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  1. Sometime I’ll get back to my groove of making terrible puns in the title based off player’s names but today is not that day. Anyways, there was a perfect day at the plate, a walk-off walk, two notable rehab assignments, and a lot of offense in the minors, all that and more in this edition of the minor league report.TRANSACTIONS LHP Ian Krol placed on the Restricted List at AAA Rochester LHP Ryan O’ Rourke signed and assigned to AAA Rochester CF Ian Miller acquired from the Mariners and assigned to AAA Rochester RHP Trevor Hildenberger sent to GCL Twins on a rehab assignment LHP Stephen Gonsalves sent to GCL Twins on a rehab assignment 3B Jake Hirabayashi assigned to GCL Twins CF DaShawn Kiersey activated from the IL at A Cedar Rapids SS Ricky De La Torre assigned to Elizabethton from A Cedar Rapids RED WINGS REPORT Rochester 6, Louisville 5 (10 innings) Box Score Charlie Barnes: 4 ⅓ IP, 6 H, 4 ER, 5 BB, 5 K HR: None Multi-hit games: Wilin Rosario (2-for-4, 2B, 2 R), Alejandro De Aza (2-for-4, 3B, 5 RBI) The Red Wings won a wild extra-innings affair this Saturday. Charlie Barnes made his AAA debut and had a rough go of it as he gave up four runs while striking out as many as he walked. Hopefully it gets better for Barnes as he continues to pitch at AAA. Ryan O’ Rourke made his Rochester debut and his first game back for the Twins organization since October 2nd 2016. It was an interesting outing as he got out of a bases loaded situation with one out in the 9th and then stranded two more runners in the 10th. He walked three and struck out one. Alejandro De Aza was the backbone of the offense as he had a two run single in the 1st, a two run triple in the 6th, and the bases-loaded walk to walk it off in the 10th, giving him an impressive five RBIs on the night and a terrible “walk-off” joke that I refuse to make. BLUE WAHOO BITES Pensacola 8, Mobile 5 Box Score Gabriel Moya: 2 IP, 3 H, 2 ER, 0 BB, 3 K HR: None Multi-hit games: Royce Lewis (2-for-5, 2 2B, R, RBI), Jimmy Kerrigan (2-for-4, 2 R), Mark Contreras (2-for-3, 2B, 2 R, 2 RBI) The Blue Wahoos ran a bullpen game this Saturday to the win. In total, five Blue Wahoos pitchers combined to strike out fifteen batters without giving up a walk, an impressive feat. After the 4th inning, they only gave up three hits in total while striking out seven. Royce Lewis had a double double as the Blue Wahoos continue to experiment with Alex Kirilloff hitting leadoff with Lewis 2nd instead of the other way around when Lewis was first promoted. Kirilloff also had the impressive no hits yet two RBIs performance, whatever works my man. This was partly because the bottom of the order did a good job setting the table as Ryan Costello, Jimmy Kerrigan, and Mark Contreras all had two runs scored despite being the 6-7-8 hitters respectively. MIRACLE MATTERS Ft. Myers 9, Jupiter 2 Box Score Blayne Enlow: 6 IP, 6 H, 1 ER, 2 BB, 6 K HR: Jose Miranda 2 (8), Trey Cabbage (7) Multi-hit games: Gabriel Maciel (2-for-5, 2B, R), Jose Miranda (2-for-4, 2 HR, 2 R, 4 RBI), Trey Cabbage (2-for-4, HR, R, RBI), Andrew Bechtold (2-for-4, 2B, 2 R), Ernie De La Trinidad (2-for-4, 3B, R, 2 RBI), David Banuelos (2-for-4, 2 RBI) The Miracle cared not for this writer having to put in who all had a multi-hit effort as they hit all over the place this Saturday. Jose Miranda was the leader of the charge as he blasted two home runs for the first multi-homer game of his professional career. Trey Cabbage didn’t want him to feel left out so he also hit a home run so Miranda didn’t feel bad. Blayne Enlow had a good start as he allowed just one earned run over his six innings of work, showing that offense isn’t the only reason to come and watch the game! David Banuelos had a multi-hit game but proved that the base paths matter too as he stole his first base of the year but was also picked off, what goes around can come around I suppose. KERNELS NUGGETS Cedar Rapids 5, Beloit 4 Box Score Tyler Palm: 6 IP, 4 H, 1 ER, 2 BB, 3 K HR: None Multi-hit games: Gilberto Celestino (5-for-5, 2B, R), Daniel Ozoria (2-for-4) It was quite the exciting win for Cedar Rapids. Gilberto Celestino continued to flat-out rake as he was a perfect 5-for-5 and became the first Kernel to have a five hit game since Jermaine Palacios in 2017. Tyler Palm allowed just one earned run over his six innings of work as he attempted to make choosing between him and Enlow for pitcher of the day a difficult decision. The Kernels were down by a run headed into the bottom of the 7th but a wild pitch, a Yunior Severino single, and an Albee Weiss single plated five and