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  1. In an awful scene on the baseball field in Venezuela, a couple of former Minnesota Twins will likely face suspension. After Marlins pitcher Luis Madero, pitching for Lara, hit a batter with a pitch, benches cleared. As the teams were coming together, Willians Astudillo ran in from the third base line and sucker-punched Madero, clocking him in the head with a punch. Tomas Telis, the batter who was hit by the pitch and one of the Twins best Triple-A players since 2019, came in and kicked Madera while he was on the ground. Last week when the teams played, Madera was involved in another benches-clearing brawl. On Friday, the Twins announced that "La Tortuga" had been designated for assignment or release to make room on the team's 40-man roster. Since making a great first impression in 2018, Astudillo has not hit much for the Twins. It will be interesting to see if any other organizations had claimed Astudillo and how this event may alter those decisions. In eight games, Astudillo was hitting .281 for Caribes. His young brother, Wilfred, is also on the team. So is former Twins outfielder Oswaldo Arcia who, at 30, is hitting .143 through 14 games. Tomas Telis had played in 122 MLB games between 2014 and 2018 when he signed with the Twins. In 2019, he hit .330 for the Rochester Red Wings. He was at the Twins alternate site in 2020. He hit .296 with 12 homers for the St. Paul Saints this season. He already had over 100 plate appearances for Caribes when this happened and is hitting .435 with 12 doubles and three homers in 22 games. A quick twitter search for "Willians Astudillo" contains tweets in Spanish from baseball fans that are not supportive of Astudillo. Google Translate allows me to try to interpret what these fans are saying. Some simply write that they would like to see the league use Astudillo as an example and suspend him for a long time. Others have responded by saying things like Astudillo deserves a baseball to the head. One writes that Astudillo should face criminal charges, that this goes beyond "sports" saying he is a danger to others. Obviously this goes completely against the reputation that Astudillo had in the eyes and minds of most Twins fans. He was La Tortuga. He's got the big smile. He's always having fun. And, to throw out an opinion, it is likely that is the real Willians Astudillo and his actions from Friday night were a brief lapse in judgment. As we know, that is no excuse and still needs to have consequences. Will update if and when more information becomes available.
  2. Okay, let me start by saying this is an absolutely terrible idea. If you want a serious look at bullpen options for 2022, check out Jamie Cameron’s article from Friday on that very topic. Astudillo will never be seriously considered as a pitcher, partially because selling such a decision to the fanbase unironically would be impossible, but what if he was? What if he got a full sixty innings of relief work? As a primer, let’s look at Astudillo’s pitching numbers from 2021. He was given four opportunities to toe the rubber, all as a mop-up dude in blowout losses. In those four games, he pitched four full innings and allowed only one (rather infamous) run. That’s an ERA of 2.25, which is better than every actual reliever the Twins put out there this year except for four innings of Devin Smeltzer and 12 innings of Nick Vincent. Also, with only one hit allowed all year, Astudillo’s WHIP of .750 was second on the club, trailing only Smeltzer. On the other hand, having walked two and struck out exactly zero (0) hitters, Astudillo’s strikeouts per walk rate is in the mud (at 0.00), but, as Twins fans, we like to pretend that Wes Johnson can fix everything, so let’s assume he gets at least a strikeout every two innings out of Astudillo. Now, obviously, La Tortuga’s four innings pitched is a ridiculously small sample size, but if that’s the type of thing that bothers you, this may not be the article for you, because this entire flimsy argument is based on that small sample size. And, even with that said, we’ve seen position players be immediately terrible on the mound before, and the fact that Astudillo gave the Twins even just four innings of competence means something. With his stats settled (just don’t look at his FIP), let’s examine Astudillo’s stuff. According to FanGraphs, Willians has a fastball that sits in the low-80s, a seldom-used changeup in the low 60s and a heavily-used eephus that comes in at a bizarrely slow 45 miles per hour. Now he’s certainly not blowing up the radar gun, but he can throw each of these pitches for strikes (a remarkable skill) and pitchers have gotten Major League hitters out before with little velocity. Heck, Jamie Moyer’s fastball was tipping the scales at 78 mph when he was pitching real innings in the majors as a 49-year-old. The key is the difference in velocity between your fastest and slowest pitch. In Moyer’s autobiography, Just Tell Me I Can’t, he repeatedly mentioned that he aimed for a 10 mph difference between his fastball and changeup velocity. Well, check out Astudillo; he’s got a 35+ mph difference between his fastest and slowest pitch. This overlay shows you exactly what that looks like: I mean, these pitches cross the plate in completely different time zones. And, it’s not as if those are the only two pitches he throws. If that were the case, hitters could either sit on one or the other and smack the baseball into next week. But Astudillo can get the ball across the plate at virtually any velocity between 45mph and 85 mph, so hitters never really know when the pitch is going to cross. With this bizarre pitch arsenal, there is reason to believe that Astudillo would be unpredictable enough on the mound to have real success. Just check out this highlight tape: It’s clear that big league hitters just simply don’t know what to do with 45 mph over the middle, and then after seeing it a few times, Astudillo shows them the same delivery but fires it in at 72, which is suddenly way too fast to adjust to. Now, obviously, professional hitters would be able to adjust to Astudillo’s antics if he actually became a full-time reliever. The eephus surely wouldn’t be as effective the 100th time Astudillo threw it and his fastball might start to look like batting practice fodder more than anything else. But, given that Astudillo is the only guy in the league that pitches like he does, I’m just not sure hitters would be spending time preparing for the one at-bat a series they might get off him. And, even if they did, it might not matter. When you spend all your career preparing for—and all day hitting off of—high velocity, high spin rate guys, adjusting to hitting off Astudillo likely feels like playing a completely different sport. And that might be just enough to make him viable as a full-time reliever. Again, Falvey and Levine certainly won’t be able to trot out an Opening Day roster that has Astudillo as a pitcher, because, you know, we want the team to be good. However, if the team is going to be bad again—if we make it to July and Minnesota baseball is just as depressing as it was this year—I’d love to see him coming out of the bullpen on a regular basis. I only kind of believe he could do it, but if the Twins are going to be bad, I’d rather they be fun to watch. What do you think? Could La Tortuga actually do it? Let us know in the comments!
  3. WAR According to FanGraphs, the Twins have four players that have accumulated a negative WAR total in 2021. Gilberto Celestino ranks lowest with a -0.7 WAR, but that was expected for a player forced into the big leagues before he had significant time in the high minors. Brent Rooker is just slightly negative at -0.1 WAR, with most of his negative value coming on the defensive side of the ball. The other two players with negative WAR are polarizing for Twins fans. Willians Astudillo and Andrelton Simmons are tied with -0.5 WAR, but their path to those totals is entirely different. Simmons posts strong defensive numbers, and his offense has been atrocious. His -23.0 OFF ranking is the lowest on the team, and it’s more than double the next closest player. Astudillo doesn’t have a perfect defensive home, and his offensive skills are limited. He even has a negative WAR as a relief pitcher. On the mound, Matt Shoemaker accumulated a negative WAR in his time as a starter (-0.2 WAR) and as a reliever (-0.5 WAR). Griffin Jax, Beau Burrows, and Andrew Albers are all tied with a -0.3 WAR among players classified as starters. Minnesota’s bullpen has been a mess as 12 players have a negative WAR total. Randy Dobnak, Brandon Waddell, Hansel Robles, and Edgar Garcia all have a -0.3 WAR as relievers. WPA Four Twins players have accumulated a Win Probability Added of more than -0.75. Andrelton Simmons has been worth -3.03 WPA, which is the team’s lowest total. Trevor Larnach ranks the second lowest (-1.78 WPA), with all his negative value coming on the defensive side. Miguel Sano (-1.44), Willians Astudillo (-1.48), and Ryan Jeffers (-1.59) round out the bottom five when it comes to WPA among position players. Among pitchers, J.A. Happ was worth -1.87 WPA during his Twins tenure, and the Twins were still able to get something for him at the trade deadline. Randy Dobnak is in the middle of a terrible, horrible, no good, very bad season. His -1.42 WPA is the second-worst and ranks just below Griffin Jax (-1.23 WPA) and Alex Colome (-1.26 WPA). Surprisingly, Matt Shoemaker only has the tenth worst WPA among Twins pitchers. Ranking the Top-5 Least Valuable Twins 5. Willians Astudillo: He can certainly be entertaining, and his relief appearances have added some fun to a disappointing season. Overall, his lack of defensive home and low offensive ceiling put him on this list. 4. J.A. Happ: In 19 starts for the Twins, he accumulated a 6.20 ERA with a 1.53 WHIP and 100 strikeouts in 127 2/3 innings. Minnesota’s lack of pitching depth meant they had to keep trotting him out there. 3. Alex Colome: Colome would have topped this list in the early part of the season. However, he has been better lately (Editor's Note: For instance, he has recorded saves in four straight games), but it doesn’t take away from his disastrous start to the season. 2. Matt Shoemaker: Shoemaker didn’t cut it as a starter or a reliever. He claimed the Twins tried to make some adjustments during spring training that hurt his performance. 1. Andrelton Simmons: He ranks among baseball’s best defensive shortstops, which shows how inept his offense has been this year. His 57 OPS+ is 18 points lower than his previous career low. How would you rank these players? Leave a COMMENT and start the discussion MORE FROM TWINS DAILY — Latest Twins coverage from our writers — Recent Twins discussion in our forums — Follow Twins Daily via Twitter, Facebook or email
  4. Box Score Starting Pitcher: Jax 6.0 IP, 5 H, 3 R, 3 ER, 1 BB, 10 K Homeruns: Astudillo (6) Top 3 WPA: Astudillo .283, Colome .169, Duffey .124 Win Probability Chart (via FanGraphs) There was positive injury news for the Twins on Tuesday. Josh Donaldson returned to the lineup in the DH rule after hamstring tightness. Here’s how the Twins lined up against the White Sox. Additionally, there was a Byron Buxton sighting on the field during batting practice. The imminent return of Buxton will be a huge boon to a team looking to build on second-half of the season success stories. It was Griffin Jax who was the story for the Twins on Tuesday. The rookie set a career-high with ten strikeouts in six innings of work, including 14 swings and misses, both career highs. It was the Twins who jumped out to an early lead. Dallas Keuchel walk-loaded the bases in the first inning. A Luis Arraez single and Miguel Sano groundout gave the Twins a 2-0 lead after an inning. Arraez single raised his season average to .320. Combined with a wOBA of .344 and wRC+ of 119, the diminutive hitter has established himself as a premier contact hitter since his return from injury issues earlier in the season. The Twins lead quickly evaporated in the third inning. Griffin Jax made two mistakes in his six excellent innings, both were quickly dispatched for home runs by Adam Engel and Jose Abreu, giving the White Sox a 3-2 lead. Dallas Keuchel held the Twins in check after his early control issues, until the sixth inning. Keuchel made Willians Astudillo ‘bend the knee’, but not before La Tortuga deposited an inside pitch into the left-field bleachers, to restore the Twins lead at 4-3. The Twins bullpen continued its improved form, with scoreless innings from Jon Gant, Tyler Duffey, and Alexander Colome. The real story of the night, however, was Jax. Between Jax and Bailey Ober, the Twins have two effective starting pitchers who will battle for spots at the back of the 2022 starting rotation. Now that the Twins have given up the ghost of a playoff appearance in 2021, it’s time to look for reasons for optimism for 2022. One doesn’t have to look far. Bullpen Usage Chart FRI SAT SUN MON TUE TOT Barnes 0 0 0 68 0 68 Duffey 20 0 15 0 15 50 Gant 17 13 0 0 11 41 Colomé 17 0 18 0 10 35 Garcia 0 0 0 32 0 32 Minaya 17 0 12 0 0 29 Coulombe 14 0 7 0 0 21 Thielbar 0 20 0 0 0 20 Vincent 0 0 0 0 0 0 Postgame Interviews Next Up The Twins send Bailey Ober to the mound to face Lance Lynn on Wednesday. First pitch is at 12:10 CST.
