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Brandon Warne

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  1. This is an excerpt from a story which originates at Zone Coverage, please click here to read in full. Minnesota Twins players Mitch Garver and Josh Donaldson addressed local media on a conference call Thursday afternoon, and it covered a wide range of subjects -- many of which would come as no surprise to curious fans. What are they specifically doing to maintain as much of their Grapefruit League progress as possible? What are they doing to pass the days when they aren't working out? Where are they staying in the interim? Donaldson stayed in Fort Myers as long as he possibly could -- including closing a new home in the area -- before relocating to Alabama, while Garver has relocated to the Twin Cities, where he's working out and hitting with teammate Max Kepler as much as possible. Garver also said he raided the Target Field workout room for some equipment to help him stay in shape -- something that could be an unusual wrinkle for a player who squats for nine innings per game. But one question that couldn't go unanswered was about the potential of teams playing their schedules in Arizona in a sterile environment with no fans and as little off-field fraternization as possible. Earlier this week, ESPN's Jeff Passan outlined a plan where teams could relocate to Arizona and play games at Chase Field -- home of the Diamondbacks -- in addition to 10 spring training facilities in the area. That's one advantage Cactus League teams have over their Grapefruit League counterparts -- no long bus rides during spring training. And while Passan reported there were still some stumbling blocks in the way of executing this appropriately, this was also met with trepidation from players -- as well as their families. Eireann Dolan -- who is not only the wife of Washington Nationals reliever Sean Doolittle, but a social activist who hosted an Oakland A's show entitled "Call to the Pen" on Comcast SportsNet -- was especially vociferous in her thoughts (threaded tweets): https://twitter.com/EireannDolan/status/1247504431731609600 Kaycee Sogard -- wife of Milwaukee Brewers infielder Eric Sogard -- was a bit more concise in her disdain: Garver had a tepid, but tempered endorsement to how it could work, but still had some questions. For what it's worth, it sounds as though the plan has been amended to possibly include Grapefruit League stadiums, as well as the potential of making separate leagues with the respective winners of each side facing off in the World Series. https://twitter.com/KayceeSogard/status/1247606483195330561
  2. This is an excerpt from a post originating at Zone Coverage. Please click here to read it in full. A couple of offseasons ago, we ran a series similar to what we’re doing here, entitled “Minnesota Twins 40-Man Report Cards.” The only key difference to be aware of is since it’s happening now instead of during the offseason, we’re going to make it forward-looking — that is, with the current roster as constructed, looking back on their 2019 season. Previous editions: Homer Bailey Jose Berrios So in some cases, it’ll be looking at players who might not have necessarily spent all or even any of their 2019 season in the organization. Let’s dive right in, starting with the pitchers: Player: Randy Dobnak 2019 team(s): Minnesota Twins Pertinent Numbers: 28.1 IP, 1.59 ERA/2.90 FIP, 0.8 fWAR/0.7 bWAR (with Minnesota); 46.0 IP, 2.15 ERA/3.45 FIP (with Rochester); 66.2 IP, 2.56 ERA/3.00 FIP (with Pensacola); 22.1 IP, 0.40 ERA/2.73 FIP (with Fort Myers) 2019 LOWDOWN Maybe I’m just needing to stand on my soapbox for a second, but it feels so reductionist to continually recall Dobnak as the Uber driver-made-good — especially when it’s used to encapsulate his meteoric rise to pitching in the Bronx in Game 2 of the American League Division Series. Or if you’re an opposing fan, demean the fact that he was there in the first place. I’m willing to be wrong here. Certainly, it wasn’t his fault that Michael Pineda was suspended and Kyle Gibson had a rough end to the season. But even without his ride-share prowess, the story of Dobnak is unlike many, if any, ever told in professional baseball. Dobnak wasn’t drafted out of high school, so he went to Division II Alderson Broaddus University in West Virginia. After four years of putting up numbers for the Battlers, Dobnak again went undrafted. In fact, Dobnak made light of this fact when he faced the Minnesota Golden Gophers in a scrimmage for the first game action for the Twins this spring. He joked with reporters afterward that it was the first Division I baseball he’d ever played. Despite going undrafted in 2017, an undeterred Dobnak went and pitched in the United Shore Professional Baseball League in Michigan, making six appearances before finally catching the eye of the Minnesota Twins, who signed him on July 31. Dobnak’s final appearance in the USPBL was a brilliant one — a complete-game four-hitter with two earned runs, seven strikeouts and no walks against the East Side Diamond Hoppers. That was it for Dobnak in the Independent Leagues. No longer was he a Utica Unicorn — though in reality, a unicorn is what he truly is to this day. A little over two years later — Aug. 9 of last season — Dobnak found himself on the mound at Target Field taking on the Cleveland Indians.
