We’re finishing up this year’s inter-league schedule this week on the road. While the Twins haven’t had the success this year that they enjoyed last year against the National League teams, it should give Twins fans a chance to reflect on the concept and ponder any modifications that can be made if it’s going to continue at all. First, it’ll be here for better or worse. Baseball doesn’t adopt ideas into the system only to disown them later…witness the designated hitter, perhaps the subject of a future blog.
When baseball started interleague play, it was done so to spark fan interest and increase ticket sales and media ratings. By and large, it’s done all that. While the novelty of it has worn off, there still is heightened fan interest in a Cubs/White Sox series than a Royals/White Sox series. But baseball made a big blunder in playing the games by the home team’s rules. If you’re going to blur the distinction between the leagues by playing the games in the first place, why not give the fans a sample of how the games are played in the other league. If the concept was designed for the fans in the first place, give them the novelty of watching their pitchers hit or their top pinch-hitter hit as the designated hitter. It would be a simple fix and one that is long overdue. People live in houses for ten years and then remodel. Consider this a ten year tuneup or remodeling of an idea that could use a little shot in the arm.
The other modification would further complicate the scheduling. Somehow, you have to maintain the integrity of a division race by having teams in the same division play the same inter-league schedule as much as possible. The New York Mets have to play the Yankees in two series and the other three AL playoff teams from a year ago AND the Angels, the team with the second best record in the American League. The Phillies have a much easier schedule playing only two teams with winning records. As I blog, the Phillies are just two games behind the Mets in the NL East. By season’s end, the division might be decided not by who had the better team but, rather, by the whimsy of the schedule makers. While the Mets were facing the defending AL champion Tigers last week, the Phillies were playing the Royals. Seem fair to you? No one here can muster any sympathy for any large market team, but fairness shouldn’t be an issue when it comes to deciding a championship. There are enough uneven playing fields in our game…this is one that should be eliminated.
On the whole, I like interleague play. It gave Atlanta fans in the Upper Midwest a chance to see their team in person. As we forge ahead, the concept is like any other. It can be tinkered with and made even better.An interesting interleague note as we watch our Twins pitchers hit this week. The Twins are one of five American League teams whose pitchers have not hit a homerun in interleague play. The Yankees, Angels, A’s and Mariners haven’t had a pitcher hit one out either. Who do YOU think will hit the first Twins pitcher homerun in interleague play? My money’s on Johan.
Twins TV play-by-play
Hi Twins fans. We are about to finish up this West Coast trip, and hopefully the Twins will have a good series vs the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim before they return home for a 9 game homestand.
Let’s get started with some Twins news.
I’LL BET YOU DIDN’T KNOW THIS ABOUT LEW FORD…..Lew told me two stories that were news to me about the Twins outfielder. Once, while growing up in Texas and playing for his high school baseball team he once missed a game to participate in a scholastic playoff in math and science. "I just thought it was just as important to help out my academic teammates as my baseball teammates," explained Lew. I asked him how he did in the playoff and he said "not so hot," but we had fun. And Lew once played in a soccer tournament in London, England. "Our team got invited to play in this tournament and it was a blast," laughed Lew. Was Lew going to be a blossoming forward in soccer and not end up playing major league baseball? "No way," stated Lew. "The soccer experience was fun, but I always wanted to play baseball, that was my favorite sport."
MINOR LEAGUE UPDATE: Remember at the beginning of the season I listed two top ten lists? One was the top pitching prospects in the Twins organization, and the other was the top position player prospect list. Now that two months of the Twins minor league season is complete, let’s check and see how those top prospects are doing.
In this blog we will review the pitchers.
1. RHP Kyle Waldop….started the season at A-ball with the Fort Myers Miracle, and was just promoted to AA-ball New Britain. He was 4-2 with a 2.86 ERA with the Miracle, and he’s struggling a bit with the RockCats. He has lost his first four decisions with NB and is 0-4.
2. Anthony Swarzak….Started the season with New Britain and was 0-2 with an 11-ERA when he was suspended for 50 games when he tested positive using body enhancing substances. Hopefully Swarzak will return to the RockCats in late July.
3. LHP Jay Swatski….Used out of the bullpen with the RockCats in Double-A, Swatski has appeared in 20 games and is 2-2. He’s pitched 27-plus innings and has given up 30 hits.
4. RHP Kevin Slowey….Recently promoted to the Twins and thrust into the Twins starting rotation. He put up fantastic numbers with AAA-Rochester and was 5-2 with a 1.54 ERA which led the Internation League.
5. RHP Matt Garza….Doing just fine with the Red Wings. He’s 3-5 with a 3.19 ERA. The Twins seem to be pleased with his season thus far.
6. LHP Glen Perkins….Started the season at Rochester and pitched (and started) in one game. Called up to the Twins to fill in in the bullpen. Currently on the disabled list with a strained left bicep. Should be back soon.