  5. The Los Angeles Angels make their yearly visit to Target Field this weekend, meaning Twins fans will get to see the brilliant Shohei Ohtani. In the other clubhouse, Willians Astudillo returns from St. Paul to take Alex Kirilloff’s place on the roster. And that has some physicians worried. “Quite simply, if you’re in poor health or have underlying conditions, watching these games might be harmful,” said Dr. David Gorman, a heart specialist at Fairview Southdale. “The human body wasn’t meant to experience this much spectacle.” Ohtani, the American League’s starting pitcher in the All-Star Game, also leads the majors with 34 home runs, many of which involve him sending baseballs to hell, where they belong. Astudillo, while not nearly as accomplished a player as Ohtani, plays every game like a bowling ball filled with kerosene, set on fire, and rolled into a Williams-Sonoma. The combination of that much skill and abandon may be too much for some people. “What if Ohtani hits one that lands at, like, the Pizza Luce on 4th Street,” said Gorman. “Then the next inning Astudillo tries to stretch a single to a double? So many people skipped their regular check-ups in the last year or so that we have to be concerned about how the body will react.” Gorman said the true concern comes on Sunday. “The Angels haven’t announced their starting pitcher yet,” said Gorman. “What if they pencil in Ohtani, and the Twins send Astudillo to the plate? What if Astudillo hits a comebacker and they’re racing to the bag? Is that too much joy? You have to ask yourself if the risk is worth it. The teams could do it, but no one is asking if they should do it.”
  6. How Did We Get Here? On Monday night, the Twins were getting blown out by the White Sox in the ninth inning. So instead of wasting another bullpen arm, Rocco Baldelli turned to Willians Astudillo to finish out the game. This is the third time La Tortuga has been used as a pitcher and his second time so far in 2021. Fans that had stuck around until the end gave Astudillo a cheer as he headed to the bump. Yermin Mercedes was one of the players to step in against Astudillo and this is where the unwritten rules come into play. After working the count to 3-0, Mercedes clocked a 47.1 mph pitch for a home run. The unwritten rule that seemed to be broken was the fact that Mercedes swung at a 3-0 pitch when his team was up by 11 runs. Chicago’s manager Tony La Russa, a Hall of Famer with an old school mentality, was not too happy about Mercedes swinging away. The take sign had been put on by the third base coach and Mercedes decided to ignore it. La Russa told the press it was a “big mistake,” and he even took some steps out of the dugout so he could yell at his batter to take the pitch. La Russa went as far as to say that he or his third base coach will run out in front of the pitcher to stop this type of thing from happening again. On Tuesday, things went a step further. In the seventh inning, Tyler Duffey threw behind Mercedes in the seventh inning and he was promptly thrown out of the game. Twins manager Rocco Baldelli quickly came to the defense of his player and he was ejected along with Duffey. And so, the saga continued… What About the Unwritten Rules? An old school mentality would say the Twins upheld the unwritten rules by throwing near the offending player in the next game. Duffey didn’t throw near his head or with an intent to injury Mercedes. Minnesota was trailing by two at the time and came back to win, so maybe the baseball gods were rewarding the team for upholding the unwritten rules. That being said, it seemed like a foolish thing for the Twins to lose one of their best relievers in a close game, especially with how poorly the team had been playing. After the game, former Twin Lance Lynn had some interesting things to say about the baseball’s unwritten rules. "The more I play this game, the more those rules have gone away, and I understand it,” Lynn said. “The way I see it is, for position players on the mound, there are no rules. Let's get the damn game over with. And if you have a problem with whatever happens, then put a pitcher out there. Can't get mad when there's a position player on the field and a guy takes a swing." Lynn went on to say, “You're damned if you do, damned if you don't, it seems like. But I think everybody should just play the game as hard as they can and do all that, and don't worry about anything else." This seems like a mentality that both sides can agree with moving forward. Play the game hard and hopefully some of those unwritten rules will continue to go to the wayside. What are your thoughts on the unwritten rules? Leave a COMMENT and start the discussion. MORE FROM TWINS DAILY — Latest Twins coverage from our writers — Recent Twins discussion in our forums — Follow Twins Daily via Twitter, Facebook or email
  7. Pythagorean Winning Percentage One aspect that shows how the Twins have been unlucky is their Pythagorean winning percentage. For those unfamiliar, Pythagorean winning percentage is an estimate of a team’s winning percentage given their runs scored and runs allowed. For example, the Twins scored 269 runs in 2020 and allowed 215 runs, which results in a Pythagorean W-L record of 36-24. That also turned out to be the club’s overall record for the year. There are flaws with Pythagorean W-L record, especially if teams score a lot of runs in their wins and lose a lot of close games. Entering play on Monday, the Twins had scored 175 runs and allowed 195 runs. Based on those totals, their projected Pythagorean W-L record is 17-21 which is a four-win improvement compared to the team’s actual record. This points to the team being a little bit unlucky. RISP Minnesota’s struggles with runners in scoring position have been well documented this year, but how much of this can be tied to bad luck in clutch situations? Only one AL team, Tampa Bay (3.81 runners/game), has left more runners in scoring position per game than the Twins (3.76 runners/game). Obviously, some injuries have impacted the line-up (see below), but it’s hard for a team to recover if runs aren’t being scored because players are being left in scoring position. What’s most disturbing is the drop Minnesota took from 2020 to 2021. Last year, the Twins ranked as the best in all of baseball by averaging 2.60 runners left on per game. The closest team to the Twins last season was Pittsburgh and they finished 20 points behind Minnesota by season’s end. There can be some expected regression, but this is a big drop for a team from one season to the next. BABIP BAbip is another statistic that can point to luck impacting batters and pitchers. For those unfamiliar, BAbip measures how frequently non-home run batted balls fall for hits. League average is around .300 in a typical year. So far in 2021, Twins hitters have posted a .287 BAbip, which ranks 16th in all of baseball. Only eight clubs have posted a BAbip above .300 for the year as offense has been down for most of the league. On the pitching side, Minnesota’s hurlers have also posted a BAbip in the middle of the pack. For the year, the Twins rank 15th with a .286 BAbip. In all of baseball, seven teams have a BAbip total above .300. Two teams in the AL Central, Kansas City (2nd) and Detroit (11th), rank higher than the Twins in pitching BAbip. Sometimes bloop hits fall in, sometimes a dribbler gets by a fielder, and other times a fielder is positioned perfectly to make a catch on a hard hit ball. All those things can impact a team’s BAbip and a little luck ties into all of it. Injuries Injuries have been up across baseball and the Twins have seen some key players missing time. Byron Buxton was playing at an MVP level before his recent hip injury put him on the shelf. Alex Kirilloff was hitting the ball with authority to all parts of the field before suffering a wrist injury from sliding into second base. Both players were playing at a high level and taking them out of the middle of the line-up has certain had an effect. Over the weekend, there was even more injury news. Max Kepler (hamstring), Kenta Maeda (groin), and Willians Astudillo (hand) all left Sunday’s game with different ailments. This is on top of Jake Cave already being on the IL and Kyle Garlick playing through a groin injury. The injuries continue to mount, and health looks like it might impact the team throughout the 2021 campaign. Having a little more luck on the team’s side might get those players back and preforming at their highest level. Do you think the Twins have been unlucky this year? Leave a COMMENT and start the discussion. MORE FROM TWINS DAILY — Latest Twins coverage from our writers — Recent Twins discussion in our forums — Follow Twins Daily via Twitter, Facebook or email
  8. Catchers (3): Mitch Garver, Ryan Jeffers, Willians Astudillo Odd Man Out: None Garver and Jeffers have been locks to make the Opening Day roster since the 2020 season ended. Barring injury, Minnesota will rotate these two players throughout much of the season. Willians Astudillo hasn’t been on any previous version of the projected Opening Day roster, but the Twins have been hinting at him making the team. This includes signing Roberto Pena, a veteran catcher, to be a second catcher at Triple-A. Infielders (5): Miguel Sano, Jorge Polanco, Luis Arraez, Josh Donaldson, Andrelton Simmons Odd Man Out: None Like the catching group, the infielders have been virtually set since the Twins signed Andrelton Simmons. Polanco, Arraez, and even Sano can be used at multiple defensive positions, so it’s going to be interesting to see how creative Baldelli will be with his line-up construction. Astudillo can also fit into this group as he has shown plenty of defensive versatility throughout his Twins tenure. Outfield (4): Jake Cave, Byron Buxton, Max Kepler, Brent Rooker Odd Men Out: Kyle Garlick, Alex Kirilloff The biggest Twins news of the week was that Alex Kirilloff was sent to the alternate site after he had a rough spring at the plate. This leaves the Twins with one decision to make as far as the last outfielder to make the club. In recent spring line-ups, Baldelli has been using the trio of Buxton, Kepler, and Rooker as his starting outfield. This leaves Cave as the fourth outfielder and Garlick on the outside looking in. Garlick has been impressive this spring, but he has an option left and the Twins can use him as depth at Triple-A. Designated Hitter (1): Nelson Cruz Boomstick will be bashing homers into his 40s and Twins fans are along for the ride. Rotation (5): Kenta Maeda, Jose Berrios, Michael Pineda, J.A. Happ, Matt Shoemaker Odd Man Out: Randy Dobnak Dobnak isn’t going to be in the rotation to start the season, but that might not last for long. With his new and improved slider, Dobnak might be on track to be one of the AL’s biggest sleepers this season. Berrios may have made some adjustments to his fastball and that can be a scary proposition for hitters in the AL Central. Kenta Maeda will start on Opening Day in Milwaukee as he looks to build off his runner-up finish for the AL Cy Young. Bullpen (8): Taylor Rogers, Tyler Duffey, Alex Colome, Jorge Alcala, Hansel Robles, Caleb Thielbar, Randy Dobnak, Derek Law Odd Men Out: Shaun Anderson, Cody Stashak, Devin Smeltzer Anderson seemed like the type of player that might be able to fill the Matt Wisler type role on the club, but he was optioned to the minor league side. Smeltzer can fill multiple roles at Triple-A before being needed at the big-league level. Stashak and Law were vying for the last spot and Law’s strikeout filled spring put him over the top. Minnesota will also have the opportunity to use 14 pitchers at different times during the season, so some of the players at the bullpen’s back end will be shuffled back and forth between CHS Field and Target Field. Who do you think makes the Opening Day roster? Leave a COMMENT and start the discussion. MORE FROM TWINS DAILY — Latest Twins coverage from our writers — Recent Twins discussion in our forums — Follow Twins Daily via Twitter, Facebook or email
