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  1. The Twins looked towards taking the series against the Cardinals after a dazzling offensive performance the night before. However, once again, the errors and pitching couldn’t keep the bottom of the Cardinals’ order at bay. Box Score: Michael Pineda: 4 IP, 5 H, 3 R, 2 ER, 1 BB, 3 K (68 pitches, 52 strikes) Home Runs: Jorge Polanco (16) Win Probability Chart: Top 3 WPA: Trevor Larnach (.077) Jorge Polanco (.068) Miguel Sanó (.065) Bottom 3 WPA: Michael Pineda (-.179) Max Kepler (-.125) Luis Arraez (-.082) No Offense, The Defense For the second game in a row, Michael Pineda gave up two earned runs. If there is one thing that can be said about Pineda, it’s his consistency. All year, Pineda has hovered around a couple of earned runs and 5 strikeouts, and today was no exception. The brightest spot of his performance today is his high strike percentage of 76.5%. According to Team Rankings, Pineda’s strike percentage in his last 10 games is 67.6%, putting him above the likes of Jose Berrios and Kenta Maeda. Despite the eventual loss, his improved performance and general consistency is a silver lining for Pineda. The bullpen is another story. Once again, the Twins’ relievers were responsible for the ultimate demise, despite the L being placed under Pineda’s name. In his Twins’ debut, John Gant helped the Cardinals add to their lead. To add insult to injury, the Cardinals seem to have already forgotten who he is. Danny Coulombe surrendered one more after Gant, and Beau Burrows closed out the game with the final two Cardinals runs. Marco, Polo! The Twins’ offense were partly to blame for the loss, as they barely made a splash after the two-run second inning. However, in the sixth inning, Jorge Polanco hit his 16th home run from the left side of the plate off of salsa-king Adam Wainwright. He is only six away from his career high from 2019, his All-Star season. He only has one home run less than Miguel Sanó at the moment. Polanco had a monstrous July, only going seven games without a hit recorded, most of which were in the first half of the month. He’s showing no sign of stopping. Without Nelson Cruz, Josh Donaldson, and Byron Buxton in the lineup, the offense has struggled to push runs across the plate. Polanco has picked up their load and more. It’s a Bird, It’s a Plane. No, It’s Miguel Sanó on Base The departure of mentor Nelson Cruz hasn’t slowed down Sanó. Despite only hitting slightly above the Mendoza Line on paper, Sanó has continued to heat up nicely. His double today increases his OPS has to .746, two hundred points higher than where he started the season. Lately, Sanó seems to be spending more time on base than the dugout. While there are mixed feelings among fans on Sanó as an everyday player, additional playing time has proven to be beneficial for Sanó so far. With Alex Kirilloff on the IL, the Twins need his continued improvement. Bullpen Usage WED THU FRI SAT SUN TOT Coulombe 0 0 23 0 21 44 Thielbar 0 0 0 14 0 14 Alcala 0 0 0 21 0 21 Gant 24 0 0 0 16 40 Colomé 0 0 0 16 0 16 Minaya 45 0 0 18 0 63 Duffey 0 0 32 0 0 32 Burrows 63 0 0 0 45 108 Around the Bases Andrelton Simmons batted in the first two runs of August after hitting .163 with 4 RBI in the month of July. Josh Donaldson’s hamstring kept him out of action once again. Luis Arraez made a seemingly costly error that didn’t end up as the game decision maker. He also did not make up for it offensively, going 0-4. Trevor Larnach hit his 10th double of the year, tying him with the aforementioned Arraez and Mitch Garver. Garver continues to hit, scoring one of the Twins’ runs. View full article
  2. Box Score: Michael Pineda: 4 IP, 5 H, 3 R, 2 ER, 1 BB, 3 K (68 pitches, 52 strikes) Home Runs: Jorge Polanco (16) Win Probability Chart: Top 3 WPA: Trevor Larnach (.077) Jorge Polanco (.068) Miguel Sanó (.065) Bottom 3 WPA: Michael Pineda (-.179) Max Kepler (-.125) Luis Arraez (-.082) No Offense, The Defense For the second game in a row, Michael Pineda gave up two earned runs. If there is one thing that can be said about Pineda, it’s his consistency. All year, Pineda has hovered around a couple of earned runs and 5 strikeouts, and today was no exception. The brightest spot of his performance today is his high strike percentage of 76.5%. According to Team Rankings, Pineda’s strike percentage in his last 10 games is 67.6%, putting him above the likes of Jose Berrios and Kenta Maeda. Despite the eventual loss, his improved performance and general consistency is a silver lining for Pineda. The bullpen is another story. Once again, the Twins’ relievers were responsible for the ultimate demise, despite the L being placed under Pineda’s name. In his Twins’ debut, John Gant helped the Cardinals add to their lead. To add insult to injury, the Cardinals seem to have already forgotten who he is. Danny Coulombe surrendered one more after Gant, and Beau Burrows closed out the game with the final two Cardinals runs. Marco, Polo! The Twins’ offense were partly to blame for the loss, as they barely made a splash after the two-run second inning. However, in the sixth inning, Jorge Polanco hit his 16th home run from the left side of the plate off of salsa-king Adam Wainwright. He is only six away from his career high from 2019, his All-Star season. He only has one home run less than Miguel Sanó at the moment. Polanco had a monstrous July, only going seven games without a hit recorded, most of which were in the first half of the month. He’s showing no sign of stopping. Without Nelson Cruz, Josh Donaldson, and Byron Buxton in the lineup, the offense has struggled to push runs across the plate. Polanco has picked up their load and more. It’s a Bird, It’s a Plane. No, It’s Miguel Sanó on Base The departure of mentor Nelson Cruz hasn’t slowed down Sanó. Despite only hitting slightly above the Mendoza Line on paper, Sanó has continued to heat up nicely. His double today increases his OPS has to .746, two hundred points higher than where he started the season. Lately, Sanó seems to be spending more time on base than the dugout. While there are mixed feelings among fans on Sanó as an everyday player, additional playing time has proven to be beneficial for Sanó so far. With Alex Kirilloff on the IL, the Twins need his continued improvement. Bullpen Usage WED THU FRI SAT SUN TOT Coulombe 0 0 23 0 21 44 Thielbar 0 0 0 14 0 14 Alcala 0 0 0 21 0 21 Gant 24 0 0 0 16 40 Colomé 0 0 0 16 0 16 Minaya 45 0 0 18 0 63 Duffey 0 0 32 0 0 32 Burrows 63 0 0 0 45 108 Around the Bases Andrelton Simmons batted in the first two runs of August after hitting .163 with 4 RBI in the month of July. Josh Donaldson’s hamstring kept him out of action once again. Luis Arraez made a seemingly costly error that didn’t end up as the game decision maker. He also did not make up for it offensively, going 0-4. Trevor Larnach hit his 10th double of the year, tying him with the aforementioned Arraez and Mitch Garver. Garver continues to hit, scoring one of the Twins’ runs.
  3. To say the 2021 Major League Baseball season has not gone as planned for the Minnesota Twins would be an understatement. It’s been a catastrophic failure of expectations, but there are things to be learned in this smoldering mess. We still have a ways to go, and while there is no August waiver trade period in 2021, Rocco Baldelli’s roster should continue to get a shake-up over the next few weeks. Cycling in different hitters and pitchers when attempting to find future opportunities, this club can also look back on what has been and begin making assessments for 2022 and beyond. While not all the biggest storylines, here are five key takeaways from what we’ve seen to this point: Miguel Sano is inconsistently consistent Through 21 games to start the year, Sano owned a .119/.280/.209 slash line. Over his next 38 games from May 15 through June 30, he held a .233/.280/.549 slash line. Then, in July, he’s owned a .246/.325/.478 slash line across 20 games. He’s got a .737 OPS in 79 games this year and has paired that with 17 homers and a .291 OBP. If you’re looking for Miguel Sano to be the mega-prospect he once was considered, that’s probably on you at this point. The slash line still leaves plenty to be desired, but he’s got a 103 OPS+ and has not wavered on a solid sense of plate discipline. Timing continues to elude him for frustrating stretches, but he’s also capable of going on an absolute power tear. Should the Twins find themselves back in a position of strength throughout their lineup, a bat like that in the bottom half is hardly something to scoff at. He’s owed $9.25 million in 2022, and that’s an overpay but not to the extent of being ultimately damaging and acting as a primary designated hitter; that may be the role he’s always been destined for anyways. Nick Gordon has utility I was convinced that opportunity had passed the Twins former first-round pick by for quite a while. I knew he could play at the big-league level but wasn’t sure it would happen in a Minnesota uniform. Now I’m more convinced that it needs to continue. He’s still the same player he’s been throughout the minors. A soft-hitting speedster that will occasionally run into one, this is a singles hitter that has the instincts to swipe bases. Add in the utility he’s provided by learning centerfield on the fly, and there’s no reason he shouldn’t be on the Opening Day roster in 2022. Gordon may find a bit more success in year two when it comes to batting average; he’s made a career out of taking steps forward after acclimating to a level. Even if he doesn’t, though, speed on the bench is something Minnesota hasn’t had, and the combination of being a lighter version of Chris Taylor is a good thing for any roster to have. Mitch Garver can still mash To say that 2020 was disastrous for Mitch Garver would be putting it lightly. The Twins Silver Slugger winning catcher posted a terrible .511 OPS and hit just two homers in 23 games. Things started slow for him in 2021, with a .517 OPS being toted through 17 games. In his last 29 games since April 28, with a severe injury mixed in there, Garver has slashed .299/.449/.740 with nine homers and a 20/19 K/BB. The life-altering foul tip he took was incredibly scary, but as rehab progressed and healing took place, he’s been back behind the dish and picked up where he left off. Even after being plunked by a pitch on his hand recently, it’s fair to dream of the production that will soon return. Garver is a late-blooming prospect, so he’s going to age relatively quickly, but this is the anchor of a tandem behind the dish that Twins fans were hoping for. The pitching staff needs an overhaul Minnesota owns the fourth-worst pitching staff in baseball by fWAR in 2021. The starters rank 24th, and the relievers are 25th. The entire unit has been a complete abomination. With the uncertain status of Jose Berrios’ future and veterans like J.A. Happ and Michael Pineda being done this offseason, the rotation will be in flux. Taylor Rogers sapped his trade value with a finger injury just days ago, but whether he was dealt or not, the rest of the bullpen remains a complete question mark. None of the signings made by the front office have worked out, and while they were short-term pacts, a re-do is less exciting when considering just how many times they missed over the winter. Derek Falvey has long been lauded for his ability to develop and identify pitching. Minnesota has a farm system rich with names attached to arms, but none have begun to bear fruit, and plenty are currently injured. For this organization to thrive at the highest level, it’s going to need to start on the mound once again, and they’re going to be doing so from next to nothing for 2022. Corner rookies are real In a season where winning takes a back seat, the best way to prevent it from becoming lost is by watching your youth thrive. Alex Kirilloff is done for the year after having wrist surgery, but it’s pretty realistic to call his rookie campaign a success. The top prospect came up early and handled his own. He’s not an ideal fit in the outfield, but he’ll play at first base, and the bat is every bit as advertised. Trevor Larnach joined Kirilloff sooner than expected, but it’s hard to pick apart much of what he’s done this season. Even while slumping of late, the 24-year-old owns a .322 OBP and has shown plenty of power potential. He’ll run into more baseballs as his career progresses, and the discipline in the box has been a sight to behold. These are both pillar players that Minnesota needs to see as foundational cornerstones of future lineups, and early returns should suggest they are both capable of doing just that. MORE FROM TWINS DAILY — Latest Twins coverage from our writers — Recent Twins discussion in our forums — Follow Twins Daily via Twitter, Facebook or email View full article
  4. It was a rough day in Minnesota as the Vikings dropped a hard-fought battle to the Lions by a score of 17-14... Excuse me, I am getting word that this was not a Vikings game, but rather the Twins dropped an offensive slugfest against the Tigers. Box Score Starting Pitcher: Happ 3.0 IP, 10 H, 9 R, 9 ER, 4 BB, 2 K Homeruns: Sano 2 (17), Jeffers 2 (8), Kepler (14), Rooker (4), Polanco (15) Bottom 3 WPA: Happ -0.321, Minaya -0.158, Kepler -0.154 Win Probability Chart (via FanGraphs) J.A. Happ’s Horrendous Start It has been far from a good season for offseason signing J.A. Happ, who put together arguably his worst outing of the season, yes even as bad as his start against the White Sox back in May. By the time the plug was finally pulled on Happ, the game was seemingly well out of reach. After giving up a couple of baserunners, but no runs in the first, Happ surrendered four singles and a walk in the second that gave the Tigers the early two run lead. Happ then had a strong three-up-three-down third and appeared to get his start back on the right track. That was before all hell broke loose in the fourth. To start the top of the fourth, the Tigers offense started the inning by going single, walk, double, single, single, walk, double before Rocco Baldelli finally came out and ended J.A. Happ’s outing. Former Tigers first round pick Beau Burrows came in to relieve Happ, and got out of the inning, but not before allowing two sac-flies and an RBI triple, giving the Tigers an early 10-0 lead. Burrows would stay in the game and pitch a scoreless fifth, after the Twins bats somehow got them back in the game, but then let the Tigers build on their lead again in the sixth. He gave up two walks to begin the inning, before Zack Short hit an RBI double. Burrows then got the next two guys on flyouts, the former being a sac-fly, before Grayson Greiner ripped another double off Burrows giving the Tigers what was at the time a 13-6 lead. Twins Monster 4th Inning After the Tigers appeared the bust the game completely wide open in the top of the fourth, the Twins bats made the game interesting after a big inning of their own. Miguel Sano got the scoring started with a leadoff solo home run to center field. After the Sano home run, which was nice to see, the game still felt very much not in the balance. That, however, would all change just four batters later. After the Sano home run, Trevor Larnach, Willians Astudillo and Nick Gordon all hit singles to set the table for this Ryan Jeffers grand slam! The Twins bats were not done after that, as they continued to pile on the hits. After Andrelton Simmons lined out to right, Max Kepler was hit by a pitch and that was the end of the road for Tigers pitcher Wily Peralta, who was replaced by Kyle Funkhouser (great name). Funkhouser did not find any more success, as Rooker, Polano and Sano all proceeded to get singles off of him to begin his outing, cutting the Tigers lead to four and giving the Twins bases loaded and just one out. They failed to capitalize on this, however, as Trevor Larnach struck out and Willians Astudillo grounded out to end the inning. Twins Coming Roaring Back in the 8th Yes, I know that was a bad Tigers pun, but it was a long game. With the Twins still down 13-6 entering the bottom of the eighth, the Twins bats exploded for a second time in today’s ballgame. Max Kepler, who has been swinging the bat a lot better in July, got the inning started with his fourteenth home run of the season, and that would not be even close to the last home run the Twins would hit this inning. Then it was Brent Rooker’s turn to stay hot, after he’s been tearing it up in St. Paul this year to the tune of 19 home runs and an OPS of .908 in 61 ball games for the Saints. In total, Rooker has hit 23 home runs in just 75 games played between the Saints and the Twins this season. Now down 13-8, it felt like the Twins were still in the ball game, and that feeling became even stronger once Jorge Polanco drew a walk to get on base for what was the most no-boudt of all no-doubters that has ever come off the bat of Miguel Sano, and that is saying something. According to Statcast, that home run left Miguel Sano’s bat with an exit velocity of 114.8 MPH and a launch angle of 30 degrees, traveling an estimated 473 feet into the third deck in left-center. Truly a mammoth home run, even by his standards. The Twins bats did not slow down after that, as they continued to use the long ball to get back into this ballgame. After a Willians Astudillo double, sandwiched between a Tevor Larnach fly out and a Nick Gordon strike out, Ryan Jeffers blasted his second home run of the game, bringing the Twins back within one. Juan Minaya Shines Until Things Fall Apart in the Ninth After the struggles of J.A. Happ and Beau Burrows, Juan Minaya was a refreshing change of pace for the Twins on the mound, when he entered the game to start the seventh. He began his outing by retiring all six batters that he faced in the seventh and eighth innings, and came back out to pitch the ninth, after the Twins had just made it a one-run ball game. He got the inning started off strong by striking out Harold Castro, before walking Grayson Greiner. After a quick mound visit, Minaya seemed to get back on track as he struck out Akil Baddoo for the second out of the inning. That is when things fell apart on Minaya, who was arguably left in the game a bit too long, especially with the Twins back in it. With two outs, the Tigers proceeded to get a single and a walk to load the bases for Eric Haase, who promptly delivered with a bases clearing double to bust the game back open for the Tigers. He would then come around to score on the next batter, when Jeimer Candelario hit a double of his own, giving the Tigers a 17-12 lead. It is worth noting that none of the Tigers 17 runs in today’s ballgame were scored on a home run. Jorge Polanco Gives Twins a Glimmer of Hope in the Ninth Given all that had happened today, a five run lead in the ninth did not seem insurmountable for the Twins. After all, they already had two six run innings, so why not a third and the way the inning started it appeared as though that was possible. Brent Rooker leadoff the inning with a hard fought walk and was immediately followed by a home run off the bat of Jorge Polanco, the Twins seventh of the ballgame. That comeback effort would not come to fruition, as Miguel Sano and Trevor Larnach would both strike out and Willians Astudillo would ground out to end what was not only an incredible game, but an incredible series. Bullpen Usage Chart What's Next The Twins are off on Thursday before traveling to St. Louis to begin a three-game series with the Cardinals. Jose Berrios is scheduled to be on the mound for the Twins, though that is still very much up in the air depending on what happens with the trade deadline fast approaching. View full article
