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https://www.mlbtrade...ris-carter.html Should this be interpreted as bad news on Mauer?
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Article: MIN 6, DET 0: Lynn Shows Will to Win

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What Can Be Done to Awaken Slumbering Twins Offense?

That the Twins are playing mediocre baseball here in the early portion of the season is disappointing, but not entirely surprising. We knew this was still a young club on the rise, not a bona fide contender. Slumps and downspells are to be expected.

But it was the pitching staff that figured to take lumps. A lineup stacked with established hitters and solid depth seemed to be the least of Paul Molitor's worries.

And yet, as the Twins have fallen back into a listless spell after being revived by a five-game winning streak, it is the bats that are lagging and languishing.
Image courtesy of Rick Osentoski, USA Today
For a time, scorching hot streaks from Eduardo Escobar and Eddie Rosario served to cover up for an offense that was just never really clicking.

The Twins scored at least four runs in each of their first 11 games in May but never more than eight. We still haven't seen a double-digit run total all year. The anticipated explosiveness hasn't been there for this unit. A team that led the American League in scoring down the stretch last season entered play on Tuesday ranked 10th in runs/game and 12th in OPS.

While the AL's prime contenders are doing their things – New York, Boston, Los Angeles and Cleveland rank first through fourth in R/G – the Twins offense has sputtered, showing only sporadic flashes of its dazzling upside.

What's to be done? Well, to a large extent, all we can do is wait. If this group is gonna turn around it will be because Brian Dozier discovers his next gear, and Miguel Sano comes back to mash, and Joe Mauer finds some semblance of power, and Byron Buxton snaps out of his typical early-season funk, and Eddie Rosario settles into a sustainable approach at the plate.

History tells us at least some of these things will happen. But as the Central continues to look eminently winnable, patience is starting to wear thin. At some point the Twins need to take action in an effort to jolt this offense awake.

Here are a few options they could consider. Note that I'm not endorsing all of these solutions, only suggesting they should be on the table.

Call Up Nick Gordon and LaMonte Wade from Class-AA Chattanooga

The Twins pitching staff was in a freefall before Fernando Romero arrived on May 2nd and propelled the team to a shutout victory, snapping a losing streak and sparking a 7-1 run. Since then, the rotation and bullpen have both had a noticeably renewed swagger, and results have reflected it.

It's not a simple cause-and-effect, but there is something to be said about the contagious energy that a talented and highly motivated young talent can infuse.

Granted, Romero was in Triple-A and not Double-A, but the argument can easily be made that Gordon and Wade should've started in Rochester as well. At Chattanooga, 22-year-old shortstop Gordon entered play Tuesday slashing .350/.392/.526 while the 24-year-old outfielder Wade was at .300/.401/.442.

Both prospects need to be added to the 40-man roster, complicating matters, but each offers something the Twins could really use. Gordon brings sneaky power from a wiry athletic frame and would represent a big upgrade over the scuffling Ehire Adrianza (whose play has arguably earned him a DFA). Wade is one of the most disciplined hitters in the system and has consistently been a .400 OBP guy in the minors.

These are the two most MLB-ready hitting prospects in the high minors, and each has been making his case since spring training, where Gordon batted .417 and Wade had a .441 OBP.

Option Byron Buxton to Triple-A

As much as Molitor – and all of us, really – would love to believe otherwise, it's clear that Buxton is not a naturally adept hitter who can quickly acclimate and get rolling at the plate. Not at this stage of his career anyway.

Despite his tremendous finish in 2017, the center fielder once again came out of the gates flat this season. Then he had a bout with migraines. Then he broke his toe. Now, the Twins have curiously activated him directly from the disabled list, so he can try and play with a bum digit and a month's worth of rust.

I guess we shouldn't be surprised by the outcome. Since returning, Buxton has been at his worst offensively, which is an exceedingly low bar. In five games, he is 2-for-16 with six strikeouts. The two hits, while both big, came in the form of a bloop double off the end of the bat and a bunt single that traveled five feet.

Even with a bad toe, Buxton's defense is irreplaceable, and he's probably just as well trying to solve his hitting woes against MLB pitching. But if you're looking to quickly jump-start the lineup, there's no more obvious candidate for removal. He has been an almost automatic out.

