Posted by: gravessack | January 5, 2018

Waiting On Yu

We are just about a month away from the start of spring training for major league teams. Yet, some big name starting pitchers are still unsigned. It seems like, like in years past, when one pitcher comes off the board, others rapidly follow. This year is definitely more intriguing as to who is still out there, and the pitcher who could tip all the dominoes has ties to the Twins. Pitchers like Jake Arrieta, Alex Cobb, Lance Lynn, Matt Garza, and John Lackey are all on the free market still. However, the big fish in the sea that could start the signing frenzy is four-time all-star Yu Darvish.

The rumors about Darvish started in November when Twins General Manager Thad Levine Yu Darvish pitching in a baseball game for the Los Angeles Dodgerssignaled signing him was a “top priority” to give a boost to the rotation. The MLB winter meetings rolled around in early December with lots of optimistic chatter but little action. Instead, the Twins moved on to the bullpen issues. However, Levine has stayed in touch with Darvish’s agent.

Right before Christmas, Darvish met with the Cubs, and shot down a report that he signed with Chicago, condemning it as, well, “fake news.” Days later, the 31-year-old had a casual dinner with Rangers’ General Manager Jon Daniels; nothing intriguing transpired. Last week, the Yankees were said to be in on the pitcher. What would be the Twins move to get the coveted pitcher?

There is no known meeting set up between Darvish and the Twins. Levine is sending mixed signals by saying he wants Darvish, but not meeting with him. Perhaps, Levine thinks that knowing Darvish while in Texas will be sufficient enough to sign him. Even more mysterious is that the Twins could have already made an offer and are just waiting for a response, hence, a meeting is not particularly necessary. Whatever the reason for the delay, the Twins should ramp up the effort and do more than just sending Season 5 of Friends to Darvish (true story!) to lure him here!

There are more statistics than Darvish being an all-star that would suggest why teams should want him. In five years in the league, Darvish is 56-42, has a 3.42 ERA, and struck out 1,021 batters. Also, throughout his career, he is averaging 11 strikeouts and just 3.3 walks per nine innings. That’s pretty good!

One of the reasons why Darvish is still out there is that he had some struggles last year, going 10-12 with a 3.82 ERA, pitching with Texas and the Dodgers. The other tidbit that could be hampering his search is that he missed the entire 2015 season due to Tommy John surgery on his right elbow. Darvish’s numbers, though, will guarantee him a large contract!

Now is the time to carefully keep an eye on the clubs vying for Darvish’s residency for years to come. Hopefully, the Twins get super serious in their pursuit of the top free agent pitcher, and they can be the ones who start the blizzard of signees! If not, this will be disappointing with Levine talking big and not delivering. In the end, we are just waiting on you, Yu!

Written by: Michael L. Sack

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Posted by: gravessack | December 30, 2017

Twins Boost Relief Core

As the baseball universe waits for the Yu Darvish saga to end, teams know they must move on to grab their necessities. The Twins, knowing that they could improve their bullpen, have done just that. In 2017, Twins relief pitchers accumulated an ERA of 4.40. To try to lower that number, the club signed closer Fernando Rodney on the last day of the winter meetings. While all of the Darvish rumors are still swirling, the Twins snuck in a surprising signing to close out 2017.

On December 26, the Twins inked Zach Duke to a one-year, $2.15 million major league contract. Duke was selected by Pittsburgh in the 2001 MLB Draft. The lefty made his MLB debut in 2005 and went 8-2 and had a 1.81 ERA.Current Twins relief pitcher Zach Duke standing and looking off into distance as a player for the St. Louis Cardinals Duke was a starter up until 2010 when he made the transition over to reliever in Arizona. Duke’s first true year in relief was in 2012, producing an ERA of 1.32 with 10 strikeouts.

Like with Rodney, Duke traveled the country in the forthcoming years. Between 2013 and 2017, the Texan joined Cincinnati, Milwaukee, the Chicago White Sox, and St. Louis. His best year came in 2014 while playing for Milwaukee. During that year, Duke pitched in 74 games, going 5-1 while striking out 74.

However, Duke’s career took a downturn. In October 2016, he underwent major surgery to repair a forearm flexor muscle and UCL in his left arm. He was traded to Chicago that July, and would not return for another ten months. When he reappeared last July with St. Louis, he appeared in 27 games, going 1-1 with 12 strikeouts en route to a 3.93 ERA.

Duke will see if he can reinvent his 2009 All-Star performance in 2018. He will be trying to help Trevor Hildenberger, Ryan Pressly, and Dietrich Enns shut down the opponents. Duke, along with Rodney, should help the young relievers with techniques that will be needed for the future. If all goes well, the Twins should gather up more wins because of their improved bullpen. With that said, if the Twins can indeed lure Darvish to Minnesota, a seismic shift will be seen, not only with the starting rotation, but with the leadership as well.

