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  1. When a sports fan hears that a player on their favorite team is unavailable or late to a season because of “visa issues,” their mind seems to default to Hollywood scripts with the player in a back alley of a dodgy third world country, sweet talking a fat guy smoking a stogie between games of canasta. My personal experience, having processed over 500 such visas, is that little is known about the day to day processes most foreign-born athletes have to go through to get travel and work authorization to enter the United States. Then, when a situation happens like Dominican pitcher Fernando Romero’s now famous attempt to smuggle marijuana into the country, or off-the-field behavior like Sidney Ponson dealt with following an assault charge in his native Aruba, the “misbehavior” tag begins to be more readily applied to players awaiting visa issuance in their home country after the open of camp. But the truth is that the vast majority of visa delays, especially during a pandemic where consulates and embassies around the world are closed or short-staffed, are simply that – delays. They are often caused by bureaucratic headaches more than anything to do with the applicant. These same delays affect heads of Fortune 500 companies, families wishing to visit DisneyWorld, or even crewmembers on airplanes and cruise ships. For baseball players, while the skids are usually greased far more than they would be for you and I applying to work abroad, challenges can still present themselves on frequent occasions. Remember that MLB and its minor league affiliates have a higher percentage of athletes from poorer countries than any of the other major sports leagues. (The MLS is the only comparable league in American sports). As a result, its clubs have become more familiar with not only documentation issues arising from availability and legitimacy of birth certificates, criminal records checks, and even passports, but also a heightened degree of scrutiny among US consular and border officials in places like the Dominican Republic, Venezuela, Curacao, and Mexico than would be found in Canada or Western Europe. With that in mind, let’s take a look at the standard process a foreign-born athlete deals with once they agree to play for a team. The P-1 Petition While not every baseball player has a P-1 visa, the vast majority do. The P-1 is available specifically to: “a professional athlete employed by: (1) a team that is a member of an association of 6 or more professional sports teams whose combined revenues exceed $10,000,000 per year, if the association governs the conduct of its members and regulates the contests and exhibitions in which its members regularly engage, or (2) any minor league team that is affiliated with such an association.” As such, nearly any foreign athlete who signs a contract with a Major League Baseball team is eligible for a P-1, issued for five years or the length of the contract, whichever is shorter. While some apply for heightened visas (allowing them to stay year round) or even green cards due to their level of play, the vast majority use the P-1 classification. When a player signs with a new team in the offseason, or even if they re-sign with their old employer after their previous entry period expired, that team must file a “Petition for Nonimmigrant Worker” with the Department of Homeland Security to secure approval in the classification for the athlete. From a timing perspective, this is generally done concurrently with, or immediately after signing the player and adding them to the roster, to ensure that they meet the DHS requirement that a contract be enforceable at the time the Petition is filed. The sponsor or “Petitioner” of a P-1 Petition is the team itself. In almost all cases, it’s the team who signs the P-1 Petition and then an agent or immigration lawyer (like myself) ushers it through the process. For a $2500 fee to the government, this Petition can be expedited with DHS for adjudication within 15 calendar days, and often major league teams see that time shortened down to the better part of a week to ten days. But during the pandemic, the full 15 day period has become more common as in-office staffing at the agency has been reduced and workers have been moved offsite. Interestingly, when a player is traded midseason, the P-1 classification enables the player to play for the new team automatically for 30 days, allowing time for the new Petition to be filed by the new team. As we will see in the next section, the interplay between the Petition and the issuance of a visa can lead to challenges at the border for newly traded athletes, which comes into play in the rare instance the Twins would be playing in Toronto in late July or early August (or through some less common situations I’ve seen arise and mention below). But, with only one Canadian team in baseball, the issue can usually be avoided in baseball better than it can, for example, in the NHL. Consular Visa Issuance Once the P-1 Petition is approved, and the hard copy approval notice issued to the team (which can again be delayed in 2021 due to staffing issues), the Department of Homeland Security then notifies the consular post at the foreign athlete’s country of residence. Note that this not always the country of their passport or country of birth, such as with Cuban players who have taken residence in the Dominican Republic, or a player who may sign from the Blue Jays who has been living in Canada) but it most commonly is. As you can imagine, this means the Embassy in Santo Domingo, Dominican Republic is quite familiar with P-1 visas for baseball players and generally tries to beef up staff in January and February of a given year to deal with the rush. However, the process of filing the visa paperwork online and getting a visa appointment is not always straightforward. Even in a standard year, a player may have to wait two to three weeks for a visa appointment, and since March 2020, when most consular posts have either been closed completely or offering limited services, even emergency requests such as are available to professional athletes are extremely limited. As an example, most Twins fans are now becoming familiar with, the Embassy in Willemstad, Curacao, a country of less than 160,000 people, is likely prepared to issue less than five to ten visas a day TOTAL. This includes anyone wishing to travel to the United States for personal or business tourism, anyone with a work authorized visa such as an athlete or worker moving to the US, and even those traveling through the United States en route to a third country. With limited flights out of Curacao, many locals fly through New York or Miami to get to Europe, for example, and they all require physical visas to transit through our country. What does this mean? That even in the best of times, clubs, agents, and immigration attorneys are often forced to wait in line to get their athlete into the building to have his visa issued. This year? If a player signed after January 1, they likely didn’t have an approval until close to February 1, and are even more likely not to have their day at the Embassy until mid-February. While we hope that athletes are prepared with all the documentation required to get their visa on the day, it also happens on occasion (primarily to younger minor league players) that they don’t have the requisite passport photos, forgot to bring the copy of the receipt for visa payment (which was probably made on their behalf), or simply left some portion of the Petition packet (as they generally carry a copy of the entire 50-80 page Petition and approval notice with them) at home. This won’t result in them having to get back in line to make a whole new appointment, but it can delay things a few days until the consulate can see them on a walk-in basis, especially considering COVID restrictions. Once the approval is finalized, however, they can expect the visa to be physically printed in their passport (and that of their family members) and delivered to them within a few days. While this is a fairly pro forma process and is derailed generally only by a situation where the athlete was arrested in the offseason (which often requires a stateside review of the charges to assess their seriousness and therefore, whether they can result in a bar to entry to the US), it still can have delays – everything from a passport expiring too soon to a delay in the cabling (yes, the DHS literally still sends approvals to their offshore counterparts in the Department of State by “cable”) of the approval. These things happen all the time and are part of the common parlance of any foreign national working in the United States. Do athletes have less of this than the stories you hear about your coworker’s cousin? Undoubtedly – but they still are quite common and frequent. Once the athlete receives the visa, annotated with the name of the employing team on it, it’s time to pack up and fly. In the case of Spring Training, they usually leave the next morning with a duffel bag or travel sized suitcase and quite commonly arrive ahead of their family members who the team works with to pack up the majority of their belongings that they will need for the season. The Border With a P1 visa in tow, the rest of the process should be easy, but as anyone who has ever crossed an international border knows, it is not necessarily over with. This is the lesson that Fernando Romero learned last year when he had a legitimate visa but was identified with carrying a controlled substance over the border, a “crime” (literally and figuratively) that now requires him to apply for a waiver of his prohibition on entering to enter the United States, potentially preventing him from entering the United States for as long as a few years. I can also name a half dozen cases where I’ve been called by teams because a guy missed a domestic US court appearance while he was outside of the country. Or, as I inferred in the first paragraph, a player took a quick trip to meet with his family in Mexico on an off day in Dallas after having been traded, forgetting that he required a new visa to enter the United States even though he didn’t need it to stay and work. Less serious border issues are usually a delay of an hour or two, such as when I traveled with a major leaguer into the US from Curacao last year and the computer couldn’t match his with those he had given earlier in the offseason at the consulate. (He was signed in November, so was able to take care of it early). It took almost 90 minutes before a US border official acknowledged that the callus he had formed on his index finger from his throwing workouts were the cause. I hope this quick primer, which is essentially the same that I offer to teams, agents, and new athletes, has helped the reader understand the three-step process involved in a player changing teams and securing the right to join his new team at the start of a season. Again, if the signing doesn’t happen until after January 1, it can be a very tight window to get the visa prior to the opening of camp. In the case of Andrelton Simmons in 2021, he signed January 31, likely didn’t have everything available for review by the consulate before about February 20, and is likely to have his day in Willemstad, Curacao any day now, following on the footsteps of his countrymen who either re-signed late in the offseason or changed teams, like Didi Gregorius and Jurickson Profar, respectively. When that happens, all will once again be right in the world. Cory Caouette is Managing Partner of BSIS, a professional immigration firm with a reputation for securing visas for foreign athletes. Who's Who of Corporate Immigration Law 2020 referred to BSIS and Mr. Caouette as "the go-to for sports immigration" and he has secured visas and permanent residence for athletes and teams in all four major sports leagues, as well as the PGA, UFC, ATP Tour, and several other athletic organizations.
  2. Delays in visas for ballplayers are not uncommon and even more common during the pandemic. Here is a primer on the challenges they face and the process involved.When a sports fan hears that a player on their favorite team is unavailable or late to a season because of “visa issues,” their mind seems to default to Hollywood scripts with the player in a back alley of a dodgy third world country, sweet talking a fat guy smoking a stogie between games of canasta. My personal experience, having processed over 500 such visas, is that little is known about the day to day processes most foreign-born athletes have to go through to get travel and work authorization to enter the United States. Then, when a situation happens like Dominican pitcher Fernando Romero’s now famous attempt to smuggle marijuana into the country, or off-the-field behavior like Sidney Ponson dealt with following an assault charge in his native Aruba, the “misbehavior” tag begins to be more readily applied to players awaiting visa issuance in their home country after the open of camp. But the truth is that the vast majority of visa delays, especially during a pandemic where consulates and embassies around the world are closed or short-staffed, are simply that – delays. They are often caused by bureaucratic headaches more than anything to do with the applicant. These same delays affect heads of Fortune 500 companies, families wishing to visit DisneyWorld, or even crewmembers on airplanes and cruise ships. For baseball players, while the skids are usually greased far more than they would be for you and I applying to work abroad, challenges can still present themselves on frequent occasions. Remember that MLB and its minor league affiliates have a higher percentage of athletes from poorer countries than any of the other major sports leagues. (The MLS is the only comparable league in American sports). As a result, its clubs have become more familiar with not only documentation issues arising from availability and legitimacy of birth certificates, criminal records checks, and even passports, but also a heightened degree of scrutiny among US consular and border officials in places like the Dominican Republic, Venezuela, Curacao, and Mexico than would be found in Canada or Western Europe. With that in mind, let’s take a look at the standard process a foreign-born athlete deals with once they agree to play for a team. The P-1 Petition While not every baseball player has a P-1 visa, the vast majority do. The P-1 is available specifically to: “a professional athlete employed by: (1) a team that is a member of an association of 6 or more professional sports teams whose combined revenues exceed $10,000,000 per year, if the association governs the conduct of its members and regulates the contests and exhibitions in which its members regularly engage, or (2) any minor league team that is affiliated with such an association.” As such, nearly any foreign athlete who signs a contract with a Major League Baseball team is eligible for a P-1, issued for five years or the length of the contract, whichever is shorter. While some apply for heightened visas (allowing them to stay year round) or even green cards due to their level of play, the vast majority use the P-1 classification. When a player signs with a new team in the offseason, or even if they re-sign with their old employer after their previous entry period expired, that team must file a “Petition for Nonimmigrant Worker” with the Department of Homeland Security to secure approval in the classification for the athlete. From a timing perspective, this is generally done concurrently with, or immediately after signing the player and adding them to the roster, to ensure that they meet the DHS requirement that a contract be enforceable at the time the Petition is filed. The sponsor or “Petitioner” of a P-1 Petition is the team itself. In almost all cases, it’s the team who signs the P-1 Petition and then an agent or immigration lawyer (like myself) ushers it through the process. For a $2500 fee to the government, this Petition can be expedited with DHS for adjudication within 15 calendar days, and often major league teams see that time shortened down to the better part of a week to ten days. But during the pandemic, the full 15 day period has become more common as in-office staffing at the agency has been reduced and workers have been moved offsite. Interestingly, when a player is traded midseason, the P-1 classification enables the player to play for the new team automatically for 30 days, allowing time for the new Petition to be filed by the new team. As we will see in the next section, the interplay between the Petition and the issuance of a visa can lead to challenges at the border for newly traded athletes, which comes into play in the rare instance the Twins would be playing in Toronto in late July or early August (or through some less common situations I’ve seen arise and mention below). But, with only one Canadian team in baseball, the issue can usually be avoided in baseball better than it can, for example, in the NHL. Consular Visa Issuance Once the P-1 Petition is approved, and the hard copy approval notice issued to the team (which can again be delayed in 2021 due to staffing issues), the Department of Homeland Security then notifies the consular post at the foreign athlete’s country of residence. Note that this not always the country of their passport or country of birth, such as with Cuban players who have taken residence in the Dominican Republic, or a player who may sign from the Blue Jays who has been living in Canada) but it most commonly is. As you can imagine, this means the Embassy in Santo Domingo, Dominican Republic is quite familiar with P-1 visas for baseball players and generally tries to beef up staff in January and February of a given year to deal with the rush. However, the process of filing the visa paperwork online and getting a visa appointment is not always straightforward. Even in a standard year, a player may have to wait two to three weeks for a visa appointment, and since March 2020, when most consular posts have either been closed completely or offering limited services, even emergency requests such as are available to professional athletes are extremely limited. As an example, most Twins fans are now becoming familiar with, the Embassy in Willemstad, Curacao, a country of less than 160,000 people, is likely prepared to issue less than five to ten visas a day TOTAL. This includes anyone wishing to travel to the United States for personal or business tourism, anyone with a work authorized visa such as an athlete or worker moving to the US, and even those traveling through the United States en route to a third country. With limited flights out of Curacao, many locals fly through New York or Miami to get to Europe, for example, and they all require physical visas to transit through our country. What does this mean? That even in the best of times, clubs, agents, and immigration attorneys are often forced to wait in line to get their athlete into the building to have his visa issued. This year? If a player signed after January 1, they likely didn’t have an approval until close to February 1, and are even more likely not to have their day at the Embassy until mid-February. While we hope that athletes are