To replace him, you could call up Wade and shift Rosario or Max Kepler to center. Or you could call up Ryan LaMarre or Jake Cave or Zack Granite from Rochester as short-term plugs.

Acquire a Catcher

Jason Castro underwent surgery on Tuesday and is expected to miss 4-for-6 weeks (or, as this team's estimations have gone, 8-to-12). Mitch Garver and Bobby Wilson don't present the kind of catcher duo that inspires huge confidence offensively.

It is obviously slim pickings out there among the remaining free agents.

Carlos Ruiz is 39 and put up a .665 OPS in 53 games with Seattle last year. He went unsigned during the offseason despite expressing an interest in continuing to play. If he's stayed in shape he might be worth a flier. Geovany Soto, 35, is also still out there.

Neither of these guys are enticing options, and they'd also take time to ramp up, potentially pushing an arrival close to Castro's return. But it's no given that Castro will be able to come back strong; he's nine years older than a spry young Mauer whose rookie season at catcher was ruined by a torn knee meniscus.

* UPDATE: The Twins announced on Wednesday that Castro will miss the rest of the season after his surgery proved more extensive than expected. Go figure. *

This is where the organization's lack of high-level catching depth is quickly becoming an issue, which isn't entire surprising. It wouldn't hurt to add someone capable, even if that means giving up a bit in trade. Considering that two-thirds of the league are in blatant tanking mode, it shouldn't be all that hard to find a seller.

Shake Up the Batting Order

Get weird. Try Kepler in the leadoff spot. Move Dozier to cleanup. Escobar in the two-hole. Whatever. Perhaps a different type of sequencing or dynamic will stir something up. It couldn't really hurt at this point.

I'd like to hear some other ideas. What would you do to inject life into a Twins offense that simply isn't getting it done?


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62 Comments

1.) Lamonte Wade solves nothing offensively. He's an upgrade over Grossman defensively but does not profile to be some power bat. The prospect hype far exceeds reality.

 

2.) Nick Gordon is an interesting idea. Not sure the defensive drop off from Adrianza to Gordon will be worth the offensive pickup but it certainly makes sense to drop Petit and bring up Gordon. I'm not sure I'd play him everyday and I'd send him down when Sano gets back so he can get more seasoning (unless he forces your hand) but he'd be a nice spark potentially.

 

3.) Castro is back in 4-6 weeks. No need to go crazy dropping prospects for Realmuto (whose OPS+ is not much bigger than Garver's) because what do you do when Castro gets back? Not play Garver? Seems like a crazy overreaction to a 4 week problem. I also think it's not fair to blame the Twins for not having a great third catcher. Almost nobody has a great third catcher unless they have a prospect in AAA. Bobby Wilson is likely similar to most other guys you can get (though Gimenez would be fun to bring back for a reunion).

 

4.) The biggest thing is to just wait. The Twins are winning games against good teams and they're not getting blown out of the games they lose. There are natural lulls to offenses and this is just one of them. The solutions are all in house (Sano back, Polanco back, Buxton healthy, Castro back) and none are all that far away. Tread water around .500 and make a push in the second half.

    • DocBauer, Taildragger8791 and howieramone2 like this

 

Gordon: yes. Now.

Wade: meh...who sits? I don’t think he helps much.

Give up what it takes to acquire Realmuto. Or maybe Lucroy.

Pray for a Sano storm.

 

Realmuto would cost significant prospects.

 

When Lucroy was traded in August 2016 with 1.5 years left on his contract at age 30, he cost the Rangers Baseball America's #16 prospect and #64 prospect (though the Rangers got a decent reliever as well).

 

Realmuto is 27 and has 2.5 years of control left. He would likely cost you multiple top prospects - think Gordon and Gonsalves plus something else.

 

That seems like WAY too much to solve a 4 week problem.

 

Not sure what Lucroy would cost. He's more of a rental player but it's also early in the season so you have to overpay to get a guy like him (the A's may want to wait for the deadline, especially since they are 20-21 and not out of it).

 

Stand pat at catcher. It's 4-6 weeks and Garver has looked good.