  9. Projected Starter: Mitch Garver Likely Backup: Ryan Jeffers Depth: Willians Astudillo, Tomás Telis Prospects: Ben Rortvedt THE GOOD Few teams have a starting catcher as good as Mitch Garver. No teams have a backup catcher as good as Ryan Jeffers – to the extent you'd call him a "backup" given this appears to be a straight 50/50 timeshare. The Twins are in a pretty optimal situation with two starting-caliber catchers on hand. Although questions marks surround both Garver and Jeffers to some extent, each backstop has proven his mettle in the majors after stepping in with big expectations and big pressure. In 2019, after coming up short in their offseason pursuits of free agents Yasmani Grandal and Robinson Chirinos, the Twins turned to Garver as the primary partner for veteran Jason Castro. Garver's future behind the plate was somewhat in doubt after another concussion ended his 2018 campaign, while Castro was trying to come back from knee surgery. It was a bit of a precarious situation. It worked out nicely, in part because Castro rebounded with a .767 OPS, but mainly because Garver broke through with a spectacular season that earned him Silver Slugger honors and catapulted him immediately into the upper echelon of major-league catchers. He slashed .273/.365/.630 with 31 home runs and a .404 wOBA in 391 plate appearance, producing 3.9 fWAR in just 93 games. Garver's offensive explosion was accompanied by clear improvements on the defensive end, as he graded out very well by pitch-framing metrics and earned more confidence from Twins pitchers. While the luster wore off from his breakout during in injury-marred and abbreviated 2020 campaign, Garver is a prime rebound candidate and remains a high-quality starting option. The uncertainties attached to Garver are much easier to stomach given last year's emergence of Jeffers, who answered the call for Minnesota's beleaguered catching corps. Showing up as a 23-year-old rookie, he showed astonishing poise and preparedness, slashing .273/.355/.436 while grading out well defensively. Jeffers received Twins Daily's nod for Rookie of the Year, and made such an impression that his spot on the 2021 Opening Day roster was at no point in doubt. He might not offer the upside to match what Garver showed in 2019, but Jeffers has instantly established himself as a high-floor timeshare partner, balancing out Garver's risk factor while enabling Rocco Baldelli to take it easy on both of them. The manager can rotate his top two catchers steadily to regulate their workloads, without ever sacrificing high-end offense or defense. How many other teams can say that? THE BAD While the Twins have an admirable 1-2 punch atop the depth chart at catcher, neither player is necessarily a slam dunk. Garver's immense struggles in 2020, when his OPS plummeted by nearly 500 points and he struck out in 46% of his plate appearances, can't be completely ignored, mitigating circumstances aside. He won't be that bad again, and got off on the right foot this year with a ringing single in his first spring training AB, but Garver will not escape the shadow of his 2020 season until he goes out on the field in real games and firmly proves it a fluke. As for Jeffers, his successful first stint in the majors carried no specific indicators of unsustainability, but all standard caveats apply. It was a 26-game sample for a 23-year-old who'd previously played only 24 games above Single-A. He needs to substantiate that performance while holding up to the rigors of a full MLB season as catcher – no small task. In terms of depth behind these two, the Twins aren't in bad shape with Tomás Telis, Ben Rortvedt and Willians Astudillo (who may round out the Opening Day roster as a third catcher). Needless to say, they'd see a huge drop-off in the quality of their catching rotation if either Garver or Jeffers goes down. THE BOTTOM LINE Minnesota's catching situation is the envy of much of the league. You'd be hard-pressed to find another club that would be in as comfortable shape as the Twins if their 1A option became unavailable. In fact, as spring training gets underway, it's not entirely clear Garver should be the 1A, given that Jeffers earned enough trust last season to start both playoff games. Regardless of how you want to stack them, these two provide Minnesota with a decisive competitive advantage behind the plate compared to nearly all rivals. For a deeper dive into position's long-term outlook, check out Cody Christie's future position analysis at catcher. MORE FROM TWINS DAILY — Latest Twins coverage from our writers — Recent Twins discussion in our forums — Follow Twins Daily via Twitter, Facebook or email
  10. "Our beautiful baby boy!" I cried, as Willians Astudillo hustled into second with a double during some random early-summer evening in 2019. My wife (fiancée at the time) looked at me with an expression combining befuddlement and a touch of embarrassment. It was hardly the first time she'd overheard such an outburst from me during a Twins game around this time, but that didn't make it seem any less strange to her. And I mean, it WAS strange. It's an odd type of behavior from an adult person who generally watches baseball with a detached analytical enjoyment. Not to say I don't get excited or emotional – I definitely do – but yeah, I wouldn't say it's normal for me to stan a player so irrationally and exuberantly that I resort to infant-speak and swoon at his most pedestrian of achievements on the field. Willians just has that effect. Or at least, he did. Over the course of that 2019 season, Astudillo's magical mystique began to fade. Now, I find myself wondering if it still exists. While the light has dimmed, I do think there's still a spark, and it intrigues me given his functional fit within this season's reshaped roster. THE LEGEND OF TORTUGA First, since he's been out of sight for so long, let us remind ourselves of why Astudillo became such a magnetic attraction to begin with. He arrived as a relative unknown in 2018 – a 26-year-old minor-league journeyman called up for a late-season look after catching some eyes in Rochester. In 29 games as a rookie in Minnesota, Astudillo did it all. He raked to the tune of .355/.371/.516, striking out only three times in 97 trips to the plate. He appeared at six different positions, including pitcher. He was a beaming ray of light for Twins fans in the waning weeks of a disappointing season. It wasn't just Astudillo's performance that earned him affinity. It was his VIBE. The man was utterly unique, like nothing any of us had seen before. Every single thing about him screamed "sandlot baseball." He swung at everything and made contact with everything. In spring training he executed a from behind the plate. He earned himself a label as "one of baseball's most entertaining players" from Sports Illustrated's Emma Baccellieri following his majestic celebration of a home run in the Venezuelan Winter League.Astudillo became a living meme, and an oddly inspirational figure, openly challenging the prototype for a major-league body. Ever the smiling jokester, Willians exuded joy and youthful enthusiasm in an infectious way that had plenty of us developing weird pet names and anticipating his at-bats. The guy was just so damn easy to root for. TURTLE ON ITS BACK Enthralled as we may have been by La Tortuga, most of us weren't blind to the realities of his ceiling and sustainability. He came to the Twins as an unheralded 26-year-old with no MLB experience. Coming off a season where he batted .342 for Arizona's Triple-A affiliate, Astudillo generated little demand on the market and signed a minor-league contract. As good as he looked during his rookie stint in 2018, it was in a sample of less than 100 plate appearances. Still, there was a palpable buzz surrounding Astudillo in spring of 2019. He was viewed as a major wild-card in Minnesota's plans, with the potential to contribute in significant ways if he could keep raking as a versatile defender and occasional backstop. Unfortunately, the ensuing season served as a harsh reality check. Pitchers quickly began to take advantage of his swing-at-everything approach, rarely giving him anything decent to hit. Astudillo's production sagged, and he saw a 200-point drop in OPS. Over 204 plate appearances, he slashed .268/.299/.379, while his defensive shortcomings became more evident and impactful, especially behind the plate. FanGraphs pegged him as a sub-replacement level player (-0.2 WAR). La Tortuga's luster wore off in a hurry, and as a result, he came into 2020 as more of an afterthought. The 28-year-old spent most of his summer at the alternate site, making just 16 regular-season PAs for the Twins. His only postseason appearance came when he entered as a pinch-hitter in the ninth inning of Game 1, representing the tying run with two on and one out, and instantly hit into a game-ending double play. Thus we arrive at the present situation. Entering 2021, Astudillo is even more of an afterthought; in fact, some believe he might be in danger of losing his 40-man roster spot as the club faces crunches with late additions. Not me. I actually see Astudillo having a uniquely useful fit as the 26th man on this year's Twins team, perhaps giving him one more chance to recapture the magic. ASTUDILLO'S 2021 OUTLOOK There's no way Willians will be lined up for any kind of substantial role on the 2021 Twins, at least not out of the gate. But keep in mind that despite his recent struggles, he's still a likable clubhouse presence with a .294/.319/.428 slash line in 317 MLB plate appearances and, most importantly, the ability to provide depth at some key spots. Consider the three defensive positions where Astudillo has played more than 100 innings in the majors: Catcher. As third catcher behind Mitch Garver and Ryan Jeffers, Astudillo would make it a lot more easy to occasionally play the non-starter at DH (or first base or