7. RHP Tim Lahey….Was sharing closer time with Jose Mijares and now has taken over as the RockCats closer. He’s 5-0 out of the bullpen. In 31 innings pitched he has 28 strikeouts.
8. LHP Erol Simonitsch…..Has yet to pitch and is in Fort Myers rehabbing with a left arm injury. Missing out on a chance to climb up the ladder. Hopefully he will be back soon.
9. RHP Oswaldo Sosa…..In the Miracle starting rotation. He is 2-3 with a
2.54 ERA. Has made 11 starts and has pitched 56-plus innings. Doing OK.
10. LHP Jose Mijares…..Recently promoted to AAA-Rochester. Has pitched in 3 games in relief. Started the year at AA-New Britain and in 15 games pitched, 21 innings with 22 strikeout.
Next blog I will update how the position players are progressing.
TWINS QUIZ….OK, Twins fans, put your Twins thinking cap on and see if you can answer this question.
For years, when Randy Bush was the co-holder (with Rich Reese) for most pinch-hits in a single season. Bush twice had 13 pinch hits in a single season and that was good enough to share the mark with Reese. But in 1993 this Twins player came along and was the Twins top pinch hitter for 4 straight years, and in 1996 he set a new mark for most pinch hits in a single season with 19. Who is this former Twins player. Hint: He is presently a coach with the Arizona Diamondbacks.
I’ll have the answer for you in the next blog.
Now here?s the Answer to the Twins quiz from the last blog…
When Garrett Jones was called up last week and stepped to the plate for his first major league at-bat I pulled out my trusty little 3 X 5 card with the Twins players names that hit a home run in their first major league game. All told their have been 8 that have accompolished that feat! But just four that have hit a home in their first at-bat! See if you can name the four.
Rick Renick, Dave McKay, Gary Gaetti, and Andre David.
That’s all for this time Twins fans. Hope to see you at the Dome for the Twins upcoming homestand with Washington, Atlanta, and Milwaukee.
"Touch ’em All,"
Twins fans were thrilled during the 2006 season when the Twins overcame a huge deficit, not to mention some key injuries to win their fourth division title in five years.
There were a lot of reasons for the incredible surge and, perhaps, the best regular season baseball this area has ever seen. Justin Morneau’s MVP performance in the second half…Joe Mauer’s historic batting title…Torii Hunter’s return to health and the electrifying three months that Francisco Liriano gave the Twins. Critically important to the turnaround was the decision to get younger and more athletic on the left side of the infield. By trading Juan Castro and calling up Jason Bartlett and releasing Tony Batista and giving Nick Punto third base, the Twins committed themselves to speed, youth and quickness on the left side of the diamond.
Twins fans…get ready…we might be seeing a similar transformation this summer, this time, on the pitching staff.
The Twins started the year with newcomers Ramon Ortiz and Sidney Ponson in the rotation. While Ortiz was brilliant in April, both veterans now find themselves out of the rotation…Ponson released and Ortiz send to the bullpen. The door is wide open for Scott Baker, Kevin Slowey and Matt Garza to do for the pitching staff what Bartlett and Punto did for the left side of the infield.
Baker is already here and has given the Twins a magnificent start and another decent one. Slowey has been nothing short of superb in Rochester. He simply doesn’t have anything more to prove at triple-A without a chance to prove it up here. Garza has butted heads with some folks in the Twins organization, but his live fastball and improving off-speed stuff will probably make its’ way to the majors sooner rather than later. In his most recent start, Garza threw ten off-speed pitches(5 for strikes, 5 for balls). That’s enough for Twins’ management to consider bringing him up this summer.
Obviously, the hope is that the extra seasoning the first two months has provided the talented young pitchers will ease the transition to the major leagues, Slowey in particular. Remember, he’s never pitched up here. Both Garza and Slowey were in class A ball a year ago.
While the Twins took a flier on Ponson and aren’t ready to give up on Ortiz yet, it’s clear that the time has come for the young guys to get their chance. Add Glen Perkins to the mix when he returns from his, thankfully, relatively minor shoulder injury and the Twins have the makings of an extremely talented yet inexperienced pitching staff. Oh, and did I mention that the Twins are encouraged that next year Francisco Liriano will return to his dominating self of 2006?
Hi Twins fans,
As we wind our way thru their 9 game road trip, I have some Twins thoughts for you. Let’s get started.
I’LL BET YOU DIDN’T KNOW THIS ABOUT…….Juan Rincon.