 

 

I'd rather have the injuries now and over with before the All Star Break than during the stretch run. Let's hope everyone is healthy and on a roll by July. Few players play 140+ games/year these days. Let's get the injuries out of the way early. \optimism

I've said it before, I am not worrying about Buxton yet.He hasn't been getting on base enough but he he also has been hitting the ball for some hard outs lately too.Hopefully, that bunt hit jump started something.

 

The problem aren't going to be fixed by bringing up more young guys, or acquiring whatever dumpster fodder is out there right now. The issue lies with the current "veteran" players.

1). Sano is supposed to be the anchor of the lineup. He's supposed to provide run production by way of power, but he also sees a lot of pitches...which can have a ripple effect throughout the lineup as you get into bullpens earlier, etc. His presence can also provide that proverbial "protection" factor. Hes arguably the most important component of the lineup, and it's not there.

2). Morrison has been awful, and he's been sucking up a lot of ABs with runners on. He was hitting the heart of the order for a significant stretch. He's not necessarily a key cog (see second half last year without him), but he certainly could be making up for Sano's absence, but the production hasn't been there.

3). Dozier was great for a few weeks, but has kind of tapered off. We've seen it in the past, the lineup goes as Dozier goes. The consistency isn't there. He'll go on a torrid stretch and hit 6 homers in a week. Then, the other three weeks of the month he'll strike out a ton and meekly pop everything up to the left side of the infield. The production at the end of the year looks nice, but he's actually not helping you win all that many games (how beneficial is a 3 homer game and a 10-1 win one day of the week, followed by five 3-2 type losses?).

Those, IMO, are the main issues. Getting some consistency out of Dozier, getting Sano healthy, and getting some semblance of production from Morrison....along with the contributions from Mauer, Escobar, Rosario, Kepler....could really light the powder keg.

Also, the struggling pitching has to have an impact. When you repeatedly score runs to get a lead in the 5th-6th-7th inning, and it's repeatedly given right back by the pitching staff in the subsequent half inning, it probably takes a little wind out of your sail.

Perceptions are hard to change.

 

Morrison hasn't been awful recently. He was awful for the first couple weeks of the season.

 

Last 28 days for Morrison: .266/.356/.481. 4 HR, 11 RBI, 12 RS. Slightly higher the last 14 days.

 

By comparison, Mauer the last 28 days: .241/.359/.299. 3 XBH and 4 RBI in a month. woof.

 

 

    • Twins33, h2oface and ken like this

 

Perceptions are hard to change.

 

Morrison hasn't been awful recently. He was awful for the first couple weeks of the season.

 

Last 28 days for Morrison: .266/.356/.481. 4 HR, 11 RBI, 12 RS. Slightly higher the last 14 days.

 

By comparison, Mauer the last 28 days: .241/.359/.299. 3 XBH and 4 RBI in a month. woof.

Agreed on Morrison.He's been much better of late.

 

I'll add this though.Comparing the RBI totals for the two is odd.Mauer has been hitting 1 or 2 in the order with nobody in front of him producing.Morrison has been hitting behind the heart of the order that has largely been productive this past month.Easier to drive guys in when they're there to drive in, HR's or not.You're correct though, he hasn't been very good this past month.this team could really use a real lead-off hitter.Dozier and Mauer aren't real lead-off guys to start with, but they need to step up before this offense will really take off.

Realmuto is a great short and long term solution. They won't do it, imo. I have been asking for this for months, but I don't see it happening. As for what happens when Castro gets back? Well, include Garver in the trade, and you don't have to worry about it...

Gordon should have been up when Sano went down. They didn't do it. Can't see it happening now.

Wade should have been up when Buxton went down, they didn't do it. Pretty unlikely it happens now.

I'd guess none of those is happening soon.

That leaves just going with what they have and assuming it gets better, for now.
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nicksaviking
May 16 2018 09:33 AM

I've seen this one before in 2003. The team had a bunch of pretty good young hitters who just didn't seem to be syncing up their productivity. They traded for a veteran outfielder in Shannon Stewart who was a good-not-great player but who brought a name-brand excitement to the clubhouse which sparked the team the rest of the year.