gave the Kernels the lead. Brian Rapp pitched the last three innings to end the game after Palm went six and despite giving up a pair of runs, the lead stayed and Rapp was credited with the win. E-Town E-Notes Elizabethton 13, Johnson City 7 Box Score Tyler Benninghoff: 4 ⅓ IP, 4 H, 4 ER, 6 BB, 4 K HR: Parker Phillips (3), Matt Wallner (5) Multi-hit games: Willie Joe Garry Jr. (2-for-5, R, 2 RBI), Matt Wallner (2-for-5, HR, 3 R, RBI), Parker Phillips (2-for-3, HR, 4 R, 2 RBI), Seth Gray (3-for-3, 2 2B, R), Trevor Jensen (2-for-5, R, RBI) The offense headed by a few 2019 draft picks took hold for Elizabethton as they put up an organizational-high thirteen runs (for the day that is). The end total was thirteen hits along with seven walks that allowed seven different batters to collect an RBI. It’s also pretty rare to see someone score three times and not lead the team that game as Matt Wallner was outscored by Parker Phillips who touched home plate on four different occasions. In a game like this, there isn’t much on the pitching side of things but one of my favorites in Ryan Shreve pitched in relief and he picked up five strikeouts in his outing. Coming into the game, the 2019 draft pick had a 12.44 K/9, so he is no stranger to punching tickets. GCL Twins Takes Game one: GCL Twins 0, GCL Red Sox 2 (7 innings) Box Score Stephen Gonsalves: 1 IP, 1 H, 1 ER, 0 BB, 1 K HR: None Multi-hit games: Alec Craig (2-for-4) Would you look at that! Stephen Gonsalves pitched started his rehab assignment and pitched for the first time in a few months. He gave up a homer but just the fact that he’s back to throwing in a professional game is a good reason to be excited. And it didn’t end there for rehabbing pitchers as Trevor Hildenberger relieved Gonsalves and threw a scoreless inning. It really is great to see both pitchers back on the mound after being out for awhile. Unfortunately, the feel-goodness pretty much ends there as the GCL Twins were unable to put much together offensively and were shutout in the loss. They collected just four hits and all of them were singles. Game two: GCL Twins 11, GCL Red Sox 5 (7 innings) Box Score Steve Theetge: ⅔ IP, 0 H, 0 ER, 0 BB, 0 K HR: Francisco Martinez (3) Multi-hit games: Jeferson Morales (3-for-5, 3B, R, RBI), Victor Heredia (3-for-4, 3 RBI), Jesus Feliz (2-for-5, R), Francisco Martinez (2-for-4, HR, 2 R, RBI), Bryson Gandy (2-for-3, 2B, 2 R, RBI) Well it seems like the offense was feeling much better in this game as game two of the doubleheader saw eleven runs scored over just seven innings of play. This came with fourteen hits and as many extra-base hits as the previous game had hits for the GCL Twins (4). Steve Theetge started the game and was removed for Anthony Escobar after getting two outs. Escobar got thirteen outs in relief while only giving up a single run and striking out three. Somewhat notable is that Keoni Cavaco was absent from the lineup in both games but this isn’t uncommon as he could either just be resting or focusing on other aspects of professional baseball on Saturday (i.e. workouts). TWINS DAILY PLAYERS OF THE DAY Twins Daily Minor League Pitcher of the Day – Blayne Enlow Twins Daily Minor League Hitter of the Day – Gilberto Celestino and Jose Miranda (I couldn’t pick) PROSPECT SUMMARY Here’s a look at how the Twins Daily Top 20 Twins Prospects performed: #1 - Royce Lewis (Pensacola) - 2-for-5, 2 2B, RBI, K #2 - Alex Kirilloff (Pensacola) - 0-for-4, 2 RBI #3 - Brusdar Graterol (Pensacola) - Did not pitch #4 - Trevor Larnach (Pensacola) - 1-for-4, R, BB, K #5 - Wander Javier (Cedar Rapids) - 1-for-5, 2 K #6 - Jordan Balazovic (Ft. Myers) - Did not pitch #7 - Keoni Cavaco (GCL Twins) - Did not play #8 - Brent Rooker (Rochester) - Injured list #9 - Jhoan Duran (Pensacola) - Did not pitch #10 - Blayne Enlow (Ft. Myers) - 6 IP, 6 H, 1 ER, 2 BB, 6 K #11 - Lewis Thorpe (Rochester) - Did not pitch #12 - Nick Gordon (Rochester) - Did not play #13 - Ryan Jeffers (Pensacola) - 1-for-4, BB, K #14 - Luis Arraez (Twins) - Did not play #15 - Matt Wallner (Elizabethton) - 2-for-5, HR, 3 R, RBI, 2 K #16 - Ben Rortvedt (Pensacola) - Did not play #17 - Akil Baddoo (Ft. Myers) - Out for year with Tommy John surgery #18 - Jorge Alcala (Pensacola) - Did not pitch #19 - Misael Urbina (DSL Twins) - 0-for-4 #20 - Travis Blankenhorn (Pensacola) - 0-for-5 SUNDAY’S PROBABLE STARTERS Louisville @ Rochester (12:05 P.M.) - RHP Sean Poppen Pensacola @ Mobile (2:05 P.M.) - TBD Jupiter @ Fort Myers (10:00 A.M.) - LHP Lachlan Wells Beloit @ Cedar Rapids (2:05 P.M.) - RHP Andrew Cabezas Pulaski @ Elizabethton (4:00 P.M.) - RHP Ben Gross Please feel free to ask any questions and discuss Saturday’s games. Click here to view the article
