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  • Week in Review: Roadblocks

    Nick Nelson

    The beleaguered Minnesota Twins are coming back from an ugly and exhausting road trip that saw them hit plenty of bumps and barriers – some of their own creation. 

    Where do things stand as they return home and try to get back to something resembling full strength?

    Image courtesy of Raj Mehta-USA TODAY Sports

    Twins Video

    Last Week's Game Results:

    Game 48 | DET 7, MIN 5: Three Homers Not Enough
    Game 49 | MIN 8, DET 2: Smeltzer Shows Out Again
    Game 50 | DET 4, MIN 0: Listless Twins Limp to Defeat
    Game 51 | DET 5, MIN 0: Bats Have No Answers for Skubal
    Game 52 | DET 3, MIN 2: Pagan Surrenders Lead in 8th Inning
    Game 53 | MIN 9, TOR 3: Garlick, Miranda Power Explosive Night
    Game 54 | TOR 12, MIN 3: Berríos Blows Away Former Team
    Game 55 | MIN 8, TOR 6: Twins Win Rubber Match in Nail-biter

    Weekly Snapshot: Mon, 5/30 through Sun, 6/5
    Record Last Week: 3-5 (Overall: 32-24)
    Run Differential Last Week: -7 (Overall: +27)
    Standing: 1st Place in AL Central (4.5 GA)


    The pandemic continues to make its ongoing presence felt in the major leagues. The Twins were hit hard by a wave of COVID-related absences over the past week, which left them shorthanded for an intense slate of games on the road.

    The week began with a crushing blow: Carlos Correa tested positive in the middle of Monday afternoon's game, almost exactly 24 hours after Royce Lewis crashed into the center field wall at Target Field. While the news on Lewis was relatively positive – a bone bruise that figures to cost him weeks rather than months or the entire season – he is still sidelined at exactly the time Minnesota could use him as everyday shortstop. Amazingly rotten timing.

    This rough series of events did create an opportunity for Jermaine Palacios, who's now up and starting everyday at shortstop. His glove is good enough to serve as a temporary plug even if there are no signs he'll hit at all.

    On Friday, when the Twins traveled to Canada for a weekend series against the Blue Jays, national health policies required that unvaccinated players stay in the United States. As it turns out, this meant Max Kepler, Caleb Thielbar, Emilio Pagán, and Trevor Megill were unable to join the team in Toronto. It was a disappointing development made all the more irksome by Kepler's importance to a struggling lineup, and the bullpen ranks already being thin to begin with. 

    Meanwhile, Joe Ryan remained unavailable due to his COVID diagnosis. With Ryan remaining sidelined and Sonny Gray landing on IL due to a pectoral injury, Chi Chi Gonzalez came up to make a (poor) spot start on Friday. Gonzalez was replaced on the roster the next day by Gilberto Celestino, who is finally past his own coronavirus ordeal. He was back in the lineup on Sunday.

    It's hard to get a firm read on the Twins right now. They are missing so many players and dealing with so many ongoing things that prevent them operating at anything close to full strength. At the same time, they've been banged up to varying degrees all year and there's no reason to think it's gonna stop being an issue at any point. 


    Many were clamoring for José Miranda to be optioned rather than Lewis when Correa returned from his IL stint in mid-May. It was an understandable sentiment, given how both were playing at the time. But the Twins stuck with Miranda, and he's taken full advantage while reminding us that a little patience is warranted with talented young rookies.

    Since Lewis was demoted on May 18th, Miranda has gone 13-for-36 with three home runs and four doubles. He launched a pair of bombs in the series-opening 9-3 victory at Toronto and has lifted his OPS into semi-respectable territory at .641 He's still swinging at absolutely everything, with a 22-to-3 K/BB ratio overall, and as long as that remains true it's going to be hard to sustain his production – or at the very least it'll make him very susceptible to woeful slumps like the one that opened his career. But at least we're seeing real signs of that special ability with the bat.