  5. We still have a ways to go, and while there is no August waiver trade period in 2021, Rocco Baldelli’s roster should continue to get a shake-up over the next few weeks. Cycling in different hitters and pitchers when attempting to find future opportunities, this club can also look back on what has been and begin making assessments for 2022 and beyond. While not all the biggest storylines, here are five key takeaways from what we’ve seen to this point: Miguel Sano is inconsistently consistent Through 21 games to start the year, Sano owned a .119/.280/.209 slash line. Over his next 38 games from May 15 through June 30, he held a .233/.280/.549 slash line. Then, in July, he’s owned a .246/.325/.478 slash line across 20 games. He’s got a .737 OPS in 79 games this year and has paired that with 17 homers and a .291 OBP. If you’re looking for Miguel Sano to be the mega-prospect he once was considered, that’s probably on you at this point. The slash line still leaves plenty to be desired, but he’s got a 103 OPS+ and has not wavered on a solid sense of plate discipline. Timing continues to elude him for frustrating stretches, but he’s also capable of going on an absolute power tear. Should the Twins find themselves back in a position of strength throughout their lineup, a bat like that in the bottom half is hardly something to scoff at. He’s owed $9.25 million in 2022, and that’s an overpay but not to the extent of being ultimately damaging and acting as a primary designated hitter; that may be the role he’s always been destined for anyways. Nick Gordon has utility I was convinced that opportunity had passed the Twins former first-round pick by for quite a while. I knew he could play at the big-league level but wasn’t sure it would happen in a Minnesota uniform. Now I’m more convinced that it needs to continue. He’s still the same player he’s been throughout the minors. A soft-hitting speedster that will occasionally run into one, this is a singles hitter that has the instincts to swipe bases. Add in the utility he’s provided by learning centerfield on the fly, and there’s no reason he shouldn’t be on the Opening Day roster in 2022. Gordon may find a bit more success in year two when it comes to batting average; he’s made a career out of taking steps forward after acclimating to a level. Even if he doesn’t, though, speed on the bench is something Minnesota hasn’t had, and the combination of being a lighter version of Chris Taylor is a good thing for any roster to have. Mitch Garver can still mash To say that 2020 was disastrous for Mitch Garver would be putting it lightly. The Twins Silver Slugger winning catcher posted a terrible .511 OPS and hit just two homers in 23 games. Things started slow for him in 2021, with a .517 OPS being toted through 17 games. In his last 29 games since April 28, with a severe injury mixed in there, Garver has slashed .299/.449/.740 with nine homers and a 20/19 K/BB. The life-altering foul tip he took was incredibly scary, but as rehab progressed and healing took place, he’s been back behind the dish and picked up where he left off. Even after being plunked by a pitch on his hand recently, it’s fair to dream of the production that will soon return. Garver is a late-blooming prospect, so he’s going to age relatively quickly, but this is the anchor of a tandem behind the dish that Twins fans were hoping for. The pitching staff needs an overhaul Minnesota owns the fourth-worst pitching staff in baseball by fWAR in 2021. The starters rank 24th, and the relievers are 25th. The entire unit has been a complete abomination. With the uncertain status of Jose Berrios’ future and veterans like J.A. Happ and Michael Pineda being done this offseason, the rotation will be in flux. Taylor Rogers sapped his trade value with a finger injury just days ago, but whether he was dealt or not, the rest of the bullpen remains a complete question mark. None of the signings made by the front office have worked out, and while they were short-term pacts, a re-do is less exciting when considering just how many times they missed over the winter. Derek Falvey has long been lauded for his ability to develop and identify pitching. Minnesota has a farm system rich with names attached to arms, but none have begun to bear fruit, and plenty are currently injured. For this organization to thrive at the highest level, it’s going to need to start on the mound once again, and they’re going to be doing so from next to nothing for 2022. Corner rookies are real In a season where winning takes a back seat, the best way to prevent it from becoming lost is by watching your youth thrive. Alex Kirilloff is done for the year after having wrist surgery, but it’s pretty realistic to call his rookie campaign a success. The top prospect came up early and handled his own. He’s not an ideal fit in the outfield, but he’ll play at first base, and the bat is every bit as advertised. Trevor Larnach joined Kirilloff sooner than expected, but it’s hard to pick apart much of what he’s done this season. Even while slumping of late, the 24-year-old owns a .322 OBP and has shown plenty of power potential. He’ll run into more baseballs as his career progresses, and the discipline in the box has been a sight to behold. These are both pillar players that Minnesota needs to see as foundational cornerstones of future lineups, and early returns should suggest they are both capable of doing just that. MORE FROM TWINS DAILY — Latest Twins coverage from our writers — Recent Twins discussion in our forums — Follow Twins Daily via Twitter, Facebook or email
  6. Box Score Starting Pitcher: Happ 3.0 IP, 10 H, 9 R, 9 ER, 4 BB, 2 K Homeruns: Sano 2 (17), Jeffers 2 (8), Kepler (14), Rooker (4), Polanco (15) Bottom 3 WPA: Happ -0.321, Minaya -0.158, Kepler -0.154 Win Probability Chart (via FanGraphs) J.A. Happ’s Horrendous Start It has been far from a good season for offseason signing J.A. Happ, who put together arguably his worst outing of the season, yes even as bad as his start against the White Sox back in May. By the time the plug was finally pulled on Happ, the game was seemingly well out of reach. After giving up a couple of baserunners, but no runs in the first, Happ surrendered four singles and a walk in the second that gave the Tigers the early two run lead. Happ then had a strong three-up-three-down third and appeared to get his start back on the right track. That was before all hell broke loose in the fourth. To start the top of the fourth, the Tigers offense started the inning by going single, walk, double, single, single, walk, double before Rocco Baldelli finally came out and ended J.A. Happ’s outing. Former Tigers first round pick Beau Burrows came in to relieve Happ, and got out of the inning, but not before allowing two sac-flies and an RBI triple, giving the Tigers an early 10-0 lead. Burrows would stay in the game and pitch a scoreless fifth, after the Twins bats somehow got them back in the game, but then let the Tigers build on their lead again in the sixth. He gave up two walks to begin the inning, before Zack Short hit an RBI double. Burrows then got the next two guys on flyouts, the former being a sac-fly, before Grayson Greiner ripped another double off Burrows giving the Tigers what was at the time a 13-6 lead. Twins Monster 4th Inning After the Tigers appeared the bust the game completely wide open in the top of the fourth, the Twins bats made the game interesting after a big inning of their own. Miguel Sano got the scoring started with a leadoff solo home run to center field. After the Sano home run, which was nice to see, the game still felt very much not in the balance. That, however, would all change just four batters later. After the Sano home run, Trevor Larnach, Willians Astudillo and Nick Gordon all hit singles to set the table for this Ryan Jeffers grand slam! The Twins bats were not done after that, as they continued to pile on the hits. After Andrelton Simmons lined out to right, Max Kepler was hit by a pitch and that was the end of the road for Tigers pitcher Wily Peralta, who was replaced by Kyle Funkhouser (great name). Funkhouser did not find any more success, as Rooker, Polano and Sano all proceeded to get singles off of him to begin his outing, cutting the Tigers lead to four and giving the Twins bases loaded and just one out. They failed to capitalize on this, however, as Trevor Larnach struck out and Willians Astudillo grounded out to end the inning. Twins Coming Roaring Back in the 8th Yes, I know that was a bad Tigers pun, but it was a long game. With the Twins still down 13-6 entering the bottom of the eighth, the Twins bats exploded for a second time in today’s ballgame. Max Kepler, who has been swinging the bat a lot better in July, got the inning started with his fourteenth home run of the season, and that would not be even close to the last home run the Twins would hit this inning. Then it was Brent Rooker’s turn to stay hot, after he’s been tearing it up in St. Paul this year to the tune of 19 home runs and an OPS of .908 in 61 ball games for the Saints. In total, Rooker has hit 23 home runs in just 75 games played between the Saints and the Twins this season. Now down 13-8, it felt like the Twins were still in the ball game, and that feeling became even stronger once Jorge Polanco drew a walk to get on base for what was the most no-boudt of all no-doubters that has ever come off the bat of Miguel Sano, and that is saying something. According to Statcast, that home run left Miguel Sano’s bat with an exit velocity of 114.8 MPH and a launch angle of 30 degrees, traveling an estimated 473 feet into the third deck in left-center. Truly a mammoth home run, even by his standards. The Twins bats did not slow down after that, as they continued to use the long ball to get back into this ballgame. After a Willians Astudillo double, sandwiched between a Tevor Larnach fly out and a Nick Gordon strike out, Ryan Jeffers blasted his second home run of the game, bringing the Twins back within one. Juan Minaya Shines Until Things Fall Apart in the Ninth After the struggles of J.A. Happ and Beau Burrows, Juan Minaya was a refreshing change of pace for the Twins on the mound, when he entered the game to start the seventh. He began his outing by retiring all six batters that he faced in the seventh and eighth innings, and came back out to pitch the ninth, after the Twins had just made it a one-run ball game. He got the inning started off strong by striking out Harold Castro, before walking Grayson Greiner. After a quick mound visit, Minaya seemed to get back on track as he struck out Akil Baddoo for the second out of the inning. That is when things fell apart on Minaya, who was arguably left in the game a bit too long, especially with the Twins back in it. With two outs, the Tigers proceeded to get a single and a walk to load the bases for Eric Haase, who promptly delivered with a bases clearing double to bust the game back open for the Tigers. He would then come around to score on the next batter, when Jeimer Candelario hit a double of his own, giving the Tigers a 17-12 lead. It is worth noting that none of the Tigers 17 runs in today’s ballgame were scored on a home run. Jorge Polanco Gives Twins a Glimmer of Hope in the Ninth Given all that had happened today, a five run lead in the ninth did not seem insurmountable for the Twins. After all, they already had two six run innings, so why not a third and the way the inning started it appeared as though that was possible. Brent Rooker leadoff the inning with a hard fought walk and was immediately followed by a home run off the bat of Jorge Polanco, the Twins seventh of the ballgame. That comeback effort would not come to fruition, as Miguel Sano and Trevor Larnach would both strike out and Willians Astudillo would ground out to end what was not only an incredible game, but an incredible series. Bullpen Usage Chart What's Next The Twins are off on Thursday before traveling to St. Louis to begin a three-game series with the Cardinals. Jose Berrios is scheduled to be on the mound for the Twins, though that is still very much up in the air depending on what happens with the trade deadline fast approaching.
  7. The Minnesota Twins enjoyed an extended All-Star break thanks to a rain-out in Detroit on Friday, which also reduced their four-game series against the Tigers to a three-gamer. The Twins managed to pack a lot of ugliness into the short week, starting the second half on a sour note and planting themselves firmly in fourth place. Weekly Snapshot: 7/12 through Sun, 7/18 *** Record Last Week: 0-3 (Overall: 39-53) Run Differential Last Week: -9 (Overall: -66) Standing: 4th Place in AL Central (17.0 GB) Last Week's Game Recaps: Game 90 | DET 1, MIN 0: Bats Come Up Empty in Barnes Debut Game 91 | DET 5, MIN 4: Tigers Walk Off Twins on Bloop Single Game 92 | DET 7, MIN 0: Offense Snoozes Again in Sweep-Clinching Rout NEWS & NOTES I wrote last week about key question marks the Twins need to find clarity on in the second half, and Randy Dobnak is near the top of that list. Unfortunately, it doesn't look like we're going to see much more of him this year. Dobnak was moved to the 60-day Injured List coming out of the break, indicating that his return from a finger strain is nowhere near. The righty last pitched on June 19th, so he won't be back on the mound for the Twins until at least late August. Devin Smeltzer was also transitioned to the 60-day IL; it sounds like he's hit some bumps on the rehab road and is still a ways off. Filling their spots on the 40-man roster are Charlie Barnes and Juan Minaya. The latter addition supplements a bullpen that's now short-handed again, with Derek Law going on the shelf due to a shoulder impingement. Barnes gives the Twins another rookie to evaluate in the starting rotation, and he had a pretty good showing in his major-league debut, which we'll discuss below. In a welcome bit of good news, it sounds like Mitch Garver's return is imminent. He wrapped up a short rehab stint in St. Paul and is set to join the team in Chicago on Monday. Jake Cave, who also embarked on a rehab assignment with the Saints last week, is not far behind. HIGHLIGHTS He's not one of the top pitching prospects in the organization. He doesn't project as a front-line talent, and maybe not even a full-time MLB starter. But nonetheless Barnes is an interesting and important player for the Twins. Time and time again, we've seen the impact of rotation depth beyond the top five, and Barnes has a real chance to factor into that picture over the next few seasons. A fourth-round draft pick out of Clemson back in 2017, Barnes has risen steadily through the organization, posting a 3.72 ERA in the minors over parts of four seasons. In his Twins debut on Friday, the lefty was as advertised, peppering the zone and keeping hitters off-balance with a quality changeup that paces his repertoire. He gave up a lead-off homer and basically shut the Tigers down after that, finishing with four hits, one walk, and one strikeout in 4 ⅔ innings. Barnes should get plenty more opportunities this year out of necessity. Minnesota's starting depth has been largely eradicated, and may get thinner yet. We noted earlier that Dobnak and Smeltzer won't be back for a while. Lewis Thorpe also remains sidelined. Michael Pineda will likely get traded if he's healthy (and if not, more innings to cover anyway). Bailey Ober's workload will be managed vigilantly. The Twins need to find innings wherever they can get them. Which is why I'm sad to say that J.A. Happ probably is not going anywhere, despite his clunker on Sunday ranking among the weekend's lowlights. There was no shortage of them. LOWLIGHTS The Twins not only lost all three games in Detroit, erasing whatever semblance of momentum they generated with a sweep of this same Tigers team heading into the break. They lost them all in strikingly hideous fashion. In Game 1 it was a shutout fueled primarily by Jose Urena and Daniel Norris, both of whom have ERAs north of six. Game 2 saw Detroit win in a walk-off when a routine pop-up with an expected batting average of .000 dropped between Nick Gordon and Andrelton Simmons in shallow center field. In the finale, Minnesota was flat-out dominated by this lousy Tigers team in a 7-0 trouncing. The Twins went 0-for-8 with runners in scoring position and Happ coughed up all seven runs. The pitching was customarily ineffective, but the complete lack of offense from the Twins in this series was surprising and disappointing. The Tigers have a bad, bad staff and Minnesota could do nothing to take advantage. Trevor Larnach's slump carried over from before the break. He saw his hitless streak extend to 17 at-bats before delivering a single on Sunday ... and then promptly getting thrown out trying to stretch it at second. Alex Kirilloff went 1-for-11. Max Kepler and Ryan Jeffers combined to produce zero hits in 18 plate appearances. Simmons is batting .158 this month after another hitless game on Sunday, and his OPS is on the verge of dropping below .600. With very few exceptions, the lineup completely sleepwalked through this series, despite the fact that everyone other than Nelson Cruz – who participated in All-Star festivities and appeared briefly in Tuesday night's game – was running on five full days of rest. It was as listless and sloppy a performance as we've seen all year. I long ago gave up on the idea of the Twins playing meaningful baseball in the second half, and I recognize things are sure to get worse once the sell-off is underway, but I'd still like to have a reason to tune in. The offense should be that. It's a talented group and theoretically a foundation to build upon if the Twins want to reassert themselves as contenders in short order. But what we saw over the past three days offered little to like or feel good about. TRENDING STORYLINE What exactly is the plan with Miguel Sanó? He sat in two of the three games in Detroit, further cementing his status as a part-time platoon player. It's not clear how this course of action benefits the Twins in any way at the moment. Firstly, taking Sanó out of the lineup doesn't appear to make it better. The Twins were shut out in both games he was benched for over the weekend, and while I'm not saying he'd have turned the tides, he has been hitting pretty well of late. In his past 25 games, the first baseman is slashing .265/.307/.470 with a 31% K-rate that is well below his norm. In fact, his OPS over the past two months is nearly .800. Meanwhile, it is apparent that Larnach and Kirilloff (among others) could use a few more days off mixed in. Secondly, there is the contractual attachment to Sanó. I realize that many fans would like to be done and wash their hands of the frustrating slugger, but the reality is that they team is on the hook for another $12 million after this year ($9.25M salary in 2022 and $2.75M buyout for 2023 option). The only way out of that commitment, or some portion of it, is trading Sanó. But keeping him on the bench regularly, as Rocco Baldelli has of late, prevents any trade market from taking shape. A classic surge in July could MAYBE raise the eyebrows of a power-needy team at the deadline. Sticking him on the bench every other day doesn't send any good signals. Moreover, the Twins just need to do whatever they can to help Sanó rediscover his game. It might feel like ancient history with all that's happened since, but he is only separated from his stellar 2019 season – 34 home runs, 79 RBIs, and a .923 OPS in 105 games – by less than six months, in baseball terms. He's 28 years old, not 34. To simply give up on him at this point, when it also means eating $12 million in dead salary, makes no sense, unless the front office is completely and utterly convinced he's lost what he once had. The flashes we've seen from him at times this year make that hard to believe. The coming offseason will likely define Sanó's baseball career. He's either going to put in the work, come back next year and re-establish himself, or he may very well end up finding that the best offer for him afterward is to go play ball overseas. You might not feel he's worth betting on. I wouldn't necessarily blame you. But the Twins don't really have much choice. LOOKING AHEAD The Twins have a full, busy week of action ahead, with eight games in seven days, and they will have their work cut out for them. The week opens with a rookie (Griffin Jax) going up against a Cy Young front-runner (Lance Lynn), and ends with another rookie (Ober) going up against an MVP front-runner (Shohei Ohtani). Given what we just saw against Detroit, it's hard to envision things going particularly well for the Twins during this stretch, but team results on the field will be a secondary storyline with the trade deadline now less than two weeks away. From that perspective, the Pineda start on Wednesday looms large. MONDAY, 7/19 (G1): TWINS @ WHITE SOX – RHP Griffin Jax v. RHP Lance Lynn MONDAY, 7/19 (G2): TWINS @ WHITE SOX – RHP José Berríos v. TBD TUESDAY, 7/20: TWINS @ WHITE SOX – RHP Bailey Ober v. LHP Dallas Keuchel WEDNESDAY, 7/21: TWINS @ WHITE SOX – RHP Michael Pineda v. RHP Dylan Cease THURSDAY, 7/22: ANGELS @ TWINS – LHP Andrew Heaney v. RHP Kenta Maeda FRIDAY, 7/23: ANGELS @ TWINS – RHP Alex Cobb v. LHP J.A. Happ SATURDAY, 7/24: ANGELS @ TWINS – LHP Patrick Sandoval v. RHP Jose Berrios SUNDAY, 7/25: ANGELS @ TWINS – RHP Shohei Ohtani v. RHP Bailey Ober MORE FROM TWINS DAILY — Latest Twins coverage from our writers — Recent Twins discussion in our forums — Follow Twins Daily via Twitter, Facebook or email View full article