prepared with all the documentation required to get their visa on the day, it also happens on occasion (primarily to younger minor league players) that they don’t have the requisite passport photos, forgot to bring the copy of the receipt for visa payment (which was probably made on their behalf), or simply left some portion of the Petition packet (as they generally carry a copy of the entire 50-80 page Petition and approval notice with them) at home. This won’t result in them having to get back in line to make a whole new appointment, but it can delay things a few days until the consulate can see them on a walk-in basis, especially considering COVID restrictions. Once the approval is finalized, however, they can expect the visa to be physically printed in their passport (and that of their family members) and delivered to them within a few days. While this is a fairly pro forma process and is derailed generally only by a situation where the athlete was arrested in the offseason (which often requires a stateside review of the charges to assess their seriousness and therefore, whether they can result in a bar to entry to the US), it still can have delays – everything from a passport expiring too soon to a delay in the cabling (yes, the DHS literally still sends approvals to their offshore counterparts in the Department of State by “cable”) of the approval. These things happen all the time and are part of the common parlance of any foreign national working in the United States. Do athletes have less of this than the stories you hear about your coworker’s cousin? Undoubtedly – but they still are quite common and frequent. Once the athlete receives the visa, annotated with the name of the employing team on it, it’s time to pack up and fly. In the case of Spring Training, they usually leave the next morning with a duffel bag or travel sized suitcase and quite commonly arrive ahead of their family members who the team works with to pack up the majority of their belongings that they will need for the season. The Border With a P1 visa in tow, the rest of the process should be easy, but as anyone who has ever crossed an international border knows, it is not necessarily over with. This is the lesson that Fernando Romero learned last year when he had a legitimate visa but was identified with carrying a controlled substance over the border, a “crime” (literally and figuratively) that now requires him to apply for a waiver of his prohibition on entering to enter the United States, potentially preventing him from entering the United States for as long as a few years. I can also name a half dozen cases where I’ve been called by teams because a guy missed a domestic US court appearance while he was outside of the country. Or, as I inferred in the first paragraph, a player took a quick trip to meet with his family in Mexico on an off day in Dallas after having been traded, forgetting that he required a new visa to enter the United States even though he didn’t need it to stay and work. Less serious border issues are usually a delay of an hour or two, such as when I traveled with a major leaguer into the US from Curacao last year and the computer couldn’t match his with those he had given earlier in the offseason at the consulate. (He was signed in November, so was able to take care of it early). It took almost 90 minutes before a US border official acknowledged that the callus he had formed on his index finger from his throwing workouts were the cause. I hope this quick primer, which is essentially the same that I offer to teams, agents, and new athletes, has helped the reader understand the three-step process involved in a player changing teams and securing the right to join his new team at the start of a season. Again, if the signing doesn’t happen until after January 1, it can be a very tight window to get the visa prior to the opening of camp. In the case of Andrelton Simmons in 2021, he signed January 31, likely didn’t have everything available for review by the consulate before about February 20, and is likely to have his day in Willemstad, Curacao any day now, following on the footsteps of his countrymen who either re-signed late in the offseason or changed teams, like Didi Gregorius and Jurickson Profar, respectively. When that happens, all will once again be right in the world. Cory Caouette is Managing Partner of BSIS, a professional immigration firm with a reputation for securing visas for foreign athletes. Who's Who of Corporate Immigration Law 2020 referred to BSIS and Mr. Caouette as "the go-to for sports immigration" and he has secured visas and permanent residence for athletes and teams in all four major sports leagues, as well as the PGA, UFC, ATP Tour, and several other athletic organizations. Click here to view the article
  3. Aaron and John talk about Fernando Romero going to Japan, Thad Levine not going to Philadelphia, Rocco Baldelli's new plan for Taylor Rogers and the Twins' bullpen, and the odds of a minor-league signing making an impact. You can listen by downloading us from iTunes, Spotify, Stitcher, iHeartRadio or find it at GleemanAndTheGeek.com. Or just click this link. Listen Here Now Click here to view the article
  4. Romero’s Rise Romero joined the Twins organization as a teenager out of the Dominican Republic. He signed with the Twins on February 2, 2012 and his first professional season came as a 17-year-old in the Dominican Summer League. He posted a 4.65 ERA with a 1.29 WHIP in 31 innings that season. His next season was even better as he came stateside with the GCL Twins. He lowered his ERA to 1.60 and struck out more than a batter per inning. Minnesota continue to be aggressive with Romero in 2014 as he got his first taste of a full-season league. He was nearly three years younger than the average age of the players in the Midwest League. Unfortunately, he would only pitch 12 innings that season after tearing his UCL which required Tommy John surgery. Romero wouldn’t make another professional appearance until the 2016 season. Some players can struggle when returning from Tommy John surgery as they try and shake off the rust, but Romero certainly didn’t find those struggles. He pitched at Low- and High-A in his return and posted video game like numbers while still being young for both levels. His ERA was under 1.95 in both stops that season and he had a miniscule 0.897 WHIP. He was firmly back on the prospect map. Romero spent all of 2017 at Double-A where he made 23 starts and pitched over 120 innings for the first time in his career. He ended the year with a 3.53 ERA and a 1.35 WHIP with a 120 to 45 strikeout to walk ratio. He was on the cusp on cracking into the big leagues and he got that call in 2018. On May 2, 2018, Romero made his big-league debut against the Toronto Blue Jays. He pitched 5 2/3 shutout innings by limiting Jays batters to four hits. He walked three, struck out five, and was credited with his first win. His next start against St. Louis was even better as he struck out nine over six shutout innings and picked up another win. Obviously, things couldn’t continue to go that well. He ended his rookie season with a 4.69 ERA and a 1.42 WHIP across 11 starts, but he had clearly shown some positive signs throughout the season. https://twitter.com/MatthewTaylorMN/status/1339960027482894336?s=20 Romero’s Fall Things weren’t as promising during the 2019 season. The Twins started using Romero as a relief option at Triple-A and he posted a 4.37 ERA and a 1.42 WHIP in 57 2/3 innings. At the big-league level, there was some good and some bad as he adjusted to his new role. He allowed multiple runs in five of his 15 appearances and there were multiple times he pitched less than an inning. In his other 10 appearances, he didn’t allow a run, but the damage was already done. He ended the year with an ERA north of 7.00 and a 2.14 WHIP. Romero was supposed to enter the 2020 season with a chance to make the Twins bullpen coming out of spring training. That didn’t happen as Romero dealt with visa issues and was placed on the restricted list for the entire season. According to MLB.com reports, Romero flew from his native Dominican Republic to Atlanta ahead of the February 12 reporting date for pitchers and catchers. When he arrived, he got into a customs issue and was sent back to the Dominican Republic to submit paperwork for a new visa. Few other reports came out about the issue before the Twins released him this week. Romero will turn 26-years old in the coming days and the one-time top prospect is going to be searching for a new organization. Minnesota’s release of Romero might seem like a surprise, but the club likely has more information on the reasons he continued to have visa issues this year. He still has the plenty of potential, but like all pitching prospects, time could be running out. MORE FROM TWINS DAILY — Latest Twins coverage from our writers — Recent Twins discussion in our forums — Follow Twins Daily via Twitter, Facebook or email
  5. Pitching prospects can be fickle, especially in a modern era that sees players develop shoulder, elbow, and other arm problems from hurling a round object at over 90 mph. Just three years ago, Fernando Romero was considered the Twins best pitching prospect, but word came out on Thursday that the team had released him. So, what happened to this once promising arm?Romero’s Rise Romero joined the Twins organization as a teenager out of the Dominican Republic. He signed with the Twins on February 2, 2012 and his first professional season came as a 17-year-old in the Dominican Summer League. He posted a 4.65 ERA with a 1.29 WHIP in 31 innings that season. His next season was even better as he came stateside with the GCL Twins. He lowered his ERA to 1.60 and struck out more than a batter per inning. Minnesota continue to be aggressive with Romero in 2014 as he got his first taste of a full-season league. He was nearly three years younger than the average age of the players in the Midwest League. Unfortunately, he would only pitch 12 innings that season after tearing his UCL which required Tommy John surgery. Romero wouldn’t make another professional appearance until the 2016 season. Some players can struggle when returning from Tommy John surgery as they try and shake off the rust, but Romero certainly didn’t find those struggles. He pitched at Low- and High-A in his return and posted video game like numbers while still being young for both levels. His ERA was under 1.95 in both stops that season and he had a miniscule 0.897 WHIP. He was firmly back on the prospect map. Romero spent all of 2017 at Double-A where he made 23 starts and pitched over 120 innings for the first time in his career. He ended the year with a 3.53 ERA and a 1.35 WHIP with a 120 to 45 strikeout to walk ratio. He was on the cusp on cracking into the big leagues and he got that call in 2018. On May 2, 2018, Romero made his big-league debut against the Toronto Blue Jays. He pitched 5 2/3 shutout innings by limiting Jays batters to four hits. He walked three, struck out five, and was credited with his first win. His next start against St. Louis was even better as he struck out nine over six shutout innings and picked up another win. Obviously, things couldn’t continue to go that well. He ended his rookie season with a 4.69 ERA and a 1.42 WHIP across 11 starts, but he had clearly shown some positive signs throughout the season. Romero’s Fall Things weren’t as promising during the 2019 season. The Twins started using Romero as a relief option at Triple-A and he posted a 4.37 ERA and a 1.42 WHIP in 57 2/3 innings. At the big-league level, there was some good and some bad as he adjusted to his new role. He allowed multiple runs in five of his 15 appearances and there were multiple times he pitched less than an inning. In his other 10 appearances, he didn’t allow a run, but the damage was already done. He ended the year with an ERA north of 7.00 and a 2.14 WHIP. Romero was supposed to enter the 2020 season with a chance to make the Twins bullpen coming out of spring training. That didn’t happen as Romero dealt with visa issues and was placed on the restricted list for the entire season. According to MLB.com reports, Romero flew from his native Dominican Republic to Atlanta ahead of the February 12 reporting date for pitchers and catchers. When he arrived, he got into a customs issue and was sent back to the Dominican Republic to submit paperwork for a new visa. Few other reports came out about the issue before the Twins released him this week. Romero will turn 26-years old in the coming days and the one-time top prospect is going to be searching for a new organization. Minnesota’s release of Romero might seem like a surprise, but the club likely has more information on the reasons he continued to have visa issues this year. He still has the plenty of potential, but like all pitching prospects, time could be running out. MORE FROM TWINS DAILY — Latest Twins coverage from our writers — Recent Twins discussion in our forums — Follow Twins Daily via Twitter, Facebook or email Click here to view the article
  6. It's been a long time since we've circled the bases with a Three-Bagger, which explores three different Twins stories in the news. As Spring Training 2.0 swings into gear, let's unpack a quirk in the timing of Michael Pineda's return, the implications of top prospects playing just minutes away from Target Field, and the saddening uncertainty surrounding Fernando Romero.Michael Pineda: It's Just Like Making a Trade! During the latest episode of Gleeman and the Geek, Aaron and John made a connection that I hadn't noticed: the conclusion of Pineda's carryover suspension will coincide almost exactly with MLB's rejiggered August 31st trade deadline. This brings to mind the classic utterance for Twins fans, "It's just like making a trade!" – often used to mock the team for sitting out deadlines, and pointing to players returning from injuries as impact additions. Interestingly, as Patrick Wozniak wrote here last week, this is basically a script-flip on the original plan for Rich Hill, who was supposed to join the fold around the standard deadline and negate a possible need for the team. Now, the veteran lefty is expected to be ready to go from Day 1. By being forced to serve his full remaining suspension in a shortened year, Pineda is getting a raw deal. It's almost hard to believe the league would stick to such a penalty, and that explains why reporters keep getting asked about it over and over again. Just doesn't make sense. Alas, the Twins are almost guaranteed to get one big addition around the strange new deadline. Twins Across the Twin Cities On Monday, the Twins shared publicly their 60-man player pool, which includes the entire 40-man roster plus 19 non-roster players. As expected, the discretionary "taxi squad" list is filled mostly with experienced minor-leaguers, along with a handful of top prospects. I gotta say that all this talk about "Summer Camp" and pools is not helping with me normal summer FOMO, but I digress. It's exciting to see all these names and to think about the possibility of young talents like Trevor Larnach or Brent Rooker making an impact. (Cody Christie wrote about the chances of various top prospects to reach the majors in 2020.) It's quite interesting to me that the auxiliary group will be based out of CHS Field in St. Paul, just miles away from Target Field. I've always thought it would be fun to have a minor-league team in the same vicinity as the big-league club, giving fans an opportunity to see upcoming talent without traveling. (Red Sox fans, for example, need drive only 40 minutes or so to see their Triple-A team in Pawtucket.) That won't really be in play this summer, obviously, but it's cool that Royce Lewis and Alex Kirilloff and other premier upcoming prospects will be staying sharp so nearby. On that note, I'm very curious: what is "staying sharp" going to look like? In order to be ready to step into legitimate major-league action on short notice – not to mention simply develop skills appropriately throughout the season – these extra players need to be routinely competing at a very high level, which exceeds the typical intrasquad scrimmage or sim game. What will that look like? Games? Stats? Will there be coverage? I have no doubt there'll be appetite for it. Wherefore Art Thou, Romero? One player who, like Pineda, is on the team's summer roster but currently unavailable: Fernando Romero, also on restricted list. In this case, though, the underlying reason is unclear. Romero didn't report to camp in March due to visa issues, and those issues evidently haven't been resolved. To my knowledge, there still haven't been any details reported on exactly what's going on here. I suppose it would make sense if the visa application system is currently bogged down and out of whack due to everything going on. Hopefully that's the case, and Romero isn't embroiled in something serious. Either way, it's a really tough situation for a guy at a key spot in his career. Romero was set to exhaust his final MLB option in 2020. At this point, you've really gotta wonder if we are going to see him pitch again in a Minnesota uniform. The former No. 1 Twins Daily prospect and forgotten flamethrower averaged 97 MPH with his fastball in the majors last year, ranking in the 95th percentile among all pitchers. MORE FROM TWINS DAILY — Latest Twins coverage from our writers — Recent Twins discussion in our forums — Follow Twins Daily via Twitter, Facebook or email Click here to view the article