    Gio Urshela, another player who some called for casting aside in order to keep Lewis around, has also experienced an offensive awakening since around the time Royce was sent down. That continued last week as Urshela went 7-for-21 with a homer and three doubles. He suffered a scary-looking foot sprain on the base paths Friday night, but luckily it appears the third baseman dodged anything major, as he started again on Sunday 

    Elsewhere, Kyle Garlick reaffirmed his immense value as a lefty-mashing weapon, crushing two home runs against Yusei Kikuchi on Friday night. Garlick has been a tremendous asset for the Twins thus far, so hopefully his (reportedly minor) hamstring tightness that surfaced on Friday won't amount to much.


    The Detroit series was absolutely brutal on every level. For most of the five games, the shorthanded Twins could barely muster any kind of threat or visible urgency. 

    The offense sleepwalked through inning after inning, tallying two total runs in the final three games while getting shut out twice. The pitchers were mostly sub-par despite facing one of the league's worst lineups. Triple-A starters Gonzalez and Cole Sands both looked very much out of their depth when called up out of necessity. 

    Speaking of out of depth: The Twins have basically burned through their quality SP depth. It feels like Devin Smeltzer is kinda holding things together at this point, and that's not a great place to be even though he's been sensational. Getting healthy enough to push Dylan Bundy out of the rotation is a high priority, as it's grown very clear he doesn't have what it takes to pitch effectively in the majors anymore. 

    I wrote here on Monday about how the overperforming bullpen was an alarming point of vulnerability for the Twins, and sure enough the unit sprung big leaks over the course of the week, including Monday's game in which Joe Smith coughed up a late lead. In Thursday's finale at Detroit, Pagán turned a 2-1 lead into a 3-2 deficit and was tagged with a loss. Tyler Duffey turned in yet another absolute dud on Sunday, coughing up three runs while recording two outs.

    I do think the ravaged, regressing rotation and undermanned bullpen are big problems for the Twins, but it's hard to hold either entirely culpable when the offense so frequently fails to provide any support. 

    It was the usual story for the bats: overly dependent on home runs, prone to disappearances. On Saturday the Twins faced their old friend José Berríos, who'd been going through a stunningly bad year, and he suddenly found every bit of peak dominance. He finished with 13 strikeouts and 19 swinging strikes against the listless Twins hitters, blowing away his previous highs in 10 starts this year (seven and 11).

    Ryan Jeffers has become easily the biggest liability in the lineup. He went hitless in four starts last week, finishing 0-for-16 with nine strikeouts and one walk. With a consistent lack of contact and results, his slash line has plummeted to .176/.269/.294 and at some point – if this dire drought continues – you wonder if it'll warrant a get-right trip to the minors. José Godoy could hardly be worse and Jeffers needs to regain some confidence, or at least some idea of what he's doing. Thank goodness for the re-emergence of Gary Sánchez.

    Jorge Polanco seems unable to find any rhythm at the plate. He was a big culprit in the run-production difficulties at Detroit, going 3-for-20 with one run scored and zero RBIs while starting all five games in the heart of the order. His OPS has plummeted by almost 100 points in the past three weeks, and at this point he's barely outproducing Nick Gordon, whose OPS is only seven points lower. 

    Polanco was stellar in the first half of May but has since looked more like the guy who struggled to engage his base and drive the ball back in 2020, with a .269 slugging percentage in his past 20 games. This slump has conspicuously coincided with reports of ankle soreness. Something to keep an eye on.


    The Twins just need to get key players back. It sounds like Ryan, Correa, Gray, and Jorge Alcalá are all close to varying degrees, and they can all be huge difference-makers for their respective units. The team could really use all of them right away, given what's on deck in the coming week (see below), but most of those guys seem to be looking at late-week reactivations at the earliest.

    At least Kepler and the rest of the restricted list players will be back in action as the homestand gets underway on Tuesday. In Kepler's case, the extra rest couldn't have hurt, as he'd been dealing with a leg issue.


    The Twins are returning home after their bumpy road trip, but things are hardly about to get easier. Yes, the big bad Yankees are coming to town for a three-game series at Target Field, which is just what the Twins and their fans needed coming off the unpleasant and drama-filled past week. 

