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Week in Review: Bounceback in Baltimore

After being given the business at home by Toronto, the Minnesota Twins hit the road and handled their business, sweeping a bad Orioles team in Baltimore to salvage a winning week.

Your full breakdown lies ahead.
Image courtesy of Brad Rempel-USA TODAY Sports

Weekly Snapshot: Mon, 4/15 through Sun, 4/21

***

Record Last Week: 4-3 (Overall: 12-7)

Run Differential Last Week: +8 (Overall: +20)

Standing: 1st Place in AL Central (1.0 GA)

Willians Watch: 5-for-21 last week (Season AVG: .295)


Outscoring their opponents by eight over the past seven days, the Twins now find themselves tied with Houston for the third-best run differential in the American League. Minnesota has spent 12 out of 25 days since the season started in first place.

It was a positive week for Willians Watch, as La Tortuga delivered some big hits and – most importantly – saw plenty of playing time. Rocco Baldelli was quite creative in finding spots for the unconventional utilityman, who made appearances at four different positions (C, 1B, 3B, RF). More this, please.

HIGHLIGHTS

Last summer, as I put together these weekly recaps for Twins Daily, one practice became quite familiar: writing about Eddie Rosario in the "Highlights" section. It was a Sunday night tradition as reliable as pre-workweek dread. And Rosie has wasted no time resetting that routine here in 2019.

Following a strong finish to the previous week, Rosario was simply unconscious against the Blue Jays and Orioles, going 8-for-30 with six home runs, a double and nine RBIs. At one point, he launched five homers over a span of 11 plate appearances, and seven over a span of 24.

His monstrous performance during the doubleheader on Saturday was part of an 11-homer barrage by the Twins offense. Baltimore's pitching didn't navigate The Minefield very successfully.



Others who enjoyed strong offensive weeks:
  • C.J. Cron, who went 7-for-23 with a pair of homers and five RBIs, and has quickly pushed his OPS into the .800 range following a slow start
  • Byron Buxton, who collected six hits, all of them doubles. His total of 12 now leads the majors
  • Mitch Garver, who didn't see a ton of action (just two starts) but made the most of it with a double and two more home runs
  • Jorge Polanco, who went 7-for-22 with a 3-to-5 K/BB ratio and finished the week with the fourth-best batting average in the American League (.362)
  • Nelson Cruz, whose 7-for-24 owed mostly to a four-hit night on Saturday

After his victorious outing on Wednesday, Jake Odorizzi gave an in-depth self-assessment to The Athletic's Dan Hayes. "I think I'm a lot more consistent with these first four starts, just from stuff-wise, not results-wise, than any point last year," the right-handed opined. It can be tough to explain away poor outcomes without sounding like you're making excuses, but I think Odorizzi hit the right notes. And his confidence is warranted: Through his first four turns, he has held opponents to a .172 average with a blistering 14% swinging strike rate. Those are outstanding numbers.

Odorizzi's disastrous second start, on a cold and rainy night in New York, will inflate his overall numbers for a while. But if you take it away, he's got a 2.76 ERA and 20-to-6 K/BB ratio in 16 1/3 innings. He's generating whiffs at one of the highest rates in the league. If he can keep the bouts with control at bay, there's something special here. Monday's road date with the Astros presents a big test.

The most notable performer in the bullpen was actually Ryne Harper, who pitched three times and allowed zero runs on three singles while recording 15 outs. He's fast changing his narrative from "good story" to "good reliever."

LOWLIGHTS

It was a rough week for the bullpen. The unit's questionable depth came into frontal focus on Monday night, when Adalberto Mejia entered in the eighth inning with Minnesota protecting a two-run lead, and completely bombed. The left-hander allowed four runs before recording his first out, effectively turning a win into a loss.

Mejia is ostensibly slotted as more of a low-leverage long man in this pen, but Baldelli's hand was forced by necessity: Blake Parker, Taylor Rogers and Trevor May had all thrown 20-plus pitches the previous day, while Trevor Hildenberger was coming off appearances on consecutive days.