  7. Michael Pineda: It's Just Like Making a Trade! During the latest episode of Gleeman and the Geek, Aaron and John made a connection that I hadn't noticed: the conclusion of Pineda's carryover suspension will coincide almost exactly with MLB's rejiggered August 31st trade deadline. This brings to mind the classic utterance for Twins fans, "It's just like making a trade!" – often used to mock the team for sitting out deadlines, and pointing to players returning from injuries as impact additions. Interestingly, as Patrick Wozniak wrote here last week, this is basically a script-flip on the original plan for Rich Hill, who was supposed to join the fold around the standard deadline and negate a possible need for the team. Now, the veteran lefty is expected to be ready to go from Day 1. By being forced to serve his full remaining suspension in a shortened year, Pineda is getting a raw deal. It's almost hard to believe the league would stick to such a penalty, and that explains why reporters keep getting asked about it over and over again. Just doesn't make sense. Alas, the Twins are almost guaranteed to get one big addition around the strange new deadline. Twins Across the Twin Cities On Monday, the Twins shared publicly their 60-man player pool, which includes the entire 40-man roster plus 19 non-roster players. As expected, the discretionary "taxi squad" list is filled mostly with experienced minor-leaguers, along with a handful of top prospects. https://twitter.com/Twins/status/1277628636141694978 I gotta say that all this talk about "Summer Camp" and pools is not helping with me normal summer FOMO, but I digress. It's exciting to see all these names and to think about the possibility of young talents like Trevor Larnach or Brent Rooker making an impact. (Cody Christie wrote about the chances of various top prospects to reach the majors in 2020.) It's quite interesting to me that the auxiliary group will be based out of CHS Field in St. Paul, just miles away from Target Field. I've always thought it would be fun to have a minor-league team in the same vicinity as the big-league club, giving fans an opportunity to see upcoming talent without traveling. (Red Sox fans, for example, need drive only 40 minutes or so to see their Triple-A team in Pawtucket.) That won't really be in play this summer, obviously, but it's cool that Royce Lewis and Alex Kirilloff and other premier upcoming prospects will be staying sharp so nearby. On that note, I'm very curious: what is "staying sharp" going to look like? In order to be ready to step into legitimate major-league action on short notice – not to mention simply develop skills appropriately throughout the season – these extra players need to be routinely competing at a very high level, which exceeds the typical intrasquad scrimmage or sim game. What will that look like? Games? Stats? Will there be coverage? I have no doubt there'll be appetite for it. Wherefore Art Thou, Romero? One player who, like Pineda, is on the team's summer roster but currently unavailable: Fernando Romero, also on restricted list. In this case, though, the underlying reason is unclear. Romero didn't report to camp in March due to visa issues, and those issues evidently haven't been resolved. To my knowledge, there still haven't been any details reported on exactly what's going on here. I suppose it would make sense if the visa application system is currently bogged down and out of whack due to everything going on. Hopefully that's the case, and Romero isn't embroiled in something serious. Either way, it's a really tough situation for a guy at a key spot in his career. Romero was set to exhaust his final MLB option in 2020. At this point, you've really gotta wonder if we are going to see him pitch again in a Minnesota uniform. The former No. 1 Twins Daily prospect and forgotten flamethrower averaged 97 MPH with his fastball in the majors last year, ranking in the 95th percentile among all pitchers. 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. Disappointing news today via LaVelle E. Neal III of the Star Tribune: The Twins are anticipating that Fernando Romero will miss most or all of spring training as his visa issues persist. "Romero has to resubmit documents to obtain a work visa to enter the country, a process that's expected to take weeks," Neal writes. "Therefore, the club is preparing for the possibility that Romero will not be part of the major league camp." This is a huge setback for the 25-year-old Romero, who could've easily won a spot in the bullpen with a strong spring. He's all but certain to open in Triple-A now. He's facing a critical opportunity with the Twins searching for bullpen firepower to replace Graterol. It's truly hard to understand how these kinds of things can happen with so much on the line. Alas, Romero will have some ground to make up once he gets here. But it's worth keeping in mind Sano was also 25 a year ago when he showed up at camp with a seemingly self-sabotaging heel laceration. After a late start, he got right back to where he and the Twins needed him to be. Hopefully something similar happens here. What are your thoughts on this development?
  9. Fernando Romero's 2019 season was a disaster by any measure. It wasn't just his horrific 7.07 ERA in major-league 14 innings. Even more so, it was the totally uninspiring results he put forth while spending a majority of his campaign at Triple-A: 57.2 IP, 4.37 ERA, 1.42 WHIP, 4.5 BB/9, 12 wild pitches. The lasting memory in the minds of most fans is likely Romero's lone MLB appearance in June, when he was briefly recalled following a May demotion. With the Twins leading the Mariners 10-1 at Target Field, Romero was called upon to pitch the eighth inning in basically the lowest-stress situation imaginable. His sequence: walk, single, double, run-scoring wild pitch, walk. Romero was removed, sent back down, and didn't see the major-league mound again until September, when he served in essentially a mop-up role for the Twins. Now that we've got all that unpleasantness out of the way, let's circle back to the positives attached to the big right-hander, which are hardly erased by one bad season, no matter how discouraging: He's still only 25. Younger than – say – Corey Kluber was before he even joined the Cleveland rotation. Kluber seems a noteworthy comp because he was also struggling with his control around the same age. Romero's fastball is in a rare class. He averaged 97 MPH last year, which ranked 35th out of 646 MLB pitchers to throw 10+ innings, or in the 95th percentile. Among Twins pitchers, only Graterol can bring it harder. He can dominate with the slider. Buzzing in at 87 MPH, it's a very good pitch. Despite his struggles with the Twins in 2019, opponents batted just .154 and slugged .269 against the slide-piece, with an astounding 64.7% whiff rate (per Baseball Savant). He keeps the ball in the park. This aspect of his game curiously went amiss at the beginning of last season, as he gave up five home runs in his first six appearances between Triple-A and the majors, but the rest of the way he surrendered just two homers in 59 1/3 frames. This aligns with his broader track record – in 450 minor-league innings, Romero allowed only 18 long balls. He is a specimen. At 6-feet and 215 lbs, Romero is an intimidating force on the mound with the attitude to match. The qualities that gave him appeal as a late-inning weapon when the Twins switched his role last spring are still there. Now, Romero of course has some things working against him, the main one being command. As good as his stuff is, he rarely had any idea where it was going last year and that really cost him. But incumbent pitching coach Wes Johnson and newcomer Bob McClure have plenty to work with here. Will he be able to sync up with them from the start of the season? Or will he open back in Triple-A? Will the Twins continue to try making it work in the bullpen, or will they give him another shot at starting, with their bullpen depth so much stronger now than it was a year ago? In the late stages of last season, I expressed concern over the right-hander's status for 2020, noting that he'd burned three options and the Twins could be looking ahead to a tough decision this spring. But it was brought to my attention, via Jeremy Nygaard, that Romero likely qualifies for a fourth option. With this being the case, I'm thinking the best course of action might be to transition him back into a starting role at Rochester. The Twins' needs have shifted back in that direction, and in all the clamor to find an ace for the rotation, the team would be remiss to overlook an internal candidate with so many of the requisite attributes. If he can emerge again as a starting option, that would be a potentially huge boost. And if the move doesn't take, a relief fallback remains in place. Should Romero look good in spring training, perhaps the Twins will strike a happy medium by bringing him north out of camp, and using him in a long-relief or piggybacking type of capacity, while finding ways to fill innings until Michael Pineda is available. He could stay stretched without needing to be thrust back into a starter's regimen after pitching exclusively as a reliever in 2019. Perhaps more importantly, this plan would allow Romero to work closely with Johnson and McClure from the jump. Questions and decisions like these will rise to the forefront as Romero and the rest of the team's pitchers get ready to report to Fort Myers in two weeks. How would you prefer to see the team handle him moving forward? 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. The hype train is in full gear for the Minnesota Twins 2020 relief corps. Last Thursday night at the Diamond Awards, manager Rocco Baldelli opined that it's the best bullpen in baseball right now – a perfectly defensible claim. Bolstered by Brusdar Graterol's now-confirmed inclusion, this unit is loaded with emerging high-powered arms and proven veteran performers. One major wild-card, however, tends to get left out of the conversation.Fernando Romero's 2019 season was a disaster by any measure. It wasn't just his horrific 7.07 ERA in major-league 14 innings. Even more so, it was the totally uninspiring results he put forth while spending a majority of his campaign at Triple-A: 57.2 IP, 4.37 ERA, 1.42 WHIP, 4.5 BB/9, 12 wild pitches. The lasting memory in the minds of most fans is likely Romero's lone MLB appearance in June, when he was briefly recalled following a May demotion. With the Twins leading the Mariners 10-1 at Target Field, Romero was called upon to pitch the eighth inning in basically the lowest-stress situation imaginable. His sequence: walk, single, double, run-scoring wild pitch, walk. Romero was removed, sent back down, and didn't see the major-league mound again until September, when he served in essentially a mop-up role for the Twins. Now that we've got all that unpleasantness out of the way, let's circle back to the positives attached to the big right-hander, which are hardly erased by one bad season, no matter how discouraging: He's still only 25. Younger than – say – Corey Kluber was before he even joined the Cleveland rotation. Kluber seems a noteworthy comp because he was also struggling with his control around the same age. Romero's fastball is in a rare class. He averaged 97 MPH last year, which ranked 35th out of 646 MLB pitchers to throw 10+ innings, or in the 95th percentile. Among Twins pitchers, only Graterol can bring it harder. He can dominate with the slider. Buzzing in at 87 MPH, it's a very good pitch. Despite his struggles with the Twins in 2019, opponents batted just .154 and slugged .269 against the slide-piece, with an astounding 64.7% whiff rate (per Baseball Savant). He keeps the ball in the park. This aspect of his game curiously went amiss at the beginning of last season, as he gave up five home runs in his first six appearances between Triple-A and the majors, but the rest of the way he surrendered just two homers in 59 1/3 frames. This aligns with his broader track record – in 450 minor-league innings, Romero allowed only 18 long balls. He is a specimen. At 6-feet and 215 lbs, Romero is an intimidating force on the mound with the attitude to match. The qualities that gave him appeal as a late-inning weapon when the Twins switched his role last spring are still there. Now, Romero of course has some things working against him, the main one being command. As good as his stuff is, he rarely had any idea where it was going last year and that really cost him. But incumbent pitching coach Wes Johnson and newcomer Bob McClure have plenty to work with here. Will he be able to sync up with them from the start of the season? Or will he open back in Triple-A? Will the Twins continue to try making it work in the bullpen, or will they give him another shot at starting, with their bullpen depth so much stronger now than it was a year ago? In the late stages of last season, I expressed concern over the right-hander's status for 2020, noting that he'd burned three options and the Twins could be looking ahead to a tough decision this spring. But it was brought to my attention, via Jeremy Nygaard, that Romero likely qualifies for a fourth option. With this being the case, I'm thinking the best course of action might be to transition him back into a starting role at Rochester. The Twins' needs have shifted back in that direction, and in all the clamor to find an ace for the rotation, the team would be remiss to overlook an internal candidate with so many of the requisite attributes. If he can emerge again as a starting option, that would be a potentially huge boost. And if the move doesn't take, a relief fallback remains in place. Should Romero look good in spring training, perhaps the Twins will strike a happy medium by bringing him north out of camp, and using him in a long-relief or piggybacking type of capacity, while finding ways to fill innings until Michael Pineda is available. He could stay stretched without needing to be thrust back into a starter's regimen after pitching exclusively as a reliever in 2019. Perhaps more importantly, this plan would allow Romero to work closely with Johnson and McClure from the jump. Questions and decisions like these will rise to the forefront as Romero and the rest of the team's pitchers get ready to report to Fort Myers in two weeks. How would you prefer to see the team handle him moving forward? MORE FROM TWINS DAILY — Latest Twins coverage from our writers — Recent Twins discussion in our forums — Follow Twins Daily via Twitter, Facebook or email Click here to view the article
  11. And my oddly specific intuition is mostly correct. Since that year, the Twins have been ranked the 29th, 25th, 4th, 23rd, 23rd, 21st, 19th and 18th best bullpen respectively by fWAR each year from 2011 to now. That comes out to an average of ~20th each year that is propped up massively by the one year it was actually good. Meaning that the bullpen has been near the top of the to-do list during the offseason for quite some time now. This offseason was no different, while the bullpen was technically the best it had been since 2013, it was obvious that they needed to upgrade with some reliever additions if they wanted a chance to build a stable pen. And so we waited and waited this offseason as cheap, reliable veteran relievers were signed and so far the bullpen addition has been … Blake Parker. I’m being a bit unfair here because Parker had an incredible 2017 with the Angels and was still pretty good last year. There also appears to be internal help as Fernando Romero has also been moved to the pen along with possibly Martin Perez or Adalberto Mejia. Also internally, Trevor Hildenberger and Addison Reed present themselves as interesting bounce-back candidates but I really only trust the server of sliders to actually do so (imaginary sliders, not real ones, it does annoy me slightly that Hildy’s best pitch is actually the changeup but that’s neither here nor there). One interesting thing from the numbers I presented earlier was that 2013 bullpen, going from 25th the year before to fourth is quite the drastic jump. While I won’t be looking at that bullpen specifically as the target of this article, I will be looking at another similar bullpen example in the Padres. San Diego’s bullpen in 2017 was ranked 24th in ERA, 29th in FIP, and 29th in fWAR. In 2018, their bullpen was ranked sixth in ERA, second in FIP, and second in fWAR. These are all major improvements from only a one year difference. How did they do it? Well hop on in and I’ll break down how their personnel changed and what the major factors for these drastic turnarounds were. Let’s start with the Padres in 2017, here are the eight relievers who logged the most innings for the Padres out of the bullpen in 2017 ranked by total innings: These players made up the majority of the second-worst bullpen that year, and here’s how they lined up in 2018 with asterisks on the returning players: A few things here, this is now the second straight article I have made that references Robbie Erlin, I don’t know how to feel about that. Also, the Padres really blurred the line between starter and reliever so many of these guys logged innings in both roles which forced me to check how they got their innings for this article to be accurate which was a pain in the butt. Also, Jordan Lyles has a negative career rWAR, stop giving him jobs. And finally, who was the leader in rWAR for the Padres last year? That’s right, Hunter Renfroe apparently was, what an odd team. Anyways, let’s ignore my semi-coherent rambling thoughts and talk about the topic at hand, the 2018 Padres only saw four guys remain from the previous year along with 4 fresh faces who made major impacts on the 2018 team. Where did all of these guys come from? Well, let’s break that down also: Free Agency-Craig Stammen, Jordan Lyles Trade-Matt Strahm, Robbie Erlin Developed-Adam Cimber, Phil Maton Waiver claim-Brad Hand, Kirby Yates An awfully balanced way to build a pen, almost suspiciously balanced. Why is it suspicious? I don’t know, it just is. Even those free agent additions weren’t big name tickets, as mentioned before, Lyles holds a negative career rWAR and Stammen was consistent for years with the Nationals but had missed two whole years of major league time before latching on with the Padres in 2017. Strahm was a talented lefty with the Royals who came over when the Royals were actually buyers in 2017 (if you can believe that) while Erlin was in the Mike Adams trade many moons ago (y’all remember Mike Adams)? Maton and Cimber were never highly rated prospects in the consistently great Padres system but worked themselves up through the ranks before getting their major league chances in 2017 and 2018 respectively. Hand and Yates are interesting cases. Hand was a struggling starter for years with the Marlins before San Diego claimed him, made him a reliever, and turned him into Andrew Miller Lite. Yates bounced around a few teams and had decent peripherals in some small samples but when even the Rays don’t want an extra look at you, that’s usually a bad sign. But he added a splitter when he joined the Padres and then became death, the destroyer of worlds. All in all, this is an awfully long-winded way of saying that a team doesn’t need to make a big splash to have an elite bullpen. The Padres used wood, glue and duct tape to build one of the best bullpens in the game thanks to their pitching coach Darren Balsley and a front office that has an eye for talent and the patience to let that talent develop. The Twins will look to somewhat follow suit as they advance in 2019 hoping that players like Matt Magill, Fernando Romero and possibly an NRI or two can improve under the eyes of Wes Johnson and stick in the Twins pen to give them a similar boost that the Padres saw in 2018. Talent takes many shapes, sometimes it's hard to see how a player can become great, but oftentimes they’re just a few adjustments away from letting their skill shine. Along with improving internally, the Padres were also forward thinking on how they could get the most from their pitching staff as they utilized them more as “out-getters” rather than designating them specifically as starters or relievers. On the outside, it doesn't appear as if the Padres made any major moves to go from one of the worst bullpens in baseball to one of the best. And even after they traded Hand and Cimber to the Indians, they went on to have the highest bullpen fWAR in all of baseball in the second half! All they did was improve everyone by just a little bit and the effects were enormous, having a system of internal improvement will yield results that ripple throughout the entire team more than any single signing can. So, if Wes and the boys prove to be the difference makers they all seem to be, the Twins could easily follow in the footsteps of the Padres and have a great bullpen in 2019. Oh, and last year the Padres paid less for all of those eight guys than what Addison Reed alone made.
