July 2007

In the first game after Luis Castillo was traded, Jason Tyner started leadoff and proceeded to go 3-for-4 with a single, a double, and a triple (which was just feet from clearing the baggie in right). On just the second pitch of the game he lined it to center to start a 2-run inning, which could have been a lot more had Torii Hunter not hit into a double play.


The real story is Scott Baker. He pitched 8 innings (needing just 99 pitches), allowed just 1 run, gave up only 2 hits, didn’t walk anybody and struck out 7. Beyond that: he had seven 1-2-3 innings, with the 4th being the exception. Joe Nathan pitched a perfect 9th, needing just 9 pitches (8 for strikes) to get his 23rd save of the year.


Jason Kubel was a pretty big disappointment, striking out 3 times in 4 at-bats. He almost jacked a 2-run homer, but it was foul by just a few feet. Joe Mauer drove in all 3 runs for the Twins, 2 of them from a double in the first and the third from an 8th-inning single.


Alright, now to the major discussion surrounding the Twins: Did Terry Ryan make the right move by trading Castillo for two low-level prospects when the team is in the middle of the playoff hunt? In short: that can be answered after today’s deadline. If Terry makes another move before 3 PM today that brings a decent bat at 3rd or DH, the move to get rid of Castillo would be good. However, and Gardenhire also said roughly the same thing, Terry thinks that we can win with what we’ve got. Yeah we’ve got a nice little string of wins going, but Boof Bonser and Carlos Silva are struggling, Nick Punto‘s batting average is steadily declining towards .200 and Brian Buscher is doing alright at the plate but seems to be having a hard time defensively. Not to mention that Michael Cuddyer is out until at least Friday, and Jason Kubel has just 3 hits in his last 29 at-bats. If we don’t go after anyone else, it’s still a good move in my eyes (trust me, there are a lot of people that think it was a good move and a lot of people who are furious with what we got in return). Castillo is beyond the back half of his career; I’ll be surprised if he plays 5 more years in the Majors. He’s a free agent at the end of this year and it was widely considered that the Twins would not sign him, instead giving the spot to rookie Alexi Casilla. If we would have let Castillo go at the end of the year, there’s a small chance he would have been a Type B free agent, meaning he’s in the top 20-40% of second basemen. If he wasn’t, he would have been nothing at all and we would have received no compensation for him. The Mets are using him as a rental for the remainder of the season. I trust Terry Ryan to get the maximum talent possible if involved in a trade. These are the two guys we got for Castillo:


Drew Butera, C Touted for defense and pitch-calling ability, projected to be a ML backup at best
Dustin Martin, OF Has 22 doubles, 6 triples, and 5 homers in 93 games in the FSL league, widely considered a pitcher’s league so numbers will be deflated. 6’2, 210 pounds should develop 10-15 HR power, projected to be a 4th outfielder in MLB.



Besides, after Tyner’s homer, Castillo now leads the Majors for longest gone without a homer, at 600-some at-bats.


Tonight’s game starts at 7:10.


He was traded to the Mets today for 2 minor league prospects, AA catcher Drew Butera (son of former Twins catcher Sal) and A outfielder Dustin Martin. All Castillo is to the Mets is a rental, so we got what we could for him. At the end of the year he would have been a free agent and the general consensus is that Luis would not have been re-signed, instead Alexi Casilla would take his spot. If I read correctly, had Luis left via free-agency, the best-case scenario would have been for the team to receive a Type-B supplemental draft pick, which I think is in between the first and second rounds. Instead, they get Casilla 2 month’s worth of experience before he was slotted to start regularly and a catcher highly-touted for his defense at a level in the Twins’ organization that is lacking in catchers, and an OF in Martin who is young and has a good on-base percentage. He can also hit a few homers (more than Castillo, anyway) and will steal some bases. I’ll go more in depth with each player in tomorrow’s post, which will also include the recap of tonight’s game.

Saturday’s game:

I don’t know what was more exciting in Saturday’s game, Johan Santana‘s 12 strikeouts in 7 innings, including 5 and 2/3 innings of hitless baseball or Jason Tyner‘s first Major League home run.


It came down to the wire though when Santana gave up a 2-run homer in the bottom of the 7th to tie the game at 2. Torii Hunter got his only hit of the series in the top of the 9th, a double. He would score on a ground ball hit to the 2B because his throw was high and the catcher dropped it out of his glove.



Sunday’s game:

Sunday’s game came from the same mold as Saturday’s with the final score being 4-1, but only after the Twins scored 3 in the top of the 8th and a Lew Ford solo homer in the top of the 9th. In fact, the rally in the 8th started when Mike Redmond came in to pinch-hit for Nick Punto. Redmond hit a fly ball to right field, but a mixture of wind and the fielder’s bad judgement allowed the ball to land right near the base of the fence for a double. It would score one and then Joe Mauer, after striking out 3 times in 3 at-bats, got to second via a fielding and then throwing error, allowing Redmond to score. Justin Morneau hit a double to drive in Mauer and the Twins had their first lead of the game.