left field, in Garver's case), or to use them as pinch-hitters. Third base. Josh Donaldson is obviously the biggest injury concern on the roster. While Luis Arráez is now penciled as his top backup, the Twins currently have no other bench players who can fill in there, and Arráez is likely to be occupied by other assignments frequently. Also, it's very possible Astudillo is a better defender than Arráez at third. First base. This is a position where the Twins have sacrificed depth by switching to Arráez in the utility role. Marwin González played more than 200 innings at first in his two years with the Twins, and Ehire Adrianza played there a bunch in 2019. I doubt we'll ever see Arráez play at first base in a major-league game. Astudillo can handle it fine. Arráez and Astudillo actually make for a pretty functional backup infielder combo, giving the Twins coverage all around the diamond while also providing Baldelli with contact hitters from both sides of the plate, to be plugged into the lineup or pinch-hit. I'm not saying Astudillo is a high-quality defender at any of the positions he plays, but he's competent enough at all of them. And while his bat hurtled back to Earth in 2019, the .678 OPS he posted was fine for a versatile, sparsely-used bench guy. He can be that. Unlike Travis Blankenhorn or Nick Gordon, there's no need to feed Astudillo regular ABs for the sake of his development. And, I'm still not quite willing to give up on him as an offensive difference-maker. He just wrapped up an absolutely dominant showing in the Venezuelan Winter League, where he batted .379 and led all hitters in total bases. Maybe it's just the flickering embers of faith and affinity still burning within me, but I've reached the conclusion that... yeah, I am still kind of excited about Astudillo. And now that the hype and oversized expectations have died down a bit, I think he's got a real chance to impress people as a useful piece on this 2021 Twins team. Now almost 30, it's been a long journey for Astudillo. But if you're counting him out at this point, you clearly never read the story of The Tortoise and the Hare. MORE FROM TWINS DAILY — Latest Twins coverage from our writers — Recent Twins discussion in our forums — Follow Twins Daily via Twitter, Facebook or email
  11. Hi! I’m Twins catcher Willians Astudillo. Growing up in Venezuela, I didn’t have to deal with the harsh winter months that Minnesotans do. Still, the time I’ve spent in America has given me ample experience. As this cold snap enters a second week, I’d like to share some of things I’ve discovered that help me handle whatever situations may arise. Hope they help you too! Furnace on the fritz. A homeowner’s worst nightmare: Temps plummet, and instead of warm air pumping into your house, an ungodly noise rises from the basement. Waiting for a repair person can be a headache, and the cost can be prohibitive. My advice? Swing at the first pitch. Icy roads. Treacherous travel conditions are a constant threat for Minnesota drivers. Even a little bit of snow or wind can turn the highways into a hockey rink. Staying home is always the best option, but that’s not always possible. My advice? The pitcher is probably going to try and get ahead in the count and start with a strike. Swing at the first pitch. Exposed skin. When the wind chills get well below zero, any piece of skin you leave uncovered outdoors is in danger of frostbite. If you’ve got to be outside for an extended period of time, you need to take every precaution. My advice? Get on top of that first pitch. Outdoor recreation. Minnesota takes pride in getting out and enjoying the winter weather. Sledding, biking, snowmobiling, skating, skiing, heck, even just building a bonfire in your backyard for some smores and hot cocoa. It you’re not from here, it takes some getting used to, but I’ve found ways to adapt. My advice? Keep the pressure on. Swing at the first pitch. Your pets. Your dog needs to get out and do their business. Your cat is the king of your unheated garage. You need to keep an eye out for their safety. My advice? They might think you’re finally going to take a pitch. Wrong again. Swing at the first pitch. Have a great weekend!
  12. Catchers (2): Mitch Garver, Ryan Jeffers In the initial roster projection, Willians Astudillo was included as a third catcher and bench option for Rocco Baldelli. Things have shifted with other parts of the roster and this made Astudillo the first player dropped from the 26-man roster. Garver and Jeffers will rotate catcher duties and Astudillo can rake in St. Paul until he is needed at the big-league level. Infielders (5): Miguel Sano, Jorge Polanco, Luis Arraez, Josh Donaldson, Andrelton Simmons Little has changed here with all infield positions solidified and Luis Arraez set to shift into a super-utility role. How will Jorge Polanco adjust to second base? Can Josh Donaldson stay healthy? Will Andrelton Simmons help the Twins to have their best defensive team ever? There are still plenty of questions to be answered, but this group looks solid to start on Opening Day. Outfield (4): Jake Cave, Byron Buxton, Max Kepler, Brent Rooker There’s some talk that the Twins could ignore some of the service time rules and allow Alex Kirilloff to be with the team from season’s start. That is certainly a possibility, but it seems more likely for him to start the year at Triple-A with Jake Cave and Brent Rooker getting outfield at-bats. Byron Buxton bulked up again this winter and Max Kepler might have something to prove in 2021. Designated Hitter (1): Nelson Cruz Cruz is over 40-years old this season and few players have found success after crossing this plateau. Can Cruz join this elite list of players that all made the Hall of Fame? Rotation (5): Kenta Maeda, Jose Berrios, Michael Pineda, J.A. Happ, Matt Shoemaker The biggest change since the first roster projection is Minnesota signed Matt Shoemaker to fill out the fifth spot in the rotation. This pushed Randy Dobnak out of a rotation spot for the time being. After pitchers threw limited innings last year, some teams are considering a six-man rotation to help ease workloads. Dobnak can easily be a fill-in starter or a long reliever to eat innings if another starter has a short outing. Bullpen (9): Taylor Rogers, Tyler Duffey, Alex Colome, Jorge Alcala, Hansel Robles, Caleb Thielbar, Cody Stashak, Randy Dobnak, Shaun Anderson The first seven bullpen spots are relatively set-in stone barring any injuries. This leaves at least one spot available as the team needs to decide if they are going with a 13- or 14-man pitching staff. Last year, teams were limited to 13-pitchers when there were 26-man rosters. That rule has been dropped for 2021, so Minnesota can start the year with a nine-man bullpen to help starters ease back into the workload associated with a full 162-game season. Dobnak moves from the rotation to the bullpen as a long-reliever and Shaun Anderson gets the bump up to the final bullpen spot. Who do you think makes the Opening Day roster? Leave a COMMENT and start the discussion. MORE FROM TWINS DAILY — Latest Twins coverage from our writers — Recent Twins discussion in our forums — Follow Twins Daily via Twitter, Facebook or email
  13. A season ago Baldelli was named American League Manager of the Year. It was warranted. The former star player guided the Twins to a record setting home run total and one of the most successful seasons in Twins history. Often times the award is handed to a guy leading a surprising organization to new heights. In 2020 expectations were lifted, but Baldelli created plenty of confusion. The vaunted lineup on paper failed to perform plenty of nights and drawing the infield in during early stretches of games became commonplace. In the biggest game of the season however, four decisions struck me as poor. Kenta Maeda is lifted after 5 innings and 91 pitches Minnesota had a 1-0 lead at the time, but the only thing going for the Twins in this contest was Maeda. Despite forcing Zack Greinke to work in the 1st inning, no runs were scored with the bases loaded and just one out. The Astros starter then settled in, and Framber Valdez dominated after a shaky first inning of relief. It seemed questionable to assume that one run would be enough to win this one and hoping the bullpen could lock things down for nearly half the game was a big ask. After getting both Matt Wisler and Trevor May warm previously, it’d have been nice to see Maeda return for the 6th and at least go one batter at a time. He could’ve been lifted at any point then. Instead the horses of the pen have no all been used while Houston didn’t trot out a single reliever. Mitch Garver pinch hits for Ryan Jeffers to start the 7th inning It was maybe an aggressive move to start rookie Ryan Jeffers in game one despite just 26 games of action. His .791 OPS and they way he worked behind the plate had earned it, however. Combine that with Garver slumping massively since his IL return and there was nothing about the decision that needed defending. In response to a lefty being on the mound though, Baldelli became convinced that 2019 Garver was who he was calling off the bench. Instead four straight curveballs, each one looked at, was all it too to get Minnesota’s pinch hitter. Letting Jeffers hit in that spot was the right move. You started him because of what he’d shown thus far, and he put up exit velocities of 105 and 109 mph earlier in this one. It was a second guessing that was unfounded and made no sense. From here, we get two more problems. Alex Avila replaces Mitch Garver defensively in the 8th inning Immediately following a poor at bat, Garver is lifted prior to taking the field. Despite being arguably a better receiver than Avila, Baldelli decided the veteran backstop was the play. Of course, there was still another catcher on the roster thanks to the Twins rostering four in this series, but it never was going to make sense for the position to become a revolving door. Garver could’ve caught the 8th inning and been more likely to steal strikes. Avila remains on the bench and represents your last true catcher behind the plate. Willians Astudillo pinch hits for Alex Avila in the 9th inning Now we get to the third cascading effect of the original choice to lift Jeffers. Trailing by three runs in a momentum setting first game, the Twins responded with Miguel Sano and Jorge Polanco singling to right field. The batter would represent the tying run with a single out and runners on first and second. The right-handed bats left were Ehire Adrianza and Astudillo. Neither ideal, and the latter had just 16 big league at bats this season. On the very first pitch Astudillo lunged at a bender and hit a routine ground ball to third for the double play. The entirety of this move was necessitated because of Rocco’s initial mistake to lift Jeffers. It was in this at bat though that highlighting Astudillo’s negative impact is so simple. He’s not Luis Arraez, and his ability to make contact is quite literally a negative. His chase rate is not good, and neither is the hard-hit percentage. By putting the ball in play, which is his sole intention, you’re more likely to experience a negative result. MORE FROM TWINS DAILY — Latest Twins coverage from our writers — Recent Twins discussion in our forums — Follow Twins Daily via Twitter, Facebook or email
