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Week in Review: Stumbling and Grumbling

The Twins lost two series, and their beloved closer. It wasn't a great week, and the messaging from the clubhouse wasn't great either.

Your full recap lies ahead.
Image courtesy of Rick Osentoski, USA Today

Weekly Snapshot: Mon, 8/6 through Sun, 8/12

***

Record Last Week: 2-5 (Overall: 54-63)

Run Differential Last Week: -16 (Overall: -33)

Standing: 2nd Place in AL Central (12.0 GB)


HIGHLIGHTS

After going 3-for-28 through eight August games, dropping his average to .186, Logan Morrison finally succumbed to a hip impingement that's been bothering him for much of the season. He's set to undergo surgery that'll knock him out for the rest of the year.

This is good news for a couple of reasons. We finally have some clarity around the root causes in a hugely disappointing season for Morrison, who can hopefully rehab and get his career back on track. Meanwhile, the Twins can now give his at-bats to others more likely to figure into their future plans.

One such player is Tyler Austin, who's been called up to fill Morrison's roster spot and role. Making his Twins debut on Saturday, the Austin launched a two-run bomb against old friend Francisco Liriano.

The thunderous smash plated Miguel Sano, whose encouraging week included his first home run since being recalled and four walks. Yeah, he's still striking out a ton, but that's just okay when he's notching hits and coaxing walks at respectable clips.

LOWLIGHTS

Look. I get that, to some extent, expressing dismay over a deadline talent dump is part of being a leader. We saw it from Brian Dozier last year and now we're seeing it from Ervin Santana.

"We’re not giving up, but they did," Santana lamented of the Twins front office after Friday night's loss, on the heels of Fernando Rodney being dealt to Oakland.

I'm sure he's channeling the mood in the clubhouse, and in essence, that's fine – you want your players to be fired up at times like this. I'd be disappointed if they weren't ticked off.

But Santana is striking all the wrong notes, with this entirely unwarranted bitterness toward a baseball ops department that's only doing its job. For the right-hander to be proclaiming his team is "only 10 games out" in mid-August seems almost comically oblivious. They have the largest deficit for any second-place team in baseball, in the worst division.

And the Twins have reached this point largely because of lifeless, underwhelming efforts like the one put forth in Friday's series-opening loss to Detroit. While it's convenient for Santana to insinuate that this lackluster showing against one of the AL's worst teams was due to shell-shock, or the absence of key pieces, we saw too many such performances in the first four months for that notion to hold water.

I don't blame Santana for getting hurt, nor do I hold it against him, but the fact remains: he wasn't here for those first four months. And now that he's back, he looks terrible. He gave up five runs against an abysmal offense on Friday and hasn't contributed one quality start since returning. In four turns he has surrendered six home runs with an almost impossibly low 4.2% swinging strike rate. Out of 451 MLB pitchers to throw 20+ innings this season, his mark ranks dead-last.

The Twins would surely love to dump Santana's remaining salary, and $1 million option buyout, and generally counterproductive attitude. But his play has turned even a modest return like Rodney's into wishful thinking. No one's going to give up so much as a Dakota Chalmers type lotto ticket on the hope that Santana suddenly finds his stuff as he approaches 36. The veteran's got nothing right now.

And so he, like many others on the roster, slogs forth through these final weeks. Frankly if anyone has grounds for complaining, it's the potential future contributors being held back by the presence of Santana's depleted arm on the roster.

The same night Erv was getting knocked around by Detroit, Stephen Gonsalves was delivering another quality start in Rochester with nine strikeouts over six innings. He has a 3.15 ERA in Triple-A but remains unable to crack the Minnesota rotation. Fernando Romero looked better at his worst than Santana has it his best this year, but continues to compile innings in the minors.

At least Kohl Stewart got his chance on Sunday, starting against the Tigers and looking more or less as advertised. The 23-year-old former top draft pick flashed mid-90s heat on a fastball with good movement, but allowed tons of contact with only two swinging strikes on 74 pitches. He finessed enough grounders to make it work through four frames, but things fell apart in the fifth as Detroit strung together four straight hits and a walk to break through and knock him out of the game.