  3. Dude could FLY. Like 80 steals in a minor-league season fly.
  4. Here's an excerpt from an article originating from Zone Coverage. Please click through here to support the content. A couple of offseasons ago, we ran a series similar to what we're doing here, entitled "Minnesota Twins 40-Man Report Cards." The only key difference to be aware of is since it's happening now instead of during the offseason, we're going to make it forward-looking -- that is, with the current 40-man roster as constructed, looking back on their 2019 season. So in some cases -- such as this one -- it'll be looking at players who might not have necessarily spent all or even any of their 2019 season in the organization. Let's dive right in, starting with the pitchers: Player: Homer Bailey 2019 team(s): Kansas City Royals/Oakland Athletics Pertinent Numbers: 163.1 IP, 4.57 ERA/4.11 FIP, 2.9 fWAR/2.0 bWAR 2019 Lowdown When Bailey signed an extension with the Cincinnati Reds on Feb. 20, 2014, he was entering his age-28 season and coming off back-to-back seasons with a sub-4.00 ERA. That season, he posted a 3.71 ERA in 145.2 innings, and henceforth totaled 231.2 innings over the rest of the $105 million contract at an ERA of 6.25. In a lot of ways, his career is semi-parallel to that of Anibal Sanchez. The Twins brought Sanchez into camp as a non-roster invitee in 2018 after a three-year run that saw him post a 5.67 ERA in 415.2 innings with the Detroit Tigers, but ultimately cut him loose upon signing Lance Lynn to a one-year deal. All Sanchez has done in the two years since is post a 3.39 ERA in 302.2 innings with a 1.19 WHIP and well over two strikeouts per walk. Anyway, there was ample reason to believe Bailey's career was over. He went 1-14 with the Reds in 2018, was traded as part of a salary dump deal to the Los Angeles Dodgers and was unceremoniously released the next day. But rather than take his millions and fade into obscurity, Bailey agreed to a minor-league deal with the Royals and pitched his way onto the team, taking a regular rotation spot for 18 starts before he was traded to the A's on July 14 for prospect Kevin Merrell -- a utility infield prospect with a career OPS of .669, including a .617 mark last season. To say even the A's weren't expecting a ton might be an understatement.
  5. A couple key distinctions: 1. It was for a banned substance, not a PED. The rules are different — for instance, had the suspension lapsed before the end of the season, he’d have been playoff-roster eligible. 2. Based on some stuff circling around out there, this was a very serendipitous test result. Pineda deserves another chance, and it might as well be from the team that gave him the last one.
  6. This is an excerpt from an article that appears at Zone Coverage in full here. Please click through to read it in full. No matter what direction the 2019 season takes the Minnesota Twins, their offseason is going to be filled with intrigue. Three of the team’s five starting pitchers — Kyle Gibson, Jake Odorizzi and Michael Pineda — are eligible for free agency, leaving Jose Berrios and Martin Perez, who has a team option, as potentially the sole holdovers heading into 2020. And while the Twins certainly can hope internally that some combination of Brusdar Graterol, Fernando Romero, Jordan Balazovic, Lewis Thorpe, Jhoan Duran and Jorge Alcala can take a step forward and help fill out the rotation, relying on three of them to fill out the rotation of a contender is a losing proposition. So maybe the Twins resign Gibson, since they’re very familiar with him and his track record of health and what he does on the mound. Maybe they buy into Odorizzi’s step forward this season. Maybe they like the direction Pineda, the youngest of the trio, is trending and try to lock him down. The Twins could definitely look to the free-agent market for help as well. The current front office group hasn’t yet spent a significant amount of money on a free-agent starter, but that doesn’t necessarily mean they won’t, either. If they go down that road, Gerrit Cole is the obvious target, but Madison Bumgarner, Dallas Keuchel, Hyun-Jin Ryu and Zack Wheeler could be in play. A little further down the list — but still viable — might be guys like Brett Anderson, Gio Gonzalez, Cole Hamels, Wade Miley, Rick Porcello, Tanner Roark, Alex Wood or Michael Wacha. Even Corey Kluber, if his $13.5 million club option is bought out, could be an option. But maybe the team also gets…..creative. What about trading left fielder Eddie Rosario? Certainly he could bring back a pretty good starting pitcher with two more years of control left after this season, right?