 

I'd see about trying to get Adam Jones. He's not the OBP machine Stewart was but he's a name-brand vet that would get young guys excited. And he's right handed and can play CF. This team really needs a RH bat.

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Brock Beauchamp
May 16 2018 09:40 AM

 

They are at 8-4 since the beginning of the White Sox series. In those games, they are 5-3 against .500 or better teams that either are or could be playoff contenders. It may not be the most fun way to watch our team win baseball games...it would be much more fun to watch them score 8 runs a game. But if they’ve won 5 of 8 against playoff contenders without their offense clicking I think that’s room for optimism if anything, because I too agree that things will get better offensively. Their starters have started pitching competitively and their bullpen has somehow managed to hang onto a lot of narrow leads. Let’s go twins!

Look at the scores of those games. If the offense is clicking, they add a couple more wins and are REALLY rolling as a team. The pitching has been *very* good more often than not.

 

Here are the runs scored in those four losses:

 

5

4

1

0

 

The offense has stumbled quite often this season. You expect to see that from pretty much any offense over 162 but if the Twins were consistently posting 3+ runs (not exactly a lofty bar to reach), they'd be one of the best teams in the league in the month of May.

    • Nick Nelson, Twins33, DocBauer and 1 other like this
They aren't young. Mauer, Dozier, Morrison, Castro, Escobar.... And it isn't like Rosario and Buxton are in year two of being MLB players. They aren't even in the top ten in being young. The Yankees and Red Sox are younger, on offense, for example.

They just aren't good enough. That said, trading for an actual hitter would be helpful. What position would you replace? You aren't getting a first baseman or DH. Or a second baseman, or third, or outfielder....
    • Platoon likes this

Gordon isn't going to happen.Levine basically said so in an interview, when he was out at Frontier Field.His defense and base-running aren't there yet.

 

They can't be making all decisions based on offensive slash lines.

 

Also, Buxton once again proved that he can change games with his speed.He got in the Cardinals' heads with his speed on his bunt and then swiped third on a wild pitch that didn't really get that far from the catcher.None of that stuff shows up in the slash line.

    • DocBauer, Taildragger8791 and Platoon like this

Gordon isn't going to happen. Levine basically said so in an interview, when he was out at Frontier Field. His defense and base-running aren't there yet.

They can't be making all decisions based on offensive slash lines.

Also, Buxton once again proved that he can change games with his speed. He got in the Cardinals' heads with his speed on his bunt and then swiped third on a wild pitch that didn't really get that far from the catcher. None of that stuff shows up in the slash line.


And all the times he failed to get a hit are cancelled out? The slash line tells a pretty accurate story. Imo.
    • Nick Nelson and jkcarew like this

Crazy theory coming at ya.

The lineup needs it to be August/September. Here's the team OPS by month since 2017:

Apr17.707

May17 .786

Jun17.705

Jul17 .736

Aug17.849

Sep17.804

Apr18 .721

May18.723

 

And all the times he failed to get a hit are cancelled out? The slash line tells a pretty accurate story. Imo.

 

It only tells what happens in the batter's box.Last time I checked, there is a lot of baseball that happens outside the batter's box.  

As much as I like Mauer, I sure wish his bat had a little more pop in it. Lead by example, Joe. Rolling over on those ground balls up the middle gets old.
It's time for Ehire to go south.

 

And all the times he failed to get a hit are cancelled out? The slash line tells a pretty accurate story. Imo.

 

It does tell a relatively accurate story, but I think it's important to note that Buxton is more efficient with his opportunities on base than other guys--maybe more so than any player on the bases. 

 

He's gonna pick up more bases and ultimately score more runs than other guys which means he doesn't need to be on base as much to ultimately produce the same amount of runs as other guys.  

 

So the slash line does tell an accurate story, but there's a little more value there to that slash line than meets the eye because of how efficient and productive he is when on base. 

It does tell a relatively accurate story, but I think it's important to note that Buxton is more efficient with his opportunities on base than other guys--maybe more so than any player on the bases.

He's gonna pick up more bases and ultimately score more runs than other guys which means he doesn't need to be on base as much to ultimately produce the same amount of runs as other guys.

So the slash line does tell an accurate story, but there's a little more value there to that slash line than meets the eye because of how efficient and productive he is when on base.