On merit, Stewart certainly doesn't deserve to be promoted ahead of Romero or Gonsalves, but I suppose the Twins have a more urgent need to give him a look, given his status as a fringe 40-man roster hold this offseason. Presumably we'll see more of him going forward. Personally, I'd be curious to see if the pitches play up in relief at all.

TRENDING STORYLINE

With Rodney shipped out, the Twins can use these final weeks to evaluate internal closer options for 2019. Unfortunately, no one's exactly rising as a prime candidate.

Ryan Pressly would've likely been first in line, but of course, he's gone. Trevor Hildenberger got the call on Saturday night and almost blew a three-run lead, coughing up a two-run homer and putting the tying run on base before closing out the win. The ugly outing extended a very poor stretch for Hildenberger, who hasn't looked like himself for weeks. Since the All-Star break, he has allowed 19 hits and five home runs in 11 innings of work. He had previously surrendered nine total homers in 88 MLB innings.

A natural choice for the closer nod would be Addison Reed, if he were throwing well at all. He's not. It doesn't appear his three-week stint on the DL did much to repair his arm, which continues to produce jarringly low velocity readings. The stuff just isn't there for Reed, who has induced only one swinging strike on 39 pitches in three appearances since returning from the shelf.

Who else might get a look in the ninth inning? Gabriel Moya? Taylor Rogers? Matt Magill?

One reliever I'd like to see get a few chances is Tyler Duffey, who was a very successful collegiate closer at Rice. He was recalled alongside Austin last week after posting a 2.72 ERA, 1.15 WHIP and 9.3 K/9 rate in Triple-A.

DOWN ON THE FARM

The ascent of Astros shortstop Carlos Correa was about as smooth and optimal as one could hope for from a No. 1 overall pick out of high school. He cruised through the minors, developed into an elite prospect by the end of his first full pro season, and reached the majors at age 20, becoming an instant superstar and Rookie of the Year.

The pace that Royce Lewis is currently on makes Correa's look decidedly sluggish. The shortstop is crushing High-A and hurtling toward a 2019 Twins debut.

He and Alex Kirilloff have taken the Florida State League by storm. Among players with 100 PA in the league, they rank seventh and eighth in OPS; at 19 and 20 they are the youngest members of the Top 25.

Kirilloff snapped a 13-game hitting streak when he went 0-for-2 on the final day of July, but now has another going, pushed to 10 last week as he tallied at least one knock in each game. Among FSL players with 150+ PA, he has the highest average and the seventh-lowest walk rate. Kirilloff swings at everything and hits everything.

On Saturday, Michael Pineda made his first rehab start at Fort Myers, and he looked excellent, tossing three scoreless innings with three strikeouts and no walks. The big righty induced seven swinging strikes on 33 pitches and reportedly touched 95 MPH. All signs are positive as he works his way back from 2017 Tommy John surgery.

LOOKING AHEAD

The Twins will get a look at Chris Archer in his new Pirates uniform on Wednesday. He hasn't looked great since coming over from Tampa at the deadline. On Saturday, the Tigers will get another look at Stewart as the 23-year-old makes his Target Field debut.

TUESDAY, 8/14: PIRATES @ TWINS – RHP Jameson Taillon v. RHP Jake Odorizzi
WEDNESDAY, 8/15: PIRATES @ TWINS – RHP Chris Archer v. RHP Jose Berrios
THURSDAY, 8/16: TIGERS @ TWINS – LHP Francisco Liriano v. RHP Ervin Santana
FRIDAY, 8/17: TIGERS @ TWINS – LHP Matthew Boyd v. RHP Kyle Gibson
SATURDAY, 8/18: TIGERS @ TWINS – Undecided v. RHP Kohl Stewart
SUNDAY, 8/19: TIGERS @ TWINS – LHP Blaine Hardy v. RHP Jake Odorizzi

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63 Comments

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TheLeviathan
Aug 12 2018 06:37 PM

"Comically oblivious".Well said.

 

2019 for Kiriloff and Lewis....I love the thought....can't help but be more pessimistic about that.Or are you just talking September?

    • Twins33, Danchat, mikelink45 and 2 others like this

Darn.

