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It was yet another losing week for the Minnesota Twins – one that included some new lows with a series loss against the last-place Orioles in Baltimore and a humiliating blowout in Kansas City.

Hurt and humbled, the wayward Twins limp forth in this summer of despair. Amid all of the misery, there are positives worth gravitating toward.

Weekly Snapshot: Mon, 5/31 through Sun, 6/6
***
Record Last Week: 3-4 (Overall: 24-35)
Run Differential Last Week: -13 (Overall: -35)
Standing: 5th Place in AL Central (12.5 GB)

Last Week's Game Recaps:

Game 53 | MIN 3, BAL 2: Twins Edge O's Behind Strong Berríos Effort
Game 54 | BAL 7, MIN 4: Orioles Snap Losing Streak Against Twins
Game 55 | BAL 6, MIN 3: Twins Sink to New Low, Drop Series in Baltimore
Game 56 | KC 6, MIN 5: Bats Unable to Overcome Happ's Poor Start
Game 57 | KC 14, MIN 5: Okay, Now THIS Was a New Low
Game 58 | MIN 5, KC 4: Home Runs Power Minnesota to Narrow Victory
Game 59 | MIN 3, KC 2: Strong Effort from Staff Aids Another Close Win

NEWS & NOTES

This team is absolutely ravaged. A nonstop barrage of injuries has forced the Twins to reach into the deepest corners of their minor-league depth, routinely fielding lineups populated by guys playing out of position or above their appropriate competition level. 

Not only have the injuries been plentiful, but also astoundingly inconvenient and untimely. For example, our last Week in Review column noted that "the biggest bright spot on offense right now has got to be Mitch Garver, who suddenly looks like his old Silver Slugger self." Naturally, in the first inning of the first game last week, Garver went down. The catcher experienced a brutal mishap that no one would wish upon their worst enemy, taking a foul tip directly in the groin and requiring emergency surgery that night. He'll be sidelined for the foreseeable future.

In last week's column we also noted "Rocco Baldelli's made no secret of the fact that he'll be riding Rob Refsnyder hard in the short-term, and the manager will have to hope his opportunistic 30-year-old can stay hot (and healthy)." Naturally, in the same game where Garver got hurt, Refsnyder ran into the outfield wall in Baltimore and soon after went on the shelf with a concussion.

With Refsnyder joining Byron Buxton, Max Kepler and Jake Cave on IL, the Twins had little choice but to call up prospect Gilberto Celestino, their only available center fielder on the 40-man roster. The 22-year-old, who'd played less than two dozen games above Single-A in the minors, has looked like a player that belongs nowhere near the big leagues, and I don't think the Twins would even deny that. But their alternative options are basically non-existent.

Also hitting the Injured List this past week: relievers Caleb Thielbar (groin strain) and Shaun Anderson (blisters). Juan Minaya was designated for assignment and Dakota Chalmers was claimed off waivers by the Cubs. Griffin Jax and Bailey Ober were recalled, with the latter making an impressive start in Kansas City on Sunday.

HIGHLIGHTS

In a season where postseason hopes have been effectively snuffed out by early June, you have to focus on the smaller individual storylines to find fulfillment as a fan – especially those with potential to impact the long-term outlook as this team aims to pick up the pieces and remake itself with help from the internal pipeline. 

Ober is an intriguing asset from this standpoint. In a spot start on Sunday, he tossed four innings of one-run ball with four strikeouts and no walks. He induced an impressive eight swinging strikes on 51 pitches, flashing 93-94 MPH on the gun repeatedly with his four-seamer. 

Despite an intimidating 6-foot-9 frame, Ober has generally been viewed as having a limited ceiling, due mainly to his middling fastball velocity as a starter. While coming up as a prospect he usually worked in the high 80s or low 90s. The increase we're seeing now plays up his secondary stuff, and when you add strong command to the mix, you've got a pitcher with some real upside. 

He has a 21-to-5 K/BB ratio in 16 innings at Triple-A and now an 8-to-1 K/BB ratio in eight innings with the Twins. He should stick in the rotation and get a long look this summer.

Another prospect taking advantage of his unexpected opportunity and running with it: Nick Gordon, who provided a rare heartwarming highlight amidst a barrage of uninspiring performances for the Twins last week. With his father Tom "Flash" Gordon watching from the stands on Friday, Gordon went 3-for-4 with his first major-league home run. 

In total, Gordon made four starts and went 7-for-16 (.438) with two RBIs and a stolen base. He's slashing .400/.429/.550 in his young big-league career, and dating back to 2019 he now has a .312 batting average and .474 slugging percentage in 340 at-bats between Triple-A and the majors. He's 22-for-26 on steal attempts during that span. Through all the tribulations he's faced over these past few years, Gordon has stepped it up on the field and really produced when given a chance. 

