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Front Page: Twins Game Recap (8/24): Sano 3-Run Bomba, Bu...

Minnesota Twins Talk Today, 09:30 PM
The Twins trailed the Tigers 4-1 heading into the bottom of the fifth inning tonight at Target Field, but Miguel Sano smashed a go-ahead...
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Front Page: Twins 2019 Draft Pick To Have Tommy John Surgery

Twins Minor League Talk Today, 09:26 PM
Unfortunate news from the Minnesota Twins minor league system came out on Saturday night. According to Le Soliel, a French Canadian newsp...
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Game Thread "David" Twins vs. Tigers 6:10pm edt 8...

Minnesota Twins Talk Today, 09:25 PM
Top 10 rejected game thread intro ideas: 10. Pig latin. 9. Rip Van Winkle 8. The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly. 7. Thesis abstract. 6. Prop...
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Can we please put Cron on DL?

Minnesota Twins Talk Today, 09:03 PM
He needs a stint in the DL. Get someone else up to play first base other than Adrianza.
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Front Page: Twins Minor League Report (8/24): Gray, Webb...

Twins Minor League Talk Today, 09:03 PM
In the Twins minor leagues on Saturday night, the E-Twins were on the road but got a huge late-inning home run to take a lead. In Cedar R...
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Week in Review: Digging Holes

Over the past week, Minnesota had an opportunity to solidify its legitimacy as contenders with matchups against quality competition in front of home crowds at Target Field. Instead, the Twins stumbled through their worst week of the year, casting serious doubt on their championship viability while watching a long-held division lead evaporate.

Let's assess the damage.
Image courtesy of Jesse Johnson-USA TODAY Sports

Weekly Snapshot: Mon, 8/5 through Sun, 8/11

***

Record Last Week: 2-5 (Overall: 71-47)

Run Differential Last Week: -14 (Overall: +127)

Standing: Tied for 1st Place in AL Central

Willians Watch: Out Indefinitely


Exactly one week after losing Byron Buxton to a shoulder injury that will likely sideline him through at least the end of August, the Twins sustained another devastating blow with the loss of Nelson Cruz, who came up wincing on a swing-and-miss in Thursday's opener against Cleveland. Prior to last week, Cruz had almost single-handedly powered Minnesota through a 7-2 stretch against the Marlins, White Sox, and Royals with eight homers and 19 RBIs. His diagnosis of a ruptured tendon is actually being portrayed as relatively positive news, but we'll see.

The Twins have fumbled away an opportunity to show something against quality competition since the All-Star break, sandwiching their successful run against the aforementioned basement-dwellers with a 7-12 record against the Mets, A's, Yankees, Braves, and Indians. The lack of effectiveness against these teams is going to make it hard for anyone to feel confident in Minnesota's outlook for the postseason, even if they're able to ride a soft remaining schedule to a division title or wild-card berth.

Outside of Cruz going down, the past week in roster moves was a medley of pitching switches. Cody Stashak was optioned on Tuesday to make room for Kohl Stewart, who himself was sent back down the next day in exchange for Randy Dobnak. On Friday, Stashak was recalled to fill Cruz's vacant roster spot. The Twins aren't exactly trafficking distinguished arms here, but Dobnak's excellent debut on Friday was (as we'll discuss shortly) a shining beam of positivity amidst a pall of darkness.

HIGHLIGHTS

The week started on a high note, as Miguel Sano extended his resurgent offensive tear with one of the season's biggest hits: a walk-off, two-run homer to beat the Braves at Target Field on Monday. He entered the game with a .901 OPS since the start of June – trailing only Cruz (1.145) and Max Kepler (.909) among Twins hitters. Sano's production tailed off in the latter part of the week, as he went 1-for-14 with with seven strikeouts against Cleveland, but he has rightfully earned his way up to the No. 3 spot in the order with a discerning, punishing plate approach that closely resembles the pre-injury version of himself.

Sano's return to form, along with the continuing emergence of Luis Arraez (six more hits last week, including the ninth-inning single that set up Sano's walk-off), has been hugely invigorating for an offense that's otherwise seen several important contributors get hurt or cool off. Sano and Arraez are the straws stirring the drink right now.