 

I agree 100% with what you said about Santana.

 

weird.

    • Mike Frasier Law and twinssouth like this

 

I'm sure he's channeling the mood in the clubhouse, and in essence, that's fine – you want your players to be fired up at times like this. I'd be disappointed if they weren't ticked off.

I

 agree with this... the rest, in my opinion, not as important. Maybe that does speak a little to the value of having a guy like Belisle remaining in the clubhouse, even if on the DL. Then again, I wouldn't want any of the players to not be upset.

 

As for the oblivious part, I'm sure it was more of a heat of the moment type of thing. I don't worry about little stuff like that. 

 

The part that would be understandably upsetting/disappoint is for the players remaining to think that they aren't in the "good players" category, but i doubt any of them thought that.

 

 

    • Carole Keller, Jerr and Shaitan like this

 

Among FSL players with 150+ PA, he has the highest average and the seventh-lowest walk rate. Kirilloff swings at everything and hits everything.

 

I know I responded to this on twitter, but I think it's an important point and one worth bringing up for discussion here.

 

Kirilloff isn't walking a lot, but I don't think he "swings at everything" at all. He's got a real good approach at the plate. He knows the strike zone well, but he also knows where he can barrel the bat. As Steve Buhr pointed out in a subsequent tweet, he's able to take a pitch 2 inches off the outside corner and drive doubles and homers the other way. 

 

Of course, if he was hitting .270 instead of .370, this would be a bigger deal...

    • scottz, Twins33, mikelink45 and 2 others like this
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tarheeltwinsfan
Aug 12 2018 07:04 PM

"The Twins lost their "beloved closer""? Beloved by whom? Not by me and I may qualify as the longest tenured Twins' fan who posts on TD. I have pulled for this franchise continuously since 1954. Fernamdo Rodney was one of my least favorite Senators/Twins due to his showboat arrow shooting. 

    • Thrylos, mikelink45, twinssouth and 1 other like this

 

"The Twins lost their "beloved closer""? Beloved by whom? Not by me and I may qualify as the longest tenured Twins' fan who posts on TD. I have pulled for this franchise continuously since 1954. Fernamdo Rodney was one of my least favorite Senators/Twins due to his showboat arrow shooting. 

 

Yeah.Rodney could not go away soon enough, as far as I am concerned.

    • Tomj14, HrbekRules and Aerodeliria like this
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strumdatjaguar
Aug 12 2018 07:12 PM

I found Rodney to be an entertaining diversion in a disappointing season (like Bartolo last year).He exceeded my low expectations.Twins have money to spend in the off-season and should bring in a legit closer to add to the bullpen.

    • Carole Keller, Twins33, Dman and 3 others like this
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Carole Keller
Aug 12 2018 07:14 PM

"The Twins lost their "beloved closer""? Beloved by whom? Not by me and I may qualify as the longest tenured Twins' fan who posts on TD. I have pulled for this franchise continuously since 1954. Fernamdo Rodney was one of my least favorite Senators/Twins due to his showboat arrow shooting.


I know this has been discussed before, but I don’t consider honoring his grandfather as showboating. That said, he wasn’t my least favorite Twin, but I could barely watch when he came in to pitch.
    • Mike Sixel, Twins33, Danchat and 8 others like this

I know this has been discussed before, but I don’t consider honoring his grandfather as showboating.


I'm not sure if the motivation particularly matters. If an act is "flashy" and frequent enough, I think it can qualify as showboating, regardless of its motivation.

But I didn't mind Rodney.
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Carole Keller
Aug 12 2018 07:30 PM

I'm not sure if the motivation particularly matters. If an act is "flashy" and frequent enough, I think it can qualify as showboating, regardless of its motivation.
But I didn't mind Rodney.


I guess we’ll disagree on that ... I think the motivation does matter. Many do repetitive things for different reasons. I guess I don’t consider honoring a close family member as showboating, but whatever. He’s not ours anymore.
    • TheLeviathan, wsnydes and MN_ExPat like this

Lowlights - Gonsalves left in the minors while others with less resume come up.  

