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The Twins returned home after a nightmarish road trip but saw little improvement in their play, falling to 3-7 at Target Field with a thoroughly lackluster performance against Pittsburgh.

 

This team is in an astonishingly deep funk. Can they find their way out?

Weekly Snapshot: Mon, 4/19 through Sun, 4/25

***

Record Last Week: 1-5 (Overall: 7-13)

Run Differential Last Week: -15 (Overall: -9)

Standing: 4th Place in AL Central

Last Week's Game Recaps:

 

Game 15 | OAK 7, MIN 0: Hapless Twins Continue Woeful Streak; Swept by Athletics

Game 16 | OAK 1, MIN 0: Hapless Twins Continue Woeful Streak; Swept by Athletics

Game 17 | OAK 13, MIN 12: Offensive Breakout Wasted in Total Unraveling

Game 18 | MIN 2, PIT 0: Happ Takes No-hitter into 8th, Twins Blank Bucs

Game 19 | PIT 6, MIN 2: Lineup Sleepwalks in Another Dire Loss

Game 20 | PIT 6, MIN 2: Déjà Vu All Over Again

 

 

NEWS & NOTES

Between COVID-related maneuvering, injury replacements, and procedural moves, there was a ton of roster action over the past week. Let's quickly get caught up:

  • On Tuesday, Max Kepler, Kyle Garlick and Caleb Thielbar were placed on the COVID-IL. They were replaced on the roster by Brent Rooker, Travis Blankenhorn, and Luke Farrell, who were all traveling with the team as taxi squad members. Lewis Thorpe was called up as the 27th man during the doubleheader in Anaheim, then returned to the minors.
  • The next day, JT Riddle joined others on the COVID-IL, having been deemed a close contact. Tomás Telis came over from the taxi squad to replace him.
  • On Friday, Telis and Blankenhorn were returned to the alternate site, and Miguel Sanó was placed on the IL with a hamstring injury. Taking over those roster spots were Alex Kirilloff, Nick Gordon, and Tzu-Wei Lin.
  • On Saturday, Thielbar was reactivated after clearing COVID protocols, sending Farrell back to the alternate site.
  • Having thrown 4 ⅔ strong innings in relief on Saturday, Smeltzer was swapped out from the bullpen for a fresh arm – Cody Stashak, who rejoined the roster on Sunday.
It also sounds as though Andrelton Simmons is past his bout with COVID and ready to return, possibly as soon as Monday, although he hasn't yet been activated. Presumably Gordon, who didn't appear in the Pittsburgh series, will be sent out to make room.

 

HIGHLIGHTS

Rocco Baldelli has dealt with his share of unwelcome problems and headaches in the first month of the season, but we can probably file this one under "nice problems to have": Deciding whether or not to keep starters in games as they chase no-hitters and their pitch counts mount.

 

José Berríos put the manager in such a spot a couple weeks ago, with six hitless frames in Milwaukee, and now J.A. Happ became the latest, carrying a no-no bid into the eighth against Pittsburgh on Friday. Fortunately, for Rocco, Happ took the decision out of his hands, giving up a double with one out in the eighth inning, but he finished with a stellar line: 7.1 IP, 1 H, 0 R, 2 BB, 3 K.

 

 

Happ's performance could hardly be described as dominant, but he was effective in exactly the way you'd expect from a seasoned veteran southpaw. He mixed pitches, threw strikes, kept hitters off-balance, and limited hard contact. (He also benefited from some luck, for which the Twins were beyond due.) No one should be fooled into thinking he's suddenly an ace, but it's a nice luxury to have a starter with those kinds of chops in the back half of your rotation.

 

Failures of the Twins' lineup have not been attributable to its central cogs. Nelson Cruz launched three more home runs, with Sunday's bomb tying him for the big-league lead. Josh Donaldson looks healthy and locked in – his four-hit game on Thursday reminds us of what he can do. Luis Arraez keeps hitting and getting on base atop the order.

