April 2007

Hi Twins fans,

Well we are off and running with the 2007 season, and so far, so good.  Looks like the Twins are going to have a winning April for the first time in two years. In 2005 the Twins were 15-8 in April. 

I?ll bet you didn?t know this about Michael Cuddyer??The Twins rightfielder had a banner year in 2005 hitting a career high in home runs, 24 and runs batted in, 109. But did you know that Michael was once a top wrestler and one time during his wrestling career he won 3 City Championships while attending Middle School. He wrestled in high school one year but then gave up a budding wrestling career to play basketball in the winter-time and baseball in the spring and summer. I guess is Michael ever get low-bridged and charges the mound the opponent?s pitcher better watch out, Michael just might put a arm lock and quick reversal and ?pin? him down!!

Twins Top Five Hitting Prospects?..Last time I presented five of the Twins top pitching prospects, now this time let?s take a look at some of the Twins top position players in the Twins minor league system: 

3B Matt Moses?.The Twins number one draft pick in the 2003 draft, Moses is starting out the season at AAA Rochester.  Billed as one of the Twins top hitting prospects, Moses has hit over .300 just once in the four seasons in the Twins Organization.  A lefthanded bat, Moses impressed some in spring training.  He reported in his best shape ever, and the Twins are looking for a big season from Matt Moses.

SS Paul Kelly?..Hampered by a knee injury, Kelly has been out all spring. He didn?t play in any spring training games, and he has yet to be assigned to a minor league team for the start of the 2007 season. A second round pick in the 2005 draft, Kelly hit a solid .280 last year at Beloit and is expected to play for Fort Myers if and when his knee injury clears up. 

OF Denard Span?..Starting the season at AAA Rochester, Span had a very good spring for the Twins.  He was in spring training as a member of the Twins 40 man roster and Ron Gardenhire said Span was ?100 per cent improved from last year.?  Span, the Twins number one draft pick in 2002, hit a steady .285 last year at New Britain. He has outstanding speed (perhaps the fastest player in the organization) and is a very good centerfielder. The Twins would like to see Span hit more for extra bases (of his 153 hits last year at NB only 24 were for extra bases) and also steal more bases, just 24 last season, a career high.

OF Chris Parmelee??The Twins number one draft pick last season, Parmelee is starting out this season at A-ball, Beloit.  Parmelee, a lefthanded bat, impressed last year when he hit 8 home runs in the short season Gulf Coast League. A high schooler out of Chino Hills, CA, Parmelee has a long way to go, but the word is ?he can hit.?

SS Trevor Plouffe?.Another number one pick.  Plouffe is really starting to come around.  After being the number one pick for the Twins in ?04 and the 20th pick overall, Plouffe started slow in his first two years in professional baseball. But last year after a slow start at Fort Myers, Plouffe had a great second half with the Fort Myers Miracle and ended up hitting .246. Plouffe is the shortstop at AA New Britain this year and he will be watched closely as he steadily climbs the ladder towards a major league career.

This Week?s Twins Quiz:  Earlier this season, the Twins were off and running in a game vs Baltimore.  They stole 5 bases in the game. Was that a Twins record? And if it wasn?t what is the record for most stolen bases in a game for the Twins. I?ll have the answer when I write again.

Now here?s the Answer to the Twins quiz from the last blog:

Question:
Last year the Twins had two players, Justin Morneau and Michael Cuddyer drive in more than 100 runs. Morneau had 130 and Michael Cuddyer had 109. And the Twins almost had another, remember Torii Hunter finished with 98. Have the Twins ever had three players with 100 or more runs batted in, and if so when was the last year they had three players with 100 or more?

Answer:
No. The Twins have had two players drive in 100 or more runs 6 times prior to Morneau and Cuddyer…..but never have three.  In 1962, Killebrew and Allison had 100 or more and Rich Rollins had 96….and in ’77 Carew and Hisle had 100 or more and Lyman Bostock had 90….

That?s all for this time folks, I?ll have more for you in a week or so.

?Touch ?em All,?

JG

The Twins – A Model for Others

Seattle might be the most beautiful city in North America. The restaurants are great, the weather is moderate and the scenery is spectacular. Throw in a ballpark that might be the best in the world and you can understand why I love coming here and look forward to returning later this summer.

