Monday, April 20, 2009

OTB Twins Notes (04.20.09)

Patrick Ruesse comments on the bulldog nature of Twins left-hander Glen Perkins.  After cruising through the first six innings, the Angels’ Bobby Abreu sent a line drive screaming back up the middle that deflected off of Perkins’ lower quad area.   The ball scooted towards Brendan Harris at third who made a nice recovery play to retire Abreu at first.  Perkins would shake off the blow and then finish off the seventh and eighth innings, needing only 84-pitches to earn his first victory of the year.  His strikeout per nine innings is still treading in the unimpressive 4.5 area but he has now entered the 8th inning in all of his three starts without getting shelled.  On 11 occasions in 2008, Perkins worked past the seventh inning and faced a total of 58 batters where he would serve up five home runs as opponents .346 off of him.  So far this year, he has faced a pool of 22 batters and have kept them to a .181 batting average. 

The latest news from the Joe Mauer camp indicates that the defending batting champ will be beginning rehabilitation games on Monday – starting with a handful of simulated games, then a stint with the GCL Twins and six with the Class A Fort Myers Miracle.  The Twins could use his defensive and offensive prowess behind the plate.  In 117 innings, Mike Redmond and Jose Morales have combined to allow 15 stolen bases - a 12% caught stealing percentage (2-of-17) - while hitting .238/.319/.286 in 47 plate appearances.   If all goes well in the upcoming minor league games for Mauer, he could be back in a Twins uniform on May 1st to face the Kansas City Royals. 

After going 8-for-10 with seven RBIs in the first two games against the Angels, Jason Kubel finally failed to reach base safely on Sunday but stung the ball around the field in some very hard hit outs.   Tom Powers points out that Kubel’s bat is one that has survived the trip north from Fort Myers, keeping his production consistent with the numbers he had in Florida this spring.  Kubel’s contributions to the lineup are often overlooked and underestimated; recently both Dave Cameron and Rob Neyer took the Twins to task for signing Kubel to a two-year contract (with a third year option).  What they failed to realize is how much of a barometer his offensive production is for the team.  When the Twins won 18 out of 21 games from June 13 to July 6 last season, Kubel batted .322/.391/.610.  His 2009 season is starting to resemble that stretch as up to yesterday’s game, when Kubel was batting .366/.395/.634.  With his line drive tendencies and occasional clout, there is no reason not to think that slugging above .500 is out of reach for him in 2009.   

Phil Miller reports that Torii Hunter has told Twins minor league director Jim Rantz that he would like to finish his career with the Minnesota Twins.  Hunter still has four years and $71.5 million remaining on his current Angels contract so the soonest he would be available to return to the Twin Cities would be in 2013 at which point Hunter will be 37 years old.  Hunter’s center field skills are already eroding, winning the last two Gold Gloves on reputation and a handful of highlight reel catches, meaning that if Torii does return it won’t be to play center for the Twins.  He does possess the ability to detonate left-handed pitching (.285/.342/.492 vs LHP) so if he plays out his current contract and retains this trait while decreasing in earning power to Griffey-levels (1-year, $2 million), he would be welcomed back in a smaller capacity role.

Miller also fills us in on relief prospect Jose Mijares, who was shipped to AAA Rochester to work on throwing strikes after a brutal spring training.  Ron Gardenhire told reporters that Mijares is throwing 93-mph now and that the Rochester club is working on bringing Mijares back up to better physical condition after the left-hander showed up to Fort Myers out of shape.   In 6 1/3 innings of work so far this year, Mijares has struck out four and walked just one while allowing two hits and no runs.  With current Twins left-handed reliever Craig Breslow having difficulties finding the strike zone (throwing 29% of his pitches for strikes) Mijares’s progress will undoubtedly be monitored closely by those in Minnesota. 

After 20 teams passed on the Rockies’ Juan Morillo, the Twins claimed him on Friday and designed Philip Humber for assignment.  The hard-throwing right-handed was given the opportunity to showcase his velocity in front of Ron Gardenhire on Saturday, which pitch f/x shows that he was hitting 98-mph at times.  Morillo’s lack of control was an issue for the Rockies as they put him on various minor league assignments to work on his command after they converted him to a reliever.  Colorado had tried to include Morillo in a trade along with Willy Taveras to the Nationals’ for Tim Redding but Washington ultimately balked at the deal, suggesting there were medical concerns with Morillo.  Morillo has the raw capabilities and at 25-years-old, he’s still a young pup.  Control is a problem, the lack of movement on his 100-mph fastball is a problem and his lack of a secondary pitch is also a problem.   Still, for the waiver fee, the Twins grabbed the type of pitcher that they were looking for in Juan Cruz during the offseason.  A combination of Mijares and Morillo in the backend of the bullpen would greatly increase the Twins late innings success. 

Looking at pitching prospect Anthony Swarzak’s 0-2 record at Rochester might raise an eyebrow, but that is the only thing that doesn’t look good about his numbers so far.  Jim Mandelaro reminds us that the Red Wings have not been able to score a run in either of Swarzak’s two starts meanwhile Swarzak has allowed just one earned run while striking out nine and walking one in his 11 inning in April.   A starter by nature, the Twins might consider bringing Swarzak up for test ride if any members of the pitching staff suffer injuries or wind up ineffective.

John Sickels looks at what he considers his all-time top five left-handed pitchers with the Minnesota Twins.   The first four might be somewhat obvious but the last, Tom Hall, is interesting.  Hall stood about six-foot even and weighed 144 pounds earning himself the nickname “Blade”.   Drafted in 1966, Hall reached the big club by 1968 and became a swingman for the team, going 25-21 in four years with the Twins and posting a respectable 3.00 ERA while striking out 431 in 455 1/3 innings pitched in that duration.  Hall’s greatest contribute to the Twins came in September of 1970.   At the end of August, the Twins were clinging to a four game lead over California and a six game lead over Oakland.  Manager Bill Rigney decided to move Hall into the rotation in the last month and Hall responded by going 5-0 in seven starts as opponents hit just .160 and struck out 61 times in 53 2/3 innings of work, averaging a game score of 71 in each of his starts.  Hall would later be traded to Cincinnati for closer Wayne Granger (who would be traded the following year for Larry Hisle). 
Josh Johnson examines the final game of the Angels series that resulted in the Twins' first sweep of the year.
Justin Murphy provides a solid write-up of This Week in Twins History at Baseball Digest. 

No comments: