Posted by: gravessack | August 19, 2017

The Return Of Perkins

Twins pitcher Glen Perkins pitching in a game on August 17, 2017

Twins pitcher Glen Perkins pitching in a game on August 17, 2017

After a 16-month absence, Twins pitcher Glen Perkins has returned! Perkins, who hadn’t pitched in a major league game since April 10, 2016, returned to the mound on August 17, 2017. He recorded just one out, walked a batter, hit two batters and gave up two earned runs. While it wasn’t a good return at all for Perkins, it was good just to see him pitch again, especially since he wasn’t sure if he would ever pitch again after an extremely long recovery from shoulder surgery.

While Perkins could give the Twins a significant boost as they try to make the playoffs, he will have to pitch a lot better over the final six weeks of the regular season. He has an option for 2018 in his contract, meaning the Twins could pick the option up and keep him for next year or release him. Perkins was an All-Star in 2014 and 2015, so it will be very interesting to see how much he can improve over the remainder of 2017, now that he just started pitching in the majors after nearly a year and a half. Read more on Glen Perkins’ return here.

Written by: Sam Graves

*Michael Sack came up with the idea for this post.

Posted by: gravessack | August 12, 2017

What A Difference A Week Makes!

Then

On August 5, just one week ago, the Twins were down in the dumps big time and many thought their season was over. They were in third place and seven games out of first place. They were behind six teams in the race for the second AL wild card spot. Cleveland and Kansas City, the teams ahead of Minnesota in the AL Central standings, were playing extremely well. Twins management seemed to think this was the beginning of the end of the Twins’ 2017 season as well, as they traded starting pitcher Jaime Garcia and closer Brandon Kintzler for prospects.

Now

But just when you thought the season was over for the Twins…it’s not! Out of nowhere, the Twins have won six games in a row and are now in the second wild card spot, having passed six teams in just one week. With Kansas City now really struggling, the Twins are in second place in the division, 1.5 games ahead of the Royals. Minnesota is also just 3.5 games behind Cleveland for first place.

During this winning streak, the Twins have played well in all areas. The offense has been good, especially Jorge Polanco, Eddie Rosario and Brian Dozier. The defense, especially in the outfield, also has been good (Byron Buxton and Max Kepler made spectacular catches in last night’s game). What is really surprising though is how well the bullpen has pitched. I thought the Kintzler trade might demoralize the other relievers, but it has been the opposite.

Conclusion

I guess this shows fans how quickly things can change in MLB. The Twins management had seemed to give up on 2017 just a week ago, and now Minnesota is right in the middle of the playoff picture! Let’s hope the Twins keep it up!

Written by: Sam Graves

Posted by: gravessack | August 3, 2017

Deadline Redux and A Look Ahead

Just two weeks ago, the Twins looked to be on course to compete for a play-off spot. They became buyers, then went on an extended losing streak that left them clinging to respectability. Twins General Manager Thad Levine swiftly changed course and decided to have the Twins become sellers days before the trade deadline. Some have to wonder what was Levine’s thought process. Another issue that has come into play is Manager Paul Molitor’s job security as the season winds down.

When the trade deadline passed on July 31, the Twins picked up four pitchers and one catcher, all minor leaguers. The best deal, and probably a steal, was the third trade that came to fruition. Pitcher Gabriel Moya, currently a member of the Minnesota Twins organization, pitching in the minor leaguesThat brought pitcher Gabriel Moya to the Twins from Arizona. Moya, who is currently in Double-A, is a closer who won 4 games and has recorded 17 saves so far! The 22-year-old seems to have great movement on his pitches as he has an outstanding 0.78 ERA this year. His ERA actually went down since being traded. Moya, who has a great change-up, looks to be well on his way to the majors. He very well could be the Twins future closer.

The most telling situation was the Jaime Garcia dealings. At the time of acquiring the lefty on July 24, the Twins were wavering between first and second place. Garcia started only one game for the Twins, a July 28 winning effort, before being shipped to the Yankees for two prospects. Those two prospects were Zach Littell and Dietrich Enns, both promising pitchers. Littell has an excellent record and ERA in Double-A, while Enns has pitched decently. In the first Garcia swap, the Twins did pick up catcher Anthony Recker, a below average hitter, who replaced John Ryan Murphy at Triple-A. Enns and definitely Littell have the opportunity of making the team next year.