  14. Vargas was with the Diamondbacks on four occasions in 2019. The 29-year-old hit .269 with nine doubles, a triple and six home runs in 92 games. He was off to a slow start this season and after hitting just .150 over 20 at bats, the Diamondbacks Designated him for Assignment. Vargas has spent parts of the past four seasons with the Diamondbacks and in 126 games, he has hit .257/. 287/.387 (.674) with 10 doubles and seven homers. In his career, Vargas has played all four infield positions as well as left field, though the majority of time has been spent at second base and third base. Rocco Baldelli said before Tuesday's game "He's a guy we really like in a lot of different ways organizationally. A guy that we think can do a lot of different things. Versatility. Plays around the infield. Can help you pretty much anywhere. Good contact bat, probably a line drive type bat regardless of who he is facing. Can probably get the barrel on the all. All reports, some of them coming from Escy (Eduardo Escobar) over there, say he's a really good guy too, a guy who will fit in very well in the clubhouse. You add all that up, looks like an interesting guy that can complement our group and compete in a lot of different ways." Vargas grew up in Venezuela. He originally signed with the St. Louis Cardinals, but after six seasons, he became a free agent. He played briefly for Bridgeport in the Atlantic League to start the 2015 season, but the Diamondbacks signed him by May. He debuted in late June of 2017. Baldelli didn't yet know Vargas's travel plans but likely he will meet the team in Minneapolis. Nothing has been finalized yet. It will also be interesting to see how the COVID protocols play out. Things have certainly changed. "A lot of our discussions go beyond the baseball part of it. Most of what we used to talk about, you acquire a player, you are just talking about the player, what he can do, how he is as a guy, all kinds of different things. Now we're talking about testing protocols, when the last time that he went through it, how we're going to approach it, where we're going to fly him in to, how that flight's going to work, talking with Vargas about how to approach that commercial flight. That's what we end up spending our time on." Baldelli said that the Twins are likely to go beyond the MLB protocol which may mean some rapid testing, maybe some daily testing, for a little while. In addition, the Twins announced that Willians Astudillo has been removed from the Injured List and optioned to the team's alternate site in St. Paul. Baldelli noted, "He's doing very well physically. It's been 18-plus days since he's been off (the COVID list) and moving around. He's in great shape." He added, "Not much is going to change as far as what he's doing, he's doing very well. Knowing that he's an option for us always, at any given point, is a very good feeling. You never know when those moves are going to be needed. They could come at any time."
  15. Seth Stohs

    Rest for Success

    The catcher position is really difficult. Not only is the backstop responsible for calling a game with each day’s pitcher, but he gets beat up physically over a long baseball season. With all the responsibility placed on a catcher behind the plate, it’s understandable that hitting has been considered a luxury for catchers throughout most of MLB history. In 2019, Twins catcher Mitch Garver not only improved his defense immensely, but he had a monster season at the plate too. How much did rest factor into his success? His manager, Rocco Baldelli, recently pointed out. “One thing that we know and we’ve had some brief discussions with Alex (Avila) about it as well. We try to make sure that our guys feel good when they take the field. I think one thing that we haven’t done a lot in the game is take our catchers into consideration and actually think, ‘Hey, if these guys could actually feel their legs, maybe they’d be able to perform better.’” He continued, “We don’t really think about it like that in baseball. We run our guys out there a lot, and I think we were able to see some of those benefits last year and the guys really showed up and stepped up and really seemed to come alive when given a day here and there. They’re able to recharge a little bit, take care of themselves.” We’ll dive more into that in a bit, but first, let’s take you back in time just a bit to see where Mitch Garver’s career has come over the past six years. Mitch Garver was the Twins 9th round draft pick in 2014 out of the University of New Mexico. He was a senior sign. He was touted as a bat-first (or to many, a bat-only) catcher and worked slowly up the minor league system. Twice Twins Daily named him the Twins minor league hitter of the year. He was recognized for his season in Cedar Rapids in 2014, and for his terrific 2017 season with the Rochester Red Wings during which he also made his MLB debut. In 2018, he struggled behind the plate. He saw the pitch framing stats and noticed that he was one of the worst-ranked in all of baseball. He went to work, as has been well documented, with former Twins minor league catching coordinator Tanner Swanson. A new approach and set up behind the plate, and Garver made himself into a league average defensive catcher. That’s more impressive since the ‘average’ defensive catcher improved from 2018 to 2019 too. But Garver also continued to work on his offense too. His focus was to swing at strikes, hit the ball in the air and pull the ball. As we all know well, it was a philosophy that worked. First, Garver knows the strike zone really well. He is one of the best in the league at not swinging at balls outside the strike zone. After hitting a respectable .268/.335/.414 (.749) with 19 doules and seven homers in 102 games in 2018, his first major-league season, he was incredible in 2019. In 93 games, he hit .273/.365/.630 (.995) with 16 doubles and 31 home runs. For his efforts, he won his first of hopefully several Silver Slugger Awards for the best catcher in the American League. Sure, maybe his college coach wasn’t surprised, but I think most diehard Garver fans were a little bit surprised at that level of success. You’ll notice the 93 games played. First, remember that he went into the season as a backup to Jason Castro behind the plate. You may remember (and maybe you were one of them) who thought Garver should have even started the 2019 season in the minor leagues with Willians Astudillo the backup. Can you imagine? But back to the 93 games. Remember that gruesome injury to his ankle that he sustained while blocking the plate and keeping an Angels runner from tying the game in the ninth inning. The fear was that he could miss an extended period. Instead, he returned to game action after missing just 17 games. So hey, maybe if not for that, he may have played in another nine or ten games. He played in 93 of the 145 games that he was on the Twins active roster in 2019 about 64% In reality, he started 73 games behind the plate, just over 50% of games that he was on the active roster. There’s no question that the rest helped and contributed mightily to his 2019 success. He was able to stay strong, with fresh legs. But if Mitch Garver starts behind the plate for just 50% of the Twins 60 game season, that would be surprising and disappointing. Both Garver and Baldelli noted that they had not (as of Monday) had any conversation about playing time. Baldelli siad, “I anticipate getting Mitch out there as much as we can. But again, Mitch is going to get his days off. Alex is going to get a fair amount of time out there as well. We’re going to get into a rotation.” Wisely, Baldelli stopped short of giving any sort of estimate of games played. There are many variables in that, plus in this shortened 2020 season, there are COVID-19 concerns along with the regular injury and wear that a catcher’s body goes through. That is a factor that Garver brought up as well. He pointed out the time off. ‘Obviously shutting down the body for a couple of months, then turning it back on. There’s weird things that can happen. You’ll see it across the league.“ But Garver simply wants to play as much as he can. Sure, he wants to play as much as he can, but he understands the bigger picture for himself and for the team. “Obviously everybody wants to play as much as they can. I’d like to play 40-45 games. I think that’s a pretty good number. Maybe even 50 games. That’s a nice number to get to. Obviously I’d like to get out there every chance I can to help contribute, but we’ll see how it goes. Everybody wants to get out there.” Baldelli seemed to acknowledge that Garver has earned the spot and the playing time that comes from it. “I think with the year that Mitch had, he’s definitely proven himself to be not just a capable catcher, but a really productive backstop. It was fun to watch that happen, but that doesn’t mean we’re going to go out there and say ‘Mitch is going to catch four out of five games, here we go.’ There’s a lot more that goes into it than that. We’ll feel it out starting on Day 1.” Four out of five feels like a lot, doesn’t it. Over a 162 games season, that equates to about 130 starts. Few catchers do that, and with the success-with-rest in 2019, he doesn’t need to do that. That would be starting 48 out of 60 games behind the plate. But what about two out of three? That’s 67%, an earned bump from his 50% rate in 2019. That particularly makes sense in a three-game series. Maybe he starts three games during four-game series, and maybe just one game during two-game series? But if Garver can make about 40 starts, veteran Alex Avila can stay fresh with about 20 starts. If Willians Astudillo is on the roster, maybe he gets into the final innings of some blowouts to make sure even a few innings of rest is available. While Garver posted a .902 OPS, with 19 of his 31 homers against right-handers, he was even better facing lefties. He hit .321 with an OPS of 1.170 against southpaws and hit 12 of homers. Meanwhile, in 2019, Avila posted a .795 OPS with 14 of his 17 extra base hits against right-handers. No, I’m definitely not advocating a straight split that would mean very little playing time for Garver, but I am saying that they can be strategic about when Garver gets his days off. And hey, if the Twins find themselves in a division or playoff race down the stretch, hopefully he will be strong enough to play a little more frequently. But now it’s your turn. If you are in charge, how would you handle the Twins catching situation. In an ideal, while still-realistic world, how many games would you like to see Mitch Garver start?
