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  1. It’s easy to sit back and blame the front office or manager for the mess that has been the Minnesota Twins 2021 season. To do so rings hollow without context, and the time to learn has begun for future success. Former Twins World Series MVP brought up the idea that the organization has failed and changed direction due to the results of 2021. He’s not alone in suggesting that narrative, but to say such a result reflects organizational failure also conveniently ignores what took place the previous four years of Derek Falvey and Thad Levine’s tenure. There’s no denying that 2021 has gone poorly. Most importantly, the Twins pitching has fallen flat. The front office banked on J.A. Happ, Matt Shoemaker, and some mediocre bullpen additions to supplement a roster looking to rise. As injuries took their toll and ineffective play became prevalent, the entirety of the ship went up in flames. Looking back, though, this front office helped to architect a 26-win improvement and Postseason berth in their first season, as well as having won the division in back-to-back seasons before this year. 2019 will forever go down as among the best in franchise history, and the installment of Rocco Baldelli in 2019 has led to a .550 winning percentage through his first three seasons. Now that praises have been sung, and reality has been levied, it’s time for the trio to grow. For the first time in their tenure, Falvey and Levine fell short. They flopped on Lance Lynn and Logan Morrison previously, but this is a club that had heightened expectations, and virtually every acquisition or move of substance from this offseason went up in flames. Without embarking on a complete rebuild, they’ve traded the club’s ace and now could be without Kenta Maeda in the year ahead as well. The Twins don’t have the best farm system in baseball, and although they’ve been ranked closer to the middle, intriguing depth is there. Unfortunately, there’s been a host of arm injuries across baseball following the 2020 shutdown in the minors, and Minnesota’s best prospects have been hit especially hard. Falvey and Levine will need to work with internal staff to ensure those players' health and future projection while not relying solely on them for a return to relevance in 2022 and beyond. The duo will need to make a better showing than their track record has proven on the acquisition front. Unfortunately, free agency is often a field of landmines, but some teams avoid hitting them all, and Falvey will need to stop the string of consistent blowups. Spending should remain relatively intact, but supplementing the Twins back to the top won’t come entirely through the dollar on the open market. There should be belief in the infrastructure set up since Falvey and Levine have taken over. From baseball operations to the development and coaching staff, there are plenty of talented individuals guiding players down the right path. Putting moldable pieces in front of them should continue to be the goal, and the assumption is that the process will bear positive results. In the dugout, Rocco has his first chance to grow as well. Having dealt with adversity that everyone experienced in 2020 is different than fighting through a season in which results consistently left something to be desired. Baldelli has done well to connect with his players, and he’s been praised for decisions when things have gone right. Unfortunately, all of the coin flips went wrong to start the year, and he’s doubled down with some questionable steps at times since. For the former Rays star, the expectation should be that new faces (and possibly some younger ones) will filter into Target Field during the final month and into 2022. Baldelli will have to put his best foot forward when maximizing their potential while putting them in a position to best capitalize on the opportunity. Right now, the answers aren’t immediately evident, and this writer doesn’t pretend to have them all. That said, it will be on Derek Falvey, Thad Levine, and Rocco Baldelli to show they have the chops to find them. Everyone feels content when things are going well, but through adversity, you’re able to grow and presented with it for the first time that trio has their most significant opportunity yet. 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
  2. Former Twins World Series MVP brought up the idea that the organization has failed and changed direction due to the results of 2021. He’s not alone in suggesting that narrative, but to say such a result reflects organizational failure also conveniently ignores what took place the previous four years of Derek Falvey and Thad Levine’s tenure. There’s no denying that 2021 has gone poorly. Most importantly, the Twins pitching has fallen flat. The front office banked on J.A. Happ, Matt Shoemaker, and some mediocre bullpen additions to supplement a roster looking to rise. As injuries took their toll and ineffective play became prevalent, the entirety of the ship went up in flames. Looking back, though, this front office helped to architect a 26-win improvement and Postseason berth in their first season, as well as having won the division in back-to-back seasons before this year. 2019 will forever go down as among the best in franchise history, and the installment of Rocco Baldelli in 2019 has led to a .550 winning percentage through his first three seasons. Now that praises have been sung, and reality has been levied, it’s time for the trio to grow. For the first time in their tenure, Falvey and Levine fell short. They flopped on Lance Lynn and Logan Morrison previously, but this is a club that had heightened expectations, and virtually every acquisition or move of substance from this offseason went up in flames. Without embarking on a complete rebuild, they’ve traded the club’s ace and now could be without Kenta Maeda in the year ahead as well. The Twins don’t have the best farm system in baseball, and although they’ve been ranked closer to the middle, intriguing depth is there. Unfortunately, there’s been a host of arm injuries across baseball following the 2020 shutdown in the minors, and Minnesota’s best prospects have been hit especially hard. Falvey and Levine will need to work with internal staff to ensure those players' health and future projection while not relying solely on them for a return to relevance in 2022 and beyond. The duo will need to make a better showing than their track record has proven on the acquisition front. Unfortunately, free agency is often a field of landmines, but some teams avoid hitting them all, and Falvey will need to stop the string of consistent blowups. Spending should remain relatively intact, but supplementing the Twins back to the top won’t come entirely through the dollar on the open market. There should be belief in the infrastructure set up since Falvey and Levine have taken over. From baseball operations to the development and coaching staff, there are plenty of talented individuals guiding players down the right path. Putting moldable pieces in front of them should continue to be the goal, and the assumption is that the process will bear positive results. In the dugout, Rocco has his first chance to grow as well. Having dealt with adversity that everyone experienced in 2020 is different than fighting through a season in which results consistently left something to be desired. Baldelli has done well to connect with his players, and he’s been praised for decisions when things have gone right. Unfortunately, all of the coin flips went wrong to start the year, and he’s doubled down with some questionable steps at times since. For the former Rays star, the expectation should be that new faces (and possibly some younger ones) will filter into Target Field during the final month and into 2022. Baldelli will have to put his best foot forward when maximizing their potential while putting them in a position to best capitalize on the opportunity. Right now, the answers aren’t immediately evident, and this writer doesn’t pretend to have them all. That said, it will be on Derek Falvey, Thad Levine, and Rocco Baldelli to show they have the chops to find them. Everyone feels content when things are going well, but through adversity, you’re able to grow and presented with it for the first time that trio has their most significant opportunity yet. MORE FROM TWINS DAILY — Latest Twins coverage from our writers — Recent Twins discussion in our forums — Follow Twins Daily via Twitter, Facebook or email
  3. The 2021 Minnesota Twins have been terrible, there’s no denying that. Where blame lies is debatable, but the manager is dealing with a deck missing plenty of cards. He’s no absolved from any wrongdoing, but a “Fire Rocco” campaign is also shortsighted. Instead, 2022 is shaping up to be a defining act. Through his first two seasons as the Twins skipper, Baldelli posted a 147-85 record. He led the club to back-to-back AL Central Division titles, and he took a team underperforming to new heights. After navigating a pandemic stricken season that included plenty of uncertainty, the only thing certain is that 2021 requires a reset. In April, this club seemed to be dealt a good amount of bad luck. They were 9-15 despite a plus-two run differential. From there injuries and ineffectiveness took over, rendering most managerial decisions a moot point. This club wasn’t supposed to be bad, and they don’t have to be in the year ahead, but how their leader directs them could be somewhat of a career defining turning point. Rocco is young, just 39-years-old, but was he a beneficiary of a team that blasted a boatload of homers and played a shortened season? Maybe he was snakebit by a team that couldn’t stay healthy and get out of its own way. No matter what the Twins have been with their new manager, 2022 has the opportunity to allow him runway for a new mark to be made. I’d argue the Twins would be silly to rebuild. Plenty of this core was seen as impact players coming into the season. Unless that evaluation by the front office was completely misguided, shuffling in new parts makes a lot of sense. Allowing youth to get their feet wet in 2021 should benefit them in more substantial roles going forward. Even in a rebuild though, there’s opportunity to shine. The Detroit Tigers were abysmal out of the gate and have since played a much stronger brand of baseball. A.J. Hinch was brought in as a replacement for Ron Gardenhire with the hope of leading a young roster back to relevance. He’s not going to do that this season, but they’re trending in the right direction, and it seems as though the Astros former skipper wasn’t just a by-product of a talented environment. Rocco Baldelli doesn’t need to be defined by a record or banners in his first few seasons, but what he’ll have to prove in the year ahead is that process is driving results. We can throw away the present season and provide a pass given the circumstances, from there, a need to see more impact and growth resonating from the man in charge is a must. Derek Falvey and Thad Levine will do plenty to outline the future’s course over the next week prior to the trade deadline. From there, Baldelli will have a clearer directive on what in front of him and showing an ability to navigate the path forward is his next challenge. For more from Off The Baggy, click here. Follow @tlschwerz