  7. Maybe not, but based on playing time it’s pretty clear who the Twins think is the better player.
  8. Lots of factors in the bullpen that make a similar exercise hard to do, too. Thanks for the nice words.
  9. Since May 1, Gonzalez is hitting .281/.341/.460. There is no doubt in my mind he's a better hitter and player than Ehire Adrianza.
  10. This excerpt is from an article originating at Zone Coverage. Click here to read it in full.When Devin Smeltzer was summoned to make a spot start after Michael Pineda was placed on the injured list last Sunday, he became the first pitcher outside of the team’s established rotation to make more than two starts in 2019. Kohl Stewart has made two starts and Lewis Thorpe has made one. Through 100 team games, 95 of them were started by one of Jose Berrios, Martin Perez, Kyle Gibson, Jake Odorizzi or Pineda. Last Sunday was game 111. Make that 105 of 111, then. That means that 94.59 percent of the team’s first 111 starters were made by one of that quintet. If that seems like a lot — it’s because it is. Only the Cincinnati Reds (95.45 percent) had a higher rate of starts made from their top-five pitchers in the rotation, and like the Twins, that’ll go down with Trevor Bauer being added into their top five. By the way, it’ll probably come as no surprise that the Los Angeles Angels are by far the lowest, with their top-five guys making just 54.87 percent of the starts. The next worst team? The Toronto Blue Jays — nearly 20 percent ahead at 71.05 percent. And it’s not just about making the starts for Twins pitchers. Amidst all the uproar — and deservedly so — about the sagging bullpen of late, it’s worth noting that the rotation has to get the game to the point where the bullpen can even have the chance to blow it. Through last Sunday, Twins starters with fifth in MLB in ERA at 3.77. They were fifth in MLB and second in the American League in innings pitched per game, and third in fewest pitches per inning as well. All of those numbers — plus the team’s historic offense — pretty clearly spits out a team that’s 24 games over .500 even despite their struggles since the All-Star break. But what makes a rotation go? Or more importantly, how do you keep pitchers healthy? It’s an age-old question that even the Twins don’t necessarily know the answer to — even despite the fact that they’ve proven to be pretty good at it over the long, or perhaps more accurately, medium-haul. “Credit goes to our pitching coaches, medical staff, strength and conditioning staff as well as to our pitchers,” said general manager Thad Levine. “Some of it is luck,” said Gibson. “I think you have to give Rocco, Wes and Hef a lot of credit for how they’ve managed our pitchers and certainly our bullpen as well,” said team trainer Tony Leo. “We put a strong emphasis here on recovery and the weight room,” said pitching coach Wes Johnson. “I think everybody (is) just doing their work, really,” said Odorizzi. “It’s been a really good run that we’d like to continue as best we can,” said manager Rocco Baldelli. Each of these seems to hint at a larger idea, so let’s see what else these key performers had to say about how this starting staff has been able to stay so durable. Odorizzi was the first subject approached, and he immediately revealed an answer perhaps not easily seen on the surface — but very easy to digest. “We have a group of guys here who understand what it takes to get through a full season, and that’s something only experience can bring,” Odorizzi said. “How you need to manage yourself as the season goes on, that sort of thing.” True enough; this is the most experienced Twins rotation in quite some time. Pineda will almost certainly go over 800 career MLB innings when he makes his next start. Odorizzi’s closing in on 1,000 himself. Gibson is over 1,000 and Perez is a couple starts away from 900. And Berrios, the baby of the group, has thrown nearly 550 MLB innings — and is prodigious for his workouts to keep himself in shape. “Jose is really, really good at recovery,” Johnson said.
