Wednesday, May 26, 2004


It's a busy time of year for the Twins. They are right in the thick of a real, all out dog fight for the division. They await the return of some of their injured players while others continue to go down. The team is witnessing impressive performances and some not so impressive ones. And for the first time in years the team may be willing to part with prospects to be active players in the trade market. In all, a lot is going on in Twins land right now.

Injury Updates -

Twins third baseman Corey Koskie will be activated from the 15-day disabled list in time for today's game against the Tampa Bay Devil Rays. - Star Tribune
This should be good news to every Twins fan out there. This move allows the team to move Michael Cuddyer to second base finally giving them some infield depth. While Cuddyer's bat has been relatively hot, his fielding at the hot corner has been below adequate. Koskie should give the defense a much needed boost while his bat will be a welcome addition to the lineup. He is the first step in the Twins getting back to full strength.

C Joe Mauer (left knee) is set to start a minor league rehabilitation assignment and might rejoin the Twins next week.
Let us all rejoice! No more Henry "I can't buy a hit, heck I can't hit a ball off a tee!" Blanco. Mauer is not only a major boost for the offense, his presence behind the plate is also an addition. Matt LeCroy can do a lot of things but one of them is not throw out runners. Mauer will solidify the bottom of the order, call a great game behind the plate and keep runners honest. He brings a new life to the team, a star quality. Every time he bats is exiting to watch. The guy hit two homeruns in a game Tuesday. The time is quickly approaching where we will finally get to see Mauer up close on a daily basis.

Trade Winds -

Clubs that have spoken with the Royals say Baird has told them that if his team doesn't make some kind of move up in the standings in its current run of division games against Detroit and Minnesota, he'll be ready to listen. And not just on Beltran. Jayson Stark
Bet on that run in the standings never happening. This Royals team is bad. They have no pitching and many of their free agent signings where old and over the hill. On the surface it looks like a good thing for the Twins that there is one less team in the race. Depending on where the Royals ship their guys it could actually make things harder on the Twins. The Twins could have to deal with getting Carlos Beltran or Mike Sweeney out in the postseason. Judging from the games played so far this year against the Royals, that is a scary proposition.

As the potential July sellers begin to separate themselves from the buyers, there appears little question that the two starting pitchers who figure to attract the most attention before the trading deadline are Kris Benson and Freddy Garcia. Opinions are mixed on the reliability of both of those guys. But one scout who saw Benson recently puts him at the top of his team's list. Stark
This is every Twins fan's dream, acquiring an ace for a push deep into the playoffs. Too bad there are none out there and those pitchers available will come at a high cost. Garcia has been great so far this season with a 2.71 ERA and 6.86 K/9 but his career has been mostly up and down. He has pitched great in the playoffs against the Yankees though and when on, is tough to beat. Benson had major arm surgery over a year ago. He has a 4.61 ERA and 5.98 K/9. He has always had potential but has not lived up to it. Perhaps an escape from the Pirates would do the trick. His stuff might make him a better postseason option then Garcia. Since he has never been there, nobody knows. Then again a certain 21 year-old from Texas had never been there before last year's playoffs and look how that turned out.

Stat Lines of the Night -

Hitting - Lew Ford 3AB 3H 2R 2BB .344AVG
Reaching base 5 times in 5 tries is not easy. This guy continues to hit and he isn't going away. He creates things for the offense. His short swing is likely to keep him from any extended slumps. He hits the ball hard and when he doesn't still manages to find a way to get on base. Now he is batting lead off and setting the tone. His performance in that spot has so far been admirable. A .344 average puts him just out of the top 5 in the American league. Incredible, that's the best word to describe his play so far.

Pitching - Joe Nathan 1IP 0H 0BB 1K 1SV
He is un-hittable right now. He has given up 3 runs all year! Not only are teams not scoring off him, they are no longer getting on base. It's such a luxury to enter the ninth with a lead and have the win be automatic.

And Then There Was Justin:
.353AVG 17AB 6H 2HR 3RBI
Not a bad start to his major league season. He can flat out mash. His swing is filled with power and the potential of homeruns. He is going to stick this time. The Twins would not have called him up if they weren't ready to hand over the reigns. Now is the time to let him go out there and play. He is going to put up numbers and he is going to go through slumps. Most power hitters do. Patience is key. Other teams have to respect his potential in the lineup. He is the one guy capable of rocking a pitch and taking the team from a 1 run deficit to a 2 run lead. I was really impressed with how he played against the White Sox this weekend. He didn't back down. He was a large part we won the game we did. The Twins are doing it right by batting him lower in the order to take some pressure off to start. The beginnings of a formidable lineup are in place.

Deviled Hams Feast on Lohse

Unfortunately (or perhaps fortunately) I wasn't able to catch very much of Tuesday's 6-1 loss to the Devil Rays for a variety of different reasons (the most notable of which being my 15-page Russian history paper) but looking at some of the stats I'm not all that sad I missed it. I know the Rays are hot, but come on! We had won 11 straight against the perrenial bottom-dwellers! I only hope that this current slide doesn't become last year's infamous pre All-Star break skid, at the end of which the Twins will find themselves looking up at both the ChiSox and (*shudder*) the Tigers.

Kyle Lohse was once again subpar (4 ER in 6 innings). This guy just can't buy a break--many starts he is able to hold it together through five but just can't seem to avoid trouble in the sixth or seventh. The Twins were also unlucky enough to catch the enigma that is Victor Zambrano on his only good day of the entire frickin' month. The guy has electric stuff, no doubt about it, but has been terribly inconsistent so far this year. His April ERA was a solid 3.73 but for May it was (before Tuesday) a bloated 11.00. It also doesn't say much for the Twins' allegedly improved plate discipline when they are only able to coax 2 walks out of a guy that had walked a mind-boggling 44 batters in 55.1 innings before Tuesday (including single game totals of 7,7, and 9!).

The only hightlight was once again Justin Morneau. I know we got a taste last year, but man is this guy good! He is so naturally strong that I think his new nickname should be "Popeye". Kinda catchy, isn't it?

Justin "Popeye" Morneau is congratulated after his second homer of the season, a monster shot in the 3rd inning while Popeye the Sailorman contemplates the tremendous power of his namesake