This season is a giant bummer, obviously, but if the Twins can take the opportunity to get extended looks at fringe-type prospects like Ober and Gordon, and find that maybe they actually have something in them, that's a big win with possible implications going forward. 

LOWLIGHTS

It needs to be stated: The front office completely whiffed on nearly every significant pitching acquisition during the offseason. Starters, relievers, free agents, trades ... they've almost all panned out poorly.

None worse than Matt Shoemaker, who received a $2 million deal to plug in as Minnesota's No. 5 starter and has been a total disaster. His start on Friday was one of the worst ever seen from a Twins pitcher, as the right-hander surrendered nine runs (eight earned) on eight hits and two walks while recording one out. 

The catastrophic performance inflated his ERA to 7.28 and tagged him with his league-leading seventh loss. Shoemaker absolutely deserves to be out of the rotation but that's not happening at this point, due to the aforementioned lack of bodies. The Twins can't afford to give away any of their MLB depth, no matter how atrocious it may be. 

Fellow free agent starter J.A. Happ hasn't been quite as bad as Shoemaker, but he sure hasn't been good. Happ gave up five earned runs on nine hits (three home runs) in five innings against Kansas City the previous night. He now owns a 5.61 ERA to go along with a 4.77 FIP. That includes a 10.17 ERA over his past five turns, during which opponents have slashed .360/.405/.680 against the veteran, who looks pretty cooked by now.

Bullpen pickups have been similarly disappointing, just about across the board. Centerpiece free agency addition Alex Colomé gave up a two-run homer in Baltimore; his modest momentum built up in early May has now completely evaporated. Colomé has a 9.00 ERA in his past six outings and opponents are slashing .389/.450/.889. The team's lone trade acquisition of the winter, Anderson, pitched badly in his only appearance of the week before going back on IL. We've already seen Derek Law and Brandon Waddell pass through with lackluster stints. 

What happened to the mojo and moxie of this front office and coaching staff when it comes to identifying and developing arms? It's the top story of the season, in my opinion. Entering play on Sunday, the Twins had the third-worst ERA in the American League (ahead of only the Orioles and Angels) and the second-worst pitching WAR in the major leagues (ahead of only the Diamondbacks). The bats have their issues and the lineup is decimated but this lousy pitching staff gives the team no real shot at getting on any kind of sustained run.

TRENDING STORYLINE

It appears the Twins may be getting back two of their most critical pieces in the near future. Buxton, who has now missed a full month and counting since straining his hip on May 6th, completed a baserunning program without issue and will likely head on a rehab stint in the days ahead. It wouldn't be shocking to see him back in the outfield for next weekend's series against Houston.

Meanwhile, Kenta Maeda went through a 35-pitch bullpen session on Sunday morning and came out of it fine. He too is on the verge of a rehab assignment, which presumably would entail one or two starts with the Saints. Will the time off prove an elixir for his woefully underwhelming performance up to this point?

The Twins are probably in too deep of a hole, and plagued by too many flaws on the roster, for an historical comeback thrusting them back into contention to be realistic. If such a thing was ever going to happen though, getting back their best player and best pitcher at full strength will absolutely need to be a part of the equation.

LOOKING AHEAD

Well, here we go. After going 7-6 during their two-week soft patch against the Orioles and Royals, the Twins are about to see the difficulty level steepen sharply. The dreaded Yankees and Astros are coming to town. This could get ugly. (Uglier, I should say.)

TUESDAY, 6/8: YANKEES @ TWINS – LHP Jordan Montgomery v. RHP Michael Pineda
WEDNESDAY, 6/9: YANKEES @ TWINS – RHP Gerrit Cole v. RHP Randy Dobnak
THURSDAY, 6/10: YANKEES @ TWINS – TBD v. LHP J.A. Happ
FRIDAY, 6/11: ASTROS @ TWINS – RHP José Urquidy v. RHP José Berríos
SATURDAY, 6/12: ASTROS @ TWINS – RHP Luis Garcia v. RHP Bailey Ober
SUNDAY, 6/13: ASTROS @ TWINS – LHP Framber Valdez v. RHP Michael Pineda
 


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I am not to caught up in them making a historic comeback.  That's not happening.  What I would like to see is a competitive team playing reasonably well and it would be really great if someone prospects get a shot and perform really well.  Today Ober looked like a guy that can contribute for a few years.  Just one step of many to field a team that contends but good to see just the same.  Gordon has been a nice surprise so far too.

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I agree that the top story has to be the complete failure to find and develop pitchers, especially in a historic pitcher-friendly season. Just imagine how many more runs this staff would be giving up if this was 2019!

I still find it inexcusable that Shoemaker has a spot in the rotation. We have other options - Charlie Barnes, for example, could be added to the 40 man and could start a few games until Maeda is ready. Jax could start, too. Shoemaker always had little upside, and it's clear he's cooked. Why even bother when he couldn't get out of the 1st inning last time? 