  8. Weekly Snapshot: 7/12 through Sun, 7/18 *** Record Last Week: 0-3 (Overall: 39-53) Run Differential Last Week: -9 (Overall: -66) Standing: 4th Place in AL Central (17.0 GB) Last Week's Game Recaps: Game 90 | DET 1, MIN 0: Bats Come Up Empty in Barnes Debut Game 91 | DET 5, MIN 4: Tigers Walk Off Twins on Bloop Single Game 92 | DET 7, MIN 0: Offense Snoozes Again in Sweep-Clinching Rout NEWS & NOTES I wrote last week about key question marks the Twins need to find clarity on in the second half, and Randy Dobnak is near the top of that list. Unfortunately, it doesn't look like we're going to see much more of him this year. Dobnak was moved to the 60-day Injured List coming out of the break, indicating that his return from a finger strain is nowhere near. The righty last pitched on June 19th, so he won't be back on the mound for the Twins until at least late August. Devin Smeltzer was also transitioned to the 60-day IL; it sounds like he's hit some bumps on the rehab road and is still a ways off. Filling their spots on the 40-man roster are Charlie Barnes and Juan Minaya. The latter addition supplements a bullpen that's now short-handed again, with Derek Law going on the shelf due to a shoulder impingement. Barnes gives the Twins another rookie to evaluate in the starting rotation, and he had a pretty good showing in his major-league debut, which we'll discuss below. In a welcome bit of good news, it sounds like Mitch Garver's return is imminent. He wrapped up a short rehab stint in St. Paul and is set to join the team in Chicago on Monday. Jake Cave, who also embarked on a rehab assignment with the Saints last week, is not far behind. HIGHLIGHTS He's not one of the top pitching prospects in the organization. He doesn't project as a front-line talent, and maybe not even a full-time MLB starter. But nonetheless Barnes is an interesting and important player for the Twins. Time and time again, we've seen the impact of rotation depth beyond the top five, and Barnes has a real chance to factor into that picture over the next few seasons. A fourth-round draft pick out of Clemson back in 2017, Barnes has risen steadily through the organization, posting a 3.72 ERA in the minors over parts of four seasons. In his Twins debut on Friday, the lefty was as advertised, peppering the zone and keeping hitters off-balance with a quality changeup that paces his repertoire. He gave up a lead-off homer and basically shut the Tigers down after that, finishing with four hits, one walk, and one strikeout in 4 ⅔ innings. Barnes should get plenty more opportunities this year out of necessity. Minnesota's starting depth has been largely eradicated, and may get thinner yet. We noted earlier that Dobnak and Smeltzer won't be back for a while. Lewis Thorpe also remains sidelined. Michael Pineda will likely get traded if he's healthy (and if not, more innings to cover anyway). Bailey Ober's workload will be managed vigilantly. The Twins need to find innings wherever they can get them. Which is why I'm sad to say that J.A. Happ probably is not going anywhere, despite his clunker on Sunday ranking among the weekend's lowlights. There was no shortage of them. LOWLIGHTS The Twins not only lost all three games in Detroit, erasing whatever semblance of momentum they generated with a sweep of this same Tigers team heading into the break. They lost them all in strikingly hideous fashion. In Game 1 it was a shutout fueled primarily by Jose Urena and Daniel Norris, both of whom have ERAs north of six. Game 2 saw Detroit win in a walk-off when a routine pop-up with an expected batting average of .000 dropped between Nick Gordon and Andrelton Simmons in shallow center field. In the finale, Minnesota was flat-out dominated by this lousy Tigers team in a 7-0 trouncing. The Twins went 0-for-8 with runners in scoring position and Happ coughed up all seven runs. The pitching was customarily ineffective, but the complete lack of offense from the Twins in this series was surprising and disappointing. The Tigers have a bad, bad staff and Minnesota could do nothing to take advantage. Trevor Larnach's slump carried over from before the break. He saw his hitless streak extend to 17 at-bats before delivering a single on Sunday ... and then promptly getting thrown out trying to stretch it at second. Alex Kirilloff went 1-for-11. Max Kepler and Ryan Jeffers combined to produce zero hits in 18 plate appearances. Simmons is batting .158 this month after another hitless game on Sunday, and his OPS is on the verge of dropping below .600. With very few exceptions, the lineup completely sleepwalked through this series, despite the fact that everyone other than Nelson Cruz – who participated in All-Star festivities and appeared briefly in Tuesday night's game – was running on five full days of rest. It was as listless and sloppy a performance as we've seen all year. I long ago gave up on the idea of the Twins playing meaningful baseball in the second half, and I recognize things are sure to get worse once the sell-off is underway, but I'd still like to have a reason to tune in. The offense should be that. It's a talented group and theoretically a foundation to build upon if the Twins want to reassert themselves as contenders in short order. But what we saw over the past three days offered little to like or feel good about. TRENDING STORYLINE What exactly is the plan with Miguel Sanó? He sat in two of the three games in Detroit, further cementing his status as a part-time platoon player. It's not clear how this course of action benefits the Twins in any way at the moment. Firstly, taking Sanó out of the lineup doesn't appear to make it better. The Twins were shut out in both games he was benched for over the weekend, and while I'm not saying he'd have turned the tides, he has been hitting pretty well of late. In his past 25 games, the first baseman is slashing .265/.307/.470 with a 31% K-rate that is well below his norm. In fact, his OPS over the past two months is nearly .800. Meanwhile, it is apparent that Larnach and Kirilloff (among others) could use a few more days off mixed in. Secondly, there is the contractual attachment to Sanó. I realize that many fans would like to be done and wash their hands of the frustrating slugger, but the reality is that they team is on the hook for another $12 million after this year ($9.25M salary in 2022 and $2.75M buyout for 2023 option). The only way out of that commitment, or some portion of it, is trading Sanó. But keeping him on the bench regularly, as Rocco Baldelli has of late, prevents any trade market from taking shape. A classic surge in July could MAYBE raise the eyebrows of a power-needy team at the deadline. Sticking him on the bench every other day doesn't send any good signals. Moreover, the Twins just need to do whatever they can to help Sanó rediscover his game. It might feel like ancient history with all that's happened since, but he is only separated from his stellar 2019 season – 34 home runs, 79 RBIs, and a .923 OPS in 105 games – by less than six months, in baseball terms. He's 28 years old, not 34. To simply give up on him at this point, when it also means eating $12 million in dead salary, makes no sense, unless the front office is completely and utterly convinced he's lost what he once had. The flashes we've seen from him at times this year make that hard to believe. The coming offseason will likely define Sanó's baseball career. He's either going to put in the work, come back next year and re-establish himself, or he may very well end up finding that the best offer for him afterward is to go play ball overseas. You might not feel he's worth betting on. I wouldn't necessarily blame you. But the Twins don't really have much choice. LOOKING AHEAD The Twins have a full, busy week of action ahead, with eight games in seven days, and they will have their work cut out for them. The week opens with a rookie (Griffin Jax) going up against a Cy Young front-runner (Lance Lynn), and ends with another rookie (Ober) going up against an MVP front-runner (Shohei Ohtani). Given what we just saw against Detroit, it's hard to envision things going particularly well for the Twins during this stretch, but team results on the field will be a secondary storyline with the trade deadline now less than two weeks away. From that perspective, the Pineda start on Wednesday looms large. MONDAY, 7/19 (G1): TWINS @ WHITE SOX – RHP Griffin Jax v. RHP Lance Lynn MONDAY, 7/19 (G2): TWINS @ WHITE SOX – RHP José Berríos v. TBD TUESDAY, 7/20: TWINS @ WHITE SOX – RHP Bailey Ober v. LHP Dallas Keuchel WEDNESDAY, 7/21: TWINS @ WHITE SOX – RHP Michael Pineda v. RHP Dylan Cease THURSDAY, 7/22: ANGELS @ TWINS – LHP Andrew Heaney v. RHP Kenta Maeda FRIDAY, 7/23: ANGELS @ TWINS – RHP Alex Cobb v. LHP J.A. Happ SATURDAY, 7/24: ANGELS @ TWINS – LHP Patrick Sandoval v. RHP Jose Berrios SUNDAY, 7/25: ANGELS @ TWINS – RHP Shohei Ohtani v. RHP Bailey Ober MORE FROM TWINS DAILY — Latest Twins coverage from our writers — Recent Twins discussion in our forums — Follow Twins Daily via Twitter, Facebook or email
  9. Weekly Snapshot: Mon, 6/21 through Sun, 6/27 *** Record Last Week: 3-2 (Overall: 32-43) Run Differential Last Week: +3 (Overall: -48) Standing: T-3rd Place in AL Central (11.5 GB) Last Week's Game Recaps: Game 72 | MIN 7, CIN 5: Sanó Walks Off Reds in Extras Game 73 | CIN 10, MIN 7: Late Comeback Falls Short as Bullpen Lapses Game 74 | CLE 4, MIN 1: Bats Can't Back Up Berríos' Brilliance Game 75 | MIN 8, CLE 7: Offense Powers Twins Through Bullpen Game Game 76 | MIN 8, CLE 2: Happ Bounces Back with Bomba Support NEWS & NOTES As deflating as this Twins season has been for fans, following the frustrating and logic-defying plight of Byron Buxton may be even more heartbreaking than the team's overall struggles. It really is just one thing after another for the snakebitten superstar. This time, a broken left hand, suffered via an HBP on Monday night in just his third game back from the IL. While evidently playing through some pain in a hip that was not back to 100%, Buxton was nonetheless effective, going 4-for-11 with a homer and double in his brief reappearance. Now, after missing a month and a half due to the hip strain, he's staring down a similar length of absence as this boxer's fracture heals. It sucks. It absolutely sucks. For him, for the team, for the fans, for baseball. Buxton's new injury led to a quick recall for Gilberto Celestino, who joins Max Kepler and Nick Gordon as the team's center field depth of the moment. The rest of the week's roster action was centralized on the pitching staff, with more bad news hitting the bullpen. Luke Farrell, one of the unit's few standouts, went on the Injured List with a right oblique strain. Cody Stashak has been placed on the 60-day IL due to a disc injury in his back. Randy Dobnak was also shelved with a finger strain. The Stashak move opened up a 40-man spot for Danny Coulombe, who was selected from the minors and started a bullpen game on Friday. Griffin Jax, also called up to fill a spot on the beleaguered staff, followed as the bulk guy for that game, and picked up his first big-league win. HIGHLIGHTS Miguel Sanó heated up again and reminded us what a game-changing force he can be when it's clicking. Of course, it hasn't clicked often for him this year, which is why he found himself on the bench Monday night (an increasingly routine occurrence for him against right-handed starters). While he didn't start the game, he did finish it. Sanó followed with another huge hit the following day, coming inches short of tying things up against Cincinnati with another two-run homer, but instead settling for a double off the top of the wall that set up Alex Kirilloff's game-tying knock. Sanó started only twice last week, but had more multi-hit games (2) than he had in the previous month. He's also gone 13 consecutive plate appearances without striking out – a rather amazing feat for him. Sanó helped lead the charge in a generally strong week for the offense, which produced 31 runs in five games and is on its way to finishing up an impressive month of June. The team has a .783 OPS this month, after finishing May at .744 and April at .723. Also contributing to the recent run-scoring outburst at Target Field was Luis Arraez, who went 6-for-18 and was instrumental to Friday night's win, chipping in three extra-base hits and three RBIs. The glimmer of power was a very refreshing sight from Arraez, whose slugging percentage had dropped to .327 earlier this month before he gave it a boost with two doubles and three triples in his past eight games. Kirilloff keeps on raking; he went 5-for-16 with a double, homer, and five RBIs. Nelson Cruz also stayed hot, contributing six hits including two home runs and a double. Josh Donaldson returned from a brief pause due to a calf scare, chipping in five hits (including a monster blast) and three RBIs during the Cleveland series. This is a pretty dang good offense. The pitching inspires less confidence, but that's not true across the board. José Berríos was outstanding once again his last time out, holding Cleveland to one run over 6 ⅓ innings, although the offense couldn't back him up and snapped a string of seven straight wins with him on the mound. Rocking a 7-2 record and 3.41 ERA, Berríos may well be working his way toward another All-Star nod. He and Taylor Rogers have clearly been the class of this pitching staff, which I suppose is not the most surprising development, all other things aside. It's noteworthy from a bigger-picture perspective because both are under team control for one more year in 2022. As the Twins weigh the merits of a retool-vs-rebuild path forward, Berríos and Rogers will loom as pivotal figures at the deadline. Both long-tenured pitchers are sure to be in demand. Do the Twins feel they could afford to let either one go, if they aspire to bounce back and contend next season? LOWLIGHTS Outside of Berríos, Rogers, and a couple of others, there is just not much positivity to be drawn from this current group of arms. Hansel Robles, who's generally been one of the more dependable bullpen fixtures, had an extremely tough week, coughing up four runs in two innings of work and getting tagged with a loss in Tuesday's game. Jorge Alcalá, whom the Twins badly need to emerge as a key piece for the late innings, gave up four earned runs in his two appearances, and sports a 5.40 ERA in his past 20 trips to the mound. Alex Colomé mixed in another meltdown, yielding three runs (one earned) on two hits and a walk in Tuesday's loss. He has a 6.23 ERA in June. Cyclical spare parts like Coulombe and Jax have not shown much. Michael Pineda is hurt, and hasn't pitched into the sixth inning since May. Randy Dobnak was a disastrous mess before going on the shelf himself. Kenta Maeda has looked better since returning from IL, but remains a far cry from the dominant force we witnessed last year. The Twins have the worst pitching WAR of any team in the American League. They've given up the second-most home runs in the majors. Their relievers are on track for historical ineptitude when it comes to letting inherited runners score. This is a brutal pitching corps with no simple fixes in sight. TRENDING STORYLINE If they're going to make a last-gasp effort to regain relevance, the Twins need to do something about the pitching unit. To rattle off wins like they need to up until the All-Star break requires consistently good work from the rotation and bullpen. Frankly: a dramatic turnaround. But what can they do? They aren't going to shake things up with a splashy "buyer" trade, sitting in a last-place tie. There really isn't much available in terms of help on the farm, with top prospect Jhoan Duran sidelined indefinitely alongside MLB-ready arms like Devin Smeltzer and Lewis Thorpe. The best starting pitcher in St. Paul, 25-year-old Charlie Barnes, is a replacement-level guy through and through. (But maybe an improvement over the likes of J.A. Happ and Matt Shoemaker?) Would the front office consider dipping down to Double-A for an upside arm like Jordan Balazovic or Josh Winder? It would be a bold and perhaps desperate measure, but ... desperate times. LOOKING AHEAD If the Twins want to jam their foot into the fast-closing door and keep it open a crack, here is their chance. After taking two of three from second-place Cleveland, they now head to Chicago for a four-game showdown against the division leaders. The White Sox are in a rut, having lost six of eight with an injury-plagued offense that's been stalling out. The Royals are straight-up crumbling, with 17 losses in their last 21 games. Winning these next two series could help the Twins gain a foothold of sorts, with nearly a month still remaining until the trade deadline. It'll be interesting to see where things stand on the 4th, one week from today. MONDAY, 6/28: TWINS @ WHITE SOX – RHP Kenta Maeda v. RHP Lucas Giolito TUESDAY, 6/29: TWINS @ WHITE SOX – RHP José Berríos v. RHP Dylan Cease WEDNESDAY, 6/30: TWINS @ WHITE SOX – RHP Bailey Ober v. LHP Carlos Rodon THURSDAY, 7/1: TWINS @ WHITE SOX – TBD Undecided v. RHP Lance Lynn FRIDAY, 7/2: TWINS @ ROYALS – LHP J.A. Happ v. RHP Brady Singer SATURDAY, 7/3: TWINS @ ROYALS – RHP Kenta Maeda v. LHP Danny Duffy SUNDAY, 7/4: TWINS @ ROYALS – RHP José Berríos v. RHP Brad Keller