 

Byron Buxton continues to flat-out mash, with a clutch extra-innings homer in Oakland and a go-ahead RBI single on Sunday. Recently we've also started to see his defensive impact come into play. He made a pair of phenomenal catches in center field and they both came at crucial times. His play in Oakland will go down as one of the year's best in baseball.

 

 

 

It's amazing that the Twins have been so chronically incapable of producing runs and winning games when Buxton is doing what he's doing. It really is. Only worsens the sting.

 

 

LOWLIGHTS

We're still in the first month of the season, but even the most big-picture analytical thinker has to be harboring legitimate concerns about the state and outlook of this club. They've got a lot of time left to turn it around, but the Twins are digging themselves quite a hole, and giving reason to wonder if they're even capable of the sort of 180-degree reversal needed to get back into the contention mix.

 

The lineup had a rare outburst on Wednesday, scoring 12 runs in a gutting loss. Outside of that, this was one of the most dreadful and dreary weeks in memory for a Minnesota Twins offense, which put up six total runs in five other games. The Twins were shut out in both ends of a doubleheader against the A's, and then held to two runs in each of their three games against a Pirates team that entered the series with a 4.75 ERA.

 

Several different positional units have been prime contributors to this run-scoring malaise:

 

 

Left Field

The Twins moved on from Eddie Rosario during the offseason because they understandably felt they had enough to cover for his absence in left field. Thus far, this has not proven to be the case. Minnesota's left fielders have collectively gone 10-for-74 (.135) with zero home runs, 30 strikeouts, and two walks. Kirilloff, a hopeful savior, is hitless through 14 plate appearances.

 

First Base

Primarily due to Sanó's pre-injury struggles, first base has been a void of offensive production, with a .157 batting average and only three extra-base hits (all home runs). Willians Astudillo has been an uninspiring replacement.

 

Catcher

Both Mitch Garver and Ryan Jeffers are, incredibly, striking out in nearly half of their plate appearances. The struggles of Jeffers – who is slashing .167/.242/.200 with 16 strikeouts in 33 plate appearances – are especially pressing, given that he's a 23-year-old who is still developing as a player. The Twins may need to start thinking about how they'll proceed at the catcher position if they determine Jeffers needs more time in the minors. Who knows what can be done with the dazed-and-confused Garver.

 

Second Base

Like catcher, this position looked like a clear source of strength coming into the season, but has proven to be anything but. Owing mostly to Jorge Polanco's struggles, Twins second basemen had produced a .164/.235/.205 slash line before Arraez lifted those numbers slightly on Sunday.

 

The pitching has largely not been good, especially in the disastrous meltdown that transpired on Thursday. Starters are laboring and the bullpen has been full of leaks, top to bottom. But it almost doesn't matter, because the offense has been so persistently incapable of scoring runs. There are some very talented hitters here, and I have to believe an awakening is forthcoming. But then again, so many of these familiar issues trace back to last year's struggles – especially in the playoffs. Watching inning after inning of lethargic, non-competitive at-bats against unremarkable pitchers, you can't help but wonder ... is this a closer approximation to the Twins in their true form than the juggernaut that emerged in 2019?

 

TRENDING STORYLINE

In the early part of his tenure, Baldelli's teams developed a reputation for resilience. They routinely bounced back from losses and overcame adversity on the way to a 101-win season in his managerial debut. When the times got tough, those Twins got tougher. (Up until October, anyway.)

 

Of late, this trait has been completely amiss. The Twins have seen their troubles snowball as the month progresses. Losing two of three while scoring six runs at home against that Pirates team is just brutal.

 

So now, we'll simply have to see if Rocco and his Twins can find some resilience within themselves. They whiffed on a juicy get-right opportunity against Pittsburgh, and if the miserable play carries forward into the next week it's going start getting costly: six games lie ahead against teams the Twins are chasing in the standings.

 

It sounds like Simmons will be back very soon. Kepler and Garlick hopefully are not far behind. The Twins will gradually return to full strength. The pressure is mounting for them to show it's a team worth believing in.

