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  1. Twins Non-Tender Cron and Hildenberger

    Cron, who was projected to earn around $7.5 million next year via his final turn at arbitration, was always a dubious bet to be locked in at that rate, despite the solid production in his first year with the Twins. His fate seemingly became sealed in recent weeks, with GM Thad Levine noting that the 29-year-old's postseason wrist surgery was "significant."



    Minnesota still has the option of bringing back Cron at a lower rate, and they may very well explore it, but for now, a wealth of possibilities open up. Among them: shifting Miguel Sano to first base and adding a new third baseman (or going with Marwin Gonzalez at one of those spots).

    Meanwhile, the decision to non-tender Hildenberger falls into a different category. He wasn't eligible for arbitration, but the Twins elected not to tender him a 2020 contract, thus making him a free agent and clearing his spot on the 40-man roster. Like with Cron, the Twins have the option of pursuing Hildenberger on the open market (and I personally hope they do).

    The rest of the arbitration-eligible pack was tendered, including: Trevor May, Eddie Rosario, Miguel Sano, Byron Buxton, Taylor Rogers, Jose Berrios, Tyler Duffey, Matt Wisler, and Ehire Adrianza. The latter, Adrianza, inked a one-year deal worth $1.6 million – a modest $300K raise for a versatile player coming off his best offensive season.

    We'll now have to wait and see how salaries shake out for those other players, who can exchange numbers with the club up until the January 10th submission deadline. Usually teams and players find middle ground smoothly (we estimated where those figures might land in the Offseason Handbook), but differences in perceived value can emerge and cause friction. I've suggested this may happen with the Twins and Rosario. We'll see.

    Intriguing non-tenders from elsewhere around the league include A's reliever Blake Treinen and D-backs starter Taijuan Walker. With Cron and Hildenberger removed, the Twins now have five open spots on the 40-man roster.

    • Dec 02 2019 09:27 PM
    • by Nick Nelson
  2. Bad Sliders: What Happened to Trevor Hildenberger?

    Now, this is where I must admit that I am heavily biased towards pitchers that throw sidearm/submarine. I love the somewhat goofy dichotomy between the ultra serious hitter and the dude on the mound scraping his knuckles on the ground in order to be as effective as possible. Plus, it seems like they all have cool names (Darren O’ Day, Chad Bradford, Dan Quisenberry, you get the idea). So in 2017 when this fresh faced reliever named “Trevor Hildenberger: gets called up and does this to his very first batter:



    You can bet that I am now fully invested in his future at the big league level.

    Hildenberger was astounding in 2017, rarely do you ever see a reliever with an elite groundball rate (58.8%) and great peripherals also (2.92 xFIP). Hildenberger was in the top 15 for relievers with at least 40 innings pitched in 2017 for both of those stats respectively and it seemed like the Twins had a future elite reliever.

    2018 started in a similar way for Hildenberger as he held a 2.06 ERA in late June and had only allowed more than one run in a single outing just once. That is, until the game from hell on June 30th. Recall, if you will, the series against the Cubs in 2018 where Willians Astudillo made his major league debut, every game ended up in a shootout, and players dropped so much due to the heat that the ending outfield was Logan Morrison-Willians Astudillo-Robbie Grossman. Beyond that butcher of a defense was a nightmare outing for Hildenberger in which he walked four batters, gave up four hits, allowed five earned runs, and only got one out. His ERA on the season shot up from that 2.06 mark to 3.18 and he hasn’t been the same pitcher since.

    It would be dramatic for me to imply that a single outing was the turning point in a career but perhaps the outing was more of a symbolic pivot in which the Cubs became the first team to make it apparent that Hildenberger was beatable. The numbers are incredibly eye-opening as in 81 ⅓ major league innings before the outing his ERA/FIP/xFIP slashline was 2.66/3.44/3.26 and his groundball rate was 54.5%. Starting with that outing through his most recent appearance on September 21st in 2019 his slashline becomes 9.72/5.12/4.41 with a groundball rate of just 40.9% over 50 innings.

    I think I speak for most Twins fans when I ask; “what the hell happened”?

    The first thing to look at is his pitch mix which is a fairly standard sinker, slider, and changeup combo with the occasional over-the-top four-seam fastball to keep hitters on their toes. His slider has never been that good by pVAL (pitch value) but his sinker/changeup combo was what allowed him to be dominant to start his career which leads me to believe that somehow that combo has gotten worse. His changeup pVAL was still elite in 2018 but his fastball quality went into the toilet despite gaining a small tick of velocity. Why could this be? Well, let’s take a gander at some heatmaps and oh:

    Hildy before June 30th 2018


    Hildy after June 30th 2018


    There’s a significant shift more towards the outside of the plate vs righties and inside vs lefties. The general stereotype is that lefties love it down and in and perhaps throwing more outside to righties allows them to get extended and hit the ball harder than when he was going in earlier in his career. Granted, this may not be “the” thing but it certainly is “a” thing, pitching is more complicated than just a single pitch losing its location.

    No matter what, Hildenberger does not have much room for error if he wants to continue his major league career. He’ll likely start the year at AAA and be one of the first arms called upon when the inevitable bullpen shuffle occurs but any success is far from guaranteed and all anyone can hope for is that the Trevor Hildenberger of old is still somewhere in there.

    • Nov 15 2019 07:25 AM
    • by Matt Braun
  3. Twins Game Recap (9/21): Twins Blow Lead, Implode in Ninth

    Box Score
    Berrios: 6IP, 8H, 5 ER, 1BB, 5K, 68% strikes (66 of 97 pitches)
    Bullpen: 3IP, 8H, 7ER,2 BB, 2K

    Home Runs: Wade Jr. (2)
    Multi-Hit Games: Wade Jr. (2-for-3 HR, 3B, BB), Arraez (2-for-5, 2B), Cruz (2-for-5), Sano (2-for-4)
    Bottom 3 WPA: Rogers (-0.43), Berrios (-0.24), Rosario (-0.14)

    Kansas City Strikes First

    In the top of the second inning, with one out, Jose Berrios hit Alex Gordon in the foot. After a bloop single, Ryan O’Hearn doubled, scoring Gordon. Meibrys Viloria then hit a shallow fly ball to Eddie Rosario and Ryan McBroom tagged from third. Rosario’s throw was slightly off-line, but appeared good enough to get McBroom. However, after reaching across to tag McBroom the ball popped out of the webbing of Jason Castro’s mitt when it hit the ground. Berrios was able to strike out Brett Phillips and keep the score at 2-0.

    Rookies Spark the Offense, Man

    With Dick Bremer lamenting about how many first pitch fastballs Twins hitters were taking, LaMonte Wade Jr. came up in the bottom of the third and turned on the first pitch Glenn Sparkman had to offer. 416 feet later Kansas City’s lead was cut to one. The home run was the second of Wade Jr.’s young Twins MLB career.



    Broadcaster

    Latroy Hawkins claimed that he joked with Wade Jr. before the game that he hit like Reggie Jackson in batting practice, but like Michael Jackson in games. It appears that Wade Jr. took Hawkins' words to heart.

    In his next at-bat, Wade Jr. led off the bottom of the fifth with a triple. Luis Arraez followed Wade Jr.’s triple with his second hit of the game, a hustle double that scored Wade Jr. to tie the game. With the rookies doing their job, the anti-rookie, Nelson Cruz stepped up and singled in Arraez for his team-leading 104th RBI.

    That marked the end of the day for Sparkman.

    With runners on first and second and no outs, Eddie Rosario stepped up to the plate and did the most Eddie thing possible – he immediately popped out on the first pitch. But luckily for Minnesota Miguel Sano stepped up and singled in Jorge Polanco (who had earlier walked) to put the Twins up 4 – 2. Royals shortstop Adalberto Mondesi was kind enough to gift Minnesota another run by botching a Willians Astudillo groundball, allowing Nelson Cruz to come home and put the Twins momentarily ahead.

    Berrios stumbles, Royals Strike Back

    Things were looking good going into the sixth and Jose Berrios was able to induce a double play after allowing the first two Kansas City hitters of the inning to single. With a runner on third and two outs, McBroom singled to bring the score to 5 -3. The next batter, the other Ryan, took a Berrios’ changeup for a ride, tying the game up. Berrios was able to finish out the inning, but it marked the end of the day for Berrios.

    Rogers, Hildenberger Falter

    Both Kansas City and Minnesota got great efforts from their bullpens after Sparkman and Berrios left the game. However, after Tyler Duffy and Serio Romo went six up, six down in the seventh and eighth innings, Taylor Rogers struggled mightily in the ninth. Rogers managed to get only one out, giving up three hits, the most damaging one a two-run dinger coming off the bat of pinch-hitter Cheslor Cuthbert. It’s worth mentioning that it is the fourth time in the last six games that Rogers has pitched (although he hadn’t thrown more than 14 pitches in any of the appearances).

    Trevor Hildenberger relieved Rogers and the wheels really fell off. Hildenberger faced six batters and failed to record an out. It doesn’t get much uglier than that. By the time the top of the ninth finally ended the Twins were down 12 – 5 and the game had been lost.

    Jorge Alcala Debuts

    If you bothered to stick around after the meltdown, you were rewarded by getting to see Jorge Alcala make his MLB debut (and see a seemingly never ending, nearly 50-minute(!) top of the ninth). He came into the game with the bases loaded and one out and gave up a single that Marwin Gonzalez had a chance to catch but didn’t. His four-seam fastball topped out at 95. He would go on to walk in another run but finally ended the inning by retiring two Royals batters.

    Postgame With Baldelli




    Bullpen Usage Spreadsheet

    Click here for a review of the number of pitches thrown by each member of the bullpen over the past five days.

    • Sep 22 2019 12:24 PM
    • by Patrick Wozniak
  4. Trevor Hildenberger’s Journey Back

    Reliability Machine
    During parts of the 2017 and 2018 seasons, Hildenberger was one of Minnesota’s most reliable relievers. Paul Molitor relied on him heavily during the team’s run to the 2017 AL Wild Card Game. He didn’t debut until the end of June and he went on to post a 3.21 ERA with a 1.05 WHIP including eight games finished and a save. He seemed like he could be a vital part of a Twins team looking to rebound after multiple rough seasons in a row.

    Hildenberger continued to be reliable to start the 2018 campaign as he compiled a 3.33 ERA with a 1.13 ERA in the first half. His month of May was terrific as he limited opponents to three earned runs in 14 innings (1.93 ERA) with 12 strikeouts and two walks. He was continuing to be used in late inning situations while racking up holds on a team trying to get back to the playoffs.

    From there, something changed with Mr. Hildenberger.

    Reliable No More
    There were some bumps in the road during the second half including a four-game stretch during the beginning of August where he allowed nine earned runs. Overall in the second half, he allowed 27 earned runs across 27 innings with a 1.82 WHIP. There were blown leads and blown saves, but Molitor continued to use Hildenberger in late inning situations.

    Even with the late-season struggles, Hildenberger was expected to be a bullpen option under new manager Rocco Baldelli. He struggled through the early months of the season as he posted an 8.36 ERA across 19 games (14 innings). Eventually, he ended up being demoted and then spent a couple months on the IL with a flexor mass strain. The injury might have been the result of working through some mechanical changes.

    For a pitcher trying to get back to the big leagues, his injury might have been a blessing in disguise.

    Journey Back
    Hildenberger worked with Rochester’s pitching coach Mike McCarthy to tweak his delivery, because he was flying open too early and the results, as described above, were not great. With his unique side-armed delivery, Hildenberger provides two versions of himself, a very good pitcher with control and deception or a pitcher struggling with command and location.

    To return to his role as a very good pitcher, his journey back started in the GCL with a couple appearances against lower level competition as he tried to get a feel back for his pitches. He pitched four innings over three games and allowed one earned run on four hits. From there, he headed back to Rochester where he started to look more like the player he was in 2017.

    Since coming off the injured list on August 20, albeit in a small sample size, he didn’t allow any runs and he pitched more than one inning in five of six appearances. He added six strikeouts and issued only one walk. Hildenberger earned a save, a win, and pitched in the late innings of all, but one of his appearances.

    Manager Rocco Baldelli told the Pioneer Press, Hildenberger has “been a good major league reliever in the past. It’s in there and we know it’s in there. We just have to find a way to bring it out.”

    Minnesota might find a way to bring it out of Hildenberger in September and this could make him a potential wild card for Minnesota’s postseason bullpen.

    • Sep 09 2019 07:57 PM
    • by Cody Christie
  5. 20 Names for Twins September Callups

    Over the course of the season Minnesota has used the fringes of its roster as a revolving door to a certain extent. The rotation has utilized a taxi squad for both length and bullpen help, while the final bench spot has rotated with players offering positional flexibility as starting talents have needed time off. There are both avenues for reward and merit-based promotions here and I imagine it would behoove the Twins to capitalize on all of them. Let’s look at some of the groupings.

    Taxi Squad (5): Devin Smeltzer, Zack Littell, Kohl Stewart, Lewis Thorpe, Sean Poppen

    Cody Stashak and Randy Dobnak both find themselves a part of this group as well but are currently on the 25-man roster. This collection of arms has been utilized to be used at a moment's notice for the Twins this season. Whether making spot starts, pitching mop up, or keeping games close in the middle innings, these guys have provided immeasurable value to Minnesota during the 2019 season.

    The trio of Thorpe, Smeltzer, and Littell have all operated in some very high leverage spots thus far and could be counted on down the stretch. Stewart and Poppen have been more product of circumstance, but there’s no reason for the front office not to reward these guys. A month of big league pay as well as some additional development could go a long way toward growth and future development.