  16. In a zoom meeting with media on Friday afternoon, Derek Falvey mentioned that Willians Astudillo and one other Twins player had tested positive for COVID-19 during the intake process (players reporting and being tested). Astudillo is in Minneapolis. "He is presently asymptomatic, feeling fine. He is quarantined here." Falvey said that Astudillo has given his permission for his name to be announced. There is still some steps in the intake process that have to be completed. Falvey was not able to comment on the identity of the second player at this time. "We will now subsequently go through a protocol where after a minimum period of time, we can then test him again. The way the protocol works, when he tests negative twice, subsequent to a positive test, you can then be brought back into the environment." Falvey continued, "We will likely test him above 48 to 72 hours from now. Then subsequently test him a couple of days after that. If he clears two negative tests, he would then be someone who could re-enter." Shortly before the press conference, MLB announced that 38 of the 3,185 people tested (1.2%) were positive. 31 of those were players and the other seven were staffers. 19 of the 30 MLB teams had at least one positive result. Falvey noted, "I'm really happy to hear that a lot of players and staff, wherever they were over the past several months, they were able to keep themselves healthy and in a safe place and limited their contact outside of their home environments." In addition to the two MLB players, both Edwar Colina and Nick Gordon had positive COVID-19 tests recently. They had their tests administered prior to the baseball testing this week. Falvey said, "Those guys are here. They're rostered, and hopefully eventually will be cleared. In Colina's case, he has already cleared and a subsequent test since he has tested negative for the virus, but we are being cautious." He believes both players should be in Minnesota later this weekend. There were some other Twins minor leaguers who also tested positive in Ft. Myers when the facilities were shut down across baseball. Colina was there when he tested positive. Falvey noted that there has been "a wide range of perspectives" on their return to Target Field. "They walk in and see masks, and the clubhouse doesn't look like it used to look. It's a bit jarring initially for some folks. That said, you get back to seeing some people. You get in the clubhouse, get dressed, get out. It's an interesting set up in the ballpark right now." "Some are throwing with their mask on while they're out there. Everyone's trying to get used to it. It's a range of feeling. Some guys are a bit anxious and that's real, and then some guys are really excited to be back and ready to go, and just trying to figure it out. Anything that's different from the norm, it's going to take some time." -------------------------- Falvey also noted that Byron Buxton and Cody Stashak are not in camp. They have been excused for personal reasons. Buxton's wife Lindsey is due to have the couple's second child any day now. Stashak's wife, Taylor, gave birth to the couple's first child in mid-June. Update - Today (Friday), Lindsey Buxton gave birth to a baby boy. They named him Blaze Jett. --------------------------
  17. Once we swim through the mountains of logistical hurdles involving health, safety, and finances, this is one of the practical matters I find most intriguing: Which players will be part of the 2020 season, either from the start or as readily available fill-ins? We'll start with the obvious: the projected 26-man roster (per my final offseason status update, which was published approximately seven years ago). Position Players: Mitch Garver, Miguel Sanó, Luis Arraez, Josh Donaldson, Jorge Polanco, Eddie Rosario, Byron Buxton, Max Kepler, Nelson Cruz, Marwin Gonzalez, Ehire Adrianza, Jake Cave, Alex Avila Pitchers: José Berríos, Jake Odorizzi, Kenta Maeda, Homer Bailey, Jhoulys Chacín, Taylor Rogers, Tyler Duffey, Trevor May, Sergio Romo, Tyler Clippard, Matt Wisler, Zack Littell, Cody Stashak. Little has changed that would affect any of the above players' chances of making the team. But one new player might now be in the mix: Rich Hill, whose recovery from elbow surgery would've delayed a normal start. A season starting in July would line up with his expected return, and Hill believes he'll be ready to go. Luckily, he doesn't need to supplant anyone else, since the Twins will have four extra active roster spots to work with. So presumably Hill gets one. As for the others, I would guess we'll see a couple more arms and one other position player. Something like Randy Dobnak, Devin Smeltzer, and Willians Astudillo. The taxi squad is where things get interesting. First, with no minor-league seasons taking place, I'm wondering how these players stay sharp and ready for action. Regular scrimmages and sim games? Regardless, the makeup of such a player group will also be fascinating. My initial thought was that the Twins start by carrying every spare piece on the 40-man roster. But that doesn't necessarily make sense. Are they really gonna want to dedicate spots to raw talents like Gilberto Celestino and Dakota Chalmers, who aren't especially close to getting big-league shots? I would guess, at least, that these MLB-experienced or nearly-ready players from the 40-man will on the taxi squad: Jorge Alcala, Jhoan Duran, Sean Poppen, Fernando Romero, Lewis Thorpe, Travis Blankenhorn, Nick Gordon, LaMonte Wade Jr.. That's eight. Next, it is probably most instructive to look at the list of non-roster spring training invites from February. That list includes pitchers Charlie Barnes, Chacín (already in, per our projection), Sam Clay, Edwar Colina, Danny Coulombe, Ryan Garton, Blaine Hardy (out for season), Griffin Jax, Jake Reed and Caleb Thielbar; and position players Juan Graterol, Ryan Jeffers, Ben Rortvedt, Tomás Telis, Royce Lewis, Jack Reinheimer, Wilfredo Tovar, Alex Kirilloff, Trevor Larnach and Brent Rooker. The Twins will surely want at least a couple of extra catchers available, given the position's heightened injury risk and intensive physical toll. And of course they'll probably want to load up on pitchers to the extent they're able – especially with the likelihood of increased doubleheaders and decreased off days. At this point it becomes very much a guessing game, but I'll wager the Twins want to lean mostly on experience and reliability at these positions, while mixing in a bit of prospect upside, so I'll go with... Catchers: Juan Graterol, Tomas Telís, Ryan Jeffers Pitchers: Danny Coloumbe, Edwar Colina, Ryan Garton, Jake Reed, Caleb Thielbar So now we're at 16 members of the 20-man taxi squad. Who fills those last four spots? Given that the Twins now have all their bases covered with multiple contingencies at every position, they might want to make a few of their very best prospects available as potential wild-cards for an all-in sprint. Then again, maybe not? This is where I really get stuck. Do these prospects need to be added to the 40-man roster (or some expanded version) in order to feature on this taxi squad, thus starting their service clocks? If so, is it worth doing so just to keep them on hand as longshot possibilities to contribute? Is it even wise to push these crucial future talents into such an odd situation, as opposed to just letting them work out on their own and come back strong in 2021? But if that happens, do they not get paid at all? Is it a slap in the face? There's also the matter of Michael Pineda. It seems he'll still be on suspension for the first part of the year. Does he require a "roster spot" on the taxi squad? Are those really even considered roster spots under any traditional definition? He's still occupying space and consuming the resources of any other player. (He's also not supposed to get paid during the suspension, so what happens with that? I assume he's not just gonna throw himself in harm's way for free.) The litany of questions that begin to sprout up as you ponder these consequential factors is flat-out overwhelming, which is also true of MLB's daunting health-and-safety protocol at large. We'll need a lot more clarity before we can give serious credence to the very idea of a season happening, let alone how the Twins' roster will shake out. But the specificity around roster sizes at least gives us the ability to speculate a little, which is more than welcome after weeks of being completely in the dark. Given our limited information, I'm gonna guess the Twins choose to preserve their three best prospects – Lewis, Kirilloff, Larnach – but carry Rooker, along with the minor-league vets Tovar and Reinheimer. I'll also assume Pineda gets a taxi spot. So here it is, my shot-in-the-dark guess at what a Twins 2020 roster and taxi squad might look like under the altered format. Feel free to air your quibbles and make your own guesses in the comments. (Active-roster players in bold.) CATCHERS: Mitch Garver, Alex Avila, Willians Astudillo, Juan Graterol, Tomas Telís, Ryan Jeffers INFIELDERS: Miguel Sanó, Luis Arraez, Josh Donaldson, Jorge Polanco, Marwin Gonzalez, Ehire Adrianza, Travis Blankenhorn, Nick Gordon, Wilfredo Tovar, Jack Reinheimer OUTFIELDERS: Eddie Rosario, Byron Buxton, Max Kepler, Nelson Cruz, Jake Cave, LaMonte Wade Jr., Brent Rooker PITCHERS: José Berríos, Jake Odorizzi, Kenta Maeda, Homer Bailey, Jhoulys Chacín, Rich Hill, Taylor Rogers, Tyler Duffey, Trevor May, Sergio Romo, Tyler Clippard, Matt Wisler, Zack Littell, Cody Stashak, Randy Dobnak, Devin Smeltzer, Michael Pineda, Jorge Alcala, Jhoan Duran, Fernando Romero, Sean Poppen, Lewis Thorpe, Danny Coloumbe, Edwar Colina, Ryan Garton, Jake Reed, Caleb Thielbar MORE FROM TWINS DAILY — Latest Twins coverage from our writers — Recent Twins discussion in our forums — Follow Twins Daily via Twitter, Facebook or email