  4. Many relief pitchers can be successful by relying on two to three pitches. For instance, Taylor Rogers has found a lot of success at the big-league level by throwing a two-pitch mix with his fastball and a slider. Relievers can use their best pitches, because they don’t have to worry about facing a hitter multiple times in the same game. Some pitchers are forced to adjust their repertoire if they aren’t finding success. Jorge Alcalá was part of one of the biggest trades under the Derek Falvey and Thad Levine regime. He came to the Twins along with Gilberto Celestino as part of the Ryan Pressly deal. At the time of here is what Baseball America said, “Alcalá has a plus-plus fastball, but there are times as a starter where he gears down to try to maintain his stamina. At his best, he’s reached triple digits in the past. There are days when Alcalá looks like a one-pitch pitcher trying to start, but seen on the right days, he has the makings of being a devastating bullpen option.” Alcalá has shown flashes on turning into a devastating bullpen option, but lefties have given him headaches during his big-league career. Entering play on Wednesday, left-handed hitters had posted a .306/.397/.629 (1.026) slash-line when facing Alcalá. Compare that to the .389 OPS righties had compiled against him and it’s easy to see that something was going to have to change if he was going to progress to being used in more high leverage situations. During his big-league tenure, Alcalá has focused on throwing a fastball and a slider and since that hadn’t worked against lefties, the Twins encouraged him to work on his changeup. He threw the pitch to lefties 24 times during the 2020 season and held them to a .125 BA and a .250 SLG. His changeup breaks down and in on lefties which can make it a tough pitch to square up if he is locating it. “(Alcalá is) making adjustments,” Twins manager Rocco Baldelli said. “He’s going out there and figuring out that sometimes facing left-handed hitters as a whole and facing left-handers and right-handers is going to be different, and you’re going to have to have — I end up calling them tricks, sometimes, but you end up coming to have a different approach.” Alcalá is going to have to keep working with the pitch and he knows the importance of what it will mean for the future of his career. “What you practice is the result you get,” Alcalá told reporters through an interpreter. “If it’s working for me in the bullpen or in practice, I think it’s going to work for me during the game. That’s my mindset. His changeup is still a work in progress, but it is the pitch that might transform him from middle reliever into a dominant late-inning option. Do you think one pitch can make the difference for Alcalá? Leave a COMMENT and star 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
  5. Minnesota’s run of excellent closers stretches over much of the last two decades. From Joe Nathan to Glen Perkins and now Taylor Rogers, Twins fans have been privy to some great late inning arms. Now, one pitch might turn this pitcher into the Twins future closer. Many relief pitchers can be successful by relying on two to three pitches. For instance, Taylor Rogers has found a lot of success at the big-league level by throwing a two-pitch mix with his fastball and a slider. Relievers can use their best pitches, because they don’t have to worry about facing a hitter multiple times in the same game. Some pitchers are forced to adjust their repertoire if they aren’t finding success. Jorge Alcalá was part of one of the biggest trades under the Derek Falvey and Thad Levine regime. He came to the Twins along with Gilberto Celestino as part of the Ryan Pressly deal. At the time of here is what Baseball America said, “Alcalá has a plus-plus fastball, but there are times as a starter where he gears down to try to maintain his stamina. At his best, he’s reached triple digits in the past. There are days when Alcalá looks like a one-pitch pitcher trying to start, but seen on the right days, he has the makings of being a devastating bullpen option.” Alcalá has shown flashes on turning into a devastating bullpen option, but lefties have given him headaches during his big-league career. Entering play on Wednesday, left-handed hitters had posted a .306/.397/.629 (1.026) slash-line when facing Alcalá. Compare that to the .389 OPS righties had compiled against him and it’s easy to see that something was going to have to change if he was going to progress to being used in more high leverage situations. During his big-league tenure, Alcalá has focused on throwing a fastball and a slider and since that hadn’t worked against lefties, the Twins encouraged him to work on his changeup. He threw the pitch to lefties 24 times during the 2020 season and held them to a .125 BA and a .250 SLG. His changeup breaks down and in on lefties which can make it a tough pitch to square up if he is locating it. “(Alcalá is) making adjustments,” Twins manager Rocco Baldelli said. “He’s going out there and figuring out that sometimes facing left-handed hitters as a whole and facing left-handers and right-handers is going to be different, and you’re going to have to have — I end up calling them tricks, sometimes, but you end up coming to have a different approach.” Alcalá is going to have to keep working with the pitch and he knows the importance of what it will mean for the future of his career. “What you practice is the result you get,” Alcalá told reporters through an interpreter. “If it’s working for me in the bullpen or in practice, I think it’s going to work for me during the game. That’s my mindset. His changeup is still a work in progress, but it is the pitch that might transform him from middle reliever into a dominant late-inning option. Do you think one pitch can make the difference for Alcalá? Leave a COMMENT and star 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
  6. 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
  7. There’s no way of putting this lightly, the Twins have been awful in 2021. After starting 5-2 they have fallen, tripped, and smacked their faces right on the proverbial sidewalk. Rocco, the front office, and players all deserve a differing part of the blame, but the results have been nothing short of terrible. I don’t expect that to continue over a full 162 games, but regardless of what happens, this strikes me more as outlier than indicative of the future. Why is that important? Looking at 2022, the Twins will need to decide a path forward. That starts now and the groundwork begins to be laid. Someone very likely needs to be fired for this debacle. Maybe that’s the hitting coach, or maybe it’s a clubhouse attendant. I don’t really care who it is, and I’m not sure it’s productive in many veins other than sending a message. That said, unless the analysis by so many was so wrong, then there’s plenty to build from here. Could the front office have done more this offseason? Potentially, but the landmines are all over the place there. Trevor May would be nice, but goodbye to Andrelton Simmons or Nelson Cruz then. Other bullpen pieces with ties have all been bad save for Liam Hendriks, who would’ve been a substantial cost in only helping one area. Maybe a better 4th starter made sense, but hey, James Paxton is already done for the year and Corey Kluber has been a bit more lucky than good despite his recent no hitter. What they could’ve done and what they did on the open market isn’t too wide of a divide. That brings us to the reality moving forward. What the Twins have in terms of relevance still banks heavily on pieces that were committed to on the basis of assumed production. Max Kepler, Jorge Polanco, and Miguel Sano were all signed to extensions on the basis of upward trajectory. It’s fair to assess all three as having fallen short of expectations, but where do they fit going forward. Is it so bad that they aren’t lineup fixtures at all? If so, that’d be damning for the front office and quite a fall in terms of development. Jose Berrios and Byron Buxton remain as key pieces, while Josh Donaldson still has multiple years left on his deal. From there Minnesota was always going to be in a place of opportunity. Cruz, J.A. Happ, Matt Shoemaker, and Simmons are all on one-year deals. So too is Alex Colome and Hansel Robles. The front office gave themselves flexibility in this roster construction to re-tool rather than rebuild. Alex Kirilloff has an opportunity to establish himself, as does Trevor Larnach. Down the stretch guys like Jhoan Duran and Jordan Balazovic should become potential solutions, and they’ll all provide a clearer picture heading into 2022. If there’s uncertainty for the year ahead, it’s whether the season happens at all given the MLBPA and MLB’s looming CBA discussions. Should cooler heads prevail though, tearing this down and starting over would seem like a rash over reaction by this front office. They’ve put the right developmental and coaching pieces in place, and we’ve seen that bear fruit throughout the organization. Rather than second guessing that at this point, it makes sense to crumple up this calendar, toss it out, and recalibrate with new assets from a position that should be relatively similar to where they found themselves after 2020. A weird year interrupted by pandemic issues likely hid some of the more notable regression we may have seen from some major league contributors. Now having that rear its head, deciding whether it’s a small sample or indicative of more remains the key focus going forward. This ship will turn some the rest of the way, and although the Twins won’t make the Postseason, they shouldn’t embark on an offseason with any less certainty as to who they are than they entered 2021 with initially. MORE FROM TWINS DAILY — Latest Twins coverage from our writers — Recent Twins discussion in our forums — Follow Twins Daily via Twitter, Facebook or email
