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Report From The Fort: Returns And Concerns

The Twins lost to the Orioles last night 6-3, but most of the day’s drama came earlier. There was a 5th starter battle on the minor league fields and we learned that other 5th starter candidate, Jose Berrios, was optioned to the minors. We also got some important injury news and a glimpse of another top pitching prospect. Let’s cover the highlights:
Image courtesy of © Orlando Ramirez-USA TODAY Sports
Vargas “Hobbled”
In Friday night’s game, recently returned designated hitter candidate Kennys Vargas fouled a pitch off his foot or shin. He stayed in the game, but when he hit a fly ball to the outfield, he pulled up limping halfway to first base and left the game. After the game, we were told that x-rays had turned up nothing and that he was day-to-day.

Today the Twins were not as optimistic. Manager Paul Molitor described Vargas as “hobbled” and said the Twins might potentially have another look at the injury. Vargas isn’t in a cast, or even an air cast, but he was on crutches, said Molitor.

After playing sparingly in the WBC competition, Vargas was already going to need to accumulate at-bats to secure the designated hitter role for which he was the leading candidate entering camp. With only five Grapefruit League games remaining after tonight’s tilt, his prospects look grim. Especially given that ByungHo Park has had such a strong camp.

The Fifth Starter Competition
Molitor addressed the media prior to the game about Berrios’ demotion and the starts by Adalberto Mejia and Tyler Duffey at the minor league complex this morning. While it was possible that Berrios might have been able to get his pitch count high enough in time for his first start, the Twins were worried about rushing that process. “I was of the opinion, and I think everyone was, that the lack of work and consistency of work ... to try and rush the buildup here in the last ten days to try and get him ready to try and be in that spot didn’t make a lot of sense to me,” said Molitor.

It should be noted that according to Twins pitcher and Puerto Rico WBC teammate Hector Santiago, Berrios did work while playing with the Puerto Rican WBC team to try to build up his pitch count, including throwing a 55-pitch live batting practice session. “But I know it’s tough for [the Twins] on their side. They want to make sure he’s healthy and they don’t want to force him out there, run him out there and have something happen,” said Santiago, while lamenting the difficult decision.

Meanwhile, Molitor said that he thought both Duffey and Mejia had good but not outstanding mornings. “It wasn’t a seperator day for me,” said Molitor. “We just kind of need to look at the whole thing and see how it fits.”

It sounds like this was the last chance for both to make their case. Molitor said he’ll talk with pitching coaches Neil Allen and Eddie Guardado and they’ll make their decision before their next bullpen, which would be Monday.

Santiago’s Return
Hector Santiago made his first start since returning from the WBC and threw 77 pitches over four innings. If his next start is in five days, it would be Thursday, the last Grapefruit League game and he would be up to a pitch count of 90. It sounds like he’ll line up to pitch the second game of the season at Target Field on April 5th.

Others at Twins Daily have analyzed Santiago, but this was my first time charting pitches for the left-hander, and he’s an interesting case. Pitch F/X says he throws a fastball over 60% of the time, and then a changeup 20% of the time and a mix of other stuff. But that’s not what he says, or at least not what he threw tonight.

He didn’t mention a changeup today at all. He says he threw a lot of fastballs away but concentrated on three offspeed offerings: a slider (which would usually be used against lefties), a curveball (which he usually uses primarily against right-handers, and a screwball (which officially puts me out of my depth).

He concentrated on the offspeed pitches tonight because he says he threw them so rarely in the WBC. According to Santiago, in his last outing he threw 68 pitches, and only four were not fastballs. That was his focus and probably explains why he only had 49 strikes in the 77 pitches he threw.

His line was solid enough: three strikeouts in four innings pitched with a walk and four hits. Unfortunately, two of those hits went over the wall, but they were solo shots.

Kohl Stewart Appearance
Twins pitching prospect (and #4 overall draft choice from 2013 draft) Kohl Stewart was called over from the minor league complex and brought on the road game to make an appearance in relief. The good news is that he can say he struck out JJ Hardy and Hyun Soo Kim. He can also say he gave up a home run to Chris Davis, which is probably an even better story to tell his grandkids.

It wasn’t a great outing; he had a lot of trouble throwing strikes, he walked a few guys and he gave up four runs in his two innings. And I hope he doesn’t care one bit.

Tomorrow is a home game and it would not be surprising if there were some roster moves. Stay tuned….

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42 Comments

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Hosken Bombo Disco
Mar 25 2017 09:33 PM
Thanks for filling in the gaps on the Berrios demotion. It's interesting how Falvey and Levine seem to be letting Molitor take the reins this spring.

Here's an idea: Trade Vargas to Boston. I hear they like huge, power-hitting first basemen that don't like the Twins style of spraying singles around the park. Maybe the Red Sox will know what to do with a guy like that. 

