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Nick Nelson last won the day on March 22

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  1. There might be something to this because Arraez has definitely been struggling. Batting .177 over the past calendar month and his average has dropped from .314 to .284. If he's not physically right it'd be wise to shut him down and give Maggi and Gordon more looks in these last couple weeks.
  2. The Minnesota Twins are dragging toward the finish line. Last week they lost a makeup game in New York, then lost a series at home against Cleveland, and closed out by losing a series in Toronto. Twins pitchers are struggling to keep opposing lineups in check. Weekly Snapshot: Mon, 9/13 thru Sun, 9/19 *** Record Last Week: 2-5 (Overall: 65-85) Run Differential Last Week: -11 (Overall: -113) Standing: 5th Place in AL Central (20.5 GB) Last Week's Game Recaps: Game 144 | NYY 6, MIN 5: Twins Blow Early Lead in Classic Bronx Dud Game 145 | CLE 3, MIN 1: Bats Can't Back Another Strong Ryan Outing Game 146 | MIN 6, CLE 3: Jeffers Drives in Four in Comeback Win Game 147 | CLE 12, MIN 3: Jax, Bullpen Roughed Up by Cleveland Game 148 | MIN 7, TOR 3: Jays Ambushed by Barrage of Long Balls Game 149 | TOR 6, MIN 2: Ober Can't Suppress Potent Lineup Game 150 | TOR 5, MIN 3: Berrios Bests Twins in Toronto NEWS & NOTES Yet another starting pitcher has gone down, further whittling Minnesota's ravaged rotation depth. In the first inning of his start against the Yankees on Monday, John Gant was pulled with a left abdominal strain that would land him on the Injured List. Yet another player who was showing promising signs only to be halted by injury. Incredibly, it looked like the exact same thing was going to happen to the starter in the following game. Joe Ryan took the ball for Game 1 of Tuesday's doubleheader at Target Field, and tossed five innings of stellar one-run ball before a comeback line drive nailed him in the wrist. His immediate reaction sent shockwaves of panic through Twins territory, as a frustrated Ryan walked straight off the mound and into the clubhouse without even waiting for trainers. Fortunately, in a rare non-worst case scenario, Ryan's X-rays came out negative and he was diagnosed with a contusion. He showed great perspective in a postgame interview, expressing regret for his reaction and going so far as to apologize. Personally I think he came off pretty well. You probably don't want to see a veteran pitcher doing the same thing but Ryan is a fresh rookie with charged emotions and -- evidently -- a fiery demeanor on the mound. Beyond Ryan's favorable news, it was a nice week for feel-good stories on the Twins. Brent Rooker took a few days off for paternity leave, welcoming a baby girl into the world. Then, in his first came back on Friday, he he launched a homer and a double in Minnesota's 7-3 win against Toronto. "Dad strength," as fellow new father Rocco Baldelli put it. The following day, Rob Refsnyder went on the Injured List with a right elbow impingement. Taking his place is minor-league veteran Drew Maggi, who has toiled for more than a decade in the minors and is now getting a chance to play in the big leagues. The utility infielder, who primarily played shortstop for St. Paul this year, doesn't figure into the team's bigger plans but it's really cool to see him get a look in the waning days of this lost season. Assuming he does get a look. (He hasn't yet.) Learn a little more about Maggi here. HIGHLIGHTS Ryan was a major bright spot for a third consecutive week, notching five strikeouts with only one walk and three hits allowed while once again working with extreme efficiency. He was at 67 pitches in the sixth inning before that comebacker forced him from the game. It sounds like Ryan will be able to make his next start on Wednesday, which is great news. In the second half of Tuesday's doubleheader, Ryan Jeffers got the start at catcher and enjoyed a MUCH-needed big offensive game. The catcher went 3-for-3 with four RBIs, keying a 6-3 win for the Twins. We've been needing to see some sparks from Jeffers' bat, which went mostly dormant this year following a promising rookie campaign. The 24-year-old entered the three-hit contest with a .649 OPS on the season, including a .148/.198/.284 slash line and 36-to-1 (!) K/BB ratio since his last multi-hit game on August 4th. Like Rooker, Jeffers' power is not in doubt (albeit to a lesser extreme). And like Rooker, Jeffers needs to overcome his daunting strike zone control issues in order to make that power a real asset. In his case the matter is not quite as existential, because Jeffers offers strong defensive value as a good young catcher, but if he can't iron things out offensively he risks assuming the profile of a no-hit backstop and questionable starting option. He's still young, and games like Tuesday's offer some encouragement. On Friday in Toronto, Jeffers drew a walk, which might not seem like a big deal but it was only his second in 30 games. Then on Saturday he went 0-for-4 with three strikeouts. At this point he's battling to finish with a batting average above .200. Miguel Sano was fighting for much of the season to get his own average up over the Mendoza Line, but it's now up to .222 following another explosive week that saw him go 9-for-26 with three homers, two doubles, and six RBIs in seven games. He also set an MLB record as the fastest player to reach 1,000 strikeouts, but if you're focusing narrowly on that as a negative, you're missing the forest for the trees. The Ks are part of his game and as we've mentioned here recently, he has actually cut down the strikeout rate considerably in the latter half of this season. Sano's been one the Twins' most productive hitters down the stretch and may actually be stoking some offseason trade value, if the front office is so inclined. LOWLIGHTS The Twins bullpen, which had been on a rather amazing run since the trade deadline, had a major "hurdling back to Earth" experience last week, and it all began with an all-too-familiar outcome at Yankee Stadium on Monday. Minnesota managed to jump out to an early 5-0 lead with three homers off former Twins prospect Luis Gil in the first three innings, but stopped scoring after that while the New York offense went to work. Gant's early exit meant this would basically be a bullpen day, and the relief corps wasn't up to the task. After Luke Farrell and Caleb Thielbar got through 3 ⅓ scoreless frames, Kyle Barraclough, Tyler Duffey, and Alex Colome combined to allow five runs in the next four innings, burning through the team's sizable margin before Ralph Garza Jr. allowed the winning run to score in the 10th. There was some questionable umpiring at play in this classic Bronx collapse, but that hardly made it any less painful. Jovani Moran had a brutally tough first full week in the majors, following up his mostly-clean debut with a couple of absolute clunkers. Appearing twice, on Wednesday and Saturday, Moran was charged with six earned runs over three innings, allowing four hits and four walks with only two strikeouts. His ERA ballooned with 12.46. Welcome to the big leagues, kid. On the bright side, this experience will give him clear cues as to where he must focus on improving during the offseason. TRENDING STORYLINE Can Mitch Garver get back in time to finish his season on a positive note? The catcher has seen a big rebound in 2021 but also his fair amount of frustrations, with injuries costing him significant stretches on multiple occasions. His most recent ailment, a lower back strain, has had him on the sidelines since late August, but Garver embarked on a rehab assignment last week and should be ready to return within the coming days. Having raised his OPS by more than 350 points from a dismal 2020, Garver is firmly re-established as a valuable core piece going forward regardless of what happens in the final couple weeks, but it'll be good if he can return to the field and hit another homer or two before all is said and done. LOOKING AHEAD Following a day off on Monday, the Twins will head to Wrigleyville for a quick two-gamer against the Cubs, then they return home to face the Blue Jays four times at Target Field. TUESDAY, 9/21: TWINS @ CUBS – RHP Griffin Jax v. RHP Alec Mills WEDNESDAY, 9/22: TWINS @ CUBS – RHP Joe Ryan v. RHP Kyle Hendricks THURSDAY, 9/23: BLUE JAYS @ TWINS – LHP Steven Matz v. RHP Michael Pineda FRIDAY, 9/24: BLUE JAYS @ TWINS – RHP Alek Manoah v. RHP Bailey Ober SATURDAY, 9/25: BLUE JAYS @ TWINS – RHP Jose Berrios v. TBD SUNDAY, 9/26: BLUE JAYS @ TWINS – LHP Robbie Ray v. RHP Griffin Jax MORE FROM TWINS DAILY — Latest Twins coverage from our writers — Recent Twins discussion in our forums — Follow Twins Daily via Twitter, Facebook or email View full article