HAPPY NEW YEAR, EVERYONE!

Written by: Michael L. Sack

Posted by: gravessack | December 20, 2017

Speechless Season 2 Mid-season Review

Speechless logoAs many of you know, Season 2 of ABC’s sitcom Speechless has been out for a few months. The show is still getting positive reviews. I too like the new season so far.

My favorite character in the show still is Kenneth, J.J’s aide. He is probably the funniest character on the show. I also like Ray, J.J.’s nerdy younger brother (who doesn’t like a nerd!?). The show still focuses too much on Maya, J.J’s mom. I think it should focus more on J.J., who is the main character, and less on Maya.

Probably the only episode I have not liked so far in Season 2 was the Halloween episode. In that episode, each of the three kids eat old Halloween candy that does weird things to them. J.J. gets superpowers and Ray and Dylan, J.J’s sister, swap bodies. At the end of the episode, it’s revealed that all of it was just part of Kenneth’s dream. It all just seemed very strange.

But all in all, I like Season 2 so far. l like how it, like Season 1, doesn’t get too sentimental when discussing J.J.’s disability and portrays J.J. as a typical teenager. Let’s hope it continues!

What are your thoughts on Speechless?

Written by: Sam Graves

Posted by: gravessack | December 15, 2017

Twins’ Winter Meetings Splash: Signing Rodney

This year’s winter meetings, which were held in Orlando, concluded December 14. The Twins, who have said to be on the lookout for “top-tier pitching,” left without the guy they desperately want in starter Yu Darvish. General Manager Thad Levine knew though that they could not head home without snatching up a couple of pitchers to show they are improving their team. On the last day of the annual frenzy, the Twins made a splash of some sort. Time will tell if it is a big one!

In the early morning, reports started to swirl that Minnesota and Detroit were in deep discussions to lure closer Fernando Rodney to their respective clubs. Moments later, the Twins announced that they indeed signed the closer to a one-year deal worth $4.5 million, including a 2019 team option, which became official just after noon on December 15.

Rodney has pitched for numerous teams in his 15-year career. The 41-year-old made his mark starting in 2002 with the Tigers. Current Twins relief pitcher Fernado Rodney pretending to shoot a bow and arrow toward the sky as a player for the Miami MarlinsDuring his tenure in Detroit, Rodney saved 70 games, struck out 314, en route to a 4.28 ERA. When he left their organization in 2009, Rodney ventured west and joined Anaheim for two seasons. With the Angels, he recorded just 17 saves. However, he rebounded when he joined the Rays after the 2011 season, when he had a 1.91 ERA and 85 saves.

After two years in Florida, Rodney was off to Seattle. Playing in the northwest for a couple of seasons, he had 64 saves while striking out 119. In the last four seasons, the three-time All-Star was with the Padres, Diamondbacks, Cubs, and the Marlins. In those years, Rodney racked up 64 saves and struck out 154 batters. Throughout his career, he has been known as a flamethrower, but has been erratic at times, allowing a total of 404 walks and 53 wild pitches.

Taking over as the eldest of the club (for now), Rodney will bring his expertise to a bullpen that is looking to find the magic touch. The signing of the righty is a relief in that Levine is an out-of-the-box thinker and that he is willing to do anything to help the Twins.

After passing his physical, Rodney said that the Twins told him that he will be taking over the closer role, since Brandon Kintzler will be staying with the Nationals. Rodney is definitely the most experienced closer on the team, as he recorded 39 saves in 2017. Hopefully, Rodney will have one of his good years and we see him pretend to shoot a bow and arrow toward the sky, his signature move when he gets the final out of a game, many times!

Written by: Michael L. Sack

Posted by: gravessack | November 26, 2017

Target Center’s Renovations Not Very Impressive

Newly renovated Target Center scoreboard, which may be easier to see for people with visual impairments

Newly renovated Target Center scoreboard, which may be easier to see for people with visual impairments

I went to Target Center a few weeks ago for a Minnesota Timberwolves game. It was the first time I had been in Target Center since it was renovated last summer. I was hoping there was a dramatic improvement in accessibility, but there wasn’t from what I saw.

Probably the main accessibility issue at Target Center, at least for me, was and still is the lack of public elevators. Before the renovation, there were just two tiny public elevators in the entire building. From what I saw a couple weeks ago (and I have not seen anything online about this), there are still just two public elevators! I think they may have replaced the elevators and made them slightly wider, but it looked like there were the same number of elevators. I am not exactly sure of this, so please let me know if there are more elevators!