  11. Better fielder based on 15 innings of UZR data? You also have to convince yourself that what Adrianza is doing is completely sustainable to bench Gonzalez entirely. I'm not buying that.
  12. This is an excerpt form an article which originates at Zone Coverage. Click here to read it in full. This isn't the first time Devin Smeltzer has been summoned to the Twin Cities to replace an ailing Michael Pineda on the Minnesota Twins' 25-man roster. That came back in late May. But if how the young lefty has thrown in his big-league stints has been any indication, there might not be many more recalls -- he's been that impressive. The last time we saw the lefty on a big-league mound, he was giving the Twins a massive lift on July 24. Their pitching staff was in tatters, and after Jake Odorizzi was bounced early that night by a powerful Yankees offense, Smeltzer jumped in and cleaned up the final five innings of the game, allowing just a solo homer to Edwin Encarnacion while allowing the offense to claw back and at least make a game of it late. His reward was being sent back out right after the game in a seemingly endless cycling of pitchers between Rochester and Minnesota leading up to the trade deadline -- but he wasn't there for long. Smeltzer got word that he would be needed to start on Sunday sometime Saturday and arrived in Minneapolis with plenty of time to prepare for Sunday's start.He couldn't have looked more locked in. Smeltzer and three relievers combined for a two-hit shutout of the Kansas City Royals in a 3-0 win -- and it was threes across the board. Three runs scored Three wins in the series Three games up in the Central There was also one very notable one in there as well -- it was Smeltzer's first MLB win.The offense wasn't terrific, as Royals righty Brad Keller held them at bay for much of the afternoon, but they got just enough production -- both in terms of manufacturing runs and driving the ball out of the ballpark -- to steal a sweep and grab their 69th win of the season. Nice.
  13. This is an excerpt of an article originating at Zone Coverage. Click here to read it in full. On the surface, it was just a home run. In a year where 4,588 of them have been hit already, that hardly seems like a real headline-grabber. MLB hitters have been hitting home runs at a rate of 1.39 per game -- by far the most in a season in history. It's not even really close; the 2017 season ranks second at 1.27 long balls per nine, and no other season is over 1.20. The homer also came late in a game that ended 18-7. That type of score is more commonplace in today's game with balls flying out of the park at an unprecedented rate. Also more commonplace in today's game is position players pitching, and in this case, it was a position player serving up the hitter's second home run of the game. Alright, that's enough of that cryptic business. The home run was in Phoenix, and it came off the bat of Eduardo Escobar. That pitch was thrown by perhaps his best friend in all of baseball -- Washington Nationals second baseman Brian Dozier. If Dozier isn't his closest friend in the game, it's possible the guy catching is -- Nationals backstop Kurt Suzuki. So when Dozier -- a right-handed thrower -- attempted to sneak a 69 mph floater past Escobar -- a switch hitter batting from the right side -- the Diamondbacks' jack-of-all-trades crushed it into oblivion, well into the left-field seats. All three guys did a fairly good job of letting the moment play itself out, until Escobar did his customary home run celebration after rounding third. That's when Suzuki had to get involved, as he playfully told Escobar to get back into the dugout while Dozier simply smiled as he watched his former teammate round the bases. The trio was like mismatched socks -- a Hawaiian, a Mississippi boy and a guy from Venezuela -- who drew glee during their Twins days from bouncing around each other like said socks in a dryer.