  3. Weekly Snapshot: Mon, 9/13 thru Sun, 9/19 *** Record Last Week: 2-5 (Overall: 65-85) Run Differential Last Week: -11 (Overall: -113) Standing: 5th Place in AL Central (20.5 GB) Last Week's Game Recaps: Game 144 | NYY 6, MIN 5: Twins Blow Early Lead in Classic Bronx Dud Game 145 | CLE 3, MIN 1: Bats Can't Back Another Strong Ryan Outing Game 146 | MIN 6, CLE 3: Jeffers Drives in Four in Comeback Win Game 147 | CLE 12, MIN 3: Jax, Bullpen Roughed Up by Cleveland Game 148 | MIN 7, TOR 3: Jays Ambushed by Barrage of Long Balls Game 149 | TOR 6, MIN 2: Ober Can't Suppress Potent Lineup Game 150 | TOR 5, MIN 3: Berrios Bests Twins in Toronto NEWS & NOTES Yet another starting pitcher has gone down, further whittling Minnesota's ravaged rotation depth. In the first inning of his start against the Yankees on Monday, John Gant was pulled with a left abdominal strain that would land him on the Injured List. Yet another player who was showing promising signs only to be halted by injury. Incredibly, it looked like the exact same thing was going to happen to the starter in the following game. Joe Ryan took the ball for Game 1 of Tuesday's doubleheader at Target Field, and tossed five innings of stellar one-run ball before a comeback line drive nailed him in the wrist. His immediate reaction sent shockwaves of panic through Twins territory, as a frustrated Ryan walked straight off the mound and into the clubhouse without even waiting for trainers. Fortunately, in a rare non-worst case scenario, Ryan's X-rays came out negative and he was diagnosed with a contusion. He showed great perspective in a postgame interview, expressing regret for his reaction and going so far as to apologize. Personally I think he came off pretty well. You probably don't want to see a veteran pitcher doing the same thing but Ryan is a fresh rookie with charged emotions and -- evidently -- a fiery demeanor on the mound. Beyond Ryan's favorable news, it was a nice week for feel-good stories on the Twins. Brent Rooker took a few days off for paternity leave, welcoming a baby girl into the world. Then, in his first came back on Friday, he he launched a homer and a double in Minnesota's 7-3 win against Toronto. "Dad strength," as fellow new father Rocco Baldelli put it. The following day, Rob Refsnyder went on the Injured List with a right elbow impingement. Taking his place is minor-league veteran Drew Maggi, who has toiled for more than a decade in the minors and is now getting a chance to play in the big leagues. The utility infielder, who primarily played shortstop for St. Paul this year, doesn't figure into the team's bigger plans but it's really cool to see him get a look in the waning days of this lost season. Assuming he does get a look. (He hasn't yet.) Learn a little more about Maggi here. HIGHLIGHTS Ryan was a major bright spot for a third consecutive week, notching five strikeouts with only one walk and three hits allowed while once again working with extreme efficiency. He was at 67 pitches in the sixth inning before that comebacker forced him from the game. It sounds like Ryan will be able to make his next start on Wednesday, which is great news. In the second half of Tuesday's doubleheader, Ryan Jeffers got the start at catcher and enjoyed a MUCH-needed big offensive game. The catcher went 3-for-3 with four RBIs, keying a 6-3 win for the Twins. We've been needing to see some sparks from Jeffers' bat, which went mostly dormant this year following a promising rookie campaign. The 24-year-old entered the three-hit contest with a .649 OPS on the season, including a .148/.198/.284 slash line and 36-to-1 (!) K/BB ratio since his last multi-hit game on August 4th. Like Rooker, Jeffers' power is not in doubt (albeit to a lesser extreme). And like Rooker, Jeffers needs to overcome his daunting strike zone control issues in order to make that power a real asset. In his case the matter is not quite as existential, because Jeffers offers strong defensive value as a good young catcher, but if he can't iron things out offensively he risks assuming the profile of a no-hit backstop and questionable starting option. He's still young, and games like Tuesday's offer some encouragement. On Friday in Toronto, Jeffers drew a walk, which might not seem like a big deal but it was only his second in 30 games. Then on Saturday he went 0-for-4 with three strikeouts. At this point he's battling to finish with a batting average above .200. Miguel Sano was fighting for much of the season to get his own average up over the Mendoza Line, but it's now up to .222 following another explosive week that saw him go 9-for-26 with three homers, two doubles, and six RBIs in seven games. He also set an MLB record as the fastest player to reach 1,000 strikeouts, but if you're focusing narrowly on that as a negative, you're missing the forest for the trees. The Ks are part of his game and as we've mentioned here recently, he has actually cut down the strikeout rate considerably in the latter half of this season. Sano's been one the Twins' most productive hitters down the stretch and may actually be stoking some offseason trade value, if the front office is so inclined. LOWLIGHTS The Twins bullpen, which had been on a rather amazing run since the trade deadline, had a major "hurdling back to Earth" experience last week, and it all began with an all-too-familiar outcome at Yankee Stadium on Monday. Minnesota managed to jump out to an early 5-0 lead with three homers off former Twins prospect Luis Gil in the first three innings, but stopped scoring after that while the New York offense went to work. Gant's early exit meant this would basically be a bullpen day, and the relief corps wasn't up to the task. After Luke Farrell and Caleb Thielbar got through 3 ⅓ scoreless frames, Kyle Barraclough, Tyler Duffey, and Alex Colome combined to allow five runs in the next four innings, burning through the team's sizable margin before Ralph Garza Jr. allowed the winning run to score in the 10th. There was some questionable umpiring at play in this classic Bronx collapse, but that hardly made it any less painful. Jovani Moran had a brutally tough first full week in the majors, following up his mostly-clean debut with a couple of absolute clunkers. Appearing twice, on Wednesday and Saturday, Moran was charged with six earned runs over three innings, allowing four hits and four walks with only two strikeouts. His ERA ballooned with 12.46. Welcome to the big leagues, kid. On the bright side, this experience will give him clear cues as to where he must focus on improving during the offseason. TRENDING STORYLINE Can Mitch Garver get back in time to finish his season on a positive note? The catcher has seen a big rebound in 2021 but also his fair amount of frustrations, with injuries costing him significant stretches on multiple occasions. His most recent ailment, a lower back strain, has had him on the sidelines since late August, but Garver embarked on a rehab assignment last week and should be ready to return within the coming days. Having raised his OPS by more than 350 points from a dismal 2020, Garver is firmly re-established as a valuable core piece going forward regardless of what happens in the final couple weeks, but it'll be good if he can return to the field and hit another homer or two before all is said and done. LOOKING AHEAD Following a day off on Monday, the Twins will head to Wrigleyville for a quick two-gamer against the Cubs, then they return home to face the Blue Jays four times at Target Field. TUESDAY, 9/21: TWINS @ CUBS – RHP Griffin Jax v. RHP Alec Mills WEDNESDAY, 9/22: TWINS @ CUBS – RHP Joe Ryan v. RHP Kyle Hendricks THURSDAY, 9/23: BLUE JAYS @ TWINS – LHP Steven Matz v. RHP Michael Pineda FRIDAY, 9/24: BLUE JAYS @ TWINS – RHP Alek Manoah v. RHP Bailey Ober SATURDAY, 9/25: BLUE JAYS @ TWINS – RHP Jose Berrios v. TBD SUNDAY, 9/26: BLUE JAYS @ TWINS – LHP Robbie Ray v. RHP Griffin Jax MORE FROM TWINS DAILY — Latest Twins coverage from our writers — Recent Twins discussion in our forums — Follow Twins Daily via Twitter, Facebook or email