  12. Box Score Odorizzi: 5.2 IP, 7 H, 2 ER, 1 BB, 9 K, 64.5% strikes (61 of 94 pitches) Bullpen: 3.1 IP, 3 H, 1 ER, 0 BB, 1 K Home Runs: None Multi-Hit Games: Rosario (2-4, 2B) Bottom 3 WPA: Arraez -.111, Wade -.127, Sano -.207 Twins’ offense can’t figure out Chicago bullpen The Twins’ offense found themselves struggling against one of the worst bullpens in the league. For 5 1/3 innings, four White Sox pitchers threw a no-hitter while allowing three walks. They had a threat in the first after back-to-back walks with one out, but, a Rosario pop out followed by a Sano strikeout ended the inning. After a leadoff walk in the second, the White Sox bullpen sent down 13 straight batters going into the sixth inning. That’s when the no-hitter came to a close as Polanco ripped a single into center field. After a Cruz walk, Rosario squeaked a ball through the infield to score Polanco. https://twitter.com/fsnorth/status/1174499925805002752?s=20 Cave drew a walk to fill the bases with two outs for pinch-hitter LaMonte Wade Jr. but he grounded out to end the inning. After picking up their first hits, the Twins’ couldn’t use the momentum and went down 1-2-3 in the seventh. In the eighth, Rosario drilled a ball off the wall in right, but got thrown out trying extend it to a triple. In the ninth, the Twins again went down 1-2-3 to close out the game. Odorizzi able to minimize damage Jake Odorizzi was one out away from picking up a quality start, but ran into trouble in the sixth to end his night. Though Odorizzi picked up nine strikeouts tonight, his stuff wasn’t the best. Odorizzi gave up a leadoff hit in four of the six innings he pitched in. After giving up a leadoff single in the first, he picked up two strikeouts with Castro throwing out Garcia to end the inning. In the second he gave up a leadoff double followed by a Jimenez single to score a run, but Odorizzi picked up another double play and strikeout to get out of the inning. Odorizzi flew through the next two innings picking up four more strikeouts in back-to-back 1-2-3 innings. Through those four innings, Odorizzi already had seven strikeouts. Odorizzi found himself in a jam in the fifth inning with runners on first and second with just one out after a pair of singles. Odorizzi took advantage of facing the number eight and nine batters next, picked up another strikeout and was out of the inning with no harm. After giving up another leadoff hit, Odorizzi got two quick outs and it looked as if he would be able to at least complete six innings. With an 0-2 count to Moncada, he doubled to left-center to drive in the second run. After Jimenez drew a walk, Odorizzi’s night was ended. Bullpen Cody Stashak came into the game with two runners on and two outs and threw just three pitches to pick up a huge strikeout on Collins to end the inning. Stashak was also given the seventh inning, and he too gave up a leadoff single. He picked up back-to-back strikeouts to the eight and nine batters and then got Garcia to fly out to end the inning. Fernando Romero came in for the eighth, and believe it or not, gave up another leadoff hit. He got Abreu to ground out and struck out Moncada before being pulled for Brusdar Graterol. Graterol did his job, and got Jimenez to ground out to keep it a one-run game. A new inning, another leadoff hit, this time it was a home run to Collins to straight -away center. Graterol followed that up with nine pitches to pick up the last three outs, including a strikeout. Postgame With Baldelli https://twitter.com/fsnorth/status/1174526445428903937 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.
  13. After a 12 inning game and the White Sox using a bullpen game, it looked like the Twins’ offense would have some fun at the plate tonight. It was the complete opposite as the offense was no-hit through 5 1/3 innings, and got just three hits total. Despite giving up a lot of leadoff hits, Odorizzi managed to keep the Twins in the game as the Twins dropped the series finale.Box Score Odorizzi: 5.2 IP, 7 H, 2 ER, 1 BB, 9 K, 64.5% strikes (61 of 94 pitches) Bullpen: 3.1 IP, 3 H, 1 ER, 0 BB, 1 K Home Runs: None Multi-Hit Games: Rosario (2-4, 2B) Bottom 3 WPA: Arraez -.111, Wade -.127, Sano -.207 Twins’ offense can’t figure out Chicago bullpen The Twins’ offense found themselves struggling against one of the worst bullpens in the league. For 5 1/3 innings, four White Sox pitchers threw a no-hitter while allowing three walks. They had a threat in the first after back-to-back walks with one out, but, a Rosario pop out followed by a Sano strikeout ended the inning. After a leadoff walk in the second, the White Sox bullpen sent down 13 straight batters going into the sixth inning. That’s when the no-hitter came to a close as Polanco ripped a single into center field. After a Cruz walk, Rosario squeaked a ball through the infield to score Polanco. Cave drew a walk to fill the bases with two outs for pinch-hitter LaMonte Wade Jr. but he grounded out to end the inning. After picking up their first hits, the Twins’ couldn’t use the momentum and went down 1-2-3 in the seventh. In the eighth, Rosario drilled a ball off the wall in right, but got thrown out trying extend it to a triple. In the ninth, the Twins again went down 1-2-3 to close out the game. Odorizzi able to minimize damage Jake Odorizzi was one out away from picking up a quality start, but ran into trouble in the sixth to end his night. Though Odorizzi picked up nine strikeouts tonight, his stuff wasn’t the best. Odorizzi gave up a leadoff hit in four of the six innings he pitched in. After giving up a leadoff single in the first, he picked up two strikeouts with Castro throwing out Garcia to end the inning. In the second he gave up a leadoff double followed by a Jimenez single to score a run, but Odorizzi picked up another double play and strikeout to get out of the inning. Odorizzi flew through the next two innings picking up four more strikeouts in back-to-back 1-2-3 innings. Through those four innings, Odorizzi already had seven strikeouts. Odorizzi found himself in a jam in the fifth inning with runners on first and second with just one out after a pair of singles. Odorizzi took advantage of facing the number eight and nine batters next, picked up another strikeout and was out of the inning with no harm. After giving up another leadoff hit, Odorizzi got two quick outs and it looked as if he would be able to at least complete six innings. With an 0-2 count to Moncada, he doubled to left-center to drive in the second run. After Jimenez drew a walk, Odorizzi’s night was ended. Bullpen Cody Stashak came into the game with two runners on and two outs and threw just three pitches to pick up a huge strikeout on Collins to end the inning. Stashak was also given the seventh inning, and he too gave up a leadoff single. He picked up back-to-back strikeouts to the eight and nine batters and then got Garcia to fly out to end the inning. Fernando Romero came in for the eighth, and believe it or not, gave up another leadoff hit. He got Abreu to ground out and struck out Moncada before being pulled for Brusdar Graterol. Graterol did his job, and got Jimenez to ground out to keep it a one-run game. A new inning, another leadoff hit, this time it was a home run to Collins to straight -away center. Graterol followed that up with nine pitches to pick up the last three outs, including a strikeout. Postgame With Baldelli 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. Click here to view the article
  14. In mostly bypassing the reliever free agent market (a wise enough choice, in retrospect) the Twins envisioned a bullpen whose back-end would be powered by the likes of Taylor Rogers, Trevor May, Addison Reed, Trevor Hildenberger, and Fernando Romero, with other options to emerge during the course of the year. In some ways, this blueprint has come to fruition. Rogers is one of the most valuable relievers in baseball. May, outside of a few hiccups, has been a dominant force. As for those those other quality contributors developing on the fringes? We've seen plenty: Ryne Harper, Zack Littell, Tyler Duffey, and so on. But the almost total lack of impact from Reed, Hildenberger and Romero has left a sizable late-inning void that the team is struggling to fill. Like I said, you can call it the result of poor planning. Reed gave us little reason to believe he'd be an asset this year, but I can't fault the team for attempting to extract some semblance of value from their $16 million investment. (I also credit them for quickly moving on as it became apparent he wasn't up to the task.) While Hildenberger was rough in the second half last year, he had been a lights-out high-leverage fireman before. And Romero? This was the boldest and most audacious bet of them all – taking the best pitching prospect in the system, and fast-tracking him into a bullpen role where he could maximize his stuff and bolster a unit in need. But from the jump, this experiment was ill-fated. Romero looked brutal in spring training, prompting the Twins to abandon their original plan and send him to the minors. The hope was he'd acclimate, gain confidence, and join the Minnesota bullpen in short order. This didn't happen. After four appearances at Triple-A, the Twins recalled Romero. He stuck around for three weeks but looked ordinary. He went back down for a month, and returned to make a single appearance, facing the Mariners on June 13th. Romero started the eighth, gave up two hits and two walks without recording an out, and was returned to Rochester. He hasn't resurfaced since. As we near the end of August, Reed is long gone. Hildenberger is on the rehab trail (and looking promising). Romero, meanwhile, is in limbo. Over the past two months back at Triple-A, he's been totally unremarkable, posting a 4.18 ERA and 1.71 WHIP in 28 innings while yielding a .261/.374/.342 slash line. To his credit he's limiting the big knocks (just one homer and six extra-base hits during this span) but his control continues to suffer, and he's not getting anywhere near the number of whiffs you look for from a big hard-thrower out of the pen. This stall-out doesn't spell doom for Romero. Twins fans know better by now than to form definitive conclusions about a talented young player who hasn't yet turned 25. But unfortunately, patience is ceasing to be a luxury the team can afford. Next spring he'll be out of options, meaning Minnesota will need to either carry him out of camp or expose him to waivers (where he wouldn't make it far, I imagine). One might say, "The reliever transition has failed, move him back to starter." Which sounds fine, except... they can't send him to Triple-A and have him readjust to that role. Does anyone feel comfortable with Romero (who by the way has never put together a complete season as a starter) in the Twins rotation right out of the gate next year? Is there any legitimate reason to think a guy who can't silence minor-league hitters as a reliever is suddenly going to be an effective MLB starter? Romero's inexplicably sluggish performance this season leaves the Twins in a tough spot when it comes to planning for 2020 and beyond. The reason it's worth talking about now is that the front office faces a pivotal decision in the week ahead. Next Sunday, rosters will expand for September call-ups. One day later, Rochester plays its final game of the regular season. Under normal circumstances (at least, normal for the past nine years), calling up Romero would essentially be a no-brainer. Development is the utmost concern, so you get him a few more opportunities and let him work with the big-league coaches, hopefully building some kind of confidence to carry forward. But now? The Twins are in a tight division race. They can't afford to give innings to someone they can't trust. And if their handling of him this year makes one thing clear, it's that they don't trust Romero to pitch important innings for them right now. Will be they be able to trust him to do so next year? They're running out of time, and chances, to inform that decision.