  14. This is an excerpt of a story which originates at Zone Coverage here. Please click through to read it in full. The Minnesota Twins have placed right-handed starting pitcher Michael Pineda on the disabled list with right knee tendinitis, and are purchasing the contract of 23-year-old lefty Devin Smelzter to take his place on the roster. Smeltzer will make his debut in a start against Milwaukee on Tuesday night at Target Field. The Player: Left-handed pitcher Devin Smeltzer The Situation: Smeltzer will start for the Twins on Tuesday against the Brewers, and may head right back to Rochester with the Twins activating Nelson Cruz on Thursday when they’re in St. Petersburg to play the Tampa Bay Rays. Then, when Mitch Garver is ready to return, the Twins will likely choose between Luis Arraez and Willians Astudillo — most likely Arraez. The Numbers: 1.82 ERA, 5.5 K/9, 2.6 BB/9, 0.90 WHIP in 24.2 innings at Pensacola (Double-A); 0.60 ERA, 9.9 K/9, 0.9 BB/9, 0.73 WHIP in 30 innings at Rochester (Triple-A). For the season, Smeltzer has absolutely nuked left-handed hitters (.182/.224/.218) and righties haven’t had much success either (.206/.248/.305). Another fun split is how he’s faced against hitters younger than him (.143/.182/.143 in 44 PA) and older (.214/.258/.318 in 164 PA) and he’s not distinctly a fly ball or groundball pitcher. His groundball rate — remember that 45 percent is about average — is 41.3 percent this year in Rochester, was 41.4 percent at Pensacola and has never been higher than that outside of his stint at Low-A in 2017 (47.7 percent). The Oddity: Smeltzer, a bladder cancer survivor — rhabdomyosarcoma, say that five times fast — is one of few remaining players who not only wear high socks, but stirrups as well. The Lowdown: I watched him in his best and worst starts of the year — and it’s worth noting that both came against the Durham Bulls in the span of less than a week, and in that order. A lot of people wonder about how hitters will react to seeing a pitcher in consecutive starts — a chicken/egg debate over who it favors — but in this case, the Bulls got the better of the lefty the second time out. Physically, Smeltzer is slender and very tall. He’s not Nick Gordon thin, but there’s almost no extra weight on his frame in the upper half. He has big, strong pitcher legs adorned by the aforementioned stirrup socks.
  15. This article appears in full on Zone Coverage here. Please click through to read it. Power ranking things can be a fun exercise. It can be exhausting. But few things get people talking as much as seeing their favorite things — be it baseball teams, foods or pop culture phenomena — ranked in an orderly list. We’ve done this in this space before, but here’s how we’d power rank the current 25-man roster of the Minnesota Twins. Like most power rankings, a special formula is used with room for the human — in this case, me! — to make slight changes to the order that it spits out, including adjustments for recent performance. 1. SS Jorge Polanco: It’s not even really close. He has an OPS over 1.000 and he’s playing stellar defense at short. At 26 in July, he could still be a superstar in the making. 2. CF Byron Buxton: What a turnaround. Buck is hitting, running and throwing at a well above-average level, and is starting to look like the guy who had a “Torii Hunter floor” when he was coming up. He’s still prone to some ugly strikeouts, but he’s come so, so far. 3.SP Jake Odorizzi: Odorizzi is proving that you can work with the high fastball and make it happen. In fact, hitters know it’s coming and have still been powerless to do anything about it. Literally, Odorizzi has allowed just 0.68 homers per nine innings — a career-low. 4. LF Eddie Rosario: Rosario is picking up where he left off before injuring his shoulder last year as a low-OBP, low strikeout slugger who can put a powerful swing on just about anything. It’s a fun skill set because it’s so rare in the current MLB landscape. 5. SP Jose Berrios: It says a lot when a player is still in the top five among his peers and people are talking about his relative ‘struggles.’ Berrios has set the bar that high, and has still pitched the best baseball of his career despite velocity that has alternated between 91 and 94 mph over his last few starts. He maintains he’s just adding and subtracting to mess with hitters — and we believe him. 6. RF Max Kepler: His season is not unlike Rosario’s so far, though with a little more OBP and a little less power. Of course, for a leadoff hitter that isn’t a bad thing. 7. SP Martin Perez: Sure, his command has slipped a bit of late, but nobody saw this coming from Perez. Well, maybe somebody did. 8. 1B C.J. Cron: He’s not a man of many words, but he can really hit. Cron has some trouble with pitches off the plate, but not nearly enough for it to be any sort of concern as he’s fanning just 21.1 percent of the time — well below league average. Has bat. Will travel.
  16. Schoop had one more year of club control, and I wasn't talking about Perez getting more money. He had a club option with Texas for $7.5 million which should have been picked up.
