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  1. Box Score SP: Joe Ryan 6 IP, 4 H, 1 ER, 0 BB, 5 K (103 pitches, 70 strikes (68 strike %)) Home Runs: Gio Urshela (3), Byron Buxton (11) Top 3 or Bottom 3 WPA: Joe Ryan (.204), Gio Urshela (.119), Byron Buxton (.081) After a low-scoring game Saturday that was decided by a questionable rule that just won’t go away, the Twins got on the first run on the board against Guardians starter Tristen McKenzie with an RBI single from Max Kepler that scored Luis Arraez. Kepler was able to drive in Arraez because he stole his first base of the season and adding the Twins' season total stolen bases to seven. Clearly a sign of the times. The game remained scoreless through the next two innings thanks to Ryan’s pitching. Ryan cruised his way through the Guardians lineup until the top of the fourth when, with one out, Jose Ramirez hit a solo shot to right-center field tying the game 1-1. Even after the Ramirez homer, Ryan remained in control for the remainder of his start. Ryan had his first start with more than 100 pitches this season and kept his strike percentage at 68 percent, totaling five strikeouts. He also only allowed base runners via hits making Sunday his second start without a walk this season. With the game tied going into the bottom of the fourth inning, the Twins found a way to retake the lead thanks to a two-out solo home run from Gio Urshela. An inning later, the Twins' unofficial captain Byron Buxton added to the lead with his 11th home run of the season making it a 3-1 game. Buxton’s home run was called to be the 1,000th home run ever hit at Target Field by the Twins. However, thanks to research from Twins Dingers on Twitter, the home run was corrected to be the 999th home run by a Twin in Target Field’s history. Twins beat writer for MLB.com, Do Hyoung Park retweeted this finding by Twins Dingers to remind everyone the next home run hit by a Twin at Target Field will be the 1,000th. The Twins bullpen kept the Guardians scoreless in the seventh inning thanks to a perfect inning from Cody Stashak who struck out two of three batters faced. In the eighth inning, Joe Smith did allow one base runner, a Richie Palacios single, but Palacios did not score thanks to the relief effort of Smith and Caleb Theilbar. Emilio Pagan was given the ball for the save in the ninth inning and his third consecutive day with a relief appearance. Pagan had thrown 22 pitches Friday but only nine on Saturday making his availability to come into Sunday’s game for the save acceptable to Rocco Baldelli. Pagan completed the save giving up only one hit. He was helped by an outstanding defensive play at third base from Gio Urshela. The win brings the Twins record to 20-15 through their first 35 games this season and extends their lead over the Guardians for first place in the American League Central to three games. What’s Next? The Twins make their first road trip west this season. On Monday night, they begin another three-game series against the Oakland Athletics. Chris Archer is scheduled to go against Athletics 26-year-old lefty rookie Zach Logue. Postgame Interview Bullpen Usage Chart WED THU FRI SAT SUN TOT Stashak 0 46 0 0 13 59 Jax 0 0 50 0 0 50 Pagán 0 0 22 9 10 41 Thielbar 0 23 0 15 2 40 Duffey 0 33 0 5 0 38 Cano 0 36 0 0 0 36 Smith 0 0 4 15 9 28 Duran 0 0 10 12 0 22 Cotton 0 0 0 17 0 17
  2. Box Score Starting Pitcher: Sonny Gray, 4.1 IP, 4 H, 2 R, 2 ER, 4 BB, 8 K (82 pitches, 46 strikes, 56.1%) Home Runs: Byron Buxton (10), Jorge Polanco (4), Gary Sánchez (2), Royce Lewis (1) Top 3 WPA: Gary Sánchez (.178), Royce Lewis (.155), Byron Buxton (.123) Win Probability Chart (via FanGraphs) Gray is off to a good start, but can't go to distance The big story of tonight’s game was whether or not the Twins would get a decent start from their starting pitcher. The last time a Twins starter threw more than four innings in a game was exactly a week ago when Josh Winder delivered six innings with no earned runs against the A’s. Would Sonny Gray be up for the task? But that wasn’t the only question mark regarding the Twins coming into this game. Minnesota’s offense, full of ups and downs this season, produced a grand total of three runs during the three games against Houston, being shut out in two of those games. Would they be able to turn things around? Despite facing Aaron Civale, who has a career 3.31 ERA against Minnesota, the offense managed to be productive from the get-go. Byron Buxton and Jorge Polanco hit a couple of solo shots in the bottom of first, giving the Twins an early two-run lead. Things could’ve been even better, as Max Kepler and Gary Sánchez got back-to-back hits and moved into scoring position, but Minnesota couldn’t add on. Gray pitched around a leadoff walk in the first, then pitched an easy, 12-pitch second, with two punch outs. However, he oddly had a troublesome third, loading the bases before recording an out, including a couple of walks. Fortunately, he was able to keep the damage to a minimum, with Cleveland scoring only the one run on a force out. Gray struck out a couple more batters in that inning. Civale settle down and started to dominate the Twins lineup. After the Sánchez double in the first, Minnesota’s batters went 0-for-11 and failed to provide Gray with some run support. After a scoreless fourth with a couple more strikeouts, Gray became the first Twin starter to pitch into the fifth in the past seven days. But he wouldn’t go to distance. He gave up a leadoff home run to Austin Hedges and shortly after that, a walk and a single, which was enough for Rocco Baldelli to pull him from the game. Griffin Jax came into the game and induced an inning-ending double play on two pitches, to end the threat. The offense gets back on track, turns the game into a blowout Another short start, a cold offense, and a tied ball game. All the ingredients that might have led Twins fans to brace themselves for the worst. Little did they know that they were in for a treat: the Twins lineup put together a nine-run fifth inning on seven pitches and put this game out of reach. First, Civale loaded the bases by giving up a leadoff single to Ryan Jeffers, a double to Royce Lewis, and a walk to Buxton. Minnesota scored two of those runners on a Luis Arráez groundout and a Max Kepler single to left. Polanco had drawn a walk in between and, with two men on, Civale’s night was done. With Kepler and Polanco on, and Bryan Shaw pitching, Sánchez definitely put the slump behind him by smashing a three-run home run to deep center, making it 7-2 Twins. But they were surely not done. The bases were once again loaded for the Twins, as Shaw gave up back-to-back singles, to Gio Urshela and Nick Gordon, and a walk to Jeffers. Still chasing his first big league home run, Lewis destroyed a cutter in the heart of the plate for a huge grand slam, making it 11-2 Minnesota. It was impressive to see how much the Twins improved with men in scoring position in this game, compared to the Houston series. They finished the game hitting 3-for-7 with RISP. Jax has his toughest outing so far, Smith bails him out When he was brought into this game, Jax hadn’t given up any runs in his previous six outings and was posting a stellar 1.35 ERA through eight appearances. After inducing an inning-ending double play to get out of an inherited jam, he simply wasn’t sharp in the following two innings. Franmil Reyes singled off him in the sixth, shortly before Oscar Mercado hit a two-out, two-run bomb to bring the Guardians within seven. In the seventh, things were even worse, as he struggled badly with his command, allowing Cleveland to score a couple more runs on a single by José Ramírez and a triple by Amed Rosario, making it 11-6. Jax gave up back-to-back walks to load the bases with two outs, causing Baldelli to remove him from the game. Joe Smith took over and struck out Mercado on four pitches, ending the threat. Smith has now stranded 11 inherited runners so far this season – every single one he’s inherited in the year. In the bottom of the eighth, Buxton drew a leadoff walk and the Twins managed to manufacture a run, with Kepler pushing Buxton across with a sac-fly. Emilio Pagán had a flashy six-run lead when he took the mound in the ninth, but he gave up a two-out, two-run home run to Andrés Giménez, before he struck out Mercado to avoid a Cleveland rally. What’s Next? Tomorrow at 6:10 pm CDT both teams are back on the field for game 2. Cleveland will have Shane Bieber (4.13 ERA) start for them, whereas the Twins will call up Devin Smeltzer to make his season debut. Postgame Interview Bullpen Usage Spreadsheet MON TUE WED THU FRI TOT Cotton 0 58 0 0 0 58 Jax 0 0 0 0 50 50 Stashak 0 0 0 46 0 46 Cano 0 0 0 36 0 36 Duffey 0 0 0 33 0 33 Thielbar 0 3 0 23 0 26 Pagán 0 0 0 0 22 22 Duran 0 0 0 0 10 10 Smith 0 0 0 0 4 4
  3. 10. Jorge Polanco: 30 HR Polanco has become one of Minnesota's most valuable contributors, and he is one of 22 second basemen to hit more than 30 home runs in a season. During the 2019 season, Minnesota coughed up a ninth-inning lead only to have Polanco hit a walk-off in the tenth inning. 9. Joe Mauer: 32 HR Mauer wasn't known for his home run prowess and his best home run season came at the Metrodome. His first walk-off home run was worth the wait as it came in his 14th big-league season. 8. Josh Willingham: 33 HR Willingham's home run prowess gets a little lost because he played on some bad Twins teams. However, he hit one of the most valuable home runs in Target Field history. With the Twins down to their final out, Willingham sent the fans home happy. 7. Nelson Cruz: 36 HR What is left to say about Cruz? His Twins tenure was full of remarkable moments, and he seemed to be the glue behind Minnesota's record-breaking home run season. The Twins don't have a lot of good memories against the Yankees, but his walk-off home run against Aroldis Chapman has to be one of the best. 6. Byron Buxton: 38 HR Buxton's long-term deal means he will continue to move up this list in the years ahead. However, he already hit a memorable home run during the 2022 season. His 469-foot moonshot was the longest walk-off home run in the StatCast era. Which one of these home runs stands out most to you? How high will Buxton get on this list before the end of his career? Leave a COMMENT and start the discussion. PREVIOUS POSTS IN THE SERIES -Home Run Hitters: 11-15
  4. Bill Smith Contributions (2007-2011) Smith faced a challenging time in Twins history as he took over the GM role. Torii Hunter was on his way out the door, and the team needed to trade Johan Santana. The Twins lost a Game 163 (2008) and won the division twice (2009-10) during his tenure. Despite these positive results, Smith couldn’t survive the 2011 campaign as the Twins lost 99 games. It was one of the most disappointing seasons in Twins history, but he helped sign three core pieces to the current roster. Smith’s lasting legacy with the Twins connects to the 2009 international signing class, which was tremendous in retrospect. Miguel Sano, Jorge Polanco, and Max Kepler signed as part of this class. These players have combined for 37.3 total WAR and two All-Star appearances in their big-league careers. Sano’s Twins tenure may conclude in 2022, but Kepler and Polanco are under team control for multiple more seasons. Terry Ryan Contributions (2012-2016) Ryan served as GM for two different stints, so it makes sense for his fingerprints to be all over the Twins organization over the last decade. When taking over from Smith, Ryan got the opportunity to pick the second overall pick, and the organization decided on Byron Buxton. Multiple pitchers were in the conversation for Minnesota, but Buxton has accumulated the fourth-most WAR among players from the 2012 first round. He is now the face of the franchise, and he will be in a Twins uniform for over a decade after Ryan was fired. Minnesota signed Luis Arraez as an international free agent during the 2013 signing class. He has been worth 5.9 WAR in his career while hitting .312/.374/.400 (.748) with a 130 OPS+. Nick Gordon was a top-5 draft pick under the Ryan regime. His professional career hasn’t progressed perfectly, but he has shown the club the value he can provide over the last two seasons. These players look like they will be part of the team’s roster for multiple seasons moving forward. Minnesota’s bullpen picture is also covered with players acquired by Ryan. Tyler Duffey was a fifth-round pick in 2012, and he has been one of the team’s best relievers since 2019. Cody Stashak, a 13th-round pick in 2015, has been terrific to start the 2022 season, and he has yet to become arbitration-eligible. The Twins took Griffin Jax in the 3rd round of the 2016 MLB Draft, Ryan’s last with the organization. This season, he is transitioning to the bullpen, and signs point to him fitting well into his new role. Other prospects on the 40-man roster were also acquired under the Ryan regime. Jovani Moran was a seventh-round pick in the 2015 MLB Draft, and he has the potential to be a dominant late-inning reliever. His change-up is a dominant pitch, and it has helped him post a 13.4 K/9 in his minor league career. Jordan Balazovic was a fifth-round pick in 2016, and he currently ranks as Twins Daily’s fifth overall prospect. Entering the season, Baseball America and Baseball Prospectus each had him in the back-half of their top-100 prospects. He recently made his Triple-A debut, so there is a good chance his big-league debut will be in 2022. Smith and Ryan might not be regarded highly because of how each left the organization. However, their impact will be felt years after their departure. Besides Buxton, which of these players will provide the most long-term value to the Twins? Leave a COMMENT and start the discussion.
  5. The ball is dead. The ball remains dead. And Rob Manfred has killed it. One can barely watch a game or read a baseball article without someone mentioning just how short baseballs are flying compared to previous years. Perhaps MLB wanted to counter-act the previous “rabbit ball” era, perhaps they wanted to de-incentivize home runs to move away from three-true-outcome baseball, or perhaps Manfred is a foolish stooge. One cannot say with authority which statement is true, or if the answer includes some combo of the three, but the reality is thus: baseballs in 2022 are not flying as far as before. If the baseballs are dead, and they are, then flyball pitchers have the most to gain from such a development; their main weakness—one of those flyballs landing behind the fence—is neutered. The term “flyball pitcher” has become something of a swear in the juiced-ball age, implying a deficiency rather than describing a strategy. The main plus to being a flyball pitcher is that most true flyballs end up in gloves; flyballs held a .117 BABIP in 2018, and that number barely moves yearly. If flyballs are no longer as threatening as before, a team in 2022 could be more liberal with allowing them. For the Twins, that’s an important note. The team has the seventh-highest flyball rate in baseball, and many of the culprits holding that number up—Joe Ryan, Chris Archer, and Sonny Gray—the team targeted over the past year. Those pitchers have other desirable traits, so their flyball rate could be a secondary thought, but that consideration looms especially large this season. Of course, presumably, part of why the Twins targeted them involved other details; Target Field and outfield defense. If Target Field feels like it’s on the cavernous side of ballparks, that’s because it is. Statcast’s park factors claim that the stadium was the 10th best at suppressing homers between 2019-2021 and is generally slightly more of a pitcher’s park. That feels right. The high walls in right field block homers that would go out in the wiffleball field that is Yankee Stadium, while centerfield often plays like Death Valley, eating up flyballs for dinner. Righties have it better for hitting doubles, but it’s also the most challenging park for them to single in. A secondary point: that 2019 team looks even more impressive when you consider that the team hit many of those homers in a park that is bad for power. The exact characteristics that define Target Field aside, there’s one glaring, painfully obvious reason Target Field is more challenging for hitters: Byron Buxton. Buxton’s defense needs no introduction, so it won’t get one. Buxton is an out machine, whether you like OAA, UZR, DRS, or any other suspiciously New Deal Program-sounding acronyms. His presence in center is world-altering, attracting fly balls to his person so he can gobble them up in a SportsCenter Top 10-esque diving catch or during a mid-sprint effort that only looks easy because Buxton makes it look so. Even his backup, Gilberto Celestino, currently is in the 84th percentile of outfielders by OAA, albeit in a minuscule sample size. In fact, let’s talk about those other outfielders; Max Kepler has long been one of the finest defensive right fielders in the game, ranking in the top 15 in MLB in OAA every full year since its introduction. Trevor Larnach is messier to analyze given his small sample, but Statcast at least thinks his route-running is good enough for an NFL wide receiver. Nick Gordon holds the least attractive numbers, but he has the athleticism to play in the outfield and should improve with more reps. It should be unsurprising that the Twins outfield is currently 1st in MLB in DRS, 3rd in OAA, and 3rd in UZR/150 innings. The ball does not fly as far as before, Twins pitchers are good at allowing fly balls, Target Field suppresses those fly balls, and the Twins outfield will probably catch them. Derek Falvey and Thad Levine are either cracked-out geniuses or fortunate individuals because they have quietly built a perfect relationship between the ball, pitcher, park, and defense. That combination has not only fueled their success so far in 2022, but it will probably carry them to many victories as the season continues.