Pitching-wise it was not a good week in general, but Jake Odorizzi certainly deserves credit for coming up with his best start in two months on Monday, when he held Atlanta to one run over six innings, even though it took him a season-high 109 pitches to accomplish it. He followed with another strong – albeit inefficient – effort on Saturday, tossing 5 2/3 scoreless innings while showing renewed life on his splitter and compiling 17 whiffs.

Odorizzi has rebounded nicely after his nine-run clunker against the Yankees in late July, allowing two runs (and only one homer) over 17 1/3 innings in three starts since.

The other big highlight of the week, especially for those who love a good underdog story, was the arrival of Dobnak. The 24-year-old right-hander originally came to the Twins organization from an independent league after going undrafted out of college. Despite lacking standout stuff or big strikeout rates, Dobnak rapidly cruised through the minors, opening this season at Single-A and jolting to the majors within four months on the strength of his stifling performance: 11-3 with a 2.02 ERA and 0.98 WHIP between three levels.

In his MLB debut on Friday, Dobnak lived up to his statistical profile. He got a few swings and misses but was more dependent on weak contact, unleashing a bevy of sinkers in the zone en route to four shutout innings.



When Eddie Rosario went deep with a solo shot on Friday night, it marked a new franchise record for home runs, surpassing the 225 benchmark set by Harmon Killebrew, Bob Allison, and the 1963 Twins.



With more than seven weeks remaining on the schedule, this was undeniably a remarkable and impressive feat, but somehow it felt hollow amidst another frustrating week that exposed Minnesota's inability to overcome quality opponents on the basis of this one-dimensional advantage.

LOWLIGHTS

Outside of Odorizzi, we saw the bottom fall out for the Twins rotation last week. A feisty and tenacious offense did its part but could not dig out of the massive holes built by starters who simply wilted against good lineups in critical spots.

On Tuesday, Jose Berrios turned in one of the worst starts of his career, coughing up a whopping nine runs (all earned) over 5 2/3 innings against the Braves. His night started with a home run on the first pitch to Ronald Acuna, and hardly got any better from there as he issued a season-high four walks while yielding nine hits. In his second start of the week on Sunday, Berrios showed improvement, getting through six frames with three runs allowed, but still looked nothing like the ace Minnesota needs him to be. Fighting through diminished velocity and a scarcity of swinging strikes, Berrios is setting off alarm bells right now.

On Wednesday, Martin Perez dropped yet another dud, allowing seven runs (six earned) on 11 hits in six innings versus Atlanta. It was the lefty's third time in his last four starts allowing 5+ ER and 3 HR, further endangering a seemingly precarious rotation spot. After coming up with five quality starts in his first seven turns through May 17th, Perez has since delivered only three QS in 13 starts.

Bumping him to the bullpen would be a mere formality at this point if a clear upgrade were readily available. But Michael Pineda remains on the IL and Devin Smeltzer tarnished his case on Friday with a thrashing at the hands of Cleveland, coughing up seven runs (six earned) in just 4 1/3 innings in a game that could've taken a major toll on the bullpen if not for Dobnak. We've seen a lot of good from Smeltzer this year, but his two letdowns have been exceedingly painful since both came against the Indians. Makes it a little tough to count on him.

All those lowlights aside, the biggest flub of the week from my perspective was Kyle Gibson's start on Thursday to kick off the Cleveland series. It wasn't the worst performance we saw from a Twins pitcher but given all the circumstances, I view it as maybe the low point of Gibson's career in Minnesota.

All of Gibson's worst traits were on display in a tone-setting struggle against Cleveland's lineup. He was constantly timid around the zone, piling up six walks in 4 1/3 innings while throwing more balls (43) than strikes (42). His tenseness on the mound manifested in the second when he botched a pickoff throw, allowing a run to score.

I've always considered myself a Gibby defender. He's a homegrown, drafted-and-developed pitcher who's been a quality organizational citizen – a likable guy that embraced analytics and outside-the-box techniques to reinvent himself. He's an above-average starter who occasionally flashes dominance, and I personally believe he has earned the opportunity to play a key role in Minnesota's first real playoff push since he's been in the majors.