  17. This content originates at Zone Coverage here -- please click through to read it in its entirety. In the mid-1980s, MLB teams colluded to keep player contracts — both in terms of length and dollars — from getting out of control. And while we’d stop short of using the c-word to describe the last two offseasons, there are some stunningly similar situations playing out before our very eyes. Dallas Keuchel and Craig Kimbrel are both sitting at home twiddling their thumbs as teams now wait for the MLB draft — early next month — to pass so they can be signed without draft pick compensation being required. Future Hall of Famer Tim Raines was in the midst of his prime when he had to miss the first month of the season in 1987 because the deadline to re-sign with his original club had passed. Fast-forward back to 2019, and the Minnesota Twins are the class of the American League Central and among the best teams in either league — just one year after a disappointing 78-84 finish led to a managerial firing and quite a bit of roster turnover. For the second year in a row, the Twins moved slowly — or maybe deliberately is the better word — in the free-agent market, grabbing players at peak value to add to an existing roster of exciting, but unproven youngsters. For the first year in a row, it’s actually working. The Twins come into Wednesday’s series finale with the Los Angeles Angels with the potential for a sweep and with a record of 32-16. For those — such as myself — who aren’t mathematically inclined, that’s twice as many wins as losses. It’s the first time the Twins have been 16 games above .500 since the end of the 2010 season — the inaugural year of Target Field. That feels like so long ago, doesn’t it? There’s plenty of credit to go around and no shortage of worthwhile recipients for it. That includes guys like Byron Buxton, Jorge Polanco and Mitch Garver from within, but also pretty much every player the Twins brought in from the outside. C.J. Cron is mashing home runs you could hang laundry on. Jonathan Schoop has more than replaced Brian Dozier. Marwin Gonzalez has gotten red-hot in the month of May and looks like he’s willing to play just about anywhere to keep this thing going. Nelson Cruz was mashing until a wrist injury shelved him. On the pitching side, both Martin Perez and Blake Parker have been better than advertised. That’s kind of a lot of players to add in one offseason, isn’t it? It’s almost like the Twins had a bunch of payroll room clear up and…nah. We won’t go there, but it isn’t only because Joe Mauer came off the books that the Twins were able to make these moves. The Twins were able to add all these players because the free-agent market is broken — and they were one of the few teams willing to glue the pieces back together. Let’s look at each player individually: C.J. Cron For the second year in a row, the Tampa Bay Rays made the baffling decision to move on from a productive player whose salary should not have been cost-prohibitive. After 2017, that player was Corey Dickerson, who went on to hit .300/.330/.474 for the Pittsburgh Pirates while making a tidy $5.95 million. Even if the Rays want to cry poverty, that’s hardly a kingly sum for a player who still had two years of club control and was coming off one of the best seasons of his career. Also, it’s not like the Pirates are the gold standard for taking someone else’s overpaid veterans — they might even be the NL’s answer for the Rays in that respect.
  18. This is an excerpt from a story which originates at Zone Coverage here. Click through to read in its entirety. 3.34 ERA 3.18 FIP 9.1 K/9 These are the numbers of a pitcher who came to Target Field on Monday night and completely shut down one of the most powerful lineups in the American League. And believe it or not, they aren't those of Houston Astros fireballer Justin Verlander -- they're from his mound counterpart that evening, Jake Odorizzi. After a year that didn't go the way he had hoped when he came over in a spring training trade from Tampa, Odorizzi spent the offseason training at the Florida Baseball Ranch, an elite training facility in Plant City -- about 115 miles north of Hammond Stadium near Lakeland, where the Detroit Tigers prepare for the season. The results have been strong, including most recently and most notably against the Astros, whom Odorizzi held to just four hits in seven innings with seven strikeouts, one walk and no runs in a 1-0 win. In Odorizzi's six starts this year, he's allowed three or fewer earned runs five times, with a weather-aided bombing in Philadelphia being the sole setback. A big issue for Odorizzi to this point in his career -- at least entering the 2019 season -- was his penalty for going through the order a third time. For the uninitiated, most pitchers get progressively worse the more times batters see them in a game, and the third time through a lineup carries a penalty for almost every non-elite pitcher in the game. Some pitchers are an exception in the positive sense; others are an exception in the other direction.
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