  6. Last Week's Game Results: Game 23 | MIN 2, BAL 1: Paddack, Bullpen Power Twins in Win Game 24 | MIN 7, BAL 2: Twins Stay Hot Behind Ryan, Bats Game 25 | BAL 9, MIN 4: Bad Start, Bad Defense, Bad Luck Game 26 | BAL 5, MIN 3: Solo Shots Shatter Twins Game 27 | MIN 2, OAK 1: Game of Firsts Ends in Victory Game 28 | MIN 1, OAK 0: Polanco and Pitching Power Another Win Game 29 | MIN 4, OAK 3: Bullpen Completes Sweep of Oakland Weekly Snapshot: Mon, 5/2 through Sun, 5/8 *** Record Last Week: 5-2 (Overall: 18-11) Run Differential Last Week: +2 (Overall: +25) Standing: 1st Place in AL Central (3.0 GA) NEWS & NOTES Things looked grim after Carlos Correa took a pitch off the hand on Thursday night in Baltimore, with post-game X-rays suggesting the potential of a non-displaced fracture. Twins fans couldn't be blamed for their incredulity ... another HBP knocking out a superstar player for an extended period?? But unlike last year, when Byron Buxton's broken hand was just another big ol' drop in the endless bucket of bad luck, the Twins again got some unexpected positive news upon further testing, with a Friday CT scan showing only a bruise. Correa avoided the injured list, just like Buxton did last month after his scary slide into second at Fenway. Even with Correa staying active, the Twins still called up top prospect Royce Lewis to fill in at shortstop over the weekend, adding an extra level of energy to their home series against Oakland. Lewis has gotten his MLB career off to a solid start, with three hits in his first 10 at-bats. Buxton himself appears to have dodged another scary setback. He left Saturday's game due to tightness in his right hip – the same spot where a significant strain cost him six weeks last year – but the the new issue was described as "very low level" and he too avoided an IL trip. The good breaks in the wake of bad news didn't stop there. COVID reared its ugly head in the Twins clubhouse once again, with manager Rocco Baldelli as well as Luis Arraez and Dylan Bundy all testing positive on Thursday. But by the end of the weekend, no one else on the team had registered a positive test, which qualifies as a big relief given the level of contagion we've seen with this virus. It wasn't all happy outcomes, however. Trevor Larnach suffered a groin strain that forced him to IL, which is especially unfortunate because he was really cooking (as we'll cover shortly). The team is confident that his absence will be a short one – hopefully only around the 10-day minimum – but still the Twins will be without one of their most effective hitters of late. Alex Kirilloff has activated after a rehab stint in St. Paul, but the jury is very much out on his ability to make an impact with his balky wrist. And, ss it turns out, Miguel Sanó's balky left knee was serious enough to require a surgical remedy. He underwent a procedure to repair torn meniscus, and figures to be out for a couple of months, though no firm timetable has been established. With top prospect José Miranda called up to replace him and likely to see a bulk of time at first base, it's possible that Sanó will return to find his job taken. He may be reaching the end of the road in Minnesota. Meanwhile, Chris Paddack left Sunday's start with inflammation in his right elbow, which was a big issue last year when he battled a partially torn UCL that required a PRP injection. Very unsettling, but we'll see what comes out from further exams on Sunday. I guess we've learned better than to jump to negative conclusions. HIGHLIGHTS This pitching staff is incredible. What else can you say? Even within the context of a drastic decline in offense across the league, Twins pitchers are simply crushing it. The past week featured four games in which opponents were held to two runs or fewer, including a pair of 2-1 squeakers and a 1-0 victory. A certain amount of good luck is inherently at play when you're scratching out wins like these. But the staff is legitimately winning games, and it's valuable to bank them while the bats continue to lag amidst a league-wide hitting scourge. Great performances are coming from all corners of the rotation and bullpen. Sonny Gray returned from the injured list on Saturday with an electric performance against Oakland, striking out seven over four scoreless innings. The previous day saw Josh Winder obliterate the A's in his second MLB start: 6 IP, 3 H, 0 ER, 0 BB, 8 K. The combination of he and Joe Ryan, who looked good once again in Tuesday's win over Baltimore and now sports a 1.63 ERA, is almost too much to handle. This franchise has been starved for impact rookie pitchers. Now we've got ALL the impact rookie pitchers. Of course, this conversation wouldn't be complete without a mention of Jhoan Duran, who's been just as uplifting to the bullpen as Ryan and Winder in the rotation. Duran was on his way to an appearance in the Lowlights column this week after allowing two homers and taking the loss on Thursday. Then he went out on Saturday and cemented a 1-0 win with two absurdly dominant innings. He allowed no hits. He struck out five. He got nine whiffs on 32 pitches. I'm not sure prime Aroldis Chapman comparisons are out of bounds at this point. Duran is lighting up the radar gun and flat-out blowing people away. His only weakness so far has been an odd proneness to the long ball – with four of the 10 hits he's allowed in 14 ⅔ leaving the yard – but that seems very flukish to me. The bullpen, in general, has been simply phenomenal. Over the past week Twins relievers allowed just three earned runs in 33 innings, good for a 0.87 ERA with a 38-to-6 K/BB ratio in 31 innings. The shockingly effective relief unit was absolutely pivotal in a weekend sweep of the Athletics. While the offense has been underwhelming overall, it's nice to see some secondary contributors stepping up, especially with Correa and Buxton hobbled. Larnach has been making a very strong impression, and getting plenty of tread. He started five of seven games last week before the groin injury surfaced, going 6-for-15 with a pair of doubles and five runs scored. Jorge Polanco notched nine hits in 25 at-bats, including the decisive solo shot in Saturday's win. José Miranda launched his first career home run and made it count in a 2-1 Friday win. Gilberto Celestino tallied six hits in 15 at-bats to push his average to .324. LOWLIGHTS It was a tough week for Bundy. His positive COVID diagnosis came on the heels of a nightmare outing against his former team in Baltimore. Over 3 ⅔ innings, he was touched up for a career-high nine earned runs, with the Orioles piling up 11 hits, two walks and two home runs in a ballpark that had been suppressing offense to the extreme. Bundy had given up six earned runs over six innings in his previous start, so he's seen his ERA balloon from 0.59 to 5.76 in a span of two outings. No one expected the extraordinarily strong start to sustain, but this is a jarring regression to the mean by any standard. It's the kind of all-out implosion that can put an inexpensive back-of-rotation flier like Bundy on the ropes very quickly in a suddenly crowded rotation. TRENDING STORYLINE Rotation adjustments lie ahead of the Twins. Even with Paddack going down, their starting mix is full between Gray, Ryan, Winder, Bundy, and Chris Archer. Bailey Ober is expected back in relatively short order. An overabundance of starting pitching depth is certainly not a "problem" anyone expected the Twins to deal with, and it's almost funny we're discussing it. Nevertheless, here we are. Even if they're cool to continue rolling with six, what happens when Ober is ready to come back? How many more bad outings can Bundy afford? Is it possible a move to the bullpen might breathe some life into his upper-80s fastball? LOOKING AHEAD Things get a bit more challenging this week with the Astros and Guardians coming to town. The Twins will need to play better ball than they did against Oakland if they want to win these series. How much will Buxton and Correa play? We shall see. TUESDAY, 5/10: ASTROS @ TWINS – RHP Justin Verlander v. RHP Joe Ryan WEDNESDAY, 5/11: ASTROS @ TWINS – RHP Jose Urquidy v. RHP Chris Archer THURSDAY, 5/12: ASTROS @ TWINS – RHP Luis Garcia v. RHP Josh Winder FRIDAY, 5/13: GUARDIANS @ TWINS – RHP Shane Bieber v. RHP Sonny Gray SATURDAY, 5/14: GUARDIANS @ TWINS – RHP Triston McKenzie v. TBD SUNDAY, 5/15: GUARDIANS @ TWINS – RHP Zach Plesac v. RHP Joe Ryan
  7. Box Score SP: Josh Winder: 6 IP, 3 H, 1 R, 0 ER, 0 BB, 8 K (80 pitches, 55 strikes (68.75%)) Home Runs: Jose Miranda (1), Byron Buxton (9) Top 3 WAR: Josh Winder (.231), Emilio Pagan (.156), Byron Buxton (.128) Win Probability Chart (via FanGraphs) Woe is We…Ailments Carlos Correa has been getting into the swing of things (pun fully intended) the past two weeks and it’s been fun to watch. He got off to a slow start but had a seven-game hitting streak by Thursday. The slugger is hitting .255 with a .320 OBP, with five doubles, two homers, 11 RBI and 12 runs so far this season. When he was hit on the hand during the final game of the Orioles series, everyone was worried that he may be out for a considerable amount of time. While waiting on the results of a CT scan, tons of speculation circled the injury debating whether it was broken, dislocated, or a bruise. Hoping for the best, and as a Twins fan, always expecting the worst. Not only was Correa being scratched from play at this time, but the team is also working through a small stint of COVID-19 in the club house, taking out Luis Arraez, Rocco Baldelli, and Dylan Bundy. Luckily, the CT scan showed no fractured bones for Correa. With the news that it is "just a bruise" and he wouldn't be put on the Injured List, he attempted to ask into the lineup. Jayce Tingler said No. With all the bad news hitting the Twins this week, the ailments and injuries have allowed for some major roster moves that gave Twins fans a morale boost. Royce Lewis, who missed the past two seasons, 2020 with the pandemic and 2021 due to his torn ACL, joined the Twins and made his MLB debut. Another Day Another Debut Royce Lewis (and Twins fans) have been waiting for this day since he was drafted by the Twins with the first overall pick in the2017 draft. There were a few bumps on the road to the Show, but he has arrived, and Lewis joined his teammates on the field donning #23, once worn by fan-favorite Nelson Cruz before he was traded to Tampa Bay. Some have a “too soon” feeling, all in fun of course, but maybe it’s a good omen for the young player and Cruz’s talent will rub off on him. Lewis has been tearing it up in St. Paul this season, showing that he is more than ready and capable for this call-up. His at-bats are some of the most impressive thus far with 21 hits (including 11 doubles) helping catapult his team to an above .500 April. While he didn't take Correa's roster spot, he did take Luis Arraez's spot, with Arraez officially going on the Covid-IL. It’s a good problem to have when you can be sad for one player potentially being hurt, but now the team has aces up their sleeve who can come in and take their place. Luckily for the fans, Correa is okay, and Lewis still got to make his debut and gain some experience. Lewis had a successful night at third base in support of Friday night's starter Josh Winder. In the first inning, on his fourth pitch, Winder threw a fastball to Sheldon Neuse which came off the tip of the bat, a hopper right to shortstop, giving Lewis his first major league put-out, throwing to Jose Miranda to get out Neuse at first base. Lewis started out his hitting career with the Twins with a ground out to third base, but Lewis left first base with a huge smile on his face and the glow didn’t disappear all night. Lewis made contact every time he was at bat tonight, finally getting the first hit of his Major League career in the bottom of the eighth. While Lewis did not get a chance to score, all-in-all it was a fantastic night for the Twins top prospect and fans are ready for more! Warm nights, Hot performances In the second inning, Jose Miranda connected for his first major-league home run. Miranda drilled a Zach Logue’s fastball, hitting the ball into second deck in left field. The velocity on the home run was 105.5 MPH. Trevor Larnach has not let up on offense. He collected another double tonight, his ninth of the season. Larnach has been beyond impressive at the plate and with his defense. In the second inning, Elvis Andrus hit a one-hopper to Larnach in left, who fielded the ball and threw it home to Gary Sanchez to get out the runner easily. Byron Buxton was in the game as the Designated Hitter on Friday, and while fans would rather see him in center field, it doesn’t matter where he is, he makes an impact. Buxton hit his ninth home run, putting him in fourth place in the American League this season. The Starters and the Bullpen are on Fire Josh Winder had his second start of the season. This was his first start at Target Field. On this night, the mound was his, and he started out hot again, with a ground out and two strikeouts in the first inning. Winder followed that up by striking out Jed Lowrie and Sean Murphy for a 1-2-3 inning. His pitching didn’t let up. By the top of the fifth inning, the rookie had four straight strikeouts and four 1-2-3 innings before Elvis Andrus hit a ground ball to Lewis who made a great stop and threw to Miranda for the out. Winder carried the Twins through six innings, only allowing an unearned run and that came at the end of his night in the sixth inning. Wes Johnson came out to give his rookie some advice, and Winder was able to regain composure and finish out the inning. His night ended when Gary Sanchez threw out Sheldon Neuse on a steal attempt. The bullpen started out great with Joe Smith and Tyler Duffey who got the team through innings seventh and eighth innings. Fans held their breath as Emilio Pagan took the mound and loaded the bases in the top of the ninth. With bases full and Chad Pinder's count full, Pagan got a swinging strike to end the game. What was your favorite moment of the game? What’s Next? The Twins finish out their series this weekend with Oakland before Houston comes to town on Tuesday and meets up with Correa for the first time in a different uniform. Remaining pitching matchups for this series include: Saturday 1:10 pm: Sonny Gray (coming off IL) vs RHP James Kaprielian (0-1, 18.00 ERA) Sunday 1:10 pm: Chris Paddock (1-2, 3.15 ERA) vs RHP Dalton Jefferies (1-4, 4.81 ERA) Postgame Interview Bullpen Usage Spreadsheet MON TUE WED THU FRI TOT Pagán 27 0 0 0 28 55 Thielbar 0 18 0 18 0 36 Jax 15 0 0 15 0 30 Duffey 0 18 0 0 11 29 Coulombe 0 0 26 0 0 26 Stashak 0 11 0 0 0 11 Duran 10 0 0 0 0 10 Smith 2 0 0 0 6 8 Sands 0 0 0 0 0 0
  8. Despite the Twins attempting to coin the phrase, "We rake" early on in the season, they didn't see that sustained level of success until about the third week. Closing out the month well, it was a combination of strong starting pitching and good production from the bats. Plenty has been made about the lineup being boom or bust, having the ability to only win with the longball, but that notion was also dispelled early. The Twins have shown they can compete offensively through a wide array of outcomes and that has benefitted them with a ball traveling shorter distances. They'll continue to make adjustments as the season goes on, but these three players have helped to lead the charge early. Honorable Mention 2: Luis Arraez Expected to be somewhat of a rotational player and work in starts as a utility man, it only took a matter of weeks for Arraez to find a regular starting role. Playing in 20 games during the first month of the season, Arraez drew starts at first base (for the first time in his career), second base, third base, and designated hitter. Across 74 plate appearances, the modern-day Rod Carew has slashed .318/.386/.397. Never a guy who will be known for power, Arraez has continued the blueprint of being an exceptionally difficult hitter to strike out. He owned a 4/7 K/BB, and his 3.5% whiff rate is the lowest in all of baseball. Minnesota needed someone to fill in across the dirt in the early going this season, and Arraez managed wonderfully. Honorable Mention 1: Max Kepler Somewhat of a surprise in this space, Kepler was last an above-average hitter in 2019. After mashing 36 homers as part of the Bomba Squad, he dipped to a .760 and .719 OPS the past two seasons, respectively. Putting up a career month, Kepler was tough to be topped in April. The German outfielder slashed .258/.372/.515 with five homers and 11 RBI. His 9/7 K/BB showed a strong process, but the most notable output comes against lefties. Having struggled against southpaws throughout his career, Kepler posted a 1.011 OPS versus lefties to start the season, which actually trumps the .814 OPS versus righties. While four of his five home runs have come against righties, Kepler has struck out just three times against lefties while drawing seven walks. Should Kepler keep this type of production up as the warmer months come, he’ll be looking likely to make his first All-Star game. Twins Hitter of the Month: Byron Buxton The man got paid, and Buxton is undoubtedly looking to cash in again. With an $8 million MVP incentive, the Twins centerfielder has been arguably the best player in baseball when on the field. He’s missed minimal time due to injury thus far, and his April finished with an outstanding 1.069 OPS. Just two off the Major League lead in homers, Buxton has launched seven (six in April) while tallying four doubles. His 1.2 fWAR is just outside the top 10 across all of baseball, and he’s been every bit as exceptional in the field. The Twins have played 22 games, of which Buxton has been in 14. Continuing to remain available is the chief concern, but if he’s out there, he will make a difference. It’s conceivable even better months lie ahead for the Minnesota MVP candidate. Buxton owns an 18/2 K/BB on the season, and turning some empty at-bats into walks or base hits will only drive his slash line north. He, too, will benefit from warmer weather, both on the base paths and in batted ball results. As has always been the case, should Buxton be healthy, the production will be gaudy. He’s looking for his first All-Star game appearance this season, and jumping into the top 10 vote-getters for MVP is more than doable. If you were to rank your top 3 for April, are these the three you would have ranked? In the same order? Leave a COMMENT and start the discussion.