    Retreads (5): Ryne Harper, Trevor Hildenberger, Fernando Romero, Willians Astudillo, LaMonte Wade

    Don’t get this twisted, retread is hardly a negative definition here. This trio is a group of guys who have been on the big-league roster, have been optioned out, and their future status remains in flux. Harper obviously offered the most to the major league team this season. His Bugs Bunny curveballs were a thing of beauty until they weren’t. Having a book on him now, he needs to find a way to keep opposing batters off balance. Sent to Triple-A after struggling for months and owning options, it made sense, but he should get the opportunity to wrap up 2019 with in the big leagues.

    Pairing Hildenberger and Romero is an interesting case study. One is a former stud that wore down, and the other was expected to take a leap that never came. Now healthy, Hildenberger has been lights out since his activation from the IL, and a return to form would give the Twins an arm that has pitched in some very big spots the past couple of seasons. Romero hasn’t been as expected, and we’re still as confused as ever considering what he could provide, but letting him get some low leverage work and try to finish the year on a high note makes some sense.

    As the first position player here Willians Astudillo will return, to the delight of Twins fans. He’s a character and energizer bunny, but Minnesota will need more in terms of production. It’s great that he doesn’t strike out, but a heightened ability in the box needs to come in the form of commanding the zone, not just covering it. If he can take more of a Luis Arraez approach and rein in his swing to pitches he can do something with, the Twins will have two of the better contact hitters in the game. Wade isn’t much of a retread given he played in just two games before hitting the shelf. A 60-day IL move would open a spot, or he could be activated despite the short runway back to game action.

    Fresh Faces (2): Brusdar Graterol, Jorge Alcala

    Easily the two biggest names tied to potential promotion are two of the Twins' top prospects. Graterol is a top-100 pitcher that’s expected to be a difference maker in the rotation. There’s some uncertainty about how good he’d be there, and he’ll have a chance to flash his relief arm in 2019. A triple-digit fastball is going to play, and if he can miss bats while keeping hitters off balance, you can assume he’ll make a difference in the postseason.

    The prized part of the return in the Ryan Pressly trade, Alcala too is a fireballer who can pump the cheddar. He’s as much an uncertainty for the rotation as Graterol (if not more) but has looked great since switching to the pen at the end of July. Both guys need 40-man spots, and with just one opening, some roster shuffling will need to take place.

    Needing a Spot (5): Jake Reed, Zander Wiel, Wilin Rosario, Alejandro De Aza, Ian Miller

    Only Reed here is a former top prospect. Drafted out of Oregon with the intention of getting to the big leagues in short order, though the fiery fastball and clean bill of health have escaped him at times. He warranted a look last season but was passed over. This year the numbers are much worse, but he’s incorporated a new arm slot and has dealt with the Triple-A baseball as well. Subject again to being lost this offseason, it may be a final opportunity to see what’s there.

    Wiel has been the pride of a Rochester team that employed bigger names. The former Vanderbilt star has 29 doubles in 121 games while owning an .838 OPS. Twenty-two homers show off his power, and while there’re plenty of strikeouts he’s pushed for an opportunity.

    The trio left over is an interesting bunch. Rosario is essentially a DH and hasn’t played in the big leagues since 2015. The 30-year-old owns an .858 OPS at Triple-A though, and his 19 dingers are bolstered by a .306 avg. De Aza was a late season depth acquisition and he’s done his part with a .994 OPS in 29 games. Miller represents Minnesota’s version of Terrence Gore. He hasn’t played in an MLB game, but the 27-year-old has stolen 34 bases in 119 Triple-A games this year. All these guys would need a 40-man spot.

    On the Mend (3): Stephen Gonsalves, Nick Gordon, Brent Rooker

    Had the season gone, or ended, differently for any of this trio they could’ve found themselves in a different category. Gonsalves just recently got back on the mound and has only 12 IP in 2019. He’s at Double-A right now but has worked for Minnesota previously and did come out of the pen. Nick Gordon had a strong year two at Triple-A, following a path he’s repeated most of his pro career. He’s been on the shelf since early August after taking a pitch to the knee, so his season could be over. Rooker recently returned to action and was rehabbing at the GCL. With that season done though he’ll need game action elsewhere. A 1.036 OPS in 41 G from June 1 through his injury, along with a .933 OPS in 65 total games with Rochester, it appeared he was ready for more.

    Two of three in this section have current 40-man spots, and their inclusion or exclusion from the active roster could swing plenty of decisions. Gordon and Gonsalves could be placed on the 60-day IL (with service time implications) to free up openings. Rooker would need an avenue to inclusion on the 40-man for the first time in his career.

    If we’ve done the math correctly, there’s a total of 20 names that are potentially in play for the Minnesota Twins to use on the 40-man active roster in a couple of days. No matter how aggressive the club wants to be, the maximum number of additions would be 15. Of those 20, eight need a spot on the 40-man roster that currently sits at 39 occupants. If this exercise shows us anything, it’s that there’s a good amount of opportunity, but still a large number of mouths to feed.

    Being a better man, I’d put the O/U on Twins call ups at 5.5 and take the over without thinking twice. Rochester’s season ends Monday September 2, so we probably won’t have complete clarity until that point. I’d bet the Twins mix in a good number of bodies to provide rest, as well as talent to provide help, when they make their decisions in the coming days.

    • Aug 29 2019 03:47 PM
    • by Ted Schwerzler
  6. Twins Minor League Report (8/24): Gray, Webb Provide Huge, Late-Inning Hits

    Find out everything that happened happened in the Twins system on Saturday, starting with some awards and the transactions of the day.

    But before we do that, in case you missed it, Twins prospect and 2019 draft pick Edouard Julien injured his elbow in the Pan Am Games and will have Tommy John surgery in the next couple of weeks.

    AWARDS

    On Friday, the Midwest League and Appalachian League announced their postseason All-Star teams.

    • Kernels 1B Gabe Snyder was named to the Midwest League team.
    • E-Twins OF Max Smith was named to the Appy League team.
    TRANSACTIONS
    • Mariana Guzman posted early on Saturday morning the news that RHP Edwar Colina had been promoted to Triple-A Rochester.
    • The Twins optioned RHP Ryne Harper and promoted RHP Cody Stashak to the big leagues.
    • RHP Danny Moreno came off of the GCL's 60-day injured list.
    RED WINGS REPORT
    Rochester 6, Syracuse 2
    Box Score

    It was a good offensive night for the Red Wings as they got contributions from a lot of players. Willians Astudillo is now hitting .474 with the Red Wings after a 2-for-5 performance which included his first double. Wilin Rosario went 3-for-5 with his 23rd double. He’s now hitting .310. Ian Miller went 2-for-5 with his third double and he stole his fifth bag. Ronald Torreyes went 2-for-5. Also, Zander Wiel hit his 36th double, a noteworthy milestone.

    httptwitter.com/JoshWhetzel/status/1165428945241722885

    It was a bullpen game for the Red Wings. Preston Guilmet started and tossed three scoreless innings. He gave up just one hit and struck out three batters. Trevor Hildenberger came in. He faced six batters and got all six out. Jake Reed pitched 1 2/3 innings, giving up two runs (one earned) on two hits and two walks. He struck out two batters. Brusdar Graterol got the final out of the seventh inning but not before allowing the inherited runner to score. He worked a scoreless eighth frame. He struck out one batter in the four outs he recorded. Ryan O’Rourke pitched a scoreless ninth inning.

    BLUE WAHOOS BITES
    Pensacola 4, Jackson 8
    Box Score

    Bryan Sammons was back on the mound for the Blue Wahoos. The lefty started the game with four scoreless innings. However, he ended up giving up three runs on five hits and three walks over 4 1/3 innings. He struck out four. Marcos Diplan gave up three runs on two hits over 1 2/3 innings. Alex Phillips gave up two runs on three hits (two HRs) with two walks and three strikeouts. Anthony Vizcaya gave up a hit in his scoreless inning.

    Ryan Costello provided much of the Blue Wahoos offense. The slugger knocked his seventh Pensacola home run, a two-run shot. Ryan Jeffers went 1-for-2 with two walks. Alex Kirilloff hit his 17th double. LaMonte Wade went 1-for-4 with a walk in another rehab game.

    MIRACLE MATTERS
    Ft. Myers 4, Palm Beach 1
    Box Score

    Chris Vallimont made his fourth Miracle start since joining the organization on July 31st. On this night, he gave up one run on four hits over 5 2/3 innings. He walked two and struck out nine. He improved to 4-5 overall in the Florida State League, but with the Miracle, he is 2-2 with a 3.63 ERA. In 22 1/3 innings, he has walked four and struck out 28 batters.

    Moises Gomez continues his terrific season with 2 1/3 perfect innings. He struck out three. Then Yennier Cano came on and worked a perfect ninth inning for his second save.

    Gilberto Celestino had another multi-hit game. He went 2-for-5 with his third and fourth doubles. Andrew Bechtold went 2-for-5 with his eighth double. Yeltsin Encarnacion went 2-for-3 with a walk. Jose Miranda and Brian Schales each had two hits as well.

    The Miracle won their fifth straight game.

    KERNELS NUGGETS
    Cedar Rapids 3, Peoria 2
    Box Score

    Tyler Webb has done it a couple of times already, once in E-Town and soon after with the Kernels. The Kernels were down 2-1 going into the bottom of the ninth. They tied the score on a fielding error. Webb came to the plate and lashed a single to score Matt Wallner and give the Kernels the walk-off win. And a celebration ensued.



    Andrew Cabezas started for Cedar Rapids. He tossed six shutout innings, overcoming six hits and four walks. He struck out just one. Jose Martinez gave up two runs (one earned) on three hits and a walk over two innings. Ricky Ramirez struck out two in a perfect top of the ninth inning to earn the Win.

    Jared Akins went 2-for-4 with an RBI. DaShawn Keirsey added a triple.

    Byron Buxton is expected to DH for the Kernels on Sunday afternoon and then play center field on Monday night. From there, it is to be determined. He may be ready to play in Chicago on Tuesday.



    E-TWINS E-NOTES
    E-Twins 4, Danville 2
    Box Score

    Seth Gray has played hero for the E-Twins several times this season. On Friday night, his walk-off homer was his second of the year. On Saturday night, he hit a two-run homer in the bottom of the eighth inning that turned a 2-1 deficit into a 3-2 lead. The Twins added one more and got the nice road win.

    Willie Joe Garry gave the Twins a 1-0 lead in the fifth inning with his fifth home run. Charlie Mack went 2-for-3 with his eighth double. Anthony Prato went 2-for-4.

    Ben Gross, the Twins 10th-round pick, put together the best start of his young career. He struck out seven batters over five shutout innings. He gave up just two hits and didn’t issue a walk. Denny Bentley came on and did well too. He struck out three over two scoreless innings. Brent Headrick came on for his second pro appearance. He gave up two unearned runs on two hits and a walk and recorded just two outs, one on a strikeout. Tyler Beck came on and got the final four outs to give the team the win.

    GCL TWINS TAKES
    GCL Twins 3, GCL Red Sox 10
    Box Score

    Stephen Gonsalves made another rehab start in the GCL. On this day, he was able to complete three innings. He gave up just two hits and no runs. He struck out four and did not issue a walk.

    Venezuelan Danny Moreno came on and made his first appearance of the year. He tossed a scoreless inning .He gave up just one hit, and he struck one batter out. It as a rough one for Miguel Rodriguez. In 2 2/3 innings, he gave up seven runs (six earned) on eight hits and two walks. He struck out five. Matthew Swain came in and gave up three runs on five hits and a walk in his inning. He struck out two. Steven Theetge struck out two in 1 1/3 scoreless innings.

    Luke Raley continued his rehab and went 1-for-4. Victor Heredia hit his first home run. Jim Caceres, Erick Rivera and Jesus Feliz each hit a double.

    TWINS DAILY PLAYERS OF THE DAY

    Twins Daily Minor League Pitcher of the Day - Ben Gross, Elizabethton Twins
    Twins Daily Minor League Hitter of the Day – Seth Gray, Elizabethton Twins

    PROSPECT SUMMARY
    Here’s a look at how the Twins Daily Midseason Top 20 Twins Prospects performed:

    #1 - Royce Lewis (Pensacola) - 1-5, RBI
    #2 - Alex Kirilloff (Pensacola) - 1-5, 2B(17), K
    #3 - Brusdar Graterol (Rochester) - 1.1 IP, 2 H, 0 R, 0 BB, 1 K (22 pitches, 15 strikes)
    #4 - Trevor Larnach (Pensacola) - 0-2, 2 BB, K
    #5 - Wander Javier (Cedar Rapids) - 0-4, K
    #6 - Jordan Balazovic (Ft. Myers) - Did Not Pitch
    #7 - Keoni Cavaco (GCL Twins) - Did Not Play
    #10 - Blayne Enlow (Ft. Myers) - Did Not Pitch
    #11 - Lewis Thorpe (Minnesota) - Did Not Pitch
    #12 - Nick Gordon (Rochester) - Injured List (lower leg contusion)
    #13 - Ryan Jeffers (Pensacola) - 1-2, 2 BB, RBI
    #14 - Luis Arraez (Minnesota) - 1-4
    #15 - Matt Wallner (Cedar Rapids) - 0-4, K
    #16 - Ben Rortvedt (Pensacola) - Injured List
    #17 - Akil Baddoo (Ft. Myers) - Injured (Tommy John)
    #18 - Jorge Alcala (Rochester) - Did Not Pitch
    #19 - Misael Urbina (DSL Twins) - 1-3, BB, RBI, K, SB(19)
    #20 - Travis Blankenhorn (Pensacola) - 0-4, 3 K

    SUNDAY’S PROBABLE STARTERS
    Rochester @ Syracuse (12:05 CST) - LHP Devin Smeltzer (1-3, 3.28 ERA)
    Jackson @ Pensacola (5:05 CST) - RHP Griffin Jax (4-3, 2.69 ERA)
    Ft. Myers @ Palm Beach (12:00 CST) - LHP Lachlan Wells (2-4, 4.15 ERA)
    Peoria @ Cedar Rapids (2:05 CST) - RHP Josh Winder (7-2, 2.82 ERA)
    Danville @ Elizabethton (4:05 CST) - TBD
    GCL Red Sox @ GCL Twins (11:00 CST) - TBD

    Please feel free to ask any questions and discuss the Saturday games or any other minor league topics you would like.