But those types of situations are going to arise often, and the Twins need to be ready for them. They can ill afford to have a single reliever on the roster they can't trust. To his credit, Mejia bounced back with a solid scoreless outing two days later.

Tuesday night featured another bullpen botching. After Rosario tied the game with an invigorating three-run bomb, May came on for the seventh and just couldn't throw strikes. He gave up a single and walked the bases loaded before giving way to Hildenberger, who's been thrown into some obscene pressure spots early on. This time Hildy couldn't bail the Twins out, as Teoscar Hernandez's two-run single was the difference-maker in another loss.

Betraying the high expectations he set with a dazzling showing in 2018, May just hasn't looked right this year. His command seems to go amiss every other outing. Swinging strikes are way down. And to whatever extent body language matters, his hasn't really inspired confidence since the start of spring.

Of course, this is a guy who had thrown 25 total innings in the past two years coming into 2019. Hopefully he just needs a little time to settle into his groove. There's no question that he's an absolutely critical factor in a successful turnaround for this relief corps.

TRENDING STORYLINE

For the foreseeable future, it seems likely the bullpen will be this team's most pressing issue – specifically, what the front office can do to bolster it. Fernando Romero wasn't overly impressive during his brief appearance on Saturday. Tyler Duffey (while intriguing) is probably not the answer for late-game leverage. The current IL members (Matt Magill, Addison Reed, Gabriel Moya) can't be counted on for much. If the Twins want to sustain in the division race, they absolutely must avoid leaning too hard on their top relievers early on, which means infusing more high-quality depth.

Naturally, there is a continual fan focus on Craig Kimbrel, given his availability in free agency. I myself favor the idea of pursuing the trade market, where the Twins could procure a prime-aged player with multiple years of control on reasonable financial terms. Through savvy drafting and "sell" moves, Minnesota's front office has built up considerable prospect depth in the minors. If the Twins can acquire an equivalent talent to Ryan Pressly, for an equivalent price that Houston paid, they should be looking to make that move at least once.

Granted, it's early for in-season dealing. But the landscape has never been better, with so many teams unabashed in their tanking intent. Indeed, reports are already arising that the hopelessly irrelevant Giants are open for business:



There are impact arms in that bullpen. Will Smith, Sam Dyson and Nick Vincent, to name a few. And as it happens, the Twins have already swung two trades with San Francisco in the last month (Michael Reed and Tyler Austin). One would hope Thad Levine is already getting on the horn.

DOWN ON THE FARM

For two members of this system's "Big Three," the 2019 season is off to a low-key start. Alex Kirilloff still hasn't played as he recovers from a wrist ailment, and Royce Lewis is hitting .214/.357/.286 at Fort Myers. But there's been nothing quiet about Brusdar Graterol's arrival at Double-A.

The 20-year-old flamethrower was flat-out brilliant on Tuesday night, hurling seven shutout innings with one hit, one walk, and eight strikeouts. Our guy Tom (whose Twitter account is an absolute must-follow for any Twins fan on the platform) has the grisly highlights:



Through three starts at Pensacola, Graterol has allowed one run on seven hits in 17 1/3 innings. If things keep going this way, there's no telling how quickly he could become a factor in the majors.

LOOKING AHEAD

Orioles, Astros, Orioles, Astros. A weird quirk in the schedule (which have been plentiful early on) has the Twins alternating between these two opponents exclusively for a two-week period. It'll be interesting to see what they do on Wednesday; Jose Berrios was slated to start, but with Friday's rainout he'll be on three days rest. For the purpose of my probable listings below, I'm assuming the Twins slot in another starter (Mejia?) and push everyone else back a day.