    • jokin, mikelink45, tarheeltwinsfan and 2 others like this

I really wish the Wonder Twins were making the call on this instead of Molly and Allen. I really have zero faith in either of them.

    • Vanimal46 likes this

 

I really wish the Wonder Twins were making the call on this instead of Molly and Allen. I really have zero faith in either of them.

 

Either of them...? Which two do you have zero faith in..?

Molly and Allen... or the "Wonder Twins"? Or all four of them?

I don't have any inside information on the Santiago's pitches, but if he really does throw a screwball – and he would know – I can see how a pitch charting system would call it a changeup. It would be thrown at about the speed of a changeup, and have arm-side movement. It probably would be a little slower, and have a little more break than a normal change up, but again, I can see how it would be mistaken based on the flight of the ball. The arm action would look a little different.
    • ashburyjohn, Oldgoat_MN, Hosken Bombo Disco and 2 others like this
Well look what I found! Starring Hector Santiago.
https://m.youtube.co...h?v=-PWE9sLkSLY
    • ashburyjohn, Oldgoat_MN, Willihammer and 5 others like this
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Taildragger8791
Mar 26 2017 05:47 AM

Well look what I found! Starring Hector Santiago.
https://m.youtube.co...h?v=-PWE9sLkSLY


Thanks for sharing, that was interesting.

What was with the overly dramatic music and tone in the video? Yeesh. I felt like I was watching a seriously tragic documentary or something.
    • Oldgoat_MN likes this
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pierre75275
Mar 26 2017 06:56 AM
Only 2 of the runs Stewart gave up were earned. His defense did little to help him out, which is what happens when you walk a lot of guys.
Stinks for Berrios but makes sense. He saw little time with the Twins and you can say he was up to 55 pitches in bullpen, but it wasn't game action and the Twins weren't there to watch him and work with him. Next time he's up, it will hopefully be for good. Tough spring for Vargas, though I'm sure he wouldn't trade his WBC experience for anything. Thankfully he has the extra option and Park has looked much, much better.

There is a lot of PTSD on these pages --Post Terry Stress Disorder.  I'm not too worried about Berrios getting his chance this year.  Or Vargas.  If I'm worried about anything, its the decision to DFA Park this winter.  That could have been a colossal blunder, given the way he's hitting.  But, its spring, and he started off okay last year too.

 

Whether it was intentional or purely luck of the draw, I'm encouraged that they threw Stewart to the wolves.  I was listening to the game.  He came in for what amounts to his MLB debut, to face Trumbo, Davis, and Hardy.  His first two pitches, which were probably "take a deep breath and don't hit the backstop" type pitches, went for a double and a home run.  Pretty decent of him to battle back.  Sounded like the catcher was having trouble handling his breaking pitch?  Not sure, but Provus and Gladden didn't think his defense (catcher) was helping his cause.

 

Jay's move to the bullpen has been properly lamented, but I think most agree he will have a MLB career there.  The Twin's have been lambasted for taking the safe, high-floor route both with picking Jay and now, moving him to the BP.

 

Stewart, on the other hand, was a huge gamble on a high-ceiling, no-floor player.  I guess you can blame their development (I don't) but you can't fault them for swinging for the fences.  I'm still really hopeful for the kid.

    • birdwatcher, BigSkyTwinsFan, big dog and 2 others like this

The screwball used to be more common.  A quick search brought up this list - Carl Hubbell.

Cy Blanton.
Luis Arroyo.
Jack Baldschun.
Bobby Castillo (taught the pitch to Valenzuela)
Mike Cuellar.
Warren Spahn (in the second half of his career)
 

Not bad! If he can throw it well it is a real weapon. 

Good article on Hector and the pitch - http://ftw.usatoday.com/2016/03/hector-santiago-los-angeles-angels-screwball-fip-era-outlier-mlb

 

Now if someone can bring back the Forkball that let Elroy Face go 18 - 1 as a reliever for the Pirates!  http://articles.lati...94_1_elroy-face

 

    • BigSkyTwinsFan, Oldgoat_MN and Hosken Bombo Disco like this
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Hosken Bombo Disco
Mar 26 2017 07:50 AM

There is a lot of PTSD on these pages --Post Terry Stress Disorder.

Yes indeed. I am relieved that the b.s. is coming from the mouth of Molitor and the holdovers, and not the new guys. :)
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LeatherAntenna
Mar 26 2017 09:35 AM
So if we are impressed this spring with Park, does what just happened to Vargas really matter?

 

The screwball used to be more common.  A quick search brought up this list - Carl Hubbell.

Cy Blanton.
Luis Arroyo.
Jack Baldschun.
Bobby Castillo (taught the pitch to Valenzuela)
Mike Cuellar.
Warren Spahn (in the second half of his career)
 

 

 

 

Not to mention the one-time Twin Mike Marshall. I used to enjoy watching him throw that pitch.