    • Aug 25 2019 05:20 AM
    • by Seth Stohs
  7. The Twins' Three Looming Wild Cards

    Apart from Littell, the group that has filtered into the Twins bullpen has largely been composed of rising prospects earning a look. Although Stewart was a former first- round pick by Minnesota, it has been just Littell that is still considered a relatively high-level prospect. His performances have had Minnesota working on a plan designed towards more relief success, and in short bursts, the former Yankees prospect has certainly looked the part.

    The next man up could be coming from a trio of arms that were never considered to be in a position of fluctuation. Trevor Hildenberger was once the Twins reliever in the highest leverage situations. Stephen Gonsalves is a former top pitching prospect, and Brusdar Graterol has seen his name appear on plenty of current top 100 lists. It’s in this group that the front office has some interesting options, and significantly different paths at their disposal.

    Sidewinding Star

    Hildenberger owned a 3.21 ERA in just over 40 innings two years ago. His FIP suggested he was even better, and the 9.4 K/9 compared to the 1.3 BB/9 was exceptional. Minnesota had turned a 22nd-round pick into a valuable weapon. Then as that season, and the next wore on, Paul Molitor appeared to ride the hot arm into the ground.

    Through July 13, 2018 Hildenberger had already made 42 appearances for the Twins and turned in a 2.80 ERA. He was called on for another 28 innings from that point forward and his ERA in that stretch was an ugly 9.64 with a .995 OPS against. The result was a 5.42 ERA and a pitcher that looked anything but the 2017 version of himself. Entering 2019 the hope was that there’d be a turnaround, but an ugly 14 innings to start, and then an eventual injury at Triple-A shelved that promise.

    Now healthy and on a rehab stint for Triple-A Rochester, Trevor is battling his way back. He’ll need to prove 2019’s start, at both the MLB and Triple-A levels, are behind him and that there’s a very good pitcher in there somewhere. Having thrown significant high-leverage innings previously, something close to the 2017 version of him would be a massive addition for Minnesota down the stretch and in the postseason.

    Lanky Lefty

    A former top 100 prospect, Stephen Gonsalves getting a clean bill of health is among the best developments he’s had in 2019. Dealing with shoulder issues since the get go, he pitched just two innings at Triple-A Rochester before shutting it back down. Now rehabbing at the GCL level, he’s turned in two successful outings and the arm has come through unscathed.

    Gonsalves isn’t a huge strikeout guy, and walks have plagued him over the course of his career, but this is certainly an arm with upside. In 100 Triple-A innings during 2018 he posted a 2.96 ERA. Working out of the bullpen would be new for him, as he’s started 118 of the 126 professional appearances he’s made, but it could be a role in which he could help the Twins.

    Having utilized spot-starters in certain situations this year, Gonsalves could also factor into that mix. His pitch counts are likely going to be scrutinized with the non-existent workload this season, but letting it fly may be easier without the additional miles. Having talked to him this spring, Wes Johnson had implemented some impactful velocity knowledge on the minor league group, and Gonsalves’ maturity combined with the MLB experience from 2018, may work in his favor for a September contribution.

    Little La Makina

    Arguably the best pitching prospect in Minnesota’s system at present, Graterol could find his way to the big leagues in relief this year. He’s been a starter since signing out of Venezuela, but there’s some thought his long term role comes in the bullpen anyway. He too has dealt with shoulder issues this year, but has been cleared and is back pumping triple digits.

    A guy like Graterol could fill the role Minnesota talked up for prospect Fernando Romero coming into spring training. Turning in two or three inning bursts out of the pen, Graterol wouldn’t need to worry about pitch counts and could immediately attack opposing hitters. As referenced above, he’s got a fastball that can break the radar gun, and his career K/BB rates are plenty fine.

    It would be an aggressive jump from Double-A to a major league bullpen, but Graterol would be working more on refinement in Triple-A than anything else. Where both Hildenberger and Gonsalves provide somewhat of a safe but predictable option for the Twins, Graterol is the boom or bust type that represents the highest ceiling the rest of the way.

    No more trades are happening for this club, and there’s a low probability that clubs are designating relievers of substance at this point. If Minnesota wants to right the ship on the mound, starting or relieving, the performances will need to come from within. Turnover at the end of the bullpen has seen plenty of arms get their shot, but this unique trio provides an avenue for a true answer if everything breaks right.

    This season is the last in which big league rosters expand to the full 40-man come September. Should any of these arms be right as evidenced by their rehab assignments, it’s a good bet to see one, if not all, in the next few weeks.

    • Aug 13 2019 03:00 PM
    • by Ted Schwerzler
  8. Where's the Weakness?

    The Offense
    Minnesota’s offense has ranked as one of the best in the league. There are few weaknesses from top to bottom in the line-up. The Twins rank second in the AL in batting average, SLG, OPS, home runs, and hits. They have also scored the most runs and hit the most doubles.

    Of regular starters, Marwin Gonzalez has the lowest OPS on the team (.722) and he got off to a slow start. He ended the first month of the season hitting .167/.244/.256 with three extra-base hits. Since the calendar turned to May, he is hitting .358/.427/.552 with seven extra-base hits. Minnesota’s biggest offensive weakness this season has turned it around.

    Yesterday, I wrote about the team’s trend of barreling up the ball. Minnesota’s catching core has been unreal at putting the barrel on the ball. As one would expect, Nelson Cruz ranks near the top of the league. Other players like CJ Cron and Byron Buxton have also made some stark improvements.

    Minnesota’s offense was expected to improve but this has to be beyond the wildest dreams of most fans.

    The Starting Staff
    Even with a strong offense, a poor starting staff can destroy a season. Twins starting pitchers have outperformed many of the expectations entering the season. Coming off an All-Star season, most people knew what to expect from Jose Berrios. The rest of the staff has also gone above and beyond.

    Jake Odorizzi’s 1.6 WAR ranks him fourth in the AL among pitchers. He has the second-best ERA, the fourth best hits per 9 IP, and the seventh best WHIP. His ERA is almost 1.5 runs lower than his career mark. Earlier this month, he won the AL Player of the Week and he has continued to perform well.

    Martin Perez has also been a breath of fresh air. Since joining the rotation, he has a 2.01 ERA and a 41 to 13 strikeout to walk ratio in seven starts. This spring with the help of Odorizzi and Johan Santana, he was able to start developing a cutter. He uses this more than his other pitches and teams are having a tough time figuring it out.

    Kyle Gibson and Michael Pineda have seen some ups and downs. Pineda is in his first season back from Tommy John, so some struggles were expected. Even with the struggles, Pineda has produced quality starts in his last three starts.
    Depth at the back end of the rotation could be a weakness. If one of the top three starters were to be hurt or start underperforming, the rest of the rotation could struggle. Stephen Gonsalves, Kohl Stewart, Lewis Thorpe, and Zack Littell are waiting in Rochester. Could they be trusted taking over a spot in the rotation?

    The Bullpen
    At this point in the season, the casual fan might consider the bullpen to be the team’s greatest weakness. Most of this thought process comes from the team having a non-traditional bullpen. There is no designated closer and four different players have earned saves this season.

    Blake Parker, Ryne Harper, Matt Magill and Taylor Rogers all have ERA’s of 1.80 or less. Trevor May has made the most appearances out of the bullpen. Even though he has allowed eight earned runs in 18 IP, he has 17 strikeouts. Manager Rocco Baldelli has been able to turn to most of these pitchers with confidence in any situation.

    Trevor Hildenberger, a key component of the 2017 team, struggled through the beginning of the season. In 14 innings, he allowed 13 earned runs and it seemed like his breaking pitch wasn’t doing what he wanted it to do. He is down in Rochester trying to work through some of his struggles. Adalberto Mejia was another player that struggled (11 earned runs in 11.1 IP), but he is now on the injury list.

    Fernando Romero has been transitioning to a bullpen role between the MLB and Triple-A levels. Lots of other relief pitchers have been struggling in Rochester. Maybe the switch to using the MLB baseball has impacted their numbers. Perhaps, top pitching prospect Brusdar Graterol could be used in a bullpen role later in the season.

    What do you see as the team’s biggest weakness? Leave a COMMENT and start the discussion.

    • May 23 2019 09:05 AM
    • by Cody Christie
  9. Across the Meadow: May 15

    You can listen directly here or download directly from iTunes here. Additionally, you can access all the previous episodes as well.

    Let us know what you think and thanks for listening!

    • May 16 2019 06:55 AM
    • by Jeremy Nygaard
  10. MIN 8, LAA 7: Twins Squeak Out Victory

    Box Score
    Odorizzi: 5.1 IP, 9 H, 3 ER, 2 BB, 3 K, 64.3% strikes
    Home Runs: Buxton (2), Castro (6)
    Multi-Hit Games: Polanco (2-for-4, 3B), Schoop (2-for-4), Adrianza (2-for-3, 2B, BB)
    WPA of +0.1: Adrianza .121, Buxton .109
    WPA of -0.1: None
    [attachment=12511:Win515.png]
    (chart via FanGraphs)

    Pitching
    Jake Odorizzi has been one of the Twins best pitchers recently, and entered this game with 20 straight scoreless innings. He was able to extend his streak to 22 before giving up a one-out home run in the third inning. Odorizzi didn’t have his cleanest start of the season, giving up a season-high nine hits, but was able to hold the Angels to only three runs.

    The bullpen was a little shaky today, and in the seventh when Matt Magill gave up a sac fly to Goodwin, which was the first run given up by a bullpen pitcher, who isn’t Trevor Hildenberger, in 12 games. Magill wasn’t charged a run on this as May had given up back-to-back singles right before he was taken out.

    Trevor Hildenberger continued to struggle on the mound today as he gave up three runs on three hits. He has given up runs in five of his last six outings and it hasn’t been just one run each time either. He has given up two runs four of those outings and three in today’s. It might be time to send Hildenberger down to Triple-A to hopefully get his confidence back up.

    UPDATE: Hildenberger was optioned to Triple-A after the game.

    The Angels put together a ninth inning rally, after Hildenberger retired the first batter. The Angles put together four straight hits to get the game to 8-6. Mike Morin came in and surrendered a hit on his first batter, struck out the next batter, but then hit Mike Trout with the bases loaded to bring the game to 8-7. Morin was able to strand three runners as he got Ohtani to ground out to pick up the save.

    Errors Early
    Both teams were a little off in the field at the beginning and it ended up turning into runs for the Twins.

    In the second inning, C.J. Cron was able to reach off a dropped third strike, and two batters later, Schoop reached on an infield single, and thanks to an error by Cahill, he advanced to second while Cron moved to third. Ehire Adrianza was able to make the Angels pay with a 2-RBI double for the first runs of the game.

    On the Twins side, the error occurred on one of the weirdest plays. It happened with Odorizzi and Cron, after Ohtani hit a weak comeback that Odorizzi was able to collect. However, Cron was looking for Jonathan Schoop to field the ball, and didn’t even realize Odorizzi had it. This led to Odorizzi throwing to an unprepared Cron, which allowed Ohtani to reach second base. Luckily the Twins were able to make it nothing as Simmons grounded out the next at-bat.


    Offense
    Byron Buxton was able to hit his second home run of the season in the fifth inning, with Castro adding another the next inning for his sixth of the season. Rosario was able to pick up a hit for his third straight game and get his average back up to about .250. Polanco added two hits, one of them being his fifth triple of the season, as he sits at .331.

    What really helped in today’s game was the Twins’ fifth inning on offense when they put together four runs on three hits and a walk. It came at a perfect time when the score was 2-1 to put them up 6-1. Another key component in today’s game was not leaving runners on base, which the Twins kept to only five compared to 14 for the Angels

    What’s Next?
    The Twins get right back in action tomorrow as they travel to Seattle to play the Mariners in a four-game series. They will see the Angels again next week as they travel to LA for a three-game series.

    Miguel Sano has also just been activated and could be seen in the lineup within the next week. Adding him to this already powerful lineup will just add fuel to the fire and give the Twins another weapon in the lineup.

    Postgame With Baldelli

    Bullpen Usage
    Here’s a quick look at the number of pitches thrown by the bullpen over the past five days:
    [attachment=12512:Bullpen515.png]
    Next Three Games
    Thu at SEA, 9:10 pm CT (Pineda-Swanson)
    Fri at SEA, 9:10 pm CT (Perez-Gonzales)
    Sat at SEA, 9:10 pm CT (Berrios-LeBlanc)

    Last Game
    MIN 4, LAA 3: Throw Down

    • May 15 2019 10:30 PM
    • by AJ Condon
  11. Week in Review: Firing On All Cylinders

    Weekly Snapshot: Mon, 5/6 through Sun, 5/12

    ***

    Record Last Week: 5-2 (Overall: 25-14)

    Run Differential Last Week: +26 (Overall: +51)

    Standing: 1st Place in AL Central (4.0 GA)

    Willians Watch: 1-for-5 last week (Season AVG: .315)


    Willians Astudillo is back! He was activated from the disabled list on Sunday and batted leadoff in his return. Meanwhile, Tyler Duffey (called up for Saturday's doubleheader) and Fernando Romero were sent back to Triple-A over the weekend. It's unfortunate because both have shown some nice signs (especially Romero, firing four scoreless innings with a 15% swinging strike rate in his past four appearances), but both will see more chances soon enough.

    HIGHLIGHTS

    As we reach the quarterpole in the MLB season, Minnesota has two players creating legitimate noise as MVP candidates.