But he's running out of time to alter the narrative that he can't get it done against dangerous lineups when the team really needs him to step up. This latest outing was unfortunately the kind that may well end up defining his legacy with the Twins. There are few series remaining against offenses that pose a real threat, and if Gibson can't buck his trend and come through in those opportunities (starting with Milwaukee on Wednesday), he probably won't get a chance to bolster his legacy – and free agent stock – in the postseason.

TRENDING STORYLINE

Our worst fears have been realized. The Twins have seen what was once an 11.5-game lead in the AL Central vanish entirely. Despite some grumblings to the contrary, this is due to Cleveland's torrid play more than any ostensible "collapse" from Minnesota, whose degradation from unstoppable force in the early months to a merely mortal and solid unit still leaves them 24 games above .500, and on a 97-win pace.

With that said, this team is clearly confronting a moment of truth. They are watching their once-firm grasp on the Central disappear before their very eyes. The Twins are playing their worst ball of the season as the Indians play their best, and as a result, a division title – and even a playoff entry – are very much in doubt.

The front office didn't take especially decisive action at the deadline, and while your mileage may vary on this strategy, I'm okay with protecting prime minor-league assets. Sustainability is an important consideration. Having said that, this is a crucial window of opportunity. You can't assume you'll find yourself in this position next year. The Twins need to do whatever they can to maximize their chances, not just of reaching October but of making a run there.

Does that mean taking the drastic step of, say, calling up Alex Kirilloff or Trevor Larnach from Double-A? Larnach has been raking in August and Kirilloff's pure raw talent supersedes his ordinary numbers. These are lightning-in-a-bottle type additions capable of sparking a lineup that feels very incomplete sans Buxton and Cruz.

An even more intriguing option, given the club's needs, would be Brusdar Graterol, the flame-throwing righty who returned to the Double-A mound last week, striking out three of the six batters he faced in a relief appearance for the Blue Wahoos. This pitching staff needs a difference-maker. Graterol could be it. And the silver lining of his shoulder injury, which sidelined him for more than two months, is that the downtime kept his innings total in check.

The problem, in any of these scenarios, is twofold: First, you're talking about throwing inexperienced youngsters who are still acclimating to the Double-A level into a major-league pennant race. It's an insane amount of pressure, and the kind of thing that could adversely affect development if it goes poorly. Second, you're starting the service clock on players who are still probably a ways away from being full-time big-league contributors. In the case of Graterol, who's still just 20 years old, you'd be setting him up to potentially be out of options by age 23.

Then again, those are the kinds of risks you necessarily take when you're in it. And the Twins are very much in it. We'll see hold bold this regime can be.

DOWN ON THE FARM

If the Twins were feeling hints of buyer's remorse for the Sergio Romo trade, which sent prospect Lewin Diaz to the Marlins, they might have gotten some relief over the weekend. Yes, Diaz has been on an absolute tear since joining Miami's Double-A affiliate, with five home runs in 13 games. And the pitching prospect Minnesota got back in the swap, Chris Vallimont, was shelled in his first start for the Miracle. But Romo's been very good and Vallimont bounced back in a big way on Friday, carrying a no-hitter into the eighth and finishing with seven superlative innings.

Diaz definitely looks like a player, but all-in-all, the Twins will happily swap out a defensively limited hitter for pitching upside at this point. Vallimont has some real steam in prospect circles and in his second start with his new organization, he showed why.

Speaking of pitchers, one other development worth watching on the minor-league front: Trevor Hildenberger opened up a rehab stint in the Gulf Coast League on Saturday, logging a scoreless inning against the Red Sox affiliate. It was his first official appearance since June 8th. Who knows what to expect from Hildenberger at this point, but if he can find any semblance of his old form it could provide a much-needed infusion for the big-league bullpen. Stephen Gonsalves also returned to the mound in the GCL following a long injury layoff, but seems much less likely to be a factor for the Twins down the stretch.