  2. A common conundrum for official scorers (and my last story) surrounds which pitcher gets a “Win.” This happened again twice last Saturday, June 17, as the Twins lost two games to Cleveland. The latter of these decisions led to a milestone win for a reliever, and kept him from climbing towards a record.A First Win In the first game, Gregg Wong was the official scorer and had a pretty straightforward call, awarding the win to Zach McAllister, who relieved starter Ryan Merritt in the fifth and pitched two scoreless innings. But in the night game, I had more possibilities. A rain delay in the top of the fifth meant Mike Clevinger wouldn’t be back in the bottom of the inning. Nick Goody came in with Cleveland ahead 2-1 and pitched a scoreless inning. Cleveland expanded its lead to 5-1 before Goody gave up a home run to Brian Dozier leading off the last of the sixth. He got the next two batters out and was relieved, so he pitched 1-2/3 innings with one earned run. Boone Logan, Cody Allen, and Andrew Miller pitched scoreless ball after that, but I awarded the win to Goody. In the context of each situation, all were effective. It turned out to be Goody’s first major-league win in his 58th pitching appearance. (I also tipped off the Cleveland public-relations representative so he could get word to the dugout to keep the game ball for Goody.) I suppose Goody was happy to get the win, but he had been climbing the charts for “Player Who Pitched The Most Games But Never Got A Win.” Juan Alvarez (1999-2003) and Ed Olwine (1986-1988) hold that record with 80 games without a win. Goody was the active pitcher with the most, and eighth overall. For what it’s worth, the Twins have two players in the top 11; older fans will remember Terry Felton didn’t get a win in his 55 appearances (9th place). And the new active player at the top of the list (11th overall) is Twins reliever Ryan O’Rourke, who is active, but underwent Tommy John surgery in May. A First Loss (And Then Not) The win was Goody’s first decision of any type, but he originally was charged with a loss a couple of years ago, only to have it removed a couple of days later. Unlike assigning the win – in which the scorer may have some discretion – this one had to be done according to the rules, but it was a tricky situation in which an interpretation had to be made. July 30, 2015 the Yankees and Rangers were tied 6-6 at Texas going into the last of the ninth. Goody walked Delino DeShields to start the inning and was relieved by Andrew Miller. With one out Leonys Martin hit a grounder that struck DeShields. DeShields was out, and Martin was credited with a single. Martin went to second when Adrian Beltre walked and scored on a single by Josh Hamilton to end the game. Who gets the loss? The question comes down to whether or not DeShields being hit by the batted ball is a fielder’s choice. If Martin had hit a grounder that resulted in DeShields being forced at second, Martin would still be Goody’s responsibility, because a fielder’s choice constitutes a swap of the runners. On the other hand, if Martin had grounded a single to right and DeShields was out trying to go to third, Goody would be off the hook, his runner erased. What did happen – a runner hit by a batted ball – takes on the characteristics of the latter play described above. It is not a fielder’s choice. Thus, Martin became the responsibility of Miller. When Martin scored, the run and the loss were charged to Miller. There was precedent for this interpretation, which you can read about in a conundrum in the newsletter of the Official Scoring Committee of the Society for American Baseball Research (SABR): http://sabr.org/cont...etter#conundrum Who Gets The Unearned Run? How about another poser, regarding which pitcher gets an unearned run? I’ll reconstruct this inning from the last of the seventh inning in the Twins’ 20-7 win over Seattle on June 13, as though the error hadn’t occurred: 1. With Casey Lawrence on the mound, Jason Castro singles. 2. Polanco singles and Castro stops at second base. 3. Eddie Rosario flies out. 4. Brian Dozier doubles, scoring Castro with Polanco going to third. 5. Marc Rzepczynski relieves. 6. Joe Mauer hits a comebacker to Rzepczynski, and Polanco is trapped off third. Rzepczynski runs him back toward the bag and throws to third-baseman Kyle Seager, who muffs the throw, allowing Polanco to avoid being put out and to race home. The ruling was a fielder’s choice-error on Seager with no run batted in. (Polanco would have been out if not for the error.) 7. Robbie Grossman singles, loading the bases. 