    The case for Jorge Polanco thus far is easy to see. After another stellar week (11-for-26 with two home runs and three doubles), Polanco is hitting .324/.393/.607 ranks second only to Mike Trout in the AL with 2.1 WAR. Polanco's K/BB ratio is among the best in the league and he's hitting for incredible power. Best of all, he's doing it as a SHORTSTOP who holds his own defensively.

    It's a little tougher to make an MVP-pace argument for Mitch Garver, mainly because his playing time doesn't quite stack up. Splitting reps in a three-way catcher committee, Garver has fewer than half the plate appearances of Polanco. Yet in that time, he has produced more home runs (8 to 7) and nearly the same RBI total (16 to 17).

    We keep waiting for his seemingly unsustainable start to slow down, but week after week, Garver stays on fire. This last one was no exception: he went 6-for-13 with two more homers and six walks. Among American League players with 75+ PA, no one has a higher OPS than Garver (1.214).



    There's little doubt the catcher is going to cool off at some point – maybe in a big way – but that's no knock against him. There's just no credible reason to believe he can keep up this Barry Bonds impression for long. But Garver has erased any semblance of doubt surrounding the legitimacy of his bat, while showing clear improvement behind the plate as well. And it's nice to know that should he fall into a slump, the Twins have Jason Castro (4-for-7 with two home runs last week, and slugging 1.000 in his past nine games) and Astudillo bringing his .870 OPS off the Injured List on Sunday.

    If you could lump all of Minnesota's catchers into one player (Masians Castrudiller?), he'd be the runaway MVP frontrunner without question.

    Those backstops continue linking up with Twins starting pitchers to produce amazing results. On Tuesday, Jose Berrios fired seven shutout innings in Toronto to pick up his sixth win and seventh quality start in eight turns. He's completed six or more innings in every outing. Fresh off earning Player of the Week honors, Jake Odorizzi extended his scoreless streak to 20 innings on Friday with seven near-perfect frames against the Tigers. Martin Perez was excellent in his first turn (7 IP, 0 R vs. TOR) and solid in his second (5 IP, 3 R vs. DET). He has a 2.13 ERA in six starts for the Twins.

    Even the previous rotation laggards are starting to join the fun. Kyle Gibson struck out 11 and notched 19 swinging strikes in a dominant showing versus Toronto on Wednesday. Suddenly he's got a 2.25 ERA and 28-to-3 K/BB ratio over 24 innings in his past four starts, resembling the overpowering force he was for much of last year. Michael Pineda still doesn't look all that sharp, but he logged a quality start on Saturday with three runs allowed over six innings. In 39 frames, Pineda has struck out 35 and walked nine. Egregious home run rate aside, there's plenty of underlying positivity in his early output coming off Tommy John surgery.

    A couple other strong performances from the past week worth highlighting:
    • C.J. Cron, who'd been one of the lineup's weakest producers, turned that around in a big way with a pair of four-hit games and three homers. He now has nine bombs in the books, which is more than his predecessor at first base (Joe Mauer) managed in either of the past two seasons.
    • Ryne Harper chipped in three more clean outings, allowing only one hit in 3 2/3 with a walk and four strikeouts. The 30-year-old rookie has made 15 appearances this year, and 14 have been scoreless. What a wonderful story.
    LOWLIGHTS

    Last week in this space, I expressed some concern over Trevor Hildenberger and his sudden vulnerability, noting that his usage had dissipated as his results had taken a downward turn. Seven days later, those concerns are only louder. He coughed up two runs on three hits in one inning against Detroit on Saturday, and then did the same on Sunday, this time with a more costly impact (his two runs allowed were the difference in the game).

    Throughout most of April, Hildenberger appeared to have re-established himself as one of Minnesota's most reliable late-inning arms, but now he has fallen right back into the rut that plagued his second half in 2018. In his past seven appearances Hildy has surrendered 10 earned runs on 14 hits in six frames. He's a complete mess, and the Twins can't afford to stick with him much longer at this rate. The 28-year-old does have options left, so a move to Triple-A is in play.

    On the bright side, there really aren't any other poor performances worth calling out from the past week – a huge credit to the comprehensively high-quality play we continue to see from this roster.

    TRENDING STORYLINE

    For a third straight week, Miguel Sano is grabbing out attention. First he was preparing to start his rehab stint, then it was officially underway, and now he's on the verge of wrapping it up. Sano moved up to Class-AAA Rochester over the weekend after a brief stay at Pensacola. He went 0-for-4 with three strikeouts in his first game for the Red Wings, but bounced back with a 2-for-4 effort (plus a walk) on Sunday.

    Barring any setbacks, I suspect we'll see Sano recalled during the coming week. It'll be interesting to see who's moved to make room. The likeliest candidate seems to be Ehire Adrianza, who's been woefully unproductive. Then again, maybe the issue takes care of itself, as Nelson Cruz could be headed for the shelf with a wrist injury that knocked him out of Sunday's game.

    At this moment, I'm even more curious about another Triple-A rehab stint. Reliever Addison Reed is on the road back after missing the first month with a "left thumb injury," and has looked utterly terrible in Triple-A, just as he did in spring training, and just as he did for much of last summer. In three appearances for Rochester, he has coughed up four runs on eight hits over three innings of work, striking out two of 17 batters faced.

    Where to go from here? There's no way the Twins can add Reed back to the roster. Stashing him on IL for a month with a vague non-throwing hand issue was already a bit of a stretch, but now they're running out of places to hide him. It's unfortunate, because a peak-level Reed would be such a huge difference-maker for this Minnesota bullpen, but that player is clearly long gone. At this point I think the Twins have no choice but to cut their losses and designate him for assignment, eating millions in remaining salary. For now, Reed still has a couple weeks left in his rehab window.

    DOWN ON THE FARM

    On July 31st of last year, the Twins traded longtime stalwart Brian Dozier to the Dodgers, in exchange for what appeared to be a modest return. Dozier was trudging through a disappointing season, slashing just .227/.307/.405 for Minnesota, and was just two months from free agency. The Twins had no hope of prying any top prospects, but they procured a couple of intriguing pieces from LA in outfielder Luke Raley and left-hander Devin Smeltzer.

    Well, Dozier's struggles only worsened down the stretch as he batted .182/.300/.350 over 47 games and barely saw any time in the postseason. Over the winter, he signed a one-year deal with the Nationals, but in Washington it's been much of the same: Dozier's slash line sits at .197/.301/.331 through 38 games. (His Twins replacement at second, Jonathan Schoop, is at .276/.324/.504.)

    Meanwhile, Raley is mashing at Rochester, where he's 14-for-33 in the month of May and sporting a .299/.364/.542 line overall. He's still not going to sprout up on any top prospect lists but the 24-year-old lefty swinger is solidifying himself as viable MLB-ready depth. In Triple-A, he's mostly played right field with a little center mixed in.

    Smeltzer is an even more compelling case. There was no significant buzz around him as a middling southpaw coming out of the Dodgers system, but ever since joining the Twins organization he has been completely lights-out. In 42 innings at Double-A, between the end of last year and the start of this one, he posted a 1.29 ERA and 49-to-5 K/BB ratio. He moved up Rochester at the beginning of May and has somehow gotten better, hurling 15 shutout innings with only seven hits allowed.

    I'm not sure what to make of him. You watch the guy pitch and you aren't wowed by his velocity or stuff, but the superlative results are eye-popping, and he's doing it consistently at the highest levels of the minors. Smeltzer, 23, isn't currently on the 40-man roster, but is putting himself in line to get a chance when the need arises.

    One more pitching note from the minors: Brusdar Graterol was in the middle of another stellar outing on Wednesday, with 5 1/3 scoreless innings logged, when he was pulled from the game due to an apparent injury. This understandably caused instant panic to sweep through Twins Territory, but Darren Wolfson of KSTP swooped in quickly with a relieving report:



    Assuming this optimism proves valid, it looks like the Twins dodged a bullet with their top pitching prospect, who has held opponents to a .168 average through his first 38 innings at Double-A.

    LOOKING AHEAD

    Another seven-game week lies ahead, with the Twins first hosting Trout and the Angels, then traveling to Seattle for four games against the Mariners.

    MONDAY, 5/13: ANGELS @ TWINS – LHP Tyler Skaggs v. RHP Jose Berrios
    TUESDAY, 5/14: ANGELS @ TWINS – TBD v. RHP Kyle Gibson
    WEDNESDAY, 5/15: ANGELS @ TWINS – RHP Trevor Cahill v. RHP Jake Odorizzi
    THURSDAY, 5/16: TWINS @ MARINERS – RHP Michael Pineda v. RHP Erik Swanson
    FRIDAY, 5/17: TWINS @ MARINERS – LHP Martin Perez v. RHP Felix Hernandez
    SATURDAY, 5/18: TWINS @ MARINERS – RHP Jose Berrios v. LHP Marco Gonzales
    SUNDAY, 5/19: TWINS @ MARINERS – RHP Kyle Gibson v. LHP Yusei Kikuchi

    Catch Up On Twins Daily Game Recaps

    • May 12 2019 06:53 PM
    • by Nick Nelson
  12. DET 5, MIN 3: Tigers Out-Tater Twins, Gardy Gets Tossed

    Game 1 Box Score
    Pineda: 6.0 IP, 6 H, 3 ER, 0 BB, 5 K, 68.4% strikes (65 of 96 pitches)
    Home Runs: Castro (5), Cron (8)
    Multi-Hit Games: Castro (2-for-4, HR)
    WPA of +0.1: Cron .288, Harper .161, Castro .127
    WPA of -0.1: Cruz -.120, Rosario -.137, Kepler -.214, HIldenberger -.402
    [attachment=12498:Win511g1.png]
    (chart via FanGraphs)

    The Twins entered the ninth inning tied and had a freakishly fresh bullpen to work with. Rocco Baldelli had both Trevor Hildenberger and Taylor Rogers warming in the pen during the bottom of the eighth inning. He went with Hildy. It didn’t work out.

    Hildenberger gave up a solo homer, his first home run allowed this season, and allowed a second Tiger run to score in the inning. He’s now surrendered eight runs in his last six appearances. You have to wonder when it’s time to roll him back to low-leverage work whenever possible.

    Michael Pineda started this game. In the fourth inning, he gave up his third home run of the day to the struggling Tigers lineup, sparking conversations about what to do about his spot in the rotation going forward.

    He ended up providing a quality start.

    The Twins’ starting pitching has been so dominant of late that a performance the club would have been desperate for from a back of the rotation guy in recent years inspires cause for concern in 2019. Pineda ended up giving up just those three runs on the solo homers over his six innings of work.

    Pineda did get an assist from Ryne Harper, who stranded two inherited runners in the seventh, but Big Mike ended up surrendering just six hits and didn’t walk anyone. Serving up taters is bad, obviously, but Pineda has always done a nice job limiting damage by limiting free passes. He now has 35 strikeouts and just nine walks on the season, a 3.88 K:BB ratio. That ranks second on the starting staff behind only Jose Berrios.

    In the sixth inning, Jason Castro appeared to have been hit by a pitch. Detroit should have left well enough alone, but instead they challenged the call and it was overturned. Castro responded by destroying a home run to bring the Twins within a run of the Tigers. C.J. Cron tied things up in the eighth with a home run of his own.

    Unfortunately, that’s when Hildenberger came in and allowed Detroit to re-take the lead. The Twins’ lineup failed to make the most of their opportunities in this game. They drew five walks and had a batter hit by a pitch, but were also 0-for-5 with runners in scoring position and left 10 men on base.

    Ron Gardenhire was ejected from this game, drawing a fun reaction from the Target Field crowd. Good to see Gardy still has some fire left in him.


    Bonus Fun with Morneau and Perkins

    Bullpen Usage
    Here’s a quick look at the number of pitches thrown by the bullpen over the past five days:
    [attachment=12499:Pen511g1.png]
    Next Three Games
    Sun vs. DET, 1:10 pm CT (Perez-Norris)
    Mon vs. LAA, 6:40 pm CT (TBD)
    Tue vs. LAA, 6:40 pm CT (TBD)

    Last Game
    MIN 6, DET 0: Odorizzi Deals (Again), Twins Win Fourth in a Row

    • May 11 2019 10:10 PM
    • by Tom Froemming
  13. MIN 4, HOU 10: Springer and Bregman and Altuve... Oh My!

    Box Score

    SP: Michael Pineda: 5 1/3 IP, 8 H, 4 ER, 2 BB, 4 K, 65.5% strikes
    Home Runs: Eddie Rosario (10)
    Multi-Hit Games: Jonathan Schoop (2-4)
    WPA of +0.1: Eddie Rosario (0.189), Max Kepler (0.147)
    WPA of -0.1: Michael Pineda (-0.309), Trevor Hildenberger (-0.213), Jorge Polanco (-0.117)

    Posted Image
    (chart via FanGraphs)

    For the second straight night, the Minnesota Twins jumped out to a fast start in Houston. Leadoff hitter Mitch Garver got on with an infield single. One out later, Nelson Cruz reached. Eddie Rosario went opposite field to give the Twins a 3-0 lead just four batters into the game.



    He became the fastest player in Twins history to reach double digits in homers, in just his 21st game of the year.



    At that point, Wade Miley took over. Now, he barely reached 90 mph in the game, but he worked the bottom of the strike zone very well and retired the next 15 batters before leaving the game after the sixth inning.

    George Springer went to work for the Astros with his bat. In the third inning, he put Houston on the board with an RBI single. Then he hit an RBI double in the fifth inning. Later in the inning, Alex Bregman took a 3-0 fastball and drilled a ball to left field that scored two runs and put the Astros ahead 4-3. Fortunately, Rosario threw Bregman out at second base.

    The Twins were probably glad to see Miley’s night come to an end. With two outs in the top of the seventh, 17 straight Twins batters had been retired, the Twins had three straight hits, the third an RBI single by Max Kepler. It marked the 200th RBI of Kepler’s young career.