There was yet another transaction that would make the assumption that at least the front office has thrown in the towel. In their last move before time expired, the Twins dealt their All-Star closer to Washington. Brandon Kintzler, who took over for injured Glen Perkins last season, was pitching solid and was a reliable closer. The Twins got an average pitcher in return in Tyler Watson, a starter in Single-A, who has a 4.35 ERA. This trade all but signifies that the team is looking forward to 2018.

When all the wheeling and dealing concluded, the outcome did not sit well with some players, notably leadoff man Brian Dozier. He wanted Levine to add players as Dozier thinks the Twins still have a shot at something special. The second baseman said this despite hitting poorly most of the season. It seems as if he is unproductive, as he is striking out more lately, and complaining about strikes to the umpires this year. Dozier has to step up more and be a leader, and take his beef and prove them wrong.

Minnesota Twins manager Paul Molitor

This brings up the camaraderie issue in the clubhouse, and Molitor’s status as manager. During games recently, the bullpen has been bleak, the offense has disappeared, and Molitor is looking bored in the dugout chewing his gum. It has been reported that the locker room has been quiet and some players are angry. They need to regain composure and try to do everything they can to get back in contention. If they don’t, it will be a long two months and some coaches’ jobs may be in jeopardy.

Molitor, whose contract expires at year’s end, has to show that he is interested in his team during the last two months. He has left starters, who look to be falling apart, in games way too long. Molitor, who has a 193-237 managerial record, does not seem to communicate to his players during games, and rarely argues with umpires about obvious blown calls. Molitor has a tall task of helping his team win. If Molitor fails and shows little emotion as the season ends, there should be serious discussions about not renewing his contract, and a search should begin for a new energetic team leader.

Chief baseball officer Derek Falvey and Levine have a tough task ahead of them. Nobody should feel safe just because they have been on the team the longest. The bosses came here to fix the Twins, and should have free rein in deciding who stays and who should go. In my humble opinion, they need to have a knockout off-season to show fans that the Twins have a championship-caliber team!

Written by: Michael L. Sack

Posted by: gravessack | July 25, 2017

It is Trading Season and We Have You Covered!

It is the end of July and the Twins are still contending for a spot in the play-offs. This is the time of year where teams decide whether to be buyers or sellers at the July 31 trade deadline. Due to the circumstances that the Twins are in, they turned to selling mode as they lost all three games in Los Angeles this week.

The Twins will be looking to improve their pitching staff, which cannot consistently perform well as Ervin Santana, Minnesota’s best pitcher, could not make it through the 4th inning July 21 versus Detroit. The bullpen has been struggling lately, so they could use some help there to keep leads. Below I will list all the recent trades that the Twins have made as we get closer to the deadline.