I can’t come here, though, without drawing comparisons between the Twins relatively brief Major League history and Seattle’s, which is even briefer. The Mariners are celebrating their 30th anniversary this year.  Most of their history has been spent bringing up the bottom of the American League West.

When the Twins came out of the abyss to become a competitive team in the mid-80s, the feeling here in Seattle was, "if the Twins can do it, we can do it!". After all, the markets are similar in size. At the time, both teams were playing in horrible baseball stadiums and, at various times, both franchises were threatened with relocation or elimination. Seattle, in fact, had already lost a Major League team, the Pilots, after one season.

As the Twins went on to win the World Series in 1987 and 1991, the envy kept growing here in the Great Northwest. And sure enough…using draft picks wisely and developing homegrown talent soon paid off for the Mariners. A three-year run of winning baseball in the mid-90’s energized the region and confirmed what people had been saying all along…that this was a great baseball city. The new ballpark followed and then an incredible run of success made Seattle the center of the baseball universe. When the Mariners hosted the All Star game in 2001, Seattle was in the middle of an historic regular season. They won an incredible 116 games during the regular season. Ken Griffey, Jr, Randy Johnson and Alex Rodriguez were all gone, victims of Seattle’s inability or unwillingness to pay them. Instead, aging veterans like Edgar Martinez, John Olerud and Bret Boone led the Mariners to the top of the baseball world. Oh yeah, Ichiro had something to do with it as well.

Which in a roundabout way leads us back to the Twins. The Mariners stumbled in the playoffs and then rather abruptly got old in a hurry. An incredible 30 game drop between the 2003 and 2004 seasons was due largely to Seattle’s inability to replenish its aging roster. Not only could they not replace the future Hall of Famers that left for financial reasons, they couldn’t adequately replace the fading nucleus of their record setting team. A long and painful rebuilding stage followed, one that might pay off in a playoff appearance as soon as this year.

The point of all of this is that the Twins have done an incredible job of maintaining a competitive team as players have drifted off for one reason or another. Mientkewicz gets traded, Morneau wins an MVP. Guardado leaves as a free agent, Nathan emerges as perhaps the best closer in the game. Pierzynski, Jones, Guzman, Koskie…the list goes on and on. It might surprise you that Torii Hunter is the only regular left from the 2001 Twins. Yet they’ve been to the playoffs four times and have put together six straight winning seasons.

In short, they’ve been the model for mid-market teams like Seattle. With the Mariners having bottomed out and perhaps getting back to post-season play largely because of farm products like Felix Hernandez, Jose Lopez and Yuniesky Betancourt, it seems like you can hear the old refrain once again, "if the Twins can do it, we can do it!"

**** Bremer

Twins Television, Play-By-Play

Twins Alum Participate in Spring Training… As Instructors

The Twins have wrapped up another spring training in anticipation of another exciting season. As spring trainings go, this has been a good one for manager Ron Gardenhire and the staff with no major injuries to deal with and a strong returning cast from that memorable 2006 season.

One thing that the Twins have done in recent years that has really added to spring training has been the addition of marquee former Twins as spring training instructors. Over the course of March, Terry Steinbach, Tony Oliva, Paul Molitor, Rod Carew and Harmon Killebrew have been in camp to instruct and observe the current Twins. It’s a great opportunity for the players to pick the brains of former All Stars and Hall of Fame players. It’s also a great chance for someone like me to learn more about the game and how it’s changed over the years. 

To that end, I spent some time with Rod and Tony early in March specifically to find out how spring training has changed over the years. Both said the main thing that has changed is that players don’t do as much running as they used to. When they would report to training camp in the 60s and 70s, they did so largely to get into shape. Nowadays, players work out all year long and, in many cases, report in better shape that players used to be in coming out of camp.

Their assessment made me think about all the spring training injuries that seem to crop up over the course of March…the pulled obliques, groins and abdominal muscles.  Is it possible that by not running as much as players used to that the players run a higher risk of injuring the "core" muscle groups? 

**** Bremer

Twins Television Play-by-Play

Welcome to the Booth…

Hi Twins fans,

Looking forward to updating you on the progress of the Twins. I plan to offer you some feature material on the Twins, and hopefully you will offer a reponse to the content in my weekly column. Let’s get started.