    But Trevor Hildenberger had to pitch with the bases loaded again, this time his own doing. He got Alex Bregman to line out to right field, but the go-ahead run scored. Adalberto Mejia was brought in to face lefty Michael Brantley, and the veteran with one of the sweetest swings in the game hit an RBI single to left to give the Astros a two-run lead after seven innings.

    Ryan Pressly shut the Twins down in the eighth inning. However, the bottom of the eighth got off to a bad start and Tyler Duffey was unable to stop the bleeding. The inning started with an error by Jorge Polanco and it just went downhill from there. Duffey fielded a bunt and threw errantly toward second, allowing a runner to score. And later Jose Altuve crushed a three-run homer that pushed the score to 10-4. All four runs were unearned.

    Former Twins All Star reliever Glen Perkins chimed in on twitter with his thoughts on the Duffey performance tonight.



    Michael Pineda worked well through the game’s first four innings, but you just can’t hold off the Astros lineup for very long. George Springer, Alex Bregman and Jose Altuve combined for eight of the Astros ten RBI.

    Following the game, the Twins announced that Kohl Stewart will be called up to make the start on Wednesday night against Justin Verlander. The corresponding roster move will be made on Wednesday.

    The clubhouse remained closed to media for quite some time after the game (obviously due to a transaction happening), so FSN did not air the Rocco Baldelli post-game press conference. Here it is:



    Bullpen Usage
    Here’s a quick look at the number of pitches thrown by the bullpen over the past five days:
    Posted Image

    Next Three Games

    Wednesday - 7:10 @ Houston - Kohl Stewart (1st start of season) vs Justin Verlander (3-0, 3.00 ERA)
    Thursday - Twins Day Off
    Friday - 7:10 Home vs Baltimore - Jose Berrios (3-1, 2.97 ERA) vs Dan Straily (1-1, 8.59 ERA)
    Saturday - 1:10 Home vs Baltimore - Martin Perez (2-0, 5.31 ERA) vs Alex Cobb (0-1, 11.88 ERA)

    Last Game
    MIN 9, HOU 5: Bats Thrive, Bullpen Survives

    • Apr 24 2019 04:51 AM
    • by Seth Stohs
  14. Craig Kimbrel’s Trickle-Down Effect

    Early Season Results
    Minnesota’s limited amount of games to start the season has certainly altered the bullpen’s results. Only three pitchers have appeared in double-digits games (Trevor May, Trevor Hildenberger, and Taylor Rogers). Blake Parker and Taylor Rogers have split save situations with both players earning three saves or more.

    There have been some surprises so far this season. Minus one appearance in Houston, Ryne Harper has been outstanding. There’s reason to believe he could continue this in the weeks ahead. Hildenberger, Rogers, and Parker have also been outstanding. Does that mean the Twins aren’t that desperate to add depth to the bullpen?

    The Ninth Inning Question
    Craig Kimbrel might not want to pitch outside of the ninth inning. With 333 saves, he currently ranks in the top 14 on the all-time list. He’s a long way away from catching Mariano Rivera’s 652 saves, but there is room for him to move up the list. Even if he signs after the draft this season, he could still pass Rollie Fingers (341 saves) and Randy Myers (347 saves).

    Also, Kimbrel might not be willing to pitch outside of the ninth inning. Rocco Baldelli has been open to using relief pitchers in the best situation. Would Kimbrel be willing to enter the game in the seventh inning if the opposing team’s best hitters were scheduled to appear.

    Relief pitching has drastically changed during the last handful of seasons. Kimbrel might be more worried about his long-term legacy than the results of team he has little connection tio.

    Trickle Down Effect
    If Kimbrel came in to be the team’s closer, other strong relief pitchers would be able to be utilized in earlier innings. May, Hildenberger, Rogers, and Parker could be utilized in earlier innings. Pushing all of the relief pitchers back an inning would mean the starters don’t need to go as long.

    This could make the bullpen even stronger and it could allow the Twins even more separation in the American League Central Division. Will Kimbrel solve everything that is wrong with this team? No… But he could add depth to a strong core. This could be the difference in a first-round exit and a competitive team in the AL Championship Series.

    Could Kimbrel make that much of a difference? I believe he can…

    • Apr 23 2019 07:16 PM
    • by Cody Christie
  15. MIN 4, BAL 3: Gibby Good, Hildy Holds, Rogers Saves the Sweep

    Box Score
    Gibson: 6.0 IP, 5 H, 2 ER, 0 BB, 6 K, 61.8% strikes (55 of 89 pitches)
    Home Runs: None
    Multi-Hit Games: Cron (2-for-3, BB), Adrianza (2-for-4)
    WPA of +0.1: Hildenberger .340, Gibson .168, Cron .112
    WPA of -0.1: Rosario -.108, May -.165
    [attachment=12420:Win421.png]
    (chart via FanGraphs)

    Kyle Gibson had by far his best start of the season this afternoon, completing six innings for the first time in 2019. It took him only 89 pitches to do so. He got 14 swinging strikes, five alone on the 19 sliders he threw.

    Gibson completed at least five innings in 29 of his 32 starts last season, going at least six innings in 21 of those outings. In three starts so far this season, Gibby had topped out at 5 1/3 innings and only completed five frames once.

    Things got a bit hairy in the third inning, but Kyle worked his way through it and got back on track. The Orioles scored a pair of two-out runs in the third, but would only get one more baserunner over Gibson’s final three innings.

    It seemed like the Twins used up all their power yesterday. Maybe should have saved one or two of those homers for this afternoon. They did all their scoring in the first four innings. Willians Astudillo and C.J. Cron had run-scoring hits in the first inning and Jake Cave had an RBI single in the third. Byron Buxton led off that fourth inning with yet another double. He advanced to third on a sacrifice fly and came around to score on another sacrifice.

    We saw Taylor Rogers cover two innings in his outing during the first game of Saturday’s doubleheader and today Trevor May, the first man out of the bullpen, came back out for the eighth after pitching a scoreless seventh inning.

    May gave up back-to-back singles and Trevor Hildenberger was summoned from the bullpen. Hildy came into today having inherited 17 runners already this season, three more than any other reliever in baseball.

    Hildenberger got a huge strikeout, then induced a weak groundout to first base. He had a good battle with Renato Nunez, but ended up walking him to load the bases. That’s when you knew Hildy had them right where he wanted them. He had already faced seven batters with the bases loaded this season. Sure enough, he got a weak swinging bunt to end the threat.

    It’s pretty remarkable how good Hildenberger has been so far this season after looking so lost in the second half of last season. The bullpen could still use some help, but Hildenberger’s continued resurgence would be a massive boost.

    Speaking of Rogers, he came in to handle the ninth. It wasn’t his usual automatic inning. He hit a batter, gave up a pair of hits and an error was committed behind him. The Orioles scored a run, and might have had another if it wasn’t for an excellent play in the field.

    Eddie Rosario did it all in this series. He hit three home runs and robbed the O’s of another one in the field during yesterday’s doubleheader. He was 0-for-5 at the plate today, but he prevented the game-tying run from scoring by cutting off a ball before it reached the fence and getting it back to the infield in time to keep a runner at third base.

    With this sweep, the Twins are now 12-7. That’s a 102-win pace. Sure, there are some clouds lingering around the future sustainability of this success, as there are with any team this early in the season, but an impressive showing against the Astros would go a long way toward blowing those clouds away.

    The Twins head to Houston with a 7-3 record on the road and a 4-4 record against teams with winning records.

    Bullpen Usage
    Here’s a quick look at the number of pitches thrown by the bullpen over the past five days:
    [attachment=12421:Bullpen421.png]
    Next Three Games
    Mon at HOU, 7:10 pm CT (Odorizzi-Peacock)
    Tue at HOU, 7:10 pm CT (Pineda-Miley)
    Wed at HOU, 7:10 pm CT (TBD-Verlander)

    Last Game
    Super Rosario Stars as Twins Sweep Doubleheader

    • Apr 21 2019 08:53 PM
    • by Tom Froemming
  16. MIN 6, DET 4: Berrios Figures It Out, Bullpen Barely Hangs On

    Box Score
    Berrios: 6.2 IP, 4 H, 2 ER, 1 BB, 7 K, 67.3% strikes
    Home Runs: Cron (1), Rosario (3)
    Multi-Hit Games: Rosario (3-for-4, HR, 2B, 2 RBI, 2 R), Polanco (2-for-4), Cruz (2-for-4, R), Garver (2-for-3, 2 2B, BB, R), Buxton (2-for-4, 2B, RBI)
    WPA of +0.1: Hildenberger .283, Rogers .172, Cron .153, Berrios .142, Rosario .131, Buxton .103
    WPA of -0.1: Schoop -.111, May -.175, Parker -.204
    [attachment=12395:Win414.png]
    (chart via FanGraphs)

    Berrios pitched to Jason Castro in all three of his previous starts coming into today. That combo seemed to make a lot of sense, as Berrios entered today’s game with a 4.56 ERA in 71 innings pitched to Garver, a full run higher than his ERA with Castro (he’s only pitched 18 2/3 innings to Willians Astudillo).

    The Berrios-Garver duo got off to a bit of a rocky start, but there was no harm done. It took Berrios 27 pitches to get through the first inning, but the Tigers were held scoreless. They weren’t as lucky in the second, as Berrios gave up a double to Ronny Rodriguez, then a two-run homer to Gordon Beckham.

    Regardless of any pitch calling or receiving elements, Berrios just didn’t look especially sharp early on after having six days off. His command of his offspeed pitches was nowhere near as good as it had been in his previous starts so far this season. He had been using his curveball a ton, increasing his usage of that offering from 30.4% last year to 42.9% so far this year, but that pitch wasn’t worthy of being featured as such today.

    That lack of command didn’t show up in the box score, as his control was good enough to where he only walked one batter and hit another, but he was not spotting those offspeed pitches. But they figured it out.

    Berrios (and Garver) decreased the dependency on that curveball and instead went to more sinkers today. Jose had been throwing that pitch 16.4% of the time so far this year, but threw the sinker 26 times today among his 98 pitches.

    The result seemed to be that Berrios’ four-seam fastball really played up. Berrios got 14 swinging strikes, nine of which came on the four-seamer. That’s very unusual, as Berrios typically gets a much higher percentage of swings and misses on his offspeed offerings.

    Berrios didn’t get a single swinging strike on a four-seam fastball in his last start against the Phillies, he got just one in his start before that at Kansas City and three on Opening Day against Cleveland. Add it all up, and Berrios had just four swinging strikes on 87 four-seam fastballs heading into today (4.6%). He had nine on just 35 four-seamers this afternoon (25.7%).

    Assessing what’s working, what isn’t and making proper adjustments is typically a collaboration between the pitcher and the catcher. You may have some input from coaches between innings, but all the adjustments made on the fly are between those two guys on the field. It’s still very much worth monitoring how Berrios and Garver work together going forward, as I think we all expect those two to be playing together for quite some time, but it was a very encouraging afternoon.

    Below you can see all the balls and called strikes for Berrios. We’ve had some fun analyzing and discussing these charts, which come from MLB’s StatCast data via Baseball Savant. It’s sort of like a work of art in that not everyone will see the same thing, and I always like to point out the top and bottom of the strike zone isn’t the same for every batter, but to my eyes Garver had a very good afternoon, especially by his standards. He also smothered several balls in the dirt with runners on in the eighth and ninth innings.
    [attachment=12394:GarverChart.png]
    Garver was a force at the plate once again, something you’d have to figure the pitching staff also appreciates. He was 2-for-3 with a pair of doubles and a walk. That puts him up to 11-for-22 on the season with three home runs and three doubles.

    Garver, C.J. Cron and Byron Buxton all hit two balls in excess of 105 mph. Altogether, the Twins combined for nine balls hit at a 105 mph exit velocity or harder. Cron’s first homer as a Twin was an absolute laser beam.


    The Twins also played excellent defense today. Jorge Polanco made a web gem and Cron had several beautiful scoops, but nothing beats this great catch made by Buxton as he crashed into the wall.

    The Twins led 6-2 heading into the eighth inning, but things got a little hairy with the bullpen. Trevor May ran into trouble, the Tigers managed to score two runs in the eighth, but Taylor Rogers ended up pitching out of a jam, leaving the bases loaded.

    Blake Parker came out for the ninth to attempt to record his fourth save as a Twin. He had a bit of an adventure in picking up the save on Saturday and his career ERA on zero days rest is 5.18, so there was plenty of reason for anxiety.

    Parker gave up a leadoff infield single on a hot grounder Polanco couldn’t quite handle. Parker walked the next batter, putting the game-tying run on base with no outs for Miguel Cabrera. Anxiety level rising.

    Parker fell behind Cabrera 3-1 — teetering on a panic attack now — but battled back to strike him out. A nine-pitch battle with Christin Stewart followed, Parker walked him and was done for the day after needing 29 pitches to record one out.

    Trevor Hildenberger came in and struck out the next two batters to strand the bases loaded and earn his first save of the season, the ninth of his career. After inheriting 25 runners in 73 appearances last year, Hildenberger has already inherited 14 runners in just eight games this season. His resurgence has been invaluable to the Twins’ bullpen thus far.

    Postgame With Baldelli

    Bullpen Usage
    Here’s a quick look at the number of pitches thrown by the bullpen over the past five days:
    [attachment=12393:Bullpen414.png]
    Next Three Games
    Mon vs. TOR, 6:40 pm CT (Perez-Shoemaker)
    Tue vs. TOR, 6:40 pm CT (Gibson-Sanchez)
    Wed vs. TOR, 6:40 pm CT (Odorizzi-Thornton)

    Last Game
    MIN 4, DET 3: Bats Quiet, Bullpen Hangs On

    • Apr 14 2019 07:28 PM
    • by Tom Froemming
  17. Report From The Fort: Closing Time?