  4. Update: Barnes will indeed start the second half of Tuesday's doubleheader against Cleveland.
  5. Ha, I've been spending too much time researching the offseason free agent SP market! Fixed, thanks for catching Roger
  6. It was another strong week for Minnesota's emerging young arms, including a fantastic performance from their recently promoted rookie starter and an impressive debut from one of their best relief prospects. Find the full scoop below. Weekly Snapshot: Mon, 9/6 thru Sun, 9/12 *** Record Last Week: 4-3 (Overall: 63-80) Run Differential Last Week: +9 (Overall: -102) Standing: 5th Place in AL Central (19.0 GB) Last Week's Game Recaps: Game 137 | MIN 5, CLE 2: Ober and Pineda Piggyback, Polanco Rakes Game 138 | MIN 3, CLE 0: Gant Combines with 4 Relievers in Shutout Game 139 | MIN 3, CLE 0: Ryan Flirts with Perfection, Dominates Cleveland Game 140 | CLE 4, MIN 1: Quantrill Keeps Twins Bats Quiet Game 141 | KC 6, MIN 4: Offense Goes Silent After Explosive First Inning Game 142 | MIN 9, KC 2: Twins Drill 5 Homers, Coast to Easy Win Game 143 | KC 5, MIN 3: Royals Rally Late, Take Series NEWS & NOTES If you had to put your finger on just what's gone wrong with the Twins' pitching staff this year, one culprit would be ... well, fingers. Taylor Rogers has officially been shut down for the season with a middle finger sprain that he suffered in late July. While he'll have a full offseason to heal, the nature of this injury for a slider-reliant pitcher turns the team's top reliever (and one of their top trade candidates) into a major question mark. It's hard to fully trust he'll be the same guy when he returns. The same is more or less true for Randy Dobnak, who went back on the IL ahead of his planned Wednesday start with renewed soreness in his own middle finger, which previously sidelined him for more than two months. Dobnak, unlike Rogers, was struggling pretty consistently before getting hurt so there's even less assurance with him going forward. With Dobnak going down again, Andrew Albers was recalled to start on short notice. He did okay, all things considered, but was returned to St. Paul a couple days later when the Twins promoted (at long last) relief pitcher Jovani Moran. The lefty Moran has been a dominant force this year in the minors, piling up whiffs and strikeouts with help from a standout changeup that makes him even highly effective against righties. Moran made his debut on Monday and looked good, notching a pair of strikeouts over 1 ⅓ innings, though his control started to slip a bit in the latter part of the 37-pitch outing. HIGHLIGHTS Joe Ryan stole the show with a dazzling performance at Cleveland in his second major-league start, carrying a perfect game through six and ultimately allowing just one hit over seven shutout innings. His Game Score of 79 was the second-best for a Twins starter all season, trailing only José Berríos' spectacular first start of the year in Milwaukee. The young right-hander showed pretty much everything you'd want to see in his gem. He worked efficiently, needing only 85 pitches to get through seven frames while throwing 71% strikes. He notched only four strikeouts in this one, but induced plenty of weak contact. And while his fastball was good as advertised, Ryan continued to demonstrate he's no one-trick pony, mixing in some very nice low sliders as well. Ryan was the star in another strong week for the rotation, which got another member back via the return of Michael Pineda. Needing to build up after skipping a rehab stint, Big Mike appeared in relief of Bailey Ober on Monday, tossing three scoreless innings. He followed up with five innings of one-run ball against Kansas City on Saturday night. This isn't the dominant version of Pineda we've seen in the past, but he's still plenty effective and the velocity appears to have rebounded. His fastball averaged 91.6 MPH on Saturday, which is his highest mark since early June. Personally, I believe that Pineda makes a lot of sense to bring back on a low-cost deal for the back of the rotation, although not everyone agrees. Ober, for his part, kept chugging along with a couple more strong performances – albeit in two of his shorter outings in a while. On Monday against Detroit, the big righty tossed four innings of two-run ball, striking out four with no walks. In his following start on Sunday, he was charged with three runs over 4 ⅓ innings, but had his stuff working with six strikeouts and 16 swings-and-misses on 75 pitches (21% SwSt). Ober hasn't issued multiple walks in a start since before the All-Star break, and owns a tremendous 48-to-6 K/BB ratio over 50 innings in his past 10 starts. Toss in a very fine outing on Tuesday from John Gant, who struck out seven over five scoreless, and it was an altogether outstanding week for this mish-mashed collection of starting pitchers. Alas, it's not just the rotation holding things down for the pitching staff as this campaign winds down. The bullpen, to its credit, has really come around. Despite lacking its best player in Rogers, the relief corps has quietly been among the best in baseball since the end of July. The past week saw Minnesota's bullpen deliver a 1.56 ERA, with Alex Colomé, Tyler Duffey, Caleb Thielbar, and Luke Farrell chipping in three scoreless innings apiece. Jorge Alcala, Ralph Garza Jr., and of course Moran had solid showings as well. Offensively, Jorge Polanco remains the life of the party. He opened his week with a four-hit game in Cleveland that included three doubles and a homer, then launched two bombs against the Royals on Saturday night. The second baseman is putting on a power-hitting clinic here in September, where he's slugging .795 with six doubles and five homers. Perhaps most impressively, he's driving the ball like this without sacrificing much contact. True to form, Polanco has struck out only seven times in 45 plate appearances this month. He's locked in, to put it mildly. Byron Buxton isn't quite on Polanco's level right now, but he does show signs of getting back on track offensively. Buck launched three homers last week, including this mammoth blast to straightaway center on Friday night: He didn't do a ton otherwise, and his swing still feels pretty all-or-nothing at this point, but it's a good start as the center fielder looks to finish strong in another frustrating, incomplete season. LOWLIGHTS Role players vying for opportunities on the 2022 team aren't doing much to help their cases. Brent Rooker came through with a big two-run double on Sunday, but went just 4-for-18 overall with six strikeouts and no walks. Rob Refsnyder – who drew two starts as the No. 3 hitter and one in the two-hole, for reasons unknown – managed three singles in 15 at-bats. Since returning from the IL in early August, he's slashing .208/.313/.236 with two extra-base hits (both doubles) and two RBIs in 83 plate appearances. Jake Cave made one start all week and was 1-for-6 at the plate. In fact, he's started only twice in the team's past 17 games. He's pretty clearly being phased out and his departure this offseason feels like a mere formality. TRENDING STORYLINE Honestly, there's nothing too compelling happening at the moment. Will the Twins avoid 90 losses? (They'd need to go 10-9 or better in the final 19 games.) Can they steer clear of a last-place finish? (They're currently two games behind the fourth-place Royals). How high of a draft pick will they net in 2022? (As Aaron Gleeman notes, they could realistically get as high as No. 7.) Personally I'll be more interested in following some of the noteworthy individual storylines in these last three weeks. I want to see if Buxton can show hints of the player he was back in April. I want to see how Ryan and Ober close out their first impressions in the majors. I want to see how Moran's stuff plays against big-league hitters. The games might not matter much anymore, but there are other implications to this remaining stretch nonetheless. LOOKING AHEAD For a second consecutive week, the Twins must take a disruptive detour in the middle of their homestand, heading to New York on Monday for an afternoon makeup game against the Yankees. Should be a ton of fun! Right?! From there, they quickly turn around and head back home for a double-header against Cleveland on Tuesday. Three games in 35 hours should provide some challenges for Rocco Baldelli in managing a thin pitching staff, but at least there's an off day coming up on Thursday. It's unclear at this point who will take Dobnak's vacant turn with Albers sent back to the minors. Charlie Barnes is a decent bet. MONDAY, 9/13: TWINS @ YANKEES – RHP John Gant v. TBD TUESDAY, 9/14: CLEVELAND @ TWINS (G1) – RHP Aaron Civale v. RHP Joe Ryan TUESDAY, 9/14: CLEVELAND @ TWINS (G2) – RHP Triston McKenzie v. TBD WEDNESDAY, 9/15: CLEVELAND @ TWINS – RHP Cal Quantrill v. RHP Griffin Jax FRIDAY, 9/17: TWINS @ BLUE JAYS – RHP Michael Pineda v. LHP Hyun Jin Ryu SATURDAY, 9/18: TWINS @ BLUE JAYS – RHP Bailey Ober v. LHP Steven Matz SUNDAY, 9/19: TWINS @ BLUE JAYS – RHP John Gant v. RHP Alek Manoah MORE FROM TWINS DAILY — Latest Twins coverage from our writers — Recent Twins discussion in our forums — Follow Twins Daily via Twitter, Facebook or email View full article