 

Morrison needing an injury to get him off the field when his BA should have been enough.

 

Our one remaining big free agent - Reed, blowing up his chance to be the closer.

 

Young bats exciting us in the minors, lots of retreads and old bats failing in the majors. 

    • KGB, birddog, twinssouth and 3 others like this

It's 2018... It doesn't matter to me if he does cartwheels or walks up to the retired batter, tweaks his nose and says boop. 

 

You gotta let these guys loose as part of the game remake. 

 

 

    • scottz, Twins33, Puckett34 and 6 others like this

I guess we’ll disagree on that ... I think the motivation does matter. Many do repetitive things for different reasons. I guess I don’t consider honoring a close family member as showboating, but whatever. He’s not ours anymore.


What if his grandfather had been a chicken farmer, so after every strikeout he did an exaggerated rooster strut around the mound to honor him? :)

Personally, I think the arrow thing isn't aggressive enough or frequent enough (especially playing on a team like the 2018 Twins :( ) to consider it showboating, even if didn't have a good reason or chose not to disclose the reason.

Of course, if the reason was bad enough, like "because I am a golden god of closing games", then you will probably see other behavior that will better indicate showboating anyway. :)
    • Carole Keller, Platoon and Krusington like this
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Carole Keller
Aug 12 2018 08:35 PM

What if his grandfather had been a chicken farmer, so after every strikeout he did an exaggerated rooster strut around the mound to honor him? :)


Ha! I’d have paid good money to see that, and, he’d probably have a following who’d crow in the stands after every save to go along with it!
    • birdwatcher, Riverbrian, Platoon and 1 other like this
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TwinsWonWithHunter
Aug 13 2018 01:27 AM

The Rodney trade I don't get. It, more than the others, may have been the motivator for Santana's remarks, although I agree with Nick that Ervin--this year--has done nothing to merit the right to speak up on behalf of the clubhouse.

 

Rodney is who he is, and has performed as he has for much of his career. He is sort of a high-wire closer who lives on the heart-attack side of drama. We knew that when we signed him. His age is not yet a hindrance, although it could become one at any day.

 

But, or so, what we did was, we traded our closer, one we had a very cheap option on for next year, for a 21-year old on the shelf from TJ surgery. 

 

What message does that send to the clubhouse? That we do not need an established closer for the rest of this season (a point I will concede), nor will we need one next year. Or, that we have a void at closer now ... just add that to our growing list of voids heading into 2019.

 

That is the head-scratcher for me: why did we trade next year's closer for a prospect who, if it all works out, might contribute in the year 2021?

 

Again, none of this to glorify Rodney. But to acknowledge that he is an established closer, is still contributing, and is signed through '19. And we just gave him away for, as Nick described it, a lotto ticket.

 

The front office's plan for 2019 is the great mystery at this point. And not one of the six trades we have made (so far) seems to speak, at all, to competing/contending next year. That is disheartening.  

The Rodney trade I don't get. It, more than the others, may have been the motivator for Santana's remarks, although I agree with Nick that Ervin--this year--has done nothing to merit the right to speak up on behalf of the clubhouse.
 
Rodney is who he is, and has performed as he has for much of his career. He is sort of a high-wire closer who lives on the heart-attack side of drama. We knew that when we signed him. His age is not yet a hindrance, although it could become one at any day.
 
But, or so, what we did was, we traded our closer, one we had a very cheap option on for next year, for a 21-year old on the shelf from TJ surgery. 
 
What message does that send to the clubhouse? That we do not need an established closer for the rest of this season (a point I will concede), nor will we need one next year. Or, that we have a void at closer now ... just add that to our growing list of voids heading into 2019.
 
That is the head-scratcher for me: why did we trade next year's closer for a prospect who, if it all works out, might contribute in the year 2021?
 
Again, none of this to glorify Rodney. But to acknowledge that he is an established closer, is still contributing, and is signed through '19. And we just gave him away for, as Nick described it, a lotto ticket.
 
The front office's plan for 2019 is the great mystery at this point. And not one of the six trades we have made (so far) seems to speak, at all, to competing/contending next year. That is disheartening.