    "Knowing where guys slot in a game is helpful, at least generally from a parameter standpoint. Guys knowing what they’re preparing for and what role they generally play," said Derek Falvey on Wednesday. "But I know Rocco (Baldelli) and Wes (Johnson) have already had conversations with our guys around their role and the way they want to go about it."

    The head Twins front office exec continued: "A few of our guys know they’re going to pitch in the back end of games, and that could eventually evolve into a more set person as we go. But as it stands right today, I don’t think Rocco is ready to name that. I’m comfortable with that if he is."

    It appears that Baldelli is indeed comfortable with this plan. To see a rookie manager eschew such an entrenched convention of the game is surprising and, frankly, rather refreshing. Many analytical thinkers believe that the save ruined relief pitching, and I am of the same mind. When you reserve your best reliever for the end of the game, you risk letting leads slip away at pivotal moments while he stagnates in the bullpen.

    Of course, just because Baldelli and the Twins are ready to enter the season without a defined closer doesn't mean it'll stay that way. The point made by Falvey is an undeniable one: relief pitchers like to know their roles, and unpredictability can lead to tension and frustration. As such, it is likely that Minnesota will eventually settle on a primary ninth-inning guy (though hopefully Baldelli will never be overly stringent or rigid in his usage).

    Let's handicap that race as Opening Day approaches. Here are, in order, the guys I'd expect to accrue saves for the 2019 Twins.

    1. Blake Parker

    With so little clarity among the top candidates, it's pretty tough to pick a true favorite, but Parker is clearly in the back-end mix that Falvey spoke of. He is also an experienced veteran with a 2.90 ERA and 22 saves over the past two seasons. Parker has pitched well this spring with a 10-to-2 K/BB ratio and only four hits allowed in 7 2/3 innings, so his manager has to be feeling confident in what he's seen.

    2. Trevor Hildenberger

    From my view, Hildenberger is the best choice to handle the ninth on a regular basis. He throws strikes and gets grounders, making it tough for opponents to string together rallies and post crooked numbers against him. In his first 73 appearances as a Twin, spanning about one calendar year, Hildenberger allowed multiple runs in an outing only five times.

    Of course, he then did so 10 times in his final 37 appearances last season, so he's got to regain the team's confidence. If and when he settles back into his groove, I think he's the guy.

    3. Trevor May

    May finished the 2018 season as closer and looked damn good in that role, converting three straight saves in the waning days of September and not allowing so much as a hit in any of them. He's the kind of strike-throwing and bat-missing force that can offer safety with slim leads in the ninth.

    But there are two issues at play: 1) When he's on his game, he's also the kind of gas-hurling force you want to unleash in the highest-leverage of spots, which aren't always the ninth, and 2) He hasn't been on his game of late, with four walks and five hits allowed in 2 2/3 innings over his past four appearances. He looked noticeably flustered while struggling to find the zone on Wednesday. With a well established guy, you'd make nothing out of a brief ugly stretch late in exhibition play. But May is not that.

    4. Taylor Rogers

    He is Minnesota's best reliever. I don't think there's any question about that. So in a very traditional sense he'd be the logical pick for closer. But it seems telling that, even while he was almost completely untouchable during the second half last year, the Twins never really gave him a look as Rodney's replacement. That's because – more than anyone else in this unit – he's the guy you want to roll out in those most crucial of spots: runners on, big bopper coming up to the plate. Last year Rogers had the ninth-highest Win Probability Added among all MLB relievers, illustrating the way he thrived in leverage.

    Perhaps most importantly, he is absolute death to left-handers (allowed ZERO extra-base hits against them in 110 PA last year) so the Twins will want to have him available for key matchups. WIth that being said, I expect he'll get a few save chances in situations where two or three lefty hitters are due up in the ninth. That's the beauty of staying open-minded with this role.

    5. Fernando Romero

    Down the line, I believe the Twins envision Romero taking over as their long-term closer. They see him as a big, overpowering, imposing presence with the "bulldog" mentality that teams love at the end of games. Kenley Jansen is one name I've heard thrown around as a (very optimistic) comp. And while that might be a bit of a stretch, Romero does fit all of the aforementioned descriptors, and the idea of his stuff playing up in the late innings caused many (including myself) to think it might happen quickly.

    Falvey threw some cold water on that hype on Wednesday. "I don't know that we were viewing him as the back-end guy right at the outset," he said. "A lot of people think he had the stuff for it and the ability. I think you grow into those roles."

    The CBO mentioned Romero's name in the same breath as Adalberto Mejia, so it sounds like a middle-inning longman role might be more likely out of the gate – IF he makes the team. That's now somewhat in doubt, because while Falvey was holding court with media amidst Wednesday's game, Romero was getting torched for a second straight outing. He's suddenly lost his ability to find the zone. And while it's only spring training, the same thing applies as with May; more so, in fact. Romero doesn't have any track record as a reliever, so the Twins could very well send him down to get a little more acclimated.

    6. Addison Reed

    When Falvey was asked whether fans should expect anyone other than Miguel Sano and Gabriel Moya (who's battling shoulder tightness) to open on the Injured List, he mentioned that it's "possible there may be one more in that group," and then grinned conspicuously, which seemed to indicate there will definitely be (at least) one more in that group. Some of us inferred he was talking about Reed, because the guy hasn't looked right all spring after not looking right for most of 2018.

    If healthy and throwing well, Reed would be at the top of this list, since he's a veteran with an excellent track record and plenty of history closing games (125 career saves). But he's very far from throwing well right now, with 10 earned runs allowed in 5 1/3 innings this spring, and given that an offseason of rest didn't seem to help much, it's tough to imagine what non-surgical solution is going to get him back on track at this point.

    7. Ryne Harper

    The sleeper. Enjoying a great spring, his odds of making the bullpen are greatly bolstered if Reed and Romero (or Matt Magill, who may also be ailing since he hasn't pitched in a week) do not. Harper's buzz isn't entirely a result of his strong work in eight innings this spring (11 strikeouts, zero walks, zero earned runs); he was also quite impressive between Double-A and Triple-A last year, posting an 86-to-10 K/BB ratio with only two homers allowed in 65 innings.

    Granted, he also turns 30 next Tuesday and hasn't yet pitched in the majors, which is why the sleeper label needs to be strongly emphasized. But if he shows well early, reserving him for those less intense save opportunities (multi-run leads, or bottom part of the order due up) would make plenty of sense, and would enable Baldelli to focus on keeping his most powerful arms available to put out fires.

    • Mar 22 2019 03:40 PM
    • by Nick Nelson
  18. Hildenberger Preparing for Another Heavy Workload

    Hildenberger pitched to a 2.66 ERA, 0.98 WHIP and 19.4 K-BB% in the first 81 1/3 innings of his big league career. He gave up multiple runs in just five of his 73 appearances over that stretch.

    Unfortunately, the memory of Hildy that lingers on through this offseason is his final 33 2/3 innings of last year. Trevor had a 9.36 ERA, 1.93 WHIP and 11.6 K-BB% and gave up multiple runs in 10 of his 37 games of that stretch. It was an unbelievable downswing.

    On the surface, it may not seem like Hildenberger’s workload went up all that much from 2017 to ‘18. He pitched nearly the same number of innings, but went from appearing in 58 games between the majors and minors two seasons ago to 73 in 2018. That may not seem like a big difference when stretched across a full season, but fewer off days means less rest, which means less recovery. That applies to both the physical and mental side of the game.

    There were only 10 pitchers who appeared in more games than Hildenberger in 2018. You have to go back to 2010 to find the last Twins pitcher who appeared in more than 73 games (Matt Guerrier, 74). Joe Nathan only appeared in 73 games once as a Twin, his first season with the club. Glen Perkins never reached that mark, topping out at 70. Even “Everyday” Eddie Guardado only topped 73 outings twice in his 17-year career.

    Hildenberger joined Kris Atteberry on this week’s edition of the Twins Hot Stove show, which you can find on the podcast page at the team’s official site. One of the topics they discussed was that heavier workload.

    “I think I can take a lot away from 2018,” Hildenberger said. “There were some ups and there were some downs, I think I was a little less consistent in the second half. You know, 73 appearances was a lot. I took a couple weeks off and then I got right back after it in October and I’ve been training to get my body ready for another long season and another heavy workload.”

    In addition to getting prepared for the long slog of the regular season, Hildy is also tinkering with the idea of giving hitters even more different looks.

    “In terms of specifics, I think fastball command is really big for me, I think everything starts off that,” Hildenberger said. “If I can locate my sinker down in the zone to both sides of the plate, working it in and out, and then maybe finding another offspeed pitch to throw from over the top so they don’t just sit dead red when I come over the top with a fastball.”

    Hildenberger threw from that over the top arm slot 6.1 percent of the time in 2018, a grand total of 71 pitches. Among those, 66 were four-seam fastballs and five were changeups, per the data available on Baseball Savant.

    On Jeremy Hefner’s Role

    The other guest on this week’s Twins Hot Stove Show was Jeremy Hefner, who is transitioning from advance scout to taking over for Eddie Guardado as the bullpen coach. Well, sort of.

    The Twins are updating things, and Hefner’s official title is actually assistant pitching coach.

    “The game is changing ... you don’t have one guy in charge of the bullpen and one guy in charge of the starters,” Hefner said. “Me and Wes (Johnson) are going to tag team. These are our guys and our group and we’re going to work together to get the most out of them.”

    Hefner had high praise for his new coaching collaborator.

    “Wes is great. His knowledge base on bio-mechanics, on pitch usage, on TrackMan stuff, on relations with a pitcher — he’s had a long track record of being able to execute on all of those things," Hefner said.

    “I’ve learned a ton from him. He’s going to be great for the Twins.”

    • Jan 17 2019 06:43 AM
    • by Tom Froemming
  19. Can the Twins Be Competitive With Their Current Bullpen?

    Simply the arrival of new pitching coach Wes Johnson, who led the Arkansas Razorbacks to a 3.58 ERA in two seasons with the program, and the return of catcher Jason Castro to the team are surely going to make a huge difference for the Twins. Here are some other factors that could result in the bullpen becoming a solid unit in 2019.

    Players who can bounce back

    After an awful 2018 overall, there are at least two pitchers who could be expected to bounce back this year considering their track records. Both of them had quality numbers not long ago, but are coming off rather bad seasons in 2018. Addison Reed, who is in the last year of his two-year, $16.75 million contract, could be the greatest lift for this staff. He had a disappointing season last year, but even then he’s shown signs of the good pitcher he had been before.

    During his first 31 games of the season, Reed posted a 3.03 ERA with 8.6 K/9. But then, in the remaining 24 games he appeared on the mound, he had a 6.56 ERA. He had a 4.50 ERA on the year, his worst since 2012.

    There isn’t much statistical evidence that shows he would improve much in 2019. FanGraphs projects that he will have a worse ERA of 4.90 and fWAR of -0,1 (which would be an improvement in comparison with the -0,2 he had in 2018). But I think it’s safe to say that a pitcher with a career ERA of 3.53, who had had three consecutive solid seasons before last year, is not meant to have another terrible year.

    Reed's velocity has dropped considerably from 2017 (92.8 vFA) to 2018 (91.3 vFA), but possibly that’s due to the fact that he dealt with a triceps injury in late June, which had him go to the DL for most of July. When he came back, he posted a 3.60 ERA in the last 14 games of the year.

    Trevor Hildenberger is another player poised to have a good 2019. Most Twins fans are still patient with him because he had a stellar start of his career in 2017 and maintained that performance (or maybe improved it) during the first half of 2018.

    In the first 42 games of last year, Hildy posted a 2.80 ERA, held opponents to a .201 batting average and posted a 9.2 K/9. But just like Reed, his performance plummeted down after mid-July. In the remainder of the season, he had a 9.64 ERA, giving him a 5.42 ERA on the year. Unlike Reed, he is projected to improve a lot this year. FanGraphs estimates that in 2019 his ERA will improve to 4.04 and his fWAR will rise from 0.0 to 0.2. Those numbers aren’t great, but projections aren’t perfectly accurate. If the previous months of his career are an indicator, that rough finish to 2018 was nothing but an accident.

    Both Reed and Hildenberger were missed a lot in the second half of last year, but I think they aren’t done at all. If they manage to recover, the Twins bullpen will see a great improvement. But a lot also depends on the next category of players.

    Maintaining their performance

    Four of the Twins’ current relievers had very solid 2018 seasons: Taylor Rogers, Blake Parker, Trevor May and Matt Magill. If they manage to keep the same kind of numbers this year, Minnesota will be able to achieve consistency from its bullpen. Rogers is the stud of the relief group, having had an amazing season. He posted a team-best 2.63 ERA, 2.33 FIP and 1.9 fWAR. Such numbers are in consonance with his previous two seasons in the majors and his entire minor league career. Nothing ralistically indicates that he is about to have a bad season this upcoming year.

    Parker joins the Twins on a very cheap, basically no-risk contract. He signed with Minnesota for one year, with a salary of $3.2 million. If he manages to maintain the same level from the last couple of seasons, the Twins got themselves a pretty good deal. He arrives in Minnesota after two absolutely solid years with the Angels. In both he’s reached at least 66 1/3 innings, posting a 2.90 ERA and 3.55 FIP, with 10.5 K/9. Parker’s 2017 was stellar, whereas his 2018 was “just good”. But even that “just good” would work for the Twins. He turns 34 in June and since he has prior closing experience, he is possibly the main candidate to take over ninth inning duties.

    The 29-year-old Magill had his breakout with the Twins last year, having started his stint with the club in late April. He went on to appear in 40 games, striking out 56 batters in 56 2/3 innings. During his first 15 games in the majors, he managed to keep a below 2.00 ERA. In 17 of his 40 games he pitched more than an inning, making him one of the most dependable men out of the bullpen in 2018. It’s uncertain if he will remain with the club after Parker’s signing, but he certainly did a decent job last year.