  • The first trade the Twins completed was on July 23. This meaningless transaction sent rarely used starter Nick Tepesch to Toronto for cash. Tepesch, who signed a minor league deal over the winter, started just one game going 1.2 innings on May 6. Tepesch never gained much confidence with Manager Paul Molitor. In regards to the Twins end of the trade, I bet that they will find use for the money they received.
  • On July 24, after a weekend of rumors, the Twins swung a trade to get their preferred man. By sending pitching prospect Huascar Ynoa, who had been pitching in Rookie ball, to Atlanta, the Twins received starter Jaime Garcia and catcher Anthony Recker. This trade was discussed for days but a hiccup with Twins pitcher Nick Burdi temporarily delayed it. Garcia is 4-7 this year, resulting in a 4.30 ERA with 85 strikeouts. His career record is 66-52, mostly pitching for St. Louis. Garcia is expected to debut for the Twins July 28. Meanwhile, Recker is a 7-year veteran who has played on four teams. He has a career average of .199, racking up 18 home runs and 70 RBIs. Recker will be assigned to Double-A Chattanooga.
  • The Twins sent catcher John Ryan Murphy to Arizona for minor league pitcher Gabriel Moya on July 27. Murphy, who has been with Triple-A Rochester all season, played in just 26 games with the Twins in 2016. Murphy was way overmatched when he was on the Twins, batting .146 with 19 strikeouts. In Moya, the Twins get Arizona’s 25th best prospect. As a closer in Double-A this year, Moya, who has 17 saves, is 4-1 with an outstanding 0.82 ERA to go along with his 68 strikeouts and .148 opponent batting average. The 22-year-old will be assigned to Chattanooga. This is a slam dunk deal as the Twins give up a poor hitter for a possible future set-up man or closer.
  • In a spine-tingling move, the new bosses performed a sneaky maneuver by sending starter Jaime Garcia (yes, him!) to the New York Yankees for pitching prospects Zack Littell and Dietrich Enns on July 30. Garcia, who was looking forward to helping the Twins, just started one game, going 6 2/3 strong innings, striking out 7, in a win. Littell, who has never reached the majors, is 9-1 with a 1.77 ERA this year in Double-A. The fifth-year starter has a career winning record and has an overall ERA of 3.24. Enns has had a really odd 2017 so far, as he made 7 starts at Triple-A before being sent all the way down to Rookie ball for a relief appearance. In his starts, Enns went 1-1 with a 2.29 ERA with 37 strikeouts. Throughout his six-year minor league career, the 26-year-old is 27-14 with an ERA of 1.87. Unless Littell and Enns are ready for the big leagues, this is an eerie move that signifies that the Twins have given up on this year. Hopefully, this deal won’t come back to haunt them.
  • With moments to go before the deadline, the Twins traded all-star closer Brandon Kintzler to Washington in exchange for minor league pitcher Tyler Watson. Kintzler, who took over for Glen Perkins last year, had 28 saves this year. In his two-year stint with the Twins, he had an 2.98 ERA, had 62 strike outs, and recorded 45 saves. Watson, who is perceived to be an up-and-comer, was 6-4 and had an ERA of 4.35 this season as a starter in Single-A. This is the 20-year-old’s 3rd year in the minor leagues, where he is 9-8 in 33 starts. The Twins are hoping that Watson “is just scratching the surface of who he can be.” This trade all-but signifies the Twins have thrown in the towel for this season, which is not sitting well with second baseman Brian Dozier.

Please check back in a few days as I will recap all the moves and look ahead!

Written by: Michael L. Sack

Posted by: gravessack | July 9, 2017

Why Did the Twins Sign Bartolo Colon?

Pitcher Bartolo Colon, currently a member of the Minnesota Twins organization, pitching in a baseball game for the Atlanta Braves. (Photo: Todd Kirkland, Associated Press)

Photo: Todd Kirkland, Associated Press

On July 7, the Twins signed veteran pitcher Bartolo Colon, who is 44 and in his 20th major league season, to a minor league contract. According to cbssports.com, Colon is expected to make one start for AAA Rochester before joining the Twins rotation on July 18.

The Good

Colon has been effective for much of his long career. He had his best season in 2005 with the Angels, when he went 21-8 with a 3.48 ERA and won the AL Cy Young Award. Even in 2016, Colon was 15-8 with an impressive 3.43 ERA.

The Bad (Ugly Actually!)

2017 has been a completely different story for Colon. Pitching for Atlanta, he went 2-8 with an awful 8.14 ERA! Colon was designated for assignment by Atlanta on June 29 and was signed by Minnesota a week later.

My Thoughts

I really hope Colon can be an effective pitcher in Minnesota. Based on his 2017 stats though, I am not too optimistic. While Colon has been surprisingly good for so long, he is 44 (old by baseball standards) and his age might finally be catching up to him. There was a July 8 Star Tribune article arguing that signing Colon was an act “of desperation” by the Twins, particularly since Hector Santiago is on the DL and temporary replacement Felix Jorge struggled badly in his last start. Sadly, I agree with this argument. Why else would they sign a 44-year-old pitcher with an 8.14 ERA?

It seems as though the Twins think Colon may become good again based on his stats for most of his career. While that could turn out to be true, his 2017 stats, along with the fact that he is 44, are not promising. I guess we’ll see July 18!

Written by: Sam Graves

Posted by: gravessack | July 4, 2017

Spin-Kicking Some Links Towards You

The anticipation has been running rampant for over a year, and now, the week has finally arrived! The highly anticipated Federation Internationale de Powerchair Football Association (FIPFA) World Cup kicks off Wednesday, July 5 at 7:30 p.m. C.T., featuring the United States, the defending champions, taking on Denmark. This event is one of the biggest adapted sporting events to come to North America!

Ten teams from around the world will be in Kissimmee, Florida from July 5-9 to see who will hoist the cup. The third-ever World Cup will take place at Silver Spurs Arena, an 11,400 seat complex. The floor will be divided into two courts for the tournament.