  9. Box Score SP: Josh Winder 6 IP, 2 H, 0 ER, 1 BB, 7 K (83 pitches, 54 strikes (65 strike %)) Home Runs: Byron Buxton (7) Top 3 WPA: Jorge Polanco (.131), Kyle Garlick (.106), Josh Winder (.102) Win Probability Chart (via FanGraphs) The Twins bats were ready to continue their hot streak from Saturday against the Rays on Sunday and wasted no time doing so. The top of the first brought about a lot of excitement for the Twins as Byron Buxton reached base on a throwing error from Rays shortstop Taylor Walls which advanced him to second. In the next at-bat Carlos Correa hit a single to have two runners on for Kyle Garlick. Garlick was able to drive in the Twins' first run of the game with an RBI single to right which scored Buxton. This had two runners aboard for Jorge Polanco who drove both Correa and Garlick in on a bases-clearing double to make it a 3-0 Twins lead. Gio Urshela was the Twins first out of the inning, but Max Kepler came up next to make it a 4-0 game on another double. The scoring didn’t stop there for the Twins in the top of the first. Gary Sanchez followed Kepler’s RBI double with an RBI single of his own to make it 5-0. Left fielder Gilberto Celestino ended the inning with a double play hit to Walls but the Twins still gave Winder an extensive lead for his first MLB start. The Twins offense certainly stood out during Sunday’s game but Winder was the star of the game making his first MLB start. Winder had made three bullpen appearances for the Twins before Sunday only looking rough in his MLB debut against the Dodgers on April 12. The six inning workload that Winder pitched on Sunday was not set to be a challenge either. Winder had a relief appearance of 5 1/3 innings on April 16 after Sonny Gray was removed from his start due to injury. Winder’s start against the Rays was his best pitching appearance of 2022 to date. Six shutout innings, only three base runners on two hits and a walk and seven strikeouts proved why the Twins were smart to put him on the Opening Day roster. After the first inning that almost had the Twins bat around, the scoring didn’t stop there for them. Buxton was the next to add on a run for the Twins as he hit his seventh home run of the season to deep left field in the top of the fourth. The Twins bats wouldn’t do anything again until the top of the seventh where they scored an additional two runs thanks to another Polanco bases-clearing double. Trevor Larnach, who came into the game for Garlick who had to leave due to a hamstring injury, made sure the Twins weren’t done scoring in the top of the eighth. Larnach drove in Celestino on an RBI single to make it a 9-1 game for the Twins. The Twins bullpen was not able to keep the shoutout going for Winder after he left the game. Tyler Duffey came into the game in the bottom of the seventh and gave up an RBI double to Walls to make it a 8-1 game. Following Duffey’s one-run inning, Twins Daily 13th-ranked prospect Cole Sands came into the game to make his Major League debut in the bottom of the eighth. After recording the first out, Sands struggled surrendering three straight hits and two earned runs. Sands recovered though as he recorded his first two big-league strikeouts to get out of the eighth inning. Even with his struggles in the eighth, Rocco Baldelli sent his newly arrived reliever in for the ninth to close the game out for the Twins. Sands cooled off completely in the ninth throwing a one, two, three ninth inning to give the Twins the win and series victory on the road against Tampa. What’s Next? The Twins will start the second series of this road trip against Baltimore tomorrow night at 6:05 p.m. CT. Chris Paddack will be making his fourth start for the Twins against the Orioles 6’8 righty Tyler Wells. Postgame Interview Bullpen Usage Spreadsheet WED THU FRI SAT SUN TOT Coulombe 20 0 35 0 0 55 Jax 0 46 0 0 0 46 Stashak 0 18 0 14 0 32 Sands 0 0 0 0 30 30 Duffey 0 8 0 0 17 25 Duran 0 0 0 20 0 20 Smith 10 0 0 9 0 19 Thielbar 0 0 0 15 0 15 Pagán 0 0 0 0 0 0
  10. Box Score Starting Pitcher: Dylan Bundy, 6.0 IP, 7 H, 6 ER, 2 BB, 7 K (94 pitches, 57 strikes, 60.6%) Home Runs: none Bottom 3 WPA: Dylan Bundy (-.362), Jorge Polanco (-.042), Luis Arráez (-.032) Win Probability Chart (via FanGraphs) Tampa roughs up Bundy early, building a six-run lead Before tonight’s game, Dylan Bundy had given up only one earned run in over fifteen innings of work this season. But he had a 6.19 career ERA against Tampa Bay, and, apparently, that track record came back to haunt him in this game. The Rays severely roughed him up before he could record his first out of the evening, building a four-run lead only eight pitches into Bundy’s start. A pair of doubles to open the game, and the home team took a quick one-run lead. That was followed by a Yandy Díaz line drive to right that put men in the corners before Josh Lowe hammered a three-run shot to deep center. Bundy’s struggles continued as he walked the next batter, Randy Arozarena, who almost scored in the next at-bat, but he was caught at home plate by a beautiful Trevor Larnach assist from left. On the other side, Corey Kluber had no trouble early against the Twins lineup. Despite some hard contact from Twins bats early, it took him only 20 pitches to retire the first six Minnesota batters in order. His offense provided him with some more run support in the second, as Bundy, still struggling with his command, gave up a leadoff walk to Taylor Walls, and he was pushed across a couple of at-bats later, making it 5-0 Tampa in the second. Bundy settles down, but the offense can’t rally After Kluber finished his first time through the other with yet a third perfect inning, Bundy started to find some groove. For the first time in the evening, he quickly retired the first two batters of the inning in the third. But Mike Zunino jumped on the first pitch he saw next for another Tampa Bay home run. He came back for the fourth and tossed his first 1-2-3 inning of the night. Bundy's adjustments after the third inning would be pointless unless the offense could back him up. In the fourth, the bats came to life briefly and put the Twins on the board. Kluber hit Byron Buxton to lead off the inning, and a couple of at-bats later, Carlos Correa got Minnesota’s first hit of the night, scoring Buxton from second. After that, Jorge Polanco grounded into a double play, and the Twins had to settle for the one run. Though the offense couldn’t come through and rally, Bundy made sure to eat up some more innings. He threw a couple more 1-2-3 innings, in the fifth and the sixth, before departing the game. Curiously enough, his final line saw him walking only two batters while striking out seven. A couple of positive takeaways Only a miracle could save the Twins offensively, but that didn't come close to happening. The silver lining tonight was Danny Coulombe's solid-as-a-rock outing out of the bullpen. He pitched a couple of scoreless frames, inducing six swinging strikes. He also avoided hard contact really well, limiting Rays batters to an average of only 85.1 mph exit velocity. Despite the horrific night at the plate for Minnesota, another silver lining from tonight might have been another good game from Correa. Minnesota was limited to only three hits in the night, and two of them belonged to him. His overall season numbers still don't look good, but he is now 5-for-9 in the past two games, with a double and four runs batted in. What’s Next? Game 2 of the series is tomorrow, with the first pitch scheduled for 3:10 pm CDT. Former Ray Chris Archer (3.18 ERA) takes the mound for Minnesota, facing lefty Shane McClanahan (2.45 ERA). Postgame Interview Bullpen Usage Spreadsheet MON TUE WED THU FRI TOT Jax 0 10 0 46 0 56 Coulombe 0 0 20 0 35 55 Duffey 0 19 0 8 0 27 Thielbar 0 27 0 0 0 27 Pagán 0 23 0 0 0 23 Stashak 0 0 0 18 0 18 Smith 0 0 10 0 0 10 Duran 0 0 0 0 0 0 Winder 0 0 0 0 0 0
  11. Many articles that you read here at Twins Daily or other sports or news sites may use data or reasoning to push a reader toward an opinion. Sometimes it's as black and white as right or wrong. Other times, statistics or scenarios can push a narrative. That isn't what this article is going to be. Frankly, I don't know what this article is going to be. I haven't written a Stream of Consciousness article for quite some time. While trying to organize my thoughts, I realized that there are many angles and factors to be considered. So, let's see where this takes us. Does team chemistry help with Winning, or does it take Winning to create team chemistry? I think looking at the 2022 Minnesota Twins can undoubtedly help the conversation, or it can just give more data points or concepts to consider. There is no doubt that the chemistry of this team was altered with all of the February and March transactions. Trading popular, positive team leaders like Mitch Garver and Taylor Rogers certainly affects chemistry. Trading Rogers literally on opening day and welcoming Chris Paddack and Emilio Pagan to the team the next day had to be jarring. On the other side of the equation, it's possible that team chemistry improved with a bit of Addition by Subtraction. It is clear (after the fact) that trading away Josh Donaldson was a positive for team chemistry. Still, Gio Urshela's struggles in 2021, and Gary Sanchez's unfortunate negative relationship with Yankees fans, could have made both players bitter. Instead, they have been happy, excited teammates since Day 1, and the change of scenery could be a blessing in disguise. Urshela has been competing against the Twins for many years, going back to his time in Cleveland. Gary Sanchez has been friends with Miguel Sano and Jorge Polanco for over a dozen years. As exciting as it is that the Twins signed Carlos Correa, it sure could have gone a number o ways. He could have come in and acted entitled. He could have been a prima donna. Instead, from Day 1, he has said all the right things. He hasn't tried to take over a leadership role, but his leadership qualities showed when he told everybody that this is Byron's (Buxton) team. Despite his slow start, it's clear that he is leading in the dugout. He has been a supportive teammate. He has taken the time to help and offer ideas to teammates. And Byron Buxton? There is a legitimate question of if he is the best player in baseball or at least the most talented player. He had every right to be upset at the Twins and this front office for their manipulation of his service time. He couldn't have handled it any better than he did, starting the following year. And last year, amid rumors of broken contract talks and trade talk, Buxton made it clear that he wanted to stay with the Twins. And ultimately, that's what happened. He could have waited and become a free agent after this season. He likely could have doubled the guaranteed money he received from the Twins or another team. Instead, he took an offer that he could be happy with, his family and the Twins' front office should be thrilled with. Fans should be thrilled with the deal. But, maybe more important, Buxton made playing in Minnesota a good thing. Signing him probably helped Carlos Correa's interest in the team. In coming offseasons, could his presence factor into decisions of other free agents, like it did when Kirby Puckett roams the outfield for the Twins? And how much fun is it to see him having a blast playing with this group? It's clear that he is everything you would want in a superstar, and seeing him smiling in the dugout, and joking with teammates, is encouraging. Sonny Gray came to the Twins in a trade, a veteran with a terrific track record over his career. We have frequently heard about how Gray has encouraged (if not made it mandatory) all of the starting pitchers to be there for each other's bullpen sessions. First, they can watch what the other pitchers are working on and how they work. Second, they can pass on information and learn from each other—veterans leading the way and veterans who seem to enjoy learning. Chris Archer was great with Tampa. However, once he was traded to the Pirates, he started fighting injuries and struggling on the mound. He talked to former teammates who played in Minnesota or for Baldelli and was told it's a great place. Dylan Bundy has faced injuries throughout his decade in pro ball, and he's had some ups and some real lows. Aside from pitching well, these guys are leaders and articulate lessons well to teammates. You have heard consistently from all new players to the organization is the atmosphere facilitated by the front office, Rocco Baldelli, and his coaching staff. It is an atmosphere of professionalism and working on getting ready for every game and scenario. It's an atmosphere that will also treat them as men, with dignity and respect. Baldelli's leadership has created an environment of communication and makes sure players and their families are comfortable. These are things that I know some people will roll their eyes when they read it. I get that. No one wants to think that touchy-feely stuff affects adults. They are incredibly well-compensated adults playing a kids' game. I get it. We've all heard people say that. Regardless of our job or our role in life, we all want to be respected. We all want to work in a comfortable environment, an environment where everyone feels heard, and increased compensation is available through hard work and challenging yourself. Maybe not everyone wants those things, but like the big leagues, those people are often weeded out. So, again, let's bring it back to this season. With a short spring training and new teammates coming in over that three-week period, it had to take time to get to know each other, much less develop chemistry on the field, in the clubhouse. Again, the roster moves continued right up until Opening Day. Should we be surprised that they struggled out of the gate? Should we be impressed that they only needed 12 games (4-8 start) to turn things around? With their seven-game win streak and sweeps of the White Sox and Tigers, the Twins are now 11-8 and sit atop the AL Central at this very early stage. Players talk about the chemistry the team felt even through their early struggles. So, was it that Chemistry that allowed the Twins to start winning? Or was it the Winning (and a couple of wild wins) that made the chemistry stronger? How much does the front office affect team chemistry? Well, probably primarily by getting reports about players from people who have been their teammates or coaches, or even opponents (along with all of the statistical and analytical stuff). It seems that is part of the role of special advisors to Baseball Operations like Torii Hunter, Michael Cuddyer, LaTroy Hawkins, and Justin Morneau. Part of their job description, when hired, was that they could speak to this type of information on players they played with or against or use their relationships around the game to get information on the interpersonal skills of players the Twins might consider acquiring. But that can go both ways. Was Donaldson a detriment to team chemistry? What kind of atmosphere could devolve when popular teammates are traded right before a season starts? How much does the manager, Rocco Baldelli, deserve credit for the chemistry? This is where it's at. Since he was hired, he has set the atmosphere and the expectations. He has been a players' coach, but he's led the Twins through some challenging situations, from Covid to the riots in Minneapolis, to a labor lockout. He's hired coaches, with help from the front office obviously, who are good teachers, know their technical stuff, and listen. Proof of that is that several coaches from his staff have been hired away over the years. Finally, you probably would never hear a player badmouth his manager. Still, the sense is that there is genuine respect for Baldelli, his intelligence, his playing, scouting, coaching background, and more. With replay, there aren't as many opportunities for a manager to "back his players" by getting ejected with silly arguments with umps on close plays. So again, is it chemistry that helps a team relax and perform better and win... or does a team need to experience success (usually in Wins) for chemistry to develop better? And let's be honest. It's easy right now to tout the team's chemistry. They held on early and are currently pitching well and winning games. I'm sure that they will lose their ninth game of the year at some point. The winning streak will likely come to an end. And, like most other teams, the Twins will have a couple more rough patches throughout the season. They are likely to have another 4-8 stretch or two. That's part of the beauty of baseball. It's a marathon, filled with ups and downs. I think chemistry is essential in any part of life, especially in team sports. But it isn't everything. There have been teams that hated each other, got in fights with each other (think 1970s A's, or pretty much any Billy Martin-led team), and won. There have been teams that got along great, had great relationships, and lost a lot of games. And, of course, there are close teams with great chemistry that have won and bad chemistry teams that have lost. So, does that mean that chemistry has nothing to do with winning or losing? There are many examples of teams that won that hated each other. The questions for you to consider include: 1.) What work atmosphere do you personally prefer in your life? 2.) How does that compare to your thoughts on chemistry in professional (or any) sports? 3.) What are your thoughts on the team chemistry of the Twins this year, and where that credit lies? (Front office, manager, coaches, players) 4.) And what are your thoughts on the question: Does Winning create chemistry, or does team chemistry help a team Win? Here are a few final thoughts - and if you've made it this far, thank you, or I'm sorry Ranking keys to success on a baseball team #3 - Chemistry #2 - Talent #1 - Having Byron Buxton on your team and on the field.