    After spending 2017 recovering from Tommy John Surgery, May came back strong to the Twins. Even appearing in only 24 games in the year, he managed to get 0.5 fWAR, while also striking out 12.8 per nine. His velocity seemed virtually unchanged (94.4 vFA) in his return. It was a smaller sample, but 2018 was by far his best year in the majors. If he manages to repeat that this year, May could be another cornerstone from that bullpen.

    Converting starters into relievers

    Assuming the six aforementioned cases work out the way they could, the Twins would have one or two spots to fill. That’s exactly where most fans would like to see a big free agent signing. But, if they decide to work with one of their in-house options, what would be the best way to go? They could hand over the job to one of the young pitchers currently in the 40-man roster, such as Andrew Vasquez, Lewis Thorpe, Gabriel Moya or John Curtiss. But there might be another safer and more effective way.

    Two young starters could become relievers and provide a strong help out of the pen. Zack Littell hasn’t had very long to show his stuff in the majors, having pitched only eight games for the Twins last year. But one thing was clear: He’s done a much better out of the bullpen than as a starter/opener. In 13 1/3 innings out of the pen, he’s had a 4.05 ERA. He could get another shot in 2019 if the Twins decide to use a 13-man pitching staff. His ERA is projected to improve from 6.20 last year, to 4.62 this year.

    On the other hand, if the club decides to use 12 arms, then the most appealing option would be converting Fernando Romero to reliever. The young Dominican had an amazing first stint in the majors. He had 11 starts for the Twins and has finished the first year with a modest 4.69 ERA, but that’s mainly due to a couple of really bad starts.

    In his first five starts, Romero posted 1.88 ERA while striking out 9.2 per nine. It’s uncertain how well he would do pitching out of the bullpen in the majors, given the fact that he’s done that very little during his minor league career. But, when he did, he was superb. He’s pitched only 18 1/3 innings as a reliever in the minors, but posted a 0.49 ERA. That’s definitely worth experimenting in the Majors.

    Now it’s your turn. What do you think? Can the Twins be competitive with the bullpen as it’s currently constructed?

    This is Thiéres Rabelo's debut article at Twins Daily. You can follow him on Twitter @TwinsBrasil.

    • Jan 11 2019 01:46 PM
    • by Thiéres Rabelo
  20. Twins Daily 2018 Awards: Rookie of the Year

    Garver won the Twins Daily Minor League Hitter of the Year in 2017 and the Twins organization also honored him with the same award. He has been a hitter throughout his time in the minor leagues and his game calling ability has continued to improve. Jason Castro’s injury allowed him to take on a more regular role as the team’s backstop.

    “It was a different role than I thought it was going to be, but I wouldn’t have it any other way,” Garver said. “Big growing experience, learning experience. From where I was last year to where I am now is a world of difference as far as confidence, understand(ing) the game and the speed of this level and that feeling of belonging.”

    In April, Garver got the season started off on the right foot. He batted .281/.324/.531 with four extra-base hits through his first 12 games. May was his worst month as he struggled to a .544 OPS with more strikeouts (15) than hits (12). From there, something clicked and Garver became on the team’s most consistent hitters.

    After hitting .249/.332/.367 in the first half, Garver improved in every category in the second half. He hit .295/.343/.481 with 32 RBI and 16 extra-base hits in the second half. Among Twins players, only Jorge Polanco had more RBI in the second half. Garver was also able to put up these numbers while catching the most games on the team.

    Garver’s second half wasn’t just one of the best on the Twins. It was very comparable to other MLB catchers. His RBI total ranks his third in baseball behind Salvador Perez and Yadier Molina. His slugging percentage also ranks him third behind Perez and Yasmani Grandal. His weighted runs created (wRC+) was also third among catchers as he trailed Grandal and Omar Narvaez.

    One of the biggest changes for Garver was the mentalityy that he belongs at the big-league level. “It’s not really physical, it’s just knowing you can play at this level. That’s the biggest thing,” he said. “From where I was last year -which I knew I could play at this level but I had to see myself do it - that’s the biggest difference.”

    Even as a right-handed batter, he did most of his damage against right-handed pitching. His OPS was 183 points higher against righties and he got on base over 35% of the time. His strikeout to walk ratio looked better against lefties since he faced them in fewer at-bats. In 107 plate appearances, he posted an 18 to 10 strikeout to walk ratio versus southpaws.

    When former Twins manager Paul Molitor was asked to evaluate Garver’s rookie season, he said he saw plenty of positive signs this year but there are also areas where Garver continues to improve.

    “It’s a positive, and really a pretty easy positive,” Molitor said. “We monitor the catching progress day-to-day, week-to-week, month-to-month, and we’ve seen areas that numbers are showing up in a better way. I think that he knows that he has to get better in some capacities involving everything from pitching calling to framing and all those things.”

    “Offensively, I thought he was he was a little tentative early in the year,” Molitor added. “As his aggressiveness came, situational, finding out there’s a lot of hits over there in right field with his swing. Production, he was sitting in the low-teens in RBIs for a long time as I can recall. He’s had a nice spurt here where he started finding a way to not only get hits, but meaningful hits. I think that’s helped him and where his future might go and the role he’ll play moving forward. With Jason coming back, we’re going to have to evaluate where we’re at and see how that combination potentially works together.”

    Congrats to the Twins Daily Rookie of the Year, Mitch “Garv Sauce” Garver!

    Candidates
    Jake Cave only played in 90 games for the Twins and still finished eighth on the team in bWAR. He was outstanding in the month of July as he hit .314/.338/.500 with nine extra-base hits in 70 at-bats. Over the season’s final two months, he had 19 extra-base hits including nine home runs. He’s done all of this while getting on base almost 32% of the time.

    Fernando Romero made his much anticipated debut in 2018 and there were flashes of the kind of pitcher the organization hopes he can be. He made 11 starts for the club from May-July but he would reach his innings limit with the Red Wings and wasn’t called up for September. In his second start, he shut out the Cardinals over six innings and added nine strikeouts. His longest start came in Seattle when he pitched seven innings. He allowed two runs on five hits and struck out seven.

    The Ballots
    Here’s a look at the ballots from our seven voters.

    Nick Nelson: 1) Mitch Garver, 2) Jake Cave, 3) Fernando Romero
    Seth Stohs: 1) Mitch Garver, 2) Jake Cave, 3) Fernando Romero
    John Bonnes: 1) Mitch Garver, 2) Jake Cave, 3) Fernando Romero
    Tom Froemming: 1) Mitch Garver, 2) Jake Cave, 3) Fernando Romero
    Cody Christie: 1) Mitch Garver, 2) Jake Cave, 3) Fernando Romero
    Steve Lein: 1) Jake Cave, 2) Mitch Garver, 3) Fernando Romero
    Ted Schwerzler: 1) Jake Cave, 2) Mitch Garver, 3) Fernando Romero

    Points
    Mitch Garver: 19
    Jake Cave: 16
    Fernando Romero: 7

    How would your ballot look? Leave a COMMENT and start the discussion.

    Previous Twins Daily Rookie Winners
    2015: Miguel Sano
    2016: Max Kepler
    2017: Trevor Hildenberger

    • Oct 02 2018 07:14 PM
    • by Cody Christie
  21. Powerful Pro Debut For Kernels Michael Davis

    Michael Davis grew up in west Texas, in the city of Lubbock. That is football country, to be sure, but there is a lot of great baseball. In fact, Davis noted that the Little League team the year before him went to the Little League World Series. His team finished one game shy of playing in Williamsport.

    Davis played some football into his high school years, but it was baseball that he loved. It was baseball that he loved to play, all the time.

    “I didn’t watch a lot of baseball growing up. I didn’t watch too much TV. I lived in a neighborhood where I had 13 buddies that we would play wiffle ball or some other sport. We went to a few Rangers games, it was fun. I wasn’t really glued to the TV. I cheered for them when they made their World Series run, but same with the Astros. I like the teams from Texas. That’s just kind of the way it’s always been for me.”

    Out of high school, Davis had some thoughts of going to a junior college. He had several offers and often thought it might be fun to leave home for a bit, but in the end, he stayed right in Lubbock and played four years for Texas Tech.

    As a freshman, he was a part-time player, splitting time around the infield. As a sophomore, he earned playing time nearly every game. He responded with a 20-double season.

    As a junior, he started seeing and talking to more scouts. He noted, “All the teams kind of talk to you and want to get to know you, and the teams were interested. They said I had a good arm, and I could play infield.”

    Teams told him that there was a chance that he could be drafted. Unfortunately, a late-season injury cut his season short and he ended up going undrafted.

    He returned for his senior season and really put together a terrific season. He hit .281/371/.524 (.895) with 18 doubles and 12 home runs. The 12 home runs was one more than he had hit over his previous three seasons.

    But even more than his individual success, Texas Tech returned to Omaha to play in the College World Series. It was a great way to end his college career.

    “I enjoyed it so much more the second time. Instead of taking phone pictures of everything, I was just able to take it all in.”

    Scouts were a bit different during his senior season. “The first question is ‘Do you want to keep playing baseball?’ Yeah. I do. And then just hoping the right team finds you.”

    The Twins liked him and took him in the 24th round of this past June’s draft.

    The Twins area scout is Trevor Brown. Davis said, “Trevor had called me a few days before, and talked to me a little bit about it. He said ‘We’ll see what happens.’ A couple other teams had done that also.We were actually at practice and just finished when that round came up. Trevor called me probably 30 seconds after (the pick) and talked to me for five or six minutes. I went in and celebrated with my teammates. Then I think we had three or four more guys got off the board in the next four rounds.”

    At that point, it was a bit of a whirlwind for awhile. Following the College World Series, Davis signed. He went to Ft. Myers briefly before joining the Elizabethton Twins. He played just three games for the E-Twins before being promoted to Cedar Rapids where he was able to spend the final seven weeks and the playoffs with the Kernels.

    Davis’s biggest worry at that time might surprise you. “Trying to find some wood bats. That’s what I was focused on, making sure I had a couple to hit with after I got moved.”

    But Davis, already 22 years old, was ready for the challenge. “It was quick, but I was ready for it. When I got to Elizabethton, I felt like I was playing with college kids. When I got moved up, I thought the same thing. They would have me here if they didn’t believe in me. Got there and just went after it.”

    Shortly after his arrival, the Kernels went on a bit of tear and carried it into the playoffs where they won a series before losing in the Midwest League Western Division championship series. After doing a lot of winning at Texas Tech, being part of a winning team in his professional debut was something Davis really enjoyed.

    “Awesome. We got on a huge hot streak. It was hard for us to lose. We won 16 or 17 out of 20. That’s more fun, I think. You don’t even worry about making the postseason or playoffs. You just go and play. To do it with those guys, that’s a lot of fun.”

    While he struggled with some swing-and-miss early in his time with the Kernels, he really turned it on late and provided a lot of power near the bottom of the lineup. In his 42 games in Cedar Rapids, he hit .294/.327/.559 (.886) with nine doubles, a triple and nine home runs.


    Posted Image
    Steve Buhr

    The increased power that he showcased in his senior season at Texas Tech carried over into his pro debut. He credited his maturity and adjustments in college, but also showed appreciation for his Kernels coaching staff.

    “I think it has a lot to do with both. My knowledge of hitting is much higher. With the Twins, Dink (Brian Dinkelman) and Toby (Gardenhire) were able to help in a short period of time. They worked with me to find something that was comfortable and worked well for me. You get on a role that’s really nice to have. I think my consistency was getting better. I wasn’t necessarily getting a hit every time, but I was making more hard contact instead of striking out.”

    After playing around the infield in college, primarily at second base, Davis stepped right into the Kernels lineup at shortstop and played there the rest of the season. He thinks that his defense might be his biggest strength right now, but he also thinks his time at Texas Tech has really prepared him for this next challenge, professional baseball.

    “Probably playing defense right now. Just having a knowledge of the game. When you get to play four years at a college, you learn so many things and do so many things. Bringing that, and my ability to play defense at a pretty high level. You always want to say Hitting, but hitting comes and goes as a strength. I think it’s something I’ll continue to grown on and hopefully I’ll continue to get better.”

    While he played short, he’s fully aware that Royce Lewis is in the system. He sees that as a good thing. “It’s not always the easiest thing to have a guy like Royce Lewis in front of you, but I see it as a blessing because I know they believe I’ll get a chance as I’m doing the right thing for the organization.”

    But it will also be important for him to play around the field and provide himself, and the organization, with options to keep him moving on up.

    “I’ve played third a little bit throughout college here and there, but I’m comfortable anywhere you want to put me. I may not be the best out in centerfield, but Akil (Baddoo) does pretty well out there. If you need me to go stand out there because something happened, I can do it. I’m not nervous about playing anywhere. But I am really comfortable playing in the middle of the field and that’s where I want to stay.”

    Posted Image
    Steve Buhr

    It is middle infielders that Davis enjoys watching and tries to emulate as well.

    “I really enjoy watching Brandon Crawford play defense. I think the way he does it is really hard for anybody to emulate, and he does it at such a high level. I see myself similar to Jed Lowrie of a Ben Zobrist. I can play around the field. I’m not going to Wow you with any numbers, but I can play the game the right way and play hard.”

    Davis is looking forward to his first offseason from baseball. It’s not something that college players are really used to. He’s got a lot of questions on how to handle his time off, but he’s got the right idea.

    “I think just everything that they had me build on once I got to Cedar Rapids. The working out aspect. Making sure I’m doing it the right way, the way they want me to do it. And also just taking care of myself and knowing my limits. It’s a little different than college baseball where you play in the fall and the spring, and then you can play summer ball. You can kind of play all year round. I’ve kind of had breaks like this before, but not for four to five months. So, trying to get ideas on what guys do in the offseason and asking questions and making sure I’m staying on top of things.”