8. Max Kepler singles to bring in Dozier. 9. Kennys Vargas singles to score Mauer. 10. Eduardo Escobar singles to score Grossman. 11. Castro singles to bring in two more, although Castro was out trying to stretch the hit to a double. 12. After a pitching change, Polanco grounded out to end the inning. Polanco’s run is unearned and is the only unearned run because all the runs after the error occurred before two were out. Which pitcher, Lawrence or Rzepczynski, gets the unearned run applied to his line? The answer is Rzepczynski, even though Polanco, who scored the unearned run, was put on base by the Lawrence. That’s because the fielder’s choice on Mauer’s grounder was a fielder’s choice; even though there was not an out, it’s still considered a swap of the runners because of an error. This type of situation was discussed in another committee conundrum: http://sabr.org/cont...etter#conundrum Gratuitous Promotion As long as I’m plugging these conundrums, here is a pitch to join SABR (http://sabr.org) and its Official Scoring Committee: http://sabr.org/rese...earch-committee Thanks to those who have posted questions and comments on the forum for official scoring questions (http://twinsdaily.co...stions-for-stew). Keep them coming. Stew Thornley is one of the Twins official scorers and a baseball historian. He will occasionally provide insight to the decisions official scorers make. If you have any questions you would like him to address in a future story, you can ask them in this Twins Daily thread. You can also read more from Stew at StewThornley.net. Click here to view the article
  3. A First Win In the first game, Gregg Wong was the official scorer and had a pretty straightforward call, awarding the win to Zach McAllister, who relieved starter Ryan Merritt in the fifth and pitched two scoreless innings. But in the night game, I had more possibilities. A rain delay in the top of the fifth meant Mike Clevinger wouldn’t be back in the bottom of the inning. Nick Goody came in with Cleveland ahead 2-1 and pitched a scoreless inning. Cleveland expanded its lead to 5-1 before Goody gave up a home run to Brian Dozier leading off the last of the sixth. He got the next two batters out and was relieved, so he pitched 1-2/3 innings with one earned run. Boone Logan, Cody Allen, and Andrew Miller pitched scoreless ball after that, but I awarded the win to Goody. In the context of each situation, all were effective. It turned out to be Goody’s first major-league win in his 58th pitching appearance. (I also tipped off the Cleveland public-relations representative so he could get word to the dugout to keep the game ball for Goody.) I suppose Goody was happy to get the win, but he had been climbing the charts for “Player Who Pitched The Most Games But Never Got A Win.” Juan Alvarez (1999-2003) and Ed Olwine (1986-1988) hold that record with 80 games without a win. Goody was the active pitcher with the most, and eighth overall. For what it’s worth, the Twins have two players in the top 11; older fans will remember Terry Felton didn’t get a win in his 55 appearances (9th place). And the new active player at the top of the list (11th overall) is Twins reliever Ryan O’Rourke, who is active, but underwent Tommy John surgery in May. A First Loss (And Then Not) The win was Goody’s first decision of any type, but he originally was charged with a loss a couple of years ago, only to have it removed a couple of days later. Unlike assigning the win – in which the scorer may have some discretion – this one had to be done according to the rules, but it was a tricky situation in which an interpretation had to be made. July 30, 2015 the Yankees and Rangers were tied 6-6 at Texas going into the last of the ninth. Goody walked Delino DeShields to start the inning and was relieved by Andrew Miller. With one out Leonys Martin hit a grounder that struck DeShields. DeShields was out, and Martin was credited with a single. Martin went to second when Adrian Beltre walked and scored on a single by Josh Hamilton to end the game. Who gets the loss? The question comes down to whether or not DeShields being hit by the batted ball is a fielder’s choice. If Martin had hit a grounder that resulted in DeShields being forced at second, Martin would still be Goody’s responsibility, because a fielder’s choice constitutes a swap of the runners. On the other hand, if Martin had grounded a single to right and DeShields was out trying to go to third, Goody would be off the hook, his runner erased. What did happen – a runner hit by a batted ball – takes on the characteristics of the latter play described above. It