 

One wonders how much longer this can go on before the front office steps in and takes some kind of significant action, rather than waiting for things to get right on their own. We're moving past the realm of overreactions to small samples.

 

LOOKING AHEAD

Only three of Minnesota's first 21 games came against a division rival, and they featured the least relevant one (Detroit) at that. Now, the Twins are about to get a heavy dose of the AL Central – 25 of their next 38 games – and it starts with a slate of six match-ups against Cleveland and the Royals this week.

 

Of note: The Twins will luckily miss Shane Bieber in the Cleveland series. We'll take whatever breaks we can get at this point.

MONDAY, 4/26: TWINS @ CLEVELAND – RHP José Berríos v. RHP Zach Plesac

TUESDAY, 4/27: TWINS @ CLEVELAND – RHP Kenta Maeda v. RHP Aaron Civale

WEDNESDAY, 4/28: TWINS @ CLEVELAND – LHP J.A. Happ v. LHP Logan Allen

FRIDAY, 4/30: ROYALS @ TWINS – LHP Mike Minor v. RHP Michael Pineda

SATURDAY, 5/1: ROYALS @ TWINS – LHP Danny Duffy v. RHP Matt Shoemaker

SUNDAY, 5/2: ROYALS @ TWINS – RHP Brad Keller v. RHP José Berríos

 

MORE FROM TWINS DAILY

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Wow, the knives are out. I know it’s frustrating that the lineup is underperforming, but having Rosario, Gonzalez and Adrianza here wasn’t going to solve this problem. You going to sit Polanco and A

I wonder if Kirby Puckett would have sat out tonight's game with "a sore knee."   I'm guessing not.

Kiriloff had another one driven to the wall in center the day before. I have faith he’ll start getting them to drop in.

1. A new hitting coach now

2. Rationalizing Rocco need to be put on notice (see last post game news conference.....we play early...when it's cold....and can't get in a baseball routine.....and...and...and. Great leaders are at their best during adversity...not when everything is comfy and perfect. 

3. Stashak MRI and gone

4. Start cycling through all AAA RP and figure out who if any are 'hot' this year (law of averages says we have one or two 'surprises' for this year.

5. Figure out something consistent for Dobnak before you ruin him.

6. Ride or die with Kirilloff.... Rosario is gone...see the plan through and how much more can you really die than the OPS+ of 7 from LF.... (Holy @#$%!)

7. Catcher and 1B most concerning.....If Sano/Garver/Jeffers don't snap back....we don't have may answers....

 

 

 

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I too am concerned 20 games in - essentially 1/8th of the season.  We need to play to a 102 win season rate to get to 95.  Polanco no longer has an ankle excuse, Garver is not showing that 2020 was a fluke, but Jeffers is.  We need to start Jeffers 10 in a row and see if he comes out of this.  Rooker, Kiriloff, Cave have provided us with a where is Eddie performance.  How about Larnach?  Kepler is out, but was not inspiring before he went down and Sano looks completely lost.  

Then we add in Colome and the BP in general.  Where is the hope?  The inspiration.  Please - 10 in a row.  Relieve our pain. 

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Without saying I told you so(i already have). Did any of us really believe that dumping Rosario, Gonzalez, and Adrianza was a smart move? They could have added Simmons and let someone like Cave ride off into the sunset. For all of you that cried about Gonzalez and Rosario shame on you. This team is crap defensively. Unfortunately every ball won't get hit to Buxton or Donaldson. I never thought Simmons was that great despite what the analytics spreadsheets say. He showed up late 3 weeks and then gave everyone Co-vid 19. he has never been on a playoff team in his MLB life, and i dont think he has ever hit .250. Now without Gonzalez, there is no back up first baseman, no decent third baseman if JD needs a day, and there is a massive hole in left field both at the plate and with the glove. Shame on all you who wanted to let Rosario go! The problem is not with the rotation, bullpen, or the manager (he is a figurehead anyway). The problem is with the defense, and the depth. Falvine took a gamble with our team and Crapped Out. Way to go Derek and Thad. Its the little things that matter and they need to tear themselves away from the computers and really watch a baseball game. They should keep their Clown faces off the television win or lose. Jim Pohlad said they had no budget, so now its on the superstar front office to take this in their pale butts.