  7. Weekly Snapshot: Mon, 9/6 thru Sun, 9/12 *** Record Last Week: 4-3 (Overall: 63-80) Run Differential Last Week: +9 (Overall: -102) Standing: 5th Place in AL Central (19.0 GB) Last Week's Game Recaps: Game 137 | MIN 5, CLE 2: Ober and Pineda Piggyback, Polanco Rakes Game 138 | MIN 3, CLE 0: Gant Combines with 4 Relievers in Shutout Game 139 | MIN 3, CLE 0: Ryan Flirts with Perfection, Dominates Cleveland Game 140 | CLE 4, MIN 1: Quantrill Keeps Twins Bats Quiet Game 141 | KC 6, MIN 4: Offense Goes Silent After Explosive First Inning Game 142 | MIN 9, KC 2: Twins Drill 5 Homers, Coast to Easy Win Game 143 | KC 5, MIN 3: Royals Rally Late, Take Series NEWS & NOTES If you had to put your finger on just what's gone wrong with the Twins' pitching staff this year, one culprit would be ... well, fingers. Taylor Rogers has officially been shut down for the season with a middle finger sprain that he suffered in late July. While he'll have a full offseason to heal, the nature of this injury for a slider-reliant pitcher turns the team's top reliever (and one of their top trade candidates) into a major question mark. It's hard to fully trust he'll be the same guy when he returns. The same is more or less true for Randy Dobnak, who went back on the IL ahead of his planned Wednesday start with renewed soreness in his own middle finger, which previously sidelined him for more than two months. Dobnak, unlike Rogers, was struggling pretty consistently before getting hurt so there's even less assurance with him going forward. With Dobnak going down again, Andrew Albers was recalled to start on short notice. He did okay, all things considered, but was returned to St. Paul a couple days later when the Twins promoted (at long last) relief pitcher Jovani Moran. The lefty Moran has been a dominant force this year in the minors, piling up whiffs and strikeouts with help from a standout changeup that makes him even highly effective against righties. Moran made his debut on Monday and looked good, notching a pair of strikeouts over 1 ⅓ innings, though his control started to slip a bit in the latter part of the 37-pitch outing. HIGHLIGHTS Joe Ryan stole the show with a dazzling performance at Cleveland in his second major-league start, carrying a perfect game through six and ultimately allowing just one hit over seven shutout innings. His Game Score of 79 was the second-best for a Twins starter all season, trailing only José Berríos' spectacular first start of the year in Milwaukee. The young right-hander showed pretty much everything you'd want to see in his gem. He worked efficiently, needing only 85 pitches to get through seven frames while throwing 71% strikes. He notched only four strikeouts in this one, but induced plenty of weak contact. And while his fastball was good as advertised, Ryan continued to demonstrate he's no one-trick pony, mixing in some very nice low sliders as well. Ryan was the star in another strong week for the rotation, which got another member back via the return of Michael Pineda. Needing to build up after skipping a rehab stint, Big Mike appeared in relief of Bailey Ober on Monday, tossing three scoreless innings. He followed up with five innings of one-run ball against Kansas City on Saturday night. This isn't the dominant version of Pineda we've seen in the past, but he's still plenty effective and the velocity appears to have rebounded. His fastball averaged 91.6 MPH on Saturday, which is his highest mark since early June. Personally, I believe that Pineda makes a lot of sense to bring back on a low-cost deal for the back of the rotation, although not everyone agrees. Ober, for his part, kept chugging along with a couple more strong performances – albeit in two of his shorter outings in a while. On Monday against Detroit, the big righty tossed four innings of two-run ball, striking out four with no walks. In his following start on Sunday, he was charged with three runs over 4 ⅓ innings, but had his stuff working with six strikeouts and 16 swings-and-misses on 75 pitches (21% SwSt). Ober hasn't issued multiple walks in a start since before the All-Star break, and owns a tremendous 48-to-6 K/BB ratio over 50 innings in his past 10 starts. Toss in a very fine outing on Tuesday from John Gant, who struck out seven over five scoreless, and it was an altogether outstanding week for this mish-mashed collection of starting pitchers. Alas, it's not just the rotation holding things down for the pitching staff as this campaign winds down. The bullpen, to its credit, has really come around. Despite lacking its best player in Rogers, the relief corps has quietly been among the best in baseball since the end of July. The past week saw Minnesota's bullpen deliver a 1.56 ERA, with Alex Colomé, Tyler Duffey, Caleb Thielbar, and Luke Farrell chipping in three scoreless innings apiece. Jorge Alcala, Ralph Garza Jr., and of course Moran had solid showings as well. Offensively, Jorge Polanco remains the life of the party. He opened his week with a four-hit game in Cleveland that included three doubles and a homer, then launched two bombs against the Royals on Saturday night. The second baseman is putting on a power-hitting clinic here in September, where he's slugging .795 with six doubles and five homers. Perhaps most impressively, he's driving the ball like this without sacrificing much contact. True to form, Polanco has struck out only seven times in 45 plate appearances this month. He's locked in, to put it mildly. Byron Buxton isn't quite on Polanco's level right now, but he does show signs of getting back on track offensively. Buck launched three homers last week, including this mammoth blast to straightaway center on Friday night: He didn't do a ton otherwise, and his swing still feels pretty all-or-nothing at this point, but it's a good start as the center fielder looks to finish strong in another frustrating, incomplete season. LOWLIGHTS Role players vying for opportunities on the 2022 team aren't doing much to help their cases. Brent Rooker came through with a big two-run double on Sunday, but went just 4-for-18 overall with six strikeouts and no walks. Rob Refsnyder – who drew two starts as the No. 3 hitter and one in the two-hole, for reasons unknown – managed three singles in 15 at-bats. Since returning from the IL in early August, he's slashing .208/.313/.236 with two extra-base hits (both doubles) and two RBIs in 83 plate appearances. Jake Cave made one start all week and was 1-for-6 at the plate. In fact, he's started only twice in the team's past 17 games. He's pretty clearly being phased out and his departure this offseason feels like a mere formality. TRENDING STORYLINE Honestly, there's nothing too compelling happening at the moment. Will the Twins avoid 90 losses? (They'd need to go 10-9 or better in the final 19 games.) Can they steer clear of a last-place finish? (They're currently two games behind the fourth-place Royals). How high of a draft pick will they net in 2022? (As Aaron Gleeman notes, they could realistically get as high as No. 7.) Personally I'll be more interested in following some of the noteworthy individual storylines in these last three weeks. I want to see if Buxton can show hints of the player he was back in April. I want to see how Ryan and Ober close out their first impressions in the majors. I want to see how Moran's stuff plays against big-league hitters. The games might not matter much anymore, but there are other implications to this remaining stretch nonetheless. LOOKING AHEAD For a second consecutive week, the Twins must take a disruptive detour in the middle of their homestand, heading to New York on Monday for an afternoon makeup game against the Yankees. Should be a ton of fun! Right?! From there, they quickly turn around and head back home for a double-header against Cleveland on Tuesday. Three games in 35 hours should provide some challenges for Rocco Baldelli in managing a thin pitching staff, but at least there's an off day coming up on Thursday. It's unclear at this point who will take Dobnak's vacant turn with Albers sent back to the minors. Charlie Barnes is a decent bet. MONDAY, 9/13: TWINS @ YANKEES – RHP John Gant v. TBD TUESDAY, 9/14: CLEVELAND @ TWINS (G1) – RHP Aaron Civale v. RHP Joe Ryan TUESDAY, 9/14: CLEVELAND @ TWINS (G2) – RHP Triston McKenzie v. TBD WEDNESDAY, 9/15: CLEVELAND @ TWINS – RHP Cal Quantrill v. RHP Griffin Jax FRIDAY, 9/17: TWINS @ BLUE JAYS – RHP Michael Pineda v. LHP Hyun Jin Ryu SATURDAY, 9/18: TWINS @ BLUE JAYS – RHP Bailey Ober v. LHP Steven Matz SUNDAY, 9/19: TWINS @ BLUE JAYS – RHP John Gant v. RHP Alek Manoah MORE FROM TWINS DAILY — Latest Twins coverage from our writers — Recent Twins discussion in our forums — Follow Twins Daily via Twitter, Facebook or email