Here are this week’s topics:

1. "Something you didn’t know." If you read the Twins media guide, and I am sure you have, you pretty much know all the stats and background of each Twins player. But this feature will tell you something about a Twins player that you didn’t know.

2.  "Minor League Update."  I’ll bring you up to date on the top Twins minor leaguers. This week I will offer my "5 to watch," and give you some insight on five of the Twins top minor league pitchers.

3.  "Twins Quiz."  Just a quickie Twins Quiz Question to keep you on your toes. Perhaps you will be the first to come up with the answer.

SOMETHING YOU DIDN’T KNOW (ABOUT RONDELL WHITE)…..White_rondell
You know that Rondell White has played with 6 different Major League teams, and that he was a National League All Star with the Chicago Cubs in 2003. But I bet you didn’t know that Rondell once played Michael Jordan in a one on one basketball game. Rondell is from Macon, Georgia and one of his best friends is Al Woods, former North Carolina basketball star. Woods hosted a basketball camp in Macon one year, and Michael Jordan was a guest instructor. Well Rondell’s first love was basketball and he asked buddy Al if he could play Michael one on one to see if could beat him. "The play didn’t last long," stated Rondell. "He gave me one basket, slammed the next shot into the bleachers, and then when I tried to take my next shot he jammed it right back into my face!!"  Then Rondell told me, "That’s enough, basketball is not my game, I better try baseball."

MINOR LEAGUE UPDATE….The Twins have a plethora of outstanding young pitchers in their minor league system. Some of them have been in spring training and there’s no question that they opened eyes. Let’s take a look at "5 to watch" this 2007 season:

Garza_4
RHP Matt Garza:
  Still hanging in there to make the Twins starting rotation, and who knows he might make it.  But if he doesn’t, look for Garza to start the season in the AAA Rochester starting rotation.  Scouts have raved about Garza all sprng.  One scout told me "his stuff is nasty, and I meanall of his stuff, not just his fastball." Garza is on a fast track to be in the Twins starting rotation soon, and not only soon, but for a long time.

Perkins_1
LHP Glen Perkins:
  Some scouts like Perkis better than Garza. Wow, that’s saying something! Perkins, too, was impressive in spring training. He will start the season at AAA Rochester, but don’t be surprised if Perkins beats Garza up to the big leagues. Perkins has a very good curveball and he showed surprisingly good poise and confidence in spring training.

Slowey_1
RHP Kevin Slowey:
  Invited to spring training, Slowey at times was talked about more than Garza and Perkins. A control pitcher with command of the strike zone like former Twin Brad Radke, Slowey will be in the starting rotation with AAA Rochester at the start of the season. Slowey probably needs a full season at Rochester.  Remember last year he started the season at Fort Myers, and ended up starting a game for Rochester in the play-offs. Slowey has come a long way in a short time.

Waldrop_1
RHP Kyle Waldrop:
  The Twins 3rd pick in the first round (25th pick overall) in the 2004 draft, Waldrop is ticketed to start the season with AA New Britain. He started the season at A Beloit last year but was promoted to A Fort Myers in the middle of the ’06 season. Waldrop was drafted out of high school and was a little slow in his first couple of years in pro ball. But he’s coming on, and the Twins are very encouraged with his progress lately. He will be in the RockCats starting rotation.

Swarzak_1
RHP Anthony Swarzak:
  Another young pitching prospects in that 2004 draft.  Swarzak was a second round pick. He won 11 games at A Fort Myers last year, and will start the season in the starting rotation for the AA New Britain club. Swarzak has size (6-3, 205) but he is more of a finese pitcher. Anthony was a high school draft out of Nova HS in Fort Lauderdale.

THIS WEEK’S TWIN QUIZ:  Ok Twins fans, put on your Twins thinking caps and let’s see if you can come up with the answer to this week’s Twins Quiz Question:

Last year the Twins had two players, Justin Morneau and Michael Cuddyer drive in more than 100 runs. Morneau had 130 and Michael Cuddyer had 109. And the Twins almost had another, remember Torii Hunter finished with 98. Have the Twins ever had three players with 100 or more runs batted in, and if so, when was the last year they had three players with 100 or more?

I’ll have the answer next week.

John Gordon

Twins Radio Network Play-by-Play/Analyst