I agree, but if you can't get on base, it has less value to be good once you do. There is still a ton of hope, he's not exactly old. But here's just not a good enough hitter so far, alas. Great defender and base runner.... Not even a meh hitter yet.

 

I agree, but if you can't get on base, it has less value to be good once you do. There is still a ton of hope, he's not exactly old. But here's just not a good enough hitter so far, alas. Great defender and base runner.... Not even a meh hitter yet.

 

Right.I'm not disagreeing, I'm just saying that generally Buxton needs less times on base to produce the amount of runs compared to other players who need higher slash lines to produce the same amount of runs. 

 

There's some context to be had too.Buxton's struggled a bunch this season at the plate I'm not arguing that, but the sample size is small and most of it comes through a stretch in which injuries/etc further give reason to explain, but not excuse, the poor slash.  

 

Last year Buxton started out 4-49 in his first 13 games for a slash line of .082-.135-.257 with 1 run - 2 doubles - 0 3B - 0 HR - 0 RBI - 1 SB - 2 BB - 24 K's (~10% of the season)

 

In the final 120 games Buxton played and 410 ABs (~90% of the season) for a slash line of .275/.335/.785 - 9 BB% - 30K% with 68 runs - 12 2B - 6 3B - 16 HR - 51 RBI - 28 SB 

 

162 game pace for that production is: 90 runs - 16 2B - 8 3B - 21 HR - 68 RBI - 37 SB

__________________________________________________________________________

 

I would argue that volume season numbers do matter, but should be taken with context.For 90% of Buxton's season (and consistently over a 122 game stretch) Buxton performed like the 2nd stat line--that's a lot of production from the bottom of the order.If you told me that a 9/10 times you're getting a player with the bottom line with the kind of defense Buxton plays I'm ecstatic.  

 

Even with the struggles to begin the year and the inconsistency, etc. Buxton's WAR numbers put him, depending on which calculation, somewhere in the top 15-25 position players from a value standpoint.Yes, a lot of that comes from his defense...Yes he's streaky...Yes he strikes out too much...Yes he isn't likely to ever develop into the hitter he was projected to have the potential to be.But with all of those things in mind, none of those very valid criticisms seem to bar him from being a borderline elite value player. 

 

_________________________________________________________________________

 

I think we need to take a longer view here.I understand all of the frustrations, especially as a hitter and in terms of health consistency and especially viewed within the context of what Buxton could be if some of these inconsistencies were fixed.But I think this lens prevents appreciation of what Buxton actually is despite a current track that suggests he's going to leave some potential and maybe quite a bit of potential on the table.But even leaving that on the table, Buxton is still tracking towards a player who, with what he does have, can be a top 20 or borderline top 20 position player in terms of positive value toa team. 

 

Yes, there's a lot of potential that is being left on the table, but there's also a lot there...even as a hitter.  

    • Mike Sixel likes this
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LA VIkes Fan
May 16 2018 11:34 AM

The bottom line is that this lineup doesn't have any GREAT bats, but last year in the second half had 5-7 GOOD bats.All it takes is 2-3 to get hot while the rest play to the average production and you score a lot of runs. The problem now is that 2 of those good bats are missing - Polanco and Sano - which puts much more pressure on the good bats to be hot and forces 2 of the weak to average bats - Buxton and whoever is catching - to move up to the "good" category. The chances of all of that happening consistently is almost zero.So we're left with a team that scores when a couple of the good bats get hot, is mediocre when no one is hot but no more than 1 or 2 players are in in a big slump, but is lousy when the good bats are slumping. Thus, this team has gone as the 3 guys who have been the most streaky as gone - Dozier, Escobar and Kepler. 

 

SO, if that's the problem, the only solution is to add more good bats either by trade, AAA call ups or return from injury/suspension. Too early for trades and too expensive in prospects. We don't have anyone in the minors who we can realistically expect to give us a real upgrade with the possible exception of Gordon at SS.So, I say bring up Gordon and DFA either Adrianza or Petit (my vote is Petit since Adrianza is the better glove) and then just wait for Sano, Polanco, Morrison and Buxton to either come back or improve to historical norms.I don't see much of anything else that makes sense.