Plus, this offense is infuriating to watch. They're quite good at getting runners on base, but are just so awfully non-clutch. I am still in favor of finding a new hitting coach.

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A fitting end to write the week in review. We finished the softest part of our schedule against Baltimore and KC finishing 7-6. Good luck with the upcoming schedule against NYY and Houston. The Yankees aren’t as scary as they should be due to the baseball’s injury problems. However, that won’t stop us from doing what we do best in 2021; losing in pathetic fashion. 
 

Shoemaker is only here because there’s nobody else available in the upper minors ready to go. Thorpe or Smeltzer missing out on another opportunity... Not that I think either of them are starters. Duran will be on the way soon enough, but there’s no guarantee he’s better than Shoemaker right now after 3 starts in AAA coming off his own injury. 

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Time to bring up some more pitching prospects and say goodbye to Shoemaker for sure and maybe Happ.  Happ had some good games early so I am not sure what happened to him, but...  Let's just not waste the rest of the summer as we have time now to look at some of our best pitching prospects for the future and give them a taste of the life in the Bigs. 

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It's one thing to endure a season where the team stinks. We've been through that before. But usually that comes in a year where you looked at the team at the start of the season and needed rose-colored glasses to see them as competitors. Usually, you've known when they weren't likely to be any good.

This team should have been good. The moves made sense. They didn't have a lot of holes. They appeared to have depth. They had a track record of success. They had a cadre of young, rising players.

And yet, they stink. The starting pitching is a mess, the bullpen is incredibly unreliable, the lineup can't score late, the injuries are lengthy, and basically every bad thing that can possibly happen seems to be happening.

I really thought this team was going to be a contender, and they're trash. And that's what's really hard to watch.

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12 hours ago, Danchat said:

I still find it inexcusable that Shoemaker has a spot in the rotation. We have other options - Charlie Barnes, for example, could be added to the 40 man and could start a few games until Maeda is ready. Jax could start, too. Shoemaker always had little upside, and it's clear he's cooked. Why even bother when he couldn't get out of the 1st inning last time? 

Maeda is still on the shelf and could have a setback in rehab, and Pineda's health is a bit uncertain at the moment too.

Neither Jax or Barnes is even a top-30 org prospect. The only reason even one of them was added to the 40-man is because our bullpen needs help right now. For all of his struggles, Shoemaker still has a better rest-of-season ZiPS ERA/FIP than either Jax or Barnes.

I understand that we don't have any confidence in Shoemaker. But I think the DFA threshold should be higher than just that -- you have to consider your whole roster and alternatives. And at the moment, I think it's defensible for the Twins to try holding on to Shoemaker just a little bit longer, until a few other roster situations are resolved.

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13 hours ago, Danchat said:

I agree that the top story has to be the complete failure to find and develop pitchers, especially in a historic pitcher-friendly season. Just imagine how many more runs this staff would be giving up if this was 2019!

I still find it inexcusable that Shoemaker has a spot in the rotation. We have other options - Charlie Barnes, for example, could be added to the 40 man and could start a few games until Maeda is ready. Jax could start, too. Shoemaker always had little upside, and it's clear he's cooked. Why even bother when he couldn't get out of the 1st inning last time? 

Plus, this offense is infuriating to watch. They're quite good at getting runners on base, but are just so awfully non-clutch. I am still in favor of finding a new hitting coach.

There is still a lot of season left.  Let's hope Ober continues to show well and hopefully he is just the first.  We need to keep in mind Duran and Balazovic started late.  Those two plus Winder and Ober could make this an extremely good year in terms of developing pitching.  Watching this unfold is going to be very interesting and hopefully a very positive part of this horrid season.

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1 hour ago, spycake said:

Maeda is still on the shelf and could have a setback in rehab, and Pineda's health is a bit uncertain at the moment too.

Neither Jax or Barnes is even a top-30 org prospect. The only reason even one of them was added to the 40-man is because our bullpen needs help right now. For all of his struggles, Shoemaker still has a better rest-of-season ZiPS ERA/FIP than either Jax or Barnes.

I understand that we don't have any confidence in Shoemaker. But I think the DFA threshold should be higher than just that -- you have to consider your whole roster and alternatives. And at the moment, I think it's defensible for the Twins to try holding on to Shoemaker just a little bit longer, until a few other roster situations are resolved.

Not to mention there being A LOT of season left. Not to compete (I think they're toast in terms of the playoffs), but simply in terms of having to get through the games. Without a minor league season last year they need all the arms they can get. A few more Shoemaker Ls just gets us a slightly better draft pick and gets us a little closer to the end of this miserable season. Hoping to see lots of young guys come through in August and September (especially those who need to be added to the 40 man this offseason), but at this point we just need guys who can get us through a few games, no matter how ugly the Ls end up being. Blowing out a bunch of prospect arms this year by forcing them to fill all the needed innings just ruins next year too. Gotta get them a taste this year, but innings counts actually matter this year.