LOOKING AHEAD

Another tough week awaits, with Minnesota heading across the border to face Christian Yelich and the Brewers, then traveling south for four games against Texas in the August Arlington heat. These aren't great teams, but they're good teams, and both will present a brisk challenge for the reeling Twins. Afterwards, the schedule gets much easier – 12 straight games against the White Sox and Tigers – but a winning week ahead will be important, both for keeping pace with the unrelenting Indians, and for restoring confidence.

TUESDAY, 8/13: TWINS @ BREWERS – LHP Martin Perez v. RHP Chase Anderson
WEDNESDAY, 8/14: TWINS @ BREWERS – RHP Kyle Gibson v. LHP Gio Gonzalez
THURSDAY, 8/15: TWINS @ RANGERS – LHP Devin Smeltzer v. RHP Pedro Payano
FRIDAY, 8/16: TWINS @ RANGERS – RHP Jake Odorizzi v. LHP Mike Minor
SATURDAY, 8/17: TWINS @ RANGERS – RHP Jose Berrios v. RHP Ariel Jurado
SUNDAY, 8/18: TWINS @ RANGERS – LHP Martin Perez v. RHP Lance Lynn

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18 Comments

Perez has pitched himself out of the rotation, if we have someone else ... which is the issue.

 

Gibson has to decide whether he believes in his "stuff"; he pitches like he doesn't. All those pick off attempts (one of which he eventually threw away ...) - pitchers throw to bases when they don't want to throw to the plate. Frank Viola supposedly figured out he was "good enough" when he was told to throw it down the middle & "let's see if they can hit it" (and they didn't, so much).Gibson's not as good as Frankie was, but he's not going to be given the ball if he won't throw strikes.

 

Berrios' arm is getting tired, or something - his velocity is down, and that's not good.

 

The whole staff (by and large) struggled against Cleveland.WAY TOO MANY WALKS .... what's with that?

 

The "story" of late hasn't been the offense so much ... pitching hasn't been "contender quality" for a while. Too many guys not throwing strikes.

    • mikelink45 likes this
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diehardtwinsfan
Aug 11 2019 08:53 PM

I'd say Smeltzer has earned an extended look. Why not bump Perez to the pen and give Semltzer a few starts?

    • mikelink45, Dman, Minny505 and 2 others like this
I’d throw Thorpe on Tuesday in Milwaukee.
    • pbrezeasap, Dantes929, mikelink45 and 5 others like this

Week In Review:Exploring Inside the Already Dug Hole (for pitching...still...)

I couldn't be more happy or Dobnak.....

 

But professional scouts will watch video of him, relay the info to there teams and they will make adjustments and...

 

Enough of that...like I said...couldn't be more happy for Dobnak...

    • JW24, mikelink45, bighat and 2 others like this

This weekend was a perfect preview of a potential playoff series.

 

One team got solid pitching performances, manufactured runs however they could get them and played fundamentally sound baseball. 

 

The other team swung for the fences, ran themselves out of rallies and made mistakes in the field. 

Cleveland played baseball, the Twins played like a slow-pitch softball team. The Twins are a fun story and it's been great to see them be competitive for the first time in forever, but this weekend showed us what type of team it takes to win the big games. 

    • mikelink45 and rkevin like this

Last week is over. 6 games on the road against Milwaukee and Texas are huge games before the Twins get a couple of weeks against the White Sox and Detroit again.

 

Cleveland has played incredible baseball since June to catch the Twins in the standings, and they are a better team overall. They only have to be 1 game better than the Twins for the rest of the season to take the central, so hopefully the Twins make that really difficult for them to do.

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lukeduke1980
Aug 12 2019 07:10 AM

Cleveland to me added insult to injury by showing that no only have they developed Clevinger and Bieber in the last couple years that they can even call up this guy Civale yesterday for his 2nd big league start and he could be next.He had good command and kept the Twins bats off balance and made them chase pitches near the zone. 

    • mikelink45 likes this

I have said this in another post, but your excellent summary makes me think it again.Since we have this charter flight from Rochester (just kidding) lined up lets use it more.Start Thorpe, start Littell, Start Smeltzer.Pair them with Gibson, Perez, Pineda, Odorizzi and Berrios - in other words ready two starters per game and stop letting starters give up 6 - 9 runs.I do not know if there are any other Minor league starters who can fill this role (Graterol?)