  15. When it comes to the Twins bullpen and its deficiencies, you can accuse the front office of poor planning. But you can't accuse them of a lack of planning. They had an – altogether defensible – plan for late-inning coverage. It just so happens three pieces of that plan fell through, and one misfire in particular leaves Minnesota in the lurch while trying to plan for the future.In mostly bypassing the reliever free agent market (a wise enough choice, in retrospect) the Twins envisioned a bullpen whose back-end would be powered by the likes of Taylor Rogers, Trevor May, Addison Reed, Trevor Hildenberger, and Fernando Romero, with other options to emerge during the course of the year. In some ways, this blueprint has come to fruition. Rogers is one of the most valuable relievers in baseball. May, outside of a few hiccups, has been a dominant force. As for those those other quality contributors developing on the fringes? We've seen plenty: Ryne Harper, Zack Littell, Tyler Duffey, and so on. But the almost total lack of impact from Reed, Hildenberger and Romero has left a sizable late-inning void that the team is struggling to fill. Like I said, you can call it the result of poor planning. Reed gave us little reason to believe he'd be an asset this year, but I can't fault the team for attempting to extract some semblance of value from their $16 million investment. (I also credit them for quickly moving on as it became apparent he wasn't up to the task.) While Hildenberger was rough in the second half last year, he had been a lights-out high-leverage fireman before. And Romero? This was the boldest and most audacious bet of them all – taking the best pitching prospect in the system, and fast-tracking him into a bullpen role where he could maximize his stuff and bolster a unit in need. But from the jump, this experiment was ill-fated. Romero looked brutal in spring training, prompting the Twins to abandon their original plan and send him to the minors. The hope was he'd acclimate, gain confidence, and join the Minnesota bullpen in short order. This didn't happen. After four appearances at Triple-A, the Twins recalled Romero. He stuck around for three weeks but looked ordinary. He went back down for a month, and returned to make a single appearance, facing the Mariners on June 13th. Romero started the eighth, gave up two hits and two walks without recording an out, and was returned to Rochester. He hasn't resurfaced since. As we near the end of August, Reed is long gone. Hildenberger is on the rehab trail (and looking promising). Romero, meanwhile, is in limbo. Over the past two months back at Triple-A, he's been totally unremarkable, posting a 4.18 ERA and 1.71 WHIP in 28 innings while yielding a .261/.374/.342 slash line. To his credit he's limiting the big knocks (just one homer and six extra-base hits during this span) but his control continues to suffer, and he's not getting anywhere near the number of whiffs you look for from a big hard-thrower out of the pen. This stall-out doesn't spell doom for Romero. Twins fans know better by now than to form definitive conclusions about a talented young player who hasn't yet turned 25. But unfortunately, patience is ceasing to be a luxury the team can afford. Next spring he'll be out of options, meaning Minnesota will need to either carry him out of camp or expose him to waivers (where he wouldn't make it far, I imagine). One might say, "The reliever transition has failed, move him back to starter." Which sounds fine, except... they can't send him to Triple-A and have him readjust to that role. Does anyone feel comfortable with Romero (who by the way has never put together a complete season as a starter) in the Twins rotation right out of the gate next year? Is there any legitimate reason to think a guy who can't silence minor-league hitters as a reliever is suddenly going to be an effective MLB starter? Romero's inexplicably sluggish performance this season leaves the Twins in a tough spot when it comes to planning for 2020 and beyond. The reason it's worth talking about now is that the front office faces a pivotal decision in the week ahead. Next Sunday, rosters will expand for September call-ups. One day later, Rochester plays its final game of the regular season. Under normal circumstances (at least, normal for the past nine years), calling up Romero would essentially be a no-brainer. Development is the utmost concern, so you get him a few more opportunities and let him work with the big-league coaches, hopefully building some kind of confidence to carry forward. But now? The Twins are in a tight division race. They can't afford to give innings to someone they can't trust. And if their handling of him this year makes one thing clear, it's that they don't trust Romero to pitch important innings for them right now. Will be they be able to trust him to do so next year? They're running out of time, and chances, to inform that decision. Click here to view the article
  16. Let's review the facts as they stand. The most intriguing pieces currently in the Twins' bullpen are: Taylor Rogers, formerly an 11th-round pick turned nondescript minor-league starter, who transitioned into relief duty immediately in the majors, and blossomed into a top-tier setup man over three short years. Ryne Harper, a former 37th-round pick who toiled in the minors for nine years before making the Twins out of camp this spring on a minor-league deal. He debuted as a 30-year-old rookie. Blake Parker, the team's biggest offseason bullpen splash. His smallish free agent contract as a castoff from the Angels was whittled down further after his physical. I hesitate to call him "intriguing" at this point, given his trendline, but overall he's gotten it done. Tyler Duffey, Trevor May, Zack Littell: All former middling prospects as starters, finding new gears as MLB relievers. Before you write off any of the three as flashes in the pan, or overachieving mediocrities, go back and read Rogers' blurb again. As I watch Duffey, May and Littell develop into lethal flamethrowers, I do wonder how differently their careers might have gone if the organization had committed to their role changes as quickly and decisively as with Rogers. With all due respect to Matt Magill and Mike Morin, I don't quite put either at the same level of faith as those above, but each one fits the narrative: discarded minor-league pitchers finding surprising success in the majors. Meanwhile, here are the pitchers conspicuously NOT contributing to the current campaign: Addison Reed, who signed the largest free agent reliever deal in franchise history 18 months ago. The Twins ate a good portion of it when they released him last month. Trevor Hildenberger, who was the team's most reliable bullpen arm for about a year before falling apart at the seams midway through 2018. He's currently on the injured list at Triple-A. Fernando Romero, the former top pitching prospect who's flamed out in multiple stints with the Twins this year, and hasn't looked a whole lot better in Triple-A. I know the common refrain on Romero – especially with the benefit of hindsight: "Why mess with him? They shoulda left him as a starter." But that ignores two things: 1) he wasn't throwing or holding up all that well as a starter, and 2) I mean, look at the examples of Duffey/May/Littell. There are certainly downsides to waffling and delaying. With Romero, it's an unaffordable luxury because he'll be out of options next spring. The malfunctions with all three of these players are largely driving the urgency to make improvements. But each of them, and Reed especially, epitomizes the reason that's a much taller order than many clamoring fans would like to believe. Anyone expressing certainty that Craig Kimbrel would've been a decisive upgrade is kidding themselves. Reed, like Kimbrel, generated less free agent demand than expected, given his backend pedigree, but he still had all the makings of a bullpen stud. He was younger and less weathered than Kimbrel. And in the early portion of his contract, Reed looked the part. But his drop-off was both rapid and ruthless. And the thing is, he's not alone. Reed is a somewhat extreme version of an all-too-common outcome. I just checked in on the top RP options listed in the latest Offseason Handbook, and there are vastly more busts than even moderately decent values. Kimbrel still hasn't pitched in the majors. David Robertson's thrown only seven innings due to injury issues. Andrew Miller's been mediocre. Kelvin Herrera, Jeurys Familia and Joe Kelly have been terrible. Cody Allen was so bad he's already been cut by the Angels, and signed by Minnesota to a minors deal. Allen now feels like a long shot to make any kind of meaningful impact; but, as you go through the names above, doesn't that feel true for almost anyone? Granted, some of these guys had their red flags, but all had strong track records, and signed for many millions of dollars. To a man, they've all floundered. Meanwhile, the Twins are finding their most credible help in a 30-year-old journeyman and a bunch of failed minor-league starters. And most of these guys are hitting their own skids at times. What all of this suggests to me: First, it's really hard to be a relief pitcher in the major leagues right now, with stacked lineups of aggressive upper-cut swingers just waiting to feast on premium heat. This is borne out by the numbers: MLB relievers, as a whole, have a 4.50 ERA this year, up from 4.08 last year and higher than their starting counterparts (!). Second, and not unrelatedly: it's going to be very difficult for the Twins to solve this problem. Difficult, and stressful. They aren't short on resources by any means, but that's not the problem. Those onerous contracts plaguing other teams who splurged on the relief market last winter are one thing; when you start giving up valuable prospects, stakes are raised, especially for a team in Minnesota's position. There are a lot of seemingly tantalizing relief options out there on the trade market. We've been covering them in a series of profiles here on the site, so this might be a good time to get caught up: Liam Hendriks, RHP, Athletics Ty Buttrey, RHP, Angels Ken Giles, RHP, Blue Jays Sam Dyson, RHP, Giants Brad Hand, LHP, Indians Oliver Perez, LHP Cleveland Robert Stephenson, RHP, Reds John Gant, RHP, Cardinals Alex Colome, RHP, White Sox Seth Lugo, RHP, Mets Greg Holland, RHP, Diamondbacks Sean Doolittle, LHP, Nationals Kirby Yates, RHP, Padres There are compelling cases to be made for several of the above, plus some others who haven't yet been covered. I myself am quite high on Raisel Iglesias. But no matter who I might favor, data shows there's an overwhelming chance I'll be wrong. The same is true for you. Again, I apologize for the bluntness. But of course, it doesn't matter if we're right – only the guys leading the front office. What's most important is that they buy into what's to come, rather than what's already gone. If only it were that easy.
  17. Are great relievers born? Made? Produced artificially in a laboratory somewhere deep in the Nevadan desert? We don't know the answer. If you think you do, you're probably wrong. Sorry to be so blunt, but that's just the nature of relief pitching. The Twins are living proof of its caprice and volatility. Which is why, as Minnesota embarks on a quest to improve its needy bullpen, they face a mighty challenge.Let's review the facts as they stand. The most intriguing pieces currently in the Twins' bullpen are: Taylor Rogers, formerly an 11th-round pick turned nondescript minor-league starter, who transitioned into relief duty immediately in the majors, and blossomed into a top-tier setup man over three short years.Ryne Harper, a former 37th-round pick who toiled in the minors for nine years before making the Twins out of camp this spring on a minor-league deal. He debuted as a 30-year-old rookie.Blake Parker, the team's biggest offseason bullpen splash. His smallish free agent contract as a castoff from the Angels was whittled down further after his physical. I hesitate to call him "intriguing" at this point, given his trendline, but overall he's gotten it done.Tyler Duffey, Trevor May, Zack Littell: All former middling prospects as starters, finding new gears as MLB relievers. Before you write off any of the three as flashes in the pan, or overachieving mediocrities, go back and read Rogers' blurb again. As I watch Duffey, May and Littell develop into lethal flamethrowers, I do wonder how differently their careers might have gone if the organization had committed to their role changes as quickly and decisively as with Rogers.With all due respect to Matt Magill and Mike Morin, I don't quite put either at the same level of faith as those above, but each one fits the narrative: discarded minor-league pitchers finding surprising success in the majors. Meanwhile, here are the pitchers conspicuously NOT contributing to the current campaign: Addison Reed, who signed the largest free agent reliever deal in franchise history 18 months ago. The Twins ate a good portion of it when they released him last month.Trevor Hildenberger, who was the team's most reliable bullpen arm for about a year before falling apart at the seams midway through 2018. He's currently on the injured list at Triple-A.Fernando Romero, the former top pitching prospect who's flamed out in multiple stints with the Twins this year, and hasn't looked a whole lot better in Triple-A.I know the common refrain on Romero – especially with the benefit of hindsight: "Why mess with him? They shoulda left him as a starter." But that ignores two things: 1) he wasn't throwing or holding up all that well as a starter, and 2) I mean, look at the examples of Duffey/May/Littell. There are certainly downsides to waffling and delaying. With Romero, it's an unaffordable luxury because he'll be out of options next spring. The malfunctions with all three of these players are largely driving the urgency to make improvements. But each of them, and Reed especially, epitomizes the reason that's a much taller order than many clamoring fans would like to believe. Anyone expressing certainty that Craig Kimbrel would've been a decisive upgrade is kidding themselves. Reed, like Kimbrel, generated less free agent demand than expected, given his backend pedigree, but he still had all the makings of a bullpen stud. He was younger and less weathered than Kimbrel. And in the early portion of his contract, Reed looked the part. But his drop-off was both rapid and ruthless. And the thing is, he's not alone. Reed is a somewhat extreme version of an all-too-common outcome. I just checked in on the top RP options listed in the latest Offseason Handbook, and there are vastly more busts than even moderately decent values. Kimbrel still hasn't pitched in the majors. David Robertson's thrown only seven innings due to injury issues. Andrew Miller's been mediocre. Kelvin Herrera, Jeurys Familia and Joe Kelly have been terrible. Cody Allen was so bad he's already been cut by the Angels, and signed by Minnesota to a minors deal. Allen now feels like a long shot to make any kind of meaningful impact; but, as you go through the names above, doesn't that feel true for almost anyone? Granted, some of these guys had their red flags, but all had strong track records, and signed for many millions of dollars. To a man, they've all floundered. Meanwhile, the Twins are finding their most credible help in a 30-year-old journeyman and a bunch of failed minor-league starters. And most of these guys are hitting their own skids at times. What all of this suggests to me: First, it's really hard to be a relief pitcher in the major leagues right now, with stacked lineups of aggressive upper-cut swingers just waiting to feast on premium heat. This is borne out by the numbers: MLB relievers, as a whole, have a 4.50 ERA this year, up from 4.08 last year and higher than their starting counterparts (!). Second, and not unrelatedly: it's going to be very difficult for the Twins to solve this problem. Difficult, and stressful. They aren't short on resources by any means, but that's not the problem. Those onerous contracts plaguing other teams who splurged on the relief market last winter are one thing; when you start giving up valuable prospects, stakes are raised, especially for a team in Minnesota's position. There are a lot of seemingly tantalizing relief options out there on the trade market. We've been covering them in a series of profiles here on the site, so this might be a good time to get caught up: Liam Hendriks, RHP, AthleticsTy Buttrey, RHP, AngelsKen Giles, RHP, Blue JaysSam Dyson, RHP, GiantsBrad Hand, LHP, IndiansOliver Perez, LHP ClevelandRobert Stephenson, RHP, RedsJohn Gant, RHP, CardinalsAlex Colome, RHP, White SoxSeth Lugo, RHP, MetsGreg Holland, RHP, DiamondbacksSean Doolittle, LHP, NationalsKirby Yates, RHP, PadresThere are compelling cases to be made for several of the above, plus some others who haven't yet been covered. I myself am quite high on Raisel Iglesias. But no matter who I might favor, data shows there's an overwhelming chance I'll be wrong. The same is true for you. Again, I apologize for the bluntness. But of course, it doesn't matter if we're right – only the guys leading the front office. What's most important is that they buy into what's to come, rather than what's already gone. If only it were that easy. Click here to view the article
  18. 2019 Fifth Starter: Michael Pineda Stats: 5.04 ERA, 1.21 WHIP, 69.2 IP, 57 K, 13 BB, 4.85 FIP In the season’s first month, Pineda looked like he was shaking off a little rust from his time missed with Tommy John surgery. He allowed 20 earned runs in 29 innings (6.21 ERA) and opponents were hitting .316/.349/.564 (.913) against him. It was rough and plenty of fans were wondering if Pineda was going to make it in the Twins rotation. Since the calendar has turned to May, Pineda has settled in nicely. His ERA dropped over two runs to 4.20 (19 ER in 40 2/3 IP) and he’s held opponents to a .670 OPS. Also, he has pitched five innings or more in every one of those appearances. Pineda’s velocity has also increased after a trip to the injured list. It’s been a stark turnaround and he has certainly put the Twins in position to win his starts recently. 2018 Fifth Starter: Fernando Romero Stats: 4.69 ERA, 1.42 WHIP, 55.2 IP, 45 K, 19 BB, 4.35 FIP Last year was certainly an interesting one for the Twins rotation. Kyle Gibson, Jose Berrios, and Jake Odorizzi all pitched over 160 innings. Lance Lynn tossed over 100 innings before being traded near the deadline. This left Fernando Romero as the starting pitcher with the fifth most starts for the Twins. Romero was once considered the Twins best pitching prospect. Fresh in fans' minds will be his struggles with transitioning to the bullpen this season. He started off strong last season as he posted a 1.88 ERA with 29 strikeouts in his first five starts (28 2/3 IP). His last five starts were a little rough as he allowed 15 earned runs in 25 1/3 innings. He wasn’t a typical number five starter, but he was forced into the role last year. 2017 Fifth Starter: Bartolo Colon Stats: 5.18 ERA, 1.44 WHIP, 80.0 IP, 47 K, 15 BB, 5.31 FIP Big Sexy has been quite the cult hero among baseball circle’s and he lived up to that billing with the Twins. Minnesota was on their way to an AL Wild Card Game appearance and Colon helped the club in the second half of the year after being traded from Atlanta. He hit a nice little groove for one month (August 4-September 5) where he posted a 3.30 ERA across seven starts. Things weren’t all flowers and roses as he struggled down the stretch. In his final five appearances, he allowed 19 earned runs in 18 1/3 innings with only nine strikeouts. He allowed more home runs (5) than walks (4) and opponents managed a .995 OPS against him. Minnesota lost four of his final six games with the club. 2016 Fifth Starter: Tommy Milone Stats: 5.71 ERA, 1.53 WHIP, 69.1 IP, 49 K, 22 BB, 5.54 FIP Minnesota acquired Tommy Milone back in 2014 at the trade deadline from Oakland for Sam Fuld. It was a unique deal in the fact that Minnesota had claimed Fuld off waivers from Oakland earlier that season. Milone held his own in the Twins rotation in 2015 (3.92 ERA and a 1.28 WHIP), but some struggles would follow him in 2016. Milone was limited to seven games before the calendar turned to July. In those starts, he only pitched into the sixth inning on one occasion and in the rest of the starts he failed to get out of the fifth. Opponents were crushing the ball against him with a .908 OPS thanks in large part to six home runs allowed. He fared better in July as his ERA dropped to 3.99 and batters hit .280/.312/.449 (.761). Milone would finish the season and his Twins tenure pitching out of the bullpen. Fifth starters can be a volatile group as teams, like the Twins, can run out pitchers with quite a wide variety of skills. Journeyman pitchers, young prospects, or players returning from injury can all fill the role of fifth starter. Pineda won’t be starting any playoff games for the Twins this year. He is a fifth starter on a very good Twins team and he certainly stacks up well when compared with other recent fifth starters for the Twins. What have you thought about Pineda’s performance so far? Leave a COMMENT and start the discussion.