 

Bottom line - nothing to see here folks, move along. 

    • Mike Sixel and bighat like this

 

I agree, but if you can't get on base, it has less value to be good once you do. There is still a ton of hope, he's not exactly old. But here's just not a good enough hitter so far, alas. Great defender and base runner.... Not even a meh hitter yet.

Agreed.There's no such thing as a valuable position player OPS+'ing 23...or 60 or 70.Even in center field there are not enough opportunities (that average defensive players wouldn't make) to make up for outs at the rate he's made them for long stretches of his career to date.He could be a combination of Usain Bolt and Lou Brock on the bases, wouldn't matter.Too many outs.But, if he hits balls over the fence 15-20 times each year and improves the obp part of it even moderately, he's a star.And that's what he looked like he was going to be capable of at the end of last year.We'll see.

 

Regarding the rest of the team...other than CF...1B, DH and SS are the positions with probably the biggest offensive delta between the Twins and league average.Theoretically, SS gets fixed when Sano comes back (and/or Polanco comes back), DH is trending in the right direction.And nothing's going to be done about 1B.So...let's hope the guys start hitting!

    • Mike Sixel and bighat like this
Trade Sano for Machado.
Hate to beat a dead horse with a broken record, but have to say again I felt this team would hover around .500 to begin the season and then take off. Why? Despite some good veterans, there's still a lot of young players that make up this team, and it's future, and all players get hot and cold spells, but a collection of 24-26yo players are still going through learning curves. And there is the intangible complexity of just adding a number of new players to the roster.

Other than Lynn, we are starting to see this team mesh as of late. But to the key points:

1] Gordon and Wade. Love Gordon's season and potential. I know he's still working on things, but he'd be able to play almost daily...if given the opportunity...and it's sort of a "Why not" considering the Polanco suspension and Adrianza's play thus far. (I wouldn't just dump Adrianza). No to Wade. I like him, but I just don't see him coming up to mostly sit on the bench.

Grossman has been hitting better. Grossman has some decent value. But not brining in someone to challenge/replace him was the one major guffaw by the FO this past off season. It's not too late. At this point, I'd rather have ST sensation and early season performer LaMarre. But go out and find a solid, quality bat/OF to be that 4th guy.

2] Buxton to the minors. Didnt happen, probably not going to happen. Still think the Granite injury complicated this situation. I would have loved even a few games just to get some timing back. But his defense, and even the bunt and his base running the other day shows his value even as he works his way back.

3] Get a catcher. There is a whole different thread on this so I will be brief. You have a young, inexperienced catcher now thrust in the limelight. But he has potential, has picked his bat up with more regular play, has caught several outstanding games, and deserves a chance...for a few weeks at least...before pulling a trigger for something other than depth.

4] Shake up the lineup. Molitor has done that. I like Mauer leading off with Dozier hitting second. Molitor has been experimenting. I like that as well. The biggest problem has been clutch hitting. THAT is not on Molitor. (A poor 7-9 with bench players hasn't helped).

Mostly, this remains about patience. I know this is about offense, but consider all the new pitchers. Consider Santana out, Sano out, Buxton out, Polanco out entirely, bad weather, missed games, lack of consistency, travel schedules, etc, and we're sitting around .500 and playing much better as of late despite that horrendously bad stretch.

Morisson is starting to heat up. Find a legitimate replacement for Grossman offensively and defensively. Give Garver a real chance for the next few weeks. Make room for Gordon and start his clock and play him daily because, why the hell not?
    • bighat and Doctor Wu like this
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TheLeviathan
May 16 2018 09:50 PM

I think there are only two important things to emphasize:

 

Get Sano back.

 

Fix Buxton.I don't know what the issue is but he's had nothing more than a month or two where he's been outrageous and the rest of the time he's so bad at the plate he starts to make me remember Drew Butera.And I don't like to remember Drew Butera.We already have Bobby Wilson for that anyway.

What's Oswaldo Arica doing nowadays? Ha! Just kidding! Then again ....

The Yankees and Red Sox players that age don't seem to need time to warm up. Why should the Twins get this excuse? They aren't a young team.
    • bighat likes this

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