  10. The Minnesota Twins ticked off their second consecutive winning week, powered by some strong offensive performances and dramatic moments. They've won seven out of nine, shaving 4 ½ games off their division deficit in the process. Even as they're left reeling from yet another Byron Buxton health setback, the Twins find themselves on a rare run they can feel good about. Weekly Snapshot: Mon, 6/21 through Sun, 6/27 *** Record Last Week: 3-2 (Overall: 32-43) Run Differential Last Week: +3 (Overall: -48) Standing: T-3rd Place in AL Central (11.5 GB) Last Week's Game Recaps: Game 72 | MIN 7, CIN 5: Sanó Walks Off Reds in Extras Game 73 | CIN 10, MIN 7: Late Comeback Falls Short as Bullpen Lapses Game 74 | CLE 4, MIN 1: Bats Can't Back Up Berríos' Brilliance Game 75 | MIN 8, CLE 7: Offense Powers Twins Through Bullpen Game Game 76 | MIN 8, CLE 2: Happ Bounces Back with Bomba Support NEWS & NOTES As deflating as this Twins season has been for fans, following the frustrating and logic-defying plight of Byron Buxton may be even more heartbreaking than the team's overall struggles. It really is just one thing after another for the snakebitten superstar. This time, a broken left hand, suffered via an HBP on Monday night in just his third game back from the IL. While evidently playing through some pain in a hip that was not back to 100%, Buxton was nonetheless effective, going 4-for-11 with a homer and double in his brief reappearance. Now, after missing a month and a half due to the hip strain, he's staring down a similar length of absence as this boxer's fracture heals. It sucks. It absolutely sucks. For him, for the team, for the fans, for baseball. Buxton's new injury led to a quick recall for Gilberto Celestino, who joins Max Kepler and Nick Gordon as the team's center field depth of the moment. The rest of the week's roster action was centralized on the pitching staff, with more bad news hitting the bullpen. Luke Farrell, one of the unit's few standouts, went on the Injured List with a right oblique strain. Cody Stashak has been placed on the 60-day IL due to a disc injury in his back. Randy Dobnak was also shelved with a finger strain. The Stashak move opened up a 40-man spot for Danny Coulombe, who was selected from the minors and started a bullpen game on Friday. Griffin Jax, also called up to fill a spot on the beleaguered staff, followed as the bulk guy for that game, and picked up his first big-league win. HIGHLIGHTS Miguel Sanó heated up again and reminded us what a game-changing force he can be when it's clicking. Of course, it hasn't clicked often for him this year, which is why he found himself on the bench Monday night (an increasingly routine occurrence for him against right-handed starters). While he didn't start the game, he did finish it. Sanó followed with another huge hit the following day, coming inches short of tying things up against Cincinnati with another two-run homer, but instead settling for a double off the top of the wall that set up Alex Kirilloff's game-tying knock. Sanó started only twice last week, but had more multi-hit games (2) than he had in the previous month. He's also gone 13 consecutive plate appearances without striking out – a rather amazing feat for him. Sanó helped lead the charge in a generally strong week for the offense, which produced 31 runs in five games and is on its way to finishing up an impressive month of June. The team has a .783 OPS this month, after finishing May at .744 and April at .723. Also contributing to the recent run-scoring outburst at Target Field was Luis Arraez, who went 6-for-18 and was instrumental to Friday night's win, chipping in three extra-base hits and three RBIs. The glimmer of power was a very refreshing sight from Arraez, whose slugging percentage had dropped to .327 earlier this month before he gave it a boost with two doubles and three triples in his past eight games. Kirilloff keeps on raking; he went 5-for-16 with a double, homer, and five RBIs. Nelson Cruz also stayed hot, contributing six hits including two home runs and a double. Josh Donaldson returned from a brief pause due to a calf scare, chipping in five hits (including a monster blast) and three RBIs during the Cleveland series. This is a pretty dang good offense. The pitching inspires less confidence, but that's not true across the board. José Berríos was outstanding once again his last time out, holding Cleveland to one run over 6 ⅓ innings, although the offense couldn't back him up and snapped a string of seven straight wins with him on the mound. Rocking a 7-2 record and 3.41 ERA, Berríos may well be working his way toward another All-Star nod. He and Taylor Rogers have clearly been the class of this pitching staff, which I suppose is not the most surprising development, all other things aside. It's noteworthy from a bigger-picture perspective because both are under team control for one more year in 2022. As the Twins weigh the merits of a retool-vs-rebuild path forward, Berríos and Rogers will loom as pivotal figures at the deadline. Both long-tenured pitchers are sure to be in demand. Do the Twins feel they could afford to let either one go, if they aspire to bounce back and contend next season? LOWLIGHTS Outside of Berríos, Rogers, and a couple of others, there is just not much positivity to be drawn from this current group of arms. Hansel Robles, who's generally been one of the more dependable bullpen fixtures, had an extremely tough week, coughing up four runs in two innings of work and getting tagged with a loss in Tuesday's game. Jorge Alcalá, whom the Twins badly need to emerge as a key piece for the late innings, gave up four earned runs in his two appearances, and sports a 5.40 ERA in his past 20 trips to the mound. Alex Colomé mixed in another meltdown, yielding three runs (one earned) on two hits and a walk in Tuesday's loss. He has a 6.23 ERA in June. Cyclical spare parts like Coulombe and Jax have not shown much. Michael Pineda is hurt, and hasn't pitched into the sixth inning since May. Randy Dobnak was a disastrous mess before going on the shelf himself. Kenta Maeda has looked better since returning from IL, but remains a far cry from the dominant force we witnessed last year. The Twins have the worst pitching WAR of any team in the American League. They've given up the second-most home runs in the majors. Their relievers are on track for historical ineptitude when it comes to letting inherited runners score. This is a brutal pitching corps with no simple fixes in sight. TRENDING STORYLINE If they're going to make a last-gasp effort to regain relevance, the Twins need to do something about the pitching unit. To rattle off wins like they need to up until the All-Star break requires consistently good work from the rotation and bullpen. Frankly: a dramatic turnaround. But what can they do? They aren't going to shake things up with a splashy "buyer" trade, sitting in a last-place tie. There really isn't much available in terms of help on the farm, with top prospect Jhoan Duran sidelined indefinitely alongside MLB-ready arms like Devin Smeltzer and Lewis Thorpe. The best starting pitcher in St. Paul, 25-year-old Charlie Barnes, is a replacement-level guy through and through. (But maybe an improvement over the likes of J.A. Happ and Matt Shoemaker?) Would the front office consider dipping down to Double-A for an upside arm like Jordan Balazovic or Josh Winder? It would be a bold and perhaps desperate measure, but ... desperate times. LOOKING AHEAD If the Twins want to jam their foot into the fast-closing door and keep it open a crack, here is their chance. After taking two of three from second-place Cleveland, they now head to Chicago for a four-game showdown against the division leaders. The White Sox are in a rut, having lost six of eight with an injury-plagued offense that's been stalling out. The Royals are straight-up crumbling, with 17 losses in their last 21 games. Winning these next two series could help the Twins gain a foothold of sorts, with nearly a month still remaining until the trade deadline. It'll be interesting to see where things stand on the 4th, one week from today. MONDAY, 6/28: TWINS @ WHITE SOX – RHP Kenta Maeda v. RHP Lucas Giolito TUESDAY, 6/29: TWINS @ WHITE SOX – RHP José Berríos v. RHP Dylan Cease WEDNESDAY, 6/30: TWINS @ WHITE SOX – RHP Bailey Ober v. LHP Carlos Rodon THURSDAY, 7/1: TWINS @ WHITE SOX – TBD Undecided v. RHP Lance Lynn FRIDAY, 7/2: TWINS @ ROYALS – LHP J.A. Happ v. RHP Brady Singer SATURDAY, 7/3: TWINS @ ROYALS – RHP Kenta Maeda v. LHP Danny Duffy SUNDAY, 7/4: TWINS @ ROYALS – RHP José Berríos v. RHP Brad Keller View full article
  11. Injuries are obviously impacting multiple players listed below. In a perfect world, the Twins would be able to trade away all their veterans for valuable pieces, but almost nothing has gone perfectly for the Twins in 2021. That being said, here’s some of the roster shuffle that will occur over the next month. DH: Miguel Sano Replaces Nelson Cruz Miguel Sano seems destined to be the team’s DH throughout the remaining years on his contract. There are only a handful of contending teams that need help at DH, but the most logical choice might be the AL’s best team. Brent Rooker is another possibility to get some DH at-bats in the season’s second half. At Triple-A this year, he has an .861 OPS with 10 home runs and three doubles and it seems like he’s become Minnesota’s forgotten prospect. Moving Sano off first base also allows Alex Kirilloff to start getting more consistent reps at first, which is his expected long-term defensive position. SS: Jorge Polanco Replaces Andrelton Simmons Minnesota is likely hesitant to move Polanco back to shortstop, but the team’s other options are limited. Royce Lewis was supposed to be the heir apparent, but he’s out for the year. He likely won’t be ready at the beginning of 2022, so the Twins will be players in the best free agent shortstop class in baseball history. There are some benefits to moving Polanco back to short. This allows the team to get a longer look at Nick Gordon as the team has kept him on the active roster over Gilberto Celestino and Willians Astudillo. At Triple-A, J.T. Riddle has gotten most defensive starts at shortstop, but he only has .675 OPS and he’s not part of the team’s long-term plans. SP: [Break In Case of Emergency] Replaces Michael Pineda This is going to be the toughest spot to replace, because Twins pitching has be historically bad this season. Minnesota has already added Randy Dobnak and Bailey Ober to the rotation, but where does the team turn to next? Top pitching prospect Jhoan Duran was put on the IL this week with a strained right elbow, so it doesn’t seem likely for him to pitch bulk innings at the big-league level this season. Jordan Balazovic, the team’s other top pitching prospect, has allowed 10 earned runs in 14 innings so far in 2021. Charlie Barnes and Griffin Jax can be given longer looks as rotational options, but these aren’t the exciting prospects fans have eagerly been waiting to see. RP: Jorge Alcala Replaces Hansel Robles Outside of Taylor Rogers, Robles has been the team’s most consistent reliever. To take over his late inning role, I’m all on board the Jorge Alcala train. He’s been working on increasing his changeup usage so he can be more effective versus left-handed batters. He has the potential to be a late-inning shutdown arm and the team needs to give him the opportunity to prove if he can sink or swim in this role. Minnesota’s bullpen will need an overhaul for 2022, but the team can use the rest of 2021 as a tryout for players in different roles. Can these play better than the players they are replacing? Leave a COMMENT and start the discussion. MORE FROM TWINS DAILY — Latest Twins coverage from our writers — Recent Twins discussion in our forums — Follow Twins Daily via Twitter, Facebook or email
  12. If the Twins trade away veterans on expiring contract, they are going to need replacements until season’s end. Here is some of the roster shuffle that will occur as veterans are dealt. Injuries are obviously impacting multiple players listed below. In a perfect world, the Twins would be able to trade away all their veterans for valuable pieces, but almost nothing has gone perfectly for the Twins in 2021. That being said, here’s some of the roster shuffle that will occur over the next month. DH: Miguel Sano Replaces Nelson Cruz Miguel Sano seems destined to be the team’s DH throughout the remaining years on his contract. There are only a handful of contending teams that need help at DH, but the most logical choice might be the AL’s best team. Brent Rooker is another possibility to get some DH at-bats in the season’s second half. At Triple-A this year, he has an .861 OPS with 10 home runs and three doubles and it seems like he’s become Minnesota’s forgotten prospect. Moving Sano off first base also allows Alex Kirilloff to start getting more consistent reps at first, which is his expected long-term defensive position. SS: Jorge Polanco Replaces Andrelton Simmons Minnesota is likely hesitant to move Polanco back to shortstop, but the team’s other options are limited. Royce Lewis was supposed to be the heir apparent, but he’s out for the year. He likely won’t be ready at the beginning of 2022, so the Twins will be players in the best free agent shortstop class in baseball history. There are some benefits to moving Polanco back to short. This allows the team to get a longer look at Nick Gordon as the team has kept him on the active roster over Gilberto Celestino and Willians Astudillo. At Triple-A, J.T. Riddle has gotten most defensive starts at shortstop, but he only has .675 OPS and he’s not part of the team’s long-term plans. SP: [Break In Case of Emergency] Replaces Michael Pineda This is going to be the toughest spot to replace, because Twins pitching has be historically bad this season. Minnesota has already added Randy Dobnak and Bailey Ober to the rotation, but where does the team turn to next? Top pitching prospect Jhoan Duran was put on the IL this week with a strained right elbow, so it doesn’t seem likely for him to pitch bulk innings at the big-league level this season. Jordan Balazovic, the team’s other top pitching prospect, has allowed 10 earned runs in 14 innings so far in 2021. Charlie Barnes and Griffin Jax can be given longer looks as rotational options, but these aren’t the exciting prospects fans have eagerly been waiting to see. RP: Jorge Alcala Replaces Hansel Robles Outside of Taylor Rogers, Robles has been the team’s most consistent reliever. To take over his late inning role, I’m all on board the Jorge Alcala train. He’s been working on increasing his changeup usage so he can be more effective versus left-handed batters. He has the potential to be a late-inning shutdown arm and the team needs to give him the opportunity to prove if he can sink or swim in this role. Minnesota’s bullpen will need an overhaul for 2022, but the team can use the rest of 2021 as a tryout for players in different roles. Can these play better than the players they are replacing? Leave a COMMENT and start the discussion. MORE FROM TWINS DAILY — Latest Twins coverage from our writers — Recent Twins discussion in our forums — Follow Twins Daily via Twitter, Facebook or email View full article
  13. Bullpen Blowups Throughout his tenure as Twins manager, Rocco Baldelli has seen some ups and downs when it comes to the team’s relief core. Fans might not remember, but the 2019 bullpen was a mess outside of Taylor Rogers for much of the season. In fact, the club had to go out and acquire multiple relief pitchers at the trade deadline to make sure there was stability heading into season’s final months. For the season, the Twins bullpen has the third highest ERA in the American League. As Nick wrote about in the Week in Review, the bullpen imploded throughout much of last week, which resulted in a 9.19 ERA. Minnesota has also started the bullpen carousel by rotating through different arms at the backend of the 26-man roster. Brandon Waddell, Cody Stashak, Shaun Anderson, and Devin Smeltzer have been brought up or sent down and the Twins will continue this trend throughout the season. Extra days off will mean the bullpen is rested as the team got back on the field on Tuesday. However, the team is going to have double-headers to make up their missed games and that means the bullpen carousel will continue to revolve. Leaving Runners in Scoring Position Recently, the team has struggled with scoring runs and this might be tied to the team’s at-bats with an opportunity to drive in runners. Entering play on Tuesday, the Twins have over 150 plate appearances this season with runners in scoring position. The team has hit .250/.327/.422 with 12 extra-base hits and a 37 to 17 strikeout to walk ratio. Last week, the team batted .175/.271/.200 with RISP. There might be some luck or other factors that have resulted in this poor offensive showing. Health is clearly one factor in the team’s lackluster offensive performance. Josh Donaldson and Byron Buxton have been limited by hamstring injuries and both players will be relied on in the middle of the line-up. Miguel Sano’s swing also seems to be getting close to breaking out as he been putting together some strong at-bats even if all the results haven’t been positive. Another option might be to call up Alex Kirilloff for a permanent spot in the outfield. The team used him as their 27th man in a double header last week and his bat is his strongest tool. Can his addition add a little life to the Twins’ punchless offense? Lack of Routine The start of the 2021 season has been anything but routine for the Twins. After avoiding COVID for much of the 2020 season, the Twins have seen multiple cases in their Tier 1 group including at least three players. Not to mention, the eyes of the world have been focused Minneapolis and the Derek Chauvin murder trial. The Twins had one game postponed because of unrest in the Twin Cities. Baseball, maybe more than any other sport, is a game of routines for players, coaches, and fans. Players have been pulled out of their routines on multiple occasions this year for cancelled games and increase COVID testing. It’s pretty easy to understand why players might not be successful on the field with everything happening in the world. Teams across baseball are finding ways to overcome obstacles even with the on-going turmoil and some of these issues are out of the team’s control. That being said, Minnesota needs to find some solutions to these problems in the days ahead if they aspire to a three-peat atop the AL Central. Which issue will impact the team the most this season? Leave a COMMENT and start the discussion. MORE FROM TWINS DAILY — Latest Twins coverage from our writers — Recent Twins discussion in our forums — Follow Twins Daily via Twitter, Facebook or email
  14. The Twins entertain the Royals in the rubber game of a three-game series today (weather permitting). Matt Shoemaker opposes Brad Keller in the mound matchup. The Twins stand at 21-29 while Kansas City is 24-26. At about 75 miles from Target Field it is raining here, but according to weather.com no rain is forecast in Minneapolis. I checked my calendar yesterday and saw that the end of the month payments were coming out. That must mean another month is almost done and that it's time to turn the page. A month is approximately 1/6 of a baseball season and is a large enough sample size to show what is working and what isn't. Here's a (premature) look back at the merry, merry month of May from a Twins Baseball perspective. The Twins are 12-15 this month after a 9-15 month of April. That's a hole folks. The team is in the top half of MLB in runs scored and homers this month. However pitching has been poor--team ERA, WHIP and BAA are all in the bottom five. Here is a look at how individuals have done in the month: https://docs.google.com/document/d/1zpjY3J0dYtgFpBvetruiieJBpaTasIJnfoDr6-4RSQk/edit https://docs.google.com/document/d/131zo8C37b5X8k-wo2ap_XdnSMs3rkvUhV4LSPgYgb84/edit There are several nuggets in the month's statistics. On a positive note, Rob Refsnyder has been a revelation and a godsend for his contributions. Miguel Sanó showed why it is so hard to quit on a guy who has such power potential. Mitch Garver had an excellent month after a disastrous month of April. The final positive I'll mention is the good hitting of rookies Alex Kirilloff and Trevor Larnach. Both of those guys are going to be outstanding offensive players for years to come. My observation is that neither is a candidate for a gold glove in the outfield, but that Kirilloff looks pretty smooth at first base. Now for the downside--the pitching across the board was subpar (by a lot). Two non-competitive outings each by Shoemaker and Happ made their stats for the month (and the season) look very bad. The bullpen is leaky and the starters don't give a lot of innings. The team ERA this month is over 5 and even subtracting poor work from fringe players, the team did not pitch well again in May. Offensively, two veteran right handed hitters have struggled mightily this month. Josh Donaldson has had a rough month at the plate and has made a few fielding miscues at inopportune times. Nelson Cruz' tough month has slid under the radar. His season numbers are still good, but three homers and six RBI and a .703 OPS from a middle of the order fixture is not getting the job done. I'd expect a resurgence for both Donaldson and Cruz, but sometimes players fall off a cliff. Father Time is a tough adversary. A win today would give the Twins three straight series wins. Baby steps. Enjoy the game! Royals (24-26) Lineup: W. Merrifield2B 47-190 27 4 14 .247 C. Santana1B 42-168 34 10 2 .250 A. BenintendiLF 48-170 16 4 6 .282 S. PerezC 54-195 31 10 0 .277 A. MondesiSS 7-18 3 1 1 .389 E. OlivaresRF ----- -- -- -- -- K. Gutierrez3B 11-44 1 0 0 .250 H. DozierDH 17-122 14 5 1 .139 J. DysonCF 8-36 0 0 3 .222 Twins (21-30) Lineup: Polanco 2b Donaldson 3b Kirilloff rf Cruz dh Sanó 1b Larnach lf Refsnyder cf Rortvedt c Simmons ss Pitchers: Shoemaker (MN) 2-5 5.48 ERA Keller (KC) 4-4 5.72 ERA Rortvedt in the starting lineup. I would presume Kepler has been placed on the IL, but have seen no verification.