  19. Another successful week in front of packed houses at Target Field. Who could complain? The Twins celebrated a franchise legend over the weekend, retiring Joe Mauer's No. 7, and won four out of six against lesser competition. Your full recap lies ahead. Weekly Snapshot: Mon, 6/10 through Sun, 6/16 *** Record Last Week: 4-2 (Overall: 47-23) Run Differential Last Week: +4 (Overall: +116) Standing: 1st Place in AL Central (10.0 GA) Willians Watch: 12-for-25 with 2 HR last week at Triple-A First of all, I must point out that the "Willians Watch" tracker, which has been a depressing sight for the past many editions, is firing up again. During his first full week back at Triple-A, Willians Astudillo made a pretty strong case that it's beneath him, putting up the absurd numbers you see above. In eight games since his demotion, Astudillo is now hitting .545 with three homers and nine RBIs. He's come right back out of his shell. There wasn't too much activity on the transaction front last week. On Thursday, the Twins sent down reliever Ryan Eades and recalled Fernando Romero, who was himself demoted a day later (for reasons you'll read about in the Lowlights section below). Zack Littell was recalled to replace him following a very successful run in the Rochester bullpen (2.35 ERA, 13/1 K/BB ratio in 7.2 IP). HIGHLIGHTS Like any other week, it'd be appropriate to start out by shoveling praise on the offense. The bats were tremendous once again, averaging nearly six runs while extending their games-with-a-homer streak to 14. We'll cover some top performers in a moment. But first, let's give a shout-out to this team's starting rotation, which continues to amaze. On Wednesday, Jose Berrios was on his game once again, holding a potent Seattle lineup to one run over 6 2/3 innings. It was his fourth straight turn pitching into the seventh inning, a feat he's accomplished in six of eight starts since the beginning of May. He's been a workhorse and a stud. After striking out six with two walks in this latest effort, Berrios is now rocking a 4.94 K/BB ratio, which ranks sixth in the American League. Closing in on Berrios in those rankings is Kyle Gibson, who's now seventh with a 4.53 K/BB after notching six strikeouts and zero walks on Friday night in one of the best outings of his career. Dueling head-to-head with Kansas City's top starter Brad Keller, Gibby fired eight shutout innings, matching Berrios' gem on Opening Day for the highest Game Score by a Twins pitcher this year (84). Slowed by an offseason illness, Gibson was running a little behind in his spring build-up, and it showed early on: In his first three starts, he allowed eight walks and 18 hits over 14 2/3 innings with a 7.36 ERA. In 10 starts since, the right-hander has posted a 2.82 ERA, 1.03 WHIP and 65-to-9 K/BB ratio in 60 2/3 innings. He also has a 14.9% swinging strike rate during this span; that'd rank fifth in all of baseball between Justin Verlander and Stephen Strasburg. Gibson is every bit as good as he was last year, if not better. That's a huge development for this unit. Even Michael Pineda joined the fun this week with his finest start as a Twin. On Thursday, the big righty tossed 5 2/3 innings of one-run ball, allowing just two hits. He left the game with a zero on the board, but reliever Ryne Harper quickly let an inherited run score, depriving Pineda of his first clean outing for Minnesota. Still, it was another positive step forward from the 30-year-old, who's shown a noticeable velocity bump after returning from a two-week stint on the Injured List: Download attachment: pinedavelo.png The reasonable expectation for Pineda was always that he'd improve over the course of the season as he ramped up in the wake of Tommy John surgery. That's exactly what we're seeing, and I really like how the Twins are managing his workload to keep him fresh for the second half. His IL stint was seemingly designed to give him a breather (with no real downside, as Devin Smeltzer pitched well in his stead) and Pineda has yet to throw 100 pitches in a start. Okay, on to that offense. Once again there were plenty of monster performers last week, so let's just run through them in bullet-point fashion: Max Kepler has been on an absolute tear. After collecting four hits in Sunday's series finale against Kansas City, he finished at 9-for-23 on the week with two homers and three doubles. He drew five walks, and is working a free pass in nearly 20% of his June plate appearances.Ehire Adrianza is earning himself regular playing time on merit. The utilityman started four of six games last week, as Rocco Baldelli found him opportunities at third, short, and first. Adrianza responded by continuing to rake, with five hits in 15 at-bats. He's hitting .404 in his last 22 games.Mitch Garver had a magical night on Friday, delivering a dramatic two-run homer that broke a scoreless tie and propelled Minnesota to victory over KC. He was 4-for-15 on the week and has mostly picked up where he left off since coming off the IL, with nine RBIs in 10 games.Marwin Gonzalez continues to be an incredibly value asset. Last week he played in all six games, starting five. He appeared at four different positions while tallying eight hits (including a pair of home runs) in 23 at-bats.Nelson Cruz provided further evidence his wrist is feeling okay as he collected six hits in 20 ABs, including a pair of big homers.Jonathan Schoop rebounded from a quiet week with a 7-for-19, sprinkling in a home run and a double.Jorge Polanco just kept on doing his thing, finishing 8-for-27 with as many walks (3) as strikeouts. It wasn't even really a highlight week by his standards, but that alone seems worthy of calling out.LOWLIGHTS Can anyone fix Romero? As he rose rapidly through the minor-league ranks, the hard-throwing righty gained repute as the system's best power arm in years. He looked decent last year as a rookie for Minnesota, but the decision to shift him into a bullpen role here in 2019 made all the sense in the world, from my view. Unfortunately, it's been pretty much a total disaster. His latest call-up wasn't exactly earned by his performance in the minors (he posted a 6.06 ERA and 1.47 WHIP over a month in Rochester following his early-May demotion), but the Twins evidently wanted to take another look and have their big-league coaches work with him more closely. It took only one appearance to reverse that plan. Romero was unbelievably brutal when called upon to pitch with a nine-run lead on Thursday, allowing all four batters faced to reach on two hits and two walks. He threw just six of 16 pitches for strikes and induced zero swings-and-misses. The good news, I guess, is that Romero's arm appears to be healthy; he was bringing upper-90s heat with movement. Yet he lacked any semblance of command, and hitters were feasting, as they have all year. Getting him on track seems like one of Minnesota's best bets for impactful late-inning bullpen help, but sadly, it now feels like more of a long shot than ever. His absence looms large in a bullpen that showed its problematic lack of depth last week, especially with Taylor Rogers unavailable for a few games due to back tightness. Harper continues to dazzle but the unit is lacking for other trustworthy options. Blake Parker looks so bad right now it's semi-shocking the Twins haven't found an excuse to put him on the shelf; he has coughed up nine earned runs, and five homers, in his last seven appearances. Tyler Duffey is filthy at times, but prone to clunkers like the ugly 10th inning that cost Minnesota Wednesday's game and spoiled Buxton's big moment. Trevor May navigated a precarious save conversion on Tuesday, then struggled through a shaky outing the following night. He's still having a really hard time getting opponents to chase, resulting in prolonged counts and plenty of stress. Matt Magill's been filling the bases with runners all month, including last week when he yielded two hits and three walks in four innings. None of three runs allowed by Mike Morin on Sunday were charged as earned, preserving his misleading 1.17 ERA, but he didn't look good. This bullpen is a problem. We already knew that, but it was resoundingly reaffirmed last week, even against substandard competition. Anxiety is going to run high if any tight late-inning situations develop against the imposing Red Sox lineup in the coming series. Minnesota generally had an ugly week defensively (which is, refreshingly, uncharacteristic). But no one's poor glovework stuck out more than Miguel Sano's. He had a fine week at the plate (4-for-14 with a home run) but Sano butchered a couple of plays at third base, and they were both costly. On Wednesday in extra innings, he mishandled a grounder and then airmailed it to first, allowing two critical runs to score. He was charged with two errors on the play, a rarity. Sano logged a third error for the week when he let a bad hop eat him up on Sunday, allowing yet another key run across. When Sano is able to secure the ball and whip it across the diamond, it's a beautiful thing. His arm strength is unassailable. But overall consistency has been amiss, and to my eye, Sano has missed quite a few plays he should've made. He already has five errors in just 21 games. With Cruz and C.J. Cron entrenched at DH and first, the Twins have little choice but to run Sano out at third base and hope he improves if they want his bat in the lineup. I did find it quite curious that Baldelli put Sano at third and Adrianza at first with Cron sitting on Sunday, though Adrianza did have his own ugly defensive gaffe at the hot corner one night earlier. TRENDING STORYLINE The first domino has fallen, so to speak. On Saturday, the Yankees traded for Seattle's Edwin Encarnacion, adding the American League's leading home run hitter to their lineup (which already features No. 2, Gary Sanchez). The Mariners, apparently, are completely open for business: There are some interesting candidates there from the Twins' perspective (albeit no game-changing bullpen additions). The bigger story is that Buying Season is officially underway. Minnesota isn't compelled to wait until late July to pull the trigger on improvements. Although the Twins don't really need to worry about their division lead – still in double-digits as we head into the second half of June – they do need to be thinking about building for primetime. The aforementioned bullpen issues make clear that there is some work to do. One tidbit to file away: Charley Walters of the Pioneer Press wrote over the weekend that Minnesota is pursuing a deal for San Francisco's Madison Bumgarner... DOWN ON THE FARM As the Twins evaluate internal relief options, Sean Poppen is a name we should probably be paying attention to. He's been fantastic since a promotion to Rochester in late May, working as a starter but showing traits of a guy who might level-up in the pen. On Thursday he struck out nine over six innings of one-run ball; through four starts with the Red Wings, he has a 1.13 ERA and 29-to-9 K/BB ratio over 24 innings. A former 19th-round draft pick out of Harvard, the 25-year-old righty owns a 3.17 career ERA in the minors, averaging a strikeout per inning. Of course, Poppen is likely behind a couple of fellow Rochester starters in line. Smeltzer and Lewis Thorpe are both already on the 40-man roster, and making their own strong cases for consideration. Smeltzer struck out 10 with zero walks over 5 2/3 frames on Sunday, while Thorpe had fired five shutout frames on Wednesday, allowing one hit and striking out nine. The Twins could really use another left-hander in the pen (they had none available when Rogers was sidelined in the early part of last week) so I'd expect to see one of these two get a look soon. Both have the potential to be legitimate difference-makers. LOOKING AHEAD Big test on deck. The Twins have taken care of business thus far in a home stand full of also-rans, winning series against Detroit, Seattle and Kansas City, but now they'll wrap it up with a tough challenge against the Red Sox. Don't be fooled by Boston's third-place standing in the East and pedestrian record. They started 6-13 but have been rolling since with a 33-21 record since, and they head into Minnesota on a five-game winning streak. Can Berrios, Pineda and Gibson back up their latest performances against a far better lineup? Next weekend, the Twins will head down to Kansas City. As will I, along with a large group of rowdy fellows on a big booze-filled bus for my bachelor party. Which is to say, when you read this column next week, it'll be authored by someone else. Hopefully that person will have plenty of happy things to write about. MONDAY, 6/17: RED SOX @ TWINS – RHP Rick Porcello v. RHP Jose Berrios TUESDAY, 6/18: RED SOX @ TWINS – LHP David Price v. RHP Michael Pineda WEDNESDAY, 6/19: RED SOX @ TWINS – LHP Eduardo Rodriguez v. RHP Kyle Gibson THURSDAY, 6/20: TWINS @ ROYALS – RHP Jake Odorizzi v. RHP Glenn Sparkman FRIDAY, 6/21: TWINS @ ROYALS – LHP Martin Perez v. RHP Jakob Junis SATURDAY, 6/22: TWINS @ ROYALS – RHP Jose Berrios v. LHP Danny Duffy SUNDAY, 6/23: TWINS @ ROYALS – RHP Michael Pineda v. RHP Homer Bailey Catch Up On Twins Daily Game Recaps Game 65 | MIN 6, SEA 5: Comeback Victory Capped By Trevor May SaveGame 66 | SEA 9, MIN 6: Bullpen, Errors Spoil Buxton’s Dramatic HomerGame 67 | MIN 10, SEA 5: Another Double-Digit Scoring Effort, Another Bullpen ScareGame 68 | MIN 2, KC 0: Gibson Shines on Night Honoring Mauer, PrinceGame 69 | MIN 5, KC 4: Bats Rally, Bullpen Protects 1-Run LeadGame 70 | KC 8, MIN 6: Struggles With Men on Base, Errors Prove Costly Click here to view the article
