is safe to say that we have learned a few things from the month:

1. Francisco Liriano is not, and may never be, the same pitcher he was in 2006.  When he came back from his Tommy John Surgery last year, the Twins made it clear that they were going to baby him.  Part of this philosophy included changing his mechanics to put less torque on his throwing arm.  In turn, his once devastating slider has become much less effective.  His K/9 IP rate has gone from an exceptional 10.7 in 2006 to a pedestrian 6.4 this season.  That is only slightly better than Cincy’s Aaron Harang…yeah.  Hitters can now sit on his fastball, since his changeup never was that great to begin with.  He might have fewer arm problems than before, but at what price did the organization pay because they turned a future Cy Young winner into a middle of the rotation guy?

2. I have been saying this for a year and a half, but I guess why stop now.  NICK PUNTO SHOULD NOT BE AN EVERYDAY PLAYER!!  I hope the capital letters and multiple exclamation points express how I feel about this.  He has started in 19 of the 22 games so far, which is about 18 too many.  He is hitting a cool .228 with one extra base hit.  It would be one thing if he was our last option for a shortstop, but Brendan Harris is hitting .350 with double the slugging % as Little Nicky.  Yeah, we lose some defensive range, but I think it’s worth having the extra bat in the lineup. The fact that he thinks diving into first is faster than running through it really sums things up for Punto.  I don’t think Ussein Bolt dove through the finish line in the Olympics.  It’s science. 

3. The outfield platoon system that we have is clearly not working.  We have four outfielders for three spots: Denard Span, Carlos Gomez, Delmon Young and Michael Cuddyer.  Span is the only one who is in the lineup everyday, since he has turned himself into one of the best leadoff hitters in the AL.  After that, the other three are scuffling.  It is no surprise since none of them know whether or not they’ll be in the lineup from day-to-day.   I can’t ever remember a successful team that was platooning their entire outfield.  Michael Cuddyer is doing his best to prove that he had a total fluke season in 2006.  He is flailing wildly at everything thrown to him, and other than a couple nice catches in right field, he really hasn’t contributed anything thus far.  He needs to be traded, for a setup guy.  That way everybody has a defined role, which would lead to more confidence, more at-bats, and more production.

4. Alexi Casilla is already a legendary tobacco chewer.  Good God.  If you’ve watched any Twins games, you’ve noticed the egg of chew he has in his lower lip on a daily basis.  I think chew is disgusting, but I’m not saying I’ve never done it.  If I ever attempted to put that much in my mouth you’d have to peel me off the pool of vomit I made before passing out in it.  How can that guy hit a 90 mph fastball with that in his lip?

5. Our bullpen is shaky at best.  If anything keeps us out of playoff contention it will be the bullpen.  Before the recent call-up of Jose Mijares, we had the setup guy by committee going.  Not good times:  this committee has a combined ERA of 4.91.  That means over half the time they are giving up a run in the inning they pitch in.  For a team that doesn’t score a lot of runs, that is devastating.  Even Joe Nathan blew a save on Tuesday night.  Now that Mijares is back in the bigs, hopefully he can bring some consistency to the eighth inning role.  The problem is that Guerrier, Ayala, Crain and Breslow all feature pretty much the same repertoire of pitches, with not much difference in velocities.   Opposing teams feel pretty comfortable seeing any one of them.

I haven’t lost hope on the season, especially since we are only a game out of the loss column from KC, Detroit and Chicago.  Luckily we play in the AL Central Division. And on the bell curve of Major League talent, all the teams are located centrally.

Twins Preview: Starting Infield

By David Palmer

I’m going to give you the position-by-position breakdown of where the Twins are at this spring regarding their starting infield.  It includes some new faces, some old faces and some killer sideburns thanks to Joe Mauer.  This team should get the most consistent offensive and defensive consistency from this position group.

In case you missed it, I broke down the Twins starting rotation last week right here.