 

Marshall still holds the AL record for pitching apperances in a season with 90, for the 79 Twins.

 

He also has the ML record, with a whopping 106 appearances in 74, all in relief, totalling 208 innings! Cy Young recipient.

 

To show how the game has changed, he had 15-12 record that year, and only 21 saves.

Here's an idea: Trade Vargas to Boston. I hear they like huge, power-hitting first basemen that don't like the Twins style of spraying singles around the park. Maybe the Red Sox will know what to do with a guy like that.


I'm not sure I want to like this because of the trauma involved in my inner being... The same trauma that also almost makes me want to hit the non existent dislike button. Thanks for making me want to cower in the corner and Rock back and forth for an hour or two...
    • Oldgoat_MN likes this

 

 

I really wish the Wonder Twins were making the call on this instead of Molly and Allen. I really have zero faith in either of them.

 

Thanks for filling in the gaps on the Berrios demotion. It's interesting how Falvey and Levine seem to be letting Molitor take the reins this spring.

 

There's no way Molitor and Allen are making these choices. They're just the public face that talks to the media. Falvey and Levine are involved but it's not their role to speak to the media day-to-day.

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Hosken Bombo Disco
Mar 26 2017 03:28 PM

There's no way Molitor and Allen are making these choices. They're just the public face that talks to the media. Falvey and Levine are involved but it's not their role to speak to the media day-to-day.

Well, neither of us know for sure, but there is a certain logic to Falvey and Levine deferring to Molitor this spring, given that Molitor (despite his biases) knows the players better and has the blessing of ownership to continue managing this season.. at least through April. :)

Also from the original post:

“I was of the opinion, and I think everyone was, that the lack of work and consistency of work ... to try and rush the buildup here in the last ten days to try and get him ready to try and be in that spot didn’t make a lot of sense to me,” said Molitor.

Honest question: what is ambiguous to you about this?

 

Well, neither of us know for sure, but there is a certain logic to Falvey and Levine deferring to Molitor this spring, given that Molitor (despite his biases) knows the players better and has the blessing of ownership to continue managing this season.. at least through April. :)

Also from the original post:
Honest question: what is ambiguous to you about this?

 

I'm not sure where you're going with this. I think this proves my point that Molitor and Allen aren't making these decisions. Falvey and Levine are in the room making the decision too, Molly just talks to the media. It's very much a team effort. Thus, when jud said the Wonder Twins were letting Molly and Allen make the decisions, that seemed off. Which is what I stated.

 

That make sense?

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Hosken Bombo Disco
Mar 26 2017 03:38 PM

I'm not sure where you're going with this. I think this proves my point that Molitor and Allen aren't making these decisions. Falvey and Levine are in the room making the decision too, Molly just talks to the media. It's very much a team effort. Thus, when jud said the Wonder Twins were letting Molly and Allen make the decisions, that seemed off. Which is what I stated.
 
That make sense?

No. Everything about that comment says that Molitor is making this decision.

Like I said, it wouldn't surprise me if Falvey and Levine are hands off this spring. It wouldn't thrill me but it would in fact explain a lot.

 

No. Everything about that comment says that Molitor is making this decision.

Like I said, it wouldn't surprise me if Falvey and Levine are hands off this spring. It wouldn't thrill me but it would in fact explain a lot.

 

It would stun me if Falvey and Levine were as hands off as you suggest. The might give a little extra weight to Molitor's opinion that they might not in the future, but it is their show.

 

Probably also a massive mistake to assume the moves you disagree with would be different if only Falvey and Levine were making it instead of Molitor.

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ashburyjohn
Mar 26 2017 03:42 PM

Only 2 of the runs Stewart gave up were earned. His defense did little to help him out, which is what happens when you walk a lot of guys.

Niko Goodrum had been doing well (at short) every time I watched him on the minor league fields, but the error he committed (at second) behind Stewart late in this game was just awful.

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Hosken Bombo Disco
Mar 26 2017 03:44 PM

It would stun me if Falvey and Levine were as hands off as you suggest. The might give a little extra weight to Molitor's opinion that they might not in the future, but it is their show.
 
Probably also a massive mistake to assume the moves you disagree with would be different if only Falvey and Levine were making it instead of Molitor.

How do you read that comment, then?

 

How do you read that comment, then?

 

Molitor is the public, day to day face of a group effort.

I always believed as a rule, that GM gave their managers the team, and they managed what they got. I know from listening to and about Gardenhire he wasn't that discreet about the fact he didn't get what he wanted for his roster.
    • Oldgoat_MN likes this
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Hosken Bombo Disco
Mar 26 2017 03:48 PM

Molitor is the public, day to day face of a group effort.

I get that, but it doesn't address the comment or my question.

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