MONDAY, 4/22: TWINS @ ASTROS – RHP Jake Odorizzi v. RHP Brad Peacock
TUESDAY, 4/23: TWINS @ ASTROS – RHP Michael Pineda v. LHP Wade Miley
WEDNESDAY, 4/24: TWINS @ ASTROS – TBD v. RHP Justin Verlander
FRIDAY, 4/26: ORIOLES @ TWINS – RHP Dan Straily v. RHP Jose Berrios
SATURDAY, 4/27: ORIOLES @ TWINS – RHP Alex Cobb v. LHP Martin Perez
SUNDAY, 4/28: ORIOLES @ TWINS – RHP Dylan Bundy v. RHP Kyle Gibson

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30 Comments

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Lasorda_This_Out
Apr 21 2019 10:09 PM

12-7 on April 21st...better than anybody expected.

Keuchel/Kimbrel?Pass.

 

MLB semi-elite? No doubt. MLB semi-doubts? No doubt.

 

Fight tooth and nail the next 2 1/2 months, and then be super aggressive at the Trade Deadline...

 

Best way to the playoffs....not reacting in April...good start or bad start.

    • Dman likes this
Now 7-0 against KC, DET, and BAL. 5-7 against rest of schedule. On to Houston.
    • Mike Sixel, h2oface, KGB and 1 other like this
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Nick Nelson
Apr 21 2019 10:42 PM

 

Best way to the playoffs....not reacting in April...good start or bad start.

It's not a reaction to April. You might accuse it of being confirmation bias, but I don't think so.

 

Many people (most?) were questioning this bullpen's ability to stack up as needed since before the season started. What we're seeing is very much expected, and the problem is real. Frankly, they've been bailed out so far by plentiful off-days, and Rogers/Hildy putting out fires. 

 

Failing to be proactive, and letting these things spiral without being addressed, is how a season can go off the rails. 

    • USAFChief, birdwatcher, Mike Sixel and 11 others like this

The most notable performer in the bullpen was actually Ryne Harper, who pitched three times and allowed zero runs on three singles while recording 15 outs. He's fast changing his narrative from "good story" to "good reliever."

 

It seems the rest of the story is left out again. Harper was also 2/3 (5/8 on the season) inherited runners scored for the week, coming in against Toronto on Tuesday to bail out Gibson and hold the fort with runners on 1st and 2nd with one out and the Twins only down 2-1 in the 6th ..... and let them both score with a pair of singles before he walks away with a 0.00 ERA (a 2/2 outing). Am I the only one that thinks that is a big part of a reliever's story - the inherited-runners scored - and should always be included in a discussion of their perfomance? The Twins lost the game by one... 6-5, so those two runs that were charged to Gibson but let in by Harper, were significant.

 

Harper came in in the 4th with 2 outs and a runner on second on Thursday after Pineda had just imploded and turned a 3-1 lead into a 6-3 deficit, and struck Galvis out swinging on 4 pitches. Harper continued to pitch 3 more stellar innings, and kept the score at 6-3. Now that was impressive, albeit with a much lower pressure threshold. I really hope Harper continues to improve and baffle. We certainly need it in the pen.

    • Mike Sixel, LA VIkes Fan, mikelink45 and 3 others like this
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Nine of twelve
Apr 22 2019 06:28 AM

 

Now 7-0 against KC, DET, and BAL. 5-7 against rest of schedule. On to Houston.

If they do as well against the White Sox as against these three teams they should be in pretty good shape.

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Old Twins Cap
Apr 22 2019 07:02 AM

Early, we don't know much.

 

Like, is Baltimore a terrible team? Not clear the way they played Boston and New York. But, how good are Boston and New York? Don't know.

 

Toronto gets some breaks at Target Field, Twins don't hit and Toronto take three of four, and then sweep Oakland out west. How good Toronto? Hard to say.

 

Things swing wildly the first months.

 

Twins will hit homers. Defense is solid to excellent. Pitching? Don't know.

 

Cleveland? Great starters, decent bullpen, weak on offense. Hard to repeat.

 

Division for the taking if Twins can pitch.