As mentioned in previous posts, power soccer is a sport for people who have physical disabilities who need to use a wheelchair in their everyday life. Two teams of four players try to pass, maneuver, and shoot a 13-inch soccer ball between two goal posts. Each match features two 20-minute halves, with overtime periods if necessary.

Below are several links to where you can watch and follow the action online:

Have fun watching this week, and good luck to all teams! If you have any questions about the World Cup or power soccer in general, please post a comment and start a conversation!

Written by: Michael L. Sack

Posted by: gravessack | July 1, 2017

Hughes’ Move to Bullpen Could Work Out

Minnesota Twins pitcher Phil Hughes pitching in baseball game. (Photo: Paul Sancya, Associated Press)

Photo: Paul Sancya, Associated Press

The last couple years have been rough for Twins pitcher Phil Hughes. After a great 2014 season in which Hughes went 16-10 with a 3.52 ERA, his numbers have declined dramatically. His low moment came last year, as he was 1-7 with a 5.95 ERA. Hughes was diagnosed with thoracic outlet syndrome, a blood disorder, in the middle of the season, causing him to miss the rest of the year. He experienced some of the same symptoms earlier this year, causing him to miss some time.

A couple weeks ago, it was decided that Hughes would be a reliever once he returned to the active roster. I think this was a good decision by the Twins since the thoracic outlet syndrome has appeared to cause Hughes to fatigue quicker than in previous years. Relievers tend to pitch one to two innings at a time, whereas starters usually pitch about six innings per start. Hughes was a reliever in 2009 for the Yankees (who won the World Series that year) and was very effective, eventually becoming the setup man.

Hughes has said his symptoms may not be completely gone, but he plans on pitching the rest of the season. He will likely continue to be a reliever through 2017, possibly longer. This transition will hopefully be the solution to what has been an extremely frustrating couple of years for Hughes.

What do you think of Phil Hughes as a reliever?

Written by: Sam Graves

Posted by: gravessack | June 24, 2017

Looking For Help, Twins Quickly Bring Up Gee

The start of this season has been surprising, but that can not be the plateau. Seeing that the Twins are teetering between first and second place, management realizes if they can get on a run, they could have a chance at a play-off spot. In order to do that though, the club must improve their bullpen. It is necessary to have a solid bullpen if a team wants to show their fans that they are serious about competing. With that in mind, the Twins signed free agent pitcher Dillon Gee to a minor league deal June 20, and due to some pitching struggles, they brought him up on Thursday.

Gee, who turned 31 in April, pitched in just 4 games this year with Texas before becoming a free agent. In those appearances, he had an ERA of 4.15 with 10 strikeouts. Gee is best known for pitching for the New York Mets, the team who drafted him in 2007. It took Gee about three years to get to the big leagues. In his first year in 2010, he started 5 games, posting a 2.18 ERA. While with the Mets, Gee was an average pitcher, pitching to a record of 40-37, producing a 4.03 ERA and 489 strikeouts.

Gee was primarily a starter for the Mets until he signed with Kansas City for the 2016 season. Seeing an opportunity to show teams that he could still pitch, Gee appeared in 33 games last year, recording a 4.68 ERA and finishing the year at 8-9. Between January and June, he was signed and released by the Rangers TWICE! I bet the veteran hopes to stick with the Twins for a while!

Since the Twins just have two reliable starters in Jose Berrios and Ervin Santana, I would strongly suggest that Manager Paul Molitor think of starting Gee for a couple of games. The Twins last try-out for a starter spot was a complete fail. That was when they had Nik Turley start three games this month, where he gave up 17 earned runs, three home runs, and had a horrific ERA of 16.39. Needless to say, Turley was optioned to Class AAA on June 22. The Twins should not treat Gee the same as that project since Gee has way more experience than Turley.

Signing Gee and immediately bringing him up should be a sign to the rest of the pitching staff to step up their game. The bullpen, which also now includes Trevor Hildenberger, must realize there is a grand opportunity to make a push and start pitching like they want something more. Gee will be tasked with rejuvenating the relief core for now, and if he succeeds, we should see better outcomes and more wins!

Written by: Michael L. Sack

Posted by: gravessack | June 18, 2017

Twins Pitching A Concern

The Twins are doing better than many expected so far in 2017 (although they just got swept by Cleveland). Ervin Santana has emerged as the ace of the starting rotation, as he is 8-4 with a 2.56 ERA. Jose Berrios, after a rocky start to his major league career, is pitching well this season. However, the rest of the starting rotation (and the bullpen) is a different story.