  8. One-run victories bookended a four-game losing streak, in a week where the Twins bats were mostly quiet but the rotation continued to offer promising signs – including from a pair of new additions who could significantly impact the 2022 picture. Weekly Snapshot: Mon, 8/30 thru Sun, 9/5 *** Record Last Week: 2-4 (Overall: 59-77) Run Differential Last Week: -12 (Overall: -111) Standing: 5th Place in AL Central (20.0 GB) Last Week's Game Recaps: Game 131 | MIN 3, DET 2: Twins Take Makeup Game Behind Ober Game 132 | CHC 3, MIN 1: Offense Comes Up Short in Key Spots Game 133 | CHC 3, MIN 0: Ryan Bitten by 3-R HR, Lack of Run Support in Debut Game 134 | TB 5, MIN 3: Dobnak Digs Deep Early Hole in Return to Rotation Game 135 | TB 11, MIN 4: Rays Annihilate Albers, Blow Out Twins Game 136 | MIN 6, TB 5: Offense Snaps Slump with 13 Hits NEWS & NOTES When rosters expanded on September 1st, the Twins called up two starters from the minors – one a new face in pitching prospect Joe Ryan, who came over in the Nelson Cruz deal, and one a familiar face in Randy Dobnak, who had wrapped up a rehab stint in St. Paul. Both pitchers joined the rotation right away, and you can read about their performances below. To make room on the 40-man roster for the new additions, Edgar García was outrighted and Kenta Maeda – who underwent Tommy John surgery on Wednesday – was moved to the 60-day IL. In a bit of an odd and surprising trade, the Twins dealt minor-league reliever Andrew Vasquez to the Dodgers for minor-league catcher Stevie Berman. Vasquez was called up immediately by Los Angeles, and appeared in Friday's game against the Giants. We've seen Vasquez in brief stints for the Twins before, in 2019 and 2018, and they did not go well. He is what he is – a lefty specialist who has been incredibly effective in that capacity in the minors but also struggles to throw strikes. People around here weren't exactly clamoring for him to promoted, and I'll admit he hasn't been on my radar lately. Still, for a team like the Twins that is desperate for any kind of pitching help – now and going forward – to never even take a look at a pitcher who was deemed immediately valuable by the reigning champs, vying for a ninth straight division title? I dunno. Strikes me as weird. In other news, Trevor Larnach was placed on the IL at Triple-A with a hand contusion, and it sounds like Michael Pineda's return is imminent. The big righty's oblique has healed quickly and he's set to rejoin the Twins rotation this week without a rehab assignment. On Sunday, Luke Farrell was activated from IL, supplanting Andrew Albers, who was utterly clobbered by Tampa on Saturday night. Derek Law was designated for assignment to make room on the 40-man. HIGHLIGHTS With Maeda out of the picture, can the Twins realistically build a rotation capable of contending in 2022? I made the case for it here a few days ago, while acknowledging that such an outcome would require multiple savvy offseason moves from the front office, and for things to break right with a few returning arms that are – at best – uncertainties right now. The past week brought much-needed encouraging signs for a few of those arms. Things opened up with yet another excellent outing from Bailey Ober, who delivered six innings of two-run ball in a makeup game at Detroit on Monday. The right-hander struck out five and walked none while allowing five hits in his second big-league win. One thing that I think gets lost in Ober's performance – due to the Twins carefully managing his pitch counts and workload – is that he's showing the potential to provide length once the team loosens up his restrictions a bit. In five August starts, Ober completed at least five innings each time, and got through six twice, despite never throwing more than 82 pitches. If he can continue to pitch this way in 2022, Ober looks like a guy who could give you six or seven innings on a pretty regular basis. We haven't had quite as much time to get a read on Ryan, who made his major-league debut against the Cubs on Wednesday night, but our first glimpse was a promising one. After spending a few months carving Triple-A hitters to shreds, Ryan took his game to Target Field and delivered a pretty good approximation, striking out five over five frames with 14 swinging strikes on 60 pitches (23%). He allowed only three hits and one walk, but his otherwise strong outing was marred by a three-run homer. (Ober can relate on this one.) As for Dobnak ... I don't think a start where the pitcher gives up five earned runs could be described as "good," but there was certainly some optimism to be drawn from his outing on Friday. All of the damage came early against Dobnak, who was likely shaking off some rust after a two-month absence from the rotation. He gave up three straight hits – including back-to-back RBI singles – to open the third, and then settled in to retire 15 straight batters. The last seven all came on groundouts and in total, Dobnak induced 17 grounders over his seven innings of work. He became the first Minnesota starter to complete seven innings since José Berríos in his last Twins start, all the way back on July 24th. Even some of the peripheral arms on the staff had solid showings. John Gant looked about as good as we've seen him in his start against the Cubs on Tuesday, tossing five innings of two-run ball with five strikeouts and no walks. He was spinning the ball around the lower regions of the zone and inducing some fairly ugly swings. Like Griffin Jax, there's evidence Gant could be a useful swingman or long reliever on the 2022 staff. Also deserving of note is Ralph Garza Jr., who tossed three scoreless and hitless innings. The 27-year-old has fared out much better as a Twin than García, claimed off waivers around the same time. Garza Jr. now has a 1.46 ERA with just six hits allowed in 12 ⅓ innings since being acquired. LOWLIGHTS While the pitching staff (sans Albers) held its own, the offense provided little support. Since scoring nine runs in consecutive games in Boston a couple weeks ago, the bats have gone into hibernation, batting just .214 with 29 runs scored in their past 10 games. Conspicuously, the slump in production coincides closely with Byron Buxton's return, which has thus far had the opposite of its intended impact. The center fielder has been playing daily since being activated from IL, but can't find much rhythm at the plate. Last week he went 4-for-21, and overall he's 4-for-35 (.114) with 10 strikeouts and two walks since coming back. I don't think Buxton's struggles are super concerning – ample rust is to be expected following his prolonged absence, and he's not striking out an inordinate amount or anything – but they're definitely threatening the narrative of a breakout season. Is Buxton truly a bona fide MVP-caliber hitter, like we saw back an April and in frequent bursts over the past few years, or is he more of a great but streaky offensive player? The final month should offer a bit more clarity, and could heavily impact the dynamics of any offseason extension talks as Buxton heads into his walk year. Hopefully Sunday's two-hit game is a sign that the 27-year-old is ready to get rolling again. Other players contributing to the lineup's run-scoring scarcity: Luis Arraez is finding the hits uncharacteristically difficult to come by of late. In six games (five starts) last week, Arraez went just 5-for-22, and in fact he's got only five hits in his past 10 games. I'm not sure this qualifies as anything more than regression to the mean for a player who'd previously been hitting nearly .400 since the All-Star break, but it does go to show how much the offense relies on his contributions to spark rallies. Miguel Sanó probably fell into some regression of his own. After posting a 1.005 OPS in his previous 10 games, Sanó went just 2-for-16 with nine strikeouts and two walks. Coming into the week, the first baseman had struck out 3+ times in a game just once in the previous month (a notable feat for him) but he did so twice last week. Sanó got a day off on Sunday; we'll see if this is a mere hiccup or the start of another mega-slump. Meanwhile, Andrelton Simmons' season has basically been one long mega-slump. While continuing to draw almost everyday starts due to a lack of compelling alternatives, Simmons was customarily awful at the plate, going 2-for-12 with zero extra-base hits, zero RBIs, and zero runs scored. He now sports a .216 slugging percentage and .468 OPS since the All-Star break. Simmons' consistently meager contact produces almost no chance for successful results, and the 32-year-old (as of Saturday) really does look cooked as a big-league hitter. Alas, the Twins appear committed to running out the string. TRENDING STORYLINE All eyes are on the rotation right now. It'd be nice to see the offense pick up its pace again, but there are no deep concerns about the state of the lineup going forward. Meanwhile, everyone currently slotted into the rotation – Ober, Dobnak, Jax, Ryan, and even the returning Pineda – is making their case for a role on the 2022 staff. Presently I'd say Ober is the only one who could safely be viewed as having a spot carved out, but matters could change over the final four weeks. No storyline looms larger, in my eyes. LOOKING AHEAD A full week of match-ups against fellow AL Central also-rans lies ahead, with the Twins set to play four games in Cleveland followed by three against the Royals at Target Field. Minnesota is amidst a run of 13 straight days of games with no break. Who will start on Friday against the Royals, with Albers now out of the equation? That is the question. Charlie Barnes would seem to be the most likely option at present, if not a bullpen game. The Twins will be operating for a short while without their manager, as Rocco Baldelli departed the team on Sunday for the birth of his first child. (Congrats Rocco and Allie!!) Bill Evers, who announced he'll be retiring at season's end, will take over as interim skipper. MONDAY, 9/6: TWINS @ CLEVELAND – RHP Bailey Ober v. LHP Sam Hentges TUESDAY, 9/7: TWINS @ CLEVELAND – RHP John Gant v. RHP Triston McKenzie WEDNESDAY, 9/8: TWINS @ CLEVELAND – RHP Joe Ryan v. RHP Cal Quantrill THURSDAY, 9/9: TWINS @ CLEVELAND – RHP Randy Dobnak v. RHP Eli Morgan FRIDAY, 9/10: ROYALS @ TWINS – LHP Daniel Lynch v. TBD SATURDAY, 9/11: ROYALS @ TWINS – RHP Brady Singer v. RHP Griffin Jax SUNDAY, 9/12: ROYALS @ TWINS – RHP Jackson Kowar v. RHP Bailey Ober MORE FROM TWINS DAILY — Latest Twins coverage from our writers — Recent Twins discussion in our forums — Follow Twins Daily via Twitter, Facebook or email View full article