    • DocBauer, Original Whizzinator and bunt_vs_the_shift like this
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nicksaviking
Apr 22 2019 07:19 AM

Nick Vincent signed a MiLB deal, had the Twins been interested in him they could have easily had him a month ago. Sam Dyson doesn't historically miss many bats, that doesn't sound like a pitcher on this new-era Twins. If the Giants aren't moving Will Smith now, I don't see much of a fit at the moment.

    • Mike Sixel likes this

Things swing wildly the first months.

Contenders also lose unexpectedly to cellar-dwellers in August and September. It's a long season with many ups and downs. I'm in agreement with your main point, though, not to get too worked up or enthused at this time.

    • DocBauer, mickeymental, wsnydes and 1 other like this

I'll take .600 ball, regardless of the opposition.

    • Mike Sixel, LA VIkes Fan, mickeymental and 3 others like this
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MMMordabito
Apr 22 2019 09:15 AM

A sweep is good medicine for the foul feeling you get after losing a series that you think you should have won.

 

Toronto is hot, and like the old saying goes - "It isn't always who you play, but when you play them."(Can we switch our schedule and go to the Bronx this week?)

 

The Twins bullpen is lacking in depth, but they are still currently tied for the third best record in MLB. Knock on wood, the team is staying healthy since the regular season started.Every team has their issues - some more than others.  

 

I'm certainly happy that the Twins don't have the Yankees' IL that's looking to compete with the weight of Johnny Cash's Cadillac title, and it's also nice that they don't have to call career 582 OPS Pedro Severino to pinch hit for career 579 OPS Cedric Mullins when the game is on the line.

 

 

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bunt_vs_the_shift
Apr 22 2019 09:28 AM

I'm a believer in body language, so the body language comment on May is interesting. I haven't noticed any poor body language stand out, but I haven't been looking either. I also didn't see the game yesterday, so I'm curious how he looked in his scoreless inning and whether/how much that differed from the following inning given the results? This is going to be on my radar looking forward and I really hope he can figure it out, because we're going to need guys like May to step up! 

 

As a separate observation, I love the Ryne Harper story, but Jack Morris was commenting the other night on how he's got very little margin with his fastball and this seems spot on. As good as his array of curveballs look, I think Jack's take is on point. I'll be pulling for him and I'd love for Harper to be Matt Guerrier 2.0, but he's going to have to stay effective with some other pitches to do so.

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Aerodeliria
Apr 22 2019 10:16 AM
While it's true that these are early days, the pressure on everyone is eased when the team is 12-7 rather than 7-12. If we play + .500 over the next three series, we'll be in good shape. The Astros are playing well, but not lights out. They are bound to lose at home soon. Let's hope the Twins deliver there first home losses for 2019.
    • Dman, DocBauer, Minny505 and 3 others like this
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The Mask of Zoilo
Apr 22 2019 12:06 PM
In looking at bullpen team stats, theres room for some hope. Theyre second in bullpen WAR, second in lowest hard hit rate, second in highest soft hit rate, third in highest BABIP. This suggests that a lot of softly hit balls are falling in for hits and that a regression to the mean can happen to their benefit. They also are truly bad at BB/9 rate (24th) and any improvement at reducing that along with maintaining weak contact and things could start looking better.
    • Mike Sixel, raindog, Dman and 3 others like this

"If the Twins can acquire an equivalent talent to Ryan Pressly, for an equivalent price that Houston paid, they should be looking to make that move at least once."

 

Or we could have just kept him in the first place.......

    • DocBauer likes this
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Nick Nelson
Apr 22 2019 02:45 PM

 

"If the Twins can acquire an equivalent talent to Ryan Pressly, for an equivalent price that Houston paid, they should be looking to make that move at least once."

 

Or we could have just kept him in the first place.......

Preaching the choir, my friend.

 

I still hear people say it was a good trade. My question: is there any chance you would NOT make the same deal in reverse today? (Sending out Alcala & Celestino for Pressly.) You do it in instant, right? Not a second thought. So how can we really call it a good trade?