  8. Coming into this season the AL Central Division was expected to be a race between the hometown Minnesota Twins and rival Chicago White Sox. Welcome to the plot twist, but that doesn’t change the future. There’s no way of putting this lightly, the Twins have been awful in 2021. After starting 5-2 they have fallen, tripped, and smacked their faces right on the proverbial sidewalk. Rocco, the front office, and players all deserve a differing part of the blame, but the results have been nothing short of terrible. I don’t expect that to continue over a full 162 games, but regardless of what happens, this strikes me more as outlier than indicative of the future. Why is that important? Looking at 2022, the Twins will need to decide a path forward. That starts now and the groundwork begins to be laid. Someone very likely needs to be fired for this debacle. Maybe that’s the hitting coach, or maybe it’s a clubhouse attendant. I don’t really care who it is, and I’m not sure it’s productive in many veins other than sending a message. That said, unless the analysis by so many was so wrong, then there’s plenty to build from here. Could the front office have done more this offseason? Potentially, but the landmines are all over the place there. Trevor May would be nice, but goodbye to Andrelton Simmons or Nelson Cruz then. Other bullpen pieces with ties have all been bad save for Liam Hendriks, who would’ve been a substantial cost in only helping one area. Maybe a better 4th starter made sense, but hey, James Paxton is already done for the year and Corey Kluber has been a bit more lucky than good despite his recent no hitter. What they could’ve done and what they did on the open market isn’t too wide of a divide. That brings us to the reality moving forward. What the Twins have in terms of relevance still banks heavily on pieces that were committed to on the basis of assumed production. Max Kepler, Jorge Polanco, and Miguel Sano were all signed to extensions on the basis of upward trajectory. It’s fair to assess all three as having fallen short of expectations, but where do they fit going forward. Is it so bad that they aren’t lineup fixtures at all? If so, that’d be damning for the front office and quite a fall in terms of development. Jose Berrios and Byron Buxton remain as key pieces, while Josh Donaldson still has multiple years left on his deal. From there Minnesota was always going to be in a place of opportunity. Cruz, J.A. Happ, Matt Shoemaker, and Simmons are all on one-year deals. So too is Alex Colome and Hansel Robles. The front office gave themselves flexibility in this roster construction to re-tool rather than rebuild. Alex Kirilloff has an opportunity to establish himself, as does Trevor Larnach. Down the stretch guys like Jhoan Duran and Jordan Balazovic should become potential solutions, and they’ll all provide a clearer picture heading into 2022. If there’s uncertainty for the year ahead, it’s whether the season happens at all given the MLBPA and MLB’s looming CBA discussions. Should cooler heads prevail though, tearing this down and starting over would seem like a rash over reaction by this front office. They’ve put the right developmental and coaching pieces in place, and we’ve seen that bear fruit throughout the organization. Rather than second guessing that at this point, it makes sense to crumple up this calendar, toss it out, and recalibrate with new assets from a position that should be relatively similar to where they found themselves after 2020. A weird year interrupted by pandemic issues likely hid some of the more notable regression we may have seen from some major league contributors. Now having that rear its head, deciding whether it’s a small sample or indicative of more remains the key focus going forward. This ship will turn some the rest of the way, and although the Twins won’t make the Postseason, they shouldn’t embark on an offseason with any less certainty as to who they are than they entered 2021 with initially. 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
  9. I might love the Twins, and defend them even during some of the darkest times, but that also means being honest even when it hurts. That kind of tough love was exactly what came to mind when Tyler Duffey used his relief appearance in a close contest to 'send a message' by throwing behind Yermin Mercedes on only the fourth pitch of his appearance. Everyone seemed to know it was coming. Tony La Russa, fresh from using his media time all but telling the Twins they *should* bean Mercedes, had a conversation with the umpiring crew before the incident, likely warning them what was to come. Rookie Twins pitcher Bailey Ober was making his debut that evening, and wasn't going to spoil his first start in the majors by getting involved. But now, with Ober done for the night, Duffey in, and Mercedes up to the plate with 1 out, the ingredients were there. And then, it happened. This, in a not-so-polite word, was chicken****. For a long time, when other teams or crusty veterans have crowed about 'playing the white right way' or unwritten rules, I've been able to take solace in the fact that the Twins haven't engaged in similar grandstanding since the Falvine era started, and that the roster was young, diverse, and helping usher in a new era of enjoying baseball and reveling in the emotion. There have been a few speed bumps along the way. Sure, the broadcasters aren't in the clubhouse, but you were sure to hear a lot about what wasn't okay when Bert Blyleven or Jack Morris were in the analyst seat, and Dan Gladden has used his presence on the radio to show his age from time to time. In terms of the actual team, Paul Molitor was never likely to put on a "Let the Kids Play" hoodie, and Brian Dozier got in on the action once with a take so cold that it's a strong candidate to host the next Winter Olympics. But overall, in this most recent era, Rocco's clubhouse has been loose and positive, with none of the toxic tantrums that still plague the sport decades after it should have gone out of style. Intentional HBP's felt alien. You could feel good about cheering on this team if you cared about that sort of thing. Well, Tyler Duffey put a 93 MPH fastball-shaped dent in that argument with his retaliation, and nobody comes out of this looking good except for the White Sox players more or less in open revolt over their own manager's caveman philosophies. Willians Astudillo's fuming on the mound after the initial home run (Willians! One of the most enjoyable players to spectate in baseball! Chirping about unwritten rules! What is the world coming to?!), Duffey's willingness to jeopardize a close game (and definitely get ejected) when the bullpen desperately needs to turn things around... and I understand that Rocco Baldelli's job is to have his players' backs, but to use the rain and say "our plan was to pitch him inside" as an excuse and feign innocence over any malicious intent feels awful to hear coming out of his mouth. I mean, just say that Duffey got distracted because he thought he saw a raccoon behind home plate. Or maybe it was a rat, he couldn't be sure. None of this had to happen. Nobody would have thought of the Twins as pushovers or weak had they not decided to exact vengeance. Tony La Russa saw the opportunity to seize all the negative attention from Mercedes's dinger and did so with both hands. Why Rocco, Duffey, Astudillo, or anyone else involved didn't allow him to enjoy that time to himself is baffling to me- Especially when every Twin Cities sportswriter with a hot take to conjure up and column inches to fill needs a reason to complain about the team that doesn't feel like a retread. Well, you gave it to them in spades. And that's on you. It's not enough to play better, Twins. Please *be* better.
  10. How Did We Get Here? On Monday night, the Twins were getting blown out by the White Sox in the ninth inning. So instead of wasting another bullpen arm, Rocco Baldelli turned to Willians Astudillo to finish out the game. This is the third time La Tortuga has been used as a pitcher and his second time so far in 2021. Fans that had stuck around until the end gave Astudillo a cheer as he headed to the bump. Yermin Mercedes was one of the players to step in against Astudillo and this is where the unwritten rules come into play. After working the count to 3-0, Mercedes clocked a 47.1 mph pitch for a home run. The unwritten rule that seemed to be broken was the fact that Mercedes swung at a 3-0 pitch when his team was up by 11 runs. Chicago’s manager Tony La Russa, a Hall of Famer with an old school mentality, was not too happy about Mercedes swinging away. The take sign had been put on by the third base coach and Mercedes decided to ignore it. La Russa told the press it was a “big mistake,” and he even took some steps out of the dugout so he could yell at his batter to take the pitch. La Russa went as far as to say that he or his third base coach will run out in front of the pitcher to stop this type of thing from happening again. On Tuesday, things went a step further. In the seventh inning, Tyler Duffey threw behind Mercedes in the seventh inning and he was promptly thrown out of the game. Twins manager Rocco Baldelli quickly came to the defense of his player and he was ejected along with Duffey. And so, the saga continued… What About the Unwritten Rules? An old school mentality would say the Twins upheld the unwritten rules by throwing near the offending player in the next game. Duffey didn’t throw near his head or with an intent to injury Mercedes. Minnesota was trailing by two at the time and came back to win, so maybe the baseball gods were rewarding the team for upholding the unwritten rules. That being said, it seemed like a foolish thing for the Twins to lose one of their best relievers in a close game, especially with how poorly the team had been playing. After the game, former Twin Lance Lynn had some interesting things to say about the baseball’s unwritten rules. "The more I play this game, the more those rules have gone away, and I understand it,” Lynn said. “The way I see it is, for position players on the mound, there are no rules. Let's get the damn game over with. And if you have a problem with whatever happens, then put a pitcher out there. Can't get mad when there's a position player on the field and a guy takes a swing." Lynn went on to say, “You're damned if you do, damned if you don't, it seems like. But I think everybody should just play the game as hard as they can and do all that, and don't worry about anything else." This seems like a mentality that both sides can agree with moving forward. Play the game hard and hopefully some of those unwritten rules will continue to go to the wayside. What are your thoughts on the unwritten rules? Leave a COMMENT and start the discussion. MORE FROM TWINS DAILY — Latest Twins coverage from our writers — Recent Twins discussion in our forums — Follow Twins Daily via Twitter, Facebook or email