The Twins star reliever for the last 6 years almost quit baseball. At the age of 16, Juan was told by scouts and coaches he was too small to play baseball and that he didn’t have a chance to advance in the game. Those people suggested he quit the game and go to school. As you can well imagine, Juan was quite disappointed and when he went home with the bad news his mother told him, "Juan don’t you quit, you love the game to much, and you go out there and prove to those scouts and coaches that you are worthy of seeking a professional baseball contract!" Juan said, "no Mom, I am going to study in school and go to college and make something out of my life." But his mother wouldn’t let him quit and Juan continued to pursue a baseball career. And there’s one more chapter to the story. One of Juan’s best friends is LHP Gustavo Chacin, now with the Toronto Blue Jays. And the coaches and scouts told Gustavo the same thing as they told Juan. So Juan and Gustavo made a promise to each other and to their Mom’s that they wouldn’t quit the game of baseball and look what happened. Nice going Juan, Twins fans sure are glad you followed your mother’s advice and didn’t quit the game.
For most of the time we will concentrate on updating the progress of some of the Twins top prospects. I will get opinions from the Twins Minor League coordinators and coaches and managers on players like 3B Matt Moses, and RHP Kyle Waldrop just to name a few. But how about those players that are not on the radar screen as top prospects, but are starting to open some eyes of those co-ordinators and others. Let’s look at a few that are having outstanding seasons thus far, and might just be like a Denny Hocking (a 53rd round pick) or a Tommy Watkins (38th rounder) and climb the ladder to make it to the big leagues:
RHP Robert Delaney…..Closer with the Beloit Snappers. Undrafted out of St John’s University, Delaney leads the Midwest League in saves with 13 and just recently was chosen as the Twins Minor League Player of the Week.
2B Matt Tolbert…..Tearing up the International League, and at one time was the League’s leading hitter. Tolbert, a non-roster infielder, got a chance to play some in Grapefruit League games and impressed the coaches and Manager Ron Gardenhire. Alexi Casilla is considered to be the Twins top infield prospect at Rochester, but Tolbert is starting to make a lot of people take notice. Tolbert was a 16th round pick out of the University of Mississippi.
OF Eric Lis…..Yes, I know he is always going to be known for hitting a home run off Roger Clemens, when Clemens pitched againt the Fort Myers Miracle. But Lis can hit. He won the batting title last year at Beloit and is approaching being a .300 hitter with the Miracle. Lis was a 9th round pick in the ’05 draft out of Evansville University.
Keep your eye on these players folks, they might not be number one picks and Minor Leaguers that everyone is interested in, but they have put up some impressive numbers so far this year and are starting to be watched more closely.
TWINS TRIVIA TIME…..
When Garrett Jones was called up last week and stepped to the plate for his first major league at-bat I pulled out my trusty little 3 X 5 card with the Twins players names that hit a home run in their first major league game. All told their have been 8 that have accompolished that feat! But just four that have hit a home in their first at-bat! See if you can name the four. I’ll have the answer for you in the next blog.
Last Week’s Trivia Question:
Over the years the Twins have had some outstanding minor league players who later on have made it to the big leagues and helped the Twins to 4 divsional championships in the last 5 years. Jason Kubel, Joe Mauer, and Lew Ford are all past winners of the Sherry Robertson Minor League Player of the Year. And, now all three are and have been major contributors to the Twins recent successes on the field. In 2002, the Twins separated the Robertson Award and started naming a Minor League Pitcher of the Year. The award is named after Twins Director of Minor Leagues, Jim Rantz. But only once has a minor league player won the award two years in arrow. Let?s see if you can name that player.
Answer to Last Week’s Question:
LaTroy Hawkins. He was selected the Twins Minor League Player of the Year in 1993 and 1994.
That’s all for this time folks. Have a great day, and let’s hope the Twins keep going on the winning trail.
"Touch ’em All,"
We’re a month and a half into the season and I know a lot of Twins fans are shaking their heads about all the injuries. Imagine how Terry Ryan and Ron Gardenhire are feeling. Rondell White, Luis Castillo, Michael Cuddyer, Joe Mauer have all missed significant time already this season. Torii Hunter and Justin Morneau have had scary incidents that could have really crippled this team.
It’s no coincidence that the best Twins teams have been the healthiest Twins teams. With the exception of Harmon Killebrew’s elbow injury in 1965, the Twins have kept their best players healthy in their championship years. In 1987, Kent Hrbek, Gary Gaetti, Tom Brunansky and Kirby Puckett(Mt. Crushmore) all played more than 140 games. In 1991, Chili Davis, Dan Gladden, Brian Harper, Kent Hrbek, Chuck Knoblauch, Shane Mack and Kirby Puckett all had more than 440 at bats. Through both World Championship years the pitching staffs were remarkably healthy.
While injuries are a part of the game, avoiding them or recovering from them are critical to a team’s long-term success. Last year, the most impressive thing to me about the division title is that the Twins somehow found a way to recover from two potentially devastating injuries to two cornerstone members of the starting rotation. When Francisco Liriano and Brad Radke had their seasons/careers forever altered with arm trouble, the team somehow persevered and won 96 games. That the team didn’t advance past the first round was due largely to the fact that the pitching depth wasn’t there. In retrospect, it would have been highly unlikely that the Twins would have had the depth in their starting rotation to survive three rounds of post-season play.