    • USAFChief, h2oface, adorduan and 2 others like this
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TheLeviathan
Apr 22 2019 03:05 PM

 

Preaching the choir, my friend.

 

I still hear people say it was a good trade. My question: is there any chance you would NOT make the same deal in reverse today? (Sending out Alcala & Celestino for Pressly.) You do it in instant, right? Not a second thought. So how can we really call it a good trade?

 

Because your scenario takes a number of factors out of the trade that are relevant: like the performance of the team, team control, etc.Context matters a lot and rarely can you push that hypothetical fairly without a ton of caveats.

 

It may well end up a bad trade.But we could go get Sam Dyson right now and we'd all feel a lot better right?Ain't the end of the world.

    • DocBauer, howieramone2 and Original Whizzinator like this
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Original Whizzinator
Apr 22 2019 03:48 PM

"If the Twins can acquire an equivalent talent to Ryan Pressly, for an equivalent price that Houston paid, they should be looking to make that move at least once."
 
Or we could have just kept him in the first place.......

Let's not forget how frustrating he was for the bulk of his Twins tenure.
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The Mask of Zoilo
Apr 22 2019 03:49 PM

Because your scenario takes a number of factors out of the trade that are relevant: like the performance of the team, team control, etc.Context matters a lot and rarely can you push that hypothetical fairly without a ton of caveats.
 
It may well end up a bad trade.But we could go get Sam Dyson right now and we'd all feel a lot better right?Ain't the end of the world.


Yeah the trade was for one year of control of Pressley. Then he signed a 2/17.5 million extension starting in 2020, which is fair but projecting relievers 3 years out is risky. Then again, we seem to have received more return for two months of Escobar.

Preaching the choir, my friend.

I still hear people say it was a good trade. My question: is there any chance you would NOT make the same deal in reverse today? (Sending out Alcala & Celestino for Pressly.) You do it in instant, right? Not a second thought. So how can we really call it a good trade?


Are a lot of people calling it a good trade, or like me, are many simply saying it's too early to call it a bad trade? There is a big difference.
And no, I personally wouldn't make that trade in reverse. I'd never trade a legit prospect for a reliever, ever.
As a whole, I understand the increased value of bullpens, but on an individual level, they are still too inconsistent and unpredictable.
With no data, just my impression, you seem to see far more good relief pitchers suddenly fall off a cliff than you do any other position.

Waiting is truly overrated. To me, doesn't matter how Alcala & Celestino ever become in the future. The Pressly trade made our team worse. We need him NOW and for the next few years.... not maybe in 2 or 3 years, or maybe even more (and then go through several years of inconsistency, like Pressly, before becoming a player like Pressly had become, and worth a trade for another team). We already had a need, and the trade made it worse. Alcala & Celestino may be great (I'll take money that they won't and won't even make the show....) and they may be a bust. Doesn't matter. This trade did not make the team better. If and when they might, it still doesn't matter, because it made this team worse. Could our staff had helped Pressly develop further? I don't know. They had their chance for years. That is the only question I have.

    • USAFChief, DocBauer and Aerodeliria like this

 

Let's not forget how frustrating he was for the bulk of his Twins tenure.

 

It only makes me think of how frustrating, for years time 2, that Alcala & Celestino will be if and when they even make it to the show. Wait 3 to 4 years for them to show up, and then inconsistent and frustrating for a couple more....... I want to forget about that already.

 

 

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Nick Nelson
Apr 22 2019 05:42 PM

 

Because your scenario takes a number of factors out of the trade that are relevant: like the performance of the team, team control, etc.Context matters a lot and rarely can you push that hypothetical fairly without a ton of caveats.

What context am I missing? Obviously it's an unrealistic hypothetical because no one's going to reverse a trade one year later, but the core components remain the same: you're trading a guy who's, right now, one of the most dominant relief pitchers in the league, and controllable beyond the current season, for a couple of long-shot projects. 

