Last week, we introduced a new feature called the “Sunday Conversation”. To say the least, while the concept itself was solid, the execution was a little lacking. We’re introducing a slightly more “user friendly” version this week that we think you’ll all enjoy a lot more. Let us know your answers to the questions proposed here (or just a general thought) in the comments section below. It's a bit long, but an extremely good read.
Question: First of all, has the early performance of Carlos Silva surprised you at all?
John’s response: “I have been surprised by Carlos Silva. I knew he had potential that he had never quite lived up to yet. All the reports coming out of spring training sounded great, but then again he was traded for Eric Milton. I think the team had to talk him up just so it didn't look like a salary dump. Before this year he had one major league start and was by all reports a mediocre reliever. What we all have to worry about is that he's never thrown a lot of innings in a single season. What happens in August and September, when we need him the most? So, yes, I'm very pleasantly surprised by his performance while at the same time crossing my fingers that he doesn't implode later on.”
Ryan's response: "I have to agree with you there John- I have been pleasantly surprised by the early returns from Silva, but I also have to wonder if he can keep this up over the course of a full season. The new Field Turf seems like it will benefit Silva the most out of all our starters, but in the only game I've seen him pitch (Friday) he gave up an inordinate amount of fly-ball outs. But after the game, I recall Henry Blanco saying that Silva's power sinker was "nasty", so I’ll assume he can still be effective even if he’s getting more fly-balls. Overall, I would say that I'm cautiously optimistic."
We got two great, albeit wasted, starts from Johan Santana and Brad Radke this weekend. Do you think they have turned a corner and are ready to heat up or is this just more inconsistency?
RM: "I was as shocked as the next Twins fan to see that those two previously ineffective pitchers had turned in back-to-back stellar performances. Radke has already shown flashes this year, and he has traditionally had some success against the Halos for some reason (2002 ALCS, complete game shutout last year). Santana's outing today, even though I wasn't able to catch much of it live, was what really impressed me. His line sounds like the Santana of old- 7 innings, 6 Ks, 1 ER in 108 pitches. Looks like he struggled a bit early on, but hopefully he has now found the elusive feel for his devastating change-up and is ready to pitch like this for the rest of the season.
In my experience, the change-up is a pitch that requires more "feel" than just about any other pitch- it often doesn’t come back as easily as say the fastball or breaking ball. Johan didn't pitch in winter ball for the first time in his career, and it seemed like he was always just a little behind schedule up to this point. Now it seems like he's finally caught back up."
JPB: Excellent winter ball point. I think the only thing shocking is that these two haven't performed yet. Radke is a pretty good pitcher and Santana has a chance to be great. Brad always has some rough spots in his season before rattling off about 10 great starts in a row, so at least he got them out of the way early this year. Santana is the key to this team’s success in the long run and this is the 3 or 4th start in a row that he has built on. With these two guys on track there aren't going to be many more weekends where the team loses both games in which they pitch.
Two rather disturbing trend emerged from Saturday and Sunday's games- the Twins utter lack of ANY kind of offense, and the re-entry of J.C. Romero into his patented (2003) 'implosion mode'. Do these trends concern you?
JPB: “We all knew this was coming with the offense. They were just hitting too well to keep it up. They aren't going to be as good as they were but they also aren't going to struggle as much as the last two games. The Twins also have a lot of hitters with more on the way. I think it was more telling that the starters were effective because they had been so bad up to this point. The hitting isn't going to come down near as much as the pitching is going to come up.
J.C is concerning. He had been so dominant to this point but relievers outside of Gagne have bad stretches every now and then. Last year his problems had more to do with control and I'm not sure that was as much the case this weekend. As long as that's true, J.C. should be fine. I look for him to rebound this week. As it stands it was two games which don’t make a trend. Remember, the Angels are a very good hitting team that had just been stifled by the starters for 7 innings.”
RM: "I might be overreacting a bit because the only inning I heard today was J.C.'s disaster, but this concerns me quite a bit. I'm willing to overlook Thursday's nightmare performance (0.2 innings, 4 ER) and even Saturday's (since he only allowed the one hit). But today's outing really broke my heart. I realize he was going against one of the best lineups in the game, but here Gardy entrusts our supposed ‘best’ reliever with the task of keeping the game tied and he falls utterly on his face.
All I could think was, 'J.C., PLEASE PLEASE don't go back to last year. Please. Last year, we had the back-up net ready to bail you out (LaTroy), but this year J.C. is it. There is no one else.’ If J.C. falters again, the Twins bullpen is doomed. There is no doubt in my mind. For positives, at least he wasn't walking guys like crazy. He has been throwing strikes for the most part, but has been getting hit hard. Today, I was concerned that he was unable to put a couple of key hitters away when he got 2 strikes on them. But we'll see. It is definitely still early."
Don't look now but Cristian Guzman is hitting .286 and was seen driving the ball this weekend. Is it possible he could finally be doing something for this team?
RM: "I'm completely baffled by Guzman's recent 'hot' streak (if you can call it that yet). If he is still in fact capable of driving the ball, why hasn't he been doing it for the last 2 years? This is the longest period of time since 2001 (that I can remember anyway) that Guzman has looked this good. The extra base hits haven't been there yet, but if he keeps hitting the ball this well, they can't be that far behind. What is causing this? Is it the fact that he is in a contract year and money is the only motivational technique that appeals to Guzie's laid-back personality? Or is it something deeper than that? And why hasn't any of this rubbed off on his soon-to-be ex-double play partner Luis Rivas? Tune in next time for answers to these questions and more on our next episode of Unsolved Mysteries."
JPB: “Well I'm tired of waiting for the exciting Guzman to return. Maybe he's just been in a rather long extended slump these past two years, although I don’t know if that is possible. Perhaps it was at this point that he realized that he wasn't a slap hitter, never should have been a slap hitter and so he decided he would start driving the ball again. I remember reading this past week that the team fixed some flaws in his at-bats, so I'm guessing that is the real cause of his sudden production (what else could it be?). Only time will tell if these changes have created a player or merely prolonged his stay. It was nice to see one of the two stiffs in the middle of the field finally produce. I have always gone back and forth on Guzman but I'm hoping that he continues to hit the ball.”
Check back next week for a new installment of the "Sunday Conversation". If you have any ideas for questions, feel free to drop a comment below sometime this week or send a quick e-mail to me (firstname.lastname@example.org) or John (email@example.com).