  11. The Twins have been wrapped up in a mess of a situation during their series with the White Sox and everything ties back to baseball’s unwritten rules. Unfortunately, these unwritten rules are hurting the game and multiple parties looked foolish at the end of the day. How Did We Get Here? On Monday night, the Twins were getting blown out by the White Sox in the ninth inning. So instead of wasting another bullpen arm, Rocco Baldelli turned to Willians Astudillo to finish out the game. This is the third time La Tortuga has been used as a pitcher and his second time so far in 2021. Fans that had stuck around until the end gave Astudillo a cheer as he headed to the bump. Yermin Mercedes was one of the players to step in against Astudillo and this is where the unwritten rules come into play. After working the count to 3-0, Mercedes clocked a 47.1 mph pitch for a home run. The unwritten rule that seemed to be broken was the fact that Mercedes swung at a 3-0 pitch when his team was up by 11 runs. Chicago’s manager Tony La Russa, a Hall of Famer with an old school mentality, was not too happy about Mercedes swinging away. The take sign had been put on by the third base coach and Mercedes decided to ignore it. La Russa told the press it was a “big mistake,” and he even took some steps out of the dugout so he could yell at his batter to take the pitch. La Russa went as far as to say that he or his third base coach will run out in front of the pitcher to stop this type of thing from happening again. On Tuesday, things went a step further. In the seventh inning, Tyler Duffey threw behind Mercedes in the seventh inning and he was promptly thrown out of the game. Twins manager Rocco Baldelli quickly came to the defense of his player and he was ejected along with Duffey. And so, the saga continued… What About the Unwritten Rules? An old school mentality would say the Twins upheld the unwritten rules by throwing near the offending player in the next game. Duffey didn’t throw near his head or with an intent to injury Mercedes. Minnesota was trailing by two at the time and came back to win, so maybe the baseball gods were rewarding the team for upholding the unwritten rules. That being said, it seemed like a foolish thing for the Twins to lose one of their best relievers in a close game, especially with how poorly the team had been playing. After the game, former Twin Lance Lynn had some interesting things to say about the baseball’s unwritten rules. "The more I play this game, the more those rules have gone away, and I understand it,” Lynn said. “The way I see it is, for position players on the mound, there are no rules. Let's get the damn game over with. And if you have a problem with whatever happens, then put a pitcher out there. Can't get mad when there's a position player on the field and a guy takes a swing." Lynn went on to say, “You're damned if you do, damned if you don't, it seems like. But I think everybody should just play the game as hard as they can and do all that, and don't worry about anything else." This seems like a mentality that both sides can agree with moving forward. Play the game hard and hopefully some of those unwritten rules will continue to go to the wayside. What are your thoughts on the unwritten rules? Leave a COMMENT and start the discussion. MORE FROM TWINS DAILY — Latest Twins coverage from our writers — Recent Twins discussion in our forums — Follow Twins Daily via Twitter, Facebook or email View full article
  12. If you're expected to win, and then fail to do so in spectacular fashion, people are going to have thoughts. It's also safe to assume that those thoughts don't stay surface level for very long. For the 2021 Twins, the last few weeks have been a long trudge past the acceptance of things as they are, and have begun to approach the next station down the line: Why? "Why" is an important question that has consumed the game of baseball since its creation. It is a question that drives everyone involved in the game and almost everyone that follows it. Careers are made and broken attempting to answer it. Out of all the major spectator sports in the world, baseball is one of the most random, volatile, and unpredictable. The best team in the league facing off against the worst still isn't as heavy a favorite as you might expect. This makes answering the question even more important. But this game has been played for over a century, and despite front offices being invaded by every Ivy League sabermatrician with programming experience, there's a lot about the game that just cannot be accounted for. It is within this vacuum that narrative begins to form, and like a gas, expand to fill every available inch of social media. Our emotional investment in the Twins demands an attempt to make sense of a senseless sequence. Words like "implosion" don't feel adequate, because it doesn't do justice to how much it feels like it's a force being inflicted upon the team, rather than the results of internal motivations. Regardless, we try and take an inventory of what hurts, and search for accountability. Is the roster underperforming? Unquestionably. I can't recall ever seeing so much of a single roster falling to the bottom 20% of their preseason projections with such synchrony. Are the Twins seeing their share of injuries? Yes, and then some. Are the Twins unlucky? According to the stats, they're the unluckiest in the league, and have a lot of production stats in common with the Oakland A's, who have more wins than the Twins have losses. Everything is happening, it's all bad, and it's happening all at once. And then, to rub salt in the wound, the White Sox got hot. They started their rebuild later, they were on a trajectory to give the Twins a bit more time to contend, and then they leapfrogged them in the standings while destroying them mercilessly along the way. They're doing this while also suffering from their best players sidelined and being managed by a guy who started his pro ball career when John F. Kennedy was in office, and hasn't updated his worldview since. Where the Twins are punished for their faults, the White Sox seem to glide through life. As a Twins fan, this was supposed to be our time, and the spotlight got stolen by the worst possible division rival. Watching all this transpire, attempting to process it, you're left holding the bag and being asked to put a nice neat bow on a morass of misfortune. Unable to wrap your arms around it, the narrative becomes more and more tempting. "The coaches are too calm, they need to fire up this team and yell more!" "Rocco's lost the clubhouse, it's time to fire him." "The players don't want it enough!" Any time you hear missives like these, and they aren't accompanied by direct evidence from the clubhouse or a credible source, Colin Cowherd-sized alarm bells should start going off in your head. You are being asked to accept generalities to rationalize a giant sea of inexplicable fate. Explaining data points by assuming the motives of strangers is a task that should be reserved for criminal profilers, not Twins Twitter. Kenta Maeda isn't struggling because of some nebulous lack of leadership, it's because he's lost the ability to locate his slider. There's a notable clip from ESPN's First Take in 2012, when Mark Cuban came onto the show, and used every available moment to go after Skip Bayless and his notions of 'narrative'. Throughout the exchange, Cuban lays out his argument for why statements like how the one team "played harder" aren't worth the airtime they're eventually given- because they're not backed up by any meaningful data and are fueled by apathy at best, and intentional ignorance at worst. If you want to convince me how the Twins got to 13-26 and have someone to blame, you're going to have to do a lot more than sell me on a lack of motivation, clubhouse chemistry, or some kind of failing strategic approach, because in the words of Kronk, it doesn't make any sense. Baseball is a cruel game. You can assemble the same roster and play the same way, and end up with radically different results by the end of the season. I have a hard time finding obvious fatal flaws in the approach by the front office, management, or the players themselves. Sure, I'll always agree that ownership could stand to spend some more money, but a few million dollars doesn't magically repair Byron Buxton's hamstring, and it doesn't solve why any game that doesn't go exactly 9 innings becomes an automatic loss. I'm not angry at the team, the coaches, or the FO. I'm just sad. This roster- and by extension, this fanbase- deserves better than the hand they've been dealt, right as the window of contention seemed to be opening wide (and, by some accounts, ahead of schedule). And now, after six weeks of unprecedented horror- which is saying something for a team with this kind of history- the voices are growing louder that it's time to pack it in and start over from scratch. All that said, I'm going to continue rooting for this team. They clearly want it enough. The clubhouse knows what they're capable of, and would love the opportunity to showcase it, if fate and luck would just get out of the goddamn way. In the meantime, I'll be watching, and screaming into the nearest pillow every time a barreled ball goes straight at an opposing fielder. The Twins are dead. Long live the Twins.
  13. Once again, the 2021 Minnesota Twins game script played out in Chicago on Tuesday night. Despite a three-run blast by Yasmani Grandal, Kenta Maeda had settled in. Rocco Baldelli pulled him after the 5th inning, only for the bullpen to immediately cough up the lead. Starters, relievers, anyone? Is there anyone the Twins can trust? Rocco Baldelli’s bullpen is hot garbage. The front office brought in Hansel Robles and Alex Colome this offseason. Both are decent signings, but there wasn’t much in the form of additional firepower. Robles had question marks as to whether he could regain previous form, and Colome was certainly a candidate for regression (although not this far). With holdovers like Tyler Duffey and Cody Stashak taking steps backwards, it’s become Taylor Rogers or bust. We’re now over 30 games into the season and the same trends are continuing on a nightly basis. No bullpen in baseball, save for the Tigers, is on par with the Twins futility. Their strand rate is dead last, they’ve accounted for an MLB worst 12 losses, and their ERA is the fourth worst in the sport. Why then does the skipper continue turning to them more often than he has to? Yes, numbers absolutely suggest that the more times a lineup sees a starter, the more likely you’re going to run into trouble. The problem for the Twins is that they’ve been so risk averse with their starters, that the onus of each additional out placed on the relief corps only heightens the likelihood of problems. Going back through the 33 games played to this point, I highlighted 11 different starts that seemed questionable scenarios to lift the pitcher. Not once did the starter have more than 88 pitches thrown, multiple times they were under 80, and in none of those instances had they allowed more than three runs. Six of those situations included the bullpen being activated in the 6th inning, with another four of them being 7th inning activations. That means the worst unit in the league is being asked to get something between 9-12 outs or at least 33% of a total game, despite the starter being in a good spot. It’s also understandable that Rocco Baldelli would be hesitant to run a starter out for another inning and face the problem of bringing in relief help with runners on. Remember, this group allows inherited runners to score at an alarming pace, so bringing someone in without a clean inning only ratchets the difficulty of their task. At some point though, there has to be a shift in philosophy when it comes to finding a way that works. Minnesota has an awful bullpen and we’ve seen that reflected by in game results on a near nightly basis to this point. The starters aren’t world beaters by any means but letting a guy with 85 pitches in the 5th or 6th inning start the next half has to become more commonplace. You know the devil that is the relievers right now. We don’t really know the devil that is the starters quickly running into a wall. Allow that to also be broke before you try fixing something that hasn’t been there. It’s not April anymore, pitch counts reaching or exceeding 100 shouldn’t be a fear. The season might not be salvageable for the Twins at this point but trying a different strategy would certainly be a welcomed sign as opposed to practicing the definition of insanity. For more from Off The Baggy, click here. Follow @tlschwerz
  14. 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