Edited by Squirrel
Edited to remove disrespectful comments
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Without saying I told you so(i already have). Did any of us really believe that dumping Rosario, Gonzalez, and Adrianza was a smart move? They could have added Simmons and let someone like Cave ride off into the sunset. For all of you that cried about Gonzalez and Rosario shame on you. This team is crap defensively. Unfortunately every ball won't get hit to Buxton or Donaldson. I never thought Simmons was that great despite what the analytic spreadsheets say. He showed up late 3 weeks and then gave everyone Co-vid 19. he has never been on a playoff team in his MLB life, and i dont think he has ever hit .250. Now without Gonzalez, there is no back up first baseman, no decent third baseman if JD needs a day, and there is a massive hole in left field both at the plate and with the glove. Shame on all you Rosario who wanted to let Rosario go! The problem is not with the rotation, bullpen, or the manager (he is a figurehead anyway). The problem is with the defense, and the depth. Falvine took a gamble with our team and Crapped Out. Way to go Derek and Thad. Its the little things that matter and they need to tear themselves away from the computers and really watch a baseball game. They should keep their Clown faces off the television win or lose. Jim Pohlad said they had no budget, so now its on the superstar front office to take this in their pale butts.

Shame on me? Rosario is hitting .620 OPS. If we're comparing apples to apples having him in LF wouldn't be doing us any good. Kiriloff hit the ball on the nose twice today. It's baseball. They got caught. He's 23. He's our man going forward. Shame on no one! It's a gambler's game, always have to try to stay ahead of the curve and the competition.

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Shame on me? Rosario is hitting .620 OPS. If we're comparing apples to apples having him in LF wouldn't be doing us any good. Kiriloff hit the ball on the nose twice today. It's baseball. They got caught. He's 23. He's our man going forward. Shame on no one! It's a gambler's game, always have to try to stay ahead of the curve and the competition.

 

Kiriloff had another one driven to the wall in center the day before. I have faith he’ll start getting them to drop in.

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Turns out there was reason to be concerned about the hitters' ineptitude in Spring Training... some said "I'll be concerned in Late April". Welp, we've arrived. This lineup is garbage, and has barely faced any strong pitching. Just wait and see once we face some really good starters and relievers. Cleveland's bullpen is going to blow our hitters out of the water.

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We have half a lineup and half a bullpen. Makes it hard to be successful. I would gave liked to keep Rosario but Gonzalez and Adrianza aren’t a big loss; and I guess Eddie hasn’t done much in Cleveland. The absence of those three isn't the problem.

 

This team invested a lot of hope in solid hitting from Sano, Kepler, Polanco, and the Garver/ Jeffers combo. So far, we’re 0-5 on those guys and the only one who’s shown any spark is Polanco and it only lasted about 3 games. Frankly, we may have overrated the talent level of those guys. We’re sunk if we can’t find 3 solid hitters from these 5 plus Kirilloff and Rooker. I’m still rooting but it’s hard to be realistic and still be hopeful.

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How is this catcher group even at an OPS+ of 65? I would have guessed more along the lines of the 7 we have seen so far from LF. At catcher, I think they need to choose one of the two and let him play most of the games and drop the platoon. Or, look for a free agent catcher they can sign. For LF, bring in Broxton as he showed some life in spring training and maybe he could finally tap that elusive potential.