Starting Rotation

After Santana and Berrios, there is a dramatic drop-off in terms of talent in the starting rotation. This past series against Cleveland was a good example of that. Because of injuries, rookie pitchers started for the Twins in each of the first three games. Nik Turley, basically unknown before coming to the major leagues June 11, allowed eight runs in just 4 2/3 innings! Turley is 0-1 in two major league starts with a 12.46 ERA!

Adam Wilk, another basically unknown pitcher, started the second game and allowed six earned runs in just 3 1/3 innings! Wilk was designated for assignment after the game! Adalberto Mejia started the third game and pitched better, lasting 4 2/3 innings (there was a rain delay) while giving up two runs. However, Mejia has been inconsistent so far in the majors.

Even when everyone in the starting rotation is healthy, it is still shaky. Hector Santiago began 2017 pitching well, but then faded and is now hurt. Phil Hughes is hurt and appears not to be coming back anytime soon. Kyle Gibson, who was one of the Twins’ top prospects about five years ago, has been ineffective and has a 6.56 ERA (he lost the series finale to Cleveland).

Bullpen

For much of the season, the Twins bullpen has been bad. Probably the biggest bullpen collapse this year was on May 29 when the bullpen blew an 8-2 eighth-inning lead and lost the game 16-8! Even the closer, Brandon Kintzler, has been shaky at times. The Twins have the worst bullpen ERA in the majors in 2017 (5.29)

What the Twins Need to Do

For the Twins to stay in the AL Central race, they need to get rid of multiple relievers, especially Matt Belisle. Belisle has a 7.56 ERA. Ryan Pressly also should go. He has an 8.18 ERA. The Twins also need to acquire at least one starting pitcher before the trade deadline July 31. Minnesota could trade Santiago or even Gibson if any teams wanted them.

If this team wants to surprise everyone by making the playoffs, they must improve the pitching!

Written by: Sam Graves

Posted by: gravessack | June 11, 2017

Twins Grab Heston From Dodgers; Cut Tepesch

Minnesota Twins pitcher Chris Heston pitching while playing for the San Francisco Giants

Minnesota Twins pitcher Chris Heston pitching while playing for the San Francisco Giants

It is mid-June and surprisingly the Twins are in first place! They are just squeaking by with only two reliable starters, a bullpen that has been sub-par, and a closer who looks unsteady at times. Seeing that there is no clear front-runner in the AL Central this year, the Twins architects are leaving no stone unturned and trying to bolster their pitching staff for the final three months. So when the Dodgers put pitcher Chris Heston on waivers last week, General Manager Thad Levine swallowed him up on June 7, then simultaneously cut reliever Nick Tepesch.

Over the past year, Heston never got into a rhythm with a single team. The 29-year-old was traded to Seattle in December, and then claimed off waivers by the Dodgers and Twins within the last month. Heston really struggled in his two Major League appearances with Seattle this year, which includes one start, posting a 19.80 ERA while giving up 12 runs in just 5 innings. His most effective year came in 2015 with San Francisco. Heston started 31 games that year, recording a 3.95 ERA with 141 strikeouts, while winning 12 games. However, excluding the 2015 season, Heston only appeared in ten Major League games over three years. The Florida native’s Twins debut was today, June 11, where he pitched an inning, throwing a couple pitches in the dirt and surrendering one hit. In Heston’s rocky start to his career, he has produced a 4.57 ERA with 151 strikeouts.

To complete the transaction, the club released Tepesch. Having been one of Levine’s first signings, he was hoping to have pitched more for the Twins. That was not the case. Tepesch only appeared in one game, a start in the second game of a doubleheader on May 6, going just 1 2/3 innings and giving up 7 runs. The pitcher was brought in with a minor league contract, but after that one outing, he was never seen again.

Based on Heston’s past, I am not sure why the Twins wanted him. There is a possibility that the Twins want him to start some games since the back end of the starting rotation seems to be in flux now, due to Hector Santiago’s shoulder strain and Kyle Gibson’s wobbly outings. I bet that Heston will land in the bullpen though to help win games that have a little uncertainty. Whatever role Heston gets, the Twins look like they are going all out as they see a potential route to the play-offs. If the Twins can win more games at home and keep close to first place into July, look for the Twins to make more moves to bolster their roster.

Written by: Michael L. Sack

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