is not a fielder’s choice. Thus, Martin became the responsibility of Miller. When Martin scored, the run and the loss were charged to Miller. There was precedent for this interpretation, which you can read about in a conundrum in the newsletter of the Official Scoring Committee of the Society for American Baseball Research (SABR): http://sabr.org/content/official-scoring-committee-spring-summer-2016-newsletter#conundrum Who Gets The Unearned Run? How about another poser, regarding which pitcher gets an unearned run? I’ll reconstruct this inning from the last of the seventh inning in the Twins’ 20-7 win over Seattle on June 13, as though the error hadn’t occurred: 1. With Casey Lawrence on the mound, Jason Castro singles. 2. Polanco singles and Castro stops at second base. 3. Eddie Rosario flies out. 4. Brian Dozier doubles, scoring Castro with Polanco going to third. 5. Marc Rzepczynski relieves. 6. Joe Mauer hits a comebacker to Rzepczynski, and Polanco is trapped off third. Rzepczynski runs him back toward the bag and throws to third-baseman Kyle Seager, who muffs the throw, allowing Polanco to avoid being put out and to race home. The ruling was a fielder’s choice-error on Seager with no run batted in. (Polanco would have been out if not for the error.) 7. Robbie Grossman singles, loading the bases. 8. Max Kepler singles to bring in Dozier. 9. Kennys Vargas singles to score Mauer. 10. Eduardo Escobar singles to score Grossman. 11. Castro singles to bring in two more, although Castro was out trying to stretch the hit to a double. 12. After a pitching change, Polanco grounded out to end the inning. Polanco’s run is unearned and is the only unearned run because all the runs after the error occurred before two were out. Which pitcher, Lawrence or Rzepczynski, gets the unearned run applied to his line? The answer is Rzepczynski, even though Polanco, who scored the unearned run, was put on base by the Lawrence. That’s because the fielder’s choice on Mauer’s grounder was a fielder’s choice; even though there was not an out, it’s still considered a swap of the runners because of an error. This type of situation was discussed in another committee conundrum: http://sabr.org/content/official-scoring-committee-summer-2016-newsletter#conundrum Gratuitous Promotion As long as I’m plugging these conundrums, here is a pitch to join SABR (http://sabr.org) and its Official Scoring Committee: http://sabr.org/research/official-scoring-research-committee Thanks to those who have posted questions and comments on the forum for official scoring questions (http://twinsdaily.com/topic/26198-official-scoring-questions-for-stew). Keep them coming. Stew Thornley is one of the Twins official scorers and a baseball historian. He will occasionally provide insight to the decisions official scorers make. If you have any questions you would like him to address in a future story, you can ask them in this Twins Daily thread. You can also read more from Stew at StewThornley.net.
  4. In our second issue of Twins Daily's Write Of Spring Newsletter, Nick Nelson talks about the Twins bullpen battle for left-handed relievers. Let's talk about it in this thread. This issue is being sent out at 11:45 PM the night of 3/13/2017. If you missed it, sign up over on the right to make sure you don't miss the next issue.
  5. Venezuelan Winter League Report Luis Arraez has been a story all year, since the 19-year-old put together an incredible season in Cedar Rapids where his .347 average led the Midwest League. He was a multi-hit game machine. He had 34 two-hit games, 13 three-hit games, three four-hit games, and a five hit game. In the first two Kernels playoff games, he had a three-hit game and a four-hit game. He's kept it up in the Winter League. Through games on Friday night, Arraez has played 27 games. He is hitting .358/.386/.519 (.905) with seven doubles and five triples. He has 15 RBI and 21 runs scored. He doesn't like to walk (6), but he also doesn't strike out (6). In the past week, he played five games. He went 13-21 (.619) with two doubles and a triple. Over his last seven games played, he has five three-hit games. He's had multiple hits in seven of his last nine games. Niko Goodrum has now played 28 games in Venezuela. He missed the first half of the 2016 season with a stress reaction in his foot, so these at bats are really good for him. He's hitting .297/.368/.450 (.818) with eight doubles, three triples and a homer in 124 plate appearances. He's struck out a fair amount (28 times), but he's also walked 13 times. In this past week, he has played in six games. He's 9-23 (.391) with a double, two triples and a