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Wow, the knives are out. I know it’s frustrating that the lineup is underperforming, but having Rosario, Gonzalez and Adrianza here wasn’t going to solve this problem. You going to sit Polanco and Arraez for Gonzo and Adrianza? That wasn’t happening. I do believe that it’s time to ride Kiriloff in LF and see what he can do. The biggest player I think we are missing is Trevor May. He was a big cog in that bullpen who was not replaced. I didn’t like the Colome signing and so far he has done nothing for me to allay my fears about that. I have to believe that the lineup will turn around, however, the bullpen seems worrying to me. We finally are getting glimpses of the stars that Berrios and Buxton can become, hopefully we can get this back on track

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"Willians Astudillo has been an uninspiring replacement."  Nick Nelson

 

Huh? .289 average, 2 strikeouts?

 

Garver and Sano added together have only .271 average and 44 strikeouts so the Turtle is better than both players combined.

 

And then we have Cave at .155 average and 25 strikeouts.

 

Time to back off criticizing El Tortuga and be thankful he's in the lineup.

 

Respect the Turtle!

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It's cold and rainy in Minnesota right now, but in a month the Earth will turn a bit and sunshine will bring 70 degrees and more. The Twins should be able to rebound as well. While one or two players may not ever return to near  their 2019 seasons, it is hard to believe that all of the Twins core will continue to fail. Alex Kirilloff has a sweet swing and should be able to have a decent season despite his abysmal start.  Trevor Larnach is also an option should Kepler or Sano not rebound from their April blues. 

 

I'm thinking that we can maintain some patience as April closes and May unfolds. The talent to win 90 games is there and summer will be a better barometer of this team.

 

It is going to be difficult to make changes now because the minor leagues have not started yet and thus those players are all a few weeks behind  in their development.  However, at some point (drop 10-12 games below .500) critical evaluations could effect some roster moves beyond the current shuttling moves. Six or eight games below even is not a time to panic. 

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"Willians Astudillo has been an uninspiring replacement." Nick Nelson

 

Huh? .289 average, 2 strikeouts?

 

Garver and Sano added together have only .271 average and 44 strikeouts so the Turtle is better than both players combined.

 

And then we have Cave at .155 average and 25 strikeouts.

 

Time to back off criticizing El Tortuga and be thankful he's in the lineup.

 

Respect the Turtle!

His wRC+, a good single number representation of offensive output, is 89 (100 is average).

 

Like so many other hitters this season, Astudillo has not been good at the plate.

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At the time letting Rosario go was the best move. Kirilloff is making solid contact but just not finding the gaps. Twins have a back log of outfielders in the minors so between Kirilloff, Rooker and Larnach I hope they can make something work. Not surprised that a another prospect that comes up cant hit. The twins development in the minors is a joke both hitting and pitching. Starting pitching was not a strong suit last year so what changed for this year. Bullpen was an anchor to the team last year and we let 3-4 guys go.

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Austudillo uninspiring??? Who are you watching? He's among our top hitters which isn't saying much. The scary thing is not only how poorly this team is playing but the fact that only 10% of teams in history that have started this bad after 20 games have bounced back to make the playoffs. You might say that they are in a weak division with only the White sox to beat, however it doesn't look like a wild card team will come from the central at this point. I only wish they still had Rosario though May would also have helped. Let's see what comes this week but we have to win 4 at least and what are the odds of that happening?

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Wow, the knives are out. I know it’s frustrating that the lineup is underperforming, but having Rosario, Gonzalez and Adrianza here wasn’t going to solve this problem. You going to sit Polanco and Arraez for Gonzo and Adrianza? That wasn’t happening. I do believe that it’s time to ride Kiriloff in LF and see what he can do. The biggest player I think we are missing is Trevor May. He was a big cog in that bullpen who was not replaced. I didn’t like the Colome signing and so far he has done nothing for me to allay my fears about that. I have to believe that the lineup will turn around, however, the bullpen seems worrying to me. We finally are getting glimpses of the stars that Berrios and Buxton can become, hopefully we can get this back on track

I like your takes and will add this...

This 6 game stretch needs to see a 4-2 record...that would be a HUGE mental pick me up for this team.  They can't afford a 2-4 stretch.

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