  12. 1. Twins are in control of the division and this is the time to pull away With two walk-off wins in a row, the bats heating up for players like Max Kepler and (hopefully) Miguel Sanó, Byron Buxton back in the lineup and performing as clutch as ever, and a Twins starting rotation that has an AL-best ERA of 2.60, the Twins appear to be firmly in control of the division and stand to continue to gain ground, especially considering what a mess top rival Chicago White Sox are in. The White Sox are on an 8-game losing streak, including the last 7 losses against 3 division opponents, are plagued by a host of injuries to impact players like Liam Hendriks, Luis Robert, and Eloy Jimenez, and have continued to commit a circus of errors in the field. The Sox lead all the MLB in errors with 20. The Twins, by comparison, have 8. If the Twins can sweep the Detroit Tigers, march into the AL East and play competitively vs the middle-of-the-division Tampa Bay Rays and the bottom-of-the-division Baltimore Orioles, they should hopefully continue to gain some ground. The Twins will go head-to-head with the current second place Cleveland Guardians on May 13-15 when the Twins host them for a 3-game series. I have no doubt that the White Sox will end up being fine in the end and will start wracking up some wins once they get some key players back and can calm things down in the field, but until then, it is important that the Twins put as much ground between the teams as possible. The takeaway here is that the Twins are on a 5-game winning streak, the momentum is with them, and the team is having fun again. That's worth a lot. 2. Miguel Sanó is starting to arrive Despite Sanó having what some seasoned Twins fans will regard as his perennial start-of-season slump, it appears that he might be starting to break out of it. This season, it has been apparent that the Twins have decided to stick with him and “play him into the ground,” so to speak, in hopes that he will work through his slow start at the plate. So far this season, Sanó has played in 16/17 games and has not been pinch hit for, even in situations like Sunday April 24's series finale vs the White Sox in which some fans were screaming for Carlos Correa to pinch-hit for him in a bottom of the 10th inning, down by 1, do-or-die situation. For those who have been in the "just stick with him" camp rather than the "send him down to St. Paul to figure things out" boat, it is gratifying to see him being to experience some degree of success at the plate, even though it has mostly continued to be in the form of singles here and there. His at-bats are becoming better quality, his strikeouts are becoming more infrequent (though, as a hitter he is always a high strikeout hitter, even in good times), and his statistics and specifically plate discipline (chase rate and walk percentage) mirror the profile of a consistent hitter who so far has just had some bad luck. Twins Daily's own Nick Nelson had a great tweet illustrating this fact. As we know, Sanó did not get his first hit until the 7th game of the season at Boston, and his batting average is up to a modest .096, but he has quite the hole to climb out of, and it will take some time before his batting average reflects improvement. Baby steps. But just by watching him (everyone's favorite highly scientific "eye test") he is clearly not as lost at the plate or as frustrated as he was to start the season. When he gets ahold of the ball, he is mashing it. Take a look at that exit velocity- the 9th highest exit velocity in the whole MLB. Of note, Sanó has been nothing but an asset at first base as well. Yes, Tuesday's 9th inning hit could have almost been an error, and his baserunning on the play could have been disastrous. No, the Sanó of a few weeks ago wouldn't have had that hit. The takeaway: Sanó was the hero of yesterday's game and big plays like this will hopefully inspire the confidence he needs to continue to return to form. Stick with him a little longer and he's going to be one of the best power hitters in MLB. 3. We probably need to work on our baserunning a bit It is no question that yesterday's 9th inning walk-off was quite fortunate and arguably even lucky for the Twins. When Sanó singled on a line drive to right field, Trevor Larnach held at third, Gio Urshela kept running when Sanó continued to second, and we all collectively screamed at our TVs. Tigers catcher Eric Haase threw the ball over third base into left field (airmailed it, we would have called that in softball) allowing two runners to score and the Twins received a happy reprieve. That play could have easily turned into a double play, and if Kepler had not struck out before Sanó/Haase did not overthrow it, that play feasibly could have feasibly been a triple play. Rewatching that play with the camera focused on Sanó, it appears his eyes are solely fixed on the ball and he isn't paying attention to what the other baserunners are doing. Somewhat relatedly, the Twins also have had three runners thrown out at home so far, including a memorable and unfortunate play vs the Mariners when Sanó was sent home and was ultimately thrown out by approximately a mile despite the base paths being only 90 feet. The Twins have been caught stealing three times this year, which appears to be about league average. Yesterday worked out in the team's favor, other times might not. As the Metrodome light-up board once said, "Walks Will Haunt," and bad baserunning undoubtably will too. Do you have any other takeaways from this memorable game? Leave a COMMENT below.
  13. Across 503 games spread over eight seasons, Byron Buxton has hit 76 home runs. In 2022, his six homers lead all of Major League Baseball. Buxton is a menace at the plate, settling in as a true MVP-caliber talent for the Twins. Although not your prototypical slugger, Buxton has put plenty of baseballs in the seats in dramatic moments as a Major Leaguer. Looking at each of them through the lens of Win Probability Added (WPA), here are the top five home runs of his career: April 21, 2021, 10th inning off Athletics Lou Trivino 0.404 WPA Tied 10-10 in the top half of the 10th inning, Buxton launched a 423-foot shot off the Athletics reliever. It was hit 111 mph off the bat and drove in Travis Blankenhorn. Despite Minnesota being up 12-10, they, unfortunately, gave up the lead in the bottom half and were walked off, losing by a score of 13-12. 79cad316-0ed6-4deb-9f52-53583078b84b.mp4 June 12, 2019, 9th inning off Mariners Anthony Bass 0.450 WPA Down 6-4 in the bottom of the 9th inning, Buxton stepped in against Seattle reliever Anthony Bass. Miguel Sano was on base, and Buxton lifted a dinger 432 feet to left-center, allowing Minnesota to tie things up. The 108 mph exit velocity got the baseball out in a hurry. After going to extras, the Twins gave up three runs to Seattle in the top of the 10th inning and ultimately lost 9-6. April 24, 2022, 10th inning off White Sox Liam Hendriks 0.455 WPA After failing to capitalize in the 9th inning, Minnesota was down by a run in the 10th inning against one of baseball’s best relievers. With Jose Godoy and Nick Gordon on 2nd and 3rd, Liam Hendriks offered to Buxton, and Byron planted the baseball in the upper deck for his second dinger of the day. The 469-foot blast was a mammoth blast and put a stamp on a series sweep. April 9, 2022, 8th inning off Mariners Andres Munoz 0.462 WPA Following a torrid Spring Training, Byron Buxton wanted to carry his production over to the regular season. Minnesota trailed 2-1 in the 8th inning, and Seattle had hard-throwing reliever Andres Munoz on the bump. Buxton turned around a 100 mph fastball and sent it 436 feet with a 112 mph exit velocity. Nick Gordon scored, and the Twins took a late lead. It didn’t hold up, but Buck’s blast was an excellent start to his 2022. September 14, 2017 off Blue Jays Luis Santos 0.463 WPA Looking to make the postseason, the Twins needed every win they could get. Tied 2-2 in the 10th inning, Buxton faced Toronto reliever Luis Santos and crushed a 405-foot bomb for the first walk-off home run of his career. Single-handedly ending the game, this homer's 0.463 WPA remains the most impactful blast of his career. b6d1af68-db43-4494-9cb5-9271dee5f5ce.mp4
  14. Fans have seen this game changing ability before from Byron Buxton. Last April, he started hot in the season's first month as he hit .427/.466/.897 (1.363) with eight doubles and eight home runs in 18 games. MLB named Buxton the American League Player of the Month, and he had arguably the best offensive month in team history. It was hard to imagine him playing at a higher level, and then the 2022 season began. Over the weekend, Buxton showed his value across multiple games, including some dramatic moments. On Saturday, he went 4-for-4 and reached base in all five plate appearances as the Twins won a blowout. Sunday's game was a nail-biter, and Buxton left the fans happy as he tied the game with a home run in the 7th before a massive three-run walk-off shot in extra-innings. One weekend series doesn't qualify someone to be baseball's best player, but plenty of other signs point to Buxton's greatness. His six home runs tie him for the MLB lead, and he has over 20 fewer at-bats than the other players at the top. His 1.361 OPS would lead all of baseball by close to 200 points, but he doesn't have enough plate appearances to appear on the leaderboard. Baseball's leaders in slugging percentage are tied at .727, but Buxton's OPS is .946 through Sunday's game. At the season's start, MLB Network counted down baseball's top-100 players right now. Buxton ranked as baseball's 39th best player on that countdown, a 52-spot jump from the beginning of the 2021 season. At that time, he was directly behind players like Nick Castellanos, Shane Bieber, and Brandon Woodruff. With his start to the season, he has to move up the list, but would it be enough to get to the top? Players at the top of the list include multiple former MVPs and other budding superstars. Shohei Ohtani, the reigning AL MVP, is coming off a season where he did amazing things as a two-way player. Mike Trout is widely considered the best player of this generation and a perennial MVP candidate. Bryce Harper is the reigning NL MVP, and he continues to live up to the hype surrounding him as an amateur. Fernando Tatis Jr. and Juan Soto are two of the other highly ranked players that have achieved a lot at a young age. So far this season, many of these top players haven't been able to do what Buxton has done on the field. Ohtani is hitting .206/.265/.397 (.662), and he's posted a 4.40 ERA in three starts. Trout was limited to 36 games last season, but he is back to his old ways so far in 2022. Out of qualified players, he leads the AL in OPS and SLG. Harper has posted an OPS of over 1.000 in his two MVP seasons, but this year he has a .766 OPS while still leading the NL in runs. As expected, Soto leads baseball in walks and gets on base nearly 43% of the time. All of these players are great, but none may be able to impact the game quite like Buxton. At this early juncture, Trout is the lone top player producing at his expected level. Other players off to hot starts include Manny Machado, Nolan Arenado, and Wander Franco. There is a lot of season left to separate one player from another, but it's clear that Buxton is playing at an otherworldly level. Do you think he is baseball's best player? Leave a COMMENT and start the discussion.