home run. He had four straight games multi-hit games in the middle of the week. In one game, he was a single short of a cycle. Ryan O'Rourke's Venezuelan season started out very poorly, so it's taken some time for him to bring his season ERA down. Overall, he has a 7.82 ERA and a 1.89 WHIP in 12 games and 12.2 innings. He has made two starts. This past week, he pitched twice and made a start on Friday night. In it, he threw four shutout innings. He gave up four hits walked none and struck out three. Victor Tademo and Edwar Colina did not play during the week. Dominican Republic Winter League Report Daniel Palka was our choice for Twins Daily Minor League Hitter of the Year. He has now played 15 games in the Dominican. He is hitting .217/.266/.367 (.632) with three doubles, two triples and nine RBI. He has walked four time and struck out 19 times. This past week, he played in four games. He had two hits in 13 at bats (.154). Both hits were doubles. Leonardo Reginnato made his Dominican debut last Friday night. In his seven games so far he is hitting .227/261/.227 (.488) with a walk and a run scored. However, in his past three games, he is 5-11 (.455). Confesor Lara has pitched nine games so far this winter. In 8.2 innings he has a 2.08 ERA and a 0.83 WHIP. Over the past week, he worked in one inning of one game. Puerto Rican Winter League Report Kennys Vargas has played in nine games already. He is hitting .188/.297/.344 (.641) with two doubles and a homer. He's got seven RBI and four runs scored. He's walked five times with eight strikeouts. In the last week, he played in five games. He had just four hits in 18 at bats (.222). He had a double, and on Friday night he hit his first home run. JJ Fernandez has also played in nine games. He is 7-29, hitting .241/.290/.483 (.773) with two doubles, a triple and a home run. In six games this past week, Fernandez is 3-18, hitting .167 with a double and a home run. Juan Centeno has played seven games so far. He is 4.28. He's hitting .143/.226/.179 (.404) with a double. This week, he went 3-14 (.214) in three games played. He hit the double and drove in both runs. Nelson Molina had just one plate appearance during the week. He drove in a run with a sacrifice fly. Lean Marrero went 0-2 over the two games he played. Dereck Rodriguez is yet to give up a run in his three outings. In 6.2 innings, he gave up two hits, walked one and struck out four. He has a 0.45 WHIP. He pitched in just one inning this past week. He gave up a hit, walked one and struck one out in a scoreless inning. Please feel free to ask questions.
  6. Here is your weekly update of how Twins players and prospects are performing in the Winter Leagues. With the conclusion of the World Series, several players have become free agents so these reports are a little bit smaller than they have been the last few weeks. As the Twins sign players to minor league deals, we'll keep you updated. Continue reading to see who performed well in the Winter Leagues the past week.Venezuelan Winter League Report Luis Arraez has been a story all year, since the 19-year-old put together an incredible season in Cedar Rapids where his .347 average led the Midwest League. He was a multi-hit game machine. He had 34 two-hit games, 13 three-hit games, three four-hit games, and a five hit game. In the first two Kernels playoff games, he had a three-hit game and a four-hit game. He's kept it up in the Winter League. Through games on Friday night, Arraez has played 27 games. He is hitting .358/.386/.519 (.905) with seven doubles and five triples. He has 15 RBI and 21 runs scored. He doesn't like to walk (6), but he also doesn't strike out (6). In the past week, he played five games. He went 13-21 (.619) with two doubles and a triple. Over his last seven games played, he has five three-hit games. He's had multiple hits in seven of his last nine games. Niko Goodrum has now played 28 games in Venezuela. He missed the first half of the 2016 season with a stress reaction in his foot, so these at bats are really good for him. He's hitting .297/.368/.450 (.818) with eight doubles, three triples and a homer in 124 plate appearances. He's struck out a fair amount (28 times), but he's also walked 13 times. In this past week, he has played in six games. He's 9-23 (.391) with a double, two triples and a home run. He had four straight games multi-hit games in the middle of the week. In one game, he was a single short of a cycle. Ryan O'Rourke's Venezuelan season started out very poorly, so it's taken some time for him to bring his season ERA down. Overall, he has a 7.82 ERA and a 1.89 WHIP in 12 games and 12.2 innings. He