  20. Weekly Snapshot: Mon, 6/10 through Sun, 6/16 *** Record Last Week: 4-2 (Overall: 47-23) Run Differential Last Week: +4 (Overall: +116) Standing: 1st Place in AL Central (10.0 GA) Willians Watch: 12-for-25 with 2 HR last week at Triple-A First of all, I must point out that the "Willians Watch" tracker, which has been a depressing sight for the past many editions, is firing up again. During his first full week back at Triple-A, Willians Astudillo made a pretty strong case that it's beneath him, putting up the absurd numbers you see above. In eight games since his demotion, Astudillo is now hitting .545 with three homers and nine RBIs. He's come right back out of his shell. There wasn't too much activity on the transaction front last week. On Thursday, the Twins sent down reliever Ryan Eades and recalled Fernando Romero, who was himself demoted a day later (for reasons you'll read about in the Lowlights section below). Zack Littell was recalled to replace him following a very successful run in the Rochester bullpen (2.35 ERA, 13/1 K/BB ratio in 7.2 IP). HIGHLIGHTS Like any other week, it'd be appropriate to start out by shoveling praise on the offense. The bats were tremendous once again, averaging nearly six runs while extending their games-with-a-homer streak to 14. We'll cover some top performers in a moment. But first, let's give a shout-out to this team's starting rotation, which continues to amaze. On Wednesday, Jose Berrios was on his game once again, holding a potent Seattle lineup to one run over 6 2/3 innings. It was his fourth straight turn pitching into the seventh inning, a feat he's accomplished in six of eight starts since the beginning of May. He's been a workhorse and a stud. After striking out six with two walks in this latest effort, Berrios is now rocking a 4.94 K/BB ratio, which ranks sixth in the American League. Closing in on Berrios in those rankings is Kyle Gibson, who's now seventh with a 4.53 K/BB after notching six strikeouts and zero walks on Friday night in one of the best outings of his career. Dueling head-to-head with Kansas City's top starter Brad Keller, Gibby fired eight shutout innings, matching Berrios' gem on Opening Day for the highest Game Score by a Twins pitcher this year (84). Slowed by an offseason illness, Gibson was running a little behind in his spring build-up, and it showed early on: In his first three starts, he allowed eight walks and 18 hits over 14 2/3 innings with a 7.36 ERA. In 10 starts since, the right-hander has posted a 2.82 ERA, 1.03 WHIP and 65-to-9 K/BB ratio in 60 2/3 innings. He also has a 14.9% swinging strike rate during this span; that'd rank fifth in all of baseball between Justin Verlander and Stephen Strasburg. Gibson is every bit as good as he was last year, if not better. That's a huge development for this unit. Even Michael Pineda joined the fun this week with his finest start as a Twin. On Thursday, the big righty tossed 5 2/3 innings of one-run ball, allowing just two hits. He left the game with a zero on the board, but reliever Ryne Harper quickly let an inherited run score, depriving Pineda of his first clean outing for Minnesota. Still, it was another positive step forward from the 30-year-old, who's shown a noticeable velocity bump after returning from a two-week stint on the Injured List: The reasonable expectation for Pineda was always that he'd improve over the course of the season as he ramped up in the wake of Tommy John surgery. That's exactly what we're seeing, and I really like how the Twins are managing his workload to keep him fresh for the second half. His IL stint was seemingly designed to give him a breather (with no real downside, as Devin Smeltzer pitched well in his stead) and Pineda has yet to throw 100 pitches in a start. Okay, on to that offense. Once again there were plenty of monster performers last week, so let's just run through them in bullet-point fashion: Max Kepler has been on an absolute tear. After collecting four hits in Sunday's series finale against Kansas City, he finished at 9-for-23 on the week with two homers and three doubles. He drew five walks, and is working a free pass in nearly 20% of his June plate appearances. Ehire Adrianza is earning himself regular playing time on merit. The utilityman started four of six games last week, as Rocco Baldelli found him opportunities at third, short, and first. Adrianza responded by continuing to rake, with five hits in 15 at-bats. He's hitting .404 in his last 22 games. Mitch Garver had a magical night on Friday, delivering a dramatic two-run homer that broke a scoreless tie and propelled Minnesota to victory over KC. He was 4-for-15 on the week and has mostly picked up where he left off since coming off the IL, with nine RBIs in 10 games. Marwin Gonzalez continues to be an incredibly value asset. Last week he played in all six games, starting five. He appeared at four different positions while tallying eight hits (including a pair of home runs) in 23 at-bats. Nelson Cruz provided further evidence his wrist is feeling okay as he collected six hits in 20 ABs, including a pair of big homers. Jonathan Schoop rebounded from a quiet week with a 7-for-19, sprinkling in a home run and a double. Jorge Polanco just kept on doing his thing, finishing 8-for-27 with as many walks (3) as strikeouts. It wasn't even really a highlight week by his standards, but that alone seems worthy of calling out. LOWLIGHTS Can anyone fix Romero? As he rose rapidly through the minor-league ranks, the hard-throwing righty gained repute as the system's best power arm in years. He looked decent last year as a rookie for Minnesota, but the decision to shift him into a bullpen role here in 2019 made all the sense in the world, from my view. Unfortunately, it's been pretty much a total disaster. His latest call-up wasn't exactly earned by his performance in the minors (he posted a 6.06 ERA and 1.47 WHIP over a month in Rochester following his early-May demotion), but the Twins evidently wanted to take another look and have their big-league coaches work with him more closely. It took only one appearance to reverse that plan. Romero was unbelievably brutal when called upon to pitch with a nine-run lead on Thursday, allowing all four batters faced to reach on two hits and two walks. He threw just six of 16 pitches for strikes and induced zero swings-and-misses. The good news, I guess, is that Romero's arm appears to be healthy; he was bringing upper-90s heat with movement. Yet he lacked any semblance of command, and hitters were feasting, as they have all year. Getting him on track seems like one of Minnesota's best bets for impactful late-inning bullpen help, but sadly, it now feels like more of a long shot than ever. His absence looms large in a bullpen that showed its problematic lack of depth last week, especially with Taylor Rogers unavailable for a few games due to back tightness. Harper continues to dazzle but the unit is lacking for other trustworthy options. Blake Parker looks so bad right now it's semi-shocking the Twins haven't found an excuse to put him on the shelf; he has coughed up nine earned runs, and five homers, in his last seven appearances. Tyler Duffey is filthy at times, but prone to clunkers like the ugly 10th inning that cost Minnesota Wednesday's game and spoiled Buxton's big moment. Trevor May navigated a precarious save conversion on Tuesday, then struggled through a shaky outing the following night. He's still having a really hard time getting opponents to chase, resulting in prolonged counts and plenty of stress. Matt Magill's been filling the bases with runners all month, including last week when he yielded two hits and three walks in four innings. None of three runs allowed by Mike Morin on Sunday were charged as earned, preserving his misleading 1.17 ERA, but he didn't look good. This bullpen is a problem. We already knew that, but it was resoundingly reaffirmed last week, even against substandard competition. Anxiety is going to run high if any tight late-inning situations develop against the imposing Red Sox lineup in the coming series. Minnesota generally had an ugly week defensively (which is, refreshingly, uncharacteristic). But no one's poor glovework stuck out more than Miguel Sano's. He had a fine week at the plate (4-for-14 with a home run) but Sano butchered a couple of plays at third base, and they were both costly. On Wednesday in extra innings, he mishandled a grounder and then airmailed it to first, allowing two critical runs to score. He was charged with two errors on the play, a rarity. Sano logged a third error for the week when he let a bad hop eat him up on Sunday, allowing yet another key run across. When Sano is able to secure the ball and whip it across the diamond, it's a beautiful thing. His arm strength is unassailable. But overall consistency has been amiss, and to my eye, Sano has missed quite a few plays he should've made. He already has five errors in just 21 games. With Cruz and C.J. Cron entrenched at DH and first, the Twins have little choice but to run Sano out at third base and hope he improves if they want his bat in the lineup. I did find it quite curious that Baldelli put Sano at third and Adrianza at first with Cron sitting on Sunday, though Adrianza did have his own ugly defensive gaffe at the hot corner one night earlier. TRENDING STORYLINE The first domino has fallen, so to speak. On Saturday, the Yankees traded for Seattle's Edwin Encarnacion, adding the American League's leading home run hitter to their lineup (which already features No. 2, Gary Sanchez). The Mariners, apparently, are completely open for business: https://twitter.com/JonHeyman/status/1134882418345693184 There are some interesting candidates there from the Twins' perspective (albeit no game-changing bullpen additions). The bigger story is that Buying Season is officially underway. Minnesota isn't compelled to wait until late July to pull the trigger on improvements. Although the Twins don't really need to worry about their division lead – still in double-digits as we head into the second half of June – they do need to be thinking about building for primetime. The aforementioned bullpen issues make clear that there is some work to do. One tidbit to file away: Charley Walters of the Pioneer Press wrote over the weekend that Minnesota is pursuing a deal for San Francisco's Madison Bumgarner... DOWN ON THE FARM As the Twins evaluate internal relief options, Sean Poppen is a name we should probably be paying attention to. He's been fantastic since a promotion to Rochester in late May, working as a starter but showing traits of a guy who might level-up in the pen. On Thursday he struck out nine over six innings of one-run ball; through four starts with the Red Wings, he has a 1.13 ERA and 29-to-9 K/BB ratio over 24 innings. A former 19th-round draft pick out of Harvard, the 25-year-old righty owns a 3.17 career ERA in the minors, averaging a strikeout per inning. Of course, Poppen is likely behind a couple of fellow Rochester starters in line. Smeltzer and Lewis Thorpe are both already on the 40-man roster, and making their own strong cases for consideration. Smeltzer struck out 10 with zero walks over 5 2/3 frames on Sunday, while Thorpe had fired five shutout frames on Wednesday, allowing one hit and striking out nine. The Twins could really use another left-hander in the pen (they had none available when Rogers was sidelined in the early part of last week) so I'd expect to see one of these two get a look soon. Both have the potential to be legitimate difference-makers. LOOKING AHEAD Big test on deck. The Twins have taken care of business thus far in a home stand full of also-rans, winning series against Detroit, Seattle and Kansas City, but now they'll wrap it up with a tough challenge against the Red Sox. Don't be fooled by Boston's third-place standing in the East and pedestrian record. They started 6-13 but have been rolling since with a 33-21 record since, and they head into Minnesota on a five-game winning streak. Can Berrios, Pineda and Gibson back up their latest performances against a far better lineup? Next weekend, the Twins will head down to Kansas City. As will I, along with a large group of rowdy fellows on a big booze-filled bus for my bachelor party. Which is to say, when you read this column next week, it'll be authored by someone else. Hopefully that person will have plenty of happy things to write about. MONDAY, 6/17: RED SOX @ TWINS – RHP Rick Porcello v. RHP Jose Berrios TUESDAY, 6/18: RED SOX @ TWINS – LHP David Price v. RHP Michael Pineda WEDNESDAY, 6/19: RED SOX @ TWINS – LHP Eduardo Rodriguez v. RHP Kyle Gibson THURSDAY, 6/20: TWINS @ ROYALS – RHP Jake Odorizzi v. RHP Glenn Sparkman FRIDAY, 6/21: TWINS @ ROYALS – LHP Martin Perez v. RHP Jakob Junis SATURDAY, 6/22: TWINS @ ROYALS – RHP Jose Berrios v. LHP Danny Duffy SUNDAY, 6/23: TWINS @ ROYALS – RHP Michael Pineda v. RHP Homer Bailey Catch Up On Twins Daily Game Recaps Game 65 | MIN 6, SEA 5: Comeback Victory Capped By Trevor May Save Game 66 | SEA 9, MIN 6: Bullpen, Errors Spoil Buxton’s Dramatic Homer Game 67 | MIN 10, SEA 5: Another Double-Digit Scoring Effort, Another Bullpen Scare Game 68 | MIN 2, KC 0: Gibson Shines on Night Honoring Mauer, Prince Game 69 | MIN 5, KC 4: Bats Rally, Bullpen Protects 1-Run Lead Game 70 | KC 8, MIN 6: Struggles With Men on Base, Errors Prove Costly