Hopefully the message it sends to the clubhouse, and to the fans, is that they are now rebuilding the roster their own way. I know they spent more of Jims money than usual last spring, but the consistent reliance on aged veterans resembled a Ryan Roster. Or worse a Molitor one. Otherwise all that comes to mind is a paraphrase of Colonel Jessup, 'Is that all, tell me you have something more Danny'. It could be an unsettling off season?
    • scottz, Riverbrian and blindeke like this

Sano, is a real question mark.Is he another Morrison?He seems to be regressing instead of getting better.When he first came up from AA, he was killing the ball and taking his walks but if the ball got in the strike zone he mashed.Something is off and I don't like were this seems to be headed.

Rodney's arrow didn't bother me.What did was all the base runners he put on base nearly every time out.

 

Sounds like Santana is guaranteeing he will be a free agent this winter.With comments like that, I can't see how the FO would exercise their option.Although his pitching/comeback from surgery may make a bigger case for that.

 

Personally, I am looking forward to the next six weeks of Twins baseball.Want to see; 1) Garver get more experience behind the plate; 2) Austin getting lots of at bats; 3) Polanco finishing his half year at short and in the batters box; 4) Sano prove that the last year was an aberration; 5) Rosario finishing out what should have been an all-star season; 6) Buxton back in a Twins uniform and getting on base; 7) Kepler continuing his progress; 8) several young starters pitching at the beginning of games; and 9) A good look at several relievers late in games...May, Busenitz, Reed, Moya, Curtiss...others?

    • 70charger likes this
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birdwatcher
Aug 13 2018 06:58 AM

 

Ha! I’d have paid good money to see that, and, he’d probably have a following who’d crow in the stands after every save to go along with it!

 

 

And how awesome would THAT be?!? 

    • Carole Keller likes this
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ChrisKnutson
Aug 13 2018 07:34 AM

Sano, is a real question mark.Is he another Morrison?He seems to be regressing instead of getting better.When he first came up from AA, he was killing the ball and taking his walks but if the ball got in the strike zone he mashed.Something is off and I don't like were this seems to be headed.


Bold prediction here, but despite Sano’s struggles, I really do see him being traded in the offseason, especially after Machado signs.

Why not DFA Santana?

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ChrisKnutson
Aug 13 2018 07:56 AM

Why not DFA Santana?


I think there just waiting till Erv can go 7 innings, then they’ll flip him to the M’s for a C level prospect.
    • D.C Twins likes this

 

The Rodney trade I don't get. It, more than the others, may have been the motivator for Santana's remarks, although I agree with Nick that Ervin--this year--has done nothing to merit the right to speak up on behalf of the clubhouse.

 

Rodney is who he is, and has performed as he has for much of his career. He is sort of a high-wire closer who lives on the heart-attack side of drama. We knew that when we signed him. His age is not yet a hindrance, although it could become one at any day.

 

Agree with your comments. I know they were somewhat forced when Oakland claimed him so it was either trade him for something or keep him the rest of the year.Moving him would make sense if we had a young closer on the roster we wanted to trial - or if we promoted one of our Rochester guys to take his place but that does not appear to be the case. Actually given the options I like Nick's option of using Tyler Duffey in the spot since he has swing and miss stuff and has closed before in College.Nick Anderson might be another option to trial. 

Bold prediction here, but despite Sano’s struggles, I really do see him being traded in the offseason, especially after Machado signs.

If internally they believe he won't ever get serious about his career, I could see this happening. But if they think he wil, and while they have a period of control over him, they will keep him. If they end up thinking he won't work his craft, I would concur with trading him over the winter. Btw, I understand launch angle, but Sano's recent uppercuts seem to be pretty steep. His launch angle is currently about 155 degrees. :)
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Nick Nelson
Aug 13 2018 08:42 AM

 

"Comically oblivious".Well said.

 

2019 for Kiriloff and Lewis....I love the thought....can't help but be more pessimistic about that.Or are you just talking September?

I was referring more to Lewis there than Kirilloff. If Royce starts in Double-A (which feels like almost a given at this point) it's hard for me to imagine him staying in the minors for the entire season. 

    • TheLeviathan likes this

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