  15. Plenty of things have gone wrong for the Twins so far including some important members of the bullpen struggling mightily out of the gate. While others will be relied on for late innings, one reliever might be the key to turning the bullpen around.Following a strong rookie campaign, Jorge Alcalá logically had higher expectations entering the 2021 campaign. Things haven’t gone perfectly to start the year, but with a couple of small changes, Alcalá might be the key to turning the Twins bullpen around. Last season, Alcalá appeared in 16 games and posted a 2.63 ERA with a 1.21 WHIP. He struck out nearly 29% of the batters he faced and posted a 163 ERA+. He ranked in the 75th percentile or higher in average exit velocity, hard hit %, barrel %, and K %. Based on those numbers, it was easy to envision Alcalá taking on a high leverage role at some point during the 2021 season. Alcalá has made seven appearances so far in 2021 and only two of those appearances have come in a Twins win. In fact, both of those wins were by six runs or more, so his role hasn’t been in the high leverage situations. On Sunday, Alcalá got five strikeouts in two innings including nine whiffs on 14 swings. This was a welcome sight after he entered play with a 20 K%, which was well below his career average. MLB Statcast has him ranked in the 40th percentile or lower in max exit velocity, hard hit %, xERA, xWOBA, xSLG. The most disturbing stat might be the fact that his barrel % ranks in the bottom 4% of the league as batters are barreling up the ball against him 17.6% of the time. One of the biggest reasons for these poor numbers so far this year might be tied to his pitch usage. During the 2020 season, Alcalá used his fastball and slider for nearly the same percentage of pitches. He used his four-seamer 46.4% of the time, while his slider was used 44.7% of the time. There has been a large increase in his fastball usage this year as he is up to 55%, which means his slider usage has dropped nearly seven points. It seems like increasing his slider usage would be a natural solution for avoiding more barrels. There’s no reason to throw Alcalá directly into a late inning role, especially with some of the other names ahead of him in the bullpen pecking order. That being said, he has been used in mostly low leverage situations or when the team was up big early in the season. He’s less experienced than other bullpen options, but look for his role to increase as the season progresses. Rocco Baldelli needs some arms he can rely on in the bullpen and Alcalá just might be the man to help turn the bullpen around in 2021. What do you think Alcalá can provide to the Twins? What should his role 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 Click here to view the article
  16. Following a strong rookie campaign, Jorge Alcalá logically had higher expectations entering the 2021 campaign. Things haven’t gone perfectly to start the year, but with a couple of small changes, Alcalá might be the key to turning the Twins bullpen around. Last season, Alcalá appeared in 16 games and posted a 2.63 ERA with a 1.21 WHIP. He struck out nearly 29% of the batters he faced and posted a 163 ERA+. He ranked in the 75th percentile or higher in average exit velocity, hard hit %, barrel %, and K %. Based on those numbers, it was easy to envision Alcalá taking on a high leverage role at some point during the 2021 season. Alcalá has made seven appearances so far in 2021 and only two of those appearances have come in a Twins win. In fact, both of those wins were by six runs or more, so his role hasn’t been in the high leverage situations. On Sunday, Alcalá got five strikeouts in two innings including nine whiffs on 14 swings. This was a welcome sight after he entered play with a 20 K%, which was well below his career average. MLB Statcast has him ranked in the 40th percentile or lower in max exit velocity, hard hit %, xERA, xWOBA, xSLG. The most disturbing stat might be the fact that his barrel % ranks in the bottom 4% of the league as batters are barreling up the ball against him 17.6% of the time. One of the biggest reasons for these poor numbers so far this year might be tied to his pitch usage. During the 2020 season, Alcalá used his fastball and slider for nearly the same percentage of pitches. He used his four-seamer 46.4% of the time, while his slider was used 44.7% of the time. There has been a large increase in his fastball usage this year as he is up to 55%, which means his slider usage has dropped nearly seven points. It seems like increasing his slider usage would be a natural solution for avoiding more barrels. There’s no reason to throw Alcalá directly into a late inning role, especially with some of the other names ahead of him in the bullpen pecking order. That being said, he has been used in mostly low leverage situations or when the team was up big early in the season. He’s less experienced than other bullpen options, but look for his role to increase as the season progresses. Rocco Baldelli needs some arms he can rely on in the bullpen and Alcalá just might be the man to help turn the bullpen around in 2021. What do you think Alcalá can provide to the Twins? What should his role 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
  17. Expectations are sky-high for Alex Kirilloff at the dawning of his big-league career. He made a heralded debut for the Twins in last year’s playoff series against the Astros and put together some strong at-bats after not appearing in a professional game for months. His prospect stock rose significantly based on positive reports of his performance at the team’s alternate site including being named Twins Daily’s top prospect. So far in 2021, his lone big-league appearance was as the team’s 27th man for a doubleheader against Boston. He made appearances in both games and ended the day 0-for-3 with a strikeout. It’s certainly hard to read anything into such a small sample size, but this was coming off the heels of a rough spring training where Kirilloff had an opportunity to win the starting left fielder job. In 12 games, he went 4-for-31 with two extra base hits and eight strikeouts. Even with a poor spring, Kirilloff is still going to have a ton of pressure placed on him when he takes over a regular starting role. It also doesn’t help that the Twins have been struggling in multiple facets of the game. Kirilloff’s presence might offer a small boost to the club. However, he can’t close out games in the ninth inning and his defensive value is limited whether he plays in the outfield or at first base. Luckily, the Twins have plenty of other more experience hitters to hit in the top half of the line-up. This can leave Kirilloff near the back of the batting order, so there is less pressure on him. In his only start, manager Rocco Baldelli penciled him into the sixth spot in the order and later in the game he was removed for a pinch hitter. This will allow him to get acclimated to the big leagues until he proves his bat is ready for this level. One wrinkle in the Kirilloff plan is finding him a defensive position as he joins the club. Reports from the team’s alternate site have Kirilloff playing extensively at first base. Miguel Sano is currently dealing with a tight right hamstring, so he might need time off and Kirilloff would be a natural choice, if/when he is called up. Baseball isn’t a game where one player can take over a game and sole-handedly push them to victory. For instance, look at Mike Trout and his big-league career. He is on a path to quite possibly be considered the best baseball player of all-time. During his 11-year career, the Angels have only qualified for the playoffs one time and they were swept by the Royals. Trout does things on the field that few have done before, but he can’t control every aspect of the game. Bryon Buxton had very high expectations when he was called up to take over a full-time role. Buxton seems to be in the midst of a break-out campaign, but it took time and patience for him to reach this level. It’s important not to rush to judgement with any young player, especially after many prospects saw little or no professional action during the 2020 season. Kirilloff is on track to have a long big-league career, but he alone can’t fix everything that has been going wrong for the Twins in 2021. Minnesota fans are frustrated, but Kirilloff shouldn’t bear the brunt of that negativity if he struggles out of the gate. He’s a long-term building block and not a savior for the franchise. Are expectations too high for Kirilloff? What do you think he can add to the team? 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
  18. COVID cancellations, key players sidelined by injuries, and several crushing losses: It was a rough week for Twins baseball. Let's review it, and try to figure out where we go from here. Weekly Snapshot: Mon, 4/12 through Sun, 4/18 *** Record Last Week: 1-4 (Overall: 6-8) Run Differential Last Week: -15 (Overall: +6) Standing: 4th Place in AL Central Last Week's Game Recaps: Game 10 | BOS 4, MIN 2: More Missed Opportunities, Another Blown LeadGame 11 | BOS 3, MIN 2: Twins Swept by Red Sox, Slip Deeper Into SlumpGame 12 | BOS 7, MIN 1: Twins Swept by Red Sox, Slip Deeper Into SlumpGame 13 | MIN 4, BOS 3: Twins Snap Losing Streak Despite Another Blown LeadGame 14 | LAA 10, MIN 3: Upton Slam Sinks Struggling TwinsNEWS & NOTES Lest anyone thought we'd moved beyond the dangers and disruptions of a global pandemic, this past week for the Twins served as a sobering reminder that COVID-19 is very much still raging in our society, and pro sports are not immune (especially when partially-distributed vaccinations have yet to take full effect). On Wednesday, Andrelton Simmons tested positive and was placed on the COVID-19 IL. The following two days were both thrown into doubt as chaos ensued with pre-game false positives, and on Saturday, mounting fears came to roost. The Twins registered multiple positive tests in their Tier-1 group (including Kyle Garlick and another as-yet-unnamed player), shutting down the rest of their series against the Angels and leaving the upcoming trip to Oakland in limbo. Outside of the virus outbreak, the Twins had some other high-profile health issues. As soon as Josh Donaldson returned from his hamstring injury, Byron Buxton suffered one of his own, sitting out four straight games from Wednesday through Friday with what was described as a minor strain. So far, in a season where we were all so eager to see those two together in the lineup, it hasn't really happened yet. On the bright side, Buxton was slated to play on Saturday night before the game was axed, so he should be fine once the Twins get going again. Perhaps the extra time off for his legs will be a hidden silver lining of an extremely unfortunate situation. In other roster moves, the carousel at the end of the bullpen is already spinning, as expected. Brandon Waddell was optioned on Wednesday to make room for Donaldson. The next day, Cody Stashak was optioned and replaced for one game by Shaun Anderson, who was himself sent out the following day to make room for Friday night's starter Lewis Thorpe. Thorpe went back down after making his spot start, with Devin