Let's face it: The Twins are going to have a tough time drawing much attention this month. They're limping their way toward another terrible finish, they just traded their second-biggest star, and of course the Vikings -- with reigning MVP Adrian Peterson -- are set to launch a fresh season on Sunday.
It's a baseball wasteland.
For us hopelessly devoted hardcores, though, there are a few developing storylines worth keeping an eye on as the Twins run out the string on another sad season.
1. Mauer's Return
The recent reports on Joe Mauer, recovering from a concussion suffered a couple weeks ago, have been encouraging. It sounds as though he's likely to return this weekend. But in what capacity? And will he exhibit any ill effects, as players such as Justin Morneau and Denard Span have when first returning from head injuries?
A healthy and productive final month from Mauer would be a big relief heading into the offseason.
2. Presley's First Impression
As a 28-year-old outfielder who has been unable to establish himself in the majors, Alex Presley is hardly a prized commodity. But as the principal return in Saturday's Justin Morneau trade, Presley figures to get plenty of tread in the final month so the Twins can get a good look at what they have in him. He doesn't profile as an impact player, but he has been productive in the high minors and went 3-for-4 in his Twins debut Sunday. He figures to compete with Darin Mastroianni for a job as fourth outfielder next spring.
3. Pinto's Audition
The Twins need depth at catcher, since it's unknown how comfortable they will be with Mauer or Ryan Doumit working behind the plate regularly going forward. We've seen in the past how much this team can be wooed by a strong performance during a September call-up (think Chris Parmelee) so if Pinto hits and holds his own defensively it's not unthinkable that he could be in the mix for an MLB roster spot out of the gates next year.
4. Diamond's Redemption
As impressive as his breakout season was last year, Scott Diamond's follow-up in 2013 has been equally unimpressive. Over his first 20 starts in Minnesota, the lefty was plagued by regression across the board, with his once-elite grounder rate dropping into mediocrity while strikeouts and walks both lurched in the wrong direction. Since being demoted to Rochester in early August, Diamond has gotten back on track, going 3-0 with a 2.12 ERA and 0.97 WHIP in five starts. Hopefully he can translate that success back to the majors and gain some confidence heading into the winter.
5. Who's On First?
This would have been a golden opportunity for Parmelee to reinsert himself into the conversation at first base. Morneau has been dealt and seems somewhat unlikely to re-sign in Minnesota during the offseason, so the position appears to be wide open going forward. Unfortunately, Parmelee -- who was bumped to Triple-A in July after hitting .223/.303/.372 over his first 83 games -- has been just as bad in the minors, hitting .226/.316/.363 with three homers in 44 games.
It sounds as though Parmelee will be recalled after Rochester's season ends, despite his struggles, but it's tough to make any kind of case that he's deserving of extensive playing time at this point. Of course, Chris Colabello is hitting .183 and doing little to separate himself. Will someone emerge and show something
before season's end?