 

Bring up Graterol - it is a chancy thing, but we did not take any chances in the trade deadline so reach down and go for it.Short relief with his power should be good.

 

Fix the Outfield - Cave is not doing it and putting infielders out there is not doing it.Even more than Larnach and Kiriloff I would like to see a really good CFer who can bring some defense back.

 

These are not outrageous moves. Arraez had demonstrated what a young player potentially can do.

    • Minny505, Original Whizzinator and LeePinLee like this

I think the Twins seriously need to think about taking a page out of the Rays' playbook and start using the "Opener" strategy moving forward. Imagine going with Duffey in the 1st, Thorpe or Dubrovni-whats-his-name in the 2nd & 3rd, Perez for the 4-5-6 and see what you've got from there.

 

At this point you have to get creative with this pitching staff. Because right now, 3/5 of this starting rotation is not giving the Twins any chance to win. Solution? Stop letting them start games.

    • lukeduke1980, Minny505, bunt_vs_the_shift and 1 other like this

Right now, need to put together a pitching staff that is dependable. When you look at the Indians series, the Twins were outscored 28 to 23. It doesn't say a lot for the Indians staff of pitchers, but even less for our own. The Indians have proven to be a threat at the plate in this middle third of the season and they can also manufacture runs on the basepaths.

 

I love that we are seeing new faces in the bullpen, all these minor league starters given relief stints. But looking at the guys overall (Dobnak, Stashak, Poppen, Stewart) I wonder if we see even a fourth or fifth starter in the bunch. Add in Smeltzer, who is unique to say the least, and Thorpe...well, just think...our #6-10 starters entering the season were Mejia, DeJong, Gonsalves, Littell, Stewart and even Slegers was briefly in the mix. How things change during a season in prospect land. Not to mention little talk now of Fernando Romero, and Jake Reed is all but forgotten as a future bullpen arm (like Tyler Jay).

 

The thing is, when you are contending, you MUST be able to trust every single arm in the bullpen, and you also need a good bullpen mix. Yes, you can't predict what a pitcher WILL DO, but to have someone that is more of a groundball guy, or a fly ball guy, or a lights out strikeout king. And nothing says you CAN'T use a pitcher for one batter or one out. I still see Baldelli leaving in a starter to start an inning too much, or, like Rogers last night, he has loaded the bases but he could still get a double play and end the inning, or a ground out or pop up. Or maybe a strikeout (although at what point do you say "he doesn't have it" and bring in someone else who could get an out or give up a home run). You have to trust the pitchers and what they throw and contribute to the team. Seems we have been spending too much time building a bullpen of rookie arms that can just do the innings to protect the arms of the "important" guys, who are NOT needed if we don't have a lead.

 

The season has bascially started over for the Twins in the division. Be interesting to see where we end up 40+ games from now!

BTW, Milwaukee and Texas are not going to roll over for the Twins. This is a dangerous week.

    • ashbury likes this

Pineda is eligible to return to the rotation on Tuesday the 13th. If he's feeling ready to be a bada$$, I believe he will replace Perez in the rotation then. This gives Smeltzer a chance to prove he can be at least as effective as Perez, which I believe we can be.

Smeltzer will probably never be anything more than a 4th pitcher, but I'll take that over Perez, who has not shown any consistency as a starting pitcher to deserve a regular rotation spot since 2015. 

Perez is the guy we all thought he would be instead of the guy Falvine thought they could make him into. I mean, the first seven turns thru the rotation showed that the front office seemed correct in knowing how to fix him, but Perez just doesn't have the command to consistently be that guy.

I'm not going to fault the front office per say when they create a plan that clearly would work and the player not able to execute upon that plan. We all thought after the first couple months of the season that the FO was right. Now though, it's time to treat it as the sunk cost it is and try other pitchers or methodologies in hopes of not burying this team in a hole during the first half of the game.