Smeltzer arriving to fill in as long reliever. It's probably just gonna be like this all year for the relief corps. Buckle up. HIGHLIGHTS In a week sparse on highlights and happy moments, Michael Pineda came through in a big way. His seven shutout innings against Boston on Thursday helped the Twins secure their only victory of the week, avoiding a sweep at home. In his finest start yet as a Twin, Big Mike cruised through seven frames on 88 pitches, striking out six and walking one with two singles allowed. A red-hot Boston lineup could never really mount a threat against Pineda as he pounded the zone with quality fastballs and then attacked with sharp sliders. LOWLIGHTS Aside from the smattering of encouraging developments above, the past seven days were a flurry of almost nonstop bad news for the Twins, both on the field and off it. The gravity of the latter outweighs the former so heavily, it feels pointless to pick apart individual performances in an almost universally ugly 1-4 stretch. Suffice to say that the offense as a whole slashed .228/.316/.282 with five doubles, one home run, and 12 runs scored in five games. With runners in scoring position they put up a putrid .175/.271/.200 line. Meanwhile, the bullpen posted a collective 9.19 ERA, with almost every reliever taking part in a series of poorly-timed implosions. Rocco Baldelli made a number of borderline decisions, and basically every one went the wrong way. With all that's going on, I find it difficult to hold these struggles against the manager or team. Beginning with Simmons on Wednesday, the Twins dealt with an endless onslaught of stress and drama, sparked by positive tests both legitimate and illegitimate. Beyond the mental distractions stemming from all this, the ability of players to prepare for games and go through normal routines was impeded. It's all bad. You just hope they can use this immense challenge as an opportunity to come together, rest up, and hit the ground running as they seek to turn around one of the most confounding team-wide slumps of Baldelli's tenure. More than anything, you hope there's no further spread, and that all who've been affected by this outbreak can recover quickly and fully. TRENDING STORYLINE Obviously, the overarching and all-consuming storyline is: when will the Twins play again? But within that, the status and outlook for Alex Kirilloff becomes a pivotal thread. Kirilloff came and went quickly on Thursday, joining as 27th man for the doubleheader and taking three hitless plate appearances before returning to the alternate site. But there's certainly an argument the Twins could've benefited from keeping him around, given the wavering availability of Buxton and the ongoing struggles of Jake Cave. One way or another, it's only a matter of time. Within the next few days, and perhaps before the team even plays again, Kirilloff will reach the point where it becomes impossible for him to accrue a full year of major-league service this season, meaning there's no reason to keep him down unless the Twins don't think he's ready or don't think he can help. That's becoming a tougher and tougher case to make, especially since they know they'll be without Garlick (at least) for some time. LOOKING AHEAD With Monday's series opener in Oakland already canceled, the tentative plan is for a traditional doubleheader on Tuesday – the second in a weeklong span for the Twins. Keyword: tentative. If they play then, it's anyone's guess how they might handle their rotation. Matt Shoemaker was due up on Saturday but with all the days off, the Twins have the option to skip him and J.A. Happ, starting both José Berríos and Kenta Maeda on five days rest. Then again, everyone needs their work and there's nothing wrong with getting the top two arms a little extra rest here early in the season. So I'd expect Shoemaker and Happ to start on Tuesday. Next weekend the Twins are scheduled to return home for a quick one-off series against the Pirates, but with Minneapolis bracing for the potential fallout of a verdict in the Derek Chauvin murder trial in the days ahead, that series carries its own cloud of uncertainty. Stay tuned and we'll keep you updated on things as they develop. But be ready for a weird week. TUESDAY, 4/20 (G1): TWINS @ ATHLETICS – TBD v. RHP Jesus Luzardo TUESDAY, 4/20 (G2): TWINS @ ATHLETICS – TBD v. LHP Sean Manaea WEDNESDAY, 4/21: TWINS @ ATHLETICS – TBD v. RHP Frankie Montas FRIDAY, 4/23: PIRATES @ TWINS – RHP Trevor Cahill v. TBD SATURDAY, 4/24: PIRATES @ TWINS – RHP Chad Kuhl v. TBD SUNDAY, 4/25: PIRATES @ TWINS – LHP Tyler Anderson v. TBD MORE FROM TWINS DAILY — Latest Twins coverage from our writers — Recent Twins discussion in our forums — Follow Twins Daily via Twitter, Facebook or email Click here to view the article
  19. Weekly Snapshot: Mon, 4/12 through Sun, 4/18 *** Record Last Week: 1-4 (Overall: 6-8) Run Differential Last Week: -15 (Overall: +6) Standing: 4th Place in AL Central Last Week's Game Recaps: Game 10 | BOS 4, MIN 2: More Missed Opportunities, Another Blown Lead Game 11 | BOS 3, MIN 2: Twins Swept by Red Sox, Slip Deeper Into Slump Game 12 | BOS 7, MIN 1: Twins Swept by Red Sox, Slip Deeper Into Slump Game 13 | MIN 4, BOS 3: Twins Snap Losing Streak Despite Another Blown Lead Game 14 | LAA 10, MIN 3: Upton Slam Sinks Struggling Twins NEWS & NOTES Lest anyone thought we'd moved beyond the dangers and disruptions of a global pandemic, this past week for the Twins served as a sobering reminder that COVID-19 is very much still raging in our society, and pro sports are not immune (especially when partially-distributed vaccinations have yet to take full effect). On Wednesday, Andrelton Simmons tested positive and was placed on the COVID-19 IL. The following two days were both thrown into doubt as chaos ensued with pre-game false positives, and on Saturday, mounting fears came to roost. The Twins registered multiple positive tests in their Tier-1 group (including Kyle Garlick and another as-yet-unnamed player), shutting down the rest of their series against the Angels and leaving the upcoming trip to Oakland in limbo. Outside of the virus outbreak, the Twins had some other high-profile health issues. As soon as Josh Donaldson returned from his hamstring injury, Byron Buxton suffered one of his own, sitting out four straight games from Wednesday through Friday with what was described as a minor strain. So far, in a season where we were all so eager to see those two together in the lineup, it hasn't really happened yet. On the bright side, Buxton was slated to play on Saturday night before the game was axed, so he should be fine once the Twins get going again. Perhaps the extra time off for his legs will be a hidden silver lining of an extremely unfortunate situation. In other roster moves, the carousel at the end of the bullpen is already spinning, as expected. Brandon Waddell was optioned on Wednesday to make room for Donaldson. The next day, Cody Stashak was optioned and replaced for one game by Shaun Anderson, who was himself sent out the following day to make room for Friday night's starter Lewis Thorpe. Thorpe went back down after making his spot start, with Devin Smeltzer arriving to fill in as long reliever. It's probably just gonna be like this all year for the relief corps. Buckle up. HIGHLIGHTS In a week sparse on highlights and happy moments, Michael Pineda came through in a big way. His seven shutout innings against Boston on Thursday helped the Twins secure their only victory of the week, avoiding a sweep at home. In his finest start yet as a Twin, Big Mike cruised through seven frames on 88 pitches, striking out six and walking one with two singles allowed. A red-hot Boston lineup could never really mount a threat against Pineda as he pounded the zone with quality fastballs and then attacked with sharp sliders. https://twitter.com/PitchingNinja/status/1382773544363425792 Through three starts, Pineda has a 1.00 ERA and 17-to-3 K/BB ratio, holding opponents to a .159/.194/.270 slash line. He gave up a pair of solo homers against Seattle in his second start but those are the only earned runs he has allowed. Just phenomenal work on the mound. The Twins are now 23-11 behind him since he joined the team. https://twitter.com/AlexFast8/status/1383048350799441925 Some other highlights to take away from a tough week: While Miguel Sanó's swing still isn't quite dialed in, and he's not quite connecting on pitches he should, he's getting closer. This was evidenced by a big home run in Thursday's win. Narrowly missing the sweet spot is all that's holding Sanó back, because his plate approach is locked in. The first baseman walked (6) twice as much as he struck out (3) in 16 plate appearances. A breakout in production seems imminent. Donaldson's return to the lineup went about as well as one could have hoped. He tested his legs immediately, sprinting from first to third and then subsequently to home plate on a sac fly. JD came out of it fine, and went 3-for-6 with a walk and RBI in his two starts. Thorpe answered the call in Anaheim, delivering four quality innings against a tough lineup, with some notable highlights – including a three-pitch strikeout of Mike Trout. It ultimately wasn't enough, as the bullpen collapsed following his departure, but so far Thorpe's 2021 redemption tour is off to a good start. Even in a very poor week by his own standards (he went hitless in four of five starts), Luis Arraez was a big factor, carrying the offense single-handedly in Minnesota's lone win. Arraez tallied four hits, drove in two, and scored the winning run in a 4-3 squeaker. He also displayed some highly impressive instincts on the basepaths. (His form on the slide, however, could use some work.) https://twitter.com/AaronGleeman/status/1382800822870945801 LOWLIGHTS Aside from the smattering of encouraging developments above, the past seven days were a flurry of almost nonstop bad news for the Twins, both on the field and off it. The gravity of the latter outweighs the former so heavily, it feels pointless to pick apart individual performances in an almost universally ugly 1-4 stretch. Suffice to say that the offense as a whole slashed .228/.316/.282 with five doubles, one home run, and 12 runs scored in five games. With runners in scoring position they put up a putrid .175/.271/.200 line. Meanwhile, the bullpen posted a collective 9.19 ERA, with almost every reliever taking part in a series of poorly-timed implosions. Rocco Baldelli made a number of borderline decisions, and basically every one went the wrong way. With all that's going on, I find it difficult to hold these struggles against the manager or team. Beginning with Simmons on Wednesday, the Twins dealt with an endless onslaught of stress and drama, sparked by positive tests both legitimate and illegitimate. Beyond the mental distractions stemming from all this, the ability of players to prepare for games and go through normal routines was impeded. It's all bad. You just hope they can use this immense challenge as an opportunity to come together, rest up, and hit the ground running as they seek to turn around one of the most confounding team-wide slumps of Baldelli's tenure. More than anything, you hope there's no further spread, and