  9. Weekly Snapshot: Mon, 8/30 thru Sun, 9/5 *** Record Last Week: 2-4 (Overall: 59-77) Run Differential Last Week: -12 (Overall: -111) Standing: 5th Place in AL Central (20.0 GB) Last Week's Game Recaps: Game 131 | MIN 3, DET 2: Twins Take Makeup Game Behind Ober Game 132 | CHC 3, MIN 1: Offense Comes Up Short in Key Spots Game 133 | CHC 3, MIN 0: Ryan Bitten by 3-R HR, Lack of Run Support in Debut Game 134 | TB 5, MIN 3: Dobnak Digs Deep Early Hole in Return to Rotation Game 135 | TB 11, MIN 4: Rays Annihilate Albers, Blow Out Twins Game 136 | MIN 6, TB 5: Offense Snaps Slump with 13 Hits NEWS & NOTES When rosters expanded on September 1st, the Twins called up two starters from the minors – one a new face in pitching prospect Joe Ryan, who came over in the Nelson Cruz deal, and one a familiar face in Randy Dobnak, who had wrapped up a rehab stint in St. Paul. Both pitchers joined the rotation right away, and you can read about their performances below. To make room on the 40-man roster for the new additions, Edgar García was outrighted and Kenta Maeda – who underwent Tommy John surgery on Wednesday – was moved to the 60-day IL. In a bit of an odd and surprising trade, the Twins dealt minor-league reliever Andrew Vasquez to the Dodgers for minor-league catcher Stevie Berman. Vasquez was called up immediately by Los Angeles, and appeared in Friday's game against the Giants. We've seen Vasquez in brief stints for the Twins before, in 2019 and 2018, and they did not go well. He is what he is – a lefty specialist who has been incredibly effective in that capacity in the minors but also struggles to throw strikes. People around here weren't exactly clamoring for him to promoted, and I'll admit he hasn't been on my radar lately. Still, for a team like the Twins that is desperate for any kind of pitching help – now and going forward – to never even take a look at a pitcher who was deemed immediately valuable by the reigning champs, vying for a ninth straight division title? I dunno. Strikes me as weird. In other news, Trevor Larnach was placed on the IL at Triple-A with a hand contusion, and it sounds like Michael Pineda's return is imminent. The big righty's oblique has healed quickly and he's set to rejoin the Twins rotation this week without a rehab assignment. On Sunday, Luke Farrell was activated from IL, supplanting Andrew Albers, who was utterly clobbered by Tampa on Saturday night. Derek Law was designated for assignment to make room on the 40-man. HIGHLIGHTS With Maeda out of the picture, can the Twins realistically build a rotation capable of contending in 2022? I made the case for it here a few days ago, while acknowledging that such an outcome would require multiple savvy offseason moves from the front office, and for things to break right with a few returning arms that are – at best – uncertainties right now. The past week brought much-needed encouraging signs for a few of those arms. Things opened up with yet another excellent outing from Bailey Ober, who delivered six innings of two-run ball in a makeup game at Detroit on Monday. The right-hander struck out five and walked none while allowing five hits in his second big-league win. One thing that I think gets lost in Ober's performance – due to the Twins carefully managing his pitch counts and workload – is that he's showing the potential to provide length once the team loosens up his restrictions a bit. In five August starts, Ober completed at least five innings each time, and got through six twice, despite never throwing more than 82 pitches. If he can continue to pitch this way in 2022, Ober looks like a guy who could give you six or seven innings on a pretty regular basis. We haven't had quite as much time to get a read on Ryan, who made his major-league debut against the Cubs on Wednesday night, but our first glimpse was a promising one. After spending a few months carving Triple-A hitters to shreds, Ryan took his game to Target Field and delivered a pretty good approximation, striking out five over five frames with 14 swinging strikes on 60 pitches (23%). He allowed only three hits and one walk, but his otherwise strong outing was marred by a three-run homer. (Ober can relate on this one.) As for Dobnak ... I don't think a start where the pitcher gives up five earned runs could be described as "good," but there was certainly some optimism to be drawn from his outing on Friday. All of the damage came early against Dobnak, who was likely shaking off some rust after a two-month absence from the rotation. He gave up three straight hits – including back-to-back RBI singles – to open the third, and then settled in to retire 15 straight batters. The last seven all came on groundouts and in total, Dobnak induced 17 grounders over his seven innings of work. He became the first Minnesota starter to complete seven innings since José Berríos in his last Twins start, all the way back on July 24th. Even some of the peripheral arms on the staff had solid showings. John Gant looked about as good as we've seen him in his start against the Cubs on Tuesday, tossing five innings of two-run ball with five strikeouts and no walks. He was spinning the ball around the lower regions of the zone and inducing some fairly ugly swings. Like Griffin Jax, there's evidence Gant could be a useful swingman or long reliever on the 2022 staff. Also deserving of note is Ralph Garza Jr., who tossed three scoreless and hitless innings. The 27-year-old has fared out much better as a Twin than García, claimed off waivers around the same time. Garza Jr. now has a 1.46 ERA with just six hits allowed in 12 ⅓ innings since being acquired. LOWLIGHTS While the pitching staff (sans Albers) held its own, the offense provided little support. Since scoring nine runs in consecutive games in Boston a couple weeks ago, the bats have gone into hibernation, batting just .214 with 29 runs scored in their past 10 games. Conspicuously, the slump in production coincides closely with Byron Buxton's return, which has thus far had the opposite of its intended impact. The center fielder has been playing daily since being activated from IL, but can't find much rhythm at the plate. Last week he went 4-for-21, and overall he's 4-for-35 (.114) with 10 strikeouts and two walks since coming back. I don't think Buxton's struggles are super concerning – ample rust is to be expected following his prolonged absence, and he's not striking out an inordinate amount or anything – but they're definitely threatening the narrative of a breakout season. Is Buxton truly a bona fide MVP-caliber hitter, like we saw back an April and in frequent bursts over the past few years, or is he more of a great but streaky offensive player? The final month should offer a bit more clarity, and could heavily impact the dynamics of any offseason extension talks as Buxton heads into his walk year. Hopefully Sunday's two-hit game is a sign that the 27-year-old is ready to get rolling again. Other players contributing to the lineup's run-scoring scarcity: Luis Arraez is finding the hits uncharacteristically difficult to come by of late. In six games (five starts) last week, Arraez went just 5-for-22, and in fact he's got only five hits in his past 10 games. I'm not sure this qualifies as anything more than regression to the mean for a player who'd previously been hitting nearly .400 since the All-Star break, but it does go to show how much the offense relies on his contributions to spark rallies. Miguel Sanó probably fell into some regression of his own. After posting a 1.005 OPS in his previous 10 games, Sanó went just 2-for-16 with nine strikeouts and two walks. Coming into the week, the first baseman had struck out 3+ times in a game just once in the previous month (a notable feat for him) but he did so twice last week. Sanó got a day off on Sunday; we'll see if this is a mere hiccup or the start of another mega-slump. Meanwhile, Andrelton Simmons' season has basically been one long mega-slump. While continuing to draw almost everyday starts due to a lack of compelling alternatives, Simmons was customarily awful at the plate, going 2-for-12 with zero extra-base hits, zero RBIs, and zero runs scored. He now sports a .216 slugging percentage and .468 OPS since the All-Star break. Simmons' consistently meager contact produces almost no chance for successful results, and the 32-year-old (as of Saturday) really does look cooked as a big-league hitter. Alas, the Twins appear committed to running out the string. TRENDING STORYLINE All eyes are on the rotation right now. It'd be nice to see the offense pick up its pace again, but there are no deep concerns about the state of the lineup going forward. Meanwhile, everyone currently slotted into the rotation – Ober, Dobnak, Jax, Ryan, and even the returning Pineda – is making their case for a role on the 2022 staff. Presently I'd say Ober is the only one who could safely be viewed as having a spot carved out, but matters