    • bighat likes this
Starts and ends with starting pitching. Our rotation has stepped back instead of stepping up, every single one of 'em.
Jake O was more lucky than good in the one game they won. Makina showed signs, but somebody needs to step up, and now.
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yarnivek1972
Aug 12 2019 11:47 AM

Pineda is eligible to return to the rotation on Tuesday the 13th. If he's feeling ready to be a bada$$, I believe he will replace Perez in the rotation then. This gives Smeltzer a chance to prove he can be at least as effective as Perez, which I believe we can be.

Smeltzer will probably never be anything more than a 4th pitcher, but I'll take that over Perez, who has not shown any consistency as a starting pitcher to deserve a regular rotation spot since 2015.

Perez is the guy we all thought he would be instead of the guy Falvine thought they could make him into. I mean, the first seven turns thru the rotation showed that the front office seemed correct in knowing how to fix him, but Perez just doesn't have the command to consistently be that guy.

I'm not going to fault the front office per say when they create a plan that clearly would work and the player not able to execute upon that plan. We all thought after the first couple months of the season that the FO was right. Now though, it's time to treat it as the sunk cost it is and try other pitchers or methodologies in hopes of not burying this team in a hole during the first half of the game.


It will be interesting to see if that is how it plays out. Dyson is also eligible to return tomorrow.

 

Now though, it's time to treat it as the sunk cost it is and try other pitchers or methodologies in hopes of not burying this team in a hole during the first half of the game.

 

Agreed, but I think addressing "suck costs" is one of the hardest things for baseball FO's to do. This FO has dropped Parker, Morin, Allen, and others in what has looked like a good trend. However, expecting them to give up on Perez - even though it's as plain as day that they need to - is expecting a lot.

 

They're stuck with that small-market thinking, and they don't want to burn service time (ie: Buxton last year, Gaterol this year) on young players. Therefore, they leave the team out to die on that hill with Perez. They're so distracted by the forest, they can't see tree right in front of them.

Kyle Gibson had a stretch 3 years ago,I believe, when he had his best stuff.He did 2 things that were very obvious.

1. He challenged hitters with his fastball and slider.He didn't throw waste pitches 18" off the plate.Hitters had to protect the plate, and not take the obvious chase pitches.

If you throw a pitch so far off the plate, it's no longer a chase pitch for a majority big league hitters.

2. He had a nice pace to his pitching.He got theball back, got the sign, and fired.This constant walking around and rubbing the ball up,only puts the infielders back on their heels.The pitcher over thinks and tries to guide, rather than throw the ball.And it becomes unsufferable on the fans.Quick pace, I believe, affects the hitter into making quick, not necessarily good decisions.

 

Kyle Gibson had a stretch 3 years ago,I believe, when he had his best stuff.He did 2 things that were very obvious.

1. He challenged hitters with his fastball and slider.He didn't throw waste pitches 18" off the plate.Hitters had to protect the plate, and not take the obvious chase pitches.

If you throw a pitch so far off the plate, it's no longer a chase pitch for a majority big league hitters.

2. He had a nice pace to his pitching.He got theball back, got the sign, and fired.This constant walking around and rubbing the ball up,only puts the infielders back on their heels.The pitcher over thinks and tries to guide, rather than throw the ball.And it becomes unsufferable on the fans.Quick pace, I believe, affects the hitter into making quick, not necessarily good decisions.

I don't necessarily disagree, but it might be more layered than that. Maybe Gibson had success three years ago when he started going after batters, if the book on him was that he wouldn't. Later, if the book on him caught up, batters might have been jumping on pitches, causing him to back off. It's a game of constant adjustments - while on top of that, his problems with command are self-described as fatigue. It is indeed frustrating to see how many of his pitches have no chance of accomplishing anything - someone needs to invest a stat "waste of time pitches" and keep count.

 

Pace, likewise, is a two-edged sword. Get the ball, get the sign, fire... you can have men on second and third with no one out, before you even realize it. Coaches tell their charges, "slow the game down". Of course hitting coaches tell their batters the same thing, so if the pitcher has enough moxie to hurry them even a little, it can indeed pay off. Until, suddenly, it doesn't. Constant adjustments, once again.


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