Without further ado, I give you Justin Morneau.  The 2008 Canadian Athlete of the Year.  Not the best baseball player, the best athlete.   That means he beat out 90% of the NHL (including Crosby), Steve Nash, Mike Weir, and, well, that’s about it.  Anytime you can beat out hockey players in Canada at anything is a good thing.  Anyway, Morneau is the team’s first baseman and premier player, and if anything happens to him, we’re basically screwed.  He had 129 RBI last season, but it seemed more like 1,109.  I swear he drove in two-thirds of our runs.  The great thing about Morneau is that he wants to even get better.  He has publicly taken more of a leadership role, and transformed himself into a Gold Glove caliber first baseman.  He is also the only Twin that I can reliably say will hit more than 20 home runs this year.  I feel comforted by the fact that he is our first baseman for the foreseeable future.

After a solid rookie year last season, Alexi Casilla will be holding down second base and likely the second spot in the batting order also.  I’m a little skeptical about what his production at the plate will be this year.  He was red hot after being called up in June, but slowly cooled off as the scouting reports caught up to him.  Now that opposing teams have nearly 400 at-bats to look at from last year, he is looking like a possible candidate for the dreaded sophomore slump.  The upside is that he has tremendous range in the field and is a switch hitter, but still has a tendency to boot easy plays (ala Christian Guzman).  Hopefully, he can make the necessary adjustments and remain an offensive contributor.

The second half of our double play combination is shortstop Nick Punto, or “Nicky” as Gardenhire affectionately calls him, or “Bitch” as I like to call him.  I really have no idea what we are going to get out of him this season.  He might have the widest range of possibilities of any Twin this year.  He could hit .210 and play below average defense with a few Web Gems mixed in, or he could hit .290, score 85 runs, and cause chaos on the bases, while playing a Gold Glove shortstop.  All I really know is that Gardy has a total man-crush on Punto and will give him every chance to succeed.  Rumor has it, in this economy, the Twins put a clause into his new contact that says he has to do his own dry-cleaning from getting so many jerseys dirty the last couple of years.  He likes diving.  I think he’s found a way to get grass stains from Astroturf.   In all seriousness, his best asset is working pitchers.  Really, that’s about all he does well.  He goes to the plate with the mindset of fouling off as many balls as possible.  Not getting a hit, just slowly wearing a pitcher down.  Basically, he’s the anti-Delmon Young.  Hopefully he can justify his new 2-year $8.5 million deal.

I want to thank the White Sox organization and Kenny Williams for not re-signing Joe Crede.  Thanks to them, he is now our third baseman.  His back issues have been much discussed recently, but in my mind, it is a great pick-up even if he never gets one at-bat.  He was a notorious Twin killer.  In 40 AB against us last year he had 16 hits, 5 doubles, 7 home runs and 17 RBI.  Read that statline again.  Yeah, that says seven dingers.  Take that away from the Sox and we’re the ones hoisting a Division Champion banner in the rafters this April.  It will be interesting to see if Crede can live up to expectations at the plate.  With the pressure of staying healthy, playing for a new team, being the “power guy” from the right side and adjusting to the turf, I see a slow start out of the gate for him.  With that said, I still think he gives our team a little extra swagger.  Just knowing we took him from the Sox adds to the growing confidence of this group of guys.

Joe Mauer is the guy on the team that every girl wants to sleep with and every guy wants to be like.  He’s the quiet, unassuming, good-looking, hometown hero.  He was a high school player of the year in both football (as a stud QB) and baseball his senior season.  He’s a pretty decent athlete.  Joe is coming off his second AL batting title in three years.  I don’t think he’ll ever be the twenty plus homerun hitter that scouts thought he could become, but I’m okay with that if he can keep a .420 on base %, and play Gold Glove defense. Back inflammation has bothered him ever since his (since removed) kidney obstruction.  Hopefully he should be ready by the opener, or shortly thereafter, because he is a crucial cog in the machine.

I like where we’re at with this current group of infielders, and all of them should get a lot of at-bats to prove they belong.   And if Mauer isn’t healthy we can at least look forward to more Mike Redmond face time and nothing more.