has made two starts. This past week, he pitched twice and made a start on Friday night. In it, he threw four shutout innings. He gave up four hits walked none and struck out three. Victor Tademo and Edwar Colina did not play during the week. Dominican Republic Winter League Report Daniel Palka was our choice for Twins Daily Minor League Hitter of the Year. He has now played 15 games in the Dominican. He is hitting .217/.266/.367 (.632) with three doubles, two triples and nine RBI. He has walked four time and struck out 19 times. This past week, he played in four games. He had two hits in 13 at bats (.154). Both hits were doubles. Leonardo Reginnato made his Dominican debut last Friday night. In his seven games so far he is hitting .227/261/.227 (.488) with a walk and a run scored. However, in his past three games, he is 5-11 (.455). Confesor Lara has pitched nine games so far this winter. In 8.2 innings he has a 2.08 ERA and a 0.83 WHIP. Over the past week, he worked in one inning of one game. Puerto Rican Winter League Report Kennys Vargas has played in nine games already. He is hitting .188/.297/.344 (.641) with two doubles and a homer. He's got seven RBI and four runs scored. He's walked five times with eight strikeouts. In the last week, he played in five games. He had just four hits in 18 at bats (.222). He had a double, and on Friday night he hit his first home run. JJ Fernandez has also played in nine games. He is 7-29, hitting .241/.290/.483 (.773) with two doubles, a triple and a home run. In six games this past week, Fernandez is 3-18, hitting .167 with a double and a home run. Juan Centeno has played seven games so far. He is 4.28. He's hitting .143/.226/.179 (.404) with a double. This week, he went 3-14 (.214) in three games played. He hit the double and drove in both runs. Nelson Molina had just one plate appearance during the week. He drove in a run with a sacrifice fly. Lean Marrero went 0-2 over the two games he played. Dereck Rodriguez is yet to give up a run in his three outings. In 6.2 innings, he gave up two hits, walked one and struck out four. He has a 0.45 WHIP. He pitched in just one inning this past week. He gave up a hit, walked one and struck one out in a scoreless inning. Please feel free to ask questions. Click here to view the article
  7. We learned yesterday that the Minnesota Twins were going to be calling up infielder Jorge Polanco. Most likely, he will be taking Trevor Plouffe's spot on the roster as he heads to the disabled list with his intercostal strain. Polanco will likely be the Twins backup at all three infield positions until Plouffe is able to return. It brings up an interesting topic that we have seen a few times already this season. When should a prospect be called up to sit?When Danny Santana went on the disabled list, the Twins summoned outfielder Max Kepler from Rochester. He had played in just three Red Wings games before his promotion. In the eight days that he has been with the Twins, he has made one start and has just seven plate appearances and is 0-5 with two walks. His one start came against left-hander Carlos Rodon. Otherwise, he has been a late-inning defensive replacement. To be fair, that is exactly what manager Paul Molitor said he would be. It is understandable too because the team came out of the gates with their outfield set with Eddie Rosario in left field, Byron Buxton in center field and Miguel Sano in right field. There is no way that any manager would want to make changes to that after just one week or struggles, and he shouldn't. Those guys all deserve the opportunity to break out. Unfortunately, that meant that Kepler sat the pine. About a week ago, when the Twins put Glen Perkins on the disabled list, they promoted Taylor Rogers. In the six days since he has been up, he has faced two batters and got them both out. He has warmed up at least three or four times. Again, it's understandable. Rogers was not brought in to replace Perkins as the team's closer. Instead, he comes up at the bottom of the totem pole and there weren't a bunch of opportunities to get him in the game. When Fernando Abad was placed on the bereavement list, the Twins promoted Ryan O'Rourke. Now that Abad has been reinstated, O''Rourke stayed and Taylor Rogers was sent back to Rochester. Why? Molitor knows O'Rourke. He knows what he can do against left-handers, even in the big leagues. In the one game he pitched, he got the one left-hander that he was brought in to get, on one pitch. It was a tight, late-inning situation and Molitor went to O'Rourke, not Rogers. And now Jorge Polanco comes up and likely takes Trevor Plouffe's roster