 

It would've made sense if the Twins were going to be non-factors this year, or got back anything resembling a surefire prospect, or if they were committed to making an offseason addition that might fill Pressly's void, but none of those things were true. 

    • USAFChief and h2oface like this
A lot of great news and great points of discussion!

1] You can't just "take away" a bad start, in the case of Odorizzi. But in the course of a season, there will absolutely be clunkers. And as early as the season still is, removing that clunker shows a guy actually throwing pretty well. His problem, thus far, is a sudden loss of control mid-game. Why and how does it get fixed is the question. I would prefer him as my 5th SP, not my 4th, but he is solid if the sudden control hiccups can be curtailed.

2] Offensively, we have seen the potential of this team. I maintain the offense is just heating up. Someone, in another thread, and I forget now who, pointed out we had such a high OPS that regression seemed inevitable. I don't disagree with that. The point is a few guys have been white hot and a few guys are just starting to really warm up. Meaning, overall, IMO, the lineup becomes more balanced and deeper as everyone starts to perform to their ability.

3] Bullpen. Ugh! Its an ongoing issue, right? I still say its been better than at least I expected, despite a couple blown games. May is a huge key. His stuff is way too good to be struggling the way he has been. Not sure what's holding him back. But a mkre steady May does a lot! It's easy to say Mejia is here because he's out of options. But he's here because his stuff is good! About a month in, we've seen very good and very bad from Mejia. Can attitude, (Not a bad one, just accepting his role), and Johnson smooth him out to be more consistent with his stuff? If those 2 can settle in, this pen suddenly has 5 pretty good arms available. And it's not exactly far-fetched to see that happening.

I absolutely agree with h2oface in regard to inherited runners scoring. And Harper should be more than a good story with good but perhaps skewed numbers at this point. But he shows potential. You have to start somewhere. But I would refrain from cannonizing him at this point. But, a rookie, a possible find, still only in the first 30 days of the season, I wouldn't villianize him yet either.

You need and should have 5 guys you can count on. We aren't there yet, but could be. You need one guy who has a role and is solid in that role. It's OK, even on great clubs, to have a 7th spot rotating from various prospects and the such. Unfortunately, we aren't there yet.

Brings me to point #4.

4] Pressly. To this day, I wouldn't have made that trade. Pressly was not always good/great. We need to remember that! The FO felt the deal was too good to pass up. Maybe so. Time will tell. But trading from weakness is never smart, IMO. He could be that one extra arm we really need right now. Instead, we are waiting for Romero, or someone else, to step forward or make a move for help at some point.

May settles down, so does Mejia, and at least one of Reed, Magill, Reed, Romero, or someone else steps forward, we are suddenly taking a deep and welcoming breath. But I would have stuck with what I had.
    • h2oface and Aerodeliria like this
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TheLeviathan
Apr 22 2019 08:33 PM

 

What context am I missing? 

 

It would've made sense if the Twins were going to be non-factors this year, or got back anything resembling a surefire prospect, or if they were committed to making an offseason addition that might fill Pressly's void, but none of those things were true. 

 

You mean all the things you said in that last paragraph?Those.Along with the context of the position the team was at the time of the trade vs. now.How much time has passed matters.

 

In three years and Alcala is a fringe all-star starter?Hell yeah I make that trade again.It's just not a fair way to frame the discussion.I'd prefer we talk about how dealing him, with no effort in the offseason, is the problem.It's the sum total of action/inaction.

    • Danchat likes this
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Aerodeliria
Apr 22 2019 10:10 PM

I just thought we wanted to dump Pressly in mea culpa fashion. No one can argue that when he put on the orange and blue, he was suddenly lights out. I must blame that on how Pressly was used in MN--whether it was a mental issue, a physical issue or a pitch selection issue (I prefer this latter argument).

 

Was it a bad trade? I can't predict the future, but we got prospects for a solid reliever. Houston snapped that up like like a dog with a rib-eye, but was it the worst of all of the deals we made last year? IMHO, hands down.


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