  15. But they battled back, scoring one run off of White Sox ace Lucas Giolito and tying up the game on a home run by Byron Buxton in the seventh inning. They threatened to take the lead in the eighth inning but left the bases loaded when Luis Arraez grounded out to second base. That didn't stop the Twins from having faith. Byron Buxton came up to bat in the 10th inning to get a three-run homerun to walk it off! Box Score SP: Chris Archer: 3 IP,3 H, 2 ER, 2 BB, 2 K (61 pitches, 32 strikes (52.4%)) Home Runs: Byron Buxton 2 (6) Top 3 WPA: Byron Buxton (.761), Jhoan Duran (.227), Max Kepler (.168) Win Probability Chart (via FanGraphs) Larnach’s Series Trevor Larnach’s series versus the White Sox has been one of consistency. Since the game in Kansas City versus the Royals, Larnach has had a hit every game, responsible for two of the RBIs in the Saturday afternoon game giving the Twins a seven-run lead in the bottom of the fourth. He did not fare as well at the plate today, striking out twice (looking, once with the bases loaded, and once with runners on second and third) but still found a way to contribute. As Archer struggled to maintain control in the third inning, with bases loaded, Andrew Vaughn singled a sharp line drive to Larnach in left-field, who threw a cannon home to Jose Godoy to end the inning. Godoy Makes Twins Debut Jose Godoy’s contract was added to the Twins’ roster yesterday and made his debut with the Twins today. The former Seattle Mariner had 40 at-bats last year ending the season with a .162 batting average. Ryan Jeffers was scratched from the line-up two hours before game time for a knee contusion and Gary Sanchez is still out with abdominal tightness. Godoy saw five pitches in his first at-bat, striking out. Godoy’s first and second appearances he struck out, but rounded out his first game with the Twins being walked by Aaron Bummer, before being sent home off Byron Buxton game-tying two-run home run. Then he walked again in the 10th inning, coming around again on Buxton's game-winning home run. His defense and chemistry with Archer was impressive to watch. The rookie catcher was able to frame pitches on a consistent basis and has good reaction time. Godoy showed his speed and agility as he ran to catch a foul off Grandal’s bat at the top of the third. Interference from the fence made for a hard catch, but Archer and Godoy got Grandal to swing at a high fast ball striking him out with the next pitch. He did, however, commit a cardinal sin in the 8th inning. With the winning run on third base and one out, he squared to bunt but popped out to White Sox pitcher Kendall Graveman. Postgame Postscript: We learned after the game that Jeffers took a ball off his knee earlier this series and had a left knee contusion and that Rocco really did not want to use him. That proved to be important as there was that opportunity in the 8th inning to pinch hit for Godoy in the bat in which he popped out on a bump. So the Twins entered today's game with three catchers on the active roster, but only one was truly active. Bats Show Signs of Life The Twins line-up was consistent over the series and through today battling rain and cold to keep their bats swinging, a nice change of pace from the earliest part of the season’s start. With the exception of a few players getting strikeouts early, by the 6th inning, at a minimum, almost every bat made contact with a pitch. Even Miguel Sano who was 0-for-8 through the series ended up getting a single into right field in the second inning. Giolito Returns But Doesn’t Last Long The Twins have been having trouble scoring runs, so the last thing they need is to face a preseason Cy Young Award candidate. Not only was today’s opposing pitcher, Lucas Giolito, a candidate, he opened the season as one of the favorites at 13-2 odds. However, he was also making his first start after a stay on the 10-day injured list for an abdominal strain, and that rust showed a bit in the first inning. Giolito threw 26 pitches that inning, only half of which were strikes, and walked two Twins. But with the bases loaded, he escaped untarnished by striking out Trevor Larnach on two changeups and a fastball. The story was similar in the third inning. This time, a walk, and a couple of singles loaded the bases, and the Twins cashed in a run on a sacrifice fly by Gio Urshela. But Giolito escaped further damage by fooling young left-handed hitters - this time both Larnach and Nick Gordon - with his changeup and fastballs away. Still, he had already thrown 65 pitches through three innings, and due to his stint on the injured list, it was expected he would only throw 70-80 pitches in his second outing this year. Sure enough, after an efficient fourth inning, his day was over. Gordon’s Growth Nick Gordon played in his 12th game today, starting at shortstop as manager Rocco Baldelli gave Carlos Correa a day off. He entered today with a 694 OPS in 26 plate appearances. He will likely never show a lot of power, and a .261 batting average is nothing special, but he is getting on base almost 35% of the time. Almost any evaluation of Gordon’s future and performance are tied to the wide range of expectations attached to him. If your expectations are tied to his selection in the first round of the 2014 draft, or of his family pedigree, you’re likely going to be disappointed. If, on the other hand, your expectations of him were set by his performance and health issues in AAA as recently as 2019, you might be delighted by his sudden progression as a valuable bench asset. To both camps, I’d suggest it is time to take a look at him with fresh eyes. He’s a 26-year-old who is likely to never post a big OPS because he will likely never hit for power. But he gets on base, he is capable (though not outstanding) in several key defensive roles, and as a left-handed hitter, he is more likely to get a decent matchup versus right-handed pitchers. Plus, he’s an asset on the base paths. All that makes him an ideal super-utility player, which is exactly the role he is fulfilling this year. If he can show that he can raise his batting average closer to .300, he might improve to the point where he could be a regular starter. Fortunately for him, his performance and usefulness should provide plenty of opportunities to show his development in the super-utility role. Winder Unleashed After nearly a week without making an appearance, long reliever and promising prospect Josh Winder made an appearance when Chris Archer only lasted three innings. He gave up one run over four innings, striking out two and giving up three hits. Maybe most notably, after struggling with his control in his first appearance, he walked none and threw strikes in 42 of his 61 pitches. Winder is working as the long reliever but is a starting pitching prospect long-term. We saw today what we have seen from him so far: he is a slider-first pitcher who turns to his fastball to keep hitters off-balance. It seems to be working well in a relief role, but it will be interesting to see how it plays when he has to face a lineup a second time. Certainly today that was in question, as he gave up a home run on his second time through the order. But for the most part, we likely won’t see him face batters more than once in his current role with the Twins. We might get a better sense of that if he was starting in St. Paul, but he’s now fulfilling an important role with the major league club. Regardless, it’s nice to see another Twins pitching prospect having some success in the majors. Postgame Postscript: We learned after the game that the plan was always for Archer to be limited to only 50-60 pitches, and he was told that after his last start in Kansas City. We also learned from Rocco that this decision was specific to Archer; they're not planning right now on similar planned short starts with the rest of the rotation. He also hinted that they wanted to do this now, when they still had a 28-man roster. It'll be interesting to see if Winder eventually does go down to St. Paul as part of the mandatory roster trimming that will happen next week, or whether he'll continue in this role in which he's having success. Clutch Buxton Byron Buxton had a fantastic series, hitting every chance he got, and coming through whenever the team needed him. His 3-run home run came on a 3-1 count with runners on second and third base and one out. White Sox closer Liam Hendricks, in his second inning of work, pitched to Buxton in that situation rather than give him a free pass to first base and load the bases for Luis Arraez. It’s not clear that strategy would have fared any better, but they likely would choose a different path given another chance. Postgame Postscript: As expected (and completely appropriate) postgame interviews centered entirely around Buxton doing godlike things. Baldelli called Buxton the best player in the world right now, and marveled at some of the things he did. But you might be surprised at what he wanted to breakdown: it was Buxton's first, game-tying home run in the 8th. Here it is, because he breaks down what we are seeing pretty nicely. "He's facing a left-hander who as we saw earlier in the game, is one of the best left-handers in the game. Gets a ton of groundballs. He's a really hard guy to drive the ball in the air against. And he's a guy that normally pitches all the right-handers in, pound 'em in. And he decided to go away to Buck. And it took a few pitches, but Buck identifies what's going on. Completely changes what he's trying to do at the plate. And lines a ball over the right field fence. I mean, there's nothing typical or everyday or normal about that. That's very, very special. And I don't want to stop talking about it, because it's so impressive. Even for people who watch this level of baseball everyday. To see what he's doing it's just awesome." What’s Next? The Twins will enjoy an off day at home on Monday before starting a three-game series against the Detroit Tigers at Target Field. Pitching matchups for the series include: Tuesday 6:40: Chris Paddock (0-2, 5.00) vs LHP Eduardo Rodriguez (0-1, 5.27 ERA) Wednesday 6:40: Joe Ryan (2-1, 1.69 ERA) vs RHP Michael Pineda (1-0, 0.00 ERA) Thursday 12:10: Bailey Ober (1-1, 2.81 ERA) vs LHP Tarik Skubal (1-1, 2.30 ERA) Postgame Interview Bullpen Usage Spreadsheet
  16. Last Week's Game Results: Game 10 | MIN 8, BOS 3: Garlick, Polanco Homer as Twins Split in Boston Game 11 | KC 4, MIN 3: Duffey Implodes as Twins Waste Winnable Game Game 12 | KC 2, MIN 0: Another Solid Pitching Performance Gets Wasted Game 13 | MIN 1, KC 0: Joe Cool Dazzles, Slough of Singles Game 14 | MIN 2, CWS 1: Twins Catch Break, Win Thriller Game 15 | MIN 9, CWS 2: Buxton, Bundy Lead in Comfortable Win Game 16 | MIN 6, CWS 4: Twins End White Sox Sweep with a Bang Weekly Snapshot: Mon, 4/18 through Sun, 4/24 *** Record Last Week: 5-2 (Overall: 8-8) Run Differential Last Week: +13 (Overall: +2) Standing: 1st Place in AL Central (0.5 GA) NEWS & NOTES Thankfully it was a week filled with more good news than bad news on the injury front. First, the bad news: Jorge Alcalá was moved to the 60-day injured list with his elbow inflammation showing no signs of improvement. He'll be out until at least June, dealing a serious blow to the Twins' bullpen outlook. Replacing him on the 40-man roster is José Godoy, who joined the team as a third catcher. The additional depth was needed with Minnesota's top two backstops experiencing some (hopefully minor) issues. Gary Sánchez was scratched on Saturday due to abdominal tightness and Ryan Jeffers was scratched on Sunday due to a knee contusion. Neither player was placed on IL, although seemingly neither was available on Sunday. With a cortisone injection improving the condition of his ailing right wrist, Alex Kirilloff is set to start a brief rehab stint in St. Paul on Tuesday. He may rejoin the Twins next weekend. Meanwhile, Byron Buxton is already back and making a HUGE impact. We'll get to that shortly. HIGHLIGHTS The refreshingly impressive Twins rotation kept on rolling in Boston, Kansas City, and back home into Minneapolis. Check out the yeoman’s work in each successive game Monday through Saturday: Dylan Bundy @ BOS: 5.1 IP, 5 H, 1 ER, 0 BB, 6 K Chris Archer @ KC: 4.1 IP, 4 H, 2 ER, 3 BB, 5 K Chris Paddack @ KC: 5 IP, 5 H, 2 ER, 0 BB, 4 K Joe Ryan @ KC: 6 IP, 2 H, 0 ER, 1 BB, 5 K Bailey Ober vs. CWS: 5 IP, 5 H, 1 ER, 0 BB, 6 K Dylan Bundy vs. CWS: 5 IP, 4 H, 0 ER, 0 BB, 4 K Add in Chris Archer's so-so effort on Sunday (3 IP, 2 ER) and the rotation posted a 2.21 ERA in seven games last week. Starting pitching is carrying this team in April. Joe Ryan's outing was perhaps the most critical of the bunch last week – he was masterful Thursday in a 1-0 victory where the Twins needed every bit of his greatness. With a marked increase in his slider usage (up to 31.2% in his first three starts, from 16.0% in 2021) Ryan continued to relentlessly attack the zone while inducing whiffs and weak contact. Dylan Bundy lowered his ERA for the season to 0.59 (third-lowest in baseball) with a pair of excellent starts. His early success owes to a few factors, but a big one is that he's pounding the strike zone at one of the highest rates in the league. His fastball has been extremely effective, despite ranking in the 9th percentile for velocity (averaging just 89.0 MPH). Hitters are batting .133 against it with zero extra-base hits through three starts. The offense's breakout on Saturday, which saw them score more runs (9) than they had in the previous four games (6) was keyed in part by Luis Arraez, who went 4-for-5 in the contest and is now slashing .354/.426/.458 after a 9-for-21 run. But the true star of the week – and stop me if you've heard this before – was Buxton. He only started three games, taking a few games off to make sure all was well with his sore knee, but the team's best player wasted no time making his presence felt. After a 1-for-4 game as DH against Kansas City on Thursday, Buxton started in center at Target Field on Saturday night and went 4-for-4 with a home run, HBP, and three runs scored. On Sunday, he came through with a clutch game-tying two-run homer in the seventh and then walked it off with an epic three-run blast in the 10th. It was a really special moment. There really aren't words to describe what Buxton is doing right now. He's single-handedly winning ballgames. He has hilariously accumulated 1.4 fWAR in a span of 10 games. His WPA in Sunday's game alone (0.761) was higher than all but seven MLB players had accumulated ALL season. This is amazingly fun to watch. I continue to believe Buxton's contract extension will go down as the most important move this franchise has ever made. LOWLIGHTS Up and down the lineup, hitters continue to generally struggle. Carlos Correa finally notched some hits, going 6-for-22, but they were all singles and he also mixed in three GIDPs. Trevor Larnach, who went 2-for-22 with eight strikeouts, looks like he belongs in Triple-A (and will likely soon head back). Max Kepler failed to register an extra-base hit or RBI; his slugging percentage sits at .300 yet he's still batting fourth or fifth every time he's in the lineup. But make no mistake: Miguel Sanó continues to be the biggest laggard on offense for the Twins. Following a 2-for-22 week, his slash line sits at an embarrassing .083/.224/.146, and the supposed slugger has produced just one home run and three RBIs in 15 games. It's a weird deal with Sanó. The process isn't bad. He's taking good at-bats and making hard contact, with barrel and chase rates that rank among the best in the league. But there's constantly no payoff and it's hard to view it all as just bad luck. On Sunday, in a key spot with the tying run on second in the 10th, he got the green light on a 3-0 count and popped out to the catcher. I mean come on dude. On the bullpen front, Tyler Duffey coughed up another close lead and saw it turn into a loss on his ledger. While his meltdown Tuesday in Kansas City was less damaging than the blown save against Seattle – this time the offense had three chances to tie or take a lead, although of course they failed – it was substantively much uglier. Rather than getting dinked and dunked on a string of hits like in his first blown save, Duffey gave up a pair of long home runs in KC on absolute meatballs left out over the plate. He left that outing with the worst Win Probability Added (-0.88) of any pitcher or hitter in the big leagues. With his season starting to feel like an Alex Colomé redux, Duffey bounced back on Friday night. Rocco Baldelli gave a strong vote of confidence to his embattled veteran, handing Duffey the ball with a one-run deficit in the eighth against the top of the Chicago order, and Duff delivered: a 1-2-3 inning with two strikeouts. Hopefully it's a sign of stabilization to come, because the Twins really need Duffey to be a Dude in that bullpen – especially in light of the unfortunate Alcalá news. TRENDING STORYLINE What is the plan with Gilberto Celestino? That is the big looming question in my mind right now. He's 23 years old, and still very much a developing prospect – he's played a total of 75 games above Single-A in the minors – yet for some reason Celestino is relegated to stagnation on the big-league bench. He's been with the Twins since Opening Day, accruing just 10 at-bats (with one hit) in three weeks. I get that the 40-man roster situation is a bit challenging, but this is getting ridiculous. Not only does Celestino offer very little as a bench player for the Twins, but more importantly, this is terrible for his development. He needs regular at-bats. I understood carrying him as a short-term patch while the Twins pursued Justin Upton, but if that's not happening ... what are we doing here exactly? LOOKING AHEAD Having passed their first test against an AL Central contender in flying colors, the Twins will now welcome another one to Target Field as Detroit visits for a three-game series. We're slated to see old friend Michael Pineda on Wednesday night. Then it's off to a Tampa for three games against the always-tough Rays. It feels like the Twins have faced an inordinate number of left-handed starters early on this year, and that trend continues with (at least) four southpaws on the upcoming docket. The health situations of Sánchez and Jeffers will be worth closely monitoring. TUESDAY, 4/26: TIGERS @ TWINS – LHP Eduardo Rodriguez v. RHP Chris Paddack WEDNESDAY, 4/27: TIGERS @ TWINS – RHP Michael Pineda v. RHP Joe Ryan THURSDAY, 4/28: TIGERS @ TWINS – LHP Tarik Skubal v. RHP Bailey Ober FRIDAY, 4/29: TWINS @ RAYS – RHP Dylan Bundy v. TBD SATURDAY, 4/30: TWINS @ RAYS – RHP Chris Archer v. LHP Shane McClanahan SUNDAY, 5/1: TWINS @ RAYS – RHP Chris Paddack v. LHP Josh Fleming