Another problem (and this isn’t exactly accessibility-related and hopefully will only be temporary) was getting my food. The line in which I got my food was fairly long and the vendors were pretty disorganized. It took my friend about 20-25 minutes to get my food, which was way longer than it should have taken.

The entire renovation cost $140 million. There are some changes, such as new seats and more ticket lines, but I still hoped for more, especially based on how much the renovation cost. The fact that Target Center is not very accessible, plus the fact that there apparently isn’t much online about accessibility, says to me that Target Center and the Timberwolves may need to start paying more attention to accessibility, like the Twins have.

Have you experienced the Target Center renovation? Please share your opinion!

Written by: Sam Graves

Posted by: gravessack | November 17, 2017

Target Field’s Renovations Will Improve Accessibility

The Twins are again making improvements to Target Field. Ever since the ballpark opened in March 2010, it has been changing. Some changes have been big—like Minnie and Paul’s and The Catch in center field—and some small, such as installing heaters on the Terrace Level. Most modifications affected accessibility in one way or the other. The most recent round of renovations will slightly improve ADA features yet they will be noticeable for those who use them.

In early October, the Minnesota Ballpark Authority, who owns the stadium, approved a $15 million plan to enhance the Metropolitan Club. That plan involves making the club available to every fan who enters Target Field, not just season ticket holders. When the enhancements are completed in March, the area will be opened up looking over the field via an operable door, being dubbed the “Crown Door system.” Other changes include adding a new bar and expanding the food menu in the dining area and reconfiguring the main concourse to make an “easier path/access to the space.”

Accessibility in the corner of Target Field will be different next year. “The {new} elevator access directly to the space from the main concourse should make access much simpler,” said Twins president Dave St. Peter. “All other access should remain consistent. The widening of the concourse between Gates 29 and 34 should be beneficial to all guests moving through the area.” One more note is the accessible seating options in the renovated area should not see a change.

“We remain committed to the most accessible facility possible,” added St. Peter.

Written by: Michael L. Sack

Posted by: gravessack | November 7, 2017

Twins Hire New Bench Coach

When Ron Gardenhire was named manager of the Detroit Tigers October 20, he began to form his coaching staff. The former Twins skipper evidently enjoyed his time in Minnesota as he has added a couple of Twins coaches from the past. One of Gardy’s decisions left the Twins with a coaching vacancy, as he snatched up Joe Vavra to be the Tigers’ quality control coach. That left the club having to find a bench coach. The Twins did not take long to find the right guy.

The Twins hired Derek Shelton November 6 to man the bench. Derek Shelton wearing Tampa Bay Rays sweatshirt on baseball fieldShelton, who played in just 46 minor league games in the New York Yankee organization from 1992 until 1993, comes from Toronto as he was their quality control coach for one season. Prior to 2017, the 47-year-old was a hitting coach for two clubs; Tampa Bay for seven seasons and Cleveland for five. In the early 2000s, Shelton managed in the Yankee farm system for three seasons.

Shelton reportedly knows about the psychology of sports and that sports can get in players’ minds. That was partly the reason the Twins hired him, as Shelton met CBO Derek Falvey “a decade ago when Shelton was Indians hitting coach and Falvey was just getting his start in the front office.” The Illinois native is analytical also, so he will be helping Paul Molitor with everyday line-ups and figuring out each day’s schedule. I suppose he can do those tasks while cleaning the bench! Here is an MLB.com article on Shelton’s hiring.

For the record, former pitching coach Rick Anderson is Detroit’s bullpen coach and Steve  is their bench coach. Add Doug Mientkiewicz as he became the Toledo Mud Hens manager, the Triple-A affiliate, on November 6. Needless to say, Detroit is recycling former Twins coaches now. It will be like a reunion when the Tigers make their Minnesota excursion!

Written by: Michael L. Sack

Posted by: gravessack | October 28, 2017

Pitching Coach Has Been Chosen

After firing pitching coach Neil Allen following the Twins’ dismissal from the postseason, the front office started searching high and low for a new pitching leader. The pitching was not all that bad last year, but Chief Baseball Officer Derek Falvey just wanted to go in a different direction, which was surprising to many. Known candidates were former Twins pitcher Carl Willis, and Jim Hickey, the recently fired Cubs’ pitching coach. New Minnesota Twins pitching coach Garvin Alston looking at camera and smiling

On October 26, the Twins made the declaration that Garvin Alston would assume the pitching coach duties, starting in 2018. A pitcher for Colorado, his MLB career lasted just 12 days in June of 1996. After his retirement, the 44-year-old took a nine-year hiatus from baseball before taking a job as a pitching coach in the Oakland organization in 2005. He held various positions there, ranging from a Single-A pitching coach to a minor league rehab coordinator. When the Athletics let go of Alston after 2015, he joined the Diamondbacks for two years, coaching their bullpen.