that all who've been affected by this outbreak can recover quickly and fully. TRENDING STORYLINE Obviously, the overarching and all-consuming storyline is: when will the Twins play again? But within that, the status and outlook for Alex Kirilloff becomes a pivotal thread. Kirilloff came and went quickly on Thursday, joining as 27th man for the doubleheader and taking three hitless plate appearances before returning to the alternate site. But there's certainly an argument the Twins could've benefited from keeping him around, given the wavering availability of Buxton and the ongoing struggles of Jake Cave. One way or another, it's only a matter of time. Within the next few days, and perhaps before the team even plays again, Kirilloff will reach the point where it becomes impossible for him to accrue a full year of major-league service this season, meaning there's no reason to keep him down unless the Twins don't think he's ready or don't think he can help. That's becoming a tougher and tougher case to make, especially since they know they'll be without Garlick (at least) for some time. LOOKING AHEAD With Monday's series opener in Oakland already canceled, the tentative plan is for a traditional doubleheader on Tuesday – the second in a weeklong span for the Twins. Keyword: tentative. If they play then, it's anyone's guess how they might handle their rotation. Matt Shoemaker was due up on Saturday but with all the days off, the Twins have the option to skip him and J.A. Happ, starting both José Berríos and Kenta Maeda on five days rest. Then again, everyone needs their work and there's nothing wrong with getting the top two arms a little extra rest here early in the season. So I'd expect Shoemaker and Happ to start on Tuesday. Next weekend the Twins are scheduled to return home for a quick one-off series against the Pirates, but with Minneapolis bracing for the potential fallout of a verdict in the Derek Chauvin murder trial in the days ahead, that series carries its own cloud of uncertainty. Stay tuned and we'll keep you updated on things as they develop. But be ready for a weird week. TUESDAY, 4/20 (G1): TWINS @ ATHLETICS – TBD v. RHP Jesus Luzardo TUESDAY, 4/20 (G2): TWINS @ ATHLETICS – TBD v. LHP Sean Manaea WEDNESDAY, 4/21: TWINS @ ATHLETICS – TBD v. RHP Frankie Montas FRIDAY, 4/23: PIRATES @ TWINS – RHP Trevor Cahill v. TBD SATURDAY, 4/24: PIRATES @ TWINS – RHP Chad Kuhl v. TBD SUNDAY, 4/25: PIRATES @ TWINS – LHP Tyler Anderson v. TBD MORE FROM TWINS DAILY — Latest Twins coverage from our writers — Recent Twins discussion in our forums — Follow Twins Daily via Twitter, Facebook or email
  20. Entering the offseason, it seemed likely for Dobnak to be penciled into the back end of the Twins’ starting rotation. Minnesota had three pitchers slated to begin the year as starters and Dobnak seemed to be at least guaranteed a shot at the fifth rotational spot. That plan was altered after the club signed J.A. Happ and Matt Shoemaker. Then the question was raised about whether Dobnak should be pitching out of the bullpen or be sent to the alternate site to continue to be stretched out as a starter. The Twins’ brass felt like Dobnak and his newly signed contract were a better fit as the bullpen’s long man, but the numbers point to this being a poor decision. Entering play on Wednesday, Dobnak had appeared in 22 big-league games with 15 coming as a starter and seven coming in relief. As a starter, he has a 3.41 ERA with a 43 to 18 strikeout to walk ratio while holding batters to a .645 OPS. His relief appearances have resulted in a 4.20 ERA with batters compiling an .870 OPS in almost 70 plate appearances. This isn’t exactly a large sample size, but his numbers as a starter are clearly better. Also, Minnesota has been using Dobnak in situations where he can continue to stay stretched out. He has been limited to just three appearances this year, because the Twins have only seen three of their games decided by more than two runs. This doesn’t exactly lend itself to naturally using a long man out of the bullpen, because Rocco Baldelli has turned to more of his high leverage arms in close and late game scenarios. https://twitter.com/MatthewTaylorMN/status/1382323416234086407?s=20 Having Dobnak stretched out will be useful since the team has 11 games over the next 10 days and the current starters won’t be able to make all of those starts. On the TV broadcast, Justin Morneau alluded to the fact that Dobnak will make a start during the next week. That being said, it’s hard to imagine him being able to pitch deep into a game since he hasn’t started since early in spring training. For Dobnak to get more relief opportunities, it might be beneficial for the Twins to separate Happ and Shoemaker in the rotation. Those two starters are the ones he is most likely going to piggyback with since neither are expected to pitch deep into games on a regular basis. Currently, they pitch on back-to-back days and that doesn’t allow Dobnak to piggyback for both of them Teams are using a variety of strategies this year to cover innings and piggybacking those two starters might be a strategy the Twins will need to start using. There’s likely going to be a time this season where Dobnak is going to be needed in the rotation. For now, his role in the bullpen needs to be altered so he can find more success. Do you think Dobnak should continue to be used as a reliver? Leave a COMMENT and start the discussion. MORE FROM TWINS DAILY — Latest Twins coverage from our writers — Recent Twins discussion in our forums — Follow Twins Daily via Twitter, Facebook or email
  21. Things have been complicated from the start with Alex Kirilloff. Under the baseball’s current CBA, it’s in a team’s best interest to keep a young player in the minor leagues so the club can pick up an extra year of service time. As a side note, MLB and the MLBPA will need to work out a new CBA and this issue is likely one that will be addressed and possibly changed. There has been some indication that the Twins were willing to ignore this current practice as they have said that Kirilloff will have every opportunity to make the Opening Day roster, but his performance hasn’t pushed him ahead of others. Entering play on Monday, he has gone 4-for-31 (.129 BA) with two extra-base hits and an eight to one strikeout to walk ratio. His lone home run was a massive 420 foot shot and it came off a left-handed pitcher, so that’s one offensive positive from the spring. https://twitter.com/SlangsOnSports/status/1370079829354237956?s=20 Minnesota has clearly been getting their roster ready for Opening Day including lining up the rotation and using batting orders that will be similar to the regular season. In the last two “Opening Day” line-ups, Brent Rooker has been used as the starting left fielder and he has been having a much stronger spring. He is hitting .381/.391/.667 with three doubles and a home run. Rooker is considered a rookie too, but he is already 26-years old so there is less of an urgency to pick up an extra year of service time. Rooker isn’t the only option in left field as Kyle Garlick has been making his presence known in the Twins line-up. Entering play on Monday, he has gone 9-for-24 with four home runs and a double. This spring he leads the team in home runs, RBI, slugging percentage, and OPS. Garlick and Rooker both have minor league options remaining, so that can play into the team’s decision as well. Another wrinkle in this equation is the fact that the Triple-A season was pushed back a month with Opening Day scheduled for May 4. This means Kirilloff can’t go to Triple-A to get in more work and he already missed a full season of development in 2020. St. Paul will be used as an alternate site before the Triple-A season starts, so he can get into a routine there and be called up whenever the team feels he is ready. Minnesota might be ready to see what Kirilloff can do at the big-league level. Twins manager Rocco Baldelli hasn’t been referring to Kirilloff in future tense anymore, because he has done almost everything he needs to prove he is MLB ready. "It's not exactly potential," Baldelli said. "He just hasn't had the opportunities yet at the Major League level to show what he can do. We think he's already a good offensive player. He's handled himself really well.” Kirilloff’s defensive flexibility might also help his chances of making the Opening Day roster. He is athletic enough to play in a corner outfield spot, but he also has a chance to be very good at first base. His defensive value is higher than Rooker and Garlick, so that might make up for his poor offensive numbers. Spring training offers such a small sample size that the numbers produced by players need to be taken with a grain of salt. Kirilloff has struggled, but he still has an opportunity to come north with the club for Opening Day. Do you think Kirilloff cracks the Opening Day roster? Are you worried about his spring performance? Leave a COMMENT and start the discussion. MORE FROM TWINS DAILY — Latest Twins coverage from our writers — Recent Twins discussion in our forums — Follow Twins Daily via Twitter, Facebook or email
  22. Minnesota’s front office noticed some with Dobnak’s slider and suggest a small change. By keeping his hand in a more supinated position, he can get more break on his slider and keep hitters off balanced. Over the weekend, he threw three scoreless innings and struck out six of the 10 batters he faced. “It plays really well off my sinker, so we’re just trying to kind of get more break in between it,” Dobnak told reporters after the game. “Trying to create the tunnel and have it break apart more. But I threw it pretty well today, so I’m pretty satisfied with where I am with that.” Dobnak had been working on the tweak for a little over a week and batters were clearly not prepared for the pitch (even against last year’s AL pennant winners). He’s used it in two games so far and he has yet to allow a run in either appearance. While he has been pitching well this spring, Minnesota’s rotation seems to be full to start the year and this leaves Dobnak’s role up in the air. The five starters slated to be in Minnesota’s Opening Day rotation are Kenta Maeda, Jose Berrios, Michael Pineda, Matt Shoemaker, and J.A. Happ. Out of those names, Happ is a little behind the others as he missed the beginning of camp after testing positive for COVID-19. Dobnak can follow Happ in his starts at the beginning of the year as he increases his workload, but even Twins manager Rocco Baldelli doesn’t quite know what role Dobnak will fill. “[Dobnak] has established himself as a quality member of our pitching staff,” Baldelli said. “One way or the other, wherever he slots in, however he gets his innings, I’m pretty sure we are going to find a way to get him involved and let him pitch us to some wins. Exactly how that’s going to go from Opening Day on, I couldn’t tell you at this moment.” Another wrinkle in the Dobnak’s roster spot is the yet to be decided fourth option for Lewis Thorpe. If Thorpe is out of options, the team may need to keep him on the 26-man roster to avoid losing him for on waivers. Dobnak has multiple options remaining and this would allow him to continue to be stretched out as a starter if an injury were to arise in the season’s early games. In the last Twins Daily roster projection, Dobnak made the Opening Day roster and Thorpe was left off, because it had been widely reported that he would be granted a fourth option. Dobnak and Thorpe can easily swap places as the bullpen’s long man. Caleb Thielbar, who appeared in his first spring game on Monday, has also been dealing with a back injury, so there’s a chance he starts the year on the IL. If that happened, Dobnak and Thorpe can both have bullpen spots. Over the course of the 2021 campaign, Dobnak’s role will likely take on multiple forms. Shoemaker is going to have to prove he deserves to stay in the rotation, because the Twins don’t have a ton invested in him. Dobnak will relieve and start at different parts of the season, but his new slider might make it tough to keep him in the bullpen for very long. What do you think Dobnak’s role will be in 2021? Leave a COMMENT and start the discussion. MORE FROM TWINS DAILY — Latest Twins coverage from our writers — Recent Twins discussion in our forums — Follow Twins Daily via Twitter, Facebook or email