  17. Box Score SP: Dylan Bundy: 5.0 IP,4 H, 0 ER, 0 BB, 6 K (79 pitches, 59 strikes (74.7%)) Home Runs: Byron Buxton (4), Ryan Jeffers (1) Top 3 WPA: Dylan Bundy (.186), Byron Buxton (.171), Luis Arraez (.130) Win Probability Chart (via FanGraphs) Pregame Injury Updates Before the game on Saturday, the Twins announced that Gary Sanchez's abdominal injury was fairly minor but that he would need to be out a few days. That is good news. Of course, it still required some roster moves. The Twins selected the contract of catcher Jose Godoy to have a backup backstop for the next few games. It will be interesting because since they have already DFAd him. If they decide to DFA him again when he gets sent down, he will have the right to become a free agent rather than accept an outright if he cleared waivers. That said, he has options, so the Twins could do that. To make room on the 28-man roster, reliever Jhon Romero was placed on the 10-day Injured List with biceps tendinitis. But to make room on the 40-man roster, the Twins placed reliever Jorge Alcala on the 60-Day Injured List. We had heard that he had a setback in his recovery from an elbow injury. Moving him to the 60-Day IL means he won't pitch in the big leagues for at least six weeks. It also allows him to be more patient with his rehab and hopefully return. Bundy Rolls As we all expected when news of the Dylan Bundy signing broke just before the lockout began, he has started the season by going 3-0 with a 0.59 ERA and a 0.72 WHIP. I mean, that’s what you expected, right? Bundy was the fourth-overall pick in the 2011 MLB draft out of high school in Oklahoma. He was a hard-throwing righty who often hit triple-digits. He made his MLB debut in late 2012, but then he was injured and didn’t get back to the big leagues until 2016. Short story long, Bundy has certainly faced ups and downs throughout his career, both in terms of health and production. What Bundy appears to have done, or at least has been doing at the start of this season, is completely buy into a mindset of who he is and what he can be as a pitcher. Instead of reaching back and throwing fastballs in the upper 90s, he is now mixing all of his pitches and relying heavily on his breaking pitches. On Saturday afternoon, he threw just 32% four-seam fastballs. He threw 30% sliders, 16% changeups, 13% curveballs, and 9% sinkers. Most importantly, he has been throwing strikes and working ahead in the count. In 15 1/3 innings this season, he has struck out 12 batters while walking just one batter. Likely the credit needs to be split. We assume that he has worked with pitching coaches Wes Johnson, Luis Ramirez, and Pete Maki to develop a strategy and game plan. But Bundy has bought into it, and he is executing the plan and the pitches. While it isn’t fair to expect this kind of performance from Bundy every start or all season long, it certainly has earned him some lengthy leash. Byron Buxton is Back! The Twins and Buxton were wise to be patient with Byron Buxton following his scare last Sunday. Initially, the fear was he would be out for a whole, but when an MRI came back that it was “just inflammation,” they could have pushed him back. Instead, they gave him the necessary rest. He played on Thursday night, and then they gave him Friday night off to see how he responded. He was back in the lineup on Saturday night, and the response was tremendous. He hit a single in his first at-bat. In his second at-bat, he hit a line drive to right field (at 108 mph), and when the throw to the infield came to first base, he kept running and turned a single into a double. Third at-bat? He destroyed a ball into the 2nd deck in left field, a two-run homer. He was hit by a pitch in the ribs his next time to the plate (clearly unintentional), and with the right side of the infield open, he slapped a single to right field. It’s good to have Byron Buxton at the top of the lineup, making things happen and clearly having a lot of fun. He is now hitting .344/.400/.844 (1.244) on the season. All Rise for Arraez Following Buxton in the Twins lineup on Saturday was Luis Arraez. Like Buxton, Arraez had a four-hit game. Arraez used the whole field to record his 4-for-5 day. But, he was able to still drive in three runs in the game, nearly doubling his season total to seven RBI. Arraez is now hitting .364/.429/.477 (.906) through 14 games. Arraez returned to third base in this game. To be honest, he has been really poor defensively at that position in the early season. On Saturday, he made all of the plays. Jeffers Jolt The Twins decided to trade catchers Mitch Garver and Ben Rortvedt before the season, which really showed their confidence in Ryan Jeffers. He is off to a slow start this season, but things may have turned around in the late innings on Friday night. In the 8th inning on Friday, he hit a double, which started the unlikely (and unusual) rally. He advanced to third base on a wild pitch that didn’t get too far away from the catcher, which made for a tougher play on The Play With Two Errors. Then, protecting a one-run lead in the bottom of the ninth, he blocked a couple of balls in the dirt, a breaking ball that landed about four feet in front of the plate with a runner on third base. Finally, he framed the final pitch, a borderline fastball on the inside corner at the knees to end the game. I remind you of all of that because contributing to an unlikely, fun, important win against a divisional competitor can absolutely alter the momentum of your season, in large part by helping him regain confidence. In each of his Saturday at-bats, Jeffers hit the ball hard. After not having an extra-base hit on the season until Friday night’s double, he hit a double at 101.7 mph in his first at-bat on Saturday. A couple of innings later, Jeffers hit a ball 102.4 mph into the bleachers in left field for his first home run of the season. He added a walk and a strikeout to end the day 2-for-3. Respect the Competition On Saturday afternoon, Detroit Tigers DH Miguel Cabrera lined a single to right field. It’s something he has done so many times in his career. This one was special for him, his teammates, and the Tigers' fans, especially those who were at Comerica Park on Saturday. This was his 3,000th hit. Cabrera became the 33rd player in MLB history to join the 3,000 Hit Club. He is one of seven players in MLB history to have 3,000 hits and 500 home runs. He joins Hank Aaron and Willie Mays as the only players in MLB history to have 3,000 hits, 500 home runs, and a .300 batting average. Congratulations, Miguel Cabrera! What’s Next? The Twins will finish their series at home against the White Sox at Target Field at 1:10 pm. The Twins will send right-hander Chris Archer (0-0, 2.16 ERA) to the mound. The White Sox will counter with Lucas Giolito, who will be making his first start of the season. He has been out with an abdominal injury. On Tuesday, he threw about 50 pitches in a simulated game in Arizona, so he could potentially throw 70-75 pitches on Sunday. For the record, I am also OK with 9-2 wins. Maybe another tomorrow? Postgame Interviews Bullpen Usage Spreadsheet TUE WED THU FRI SAT TOT Pagán 0 0 9 34 0 43 Stashak 0 21 0 0 22 43 Thielbar 0 15 0 0 22 37 Romero 30 0 0 0 IL 30 Jax 0 0 0 29 0 29 Duffey 15 0 0 13 0 28 Coulombe 0 0 0 0 28 28 Smith 2 0 16 0 0 18 Duran 0 0 15 0 0 15 Winder 0 0 0 0 0 0
  18. Early in the year, there’s often the excuse that weather is a culprit for lackluster offensive performance. That’s certainly a fair suggestion, but it’s far too generalized to sum everything up with that easy of a pass. This offseason, the Twins front office added one of the best free agents in baseball, and while Carlos Correa will likely get going, he hasn’t anchored a lineup looking to produce. Scoring just 41 runs in 13 games, Minnesota is averaging just over three runs per contest. No matter how strong the starting pitching has been (they rank 8th in baseball in terms of ERA) or how bad the bullpen has been (they rank 27th in baseball in terms of ERA), the reality is that type of production leaves little room for error. Minnesota is 4-0 when scoring at least four runs this season, but having scored less than that in eight contests is why they’re being doubled up in the loss column. For Rocco Baldelli’s club, it’s not as though there’s a single culprit either. Looking up and down the lineup, no player save for Luis Arraez is producing. Byron Buxton was off to a torrid start before going down with a knee injury. Returning to the lineup, there’s still a 10/1 K/BB he’ll be looking to even out and push the on-base percentage north. It was expected that Alex Kirilloff would be a regular contributor to the lineup this season. However, his lingering wrist injury still hasn’t figured itself out, and the path of a cortisone shot is one that only provided a temporary fix last season. Minnesota’s .195 average as a team sits 27th in baseball, ahead of only the Cincinnati Reds and Arizona Diamondbacks. They see a slight boost to 23rd when looking at on-base percentage, and despite being a team capable of doing significant damage, they rank just 24th in terms of slugging. To say things are bad right now would be putting it lightly. However, there has to be hope on the horizon, and if there is, that comes in terms of process driving results. The Twins lineup currently produces the highest hard-hit rate in baseball at 36.7%. They avoid ground balls, hitting them just 38.7% of the time, which ranks 27th in baseball. There’s room for growth in terms of the HR/FB (home run/fly ball) rate and line-drive rate. Minnesota ranks in the bottom third of the sport in both areas. Despite being seen as a homer-happy club, it’s also important to note that the Twins are doing a decent job in the batter’s box regarding plate discipline. Their chase rate ranks in the middle of the sport, and while the whiff rate is 10th, they aren’t egregiously bad on an island by themselves. In short, there should be a light at the end of this tunnel. If it’s unfair to suggest that the weather is the main culprit here, it’s probably also unfair to suggest that 12 games indicate what’s to come. The reality is this lineup has far too much talent to stay down for a considerable amount of time. They are all going through it simultaneously, but one person breaking out could undoubtedly provide a spark for the rest of the group. When the dust settles on the 2022 season, I’d bet handsomely on the pitching taking a back seat to where the lineup is in terms of production. Winning baseball games by scoring three runs or less is a daunting task. The guys in the clubhouse know that, and getting it going needs to happen soon. After feeling good about the bats up and down the order this spring, the hope is that sentiment returns soon.
  19. There’s no way that it happened again. Most fans had to be thinking after watching Buxton slide into second base at Fenway Park. He slapped the ground in frustration and walked off the field under his own power, but it would mean more missed time for Buxton with an offense that has struggled to start 2022. So, what can the Twins do with their star center fielder? Injuries have been part of Byron Buxton’s story throughout his professional career. Minnesota has already tried various techniques to keep Buxton healthy, including altering his jumping technique at the wall and positioning him deeper in the outfield. Those strategies may have helped him avoid some injuries, but every game he misses is value he isn’t providing to the Twins. Shifting Buxton to a more regular designated hitter role is a unique idea that deserves some exploration. Alex Fast is a VP at Pitcher List and he creates content for ESPN and MLB Network. He has over 26.1 K follows on Twitter, so he is certainly a voice that many listen to in the baseball world. However, many Twins fans may have been a little stunned by his suggestion over the weekend. Buxton doesn’t have any structural damage to his knee, and the team hopes he can avoid an IL trip. One way to get him back into the line-up is to have him serve as DH. Minnesota utilized this strategy in recent years with Josh Donaldson and his aging legs. Nick Gordon is undoubtedly a defensive downgrade, but Buxton in the line-up is more valuable than having him on the bench. On the surface, this might seem like a logical solution, but many of Buxton’s recent injuries have occurred while on offense. His knee injury resulted from him stretching a single into a double. Last season, he broke his hand on a hit by pitch and suffered through some hamstring issues. While his hamstrings may benefit from less time in the outfield, these other injuries are still likely to occur when he serves in a DH role. Buxton has never played a game at the DH position in his career. It may seem easy to slide a player into that spot, but it can be a difficult transition for some hitters. Not playing on the defensive side can take focus off the game and make it harder for a hitter to lock in when it is time to step into the batter’s box. Buxton may be able to handle the transition, but he’s passionate about his defensive ability and the value he provides the team in center field. While Buxton’s bat is elite, he provides so much value on the defensive side of the ball. This season, even in limited action, he ranks in the 95th percentile for Outs Above Average (OAA). Since 2016, he has compiled 60 OAA even with his time missed due to injury. He is arguably baseball’s best defensive center fielder. Gordon has showcased some defensive versatility during his big-league career, but he is a significant downgrade in centerfield, especially since he just started playing the position in 2021. Playing centerfield is one of baseball’s most taxing defensive positions, so allowing Buxton a respite from the outfield may get him back into the line-up. However, this seems like a short-term solution while the Twins are looking for a long-term answer for Buxton’s injury woes. When on the field, Buxton plays with an all-out effort that separates him from many other big-league players. Unfortunately, this has resulted in a myriad of injuries, and it might be time for the team to take a new approach. Do you think shifting Buxton to a more regular DH role would keep him in the line-up? Leave a COMMENT and start the discussion.
