Kelsie Smith notes that Ron Gardenhire is satisfied with the shape his bullpen is in. Since the demotion of Philip Humber on August 28th, opponents are hitting just .200/.263/.357 for the relievers. Jesse Crain has been particularly tough, as opponents are just 2-for-22 with five strikeouts and no extra base hits. The two members that are having the most problems are the two newest Twins, Jon Rauch and Ron Mahay. The pair have allowed hitters to go .282 (11-for-39) with 2 doubles and 2 home runs in their brief tenure in Minnesota.
While Rauch will be in a Twins uniform in 2010, Gardenhire told Smith that he is encouraging the front office to bring back the impending free agent Mahay. With the trials and tribulations faced by all lefties not named Jose Mijares, it not unexpected that the manager would request an additional lefty in the ‘pen. Craig Breslow and Sean Henn failed to neutralize left-handed batters, allowing them to hit .230/.331/.418, now both are out of the organization. Meanwhile, Mahay has been far short of dominant against his left-handed brethren as same-sided opponents have hit .281/.309/.483 in 94 plate appearances. Combine that with the fact that righties have obliterated him this year (.337/.429/.594) and his usefulness falls under the category of “urinal cake”.
Justin Morneau was out of the lineup on Sunday, taking a much needed mental day, although the off-day was proclaimed to be in response to a stiff back from his headfirst slide on Friday. Since July 22nd, when he was hitting .316/.398/.588, he has gone .175/.281/.351 thereby Punto-izing his batting line. Plenty has been made on recent broadcasts about his “stepping out” on his swings but what are the adverse affects? Much of the source of his offensive woes can be attributed to his inability to drive the ball to the opposite field. Prior to the extended slump, Morneau held a .346 average and a .638 slugging line on balls hit to left. Since his decline, Morneau has hit just .133 and slugged .233 going that direction.
Joe Christensen reports that Gardenhire addressed the issue of his outfield for 2010 and Gardy stated that he wanted Denard Span to be entrenched in a position rather than shifting around from foul pole to foul pole. Undoubtedly, Span’s presence in the outfield is critical to success. On top of being a great leadoff hitter, he provides range that covers huge swaths of land. Gardenhire believes that Span and Michael Cuddyer will be his two starters in 2010 and the third member is still under consideration. The final outfield spot could go to either Carlos Gomez or Delmon Young, neither of whom impressed offensive. What should give Gomez the edge (or rather, what a wiser organization would recognize) is defense. A few months ago when writing about Jarrod Washburn, BP’s Jonah Keri documented how the Mariners improved so quickly (and frugally) in 2009 was by acquiring defense for pennies on the dollar. Defense is an undervalued commodity and Gomez can provide that – he’s fourth on John Dewan’s fielding bible at +15. Span, on the other hand, is +8 and 13th among CF but has shown he is much more suited as a corner outfielder (his arm is not strong enough to make deep throws in center). The Twins can improve by several wins in 2010 by simply playing Gomez and Span in the outfield every day.
Rochester first baseman Brock Peterson was named the International League’s Batter of the Week after compiling a five-game stat line of .765 (13-for-17) with 2 doubles, a triple and 2 home runs. Peterson will be a minor league free agent this offseason but he recognizes the writing on the wall in Minnesota: “I love the Minnesota Twins. I’d like to be a Twin my whole career, but Justin Morneau isn’t going anyway.”
Bill Reynolds, a columnist at the Providence Journal, visits with the recently retired Twins prospect Jay Rainville about his transition from the game.
Tyler Kepner at the NY Times Bats Blog examines the runaround Sean Henn received during his traded last week by the Twins to the Orioles for the PTBNL (or cash). Henn has just surrendered a 1-2 home run to Shelley Duncan while pitching for Rochester and figured his season was done when he was not called up to Minnesota in September. Settled back in Dallas and ready for the offseason, Baltimore contacted him and told him to get his butt to Boston. Ah, the life of a fringe major leaguer.