Matt Garza pitched extremely well but unfortunately was not the pitcher of record. He’s 1-2 on the season but has an ERA of 1.37. He went only 6 innings but it’s because he threw a lot of pitches…to the career-high 11 batters he struck out. He allowed 5 hits and walked 3 but did a very good job. Dennys Reyes also did a good job, lasting 1 and 1/3 innings and giving up just a hit. He also struck out 1. Denny has actually been pitching incredibly good, considering his terrible start. Since he came back from the disabled list he’s pitched 13 innings and given up only 2 earned runs and 9 strikeouts. Compare that to pre-injury when he pitched 12 and 1/3 innings but gave up 9 earned runs with 10 strikeouts and 9 walks. His ERA, after being 15.00 on April 15th (highest of the season) it was down to 3.38 on July 22nd.



Trade rumors:

We can no longer acquire 3B/2B/DH Ty Wigginton (.275/16 HR/49 RBI this season) as he was traded for a reliever named Dan Wheeler who is nearly a spitting image of Juan Rincon, statistically speaking. Both have had ERAs under 3.00 the past 2 seasons but both also have ERAs over 5.00 this season. I think if Terry Ryan would’ve pursued Ty, the Devil Rays would have accepted Rincon for him.


According to nj.com, Luis Castillo could be a NY Met real soon. The article explains that the Mets are really interested (they were before Castillo came to Minnesota) and it’s possible that Juan Rincon would be added to our side, as well as a AA or AAA pitching prospect such as Nick Blackburn or Jeff Manship for a CF prospect the Mets have, such as Lastings Milledge or Carlos Gomez.


The deadline is tomorrow at 4 PM eastern, and it will definitely be exciting. The Twins are at home now to face the Royals. The game starts at 7:10.

Boof Bonser and the Twins had a pretty good start to the game, with Joe Mauer throwing out a runner in the first inning and Justin Morneau getting a single in the second. At that point, the downfall was just about to start. Torii Hunter would ground into the first of three double plays the Twins would hit into. That was just a problem with the hitting. Boof got shelled in the 3rd and was taken out after he had given up 5 singles, 2 walks, a 3-run homer, and two throwing errors by his defense. In total his line was 2 and 2/3 innings pitched, 9 hits, 6 runs (4 earned), 2 walks and 3 strikeouts. The relievers didn’t do a much better job with Ramon Ortiz and Juan Rincon coming in after that. Combined they threw 4 and 1/3 innings, gave up 7 hits and 4 earned runs, walked 2 and struck out 5. Rincon’s runs came off of a 2-run homer by the same guy who hit the 3-run home run earlier in the game. Matt Guerrier finally came in for an inning and walked one and struck out one but did not allow a hit.


Like I said, the double plays killed us. Mauer, Morneau, and Hunter all grounded into one at some point in the game. Morneau was the only one of the three to somewhat redeem himself, going 2-for-3 with an RBI and a run scored. Hunter and Mauer were both hitless. It would have been a blowout but Jason Kubel hit a 2-run dinger in the 7th and we scored 2 more in the 8th off of a sacrifice fly and a wild pitch.


Brian Buscher was a highlight at the plate, collecting singles in his first two at-bats, but definitely seemed to be lacking playing third base. After one of his throws was high to Justin, allowing the runner to reach, he bobbled another ground ball and just seemed tense out there. The AAA manager said that Buscher knows how to stay alive in an at-bat to work the count to his favor. He saw a total of 15 pitches in 4 at-bats.


In Kenny Lofton‘s first game back with the Indians he went 3-for-5 with an RBI and a strike out. One of his hits was a bunt attempt that bounced right off the plate. At 40 years old, he can still use his speed to his advantage.


Still no moves have been made by GM Terry Ryan. The deadline is Tuesday, I don’t know the time but last year I think it was either 4 or 5 eastern, so there definitely is time left to possibly trade Luis Castillo (who, ironically enough, was taken out of the game after hobbling back to first after what I think was a fake steal attempt) or Carlos Silva.

Yesterday a reader named Nato asked this question in the comments section: “Saw in the [Star Tribune] that it’s time for a firesale to get the team competitive for 2008. What are your thoughts on who to keep, who to deal, and why?”


I think that the person who is most likely to be traded is Luis Castillo. The Mets’ 2B broke his leg and will miss a lot of the rest of the season and they were interested in Castillo before he came here. The Phillies’ Chase Utley just broke his hand and is out for an unknown amount of time, but it’s unlikely that Castillo would go there. Also, Alexi Casilla was taken out of Wednesday’s game and did not play yesterday for AAA Rochester; maybe he’s going to get promoted to play second for us?


Castillo definitely is not the most talked-about player as far as trade rumors go. That honor would go to Torii Hunter. He’s due for a pretty big increase in pay and his current pace of having a career year do not help the Twins. There is no CF at any level in the organization to even sniff Hunter’s production. Denard Span was supposed to be the future but his career numbers thus far have been a disappointment. Brandon Roberts was received in a trade last year and can play center, but I believe the Twins have Span ahead of Roberts on the “replacement for Torii Hunter” list. They just drafted Ben Revere, but I don’t know if he’s even 19 yet. It’s clear that either Torii needs to be re-signed (he says he’ll take a hometown discount, but nobody except him really knows how much he’s willing to budge) or be involved in a trade that brings an adequate CF to the team. I have to admit that it’s a terrible idea to not re-sign Torii if no clear replacement is available. Even if there is a clear replacement, some other moves need to be made at (take your pick) the 3B, LF, and DH positions. It’s obvious that the production for the team at all of those spots is severely lacking, and chances are a replacement for Hunter is not going to have a stat line in the .270/30/100 range, and in order to compete for a World Series title, Torii’s production has to be matched by other players. I kind of rambled there so if I confused you, this is what I’m trying to say: if Torii isn’t on the team, the Twins are certainly not going to make the playoffs because of Torii’s stats. However, they can be a playoff team if they add players at the 3B, LF, and DH spots to match and/or exceed Hunter’s production.


I think that Scott Baker and Carlos Silva are both expendable, along with Juan Rincon. I think we could get a decent position player for Baker and Rincon or Silva and Rincon (preferably the latter) but it’s very doubtful that anything will happen. Terry Ryan has expressed his dislike of trading away pitching, but he needs to be willing to let young guys like Matt Garza, Kevin Slowey, and Glen Perkins learn and pitch at the Major League level. Really, I don’t think any one of those three guys could do worse than Silva and, to some extent, Boof Bonser. Unless Boof can lose some weight, I don’t think he’ll ever have the stamina to consistently last beyond the 6th inning. He seems to be a perfect fit for a long reliever, but Ramon Ortiz is currently that guy.


So if you have any other questions, or some thoughts on what I said (please pitch your own ideas for moves the team could make, if you want to) just post a comment.


edit: The Twins demoted Darnell McDonald (collected 1 hit in 10 at-bats with the team) and called up 3B Brian Buscher. Seth from sethspeaks.net thinks he’s an upgrade over Nick Punto, and it seems like Buscher will get the start this weekend in Cleveland (game starts tonight at 6:05).

The team is now 51-50 after losing their last game against the Angels and getting swept by the Blue Jays.

Carlos Silva suffered his 11th loss of the season, allowing 6 runs (5 earned) on 8 hits over 5 and 1/3 innings. The beatdown didn’t stop there, with Dennys Reyes giving up 2 runs and not recording an out, Juan Rincon giving up 4 runs without recording an out, and Matt Guerrier giving up 1 run and recording 2 outs to finally get out of the 6th inning. Ramon Ortiz and Joe Nathan pitched the last 2 innings, not giving up any runs.

The only highlight offensively was Justin Morneau going 2-for-3 with an RBI. Bench player Darnell McDonald also got his first hit as a Twin. He’s now 1-10 on the year. The team has an off day today before traveling to Cleveland for a 3-game series. After that the team is back home for a 3-game series against Kansas City and then a 4-game series against the Indians. It’s a pretty crucial time for the Twins. If they can go 8-2 or better in these next 10 games, they’d make up a lot of ground on Cleveland. I’ll be honest and say I personally don’t think this is a team that can succeed in the playoffs, but there is still time for some guys to get hot and our bullpen to start pitching better, but they can’t get swept by division rivals like they did against Detroit.

After a great week on vacation, it’s pretty disappointing to come back to this Twins team. I think you know which one I’m talking about. It’s the same team that sweeps a seemingly annual playoff team in the Athletics, only to lose all 3 games of their next series against Detroit by a combined 3 runs. After taking 2 of 3 against the Angels, the Twins have lost the first two against Toronto. The first game was a lot closer than it could have been, with Johan Santana obviously not on his game. He gave up 4 homers, two solos and two 2-run homers (both of those against Frank Thomas). He also lasted just 5 innings. The team had 3 homers of their own in that game but it wasn’t enough.

Then, in last night’s game, nothing was ever strung together. They had 6 hits with 0 runs while Toronto had 8 hits but 7 runs. Scott Baker didn’t do too bad, giving up 4 runs in 7 innings. He walked only 1 and struck out 5 and gave up a 2-run homer to Vernon Wells. Pat Neshek was the biggest surprise of the night, lasting just 1/3 of an inning and allowing 3 runs on 2 hits and 2 walks. He didn’t strike anyone out. Neshek threw more balls than strikes in his outing, something he’s done just 2 other times this season.

Tomorrow’s game starts at a very early 11:30 in the morning. Carlos Silva looks to stop a sweep in Canada.

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