  20. Last Week's Game Results: Game 4 | MIN 4, SEA 0: Twins Split Series Behind Bundy Game 5 | LAD 7, MIN 2: Bullpen Collapses in Rainy Affair Game 6 | LAD 7, MIN 0: Kershaw Perfect as Dodgers Dominate Game 7 | MIN 8, BOS 4: Ryan Spoils Fenway Home Opener Game 8 | BOS 4, MIN 0: Bats Go Quiet Again in Boston Game 9 | BOS 8, MIN 1: Another Bullpen Meltdown Leads to Blowout Weekly Snapshot: Mon, 4/11 through Sun, 4/17 *** Record Last Week: 2-4 (Overall: 3-6) Run Differential Last Week: -15 (Overall: -11) Standing: 5th Place in AL Central (3.0 GB) NEWS & NOTES I tried knocking on wood last week when I mentioned that the Twins had entered the season with a relatively clean bill of health. We all knew it wouldn't work. Unsurprisingly, things took a quick turn on the injury front. On Tuesday, Jorge Alcalá was placed on IL with elbow inflammation – an ominous early sign for the right-hander, whose velocity had been noticeably down all spring from 2021. Griffin Jax joined the bullpen in his place. One day later, the Twins placed Alex Kirilloff on the shelf while revealing that his right wrist issues from last year are persisting, despite undergoing surgery nine months ago. Trevor Larnach, off to a brutal start in Triple-A following his second-half spiral last season, was the choice to replace Kirilloff on the roster. Also on Wednesday, the team designated reliever Jharel Cotton and added Dereck Rodriguez to the 40-man roster. It was a puzzling move to say the least; the Twins claimed Cotton very early in the offseason and essentially had him locked into their bullpen picture all along. He looked pretty good in his first two appearances, although he did struggle with control in the cold on Tuesday night. Exposing him to waivers so hastily, in order to add a fungible journeyman? It's weird. We'll see if Cotton makes it through and sticks around. Friday and Saturday brought the season's biggest scares on the injury front, although thankfully it appears that the Twins avoided seriously bad outcomes on either front. First, Byron Buxton hurt his knee while sliding awkwardly into second in the series opener in Boston. Optically it was horrifying. He slammed the ground in frustration and instantly removed himself from the game instantly. But in a rare showing of mercy from the injury gods, scans showed no structural damage and Buxton is only expected to return this week. Saturday's game saw Sonny Gray, the front office's biggest offseason addition to the rotation, pull himself in the second inning. It turned out he was bothered by a sore hamstring, and although Gray – unlike Buxton – didn't avoid the injured list (Cody Stashak was activated in his stead), there's optimism his stay there will be short. In the meantime, adapting the rotation to his absence will be easy, since the Twins can simply go back to a standard five-man setup. HIGHLIGHTS Early returns on Minnesota's buy-low free agency gambles in the rotation are quite good. As far as first impressions go, you can't do much better than Dylan Bundy and Chris Archer in their Twins debuts. Bundy shut down the Mariners on Monday night with five innings of one-hit ball, allowing just one hit and one walk. Although he could hardly be described as "dominant," generating six whiffs and two strikeouts against 18 hitters, the righty was efficient and effective. He threw 47 of 67 pitches for strikes, and easily could've given the Twins another inning or two with a full spring build-up. The next night, Archer delivered four shutout innings against an imposing Dodgers lineup – a performance made to look even more impressive by the way said lineup decimated the rest of the Twins pitching staff. Like Bundy, Archer's performance was more workmanlike than overpowering, as he registered five swinging strikes on 63 pitches. But his two biggest downfalls from the last two seasons – walks and home runs – were nowhere to be seen. Archer kept the ball in the yard and issued no free passes while flashing impressive velocity. If even one of these first glimpses is indicative of what's to come, that's a HUGE development for this year's rotation. Speaking of big developments for the rotation, Joe Ryan was absolutely dazzling in his second start of the season, silencing Boston's imposing lineup over six innings of one-run ball. Leaning heavily on his underrated slider, Ryan piled up seven strikeouts on 16 swings and misses. He walked no one and threw an exceptional 73% of his 82 pitches for strikes. A tremendously encouraging performance. Rounding out a strong week for the starting corps was Bailey Ober, who tossed six innings on Sunday with just two unearned runs allowed. Altogether, Twins starters have posted a 3.12 ERA with just 29 hits and 11 walks allowed in 40 ⅓ innings – and this while facing some pretty dang good opponents. LOWLIGHTS The bullpen has been a mixed bag so far, but the low points have been costly and alarming. The last thing you want is a relief unit that allows things to spiral out of control suddenly, and we saw it happen twice for this group in the last week alone. Both of these incidents involved Caleb Thielbar. On Tuesday, he and Jhon Romero combined for an eighth-inning meltdown that saw the Dodgers push across six runs on five hits and two walks. On Sunday, Thielbar was charged with four earned runs on four hits while recording just one out, ballooning his ERA to 23.63. That's a smidge lower than the 27.00 ERA that Stashak finds himself with, after coughing up two runs on three hits in two-thirds of an inning after replacing Thielbar. Stashak posted a 6.89 ERA in 15 ⅔ innings last year and after this disastrous 2022 debut, it's worth wondering if Cotton was the right guy to jettison. Wednesday was another tough day for the pen, with Rodriguez and Jax giving up a combined four runs in five innings following an inauspicious debut from Chris Paddack (4 IP, 3 ER). Meanwhile the bats flailed away against Clayton Kershaw, who was perfect through seven innings before departing. In general, this was an egregiously rough week for the offense, which got shut out twice in six games and has blown away the franchise record for fewest hits ever through nine games. Basically everyone is taking part in the struggles: Miguel Sanó went 2-for-20 last week. He did coax five walks while hitting his first home run, but Sanó's season is off to an abjectly awful start, especially when you account for the blatant sloppiness on defense at first base. Max Kepler went 4-for-24 and is batting .167 through nine games. He looks the same as always – extremely pull-heavy and easily subdued by defensive shifts. The lack of evolution is frustrating. Nonetheless, he batted cleanup on Sunday. Carlos Correa, the shining prize of Minnesota's offseason, has yet to find any rhythm at the plate. After going 2-for-20 last week, he's now batting .133 with a .512 OPS and 39% K-rate on the season. Too early to cast any judgment but he's off to a dreadful start for the new club. Gio Urshela went 3-for-16 with no extra-base hits and no walks. He's now got more GIDP (2) than XBH (1) this year. Ryan Jeffers and Gary Sanchez were a combined 5-for-31 (.161) with two walks and 16 strikeouts. By the way, Mitch Garver has a .382 OBP with the Rangers and is regularly batting third or fourth for them. Realistically, this team's success was always going to depend on a strong offense supporting a solid yet unspectacular pitching staff. The latter has mostly been doing its part, despite some hiccups from the bullpen, but the bats are not holding up their end. In five of Minnesota's six losses, they have essentially give the team no chance to win by scoring two runs or fewer. If this continues ... well, it's scary to think about. TRENDING STORYLINE Is the Justin Upton dream dead? It sure feels that way, now that the Twins have made a roster move to bring in Kyle Garlick while making no reported inroads with the free agent, who is available to sign anywhere. It's odd how few rumblings there have been since Upton cleared waivers last week. Is he just going to retire (or at least take the year off) and count the millions he'll make anyway? I could hardly blame him. One thing is for sure: with Kirilloff's status in limbo and the Minnesota offense falling on its face out of the gate, any kind of legitimate external boost would be welcome. LOOKING AHEAD After closing out another wraparound weekend series in Boston on Monday morning (ALERT: 10:10 AM CT start time), Minnesota will get a welcome respite from the challenging early slate with three games in Kansas City against the 3-5 Royals. Then the Twins return home for a crucial early-season series against the division-favorite White Sox. If the coming week goes well, it'll do a ton to alleviate the valid early concerns from fans who still feel sour after the disappointment of 2021. If it goes poorly? Hoo boy. MONDAY, 4/18: TWINS @ RED SOX – RHP Dylan Bundy v. LHP Rich Hill TUESDAY, 4/19: TWINS @ ROYALS – RHP Chris Archer v. LHP Daniel Lynch WEDNESDAY, 4/20: TWINS @ ROYALS – RHP Chris Paddack v. RHP Zack Greinke THURSDAY, 4/21: TWINS @ ROYALS – RHP Joe Ryan v. RHP Brad Keller FRIDAY, 4/22: WHITE SOX @ TWINS – RHP Vince Velasquez v. RHP Bailey Ober SATURDAY, 4/23: WHITE SOX @ TWINS – LHP Dallas Keuchel v. RHP Dylan Bundy SUNDAY, 4/24: WHITE SOX @ TWINS – RHP Jimmy Lambert v. RHP Chris Archer
  21. Box Score Starting Pitcher: Joe Ryan, 6.0 IP, 5 H, 1 ER, 0 BB, 7 K (82 pitches, 60 strikes, 73.1%) Home Runs: Miguel Sanó (1) Top 3 WPA: Joe Ryan (.189), Miguel Sanó (.170), Luis Arráez (.109) Win Probability Chart (via FanGraphs) Twins lose Buxton early but score four runs on five hits It was an eventful start to the game for Minnesota. Eight pitches into the first inning, Byron Buxton left the game with an apparent leg injury. He popped up to shallow left, and when Boston’s defense couldn’t make the play because of the sun, he sprinted and slid into second when the injury occurred. He immediately headed to the dugout and was replaced by Nick Gordon. On the brighter side of the inning, Luis Arráez snapped an 0-for-7 funk with a liner to center, and yet again, the Red Sox defense couldn’t take care of it, allowing Gordon to score the game’s first run easily. Even though Jorge Polanco drew a walk, helping to drive Nick Pivetta’s pitch count to 26, Minnesota had to settle for the one run in the first. But that wouldn’t last long. After Joe Ryan cruised through the bottom first on only eight pitches, striking out two and throwing strikes on every pitch, the offense ambushed Pivetta, scoring three runs on three hits. After Trevor Larnach drew a one-out walk, Miguel Sanó followed with a moon shot that went over the ‘green monster’ to make it 3-0 Twins. That was his first base hit of the season. Could his biggest early-season problem be the cold weather? Later on, Gordon singled to center with two outs, only to be brought home in the following at-bat by an Arráez double, making it 4-0 Minnesota. That’s the second multi-hit game for Luis this season. Closing out the inning with 54 pitches, Pivetta was done after two. Alex Verdugo got Boston a run back in the bottom of the second with a solo homer to center. Ryan looks excellent through six; the offense adds on After a somewhat shaky opening day start, Ryan looked superb today at Fenway. Boston hitters simply couldn’t figure him out, especially his slider, which produced whiffs 47% of the time in the first five innings. He also managed to get out of jams during the fourth and fifth innings when Boston had two runners on in each of them. In the meantime, he got even more run support from the bats. Carlos Correa and Polanco reached on a walk and a single to open the fifth inning, and both of them scored on a Gary Sánchez ground ball, making it 6-1 Minnesota. With those two runs batted in, Sánchez now has more RBI against Boston than any other team in the majors. Ryan continued his fantastic outing with a 1-2-3 sixth, shredding through Red Sox hitting with his off-speed offerings. By the end of the inning, he had produced an astonishing 19 swinging strikes, a career-high for him. Overall, 40% of his pitches were either called strikes or swinging strikes. Duran breaks Twitter, Boston’s rally comes up short Jhoan Duran took over once Ryan departed, and he baffled local fans and media with an incredible seventh inning. He retired the side on eight pitches which averaged 98.2 MPH and touched 102 MPH. His performance drew the attention of several national media accounts on Twitter. Boston got to him during the eighth, scoring three runs. Jackie Bradley Jr. hit a leadoff double and was pushed across a couple of at-bats later by a Kike Hernandez double. Then, Rafael Devers followed that with a two-run home run to the corner right, cutting the Twins lead in half. Duran cooled down and struck out the final two batters to end the inning. With the Red Sox getting dangerously close, Minnesota needed some insurance runs. Reliever Matt Barnes retired Arráez to open the top of the ninth, but he gave up a couple of walks against the following two batters. The Twins cashed in on both of those walks, first with a Max Kepler single and then with a slow groundout from Larnach with the bases loaded, bringing the lead back to four. Emilio Pagán came in to pitch the bottom of the ninth, and he threw a clean 1-2-3 inning to secure the win. What’s Next? For game two on Saturday, the Twins turn to Sonny Gray, who is set to face Boston’s Tanner Houck. The first pitch is scheduled for 3:10 pm CDT. Postgame Interview Bullpen Usage Spreadsheet MON TUE WED THU FRI TOT Duran 11 0 0 0 34 45 Thielbar 19 18 0 0 0 37 Romero 0 34 0 0 0 34 Pagán 0 20 0 0 11 31 Winder 0 28 0 0 0 28 Jax 0 0 22 0 0 22 Smith 19 3 0 0 0 22 Coulombe 0 14 0 0 0 14 Duffey 14 0 0 0 0 14
  22. The assumption is that Larnach will presumably become the Twins new regular left fielder. But maybe the Twins need to take a closer look at the recently-released Justin Upton. Upton was DFA'd by the Angels last week and cleared waivers earlier this week. The Angels are on the hook for the remainder of his contract. If Upton wants to play major league baseball, he could potentially do it for the Twins for the pro-rated league minimum ($700k). It doesn't take a math genius to figure out that Upton isn't particularly good in left field, nearly every number being preceded by a minus sign tells that story. Of course, having Byron Buxton helping patrol the outfield next to him should help. The other issue, of course, is that if Upton isn't great in the field, he should at least make up for it with his bat, right? Well, you'd hope, but that hasn't been great either. Since his age-31 season in 2019, Upton has put together three straight sub-.730 OPS seasons. But they aren't even full seasons, they're more like Byron Buxton seasons, playing in a combined 194 games, with last year's 89 being a three-year high. So what could Upton provide? He could be an option as a right-handed bat in an outfield that needs it. Maybe you believe in Kyle Garlick. Or maybe you think Gilberto Celestino should fill a part-time role instead of going to St. Paul to play every day. But maybe you think Upton can be worth a look, knowing that you can move on at any time without it being a huge loss. Justin Upton slashed .219/.265/.531 (.796 OPS) in 64 at-bats in 2020 and .225/.355/.483 (.838 OPS) in 89 at-bats against lefties in 2021. Both of those are well off his career .259/.359/.493 (.852 OPS) line, but if believing that Gary Sanchez can benefit from the change of scenery by getting out of the bright lights of New York, can't we believe the same thing about Upton getting out from the terrible contract and underwhelming performance in Los Angeles?
  23. Sa-No Go? At the end of the 2021 season, Miguel Sano seemed to have found a rhythm and confidence in his swing. He finished the season with 30 home runs and 75 RBIs. Spring training fans seemed to get their hopes up as Sano seemed to be in the same form that he was in last season and hitting home runs like it was nothing. In the season-opening series, Sano struggled at the plate. In the four-game series with the Mariners, Sano had 16 plate appearances and went 0-for-13 with three walks and six strikeouts. . While we consider a truncated spring training, hitting off Double-A and Triple-A pitchers, other players in the line-up were getting multiple hits by the third regular-season game. Sano is 0-for-13 and Alex Kiriloff is just 1-for-15 so far. While it's still early in the season and only 16 plate appearances, fans are unsure that Sano has what it takes to be a productive part of this team in the lineup offensively. Yes, he gets on base, but is that enough? In an interview with Phil Miller from the Star Tribune, Rocco Baldelli explained that he feels differently. He feels there are too few at-bats to go off of and that Sano has been working hard at laying off bad pitches. That is true, and he does seem to have more plate discipline; maybe he's just getting another slow start. His defense has been outstanding to start, so maybe we just need to trust Rocco on this one. We have pitching For the first time in four baseball seasons, I feel good about the pitching. The pitching has been impressive thus far, and rookie Joe Ryan did not disappoint in his first Opening Day start. He seemed to settle down after getting over his first-inning jitters and giving up two runs. He had four strikeouts. In Game 2, Sonny Gray had his Twins debut and matched Joe Ryan with four strikeouts and two runs. Sonny, like Ryan, was pulled early, leaving fans frustrated again with another managerial decision by Rocco. Both pitchers are solid starters and have strong fastballs that make hitters chase. They both have a strong command of the mound and control of the strike zone. When looking back at the games, compared to Bailey Ober, both pitchers held the Mariners to two runs in five innings, which isn't too bad for a new guy and a rookie. Even if some are frustrated with Rocco pulling the starters early, the Twins have a strong bullpen. The bullpen has players from trades, rookies, and everything in between: like Jorge Alcala, Caleb Thielbar, and Jharel Cotton. They all gave fans impressive performances and a lot of confidence in our bullpen and, oddly, our front office. New reliever Jhoan Duran (affectionately known as "Durantula" or "Hurricane") has become a fan favorite with his nasty pitches. In the three innings pitched in the series, Duran's velocity was over 101 MPH. With Taylor Rogers going to the Padres and Tyler Duffey struggling in game two, Duran is a very welcome addition to the bullpen and could be a solid contender for a closer. The front office continues to surprise us with their trades and acquisitions to bolster the pitching staff. The Twins may not have the ace we are looking for in our starters, but we certainly have the depth and ability to move players around to keep us in contention until we do. These bats are on fire Not only was the weather for opening day chilly, but so were the bats. As the weather warmed up, so did the bats. By game three of the series against Seattle, the players were making contact. The first person to bring life to a game was Gio Urshela. Urshela seemed a little unsure in spring training, but it didn't take him long to find his stride in Minnesota, leading with the first Minnesota Twins home run of the season in game one. Over the next three games, other hitters quickly followed suit: Luis Arraez, Max Kepler, Carlos Correa, and Byron Buxton, who hit his second-fastest home run at 112.3 MPH. Gary Sanchez, who came over with Gio Urshela in the Yankee trade, left many Twins fans with negative feelings and doubted his position on this team. Sanchez wasted no time getting to work to show us that he indeed is an asset and has a lot to offer this lineup as the designated hitter. In-game one, Sanchez swung often and swung hard. With the crowd cheering his name in the bottom of the ninth, Sanchez fell short in the last hit of the game, thinking he hit a home run, accompanied by a bat-flip. Unfortunately, because of the cold weather, the ball did not carry as far as not only Gary thought but the entire stadium and both teams. In the third game, Sanchez didn't come up short of a home run when he hit a grand slam to give the Twins a five-run lead over the Mariners, with a very well-earned bat flip. It seems that the Bomba Squad may be back in action! Come back for more Top Three Takes after each series!
  24. Last Week's Game Recaps: Game 1 | SEA 2, MIN 1: Robbie Ray Silences Twins Bats in Opener Game 2 | SEA 4, MIN 3: Duffey's Blown Save Spoils Buxton Heroics Game 3 | MIN 10, SEA 4: Power Bats Detonate in Blowout Win Weekly Snapshot: Fri, 4/8 through Sun, 4/10 *** Record Last Week: 1-2 (Overall: 1-2) Run Differential Last Week: +4 (Overall: +4) Standing: T-2nd Place in AL Central (1.0 GB) NEWS & NOTES The Twins came into this 2022 season with a remarkably clean bill of health (knocks on wood). Randy Dobnak and Cody Stashak both opened on the injured list, but neither was a key part of the team's plans. For the most part everyone seems to be in good shape, including some pitchers who loomed as question marks coming in. Let's hope this trend continues. Early-season injury woes played a huge role in tanking the '21 season in April and May. HIGHLIGHTS The new guys are making strong first impressions. In Friday's season opener, Gio Urshela put the Twins on the board for the first time in 2022 with a solo homer off of Robbie Ray. On Saturday, pitching staff newcomers Sonny Gray, Joe Smith and Jharel Cotton combined to allow two runs over 6 ⅔ innings. Emilio Pagán added a scoreless frame with two strikeouts in his Twins debut on Sunday. Gary Sánchez came just a few feet short of introducing himself to fans with a walk-off home run on Friday, but he didn't miss two days later when he launched a first-inning grand slam to the third deck, opening up a huge early lead for the Twins. Minnesota's flashiest new addition, Carlos Correa, has already shown what he can do with the bat, launching a 458-foot moonshot as part of Sunday's homer barrage, and we've also seen his defensive prowess in action several times. He played a key role in the weekend's finest highlight in the field – a perfect relay throw to gun down the go-ahead run at home plate on Sunday afternoon. As impressive as all these acquisitions were, one thing is clear: It's Byron Buxton's world, and everyone else is just living in it. The newly locked up face of the franchise started his season with a brief quiet spell, going hitless in his first seven at-bats, and then rattled off three straight home runs. The first of them, a go-ahead two-run homer in the eighth inning on Saturday night, should've lifted the team to victory. It was another entry in a shocking and depressing saga of Twins teams spoiling signature Buxton moments, but watching him scream into the dugout after unloading on that pitch was awesome nonetheless. Buxton's two dingers on Sunday helped set the tone for a bomba breakout, with the Twins piling up five homers in a route of the Mariners. But the explosiveness this weekend wasn't limited to the plate. Jhoan Duran made his big-league debut on the mound in Friday's opener, and he lived up to the billing. The 24-year-old showed remarkable poise, allowing the first two batters he faced to reach base on singles before bearing down and striking out four straight, all swinging. He finished with two scoreless innings, keeping the deficit at one and giving the Twins a chance at a late comeback. If Duran can stay healthy he's going to be a pivotal weapon at the back of this bullpen, that's clear. LOWLIGHTS It didn't take long for the Twins to feel the loss of their best reliever. On Saturday, a dramatic late home run gave Minnesota a one-run lead going into the ninth. In a spot where he would've normally loved to go to his longtime bullpen stalwart Taylor Rogers, Rocco Baldelli turned instead to his next most-tenured reliever. It didn't go well. Making his season debut, Duffey quickly coughed up the lead, allowing two runs on three hits. He frankly looked terrible, inducing just one swinging strike on 18 pitches. The blown save felt very familiar to last year's Alex Colomé experience, not just in terms of results, but even stylistically: ugly pitches out over the plate in key spots. Duffey has a lost a ton of juice since his peak in 2019, when he was one of the league's most dominant relievers. Back then he averaged 94 MPH with his fastball; on Saturday, he maxed out at 93.5 and usually worked in the 91-92 range. His mid-80s knuckle curve didn't looked very sharp. So far this has all the makings of another step downward in Duffey's regression. If it continues, hopefully Baldelli takes notice and adjusts the bullpen hierarchy accordingly. Duffey should not be getting critical high-leverage looks merely because of his experience and tenure. There are much better arms in this pen right now. Offensively, it's hard to complain much about a weekend that saw the Twins tally 14 runs with nine homers in three games, but once again this lineup is looking a bit too dependent on the long ball for run-scoring. It'd be nice to see a bit more rally action from, and that'll require some of the laggards to get going. Those include Alex Kirilloff (0-for-11) and Miguel Sanó (0-for-10). TRENDING STORYLINE The Twins bench is in flux. The team chose to carry Gilberto Celestino as fourth outfielder out of camp, but this is clearly a temporary arrangement. There's little doubt the team is angling for free agent Justin Upton, who cleared waivers over the weekend after being released by the Angels in late spring. Upton is a far cry from the star commodity of his heyday, but he's a nice fit on this Twins roster as an experienced corner outfielder who can still mash left-handed pitching. Although he struggled overall last year with a .705 OPS, Upton did slash .22/.355/.483 against lefties and has an .852 career OPS against them. He would also add ANOTHER first overall draft pick to an organization that already has Correa, Tim Beckham and Royce Lewis on hand. The Twins certainly aren't alone in their interest in Upton, now that he's free from his big contract in LA. I suspect we'll find out one way or another by early this week. If the team is unable to land the veteran, they'll likely swap out Celestino for Kyle Garlick, which would require a 40-man move. LOOKING AHEAD A tough week lies ahead for the Twins, who will wrap up their four-game series against Seattle on Monday before welcoming the star-studded Los Angeles Dodgers to Target Field for a short midweek series. From there, it's a day off on Thursday followed by a trip to Fenway for four games against the Red Sox. Over the next three days, we'll get a look at the back half of Minnesota's rebuilt rotation, with new additions Dylan Bundy, Chris Archer and Chris Paddack starting in consecutive games. It'll be interesting to see where Rocco goes with the rotation after that. MONDAY, 4/11: MARINERS @ TWINS – RHP Chris Flexen v. RHP Dylan Bundy TUESDAY, 4/12: DODGERS @ TWINS – TBD v. RHP Chris Archer WEDNESDAY, 4/13: DODGERS @ TWINS – RHP Walker Buehler v. RHP Chris Paddack FRIDAY, 4/15: TWINS @ RED SOX – RHP Joe Ryan v. RHP Nick Pivetta SATURDAY, 4/16: TWINS @ RED SOX – RHP Sonny Gray v. RHP Tanner Houck SUNDAY, 4/17: TWINS @ RED SOX – RHP Bailey Ober v. RHP Michael Wacha
  25. Box Score SP: Bailey Ober 5 IP, 4 H, 4 ER, 2 BB, 4 K (79 pitches, 48 strikes (60.7 strike %)) Home Runs: Byron Buxton 2 (3), Gary Sanchez (1), Max Kepler (1), Jorge Polanco (1), Carlos Correa (1) Top 3 WPA: Gary Sanchez (.228), Byron Buxton (.127), Max Kepler (0.75) Win Probability Chart (via FanGraphs) Byron Buxton was the star at the plate on Sunday hitting a leadoff home run in the bottom of the first to put the Twins up 1-0. Buxton then made it three consecutive at-bats with a home run in the bottom of the second which earned a curtain call of MVP chants from the crowd. Buxton’s second home run gave the Twins a 6-0 lead. Gary Sanchez made his first start of the season behind the plate today and after almost giving the Twins an Opening Day victory with a fly ball that fell a few feet short of the left field bleachers. Sanchez crushed a grand slam in the bottom of the first to make it a 5-0 game and show the left field bleachers will be a common landing spot for his hits. In the bottom of the seventh, Sanchez tagged his fifth RBI of the game with a two out double to right center that scored his former Yankee teammate Gio Urshela and gave the Twins a 10-4 lead. Bailey Ober made his first start for the 2022 season. Ober struggled in the first inning throwing 27? pitches , walking Jesse Winker and giving up a double to Mitch Haniger. Following a rocky first inning, Ober had a one, two, three second inning that helped him cool off. Going into the third the Twins held a 6-0 lead for Ober but the Mariners bats came alive in the top half scoring four runs, three of which came from another Haniger home run. After giving up four runs in the third, Ober cooled off for his final two innings and kept the Mariners scoreless in the fourth and fifth. Correa continued his hot streak in the field. In the top of the first when it looked like Winker would score on Haniger’s double, Correa caught Alex Kirilloff’s relay throw and nailed a strike to Sanchez who tagged Winker out at home. After going hitless in his first three at bats, Correa joined in with Sanchez getting his first home run as a Twin on Sunday. Correa crushed a 83 MPH slider from Yohan Ramirez to the third deck of the left field bleachers making it a 9-4 Twins lead. In addition to the power hitting Buxton, Sanchez, and Correa showcased for Twins fans on Sunday. Max Kepler and Jorge Polanco also awoke at the plate hitting their first homers of the season. Polanco reached base a second time as well with a single. Sunday’s game showed that even with new faces on this 2022 squad, the Twins are still very much the Bomba Squad crushing six home runs after having only two from the season's first two games. Through the first three games, Buxton leads the team with three home runs. The Twins bullpen recovered from yesterday’s loss keeping the Mariners scoreless through the final four innings of the game. Danny Coulombe, Jorge Alcala, Emilio Pagan, and Jhon Romero combined for 3.2 IP, 3 H, 2 BB, 4 K, Pagan, making his season and team debut with the Twins, threw only ten pitches in a scoreless eighth, striking out two of three batters faced. Romero also made his season and team debut and threw 15 pitches giving up a hit and a walk in the ninth. What’s Next? The Twins will play their final game of this four-game series against the Mariners Monday night at 6:40 p.m. CT start time. Dylan Bundy will be making his 2022 Twins debut against the Mariners Chris Flexin. Postgame Interviews Bullpen Availability WED THU FRI SAT SUN TOT Coulombe 0 0 27 0 15 42 Alcalá 0 0 13 0 27 40 Duran 0 0 31 0 0 31 Cotton 0 0 0 20 0 20 Smith 0 0 0 20 0 20 Thielbar 0 0 0 18 0 18 Duffey 0 0 0 18 0 18 Romero 0 0 0 0 15 15 Pagán 0 0 0 0 10 10 Winder 0 0 0 0 0 0 Twins Daily’s own John Bonnes will be at today’s post game press conference and provide coverage, so check back over the next few hours. In the postgame interviews, we learned a little bit more about the key factor that got Ober back on track after that home run. “He seemed good,” said manager Rocco Baldelli. “He seemed kind of pissed off.” Ober confirmed that the home run really bugged him and helped him get more aggressive over his last couple of innings. Ober lasted five innings, and though he gave up four runs, three of them happened on the aforementioned pitch that he would surely like back. After managing his way through the first and second inning, he started the third giving up a double and a walk before a bloop single scored a run. A visit from pitching coach Wes Johnson followed and Ober went back to work. Ober lasted five innings, and though he gave up four runs, three of them happened on the aforementioned pitch that he would surely like back. After managing his way through the first and second inning, he started the third giving up a double and a walk before a bloop single scored a run. A visit from pitching coach Wes Johnson followed and Ober went back to work.
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