Alston was fired by Arizona earlier this month, and manager Paul Molitor jumped at the opportunity. The Twins wanted to bring in a fresh perspective, and Alston delivers that notion, as this will be his first gig as pitching coach at the big league level. Alston does not have a particular style and will coordinate with his staff to see what fits best.

There was a recent Star Tribune article on Alston, in which he says he has “not one philosophy.” He also said “It is the ability to adjust to the actual pitcher and knowing what their strengths are.” One of the concerns that he will need to address is who will be the starters behind Ervin Santana and Jose Berrios. Hopefully, Alston can find the magic touch and turn his staff into one of the best in the league!

Written by: Michael L. Sack

Posted by: gravessack | October 22, 2017

2017 World Series Preview

When the Houston Astros defeated the New York Yankees last night (yes!), it became official: The Astros will play the Los Angeles Dodgers in the World Series starting this Tuesday, October 24, on FOX at 7 p.m. C.T.

Los Angeles Dodgers logoThe Astros are led by probable A.L. MVP Jose Altuve, as well as ace Justin Verlander.Houston Astros logo Houston got to the World Series by beating Boston in the ALDS and New York in the ALCS. The Astros are especially good because of their offense, particularly Altuve who won the A.L. batting title with a .346 batting average.

The Dodgers are led by ace Clayton Kershaw who led the N.L. in the 2017 regular season with a 2.31 ERA, while posting an incredible 18-4 record. The Dodgers got to the World Series by beating Arizona in the NLDS and the Cubs in the NLCS. The Dodgers won 104 games this season and looked like the best team in MLB for much of this season.

Although I would like to see Houston win the World Series, I think that the Dodgers will win in six games. L.A. has home field advantage and they have pretty much been dominant in the playoffs, losing just one game. Click here for more on the World Series, and don’t forget to tune in for Game 1 in Los Angeles on Tuesday night!

Hopefully, we will be writing about the Twins in the World Series next year!

Written by: Sam Graves

Posted by: gravessack | October 20, 2017

Perkins’ Twins Career May Be Over

With the coaching situation seemingly cleared up, the Twins are turning to deciding which players will or will not return next year. This off-season, the club has six athletes that are bound to be free agents, and General Manager Thad Levine needs to figure out if he wants to re-sign them. The first player personnel decision was probably the least difficult, yet the most emotional.

On October 18, the Twins effectively released closer Glen Perkins, when they declined his 2018 option worth $6.5 million. Former Minnesota Twins pitcher Glen Perkins standing in dugout looking out toward baseball field The Stillwater Area High School graduate was drafted by his hometown team in the 2004 MLB Draft. After pitching in the minor leagues for a while, Perkins made his Twins debut in 2006, where he made four appearances. Perkins went on to be a starter in 2008 and 2009, striking out 137 in those two years.

He moved to the bullpen full-time when the Twins moved to Target Field in 2010. Perkins’ best years came consecutively, when he was an all-star in 2013, 2014, and 2015. Over that span, the 34-year-old recorded 112 saves and had 197 strike outs. He had a wicked pitch that could get anyone out.

Unfortunately, Perkins’ career took a downward spin starting in 2016. After just pitching in two games with a 9.00 ERA, he was put on the disabled list and never returned that season. It turned out that the pitcher had a torn labrum plus a torn rotator cuff. Perkins would not return until August 2017, sixteen months after he last took the mound. He had troubles from the start. Perkins’ once reliable pitches had vanished and opponents were hitting the ball hard. In eight relief appearances, he produced an ERA of 9.53, surrendering 8 hits and 6 runs in 5.2 innings. Pitching his whole life in Minnesota, Perkins made his final jog from the Target Field bullpen on September 30, finishing the game against Detroit. Afterward, he asked for the ball and was emotional, knowing the end was near.

One of his bigger highlights of his career was when he was selected for the 2014 All-Star Game at Target Field. It was a big honor for him, as he seized the opportunity to close out the victory. Perkins earned the save, while his former teammate Kurt Suzuki was behind the plate.

Perkins could possibly return next season on a minor league deal if he wants to return. Although, reports are out there that he may retire.

It was fun watching Perkins pitch and he had a fabulous career. If he chooses to retire, he should be proud of what he had accomplished! However, the next question will be; who is going to be the Twins closer of the future?

Written by: Michael L. Sack

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