  21. Box Score Pineda: 5.2 IP, 2 H, 1 ER, 2 BB, 4 K, 65.6% strikes (63 of 96 pitches) Bullpen: 3.1 IP, 5 H, 4 ER, 4 BB, 1 K Home Runs: Cruz (12), Cron (15) Multi-Hit Games: Adrianza (3-for-5), Cruz (3-for-4, HR, BB), Polanco (2-for-6), Gonzalez (2-for-5, 2B), Schoop (2-for-4, 2B) WPA of +0.1: Pineda .304, Cruz .223, Arianza .204, Kepler .150 WPA of -0.1: None (chart via FanGraphs) Early Pitchers' Duel in Minnesota Today’s contest featured an early pitchers' duel, which is something we are not used to seeing from Minnesota this year. Pineda and Kikuchi were both sharp early on, limiting the scoring through the first five innings as Minnesota looked to improve to an 18-4 record following a loss. Early Wasted Opportunities The scoring opportunities were limited but the Twins wasted a good one in the second inning when they had the bases loaded with nobody out and couldn’t score a run. Through the first five innings Minnesota had stranded seven runners and were 1-for-7 with runners in scoring position. The lone run for Minnesota came courtesy of a solo home run from Nelson Cruz in the third inning. Small Ball Leads to a Big Sixth Inning The top half of the sixth inning was not a great one for Minnesota. After allowing two baserunners with two outs Pineda was pulled from the game and Ryne Harper was brought in to face Daniel Vogelbach. The need for another left-handed reliever in the Minnesota bullpen was never more apparent after Harper surrendered a base hit to Vogelbach which tied the game at 1-1. The bottom half of the inning, however, was a great one for Minnesota and featured something we haven’t seen much from this team. They scored six runs in the inning without hitting a home run or collecting an extra-base hit. Max Kepler led off the inning with a walk and Rocco Baldelli reached into his bag of tricks and called for a hit-and-run play with Ehire Adrianza at the plate. The hit-and-run was executed perfectly when Ehire singled through the right side of the infield advancing Kepler to third. A throwing error from the Seattle pitcher on a pick-off attempt allowed Kepler to score from third. A wild pitch advanced Adrianza to third and he scored on a Jason Castro ground ball to second with the infield drawn in. After Byron Buxton drew a walk, the Twins had runners on first and second and Jorge Polanco singled to center extending his hit streak to 14 games. The bases were loaded with nobody out. Unlike the second inning, Minnesota was able to capitalize on this opportunity. Nelson Cruz singled through the left side of the infield, scoring Castro and Buxton giving Minnesota a 5-1 lead. After a sacrifice fly from Marwin Gonzales and an RBI single from Max Kepler, Minnesota had a six-run bottom of the sixth and a 7-1 lead, breaking open what was once a pitchers duel. https://twitter.com/fsnorth/status/1139258824815075328 Bomba Squad Strikes Again After Minnesota broke the game open in the sixth they still weren’t done scoring. In the seventh inning Buxton walked, advanced to second on a wild pitch and scored on an RBI single from Polanco. Following the single from Polanco, Seattle turned to their bullpen and brought in Tyler Scott who received a rude welcome from C.J. Cron when he blasted a two-run home run on the second pitch of the at-bat. This game was cruising along and had the makings of a low-scoring pitchers duel but the potent Minnesota offense flipped the script in a hurry. When the fifth inning ended the score was 1-0. By the time the seventh inning was over Minnesota had jumped out to a 10-1 lead. Pineda Looks Sharp; Romero Struggles Pineda’s best start of the year came on May 16 in Seattle and he didn’t disappoint against his former team today either. Although he didn’t match his success from that May 16 start Pineda gave Minnesota a solid performance finishing with 5 2/3 IP, 2 H, 1 ER, 4 K. Fernando Romero, who was recalled from Triple-A prior the game, struggled mightily in his return to the big leagues. He surrendered two hits, two walks and two runs before being pulled from the game without recording an out. Matt Magill was called upon to clean up the mess created by Romero and he did just that. He walked the first batter he faced, loading the bases with no outs, but quickly rebounded to retire the side without allowing a run to score. Stay Hot, Ehire Adrianza Remember when Adrianza was hitting below the Mendoza line and all of Twins territory couldn’t wait for him to be shown the door? Well, since May 13 he’s hitting .439/.510/.634. https://twitter.com/dohyoungpark/status/1139272698713051138 Postgame With Baldelli https://twitter.com/fsnorth/status/1139284064353959937 Bullpen Usage Here’s a quick look at the number of pitches thrown by the bullpen over the past five days:
  22. The Twins reached 10 runs yet again on Thursday afternoon, and they ended up needing nearly every one of them. Despite holding a 10-1 lead entering the eighth inning, things ended up getting much too interesting, though the Twins still managed to win 10-5.Box Score Pineda: 5.2 IP, 2 H, 1 ER, 2 BB, 4 K, 65.6% strikes (63 of 96 pitches) Bullpen: 3.1 IP, 5 H, 4 ER, 4 BB, 1 K Home Runs: Cruz (12), Cron (15) Multi-Hit Games: Adrianza (3-for-5), Cruz (3-for-4, HR, BB), Polanco (2-for-6), Gonzalez (2-for-5, 2B), Schoop (2-for-4, 2B) WPA of +0.1: Pineda .304, Cruz .223, Arianza .204, Kepler .150 WPA of -0.1: None Download attachment: Win613.png (chart via FanGraphs) Early Pitchers' Duel in Minnesota Today’s contest featured an early pitchers' duel, which is something we are not used to seeing from Minnesota this year. Pineda and Kikuchi were both sharp early on, limiting the scoring through the first five innings as Minnesota looked to improve to an 18-4 record following a loss. Early Wasted Opportunities The scoring opportunities were limited but the Twins wasted a good one in the second inning when they had the bases loaded with nobody out and couldn’t score a run. Through the first five innings Minnesota had stranded seven runners and were 1-for-7 with runners in scoring position. The lone run for Minnesota came courtesy of a solo home run from Nelson Cruz in the third inning. Small Ball Leads to a Big Sixth Inning The top half of the sixth inning was not a great one for Minnesota. After allowing two baserunners with two outs Pineda was pulled from the game and Ryne Harper was brought in to face Daniel Vogelbach. The need for another left-handed reliever in the Minnesota bullpen was never more apparent after Harper surrendered a base hit to Vogelbach which tied the game at 1-1. The bottom half of the inning, however, was a great one for Minnesota and featured something we haven’t seen much from this team. They scored six runs in the inning without hitting a home run or collecting an extra-base hit. Max Kepler led off the inning with a walk and Rocco Baldelli reached into his bag of tricks and called for a hit-and-run play with Ehire Adrianza at the plate. The hit-and-run was executed perfectly when Ehire singled through the right side of the infield advancing Kepler to third. A throwing error from the Seattle pitcher on a pick-off attempt allowed Kepler to score from third. A wild pitch advanced Adrianza to third and he scored on a Jason Castro ground ball to second with the infield drawn in. After Byron Buxton drew a walk, the Twins had runners on first and second and Jorge Polanco singled to center extending his hit streak to 14 games. The bases were loaded with nobody out. Unlike the second inning, Minnesota was able to capitalize on this opportunity. Nelson Cruz singled through the left side of the infield, scoring Castro and Buxton giving Minnesota a 5-1 lead. After a sacrifice fly from Marwin Gonzales and an RBI single from Max Kepler, Minnesota had a six-run bottom of the sixth and a 7-1 lead, breaking open what was once a pitchers duel. Bomba Squad Strikes Again After Minnesota broke the game open in the sixth they still weren’t done scoring. In the seventh inning Buxton walked, advanced to second on a wild pitch and scored on an RBI single from Polanco. Following the single from Polanco, Seattle turned to their bullpen and brought in Tyler Scott who received a rude welcome from C.J. Cron when he blasted a two-run home run on the second pitch of the at-bat. This game was cruising along and had the makings of a low-scoring pitchers duel but the potent Minnesota offense flipped the script in a hurry. When the fifth inning ended the score was 1-0. By the time the seventh inning was over Minnesota had jumped out to a 10-1 lead. Pineda Looks Sharp; Romero Struggles Pineda’s best start of the year came on May 16 in Seattle and he didn’t disappoint against his former team today either. Although he didn’t match his success from that May 16 start Pineda gave Minnesota a solid performance finishing with 5 2/3 IP, 2 H, 1 ER, 4 K. Fernando Romero, who was recalled from Triple-A prior the game, struggled mightily in his return to the big leagues. He surrendered two hits, two walks and two runs before being pulled from the game without recording an out. Matt Magill was called upon to clean up the mess created by Romero and he did just that. He walked the first batter he faced, loading the bases with no outs, but quickly rebounded to retire the side without allowing a run to score. Stay Hot, Ehire Adrianza Remember when Adrianza was hitting below the Mendoza line and all of Twins territory couldn’t wait for him to be shown the door? Well, since May 13 he’s hitting .439/.510/.634. Postgame With Baldelli Bullpen Usage Here’s a quick look at the number of pitches thrown by the bullpen over the past five days: Download attachment: Pen613.png Click here to view the article
  23. Marwin’s Struggles Marwin Gonzalez has been getting most of the playing time at third base with Sano out of the line-up. Entering play on Monday, he is hitting .204/.271/.286 with four extra-base hits in 98 at-bats. These are far below his career totals (.261/.316/.414). One has to wonder if his late signing this spring has impacted his ability to get prepared for the season’s start. Even with his struggles, Gonzalez has shown some positive signs this season. His 91.1 exit velocity is higher than his career average. It is also higher than the MLB average this season (87.4 mph). His launch angle is around the league average at 9.0 but it's below the totals he’s put together the last two years. Defensively, Gonzalez ranks in the middle of the pack among American League third basemen. FanGraphs credits him with one defensive run saved so far this year. His 1.4 defensive WAR ranks him sixth among the 11 qualified AL third basemen. Roster Space Finding roster space for Sano could come from the back-end of the bench or from a 13-man pitching staff. From the bench, Ehire Adrianza seems like a likely candidate to make way for Sano. He’s hit .146/.250/.220 in 16 games this season. If Adrianza is the odd-man out, Gonzalez could shift to a fill-in role at multiple positions. Jake Cave could also be sent back to Rochester if the Twins are comfortable with Gonzalez serving as the fourth outfielder. Cave has hit .206/.289/.235 this season with one extra-base hit in 14 games. He has more strikeouts (9) than hits (7). Cave might be more replaceable since Adrianza is currently listed as the back-up shortstop on the team’s depth chart. Minnesota is also carrying 13 pitchers so the team could trim the pitching staff to 12 pitchers. Mike Morin, Fernando Romero or Matt Magill could all be candidates to taken off the 25-man roster. The Twins are in the midst of quite a stretch of games so the extra man in the bullpen might be a necessity. Playing Time If Sano is going to take back the reins at third, Gonzalez will need to slide into a secondary role. It still seems likely for Gonzalez to get playing time at other positions in the line-up, especially if Cave is the one sent down. Gonzalez’s ability to play multiple positions could shift him to a super-utility role in the weeks ahead. Sano could also spend some time at designated hitter, but it seems likely for Nelson Cruz to continue to get the majority of those at-bats. Among regular non-catching starters, Cruz is tied with Max Kepler and Marwin Gonzalez for sixth most games played. His 38-year old body might need some rest in the months ahead. How do you think Sano will impact the line-up? Who gets sent down? Leave a COMMENT and start the discussion.
  24. So far this season, Minnesota has been clubbing the ball out of the ballpark at quite the rate. The team has been able to do this with one of their best sluggers, Miguel Sano, recovering from an injury. Sano is in the midst of a rehab stint and he is getting close to rejoining the big-league club. How will Sano’s return impact the club’s roster?Marwin’s Struggles Marwin Gonzalez has been getting most of the playing time at third base with Sano out of the line-up. Entering play on Monday, he is hitting .204/.271/.286 with four extra-base hits in 98 at-bats. These are far below his career totals (.261/.316/.414). One has to wonder if his late signing this spring has impacted his ability to get prepared for the season’s start. Even with his struggles, Gonzalez has shown some positive signs this season. His 91.1 exit velocity is higher than his career average. It is also higher than the MLB average this season (87.4 mph). His launch angle is around the league average at 9.0 but it's below the totals he’s put together the last two years. Defensively, Gonzalez ranks in the middle of the pack among American League third basemen. FanGraphs credits him with one defensive run saved so far this year. His 1.4 defensive WAR ranks him sixth among the 11 qualified AL third basemen. Roster Space Finding roster space for Sano could come from the back-end of the bench or from a 13-man pitching staff. From the bench, Ehire Adrianza seems like a likely candidate to make way for Sano. He’s hit .146/.250/.220 in 16 games this season. If Adrianza is the odd-man out, Gonzalez could shift to a fill-in role at multiple positions. Jake Cave could also be sent back to Rochester if the Twins are comfortable with Gonzalez serving as the fourth outfielder. Cave has hit .206/.289/.235 this season with one extra-base hit in 14 games. He has more strikeouts (9) than hits (7). Cave might be more replaceable since Adrianza is currently listed as the back-up shortstop on the team’s depth chart. Minnesota is also carrying 13 pitchers so the team could trim the pitching staff to 12 pitchers. Mike Morin, Fernando Romero or Matt Magill could all be candidates to taken off the 25-man roster. The Twins are in the midst of quite a stretch of games so the extra man in the bullpen might be a necessity. Playing Time If Sano is going to take back the reins at third, Gonzalez will need to slide into a secondary role. It still seems likely for Gonzalez to get playing time at other positions in the line-up, especially if Cave is the one sent down. Gonzalez’s ability to play multiple positions could shift him to a super-utility role in the weeks ahead. Sano could also spend some time at designated hitter, but it seems likely for Nelson Cruz to continue to get the majority of those at-bats. Among regular non-catching starters, Cruz is tied with Max Kepler and Marwin Gonzalez for sixth most games played. His 38-year old body might need some rest in the months ahead. How do you think Sano will impact the line-up? Who gets sent down? Leave a COMMENT and start the discussion. Click here to view the article
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