This year, the Twins have had an incredible number of injuries early in the season. As of now, the Twins are within striking distance of first place despite that. Twins fans should be encouraged that as Mauer and White return to the lineup, no other players will be taken out of it because of injury. Provided that happens, there’s no reason the Twins can’t get back into first place and make it to post-season play.
Hi Twins fans. I don?t know about you, but I was quite satisfied with the Twins play in the first month of this 2007 season. The Twins were 14-11 and although they had their lapses, they still came out with a first-month winning record and now it is on to May. If the Twins can duplicate their April record in May and go into June 6 games over .500 I certainly will like their chances when the third month of the season rolls along. Now, here are my items for this week?s blog:
1. ?I?ll bet you didn?t know this about Jesse Crain.
2. A minor league update with some rather impressive performances from some of the Twins top minor league prospects.
3. And, our weekly Twins Quiz?.a question that may leave you scurrying to a Twins Media Guide to come up with the answer.
Ok, here we go.
I?ll bet you didn?t know that Jesse Crain, Twins reliever, is a one heckuva of a ping pong player. Jesse grew up with a ping pong table in the basement of his house and he played ping pong during his growing up years. I asked Jesse if he ever played competitively and he said, ?no,? but that he would like to some day. Kiddingly ,he said that Forest Gump was his ?idol.? Jesse did say that he would like to play in a tournament some day, but for now it?s just a friendly game. There?s a ping pong table in the Cleveland clubhouse and Jesse is always ?game on,? with any challengers when the Twins visit Jacobs Field. Jesse says that Nick Punto offers the toughest competition, and he?s the only guy that has been able to get to 21 before Jesse. Jesse admits that Punto is a pretty good player. Jesse says his serve is just adequate, but that the key to his game is a strong forehand. Bring on the challengers says Jesse. I don?t know what would be more challenging… playing Jesse Crain in ping pong, or standing at home plate and facing Jesse?s 94 mile an hour fast ball. You make the call.
Twins Minor League Update. The minor league teams fared well in the first month of the season. Rochester, the Twins AAA team in the International League, had the best record, while Beloit in the Class A Midwest League also sported a winning record. New Britain survived a number of rainouts and snowouts in the first two weeks of play and finished the month of April just under .500, while Fort Myers, in the Class A Florida State League, started strong but ended the month with a sub-500 record.
Perhaps the most impressive performance of the month was the pitching of RHP Jeff Manship at Beloit. He put up some rather amazing statistics. Manship, out of Notre Dame, dominated opponents in the Midwest League and was 2-0 in 5 starts. He gave up only 3 earned runs in 32 innings of pitching and struck out 36 while walking just 3!! Some month for the 22 year old righhander.
SS Trevor Plouffe had a very good start to the season at New Britain. The Twins number one pick in the 2004 draft (number 20 overall) hit .299 and held a .300 plus batting average most of the month. Plouffe seems seems to be holding his own at the AA level.
And 1B/OF Garrett Jones led the charge for the Rochester Red Wings. Selected as the Twins Minor League Player of the Month, Jones hit a strong .329 with 3 home runs and 16 runs batted in.
RHP Kyle Waldrop was 3-0 at Fort Myers, 2B Nate Tolbert hit .370 for Rochester, and Beloit closer Robert Delaney had 5 saves for the Snappers with 19 strikeouts in 14-plus innings. Some of the top performances of the Twins minor leaguers in the first month of play.
This Week’s Twins Quiz:
Over the years the Twins have had some outstanding minor league players who later on have made it to the big leagues and helped the Twins to 4 divsional championships in the last 5 years. Jason Kubel, Joe Mauer, and Lew Ford are all past winners of the Sherry Robertson Minor League Player of the year. And, now all three are and have been major contributors to the Twins recent successes on the field. In 2002, the Twins separated the Robertson Award and started naming a Minor League Pitcher of the Year. The award is named after Twins Director of Minor Leagues Jim Rantz. But only once has a Minor League player won the award two years in arrow. Let?s see if you can name that player. I?ll have the answer in the next blog.
Now here?s the answer to last 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.
The Twins’ team single-game club record for stolen bases is 6 on September 9, 1992, against the Seattle Mariners. Incidentally, the Twins’ individual single-game record for stolen bases is 4 by Larry Hisle on June 30, 1976, against the Kansas City Royals.
That?s all for this week Twins fans. Let?s hope the Twins have a good homestand versus Boston, Chicago, and Detroit.
?Touch ?em All,?
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:
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?
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,?
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!"
Twins Television, Play-By-Play
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?
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)…..
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:
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Twins Radio Network Play-by-Play/Analyst