  15. Sano started the 2021 season in a slump, but within that slump there were some positive signs. He was getting himself into good counts and getting on base 31% of the time. Unfortunately, there was little sign of power as his .244 slugging percentage is tough to swallow for a power-hitting first baseman. There was hope for him to improve if fans looked back into Sano’s big-league career to see how his hitting streakiness has become a pattern. August 2015 (97 AB): .278/.377/.629 (1.006), 9 HR, 7 2B, 43 K, 16 BB Sano’s hot month of August put him in the conversation for AL Rookie of the Year. Unfortunately, Carlos Correa and Francisco Lindor had both been in the big leagues longer than him that season and they were able to accumulate more of the counting stats voters look to when voting for awards. During the season’s final month, his OPS dropped to .800, but Twins fans hoped that his rookie season was just the start of what was yet to come. April 2017 (79 AB): .316/.443/.684 (1.127), 7 HR, 6 2B, 32 K, 18 BB During his lone All-Star season, Sano came out of the gates on fire, and this was on the heels of a 2016 campaign where he didn’t have a single month with an OPS over .850. He’d finish the first half with a .906 OPS and 21 home runs as he headed to Miami to represent the Twins on the national stage. From May on, he hit .252/.329/.467 (.796) with 141 strikeouts in 91 games. His hot start wasn’t sustainable, but it was his best season so far. July 2019 (80 AB): .300/.411/.613 (1.023), 6 HR, 5 2B, 28 K, 15 BB During 2019’s first two months, Sano combined to hit .214 with 57 strikeouts in 126 at-bats. In the midst of July’s heat, Sano found his power stroke as he combined for 12 extra-base hits in 80 at-bats including 15 walks, a season high for any month. Having Nelson Cruz on the team likely helped him to refine his swing, but he had a slight downturn in August before rebounding to end the year (see below) September 2019 (73 AB): .288/.395/.671 (1.067), 8 HR, 2 2B, 32 K, 12 BB Coming off a hot month of July, Sano was able to hit eight home runs in August, but September saw his swing back in elite form. He got on base nearly 40% of the time and hit eight homers for the second consecutive month. Sano helped the Twins finished off the year with 101 wins and the all-time record for home runs before being swept out of the playoffs by New York. August 2020 (88 AB): .284/.394/.636 (1.031), 7 HR, 10 2B, 43 K, 15 BB There was certainly reason for Sano to struggle at the onset of the 2020 season. On intake for summer camp, Sano tested positive for COVID and was relegated to living in his basement. He got very little time to prepare for the season and it showed as he struggled through the team’s July games (.176 OPS). For the month of August, there were some stark improvements as he posted a .636 SLG with double-digit doubles. He’d come back down to earth in September as his OPS dropped by nearly 500 points. When Sano is on, he is one of baseball’s best power hitters and there are few that can argue with that fact. On the flip side, he goes through stretches where his at-bats are tough to watch. At this point in his big-league career, fans can expect Sano to consistently be a streaky hitter. What are your thoughts on Sano’s hot and cold stretches? Leave a COMMENT and start the discussion. MORE FROM TWINS DAILY — Latest Twins coverage from our writers — Recent Twins discussion in our forums — Follow Twins Daily via Twitter, Facebook or email
  16. In the last week or so, something has clicked for Miguel Sano and he’s hitting like one of baseball’s best power hitters. Should fans come to expect this consistent streakiness from Sano? Sano started the 2021 season in a slump, but within that slump there were some positive signs. He was getting himself into good counts and getting on base 31% of the time. Unfortunately, there was little sign of power as his .244 slugging percentage is tough to swallow for a power-hitting first baseman. There was hope for him to improve if fans looked back into Sano’s big-league career to see how his hitting streakiness has become a pattern. August 2015 (97 AB): .278/.377/.629 (1.006), 9 HR, 7 2B, 43 K, 16 BB Sano’s hot month of August put him in the conversation for AL Rookie of the Year. Unfortunately, Carlos Correa and Francisco Lindor had both been in the big leagues longer than him that season and they were able to accumulate more of the counting stats voters look to when voting for awards. During the season’s final month, his OPS dropped to .800, but Twins fans hoped that his rookie season was just the start of what was yet to come. April 2017 (79 AB): .316/.443/.684 (1.127), 7 HR, 6 2B, 32 K, 18 BB During his lone All-Star season, Sano came out of the gates on fire, and this was on the heels of a 2016 campaign where he didn’t have a single month with an OPS over .850. He’d finish the first half with a .906 OPS and 21 home runs as he headed to Miami to represent the Twins on the national stage. From May on, he hit .252/.329/.467 (.796) with 141 strikeouts in 91 games. His hot start wasn’t sustainable, but it was his best season so far. July 2019 (80 AB): .300/.411/.613 (1.023), 6 HR, 5 2B, 28 K, 15 BB During 2019’s first two months, Sano combined to hit .214 with 57 strikeouts in 126 at-bats. In the midst of July’s heat, Sano found his power stroke as he combined for 12 extra-base hits in 80 at-bats including 15 walks, a season high for any month. Having Nelson Cruz on the team likely helped him to refine his swing, but he had a slight downturn in August before rebounding to end the year (see below) September 2019 (73 AB): .288/.395/.671 (1.067), 8 HR, 2 2B, 32 K, 12 BB Coming off a hot month of July, Sano was able to hit eight home runs in August, but September saw his swing back in elite form. He got on base nearly 40% of the time and hit eight homers for the second consecutive month. Sano helped the Twins finished off the year with 101 wins and the all-time record for home runs before being swept out of the playoffs by New York. August 2020 (88 AB): .284/.394/.636 (1.031), 7 HR, 10 2B, 43 K, 15 BB There was certainly reason for Sano to struggle at the onset of the 2020 season. On intake for summer camp, Sano tested positive for COVID and was relegated to living in his basement. He got very little time to prepare for the season and it showed as he struggled through the team’s July games (.176 OPS). For the month of August, there were some stark improvements as he posted a .636 SLG with double-digit doubles. He’d come back down to earth in September as his OPS dropped by nearly 500 points. When Sano is on, he is one of baseball’s best power hitters and there are few that can argue with that fact. On the flip side, he goes through stretches where his at-bats are tough to watch. At this point in his big-league career, fans can expect Sano to consistently be a streaky hitter. What are your thoughts on Sano’s hot and cold stretches? Leave a COMMENT and start the discussion. MORE FROM TWINS DAILY — Latest Twins coverage from our writers — Recent Twins discussion in our forums — Follow Twins Daily via Twitter, Facebook or email View full article
  17. It always had to be this way. This was the only plausible outcome. As the Twins look towards a resurgence, the talent had to rise to the occasion. For a pair of Minnesota mashers, it’s starting to happen. Coming into the 2021 season Rocco Baldelli’s club had won two straight AL Central division titles while also having heightened expectations for the year ahead. There wasn’t supposed to be a slide, and the roster as constructed should’ve been among the best in baseball. The results haven’t followed that narrative, but there’s never been a doubt when it comes to what this team is capable of. The reality for Minnesota is that regression struck for so many at roughly the same time. April was not a good month, and to be frank, May hasn’t been that great either. Combined with injuries and a slight covid scare, suggesting nothing has gone right would be putting it kindly. Now faced with a stretch of winnable games and opportunity for a turnaround, having a resurgence from a few guys at once would be nice. Enter Miguel Sano and Mitch Garver. Sano has long been a lightning rod of criticism for Twins fans. He’s a prolific power hitter that, at his best, remains an on-base and slugging machine. If he’s not hitting the fastball though, he’s a check swinging mess and the value tanks. After discussion surrounding a demotion cropped up, an eventual benching took place following the May 8 contest. We’ve seen this before with the Dominican, and he’s responded by righting the ship. Once again, that’s playing out before our eyes. In 13 games since being put on the pine, Sano has reinvigorated his season. Across 51 plate appearances he has a .261/.333/.717 slash line to go with nine extra base hits, six of which have left the yard. The 16 strikeouts are still high, and you’d like to see more than four walks, but it’s apparent his process is back to a better place. Earlier this season Sano was leading the league in free passes, and it was a timing issue that had him failing to produce the bigger results. Now the timing is there, and while the discipline may have slid a bit, dreaming on a more perfect combination gives the Twins their middle of the order threat back. Funny enough, a teammate of Sano’s also finds himself in a similar situation. Although Mitch Garver was never benched this season, he’s dealt with plenty of maladies along with an inability to crush the fastball as has become his calling card. With just a .644 OPS through April, a flipped script was necessary come May. Across 56 plate appearances this month Garver owns a .261/.393/.500 slash line with five extra base hits including three dingers. I think it’s a bit far-fetched to assume Mitch is the backstop with a near 1.000 OPS that he was in 2019, but anything north of .850 in that regard makes him among the best hitting catchers in baseball. When Garver is right, he’s barreling the ball, but more importantly he’s working counts and taking walks. Garver has always excelled as a hitter due to his ability to be patient and find his pitch. The 43/13 K/BB is still out of whack, but in May it’s been an exceptional 16/10 K/BB and that will play all year long. It’s hard to fathom a complete turnaround for Minnesota. The hole they dug themselves out of the gate has been immense. That said, if the expectation was for this team to be great coming into the year, all of those pieces are still in place. Getting guys back to a median level of expectations will bear fruit, and given the quality of competition within the division, a run is hardly unfathomable. Mitch Garver and Miguel Sano have begun to turn their tide, now the Twins need others to continue following suit. For more from Off The Baggy, click here. Follow @tlschwerz
  18. Weekly Snapshot: Mon, 5/17 through Sun, 5/23 *** Record Last Week: 4-4 (Overall: 17-29) Run Differential Last Week: -4 (Overall: -24) Standing: 5th Place in AL Central (9.5 GB) Last Week's Game Recaps: Game 39 | CWS 16, MIN 4: Sox Decimate Twins in Dispiriting Blowout Game 40 | MIN 5, CWS 4: Sanó's 3 HR Spark Rare Comeback Win Game 41 | CWS 2, MIN 1: Twins Bats Come Up Empty Against Giolito Game 42 | LAA 7, MIN 1: Halos Bury Twins to Kick Off Makeup Doubleheader Game 43 | MIN 6, LAA 3: Another Big Blast from Sanó Lifts Twins in Nightcap Game 44 | MIN 10, 0: Cleveland Rocked as Dobnak Cruises Game 45 | CLE 5, MIN 3: Twins Fall in 10th Inning Yet Again Game 46 | MIN 8, CLE 5: Hex in Extras Snapped by Garlick's Heroics NEWS & NOTES The Twins played eight games last week. They won four and lost four. They snapped their winless records in both double-headers and extra innings. They were outscored by four runs over the course of a week that included a 10-0 victory, large because it also included a 16-4 loss. There is much to cover. As always, we begin with a quick rundown of roster moves and injury updates over the past week. Heading out: Ben Rortvedt, who went 4-for-25 (.160) with 10 strikeouts and zero extra-base hits in his first turn of the majors, was optioned to Triple-A. Lewis Thorpe came and went, again, giving up four runs (just one earned) in an unimpressive spot start on Thursday before being sent back to St. Paul. Bailey Ober struggled in a spot start of his own on Tuesday (4 IP, 4 ER) and was returned to the Saints shortly thereafter. Derek Law was outrighted from the 40-man roster after posting an 8.53 ERA through 6 ⅓ innings for the Twins. He passed through waivers and made it back to St. Paul, where he coughed up a couple runs on Saturday night Michael Pineda went on the Injured List due to a minor surgical procedure. He's due to return in the coming week. Reliever Shaun Anderson also was placed on IL, with a left quad strain. Ahead of Sunday's game, the Twins placed Kenta Maeda on the shelf with a groin/adductor injury that has been bothering him for some time. Coming in: Alex Kirilloff is back! The outfielder was activated for the weekend series in Cleveland after a brief rehab stint at CHS Field. And while he's apparently playing through a wrist issue that will later require surgery, he shows no real signs of being limited. Randy Dobnak joined the rotation, starting in place of a sidelined Pineda on Friday. His outstanding return is detailed in the Highlights section below. Cody Stashak was recalled and made two scoreless appearances. Luke Farrell also joined the bullpen, hurling two shutout frames on Friday. Taking Maeda's roster spot on Sunday was Nick Gordon, who may have a shot at some decently regular playing time during this stint with both Luis Arraez (shoulder) and Jorge Polanco (ankle) banged up. HIGHLIGHTS This team shows signs of getting on track. Getting Kirilloff back in the lineup is a real difference-maker and it was felt on Friday night, when he batted cleanup in his return and the Twins scored 10 runs, as well as the next day when he came through with a clutch game-tying hit. Having both him and Trevor Larnach in the lineup is fun and exciting. Even if Larnach hasn't quite turned a corner production-wise like Kirilloff, he looks similarly comfortable and natural at the major-league level. You get the sense both of these guys are here to stay. Other hitters like Max Kepler, Mitch Garver, Kyle Garlick, and Rob Refsnyder and also had good weeks and big moments. But the star of the show, without question, was Miguel Sanó. The dam finally broke, and six weeks worth of pent-up offensive production burst forth within a ridiculous eight-game span. In 33 plate appearances dating back to last Monday, Sanó slashed .300/.364/.900 with five home runs, three doubles and 10 RBIs. His slugging percentage, which was all the way down to .209 as little as 10 days ago, is now up to .442 – well above the league average. His theatrics included a three-homer game, two four-RBI games, and a blast off Shane Bieber. Not only is he delivering big hits, he's delivering them in pivotal situations. The Twins have won five of their past 15 games and you can make a strong case that three of those victories were almost entirely because of Sanó: On May 15th, they beat Oakland 5-4 after his three-run blast in the eighth turned a two-run deficit into a one-run lead. On May 18th, he homered three times and drove in four in a 5-4 win over Chicago. In the second half of May 20th's doubleheader, Sanó's grand slam proved to be the difference in a 6-3 win. It bears noting that in 2019, Sanó slumped in June and saw his batting average sink to .195 before he flipped the switch and played at an MVP level the rest of the way, posting a .994 OPS with 25 homers and 64 RBIs in 74 games. So, let's see where he goes from here. On the pitching side, it was awesome to see Dobnak return to the rotation and look much more like the version that flashed back in the spring. The righty worked six scoreless innings in Cleveland on Friday, allowing just three hits and two walks while striking out five. He was inducing grounders and weak contact, executing his pitches, and generally looking to be in control. With Maeda now on the shelf, back-end starters Matt Shoemaker and J.A. Happ looking quite shaky, and Thorpe failing to step up, the Twins vitally needed Dobnak to find his footing. Friday's start was an excellent first step. LOWLIGHTS The Twins may be showing some signs of life, but still played .500 ball last week at a time where they desperately need to be making up ground. Even with a few things turning around, it feels like two steps forward are constantly being matched by two steps back, and some of their issues are so structurally fundamental they make it extremely hard to believe a sustained run of winning baseball is possible. Saturday's game was a perfect example of how this team just can't shake its woes. First, you've got Maeda's continued inability to make it click. The Twins have lost six of his last seven starts, and he's frequently been a prime culprit. Saturday's outing against Cleveland was the seventh straight in which he failed to complete six innings; he has one quality start in nine tries this year after going 8-for-12 in 2020. When your fourth or fifth starter aren't getting it done, you can adapt and adjust. Guys like Dobnak step in, and keep the rotation intact. But when the reigning Cy Young runner-up – a pitcher you invested heavily to acquire, and were absolutely counting on to be one of your frontline horses – turns into a pumpkin, that's an exceedingly difficult problem to fix. We'll have to hope some time off to rest of his bothersome groin proves to be the elixir Maeda needs to rediscover his game. But even with Maeda giving up an early 3-0 lead on Saturday, the Twins were in position to take the game and series. They rallied back to tie it, and sent the contest to extra innings. There, an all-too-familiar script played out. In the top of the 10th, the Twins once again failed to score their lead runner from second. In the bottom half, Alex Colomé entered, and on the second pitch he threw... I mean, look at the location of that pitch. Once again Colomé, who formed a reputation over many years as one of the most effective late-inning relievers in the game because he didn't flop in crunch time, offered up an absolute cookie in a critical spot, with the winning run in scoring position. We've seen it time and time again this year. It's particularly disappointing in this instance because Colomé really seemed to be figuring things out. Pitching in a reduced-leverage role, he'd worked seven scoreless appearances in May, allowing only two hits (both singles) and legitimately getting back to the things he's done well – namely, placing his cutter on the edges of the zone rather than right down the middle. Then, he gets another chance in a key late-game spot and immediately goes back to pulling the same crap from April. This is an enormous problem because, for better or worse, Colomé is a crux in this bullpen – especially since their other top right-hander has also been a mess. In more ways than one. On that note... In a season that's spun off the rails so early, leaving contention as an unlikely scenario for the summer, you look for other things to cheer for as a fan. You want to root for good stories. You want to connect emotionally with the squad as they grind and grow together through a tough year. You want to invest in the character of your club. All of which made Tuesday's embarrassing antics the lowlight of the week, and maybe even the season, for me. To recap: On Monday the Twins got blown out by Chicago at Target Field, to the point where Willians Astudillo was called in to chuck some 45-MPH eephus balls in the ninth. With the White Sox leading 15-4, Astudillo fell behind Yermin Mercedes 3-0. The next non-competitive offering from Tortuga found its way into the zone, and then Mercedes made sure it found its way over the fence. The Twins announcers were displeased. Evidently some Twins players were too. The next day, in a close game, Tyler Duffey decided to exact revenge, throwing behind Mercedes with Minnesota trailing by only two runs in the seventh. Yuck. As a result, Duffey was ejected along with his manager Rocco Baldelli. Each served a short suspension later in the week. Now, Mercedes ignoring a take sign from his coaches is one thing. That's not great, but it's an issue for the White Sox to take care of on their own accord. For the Twins to be so pissy that Chicago had the gall to keep trying, and for "respecting the game" to be sanctimoniously lectured about by anyone in a situation where Minnesota had its backup catcher on the mound throwing beer-league softball pitches in a major-league game ... it's too much. It's too much from a team, and a player, who need to be worrying about their own issues before getting involved in another team's, and putting people in harm's way in the process. Chicago's shortstop Tim Anderson said later that the actions were "Definitely a sign of weakness from Duffey and the Twins.” As a Twins fan who generally despises the Sox, it absolutely crushes me that I can't argue with his conclusion one bit. TRENDING STORYLINE On Saturday night at CHS Field, Jhoan Duran made his first start in a minor-league game since August of 2019. He got a bit of a late start this season due to a trapezius issue, but the organization's No. 5 prospect was worth the wait. Lucas Seehafer was on hand to cover Duran's season debut for Twins Daily, and you can find his detailed account here. The short version is this: Duran touched 103 MPH on the gun multiple times (granted, the CHS gun seems to be a little hot, but still, the guy was pumping triple digits). He struck out six over three shutout innings. A month ago, I suggested that this Twins season might go one of two ways: a 2006-style turnaround or a 2016-style meltdown. A critical factor in replicating the '06 formula was getting an impact performance from a young phenom in the rotation. In that case it was Francisco Liriano, who led the team to an 11-2 record in his first 13 starts and energized the roster with his mere presence. When you look at players in the current system capable of doing anything similar in 2021, Duran tops the list, and on Saturday we saw why. He needs to build up his pitch count but if the 23-year-old continues to show this type of dominance, and the Twins can get on any kind of run to get back to the fringe of relevance, we could see Duran enter the fray. Let's talk a little bit about that (seemingly outlandish) latter caveat. LOOKING AHEAD If you were looking for a glimpse of hope, a glimmer of promise, a glint of optimism ... this is it. The Twins have escaped the meat-grinder portion of their schedule and now enter a soft patch, with 13 consecutive games against the Orioles and Royals. Baltimore is in last place and Kansas City has plummeted since opening the season 16-9. If the Twins can REALLY make hay during this two-week stretch – say, going 11-2 or 10-3 – they would suddenly be back in the range of .500, with Byron Buxton probably close to returning (if he hasn't already). It's hard to expect that kind of success against any competition, but then, it's hard to play as poorly as Minnesota has over the past many weeks. The pendulum is due for a swing. It all starts this week with six games at Target Field. MONDAY, 5/24: ORIOLES @ TWINS – RHP John Means v. RHP Matt Shoemaker TUESDAY, 5/25: ORIOLES @ TWINS – RHP Dean Kremer v. RHP Jose Berrios WEDNESDAY, 5/26: ORIOLES @ TWINS – RHP Jorge Lopez v. RHP Michael Pineda FRIDAY, 5/28: ROYALS @ TWINS – LHP Kris Bubic v. RHP Randy Dobnak SATURDAY, 5/29: ROYALS @ TWINS – TBD v. LHP J.A. Happ SUNDAY, 5/30: ROYALS @ TWINS – RHP Brad Keller v. RHP Matt Shoemaker