could change over the final four weeks. No storyline looms larger, in my eyes. LOOKING AHEAD A full week of match-ups against fellow AL Central also-rans lies ahead, with the Twins set to play four games in Cleveland followed by three against the Royals at Target Field. Minnesota is amidst a run of 13 straight days of games with no break. Who will start on Friday against the Royals, with Albers now out of the equation? That is the question. Charlie Barnes would seem to be the most likely option at present, if not a bullpen game. The Twins will be operating for a short while without their manager, as Rocco Baldelli departed the team on Sunday for the birth of his first child. (Congrats Rocco and Allie!!) Bill Evers, who announced he'll be retiring at season's end, will take over as interim skipper. MONDAY, 9/6: TWINS @ CLEVELAND – RHP Bailey Ober v. LHP Sam Hentges TUESDAY, 9/7: TWINS @ CLEVELAND – RHP John Gant v. RHP Triston McKenzie WEDNESDAY, 9/8: TWINS @ CLEVELAND – RHP Joe Ryan v. RHP Cal Quantrill THURSDAY, 9/9: TWINS @ CLEVELAND – RHP Randy Dobnak v. RHP Eli Morgan FRIDAY, 9/10: ROYALS @ TWINS – LHP Daniel Lynch v. TBD SATURDAY, 9/11: ROYALS @ TWINS – RHP Brady Singer v. RHP Griffin Jax SUNDAY, 9/12: ROYALS @ TWINS – RHP Jackson Kowar v. RHP Bailey Ober MORE FROM TWINS DAILY — Latest Twins coverage from our writers — Recent Twins discussion in our forums — Follow Twins Daily via Twitter, Facebook or email
  10. I consider this a somewhat middle of the road outcome. "Everything breaks near perfectly" would involve signing mid-rotation guys who perform like top-of-rotation guys, and multiple prospects breaking through with standout rookie performances. I'm not calling for anything like that to happen although I don't think it's all that implausible. Generally speaking, I just think a lot of people are mired a negative mindset based on what's happened this year, where basically everything that could go wrong has gone wrong. And I get that. But like I said in the piece ... things change fast in this game. Twins fans really should understand that as well as anyone.
  11. Saying "These guys who were previously good, and have been bad while hurt this year, might be good again" is magical thinking?
  12. I'm amazed by how many people can already say with assurance how all these pitchers will perform next year. I bet you wouldn't have viewed Rodon as a 2021 impact guy one year ago. Or Gausman two years ago. Things change. People get healthy and turn corners. I'm not recommending anyone specifically, I'm just saying that quality arms are sourced from that middle tier of starters every year. Can the Twins make the right pick and take the right steps to get them there? That's the question.
  13. Below I will outline a plausible path to a good Twins rotation in 2022. Not an elite rotation – that's probably a bridge too far at this point – but a good one with five solid-or-better starters, capable of competing for a postseason spot and maybe more. There is inherently some optimistic thinking involved here, but I don't think any of these scenarios are out of question. 1. Bailey Ober proves to be the real deal Among starting pitchers currently controlled by the Twins, Ober is the only stable fixture looking ahead to 2022. But he's establishing himself as a pretty viable building block. How did the big right-hander go from relative unknown to indispensable rotation cornerstone in one year's time? By adding 3-4 MPH to his fastball and shedding his label as a "soft-tosser." A few extra ticks of velocity have made a world of difference for the rookie, who is now sneaking heaters past MLB hitters and playing up his lesser offspeed stuff. Toss in excellent command, and you've got a good recipe for success. As we've seen. Ober's overall numbers with the Twins this year are good – 3.98 ERA, 1.21 WHIP, 77-to-17 K/BB ratio in 74 ⅔ innings – but even better when you break them down to parse out his progression. His K/BB ratio in the latter sample is legitimately elite (only two qualified MLB starters are averaging more than six strikeouts per walk, and they are Cy Young candidates Corbin Burnes and Gerrit Cole). When you're missing bats, limiting walks, and keeping the hits in check, you're in line for good outcomes. Ober has shown the ability to do all these things, and he's only getting better at each of them. Home runs will be something to monitor, and could sidetrack him if they re-emerge as a weakness, but at this point there's no reason to think a healthy Ober won't be at least a quality #3 or 4 starter in 2022. 2. Twins sign a #2/3 starter in free agency No, they're not going to sign Clayton Kershaw or Max Scherzer. Probably not Noah Syndergaard either. Even someone like Marcus Stroman or Justin Verlander may be a tad too ambitious. But with ample flexibility (should they choose to keep payroll steady or raise it slightly), there are several names in the next tier that should be within range, and it's not that hard to see one of them settling in as a mid-rotation caliber starter or better. Names in this category include Corey Kluber, Charlie Morton, Alex Cobb, Andrew Heaney, and others. 3. Acquire a #2/3 starter via trade Last year, the Twins acquired Maeda and watched him blossom into a Cy Young caliber performer. This year, their division rivals have done the same with Lance Lynn. We don't need to set our sights that high, though it'd be nice. Jameson Taillon is a less idealistic example. He wasn't a star for Pittsburgh, and the Yankees didn't have to part with top-tier prospect talent to acquire him. But he has served as a very solid mid-rotation arm for New York, at a low price and with multiple years of control remaining. The Twins didn't trade away any of their system's depth last winter, and have only added to it this year by selling at the deadline. Additionally, they have a few semi-redundant pieces at the major-league level that could have value to other clubs (Max Kepler, Mitch Garver ... Luis Arraez?) The front office will have assets to deal for pitching if they are so inclined. 4. Re-sign Michael Pineda The door definitely seems wide open for a reunion, as each side has openly expressed affinity for the other, and with Pineda's challenges this year, he should be pretty affordable – maybe $4-5 million. Given those challenges, I'm sure most Twins fans aren't enthused about the idea of bringing back Pineda. But let's look at the big picture here: the 32-year-old has posted a 3.98 ERA, 3.94 FIP, 1.19 WHIP, 8.3 K/9 and 1.8 BB/9 during his time with the Twins. That includes his recent struggles, which can likely be attributed somewhat to health. In his first 36 starts with Minnesota, the team went 24-12. His circumstances, and a theoretical desire to return here, could enable the Twins to score Pineda at the cost of a back-end starter, while hoping an offseason of rest and strengthening returns him to his previous state or close to it. 5. Get Randy Dobnak back on track As with Pineda, it's easy to get caught up in Dobnak's recent struggles while losing sight of his previous success. In fact, it's a lot easier, because Dobnak does not have nearly the track record of Pineda. But through the first 14 outings of his MLB career, the Dobber was simply phenomenal, posting a 1.69 ERA with four home runs allowed over 58 ⅔ innings. This after a tremendous minor-league career that saw him perform well at every level. Dobnak's effectiveness was no accident – the bottom simply fell out on his pitches, making them excruciatingly difficult to lift, and he consistently threw them in the zone. Things went south late in the 2020 season, but Dobnak rebounded with a dominant spring that compelled the Twins to invest with a modest long-term contract. And then the bottom fell out on Dobnak. We all know this season has been a complete and total disaster for the right-hander, but it's unclear to what it extent that owes to injury issues. When you're a slider-reliant sinkerballer who goes from allowing four homers in your first two seasons to allowing 11 in your third, before going on IL for multiple months with a strain in the middle finger that is so crucial in creating that sink ... Well, it points to a natural explanation. There's no guarantee that time off will correct this issue, but we'll at least start to get an idea when Dobnak returns to the rotation on Friday. Regardless of how things go for the rest of this season, he'll most likely get a crack at the 2022 rotation given that he's under guaranteed contract. If he gets back on track and is anywhere close to the version we saw early on in his big-league career, well that's a hell of a good fifth starter. 6. The minors provide depth and jolts Above, we've accounted for all five season-opening rotation spots. And we haven't yet tapped into the impressive minor-league pipeline this front office has built up. Between Joe Ryan, Jordan Balazovic, Jhoan Duran, Simeon Woods-Richardson, Matt Canterino and Josh Winder, you have a bevy of high-upside arms that are all verging on MLB-ready, if not already there. Granted, it's tough to depend on any of these prospects short-term, given that none have yet appeared in the majors (save Ryan, who debuted impressively on Wednesday) and the group is riddled with significant injury concerns. But that's why I'm not penciling them into any of the top five spots. We can account for those otherwise and keep these exciting arms in reserve, while knowing that just about any one of them has the potential to be a game-changing force for the Twins pitching staff if things break right. Look, I get that it's hard to envision multiple positive scenarios playing out in this fashion, especially with the way faith has been understandably eroded in the this front office over the past year. But one thing I find myself frequently reminding others – and myself – is that things change fast in this game. In 2016 and 2018, nobody was foreseeing good things on the near horizon. The Twins made some mistakes last offseason, but have also been the victims of absolutely horrible luck. This front office and coaching staff have proven their mettle in the past. If they can learn from those mistakes and the pendulum of fortune swings in the other direction, it's not all that difficult to envision a pitching staff capable of supporting what could be a very strong offense to push Minnesota back into contender status. MORE FROM TWINS DAILY — Latest Twins coverage from our writers — Recent Twins discussion in our forums — Follow Twins Daily via Twitter, Facebook or email