  18. Short Leash For managers, there’s always been a fine line between leaving a starting pitcher in the game or going to the bullpen. This line will become even more blurred during the 2020 campaign as each game will have increased importance. Managers will likely turn to their bullpens earlier, especially if a starting pitcher is struggling. There isn’t going to be room in the schedule to drop a game here or there because of a poor pitching performance. Teams striving for the playoffs are going to need to get hot quickly and stay hot for the duration of the season. One clunker from a starting pitcher could put the team into a tailspin that could be tough to recover from. Managers are going to treat games more like the postseason and starters aren’t going to be given as many liberties as would be allowed in a typical regular season. Bullpen Usage Bullpens have taken on even more importance in recent years and that will only increase in a season where there might be fewer off-days. Players will likely need to be prepared to enter games earlier because managers are going to have a short leash (mentioned above) with starters. Another consideration for relief pitchers is the new three-batter minimum rule. This will throw another wrinkle into an already unique season. Luckily for Twins fans, Minnesota’s bullpen was considered a strength entering the 2020 season. This could be a silver lining for Rocco Baldelli if he needs to turn to his bullpen earlier and more often in games. Adding Tyler Clippard and a full season of Sergio Romo will likely help to improve the ‘pen. Those two are likely going to be middle relievers with Taylor Rogers, Trevor May, and Tyler Duffey getting the bulk of the late-inning work. Bench Pressed Managers bench usage might not be thought of very often and most bench decisions are something that can fly under the radar. Minnesota’s bench would likely consist of some combination of players like Marwin Gonzalez, Jake Cave, Willians Astudillo, Ehire Adrianza, and Alex Avila. Do they send up a pinch hitter late in the game? When do you make a defensive substitution? If Nelson Cruz singles, should you put in a better runner? Minnesota’s catching situation is certainly something to keep an eye on during a shortened season. Last season, Baldelli saw the value in giving each catcher regular rest. This worked well for Mitch Garver as he had a break-out season on the way to winning his first Silver Slugger. In a full season, it seemed likely for Garver to get more of the workload, but now that might not be the case. Avila and Astudillo could see a higher percentage of games because of the shortened schedule. It’s hard to know how each manager will approach the 2020 season. The Twins had playoff aspirations in 2020 and that isn’t going to change with fewer games on the schedule. Those high hopes will only magnify each pitching change and other in-game decisions by the reigning AL Manager of the Year. How do you think managing will change in a shortened season? Leave a COMMENT and start the discussion. MORE FROM TWINS DAILY — Latest Twins coverage from our writers — Recent Twins discussion in our forums — Follow Twins Daily via Twitter, Facebook or email
  19. Projected Starter: Mitch Garver Likely Backup: Alex Avila Depth: Willians Astudillo, Tomas Telis Prospects: Ryan Jeffers, Ben Rortvedt THE GOOD When analyzing this position last spring, I called Twins catchers a collection of "promising question marks." Then, the backup Garver went on to enjoy a breakout year of epic proportions. This spring, in the words of MLB.com's Mike Petriello, "there's only one question Twins fans are interested in: Can he do it again?" Petriello's article notes that Garver's emergence in 2019, while out-of-nowhere, carried plenty of legitimizing traits: he ranked sixth among MLB hitters in hard-hit rate, seventh in average exit velocity, 14th in barrels per batted ball, and rated as one of the best fastball hitters in recent history. There was nothing misleading about Garver's spectacular results last year – he took terrific ABs and hit the ball hard consistently, thus he did tons of damage. Not only that, but Garver made massive strides defensively, implementing changes in technique to go from a 5th-percentile pitch framer to the 80th percentile (per Baseball Prospectus) in a one-year span. There isn't much, other than the ingrained skepticism from watching many isolated "breakouts" come and go, to suggest Garver is due for overwhelming regression in 2020. He figures to be a solidly above-average starter at the very least. But even if he doesn't lose a step, the Twins have made clear they are going to limit his game reps in efforts to preserve his body for the long haul. So a quality timeshare partner is needed, and it appears the front office identified a good one. Avila could be viewed as a question mark I suppose, in the sense that he's a newcomer, but he's about as established and reliable a commodity you could ask for in this role. He's played in the majors for more than a decade, has a good rep as a receiver, and is accustomed to learning new staffs, having played for four teams in the past four years. As a part-time backstop facing mostly right-handed pitching, Avila will be an asset. He's one of the league's more patient hitters and a fine producer at the dish. He's only here for one year, but that's by design. Jeffers has solidified his standing as Twins catcher of the future. He finished at Double-A last year and could very well get a look in the big leagues this summer. All signs are very encouraging with the 22-year-old at this time. ("I think he's getting to the point where he becomes an option for our Major League team if we need him at some point in the near future," Rocco Baldelli said recently.) THE BAD The Twins suddenly find themselves quite dependent on Garver. They have the offensive firepower to succeed in his absence, but he's certainly become a key part of their lineup. The drop-off at catcher is immense from starter to backup, in a way that is probably unmatched across the rest of the roster. That's almost always going to be the case when you have an elite starting catcher, but depth is a bit of a murky issue. Avila would be palatable but stretched as a starter. Astudillo lost much of his luster in 2019, posting a sub-700 OPS as pitchers began to routinely exploit his extreme lack of discipline. Telis is next in line and while he's played in the big leagues a fair amount, he has hit .230/.267/.298 there. It's not that the Twins have especially shallow depth at catcher. There's just not much to get excited about after Garver until Jeffers is ready, which is probably a ways off. And while the incumbent enters this season in good health, his history reminds us how dangerous his position can be. In 2018, Garver missed most of September after suffering a concussion on a foul-tip. And last summer, he suffered a high ankle sprain on a scary home-plate collision. In both cases he was fortunate enough to avoid more serious trauma, and the Twins do an admirable job of protecting him to the extent they can, but there's only so much to be done. Playing catcher in the major leagues might be the most dangerous job in pro sports this side of the NFL. THE BOTTOM LINE The Twins have a top-tier starter, a qualified and complementary veteran backup, and a high-caliber prospect nearing readiness in the pipeline. There's not much more you an ask for. Minnesota is poised to have an advantage over virtually every opponent at catcher. Much hinges on people staying healthy. And as we know all too well, that can never be assumed at this position. So with fingers crossed (and mitt perfectly positioned to receive a pitch on the edge of the strike zone), we proceed with the best laid plans. MORE FROM TWINS DAILY — Latest Twins coverage from our writers — Recent Twins discussion in our forums — Follow Twins Daily via Twitter, Facebook or email
  20. Initial Reports Byron Buxton is recovering from season-ending surgery to repair a torn labrum in his left-shoulder. He started swinging in late January, hitting off a tee in February and taking live batting practice this week. Slow and steady seems to be the name of the game and it’s certainly makes sense with Buxton’s injury history. Near the beginning of spring training, Twins manager Rocco Baldelli said the club anticipated Buxton being ready for game action by mid-March. This deadline is quickly approaching, and Buxton has yet to appear in a game. Even if he does appear in games in the next week, will that be enough time put him on the Opening Day roster by March 26. "There's no rushing this process," Buxton told MLB.com. "I know what I've got to do to be able to get back to being myself, and rushing is not one of them." Manager Rocco Baldelli echoed this sentiment on Monday. "I don't have a schedule for Byron Buxton," Baldelli said. "Our training staff does not have a schedule for Byron. He's going to show us what his schedule will be by how well everything goes as it is laid out." Buxton was off to a strong start last season before getting injured as he seemed to have found himself offensively. In 87 games, he hit .262/.314/.513 (.827) with 44 extra-base hits. His 30 doubles were near the top of the league before he missed time. Matthew Trueblood wrote there could be one seemingly small adjustment that would yield a big payoff. Roster Impact If Buxton isn’t ready for Opening Day, there will be a few moving pieces that impact the overall 26-man roster. Firstly, Max Kepler would move from right field to center field where he played for parts of last season after Buxton’s injury. Secondly, Marwin Gonzalez would likely take over as an everyday player to start the year, but he has been coming back from an offseason knee surgery of his own, so the Twins would need other outfield depth. Jake Cave and LaMonte Wade Jr. would likely be vying to serve in the back-up outfielder role. Cave hit .258/.351/.455 (.805) with 21 extra-base hits in 72 games last season. Wade Jr. dislocated his thumb in his second big-league game and was forced to sit out from early July until the middle of August. He returned to the big-leagues as a September call-up and hit .196/.348/.375 (.723) with five extra-base hits in 26 games last year. Cave is already in a battle for the final roster spot with Willians Astudillo, so it seems more likely for both players to make the Opening Day roster if Buxton is unable to go. Should fans be worried about Buxton? Is it better to take it slow with him because of his injury history? Leave a COMMENT and start the discussion. MORE FROM TWINS DAILY — Latest Twins coverage from our writers — Recent Twins discussion in our forums — Follow Twins Daily via Twitter, Facebook or email
  21. How much will Mitch Garver regress? Mitch Garver had a breakout season in 2019 as he compiled 31 home runs with a .995 OPS in only 93 games. Because of his offensive output, he was be awarded a Silver Slugger. Now entering his age-29 season, it’s going to be tough for him to repeat those numbers in 2020 so some regression can be expected. So how much will he come back to the pack? Baseball Reference projects him hitting .263/.342/.510 (.852) with 22 home runs and 20 doubles in 413 plate appearances. This would be an increase of 54 plate appearances over last year when he set a career high with 359 PA. FanGraphs Steamer projections have him hitting .254/.333/.464 (.797) with 16 home runs and 18 doubles. They also see him getting into 90 games and having 378 plate appearances. Most likely, Garver will be somewhere in the middle of these two different projections. It could also depend on what kind of baseball is being used throughout the big leagues. Either way, it seems unlikely for Garver to hit more than 30 home runs for the second consecutive season. Will Alex Avila be used as much as Jason Castro? In his first year as manager, Rocco Baldelli stressed the importance of rest for all his players and this was especially true for his two catchers. In fact, Jason Castro and Garver basically split the catching duties with Garver starting just one more game behind the plate than Castro. Minnesota brought in Alex Avila to replace Castro as the team’s second catcher, but how much will he be used during the season? Baseball Reference projects Avila to get just over 320 plate appearances which would equate to roughly 80 games played. Steamer projections have him appearing in 51 games and getting 205 plate appearances. After Garver’s 2019 season, Baldelli might want to use him on a more regular basis but rest certainly seemed to help both catchers last year. It seems likely for Garver to catch roughly 60% of the team’s games with Avila catching 35% and Willians Astudillo picking up the rest of the starts. Will the Twins carry three catchers? Because of a rule change this year, teams will now be able to carry 26 players on their active roster. This makes it easier for a team to consider carrying three catchers. Astudillo played in 58 games for the Twins last season, but only 17 of his starts came behind the plate. He was used at every infield position besides shortstop and in both corner outfield spots. This defensive flexibility could be one reason the Twins keep Astudillo on the roster. In my initial Twins roster projection, I only had the Twins carrying two catchers with Astudillo being used in Rochester. The final battles for bench spots will be between Ehire Adrianza, Jake Cave and Astudillo. Adrianza is the team’s best defensive middle infielder, so he should have a bench spot. This leaves Cave and Astudillo fighting for the last spot, but realistically both players will be used at different points during the 2020 campaign. What other questions do you have about the Twins catching situation? Leave a COMMENT and start the discussion. MORE FROM TWINS DAILY — Latest Twins coverage from our writers — Recent Twins discussion in our forums — Follow Twins Daily via Twitter, Facebook or email