  19. A jam-packed week of baseball for the Twins featured exhilarating highs, bucked trends, obnoxious drama, and the awakening of a sleeping giant. There are positive signs, but this team is not doing enough to chip away at its immense deficit as the end of May approaches. And yet, for the optimist, palpable cause for hope is there for the grasping. Weekly Snapshot: Mon, 5/17 through Sun, 5/23 *** Record Last Week: 4-4 (Overall: 17-29) Run Differential Last Week: -4 (Overall: -24) Standing: 5th Place in AL Central (9.5 GB) Last Week's Game Recaps: Game 39 | CWS 16, MIN 4: Sox Decimate Twins in Dispiriting Blowout Game 40 | MIN 5, CWS 4: Sanó's 3 HR Spark Rare Comeback Win Game 41 | CWS 2, MIN 1: Twins Bats Come Up Empty Against Giolito Game 42 | LAA 7, MIN 1: Halos Bury Twins to Kick Off Makeup Doubleheader Game 43 | MIN 6, LAA 3: Another Big Blast from Sanó Lifts Twins in Nightcap Game 44 | MIN 10, 0: Cleveland Rocked as Dobnak Cruises Game 45 | CLE 5, MIN 3: Twins Fall in 10th Inning Yet Again Game 46 | MIN 8, CLE 5: Hex in Extras Snapped by Garlick's Heroics NEWS & NOTES The Twins played eight games last week. They won four and lost four. They snapped their winless records in both double-headers and extra innings. They were outscored by four runs over the course of a week that included a 10-0 victory, large because it also included a 16-4 loss. There is much to cover. As always, we begin with a quick rundown of roster moves and injury updates over the past week. Heading out: Ben Rortvedt, who went 4-for-25 (.160) with 10 strikeouts and zero extra-base hits in his first turn of the majors, was optioned to Triple-A. Lewis Thorpe came and went, again, giving up four runs (just one earned) in an unimpressive spot start on Thursday before being sent back to St. Paul. Bailey Ober struggled in a spot start of his own on Tuesday (4 IP, 4 ER) and was returned to the Saints shortly thereafter. Derek Law was outrighted from the 40-man roster after posting an 8.53 ERA through 6 ⅓ innings for the Twins. He passed through waivers and made it back to St. Paul, where he coughed up a couple runs on Saturday night Michael Pineda went on the Injured List due to a minor surgical procedure. He's due to return in the coming week. Reliever Shaun Anderson also was placed on IL, with a left quad strain. Ahead of Sunday's game, the Twins placed Kenta Maeda on the shelf with a groin/adductor injury that has been bothering him for some time. Coming in: Alex Kirilloff is back! The outfielder was activated for the weekend series in Cleveland after a brief rehab stint at CHS Field. And while he's apparently playing through a wrist issue that will later require surgery, he shows no real signs of being limited. Randy Dobnak joined the rotation, starting in place of a sidelined Pineda on Friday. His outstanding return is detailed in the Highlights section below. Cody Stashak was recalled and made two scoreless appearances. Luke Farrell also joined the bullpen, hurling two shutout frames on Friday. Taking Maeda's roster spot on Sunday was Nick Gordon, who may have a shot at some decently regular playing time during this stint with both Luis Arraez (shoulder) and Jorge Polanco (ankle) banged up. HIGHLIGHTS This team shows signs of getting on track. Getting Kirilloff back in the lineup is a real difference-maker and it was felt on Friday night, when he batted cleanup in his return and the Twins scored 10 runs, as well as the next day when he came through with a clutch game-tying hit. Having both him and Trevor Larnach in the lineup is fun and exciting. Even if Larnach hasn't quite turned a corner production-wise like Kirilloff, he looks similarly comfortable and natural at the major-league level. You get the sense both of these guys are here to stay. Other hitters like Max Kepler, Mitch Garver, Kyle Garlick, and Rob Refsnyder and also had good weeks and big moments. But the star of the show, without question, was Miguel Sanó. The dam finally broke, and six weeks worth of pent-up offensive production burst forth within a ridiculous eight-game span. In 33 plate appearances dating back to last Monday, Sanó slashed .300/.364/.900 with five home runs, three doubles and 10 RBIs. His slugging percentage, which was all the way down to .209 as little as 10 days ago, is now up to .442 – well above the league average. His theatrics included a three-homer game, two four-RBI games, and a blast off Shane Bieber. Not only is he delivering big hits, he's delivering them in pivotal situations. The Twins have won five of their past 15 games and you can make a strong case that three of those victories were almost entirely because of Sanó: On May 15th, they beat Oakland 5-4 after his three-run blast in the eighth turned a two-run deficit into a one-run lead. On May 18th, he homered three times and drove in four in a 5-4 win over Chicago. In the second half of May 20th's doubleheader, Sanó's grand slam proved to be the difference in a 6-3 win. It bears noting that in 2019, Sanó slumped in June and saw his batting average sink to .195 before he flipped the switch and played at an MVP level the rest of the way, posting a .994 OPS with 25 homers and 64 RBIs in 74 games. So, let's see where he goes from here. On the pitching side, it was awesome to see Dobnak return to the rotation and look much more like the version that flashed back in the spring. The righty worked six scoreless innings in Cleveland on Friday, allowing just three hits and two walks while striking out five. He was inducing grounders and weak contact, executing his pitches, and generally looking to be in control. With Maeda now on the shelf, back-end starters Matt Shoemaker and J.A. Happ looking quite shaky, and Thorpe failing to step up, the Twins vitally needed Dobnak to find his footing. Friday's start was an excellent first step. LOWLIGHTS The Twins may be showing some signs of life, but still played .500 ball last week at a time where they desperately need to be making up ground. Even with a few things turning around, it feels like two steps forward are constantly being matched by two steps back, and some of their issues are so structurally fundamental they make it extremely hard to believe a sustained run of winning baseball is possible. Saturday's game was a perfect example of how this team just can't shake its woes. First, you've got Maeda's continued inability to make it click. The Twins have lost six of his last seven starts, and he's frequently been a prime culprit. Saturday's outing against Cleveland was the seventh straight in which he failed to complete six innings; he has one quality start in nine tries this year after going 8-for-12 in 2020. When your fourth or fifth starter aren't getting it done, you can adapt and adjust. Guys like Dobnak step in, and keep the rotation intact. But when the reigning Cy Young runner-up – a pitcher you invested heavily to acquire, and were absolutely counting on to be one of your frontline horses – turns into a pumpkin, that's an exceedingly difficult problem to fix. We'll have to hope some time off to rest of his bothersome groin proves to be the elixir Maeda needs to rediscover his game. But even with Maeda giving up an early 3-0 lead on Saturday, the Twins were in position to take the game and series. They rallied back to tie it, and sent the contest to extra innings. There, an all-too-familiar script played out. In the top of the 10th, the Twins once again failed to score their lead runner from second. In the bottom half, Alex Colomé entered, and on the second pitch he threw... I mean, look at the location of that pitch. Once again Colomé, who formed a reputation over many years as one of the most effective late-inning relievers in the game because he didn't flop in crunch time, offered up an absolute cookie in a critical spot, with the winning run in scoring position. We've seen it time and time again this year. It's particularly disappointing in this instance because Colomé really seemed to be figuring things out. Pitching in a reduced-leverage role, he'd worked seven scoreless appearances in May, allowing only two hits (both singles) and legitimately getting back to the things he's done well – namely, placing his cutter on the edges of the zone rather than right down the middle. Then, he gets another chance in a key late-game spot and immediately goes back to pulling the same crap from April. This is an enormous problem because, for better or worse, Colomé is a crux in this bullpen – especially since their other top right-hander has also been a mess. In more ways than one. On that note... In a season that's spun off the rails so early, leaving contention as an unlikely scenario for the summer, you look for other things to cheer for as a fan. You want to root for good stories. You want to connect emotionally with the squad as they grind and grow together through a tough year. You want to invest in the character of your club. All of which made Tuesday's embarrassing antics the lowlight of the week, and maybe even the season, for me. To recap: On Monday the Twins got blown out by Chicago at Target Field, to the point where Willians Astudillo was called in to chuck some 45-MPH eephus balls in the ninth. With the White Sox leading 15-4, Astudillo fell behind Yermin Mercedes 3-0. The next non-competitive offering from Tortuga found its way into the zone, and then Mercedes made sure it found its way over the fence. The Twins announcers were displeased. Evidently some Twins players were too. The next day, in a close game, Tyler Duffey decided to exact revenge, throwing behind Mercedes with Minnesota trailing by only two runs in the seventh. Yuck. As a result, Duffey was ejected along with his manager Rocco Baldelli. Each served a short suspension later in the week. Now, Mercedes ignoring a take sign from his coaches is one thing. That's not great, but it's an issue for the White Sox to take care of on their own accord. For the Twins to be so pissy that Chicago had the gall to keep trying, and for "respecting the game" to be sanctimoniously lectured about by anyone in a situation where Minnesota had its backup catcher on the mound throwing beer-league softball pitches in a major-league game ... it's too much. It's too much from a team, and a player, who need to be worrying about their own issues before getting involved in another team's, and putting people in harm's way in the process. Chicago's shortstop Tim Anderson said later that the actions were "Definitely a sign of weakness from Duffey and the Twins.” As a Twins fan who generally despises the Sox, it absolutely crushes me that I can't argue with his conclusion one bit. TRENDING STORYLINE On Saturday night at CHS Field, Jhoan Duran made his first start in a minor-league game since August of 2019. He got a bit of a late start this season due to a trapezius issue, but the organization's No. 5 prospect was worth the wait. Lucas Seehafer was on hand to cover Duran's season debut for Twins Daily, and you can find his detailed account here. The short version is this: Duran touched 103 MPH on the gun multiple times (granted, the CHS gun seems to be a little hot, but still, the guy was pumping triple digits). He struck out six over three shutout innings. A month ago, I suggested that this Twins season might go one of two ways: a 2006-style turnaround or a 2016-style meltdown. A critical factor in replicating the '06 formula was getting an impact performance from a young phenom in the rotation. In that case it was Francisco Liriano, who led the team to an 11-2 record in his first 13 starts and energized the roster with his mere presence. When you look at players in the current system capable of doing anything similar in 2021, Duran tops the list, and on Saturday we saw why. He needs to build up his pitch count but if the 23-year-old continues to show this type of dominance, and the Twins can get on any kind of run to get back to the fringe of relevance, we could see Duran enter the fray. Let's talk a little bit about that (seemingly outlandish) latter caveat. LOOKING AHEAD If you were looking for a glimpse of hope, a glimmer of promise, a glint of optimism ... this is it. The Twins have escaped the meat-grinder portion of their schedule and now enter a soft patch, with 13 consecutive games against the Orioles and Royals. Baltimore is in last place and Kansas City has plummeted since opening the season 16-9. If the Twins can REALLY make hay during this two-week stretch – say, going 11-2 or 10-3 – they would suddenly be back in the range of .500, with Byron Buxton probably close to returning (if he hasn't already). It's hard to expect that kind of success against any competition, but then, it's hard to play as poorly as Minnesota has over the past many weeks. The pendulum is due for a swing. It all starts this week with six games at Target Field. MONDAY, 5/24: ORIOLES @ TWINS – RHP John Means v. RHP Matt Shoemaker TUESDAY, 5/25: ORIOLES @ TWINS – RHP Dean Kremer v. RHP Jose Berrios WEDNESDAY, 5/26: ORIOLES @ TWINS – RHP Jorge Lopez v. RHP Michael Pineda FRIDAY, 5/28: ROYALS @ TWINS – LHP Kris Bubic v. RHP Randy Dobnak SATURDAY, 5/29: ROYALS @ TWINS – TBD v. LHP J.A. Happ SUNDAY, 5/30: ROYALS @ TWINS – RHP Brad Keller v. RHP Matt Shoemaker View full article
  20. We’re now over 30 games into the season and Rocco Baldelli’s club is nearly double-digit games out of first place in the division. The story this offseason was one of winning a playoff game, but at this point getting there looks like a herculean feat. A week ago, I wrote about where blame should fall for this debacle. Taking that a step further, which players have regressed the most, and should we have seen it coming? Max Kepler Back in 2019 the Twins inked Kepler to a five-year contract extension. They had a corner outfielder that had done just enough but was looking to breakthrough. They gambled right and that season the German-native posted an .855 OPS. Since that season he’s played in 72 games and posted just a .720 OPS. Although the .760 OPS in 2020 was still a step forward from where he’d been previously, Minnesota was going to need more in the year ahead. He’s responded but hitting below the Mendoza Line with an OPS of .642. He’s got just two homers in 99 plate appearances and the power potential has been all but sapped. Kepler has struggled at times against lefties in his career, even to the point of being platooned for a period. He’s become an advanced defender, but he’s stretched a bit in centerfield, and it has put his body in more of a demanding scenario as well. It’s one thing when he’s hitting at the bottom of the lineup, but this is a guy the Twins groomed to hit leadoff or for power in the middle, and he’s become anything but. At 28 there’s still time, but it’s getting late early on the 2021 campaign. Miguel Sano Arguably one of the most frustrating players in recent Twins memory, there is no one more of a lightning rod for criticism than Sano is. Despite a .923 OPS across 105 games two years ago, the guy has never been given grace. He’s allowed laziness and character issues to creep in off the field, and even after turning a corner there, performance took a step backwards. Getting off to a late start due to Covid in 2020, Sano has doubled down in 2021. He’s got an unacceptable .496 OPS and looks completely overmatched at the plate. No longer is he able to catch up to fastballs, and while the season started with a strong walk inducing plate discipline, he now looks to be up there flailing. This is a guy that went from Nelson Cruz protégé to someone that could wind up being a lost cause for the organization. Like Kepler, he too is just 28, but at bats are now no longer guaranteed for the first basemen and it’s on him to re-earn any semblance of trust. Tyler Duffey This is arguably the most surprising. Over 81.2 innings the past two seasons Duffey transformed himself into one of baseball’s best relievers. He owned a 2.31 ERA bolstered by a 12.5 K/9 and a 2.2 BB/9. The stuff was electric, he had strong command of it, and hitters found themselves looking like something close to an automatic out when he was on the bump. A 5.25 ERA isn’t overtly concerning across just 12.0 IP, but the lack of command and dominance is certainly a problem. Duffey has just a 10/9 K/BB this season and is seemingly not able to get batters to miss the ball. His 9.0 H/9 simply won’t play, and for a guy that was counted on to be a key back-end bullpen piece, Baldelli has been left searching for even more answers with one of his key cogs becoming completely unreliable. Mitch Garver I’m not certain that regression is entirely fair here for Garver as it depends on what the expectation was. I think it’s fair to suggest that his .995 OPS in 2019 wasn’t indicative of the player he is, just as the .511 mark battling through a core injury wasn’t a season ago. He’s since turned it on a bit and now owns a .733 OPS, but the 32/7 K/BB just isn’t reflective of the hitter we once saw. For Garver it doesn’t seem the problem is so much that he’s struggled with what to attack, but instead has been unable to attack the same pitches he once could. Previously hunting and crushing fastballs, he’s sat on that pitch in 2021 but been able to do little with it. Having dealt with a couple of bumps and bruises, it hasn’t been a fluid start to the year, but he could certainly ride some momentum back towards an acceptable output. Looking at the names above, I think they’re probably listed in order of impact and surprise. Kepler hasn’t been good for going on two years now, but he’s also been asked to do substantially more defensively and the level of consistency when getting to the ballpark hasn’t been there. Sano’s ceiling has long been established, and when the bottom falls out of a player like that it crashes hard. For Duffey there has to be a tweak that allows something better the rest of the way, and Garver isn’t far off from what should’ve been expected from him. All in all, the Minnesota Twins are where they are because the core players in their lineup and on the roster have fallen flat. Steps back should always be expected, but by virtually everyone at the same time, that’s pretty difficult to overcome. MORE FROM TWINS DAILY — Latest Twins coverage from our writers — Recent Twins discussion in our forums — Follow Twins Daily via Twitter, Facebook or email