  14. On Wednesday the Twins confirmed what was already expected: Kenta Maeda required Tommy John surgery, and will miss most of the 2022 season, if not all of it. With zero veteran starters under control, and prospect injuries suppressing the internal pitching pipeline, is it realistically possible for Minnesota to field a contending rotation next year? Let's see. Below I will outline a plausible path to a good Twins rotation in 2022. Not an elite rotation – that's probably a bridge too far at this point – but a good one with five solid-or-better starters, capable of competing for a postseason spot and maybe more. There is inherently some optimistic thinking involved here, but I don't think any of these scenarios are out of question. 1. Bailey Ober proves to be the real deal Among starting pitchers currently controlled by the Twins, Ober is the only stable fixture looking ahead to 2022. But he's establishing himself as a pretty viable building block. How did the big right-hander go from relative unknown to indispensable rotation cornerstone in one year's time? By adding 3-4 MPH to his fastball and shedding his label as a "soft-tosser." A few extra ticks of velocity have made a world of difference for the rookie, who is now sneaking heaters past MLB hitters and playing up his lesser offspeed stuff. Toss in excellent command, and you've got a good recipe for success. As we've seen. Ober's overall numbers with the Twins this year are good – 3.98 ERA, 1.21 WHIP, 77-to-17 K/BB ratio in 74 ⅔ innings – but even better when you break them down to parse out his progression. His K/BB ratio in the latter sample is legitimately elite (only two qualified MLB starters are averaging more than six strikeouts per walk, and they are Cy Young candidates Corbin Burnes and Gerrit Cole). When you're missing bats, limiting walks, and keeping the hits in check, you're in line for good outcomes. Ober has shown the ability to do all these things, and he's only getting better at each of them. Home runs will be something to monitor, and could sidetrack him if they re-emerge as a weakness, but at this point there's no reason to think a healthy Ober won't be at least a quality #3 or 4 starter in 2022. 2. Twins sign a #2/3 starter in free agency No, they're not going to sign Clayton Kershaw or Max Scherzer. Probably not Noah Syndergaard either. Even someone like Marcus Stroman or Justin Verlander may be a tad too ambitious. But with ample flexibility (should they choose to keep payroll steady or raise it slightly), there are several names in the next tier that should be within range, and it's not that hard to see one of them settling in as a mid-rotation caliber starter or better. Names in this category include Corey Kluber, Charlie Morton, Alex Cobb, Andrew Heaney, and others. 3. Acquire a #2/3 starter via trade Last year, the Twins acquired Maeda and watched him blossom into a Cy Young caliber performer. This year, their division rivals have done the same with Lance Lynn. We don't need to set our sights that high, though it'd be nice. Jameson Taillon is a less idealistic example. He wasn't a star for Pittsburgh, and the Yankees didn't have to part with top-tier prospect talent to acquire him. But he has served as a very solid mid-rotation arm for New York, at a low price and with multiple years of control remaining. The Twins didn't trade away any of their system's depth last winter, and have only added to it this year by selling at the deadline. Additionally, they have a few semi-redundant pieces at the major-league level that could have value to other clubs (Max Kepler, Mitch Garver ... Luis Arraez?) The front office will have assets to deal for pitching if they are so inclined. 4. Re-sign Michael Pineda The door definitely seems wide open for a reunion, as each side has openly expressed affinity for the other, and with Pineda's challenges this year, he should be pretty affordable – maybe $4-5 million. Given those challenges, I'm sure most Twins fans aren't enthused about the idea of bringing back Pineda. But let's look at the big picture here: the 32-year-old has posted a 3.98 ERA, 3.94 FIP, 1.19 WHIP, 8.3 K/9 and 1.8 BB/9 during his time with the Twins. That includes his recent struggles, which can likely be attributed somewhat to health. In his first 36 starts with Minnesota, the team went 24-12. His circumstances, and a theoretical desire to return here, could enable the Twins to score Pineda at the cost of a back-end starter, while hoping an offseason of rest and strengthening returns him to his previous state or close to it. 5. Get Randy Dobnak back on track As with Pineda, it's easy to get caught up in Dobnak's recent struggles while losing sight of his previous success. In fact, it's a lot easier, because Dobnak does not have nearly the track record of Pineda. But through the first 14 outings of his MLB career, the Dobber was simply phenomenal, posting a 1.69 ERA with four home runs allowed over 58 ⅔ innings. This after a tremendous minor-league career that saw him perform well at every level. Dobnak's effectiveness was no accident – the bottom simply fell out on his pitches, making them excruciatingly difficult to lift, and he consistently threw them in the zone. Things went south late in the 2020 season, but Dobnak rebounded with a dominant spring that compelled the Twins to invest with a modest long-term contract. And then the bottom fell out on Dobnak. We all know this season has been a complete and total disaster for the right-hander, but it's unclear to what it extent that owes to injury issues. When you're a slider-reliant sinkerballer who goes from allowing four homers in your first two seasons to allowing 11 in your third, before going on IL for multiple months with a strain in the middle finger that is so crucial in creating that sink ... Well, it points to a natural explanation. There's no guarantee that time off will correct this issue, but we'll at least start to get an idea when Dobnak returns to the rotation on Friday. Regardless of how things go for the rest of this season, he'll most likely get a crack at the 2022 rotation given that he's under guaranteed contract. If he gets back on track and is anywhere close to the version we saw early on in his big-league career, well that's a hell of a good fifth starter. 6. The minors provide depth and jolts Above, we've accounted for all five season-opening rotation spots. And we haven't yet tapped into the impressive minor-league pipeline this front office has built up. Between Joe Ryan, Jordan Balazovic, Jhoan Duran, Simeon Woods-Richardson, Matt Canterino and Josh Winder, you have a bevy of high-upside arms that are all verging on MLB-ready, if not already there. Granted, it's tough to depend on any of these prospects short-term, given that none have yet appeared in the majors (save Ryan, who debuted impressively on Wednesday) and the group is riddled with significant injury concerns. But that's why I'm not penciling them into any of the top five spots. We can account for those otherwise and keep these exciting arms in reserve, while knowing that just about any one of them has the potential to be a game-changing force for the Twins pitching staff if things break right. Look, I get that it's hard to envision multiple positive scenarios playing out in this fashion, especially with the way faith has been understandably eroded in the this front office over the past year. But one thing I find myself frequently reminding others – and myself – is that things change fast in this game. In 2016 and 2018, nobody was foreseeing good things on the near horizon. The Twins made some mistakes last offseason, but have also been the victims of absolutely horrible luck. This front office and coaching staff have proven their mettle in the past. If they can learn from those mistakes and the pendulum of fortune swings in the other direction, it's not all that difficult to envision a pitching staff capable of supporting what could be a very strong offense to push Minnesota back into contender status. MORE FROM TWINS DAILY — Latest Twins coverage from our writers — Recent Twins discussion in our forums — Follow Twins Daily via Twitter, Facebook or email View full article
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