  23. Randy Dobnak hasn’t exactly been known as a strikeout artist throughout his big-league career, but sometimes all it takes is one small adjustment. What will a new and improved slider mean for Dobnak’s role in 2021? Minnesota’s front office noticed some with Dobnak’s slider and suggest a small change. By keeping his hand in a more supinated position, he can get more break on his slider and keep hitters off balanced. Over the weekend, he threw three scoreless innings and struck out six of the 10 batters he faced. “It plays really well off my sinker, so we’re just trying to kind of get more break in between it,” Dobnak told reporters after the game. “Trying to create the tunnel and have it break apart more. But I threw it pretty well today, so I’m pretty satisfied with where I am with that.” Dobnak had been working on the tweak for a little over a week and batters were clearly not prepared for the pitch (even against last year’s AL pennant winners). He’s used it in two games so far and he has yet to allow a run in either appearance. While he has been pitching well this spring, Minnesota’s rotation seems to be full to start the year and this leaves Dobnak’s role up in the air. The five starters slated to be in Minnesota’s Opening Day rotation are Kenta Maeda, Jose Berrios, Michael Pineda, Matt Shoemaker, and J.A. Happ. Out of those names, Happ is a little behind the others as he missed the beginning of camp after testing positive for COVID-19. Dobnak can follow Happ in his starts at the beginning of the year as he increases his workload, but even Twins manager Rocco Baldelli doesn’t quite know what role Dobnak will fill. “[Dobnak] has established himself as a quality member of our pitching staff,” Baldelli said. “One way or the other, wherever he slots in, however he gets his innings, I’m pretty sure we are going to find a way to get him involved and let him pitch us to some wins. Exactly how that’s going to go from Opening Day on, I couldn’t tell you at this moment.” Another wrinkle in the Dobnak’s roster spot is the yet to be decided fourth option for Lewis Thorpe. If Thorpe is out of options, the team may need to keep him on the 26-man roster to avoid losing him for on waivers. Dobnak has multiple options remaining and this would allow him to continue to be stretched out as a starter if an injury were to arise in the season’s early games. In the last Twins Daily roster projection, Dobnak made the Opening Day roster and Thorpe was left off, because it had been widely reported that he would be granted a fourth option. Dobnak and Thorpe can easily swap places as the bullpen’s long man. Caleb Thielbar, who appeared in his first spring game on Monday, has also been dealing with a back injury, so there’s a chance he starts the year on the IL. If that happened, Dobnak and Thorpe can both have bullpen spots. Over the course of the 2021 campaign, Dobnak’s role will likely take on multiple forms. Shoemaker is going to have to prove he deserves to stay in the rotation, because the Twins don’t have a ton invested in him. Dobnak will relieve and start at different parts of the season, but his new slider might make it tough to keep him in the bullpen for very long. What do you think Dobnak’s role will be in 2021? 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
  24. To be clear, the Twins and manager Rocco Baldelli aren’t going to name a closer. As baseball continues to rethink how bullpens can best be utilized, the Twins are going to look at matchups and put their players in the best opportunities to succeed. That being said, the four players below are the likely candidates to be considered the team’s closer. Taylor Rogers, LHP Career Saves: 41 Rogers was one of the most dominant relievers during the 2018 and 2019 seasons as he took over Minnesota’s closer role. Even with struggles last season, his peripheral numbers point to some bad luck leading to his poor performance. His .400 BABIP was over 70 points higher than any other season. Also, his 10.8 SO/9 was his second highest rate of his career. One pitch to keep an eye on is his slider and the results have been good so far this spring. Twins fans can hope he is back to his old self and the rest of the players on this list are used as set-up men leading into Rogers. Alex Colome, RHP Career Saves: 138 Chicago’s loss is Minnesota’s gain as Colome has been one of the best relievers in recent years. He has the most saves of any player on the Twins staff and he won’t shy away from a late-inning role. With uncertainly surrounding other players on this list, Colome seems like the natural choice to pick up most of the team’s save opportunities. However, relief pitchers can be fickle and maybe there is a bigger reason the White Sox let him go. His 6.4 SO/9 mark from last year was his lowest total since becoming a full-time reliever. If Wes Johnson can work his magic, Colome has a chance to be the team’s leader in saves. Tyler Duffey, RHP Career Saves: 1 Duffey was the team’s best relief pitcher in 2020 and the second half of 2019, but he has been given limited save opportunities. One of the reasons he hasn’t gotten those chance is because he has been so successful being used in a fireman role. Because of the other names on this list, he will likely stay in that role. So far this spring, his velocity has been lower than the team might like, but there is still time to figure it out before the team heads north. If he can’t figure it out, the Twins will have to rely on other arms to take over his important innings. https://twitter.com/IAmRickGraham/status/1370476048488529929?s=20 Hansel Robels, RHP Career Saves: 27 Robels struggled in 2020 and that’s one of the reasons the Twins were able to sign him for a relatively cheap deal. Back in 2019, he compiled strong numbers as the Angels primary closer with a 2.48 ERA, 1.02 WHIP and 9.3 SO/9. Last year, albeit in on 16.2 innings, he allowed 19 earned runs, but he posted a career high 10.8 SO/9. It seems more likely for the players listed above to get the majority of the save opportunities, but Robels has some experience, and the Twins can always turn to him if other relievers are struggling at some point during the season. Who do you think will be considered Minnesota’s primary closer in 2021? 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. FORT MYERS - There aren’t a lot of meaningful spring training battle in Twins' camp on the field, but there may be one in the lineup.The pivot point in the Twins' lineup comes early, very early. It’s the leadoff hitter. Go one direction, and the lineup looks one way. Go the other, and it looks very different. For the last two years, that leadoff hitter has mostly been Max Kepler, but coming into the season, there were two significant challenges to that status quo: Luis Arraez Is Healthy Arraez is expected to get a lot of at-bats as a multi-positional player. Arraez isn’t exactly a prototypical leadoff hitter because he doesn’t walk a ton, and doesn’t bring a lot of speed to the bases. But he battles and he gets on base: at a .390 clip in his 487 career plate appearances. Arraez is fearless, and an asset almost anywhere except the heart of the lineup. “He's an on-base machine, a line-drive machine," gushed Twins manager Rocco Baldelli this week. “He's a throwback. You don't see a lot of guys with the skills he does with the bat in his hands.” An on-base machine would be a logical fit for the top spot in the lineup. Especially when the left-handed hitting 23-year-old would likely bat right in front of right-handed hitting Josh Donaldson and Nelson Cruz. Eddie Rosario Is Gone The Twins have a hole to fill in the middle of their lineup with the departure of left-handed hitting Eddie Rosario. Rosario batted fourth for the vast majority of his plate appearances the last two years. He’ll likely be replaced in the outfield with left-handed hitting Alex Kirilloff, but odds are the Twins would thrust cleanup on a rookie making his (regular season) debut this year. With Rosario gone, the best left-handed hitting Twins' batter is Kepler. (He probably was before Rosario left, too.) So he makes a lot of sense to bat cleanup, but – follow me here – he’s not allowed to do that if he’s batting leadoff. I know, it’s a silly rule. In the Twins first four spring training games, Kepler has lead off twice and Arraez has lead off twice. Baldelli is notorious for not tipping his hand when it comes to lineups, and this year is no different. But it’s clear he recognizes the luxury having both affords him. “Two different hitters, but two guys that can certainly be productive at the top of the order, Baldelli said, talking about Arraez and Kepler. “One thing they both do well is they both see the ball well. They are hitters that see the ball and then react. They're not in swing-first mode like a lot of guys can get into that mode.” There is not bad answer. Some might wonder since Arraez is slated for a utility role, whether the decision takes care of itself? But Kepler has played in 89% of all the Twins games since 2017, and Baldelli is vowing to make sure that Arraez will get as much run as any other regular. So odds are there is going to be significant overlap in the playing time of the two. It should also be mentioned that theoretically, Kepler and Arraez are not the only options. Mitch Garver and Jorge Polanco have both been in the leadoff spot over the last two years, and it’s possible that would be the case against some pitchers. Byron Buxton, if he ever raises his ability to get on base, would certainly be electric out of that spot. But Kepler and Arraez seem to be the top options, and they’re the only two we’ve seen lead off so far in spring training. So if you’re looking to track a spring training battle from afar this spring, here’s your chance. Arraez and Kepler haven’t been in the same lineup yet, but one would think that would certainly give a clue to what Baldelli is thinking. Until then, build your lineup, maybe starting in the comments below, and see if you can settle this leading question. Click here to view the article
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