  21. Coming into the 2021 Major League Baseball season this Minnesota Twins club was expected to battle with the Chicago White Sox for the AL Central Division title. Someone apparently forgot to tell them that. We’re now over 30 games into the season and Rocco Baldelli’s club is nearly double-digit games out of first place in the division. The story this offseason was one of winning a playoff game, but at this point getting there looks like a herculean feat. A week ago, I wrote about where blame should fall for this debacle. Taking that a step further, which players have regressed the most, and should we have seen it coming? Max Kepler Back in 2019 the Twins inked Kepler to a five-year contract extension. They had a corner outfielder that had done just enough but was looking to breakthrough. They gambled right and that season the German-native posted an .855 OPS. Since that season he’s played in 72 games and posted just a .720 OPS. Although the .760 OPS in 2020 was still a step forward from where he’d been previously, Minnesota was going to need more in the year ahead. He’s responded but hitting below the Mendoza Line with an OPS of .642. He’s got just two homers in 99 plate appearances and the power potential has been all but sapped. Kepler has struggled at times against lefties in his career, even to the point of being platooned for a period. He’s become an advanced defender, but he’s stretched a bit in centerfield, and it has put his body in more of a demanding scenario as well. It’s one thing when he’s hitting at the bottom of the lineup, but this is a guy the Twins groomed to hit leadoff or for power in the middle, and he’s become anything but. At 28 there’s still time, but it’s getting late early on the 2021 campaign. Miguel Sano Arguably one of the most frustrating players in recent Twins memory, there is no one more of a lightning rod for criticism than Sano is. Despite a .923 OPS across 105 games two years ago, the guy has never been given grace. He’s allowed laziness and character issues to creep in off the field, and even after turning a corner there, performance took a step backwards. Getting off to a late start due to Covid in 2020, Sano has doubled down in 2021. He’s got an unacceptable .496 OPS and looks completely overmatched at the plate. No longer is he able to catch up to fastballs, and while the season started with a strong walk inducing plate discipline, he now looks to be up there flailing. This is a guy that went from Nelson Cruz protégé to someone that could wind up being a lost cause for the organization. Like Kepler, he too is just 28, but at bats are now no longer guaranteed for the first basemen and it’s on him to re-earn any semblance of trust. Tyler Duffey This is arguably the most surprising. Over 81.2 innings the past two seasons Duffey transformed himself into one of baseball’s best relievers. He owned a 2.31 ERA bolstered by a 12.5 K/9 and a 2.2 BB/9. The stuff was electric, he had strong command of it, and hitters found themselves looking like something close to an automatic out when he was on the bump. A 5.25 ERA isn’t overtly concerning across just 12.0 IP, but the lack of command and dominance is certainly a problem. Duffey has just a 10/9 K/BB this season and is seemingly not able to get batters to miss the ball. His 9.0 H/9 simply won’t play, and for a guy that was counted on to be a key back-end bullpen piece, Baldelli has been left searching for even more answers with one of his key cogs becoming completely unreliable. Mitch Garver I’m not certain that regression is entirely fair here for Garver as it depends on what the expectation was. I think it’s fair to suggest that his .995 OPS in 2019 wasn’t indicative of the player he is, just as the .511 mark battling through a core injury wasn’t a season ago. He’s since turned it on a bit and now owns a .733 OPS, but the 32/7 K/BB just isn’t reflective of the hitter we once saw. For Garver it doesn’t seem the problem is so much that he’s struggled with what to attack, but instead has been unable to attack the same pitches he once could. Previously hunting and crushing fastballs, he’s sat on that pitch in 2021 but been able to do little with it. Having dealt with a couple of bumps and bruises, it hasn’t been a fluid start to the year, but he could certainly ride some momentum back towards an acceptable output. Looking at the names above, I think they’re probably listed in order of impact and surprise. Kepler hasn’t been good for going on two years now, but he’s also been asked to do substantially more defensively and the level of consistency when getting to the ballpark hasn’t been there. Sano’s ceiling has long been established, and when the bottom falls out of a player like that it crashes hard. For Duffey there has to be a tweak that allows something better the rest of the way, and Garver isn’t far off from what should’ve been expected from him. All in all, the Minnesota Twins are where they are because the core players in their lineup and on the roster have fallen flat. Steps back should always be expected, but by virtually everyone at the same time, that’s pretty difficult to overcome. MORE FROM TWINS DAILY — Latest Twins coverage from our writers — Recent Twins discussion in our forums — Follow Twins Daily via Twitter, Facebook or email View full article
  22. Weekly Snapshot: Mon, 5/3 through Sun, 5/9 *** Record Last Week: 2-4 (Overall: 12-20) Run Differential Last Week: -5 (Overall: -2) Standing: 4th Place in AL Central (7.0 GB) Last Week's Game Recaps: Game 27 | MIN 6, TEX 5: Strong Defense and Kirilloff Power Twins Game 28 | TEX 6, MIN 3: Bullpen Gives Away Late Lead Once Again Game 29 | TEX 3, MIN 1: Twins Go 0-for-9 with RISP as Bats Sleep Game 30 | TEX 4, MIN 3: Another Blown Lead and Extra-Inning Loss Game 31 | MIN 7, DET 3: Bats Awaken Against Detroit's Relievers Game 32 | DET 7, MIN 3: In Unpredictable Twist, Bullpen Implodes NEWS & NOTES There were a ton of moves in the past week, most of them brought on by unfortunate events. Before we dive into the in-game highlights and lowlights, let's run through all the turnover this roster has experienced over the past seven days. The week started with Randy Dobnak being optioned to Triple-A, just in time for the start of the minor-league season. Dobnak had earned the demotion on merit, with an 8.16 ERA through seven appearances, but this decision seems more aimed at getting him back on a starting regimen. So far so good: Dobnak hurled four scoreless innings with five strikeouts in his debut for the Saints. The rotation may need him soon. Called up to replace Dobnak on the roster was Brandon Waddell, who went on to have an unbelievably disastrous second stint with the Twins. He pitched on Monday and Tuesday, allowing six runs (5 ER) while recording three totals outs. Waddell was subsequently optioned and designated for assignment; he was claimed Sunday by the Orioles. So much for that once-promising experiment. Supplanting Waddell on the roster was Devin Smeltzer, recalled to function as a long reliever. He hasn't since made an appearance. Lewis Thorpe came up for another spot start on Wednesday, tossing five innings of three-run ball against Texas, and was sent back to St. Paul afterward. Cody Stashak was optioned to Triple-A after coughing up three runs against the lowly Tigers on Friday night. He was replaced by Derek Law, a minor-league signing during the offseason who impressed during spring training. (Then again, so did Waddell.) To make room on the 40-man roster for Law, the Twins designated former third-round pick Travis Blankenhorn for assignment. The worst news of the week is that the Twins lost three absolutely critical players to injury. Luis Arraez suffered a concussion during a home plate collision on Monday and went on the 7-day Injured List. A day later, Alex Kirilloff was placed on the shelf due to an ominous wrist injury. Then Byron Buxton came up limping at first base on Thursday, and was diagnosed with Grade 2 hip strain that figures to sideline him for at least a month. You'd be hard-pressed to select anyone the Twins could LESS afford to lose from their lineup than these three. But that's just the nature of this gut-wrenching 2021 season. Filling in the roster spots of these lost fixtures were Nick Gordon, Miguel Sanó and Trevor Larnach. HIGHLIGHTS Well, let's start with Gordon. He made his major-league debut on Thursday and – setting everything else aside – it was just a really nice moment. The former first-round draft pick has gone through hell over the past few years and it probably seemed at times like this opportunity would never come. He made the most of it, reaching base twice – a single and a walk – and stealing second both times. He became the first player in Twins history to steal multiple bases in his MLB debut. Despite his draft position and pedigree, Gordon is not considered a top-flight prospect, but there's a bit of intrigue there. His outstanding athleticism was noticeable on Thursday, especially in contrast with a relatively slow and old surrounding cast. I'd love to see Gordon get some significant tread in the months ahead, because at this point, why not? Other highlights were sparse during this dreary week of play, but it was nice to see some signs of life from the likes of Mitch Garver, Jorge Polanco and Max Kepler. The continuing lack of production from this trio has been core to the offense's inconsistency and unevenness dating back to 2020. Garver seems to be coming around. After launching three home runs in the previous week, he added another on Tuesday, and more importantly his plate approach is growing much sharper. Garver drew four walks in 14 plate appearances against just three strikeouts; in his first 20 games he had three walks and 28 strikeouts. Sunday's rainout might've been a fortunate twist for the catcher, who is healing up some minor shoulder inflammation. Polanco went through perhaps his ugliest stretch of the year in games 2 and 3 against the Rangers, striking out six times in seven at-bats, but otherwise he was very productive, tallying seven hits including three doubles, a triple and a homer. He had more extra-base hits in these six games (6) than he had in his first 24 (5), raising his slugging percentage from .286 to .373. Kepler too snapped free from an extended power outage, hitting his first home run of the year against Texas on Thursday and then adding his second the following day. It wasn't a great week overall for Kep – he slashed .192/.250/.423 in 28 PAs – but he was making some legitimately hard contact, and even managed to take a lefty deep. Now, I will add the important caveat that all this success came against two of the worst teams in the league. It's way too early to be getting excited about these small sparks from foundational players who've been sputtering along for months. But, it's something. And the Twins need to see a whole lot more of it. It is extremely difficult to envision this team doing much of anything if Polanco, Kepler and Garver continue to play the way they did in the first month and throughout much of 2020. LOWLIGHTS This team is just not very good. That feels clearer than ever after a week in which they struggled to keep pace with two of the worst opponents they'll face all year. There's simply no resilience, no fight. After mounting a modest hot streak by winning four of five, Minnesota blew the second game against Texas and let it devolve into another cascade of collapses, with a woeful 1-3 stretch all but erasing their progress. The Twins have not come back and won a single game this year in which they've trailed by more than one run. No fight. The past week represented a critical opportunity to get right against bad competition ahead of a grueling stretch of the schedule. The Twins failed to take advantage, letting the last-place Rangers and Tigers win four of six. What's wrong with this team? Where to begin? The bullpen is a total disaster and it's difficult to fathom exactly where the solutions are going to come from. Alex Colomé has tossed four scoreless innings in May after a catastrophic month of April, but he's not at the point of being trusted in anything resembling a high-stakes situation. Waddell's meltdown led to his departure from the organization, subtracting one of the front office's key offseason gambles. Another one, Law, inspired no confidence in his first appearance on Saturday. Stashak's been brutal. Tyler Duffey, a pivotal crux in this bullpen's construction, is a shell of his former self. I've argued that the Twins need to take action on their bullpen quickly if they want to have any hope of resurrecting their fast-fading championship aspirations. It has become rapidly evident they are undermanned, and while fringy arms like Law are worth taking a look at, this relief corps needs an infusion of a much higher caliber. And I'm not sure even a slam-dunk acquisition would make enough difference at this point. With that said, the failures of the bullpen are magnified by a continued absence of any late-game offense, or ability to rally from deficits. Relievers have a collective 1-11 record, and while they've earned it with their performance – they're on pace to blow away the worst bullpen WPA in baseball history – a W/L that lopsided doesn't happen on its own. The lineup bears its share of blame. Topping the list of present concerns: Miguel Sanó is fast becoming an untenable option. While Polanco, Kepler and Garver show small signs of emerging from their prolonged slumps, Sanó's performance offers no real cause for encouragement. He has a decent idea of what he's doing at the plate, and continues to draw walks at a solid clip, but Sanó simply can't hit. Last week he went 3-for-17 with nine strikeouts, and his slash line for the season has sunk to .129/.299/.226. The one thing you could always reliably count on from Sanó in the past, even during the down times, was crushing the ball when he made contact. But this calling card has gone amiss in a sea of pop-ups and grounders. Here's where he has ranked over the past five years among MLB hitters in terms of average exit velocity: 2017: 96th percentile 2018: 95th percentile 2019: 100th percentile 2020: 100th percentile 2021: 17th percentile Sanó looks about as discombobulated and as he did in 2018, when the Twins opted to send him down to Single-A for a full-on reset in Fort Myers. That's not so much an option anymore. For an ostensibly healthy 28-year-old who's been in the big leagues for six years, breakdowns of this severity are very tough to accept and painful to navigate. Surely the Twins would love to be playing him less frequently at this point, but sadly they don't have much choice. The absences of Kirilloff and Buxton mean they need Sanó, not just from a "body on the field" standpoint, but also due to the (however faint) possibility of tapping his offensive potency. The first baseman has looked so poor at the plate this year, and down the stretch last year, that it can be easy to forget how dominant he was for a lengthy period beforehand: From the start of 2019 through the end of last August, Sanó hit .247/.346/.571 with 41 homers and 94 RBIs in 137 games. Is that player still within him? Can it be coaxed back out? It behooves the Twins to find out, when the alternative is running out Willians Astudillo every day at first base, but in the meantime Sanó's at-bats are just killing this team. They need more from him. They need it. Add that to the list. Urgency is building because the ultimate lowlight of the past week is one that leaves this offense in a dire state going forward. Buxton's hip injury carries a timeline of multiple weeks at least, according to Rocco Baldelli. The news might even be grimmer for Kirilloff, who plans to test his strained wrist by taking swings in the coming week. Said the manager: "If it's an unplayable situation for Alex, I think having surgery is an option." Even if Kirilloff CAN play through the injury, it's worth asking whether he SHOULD. And if you don't have him or Buxton in this lineup you don't have much. Not with Andrelton Simmons hurtling back to Earth (.451 OPS in his past 15 games after batting .450 in the first seven) and Jake Cave continuing to be a total offensive black hole (2-for-13 with five strikeouts last week, .507 OPS on the year). The Twins need Sanó to suddenly figure out how to hit the ball again. They need Kepler, Polanco and Garver to build upon their fledgling hints of positive momentum. They need Larnach, who went 0-for-4 in his debut but didn't look bad by any means, to catch on very quickly, despite his relative lack of minor-league experience. They need basically all of this to happen, because the Twins must play .600+ ball from here on out to even have a shot at the playoffs. And you know what? I could kind of see it. These are talented hitters who've been oddly out of whack for what ultimately equates to less than one full season, and they've all been misfiring simultaneously. Who's to say they couldn't all find a rhythm and start clicking in lockstep? We've seen it before, and not that long ago, in 2019. The talent is there. What I can't see is this bullpen turning around to the drastic extent necessary for a "2019 Nationals" type surge. (An example that many people love to point to as if it's a typical precedent, rather than a once-in-a-century event.) And that's why I personally have lost faith in this team as a true contender. But they've got plenty of time left to prove me wrong. TRENDING STORYLINE For the first time since 2019, minor-league baseball games were played last week! The Twins' reconfigured family of affiliates are all underway, which means that nightly Minor League Reports have returned to Twins Daily. This is exciting not just because it gives fans a diversion from the lackluster big-league product, but also because the system and pipeline will now be poised to influence the Twins far more significantly. With prospects able to actually play in games and make on-field cases for promotions, we'll have much more robust narratives and storylines to follow. One that I'm already keeping an eye on: Matt Canterino, TD's ninth-ranked prospect who's opened a lot of eyes with his ascendant arsenal. In his season debut for the Cedar Rapids Kernels on Sunday, Canterino tossed three scoreless innings and struck out six. With Jhoan Duran and Jordan Balazovic sidelined to open the season, Canterino is the top active pitching prospect, and perhaps the Twins staff's best hope for a high-impact minor-league jolt this summer. LOOKING AHEAD After failing to make any hay against a soft patch in the schedule, the Twins are now shifting into a gauntlet, where the stakes will be high and the competition stifling. First, they're off to Chicago for their first meeting of the year with the first-place White Sox, who've won 12 of 17 and lead the major leagues in run differential. Afterward, the Athletics come to Target Field, looking to follow up on their trouncing of the Twins in Oakland three weeks ago. The A's have won 21 of 29 games since starting the season 0-6. These are two red-hot, high-quality teams. The Twins will be facing them without two of their best players. I'm bracing for the worst but if they can find a way to win four of six this week it would go along way in providing some semblance of a reason to believe. TUESDAY, 5/11: TWINS @ WHITE SOX – RHP Kenta Maeda v. RHP Dylan Cease WEDNESDAY, 5/12: TWINS @ WHITE SOX – LHP J.A. Happ v. LHP Dallas Keuchel THURSDAY, 5/13: TWINS @ WHITE SOX – RHP Michael Pineda v. LHP Carlos Rodon FRIDAY, 5/14: ATHLETICS @ TWINS – RHP Frankie Montas v. RHP Matt Shoemaker SATURDAY, 5/15: ATHLETICS @ TWINS – LHP Cole Irvin v. RHP José Berríos SUNDAY, 5/16: ATHLETICS @ TWINS – RHP Chris Bassitt v. RHP Kenta Maeda MORE FROM TWINS DAILY — Latest Twins coverage from our writers — Recent Twins discussion in our forums — Follow Twins Daily via Twitter, Facebook or email