  22. Catchers (2): Mitch Garver, Alex Avila Garver and Avila are locks for the Opening Day roster, but there are a few questions surrounding the Twins and their 2020 catchers. How much will the Twins rely on Garver behind the plate? Last season, he was very successful when rotating with Jason Castro. Minnesota could try and follow a similar routine with Avila and Garver this season. Another decision facing the Twins is whether to keep Willians Astudillo on the 26-man roster. There are benefits to carrying a third catcher, but I think the Twins have better options for their bench and Astudillo has a minor-league option remaining. Infielders (5): Ehire Adrianza, Luis Arraez, Josh Donaldson, Jorge Polanco, Miguel Sano Much like the catchers, the infielders are almost set in stone for Opening Day. Arraez, Donaldson, Polanco and Sano will all be in the line-up and Adrianza will come off the bench. Adrianza offers a solid defensive upgrade over the other middle infielders and it will be interesting to see if he is used as a defensive replacement more regularly. Nick Gordon and Travis Blankenhorn are on the 40-man roster but neither player should figure into the team’s roster unless there were multiple injuries this spring. Outfielders (5): Byron Buxton, Jake Cave, Marwin Gonzalez, Max Kepler, Eddie Rosario If all are healthy, the trio of Buxton, Kepler and Rosario should be getting most of the regular reps in the outfield. Cave has a minor-league option remaining, but he has proven himself as a big-league hitter and he and Astudillo will likely be fighting for the final roster spot. Gonzalez will be on the team in the Opening Day roster in some capacity and he is in a similar spot to last season. He entered spring without a starting role but ended up being a starter after Sano’s injury. Designated Hitter (1): Nelson Cruz There isn’t much to debate here. Cruz will be looking to build off a tremendous 2019 campaign where he was named the team’s MVP. Rotation (5): Jose Berrios, Jake Odorizzi, Kenta Maeda, Homer Bailey, Jhoulys Chacin With Michael Pineda and Rich Hill out to start the year, there had been some questions swirling around the back end of the starting rotation. Tuesday night's trade certainly changed the rotation's outlook. Maeda is an immediate upgrade and it gives some of the other younger pitchers an opportunity to prove themselves at Triple-A. Minnesota signed Jhoulys Chacin to a minor league deal last week, but he can easily be added to the 40-man roster after Hill is added to the 60-day injured list. I think the Twins are still high on Thorpe’s potential. He has put together some strong strikeout numbers throughout his professional career and it has taken some time for him to adjust to different levels. If Chacin can't find success, Thorpe could be the next man up. Bullpen (8): Taylor Rogers, Trevor May, Tyler Duffey, Sergio Romo, Zack Littell, Tyler Clippard, Cody Stashak, Matt Wisler One wildcard in the bullpen picture is Fernando Romero, who seemed like a lock for the bullpen last season. Jorge Alcala will both be in camp with the team, but his remaining minor-league options make it unlikely for him to come north with the club. Stashak looked good at the end of last season and he could take the place that had been earmarked for Graterol before he was traded. Wisler will need to look good enough throughout the spring to get a bullpen spot, otherwise the Twins could turn to one of the other names mentioned above. Who do you think makes the team’s Opening Day roster? Leave a COMMENT and start the discussion. MORE FROM TWINS DAILY — Latest Twins coverage from our writers — Recent Twins discussion in our forums — Follow Twins Daily via Twitter, Facebook or email
  23. Playing in 92 games for the Twins in 2019, Arraez posted a .334/.399/.439 slash line. He ripped 20 doubles, notched a career best four homers, and showed plate discipline to the tune of a 29/36 K/BB. Throughout his six-year professional career Arraez has earned the calling card of a tough out that has hit at every level. He’s never owned a batting average south of .300 over the course of a full season, and his .298 tally in 48 games at Double-A Chattanooga was the low-water snapshot. Initially promoted in somewhat of a surprise move, Arraez quickly acclimated himself to the starting lineup. As the Twins experienced injuries through their lineup, Luis added value wherever he was slotted in. Starting most of his games in the six hole, he was able to provide solid at-bats behind Minnesota’s big boppers. With Max Kepler shelved for a time, he also grabbed 13 starts in the leadoff spot, posting a .339 average ther. Obviously, a guy with so little power is never going to substantially benefit from home run-inducing changes to the baseball. That said, finding out whether the Twins have the next 3,000 hit candidate or a guy primed for regression is worth investigating. Often times a lofty average can be picked apart through the BABIP lens. Fortunately for the Twins second basemen, his BABIP checked in at .355 (just 21 points higher than his .334 bating avg). A 34.7% hard hit rate is somewhere among the upper tier of modesty, and the 29.4% line drive rate is suggestive of a guy who knows his strength. 29.1% of batted balls registering as “fly” doesn’t hurt someone who doesn’t leave the yard, and the 41.5% ground ball rate isn’t egregiously negative either. Everything about the batted ball profile suggests that we aren’t getting any significant amount of luck, and then we take a look at the plate discipline. This is where Arraez really shines, and how he’ll continue to see success going forward. From that first at-bat against Edwin Diaz on, the Venezuelan prospect has dictated the action. He posted just a 2.8% whiff rate and chased only 26.9% of the time. No one in baseball (min 350 PA) missed less and the 93.3% contact rate also topped the charts. As we’ve seen with his Twins teammate Willians Astudillo, there’s more to a great contact hitter than plate coverage. The goal isn’t simply to impact the ball, but do so with the optimal pitch, in a location that you can do something with it. Unlike the man fondly known as The Turtle, Arraez can discern which pitches are worth his attention, and then also adequately attack them. He combines plate coverage with discipline and recognition, making the trio a truly lethal combination. In just over 360 career games at the minor league level Luis Arraez posted a .331 average. He ended up trumping that tally with a .334 debut at the major league level. His 109 hits in 92 games would put him near the 200 mark over a full season, and we should get every opportunity to see that in action during 2020. We may never see Arraez hit four homers in a season again, but betting against him remaining in constant contention for a batting title seems foolish at best.
  24. Box Score Stashak (Opener): 2IP, 2H, 1ER, 2K, 79.17% strikes (19 of 24 pitches) Bullpen: 7IP, 5H, 2ER, 3BB, 11K Home Runs: Cruz (41) Multi-Hit Games: Cruz (2-for-4, HR, 2B), Garver (2-for-3, 2 2B, BB), Austudillo (2-for-4), Schoop (2-for-4) Top 3 WPA: Cruz (.243), Rogers (.209), Austudillo (.166) Arraez Hurt In an essentially meaningless game at the tail end of the year, the last thing Minnesota needed was for a key cog in the lineup to be injured, but that is exactly what happened. Rookie sensation Luis Arraez collided with Austudillo while the two converged to catch an infield fly off the bat of Hunter Dozier for the last out of the seventh. Arraez’s right leg appeared to buckle while he was coming down off the mound and he was down for several minutes. A cart was brought out but Arraez was able to walk off with help. Obviously, losing Arraez for the postseason would be a huge detriment to the Twins. https://twitter.com/TFTwins/status/1178048143344189440 Garver and Austudillo Bring the Bats and Cruz Hits a Huge Bomba Mitch Garver certainly helped ease any concerns Twins fans may have harbored about his recent hip injury. He drilled two doubles and drew a walk. After both doubles he would come home on two Willians Austudillo RBI singles. The Twins finally got a home run off of the bat of Nelson Cruz in the eighth inning, his 41st of the year. It couldn’t have come at a bigger time as Tyler Duffey had just allowed Kansas City to tie the game at three with Jorge Soler’s second home run on the day, a two-run shot. Cruz put the Twins up 4-3. The Bullpen Gets the Job Done Cody Staschak got the opportunity to audition as the opener today and outside of allowing a bomb to Jorge Soler he pitched pretty well. Shashak allowed two hits and struck out two Kansas City batters in two innings of work. Next up was Kyle Gibson. Gibson managed to escape his one inning without any damage but he labored heavily. It took Gibson over 30 pitches to end the third and he loaded the bases with a single and two walks. Gibson did strike out two batters including the final out of the inning to keep the game tied, but he didn’t exactly bolster his case for inclusion on the postseason roster. After Gibson, the bullpen shined through the middle innings. Zack Littell, Lewis Thorpe, and Trevor May combined for five strikeouts in three scoreless innings. Tyler Duffey was the next man up and the inning started well, but with two outs Whit Merrifield singled on weak ground ball and Soler followed with his league-leading 47th dinger. After Cruz gave the lead back to Minnesota, Sergio Romo came in and pitched a clean eighth inning. Taylor Rogers would come in to protect the one-run lead, picking up his 30th save on the year and giving the Twins win number 101. Going for 102 Tomorrow’s season finale will give Minnesota a chance to tie the franchise record for wins set in 1965. 2019 has been a truly remarkable year for the Twins and losing tomorrow will take nothing away from that, but it would be nice to see this team get Rocco Baldelli a share of the record in his first season as a manager. Postgame With Baldelli https://twitter.com/fsnorth/status/1178066050316849154 Bullpen Usage Spreadsheet Click here for a review of the number of pitches thrown by each member of the bullpen over the past five days.
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