    Ready or not, here they come, and I'm sorry to say this version of the Bronx Bombers is an especially imposing one, with the league's best record and Aaron Judge on an ungodly tear. After that the second-place Rays come into Target Field, which isn't much of a respite.

    Still trying to get healthy and reeling from an ugly road trip, the Twins are looking ahead to another challenging week. They'll be more than happy to take that day off on Monday – their first in nearly three weeks.

    TUESDAY, 6/7: YANKEES @ TWINS – LHP Nestor Cortes v. RHP Bailey Ober
    WEDNESDAY, 6/8: YANKEES @ TWINS – RHP Jameson Taillon v. RHP Chris Archer
    THURSDAY, 6/9: YANKEES @ TWINS – RHP Gerrit Cole v. TBD
    FRIDAY, 6/10: RAYS @ TWINS – RHP Drew Rasmussen v. RHP Dylan Bundy
    SATURDAY, 6/11: RAYS @ TWINS – LHP Ryan Yarbrough v. LHP Devin Smeltzer
    SUNDAY, 6/12: RAYS @ TWINS – LHP Jeffrey Springs v. RHP Bailey Ober

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    I agree with the OP on Bundy.  It seems like a lost game before the game even starts once he heads out there.  He was sooo good his first few starts so it is kind of odd he can't get the magic back.  At any rate it would be nice to have someone almost anyone else in that spot right now to give the team a greater chance to win.

    The bats were pretty silent in the Detroit series and have there have been lapses of offense all year.  Hopefully this team can right the ship soon as a Yankee's sweep will likely put the division lead in jeopardy.

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    Being shut-out twice by Detroit. Not even able to manufacture a run. At least they didn;t leave the bases loaded multiple times.

    I can't wait to see the rotation going fourth. My biggest letdown was not letting Smeltzer go beyond 4-innings and 62-pitches. It is time for the rotation to go thru a lineup another time, to push towards that 7th inning. Considering Smeltzer was the ONLY guy that has really done that, it was a major letdown. Not like the Twins didn't have a decent lead. Of course, the regular scenarios would've been Smeltzer getting thru six innings with a 5-2 lead. Then bringing in Duffey who gives up three runs on two hits and a homer, then a single, and Rocco maybe bringing in someone else who gives up a 2-out double, and the Twins lose.

    Winning two of three with the COVID replacement players, all of whom are heading abck to AAA with no transactional fallout. That's a good thing. But I'm realizing that COVID is still very real when our players who tested positive aren't bouncing right back after even 10 days gone. It can be more than jsut the flu, even when vaccinated. And still spreadable, folks.

    I keep looking at who stays and who goes as players come back. Who does Alcala repalce. Will Winder be doomed to St. Paul to be a full starter for a couple of months? Is Royce worse off than we think and, essentially, losing a good part of THIS season because he played centerfield for ONE GAME. What can we do to fix Buxton so he is not only a viable centerfielder, but also a lead-off hitter? When wi

    ll Kirilloff come back and where will he play. Better yet, how can we play Arraez 95% of the time!

    Waiting to see the next start by Archer. I don't want him and Bundy to be Happ and Shoemaker. I also don't want to see Ober become  our answer to 2021's Charlie Barnes. (I never quite figurd out why the Twins cut ties with Barnes, a lefty....).

    Gonna be a fun week against the Yankees and Tampa Bay. I bet we don't field the same line-up twice!


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    As usual you write a good review that keeps balance and perspective on the Twins week.  Alcala is the most important returnee - Duffey just cannot be trusted.  I was thinking of writing a forum asking who do you trust?  In the BP, Duran is the man, and no one else looks that dependable.  I know Hamilton has a nice game, but he was cut by Philadelphia and their BP has been a disaster.  Alcala could be the number two man in the pen very early.  Smith has come back to Earth, Jax looks good, but has the potential to blow up too.  And Rocco continues to pull starters early and leave RP in too long - it is confusing.

    Bundy and Archer are not the answers, Winder looked great, but his injuries are a bad sign, two years in a row.  Ober should be a 4 or 5, not a 3.  Smeltzer is like one of those old time western heroes riding in to save the day.  Can he keep it up?

    Your essay creates lots of reflection (such as Jeffers potential and future).

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