  23. At 12-20, the Minnesota Twins' busted record reflects a broken team. Meanwhile, their endless string of lapses, failures to execute, and late-game meltdowns are making this utterly deflating season feel like a broken record, repeatedly playing the same sad notes. Weekly Snapshot: Mon, 5/3 through Sun, 5/9 *** Record Last Week: 2-4 (Overall: 12-20) Run Differential Last Week: -5 (Overall: -2) Standing: 4th Place in AL Central (7.0 GB) Last Week's Game Recaps: Game 27 | MIN 6, TEX 5: Strong Defense and Kirilloff Power Twins Game 28 | TEX 6, MIN 3: Bullpen Gives Away Late Lead Once Again Game 29 | TEX 3, MIN 1: Twins Go 0-for-9 with RISP as Bats Sleep Game 30 | TEX 4, MIN 3: Another Blown Lead and Extra-Inning Loss Game 31 | MIN 7, DET 3: Bats Awaken Against Detroit's Relievers Game 32 | DET 7, MIN 3: In Unpredictable Twist, Bullpen Implodes NEWS & NOTES There were a ton of moves in the past week, most of them brought on by unfortunate events. Before we dive into the in-game highlights and lowlights, let's run through all the turnover this roster has experienced over the past seven days. The week started with Randy Dobnak being optioned to Triple-A, just in time for the start of the minor-league season. Dobnak had earned the demotion on merit, with an 8.16 ERA through seven appearances, but this decision seems more aimed at getting him back on a starting regimen. So far so good: Dobnak hurled four scoreless innings with five strikeouts in his debut for the Saints. The rotation may need him soon. Called up to replace Dobnak on the roster was Brandon Waddell, who went on to have an unbelievably disastrous second stint with the Twins. He pitched on Monday and Tuesday, allowing six runs (5 ER) while recording three totals outs. Waddell was subsequently optioned and designated for assignment; he was claimed Sunday by the Orioles. So much for that once-promising experiment. Supplanting Waddell on the roster was Devin Smeltzer, recalled to function as a long reliever. He hasn't since made an appearance. Lewis Thorpe came up for another spot start on Wednesday, tossing five innings of three-run ball against Texas, and was sent back to St. Paul afterward. Cody Stashak was optioned to Triple-A after coughing up three runs against the lowly Tigers on Friday night. He was replaced by Derek Law, a minor-league signing during the offseason who impressed during spring training. (Then again, so did Waddell.) To make room on the 40-man roster for Law, the Twins designated former third-round pick Travis Blankenhorn for assignment. The worst news of the week is that the Twins lost three absolutely critical players to injury. Luis Arraez suffered a concussion during a home plate collision on Monday and went on the 7-day Injured List. A day later, Alex Kirilloff was placed on the shelf due to an ominous wrist injury. Then Byron Buxton came up limping at first base on Thursday, and was diagnosed with Grade 2 hip strain that figures to sideline him for at least a month. You'd be hard-pressed to select anyone the Twins could LESS afford to lose from their lineup than these three. But that's just the nature of this gut-wrenching 2021 season. Filling in the roster spots of these lost fixtures were Nick Gordon, Miguel Sanó and Trevor Larnach. HIGHLIGHTS Well, let's start with Gordon. He made his major-league debut on Thursday and – setting everything else aside – it was just a really nice moment. The former first-round draft pick has gone through hell over the past few years and it probably seemed at times like this opportunity would never come. He made the most of it, reaching base twice – a single and a walk – and stealing second both times. He became the first player in Twins history to steal multiple bases in his MLB debut. Despite his draft position and pedigree, Gordon is not considered a top-flight prospect, but there's a bit of intrigue there. His outstanding athleticism was noticeable on Thursday, especially in contrast with a relatively slow and old surrounding cast. I'd love to see Gordon get some significant tread in the months ahead, because at this point, why not? Other highlights were sparse during this dreary week of play, but it was nice to see some signs of life from the likes of Mitch Garver, Jorge Polanco and Max Kepler. The continuing lack of production from this trio has been core to the offense's inconsistency and unevenness dating back to 2020. Garver seems to be coming around. After launching three home runs in the previous week, he added another on Tuesday, and more importantly his plate approach is growing much sharper. Garver drew four walks in 14 plate appearances against just three strikeouts; in his first 20 games he had three walks and 28 strikeouts. Sunday's rainout might've been a fortunate twist for the catcher, who is healing up some minor shoulder inflammation. Polanco went through perhaps his ugliest stretch of the year in games 2 and 3 against the Rangers, striking out six times in seven at-bats, but otherwise he was very productive, tallying seven hits including three doubles, a triple and a homer. He had more extra-base hits in these six games (6) than he had in his first 24 (5), raising his slugging percentage from .286 to .373. Kepler too snapped free from an extended power outage, hitting his first home run of the year against Texas on Thursday and then adding his second the following day. It wasn't a great week overall for Kep – he slashed .192/.250/.423 in 28 PAs – but he was making some legitimately hard contact, and even managed to take a lefty deep. Now, I will add the important caveat that all this success came against two of the worst teams in the league. It's way too early to be getting excited about these small sparks from foundational players who've been sputtering along for months. But, it's something. And the Twins need to see a whole lot more of it. It is extremely difficult to envision this team doing much of anything if Polanco, Kepler and Garver continue to play the way they did in the first month and throughout much of 2020. LOWLIGHTS This team is just not very good. That feels clearer than ever after a week in which they struggled to keep pace with two of the worst opponents they'll face all year. There's simply no resilience, no fight. After mounting a modest hot streak by winning four of five, Minnesota blew the second game against Texas and let it devolve into another cascade of collapses, with a woeful 1-3 stretch all but erasing their progress. The Twins have not come back and won a single game this year in which they've trailed by more than one run. No fight. The past week represented a critical opportunity to get right against bad competition ahead of a grueling stretch of the schedule. The Twins failed to take advantage, letting the last-place Rangers and Tigers win four of six. What's wrong with this team? Where to begin? The bullpen is a total disaster and it's difficult to fathom exactly where the solutions are going to come from. Alex Colomé has tossed four scoreless innings in May after a catastrophic month of April, but he's not at the point of being trusted in anything resembling a high-stakes situation. Waddell's meltdown led to his departure from the organization, subtracting one of the front office's key offseason gambles. Another one, Law, inspired no confidence in his first appearance on Saturday. Stashak's been brutal. Tyler Duffey, a pivotal crux in this bullpen's construction, is a shell of his former self. I've argued that the Twins need to take action on their bullpen quickly if they want to have any hope of resurrecting their fast-fading championship aspirations. It has become rapidly evident they are undermanned, and while fringy arms like Law are worth taking a look at, this relief corps needs an infusion of a much higher caliber. And I'm not sure even a slam-dunk acquisition would make enough difference at this point. With that said, the failures of the bullpen are magnified by a continued absence of any late-game offense, or ability to rally from deficits. Relievers have a collective 1-11 record, and while they've earned it with their performance – they're on pace to blow away the worst bullpen WPA in baseball history – a W/L that lopsided doesn't happen on its own. The lineup bears its share of blame. Topping the list of present concerns: Miguel Sanó is fast becoming an untenable option. While Polanco, Kepler and Garver show small signs of emerging from their prolonged slumps, Sanó's performance offers no real cause for encouragement. He has a decent idea of what he's doing at the plate, and continues to draw walks at a solid clip, but Sanó simply can't hit. Last week he went 3-for-17 with nine strikeouts, and his slash line for the season has sunk to .129/.299/.226. The one thing you could always reliably count on from Sanó in the past, even during the down times, was crushing the ball when he made contact. But this calling card has gone amiss in a sea of pop-ups and grounders. Here's where he has ranked over the past five years among MLB hitters in terms of average exit velocity: 2017: 96th percentile 2018: 95th percentile 2019: 100th percentile 2020: 100th percentile 2021: 17th percentile Sanó looks about as discombobulated and as he did in 2018, when the Twins opted to send him down to Single-A for a full-on reset in Fort Myers. That's not so much an option anymore. For an ostensibly healthy 28-year-old who's been in the big leagues for six years, breakdowns of this severity are very tough to accept and painful to navigate. Surely the Twins would love to be playing him less frequently at this point, but sadly they don't have much choice. The absences of Kirilloff and Buxton mean they need Sanó, not just from a "body on the field" standpoint, but also due to the (however faint) possibility of tapping his offensive potency. The first baseman has looked so poor at the plate this year, and down the stretch last year, that it can be easy to forget how dominant he was for a lengthy period beforehand: From the start of 2019 through the end of last August, Sanó hit .247/.346/.571 with 41 homers and 94 RBIs in 137 games. Is that player still within him? Can it be coaxed back out? It behooves the Twins to find out, when the alternative is running out Willians Astudillo every day at first base, but in the meantime Sanó's at-bats are just killing this team. They need more from him. They need it. Add that to the list. Urgency is building because the ultimate lowlight of the past week is one that leaves this offense in a dire state going forward. Buxton's hip injury carries a timeline of multiple weeks at least, according to Rocco Baldelli. The news might even be grimmer for Kirilloff, who plans to test his strained wrist by taking swings in the coming week. Said the manager: "If it's an unplayable situation for Alex, I think having surgery is an option." Even if Kirilloff CAN play through the injury, it's worth asking whether he SHOULD. And if you don't have him or Buxton in this lineup you don't have much. Not with Andrelton Simmons hurtling back to Earth (.451 OPS in his past 15 games after batting .450 in the first seven) and Jake Cave continuing to be a total offensive black hole (2-for-13 with five strikeouts last week, .507 OPS on the year). The Twins need Sanó to suddenly figure out how to hit the ball again. They need Kepler, Polanco and Garver to build upon their fledgling hints of positive momentum. They need Larnach, who went 0-for-4 in his debut but didn't look bad by any means, to catch on very quickly, despite his relative lack of minor-league experience. They need basically all of this to happen, because the Twins must play .600+ ball from here on out to even have a shot at the playoffs. And you know what? I could kind of see it. These are talented hitters who've been oddly out of whack for what ultimately equates to less than one full season, and they've all been misfiring simultaneously. Who's to say they couldn't all find a rhythm and start clicking in lockstep? We've seen it before, and not that long ago, in 2019. The talent is there. What I can't see is this bullpen turning around to the drastic extent necessary for a "2019 Nationals" type surge. (An example that many people love to point to as if it's a typical precedent, rather than a once-in-a-century event.) And that's why I personally have lost faith in this team as a true contender. But they've got plenty of time left to prove me wrong. TRENDING STORYLINE For the first time since 2019, minor-league baseball games were played last week! The Twins' reconfigured family of affiliates are all underway, which means that nightly Minor League Reports have returned to Twins Daily. This is exciting not just because it gives fans a diversion from the lackluster big-league product, but also because the system and pipeline will now be poised to influence the Twins far more significantly. With prospects able to actually play in games and make on-field cases for promotions, we'll have much more robust narratives and storylines to follow. One that I'm already keeping an eye on: Matt Canterino, TD's ninth-ranked prospect who's opened a lot of eyes with his ascendant arsenal. In his season debut for the Cedar Rapids Kernels on Sunday, Canterino tossed three scoreless innings and struck out six. With Jhoan Duran and Jordan Balazovic sidelined to open the season, Canterino is the top active pitching prospect, and perhaps the Twins staff's best hope for a high-impact minor-league jolt this summer. LOOKING AHEAD After failing to make any hay against a soft patch in the schedule, the Twins are now shifting into a gauntlet, where the stakes will be high and the competition stifling. First, they're off to Chicago for their first meeting of the year with the first-place White Sox, who've won 12 of 17 and lead the major leagues in run differential. Afterward, the Athletics come to Target Field, looking to follow up on their trouncing of the Twins in Oakland three weeks ago. The A's have won 21 of 29 games since starting the season 0-6. These are two red-hot, high-quality teams. The Twins will be facing them without two of their best players. I'm bracing for the worst but if they can find a way to win four of six this week it would go along way in providing some semblance of a reason to believe. TUESDAY, 5/11: TWINS @ WHITE SOX – RHP Kenta Maeda v. RHP Dylan Cease WEDNESDAY, 5/12: TWINS @ WHITE SOX – LHP J.A. Happ v. LHP Dallas Keuchel THURSDAY, 5/13: TWINS @ WHITE SOX – RHP Michael Pineda v. LHP Carlos Rodon FRIDAY, 5/14: ATHLETICS @ TWINS – RHP Frankie Montas v. RHP Matt Shoemaker SATURDAY, 5/15: ATHLETICS @ TWINS – LHP Cole Irvin v. RHP José Berríos SUNDAY, 5/16: ATHLETICS @ TWINS – RHP Chris Bassitt v. RHP Kenta Maeda MORE FROM TWINS DAILY — Latest Twins coverage from our writers — Recent Twins discussion in our forums — Follow Twins Daily via Twitter, Facebook or email View full article
  24. Offensive Down Across Baseball During the season’s first month, batters as a whole hit .232, which would be the worst total in a season ever. Back in 1968, the Year of the Pitcher, batters were able to bat .237 for the season. If you don’t know about that season, just look up Bob Gibson’s numbers from that year. According to the Athletic, on-base percentage (.309) was the lowest since 1968, OPS (.698) was the lowest since 1989, and hits per game (7.63) were the lowest of all-time. Some of the best pitching performances in baseball history also happened in the season’s first month and Minnesota was witness to one of those pitchers. Corbin Burnes ended the month with a 49 to 0 strikeout to walk ratio. The Twins handed him his first loss of the year as he and Jose Berrios locked in a pitcher’s duel where Burnes struck out 11 and Berrios struck out 12. Besides Burnes, both Gerrit Cole and Jacob deGrom posted strikeout rates of 44% or higher. Unfortunately, the Twins don’t have one of these pitchers. Minnesota’s pitchers haven’t exactly joined the pitching revolution. As a staff, the Twins are tied with the Rangers for the worst pitching WAR total in the American League. The club’s 8.87 K/9 ranks 10th and they have given up more home runs per nine innings than any other AL club. According to Statcast, the Twins average exit velocity is the third highest in the AL they have the worst hard-hit percentage. Minnesota pitchers are getting hit and getting hit hard, but they aren’t the only group that is struggling on the team. Positional Struggles Some players in the Twins line-up have been on fire to start the year including Nelson Cruz and Bryon Buxton, the AL Player of the Month. Those aren’t the only positions where the Twins have fared well. According to FanGraphs, the Twins rank in the AL’s top-4 for WAR at multiple positions including second base (2nd overall), third base (1st overall), and left field (4th overall). Catcher has been a rough spot especially since Mitch Garver and Ryan Jeffers were expected to be one of baseball’s best catching duos. Currently, only two AL teams have a lower WAR from the catching position than the Twins. Garver’s bat has shown signs of life, so there is hope for a catcher turn around in the weeks ahead. Jeffers has been relegated to Triple-A where he will try to regain some confidence at the plate and he hit a home run in his first game. Other positions that can see some improvements are first base (9th overall), shortstop (7th), and right field (14th). Luckily, there are some easy fixes when it comes to these positions. Alex Kirilloff has been killing the ball, but a wrist injury might cause him to miss time. Miguel Sano’s return can also provide a boost at first if he can get his swing back on track. Shortstop is another easy fix, because Andrelton Simmons missed time with COVID. Now that he is healthy, the Twins shortstop numbers should improve. Do you think the Twins can continue to improve offensively? Leave a COMMENT and start the discussion. MORE FROM TWINS DAILY — Latest Twins coverage from our writers — Recent Twins discussion in our forums — Follow Twins Daily via Twitter, Facebook or email
  25. Sano’s Slow Start Miguel Sano entered the 2021 season as the team’s first baseman, and he seemed locked into that spot after signing an extension entering the 2020 campaign. Prior to his injury, Sano was trying to find himself at the plate. He is hitting .111/.310/.244 (.555) with two extra-base hits, both home runs. One positive among these numbers is the fact that he has already drawn 13 walks, which is just five fewer than his walk total in 53 games last year. Sano is typically among the league leaders when it comes to average exit velocity, hard hit %, and barrel %. During the 2020 campaign, he ranked in the 99th percentile or higher in all three of those areas. This season he is at the completely opposite end of the spectrum with all three being below average. His hard hit % might be the most concerning as that has dipped to the 8th percentile. Kirilloff’s Emergence For most of his professional career, Alex Kirilloff has played in the outfield, but the Twins have been grooming him to get more time at first base. Sano’s trip to the disabled list has allowed Kirilloff to play first on a more regular basis and he is considered a better defender than Sano. In fact, Minnesota might have one of their best defensive infields in team history with Josh Donaldson, Andrelton Simmons, Jorge Polanco, and Kirilloff. It also helps that Kirilloff has been killing the ball even though the results weren’t showing up until this past weekend. Among batters with at least 25 batted ball events, Kirilloff has been barreling up the ball at a higher rate than any player in baseball including Byron Buxton. His hit tool has always been advanced, and he might be putting it all together at the big-league level as a 23-year-old. https://twitter.com/NoDakTwinsFan/status/1389277969785425924?s=20 Besides Kirilloff’s emergence, the Twins also need to continue to find regular playing time for another key player. The Arraez Puzzle Arraez was penciled in as the team’s utility player, but he has become an everyday player. Only two players, Jake Cave and Nelson Cruz, have appeared in more games than Arraez. He has played regularly in the outfield and at multiple infield positions. He started the season on a strong note at the plate, but his bat has cooled off as the first month progressed and now he is heading to the concussion IL. Injuries have allowed Arraez to be in the line-up on a regular basis and finding spots in the line-up tends to work itself out over the course of 162-games. Other players are going to get injured, and Rocco Baldelli prefers to give players regular days off. This means the Twins can rotate through players at multiple positions, especially with the team’s defensive flexibility. When everyone is healthy, Minnesota’s best line-up doesn’t include Sano. That being said, he will continue to be used at first base and designated hitter as the season progresses. It just might be tough for him to refine his offensive approach if Kirilloff continues to get at-bats at first base. What do you think Sano’s role will be moving forward? Leave a COMMENT and start the discussion. MORE FROM TWINS DAILY — Latest Twins coverage from our writers — Recent Twins discussion in our forums — Follow Twins Daily via Twitter, Facebook or email
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