    And in his spare time, his time away from the game of baseball, Davis enjoys doing something that a lot of Minnesotans can relate to.

    “I’m an avid hunter. I really love to hunt and be out at my buddy’s ranch. Work on guns. Anything hunting wise, you can pretty much count me in on it.”

    2018 was a pretty special year for Michael Davis. He returned to college and played in his second World Series. He was drafted in the MLB Draft. He played really well in his pro debut and helped a winning team. It was certainly a nice block upon which to build.

    • Sep 26 2018 09:53 PM
    • by Seth Stohs
  22. DET 4, MIN 2: Mauer Reaches Milestone, Hildenberger Flops

    Snapshot (chart via FanGraphs)
    Stewart: 6.0 IP, 2 H, 0 ER, 0 BB, 5 K, 64.0% strikes (48 of 75 pitches)
    Home Runs: None
    Multi-Hit Games: Mauer (2-for-4, BB), Polanco (2-for-5, 2B), Cave (2-for-4)
    WPA of 0.1 or higher: Stewart .431
    WPA of -0.1 or lower: Grossman -.134, May -.134, Forsythe -.182, Hildenberger -.507
    [attachment=12059:WinChart925.png]
    It seems Joe is going to leave us all hanging on the whole retirement thing, but the milestone hit provided a great opportunity for him to be acknowledged by the home crowd.


    Mauer ended the night 2-for-4 with a walk and scored both runs for the Twins.

    Kohl Stewart was very good tonight, and has been really good this month. In four appearances, he’s only given up three earned runs on 10 hits and nine walks over 20 1/3 innings pitched (1.32 ERA, 0.93 WHIP). While it’s not like he’s exactly been dominant over that stretch, recording 13 strikeouts, he’s also only allowed one extra-base-hit, a double.

    He relied heavily on his two-seamer tonight, as to be expected, and was excellent at getting strikes with that pitch. Of the 41 two-seam fastballs he threw (according to Baseball Savant), 30 were for strikes (73.2 percent). That allowed him to lean on his four other offerings more as show-me/chase pitches. He threw his changeup seven times, all of them ending up out of the strike zone.

    Yes, a lot of Stewart’s success has come against some of the bottom teams in the league, but seeing his 500-pound fastball be effective against major leaguers and his other four pitches keep guys off balance is a very encouraging sign. He’ll definitely face some stiffer competition than he did tonight, but there’s also so much potential for Stewart to get better.

    Things have to get better with Trevor Hildenberger, right?

    He took over for Stewart in the eighth and allowed Detroit to tie the game on a Nicholas Castellanos RBI single, which was followed by a Niko Goodrum go-ahead single. Hildy yielded to Trevor May from there, but two more runs came in on a James McCann double.

    All four runs were charged to Hildenberger, who has now given up 28 earned runs in his last 27 innings pitched. The fact that Hildy was pitching the eighth in a one-run game would indicate he’s been removed from the closer role.

    Next Three Games
    Wed vs. DET, 7:10 pm CT: Jake Odorizzi vs. Matthew Boyd
    Thu vs. DET, 7:10 pm CT: TBD vs. Francisco Liriano
    Fri vs. CHW, 1:10 pm CT & 7:10 pm CT: TBD

    Last Three Games
    MIN 5, OAK 1: Gibby’s Arm, Cave’s Bat and Adrianza’s Glove Lift Twins to Victory
    OAK 3, MIN 2: Willians Astudillo Collects Three More Hits
    OAK 7, MIN 6: Khrush Davis Walks Off Twins

    • Sep 26 2018 05:53 AM
    • by Tom Froemming
  23. MIN 5, DET 3: Odorizzi Turns In Another Quality Start

    Snapshot (chart via FanGraphs)
    Odorizzi: 68 Game Score, 6.1 IP, 4 H, 2 ER, 1 BB, 6 K, 66.7% strikes (56 of 84 pitches
    Home Runs: Gimenez (2)
    Multi-Hit Games: Mauer (2-for-5), Polanco (2-for-4, 2B, BB), Austin (2-for-4, 2B), Gimenez (2-for-4, HR)
    WPA of 0.1 or higher: Odorizzi .240, Magill .151
    WPA of -0.1 or lower: Sano -.118
    [attachment=12050:WinChart918.png]
    Odorizzi was aggressive tonight, needing just 84 pitches to go 6 1/3 innings. He only walked one batter and struck out six. It’s nice to see him finishing strong.

    Matt Magill took over for Odorizzi with one out and a runner on third in the seventh. He struck out the next two batters, getting swinging strikes on six of the nine pitches he threw that inning. He followed that up with a 1-2-3 eighth inning.

    Tyler Austin was back in the lineup after taking a game off to give his back a break after he tumbled over a railing in Kansas City. His presence was much appreciated, as Austin had an RBI single and a two-run double.

    Miguel Sano also returned to the lineup, playing for the first time since injuring himself on a slide Sept. 4. During the telecast, Dick Bremer noted that Sano hadn’t attempted a slide since the injury.

    Huh?

    You’d think it’d be a good idea to have the guy take some practice slides to make sure everything feels OK before throwing him into a game. Nick wrote a piece last night that touched on some of the questionable choices made by the Twins in concern to how they’ve handled injuries. Add this one to the list.

    Anyway, Sano looked terrible at the plate, striking out in all four of his at-bats.

    Trevor Hildenberger gave up a run on two hits in the ninth. He’s having a tough go of things of late, giving up seven earned runs in his last 2 1/3 innings.

    Postgame With Gimenez


    Next Three Games
    Wed at DET, 12:10 pm CT: TBD vs. Spencer Turnbull
    Thu: Off
    Fri at OAK, 9:05 pm CT: TBD
    Sat at OAK, 8:05 pm CT: TBD

    Last Three Games
    MIN 6, DET 1: Stewart Impresses, Rosario Exits Due to Injury
    MIN 9, KC 6: Twins Swat Four Homers, Avoid Sweep
    KC 10, MIN 3: It’s a Hard Road

    • Sep 18 2018 09:12 PM
    • by Tom Froemming
  24. Week in Review: A Grand Finale?

    Weekly Snapshot: Mon, 9/10 through Sun, 9/16

    ***

    Record Last Week: 3-4 (Overall: 68-81)

    Run Differential Last Week: -8 (Overall: -78)

    Standing: 2nd Place in AL Central (15 GB)


    HIGHLIGHTS

    Home runs from Mauer are rare. Grand slams, even more so. And for such a rarity to arrive against the dreaded Yankees, well, that's all the sweeter.

    The first baseman's big blast – a beautifully struck drive to straightaway center – came in the fifth inning of Tuesday's game with the Twins already leading 6-1, effectively burying the Bombers.

    It came as part of a two-hit night for Mauer, amidst a 7-for-21 week that also included a pair of doubles. It was undoubtedly a productive stretch for the 35-year-old, but only served to push his OPS back up into the .720 range that's been customary for him throughout the summer.

    Just two days after Mauer's grand evening against the Yankees, an article appeared in the Star Tribune indicating that he plans to seriously contemplate retirement during the offseason. While Mauer insists he hasn't made his mind up, there are several quotes in La Velle E. Neal III's piece that suggest he's leaning toward hanging 'em up. For example...

    Regarding the factors at play for him: “There’s a lot that goes into it than just, ‘Do you want to play?’ ”

    Regarding an apparent reversal from his more committed springtime stance: "Yeah, a lot can change in six months. Personally, professionally, physically.”

    Regarding his health and family circumstances: "The concussion, third baby on the way. So we have a lot of things to go over. I want to do that and take a deep breath and try to think with a clear mind.”

    Mauer didn't reference the sagging production (his current .724 OPS and 0.9 WAR would both rank as the second-worst of a 15-year career) but that's also in play here. When accounting for all these aspects, and the general tone of his latest interview, I gotta think Mauer elects to retire this offseason, which would spare the Twins an awkward conversation.

    If so, fans have one more homestand remaining to come see him at Target Field. I highly recommend making a trip out to the park next week; I know I'll be doing so. While part of me looks forward to a new era of locker room leadership, and an unencumbered payroll, this team just won't be the same without him around.

    Mauer's potential farewell tour isn't the only worthwhile attraction as this season winds down. Willians Astudillo continues to be an absolute treat to watch. With Mitch Garver sidelined by a concussion, Astudillo has stepped into a larger role and he is THRIVING:



    Seriously though: Even beyond the all-out heart and hustle this scrappy 26-year-old rookie shows, there's some real offensive ability flashing. Not only does Astudillo put the bat on everything (two strikeouts in 57 plate appearances with MN), he most often hits it pretty hard. Last week he tallied seven knocks in 18 at-bats (.389) and drove in three runs. And he drew his first walk as a big-leaguer!

    Jorge Polanco, who found himself batting either first or second in every start (a change from his previous entrenchment in the three-hole), went 11-for-27 (.407) and launched his fifth homer.

    It was a fruitful offensive week for several members of the outfield unit: Robbie Grossman (9-for-25 with three doubles and four walks), Jake Cave (8-for-26 with a homer and five RBIs), Max Kepler (6-for-22 with two doubles and a homer). Even Johnny Field, who entered the week with a .192 average, joined the fun with four hits and his first Twins home run on Sunday.

    On the pitching end, Jake Odorizzi turned in his finest start in a Minny uniform on Wednesday, carrying a no-hitter into the eighth against New York's potent lineup. He finished with one run allowed on one hit over 7 1/3 innings.

    Considering his historical lack of proven endurance – he's only topped 170 innings once, and has never reached 200 – it's a good sign that Odorizzi is finishing strong. His 27th and 30th starts have been his longest of the season. Since the beginning of August he has a 3.98 ERA, and has quietly corrected his biggest weakness, allowing only three homers in eight turns. The unspectacular yet steady right-hander has made a solid case for returning next year.

    Jose Berrios delivered an impressive performance of his own, hurling six innings of two-run ball against Kansas City on Thursday. It was refreshing to see him in dominant form for the first time in a while – nine strikeouts were his highest total since July 24th, and 14 swinging strikes were his most since July 9th.

    Meanwhile, in the bullpen, Taylor Rogers continued his run of second-half excellence with four more scoreless appearances, allowing only one hit. He's now gone 24 straight appearances without allowing a run.

    LOWLIGHTS

    Berrios exited Thursday's game with a well earned 4-2 lead, but unfortunately failed to procure the win due to Trevor Hildenberger melting down in the ninth.

    Called upon to protect a one-run lead, Hildenberger gave up a one-out RBI double to No. 9 hitter Rosell Herrera that tied the game. Following a single and an intentional walk, the bases were loaded for Salvador Perez, who launched a walk-off grand slam.

    The brutal outing raised Hildenberger's ERA, which had been steadily dropping, back up to 4.70. It bears noting that this was the first of seven save opportunities Hildy's been unable to convert since taking over the closer role. He previously had a 0.77 ERA since the Fernando Rodney trade.

    The righty has had many long stretches of effectiveness this year, with his struggles concentrated in short painful bursts. To an extent, that's reassuring, but there's no ignoring some alarming bigger trends for him – namely, home run and walk rates that have doubled from his standout rookie season.

    Despite his stumbles, Hildenberger will remain an integral part of the bullpen picture going forward. However, Alan Busenitz might be pitching his way out of the Twins' plans. In two appearances last week he was charged with seven earned runs, without recording an out. That's about a bad as it gets. His ERA now sits at 7.71. Despite his sterling work at Triple A, Busenitz is shaping up as a 40-man casualty this fall.

    TRENDING STORYLINE

    As mentioned earlier, Garver has received a concussion diagnosis after taking a foul ball off the mask on Wednesday. He experienced persisting "lightheadedness and headaches" into the weekend, which will understandably set off alarm bells in the minds of Twins fans all too familiar with where this can lead. Adding to the concern is that Garver has had multiple concussions in the past, and was dazed by a blow to the head from Manny Machado's bat earlier this year.

    Garver has been one of the team's biggest bright spots this season, showing plenty of offensive aptitude with gradually improving defense at a crucial position, so the gravity of this development cannot be downplayed. Right now, there's no reason to panic, but it's something to monitor.

    DOWN ON THE FARM

    On Monday night, the last of Minnesota's minor-league affiliates held its own grand finale, as the Fort Myers Miracle capped off an excellent season by winning the Florida State League Championship.

    Fort Myers was a major source of intrigue all summer long, with Royce Lewis, Alex Kirilloff and Brusdar Graterol firmly solidifying themselves as the organization's top three prospects there. Each was instrumental in the Miracle becoming champs. It'll be interesting to see where they fall on national prospect lists this offseason, and then, which level they start at next spring.

    For some additional minor-league reading, check out the season-ending awards Twins Daily has dished out to prospects recently (more to come this week):
    LOOKING AHEAD

    The Twins travel to Detroit and Oakland to wrap up their final road trip of the 2018 season. They need to go 13-0 in their remaining games to finish .500 (ha!). More plausibly, they need to go 5-8 or better to avoid 90 losses, for whatever that's worth.

    MONDAY, 9/17: TWINS @ TIGERS – RHP Kohl Stewart v. RHP Jordan Zimmermann
    TUESDAY, 9/18: TWINS @ TIGERS – RHP Jake Odorizzi v. LHP Daniel Norris
    WEDNESDAY, 9/19: TWINS @ TIGERS – LHP Stephen Gonsalves v. LHP Matthew Boyd
    FRIDAY, 9/21: TWINS @ ATHLETICS – RHP Jose Berrios v. RHP Trevor Cahill
    SATURDAY, 9/22: TWINS @ ATHLETICS – RHP Kyle Gibson v. RHP Mike Fiers
    SUNDAY, 9/23: TWINS @ ATHLETICS – RHP Kohl Stewart v. TBD

    Catch Up On Twins Daily Game Recaps

    • Sep 16 2018 09:33 PM
    • by Nick Nelson