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14 hours ago, Danchat said:

I still find it inexcusable that Shoemaker has a spot in the rotation. We have other options - Charlie Barnes, for example, could be added to the 40 man and could start a few games until Maeda is ready. Jax could start, too. Shoemaker always had little upside, and it's clear he's cooked. Why even bother when he couldn't get out of the 1st inning last time? 

Is it just me, or is one turn through the rotation listed up there and Shoemaker is not in it?

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31 minutes ago, Jack Dupp said:

No way Celestino should have been promoted before Broxton. 

Why? Broxton has been bad in Saint Paul to date, has little to no future at 31, and simply can't hit. Celestino probably isn't ready to face MLB pitching, but he's a legit prospect with a good upside. Broxton isn't going to help the Twins out of this funk or save the season, so they're better off giving ABs to real prospects than guys who aren't good and aren't on the 40-man.

celestino (despite his rough start) is a quality defensive player. let's see what he's got.

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26 minutes ago, blindeke said:

Is it just me, or is one turn through the rotation listed up there and Shoemaker is not in it?

That might be Nick's wishful thinking. :)

No Twins SP have been announced beyond the Yankees series. After their public comments about Shoemaker, and their caution with both Ober and Pineda this past weekend, I would be surprised if they didn't start Shoemaker on Friday.

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16 hours ago, wsnydes said:

Quite the pitching matchups against the NYY.  I don't know who TBD is, but I'm fairly confident that he'll outperform Happ.

I'm not looking forward to this week of Twins baseball.

You haven't heard?! TBD is Rocco's new favorite man! He's been hyping this call up for a while, says' he's the best pitcher he has seen since Nick Blackburn. Gonna turn the season around! 

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57 minutes ago, KFEY93 said:

You haven't heard?! TBD is Rocco's new favorite man! He's been hyping this call up for a while, says' he's the best pitcher he has seen since Nick Blackburn. Gonna turn the season around! 

Too bad TBD is scheduled to throw for the Yankees that day. :)

Could be Taillon or King, and Deivi Garcia would be eligible to be recalled by then too.

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It needs to be stated: The front office completely whiffed on nearly every significant pitching acquisition during the offseason. Starters, relievers, free agents, trades ... they've almost all panned out poorly.What happened to the mojo and moxie of this front office and coaching staff when it comes to identifying and developing arms? It's the top story of the season, in my opinion. 

Nick, glad to see this post.  You nailed it.  The F/O gets a failing grade.  There is no sugar coating it.  There can be no more excuses - not bad luck, injuries, the pandemic, nothing.   Do Falvey's pronouncements on being hired  that rebuilding this team's batting and pitching philosophies, attention to new metrics, and personnel additions would be his top priorities merely cover up a simple failure of poor judgment on such critical matters as drafts, FA signing, trades, etc.?  Does the emperor have no clothes?

I don't know the answer except to say that we are very close to System Failure 2.0.  Most TD members don't seem to agree.  Give them more time, they've won two division titles, they're pitching development geniuses, yada, yada.  When is it time for a reckoning?  I realize  Falvine, Rocco and company have time remaining on their contracts, but shouldn't these "leaders" be held accountable for their failures?  If not now, when?  For this long term Twins/Senators fan of almost 70 years, I don't believe I've ever witnessed a more distressing collapse from a team with such high expectations.

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2 hours ago, KFEY93 said:

You haven't heard?! TBD is Rocco's new favorite man! He's been hyping this call up for a while, says' he's the best pitcher he has seen since Nick Blackburn. Gonna turn the season around! 

Ninja'd by @spycake by, oooh about an hour...

Unfortunately for the Twins, the great TBD is hurling for the Yankees, destined to outduel Happ.  

Fortunately, spycake actually gave you (and me) options of who TBD may actually end up being.  You'll just get snark from me! 🤪

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1 hour ago, spycake said:

Too bad TBD is scheduled to throw for the Yankees that day. :)

Could be Taillon or King, and Deivi Garcia would be eligible to be recalled by then too.

Well, TBD has 3 other brothers in the minors right now so...maybe thats our soon to be TBD? 

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17 minutes ago, wsnydes said:

Ninja'd by @spycake by, oooh about an hour...

Unfortunately for the Twins, the great TBD is hurling for the Yankees, destined to outduel Happ.  

Fortunately, spycake actually gave you (and me) options of who TBD may actually end up being.  You'll just get snark from me! 🤪

Darn! haha. Im saying TBD has some brothers that are also in the minors ready to make their shot! All have huge up side! 

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