Wednesday, August 11, 2004

A Plethora of Topics

The fact that it was freakishly cold yesterday in Minnesota (temps in the high 50s? In August? Come on!) is all the more reason for you to curl up in front of your computer today and enjoy a nice helping of Twins Chatter. And we've got plenty of news to discuss, so here goes.

Twins lose to Mariners 4-3
As disappointing as losing three of four to the Athletics this was weekend was, Tuesday's loss to the Mariners was just as bad. Yes the game was close and the Twins played the once-mighty M's tough, but this was a game the team needed to win for a number of reasons. Terry Mulholland needed to deliver a quality start, but he gave up two two-run homers in the first and the Twins quickly found themselves in a 4-0 hole from which they could never fully recover. This team has a number of comeback victories this season, but getting down by four in the first inning can sometimes psych a team out. That seemed to be the case yesterday as our hitters made Gil Meche (he of the 6.51 ERA) look like Curt Schilling. I thought that this offense had finally outgrown that nasty habit of making bad/mediocre pitchers look like world-beaters, but apparently old habits die hard.

Another reason this would have been a key win is because both the Indians and White Sox won their games on Tuesday, moving to within 4 and 5 games of the Twins, respectively. Before the Oakland series there was a temptation for Twins fans to automatically place this team in the playoffs, as I myself have been guilty of this assumption on more than one occasion. Instead of running away with the division, the Twins seem determined to let these two teams stick around, which could be a recipe for disaster. A four-game lead can evaporate in a hurry, and two teams are a lot tougher to shake than just one. With two key series coming up with the Indians (the next two weekends) now is not the time to go into a funk. The Twins have been a very streaky team these past two years, and nobody wants this current stretch (the team has lost 4 of their last 5) to become a losing streak. I am confident, however, that the Twins will take two games of the series. If they can give both Radke and Santana any kind of run support whatsoever, I don't think the last-place Mariners should pose too much of a problem.

Joe Mauer is scheduled to get a third opinion on his sore knee Wednesday
From what I hear, this latest doctor's diagnosis is going to have a large impact on the course of action that the Twins choose to take with their star catcher. If he agrees with the Twins' team doctor and says that the problem will heal with rest and treatment, Mauer could be back in a matter of weeks. If he says the problem is severe and requires more surgery, then Mauer will most likely be out for the rest of the season. If that is indeed the case (God forbid), then the Twins will most likely be in the market for a veteran catcher to platoon with Henry Blanco. Blanco has done an admirable job this season given the circumstances, but he is what he is: an all-field, no-hit backup catcher forced into a full-time role. Any help in that area (since Matthew LeCroy obviously isn't an option) would be a welcome addition.

The third Mauer possibility is the one that most of us would rather avoid. I'm talking about the possibility that he won't be able to catch ever again. While this is admittedly the most unlikely scenario of the three, it is still possible. The Twins need Mauer's bat badly, but I just can't see him playing a different position this year already, unless it is as a part-time DH. This is only a remote possibility and one that we probably needn't worry about just yet.

Aaron Fultz is demoted to AAA Rochester; Matt Guerrier recalled
I don't know if this was true for anyone else out there, but I was very surprised to see Guerrier on the mound in the 8th inning of last night's game. Although I realize that Fultz most certainly had to go, I simply didn't think that Guerrier would be the one to take his place. Looking at it now, I realize that Terry Ryan didn't really have many other choices. He's not going to bring up J.D. Durbin or Scott Baker and have them pitch in relief, and the Twins could ill-afford another short Mulholland start with long reliever Joe Roa still recovering from his "start" on Sunday. Even though Guerrier was fine in his inning of work, I think this move really brings to light the weaknesses the Twins have in the back end of their bullpen and how much they need Grant Balfour to get healthy. Both Guerrier and Roa are mop-up/long relief guys, Crain has struggled somewhat, and Romero has been tough-and-go at times. Getting Balfour healthy eliminates the surplus long relief guy and gives Gardy another hard thrower to bring in at key times.

That's about all the relevant Twins news I have come across today. If I missed anything or you would like to give your own two cents on any Twins-related manner, feel free to drop a comment below. Otherwise, be sure and bundle up because it's downright COLD outside!