spot. Brian Dozier will play second. Eduardo Nunez will play third. Eduardo Escobar will play shortstop. Polanco may get a start or two over the next two weeks. He may even pinch hit once or twice. Unlikely Kepler, Polanco is not someone who will be brought in as a defensive replacement. Again, the move is completely justifiable. Assuming Danny Santana is back by the end of the week, Polanco or Kepler can go down at that time. Santana, being out of options, is OK as a role player, a guy who may get two or three starts a week. With another move likely coming in three or four days, it doesn't make sense to add someone to the 40-man roster and potentially lose someone else. It's why it was justifiable when Polanco was called up a couple of times each of the last two years, but just for a day or two. It's why calling up Kepler made more sense than adding Darin Mastroianni to the 40-man roster. But when it comes to high-upside talent like Kepler and Polanco (and Buxton too), they need to play. They need every day reps. Sure, they'd love to soak up the service time in the big leagues, and the checks are much larger, but when you're counting on guys to be a big part of the future, it's much better for them to be playing, even if that means AAA instead of MLB. In the 8 days that Kepler has been in MLB, he has seven plate appearances and maybe 14-15 innings in the outfield. In AAA during that same time, he would be hitting third, playing three outfield positions and likely have between 32 and 37 plate appearances while playing 65-75 innings in the field. Which is better for the player? The same thing with Polanco. For every day that he's sitting the pine with the Twins, he is potentially losing nine innings in the field and four or five plate appearances. That accumulates. For Rogers, the path is a little less certain, but there is absolutely a sense that he will be part of the Twins long-term plan. With the Red Wings, he would likely have pitched three times in a week, maybe accumulating five innings or so. That's a lot of situational pitching, and it's more learning how to work out of the bullpen. With O'Rourke, he too can be part of the Twins future. The team and the manager know what he can and can't do. To this point, he can be a very good situational left-hander, and the work he did in the offseason and the spring to add a pitch to make himself more competitive against right-handers may play out positively. But O'Rourke knows the bullpen. He is a little older and he understands and appreciates the role he will have. Rogers certainly appreciates the opportunity he was given this week, but many think that he can be a really good one or two inning type, and the fact that he hasn't really pitched out of the bullpen, he can develop and learn more by pitching. It's a tough thing. I mean, as fans, we've been waiting for young players to get opportunities, so it's fun to see them on the roster. But at the same time, it's best for the player's development to play. I'd like to say that it is best for the team long-term to have those guys playing every day in AAA to help them become better players. Where there can be debate is what is better in the short-term. Despite the 0-9 start, the Twins went into the season with playoff plans and aspirations. In doing so, the short-term matters too. Having Max Kepler or Jorge Polanco on the bench likely means that if someone is getting an off day, the Twins can start one of them and have a quality player in the game. At the same time, it can take a lot of years and maturity for a player to understand being a role player. Eduardo Nunez is a good example. He came up as the heir apparent to Derek Jeter as the Yankees shortstop. Instead, Jeter kept playing and playing, and Nunez became more of a role player. He struggled in that. However, in 2015, he was clearly comfortable with the role. He could play once or twice a week and when he played, he would be able to contribute. We're seeing that again this year. So, to play or not to play, that certainly is the question when it comes to prospects and calling them up. What is best for the player? What is best for the Twins? What is best short-term, and what is best long-term? How will a guy adjust to playing just a small role with limited playing time? And of course, how does the 40-man roster construction affect it all? --------------------------------------------------- Those questions, and likely more, come into play with each and every decision. So, with each player and pitcher, this kind of thought needs to be given. I'm going to quickly go through the exercise of guessing who will be called up if each player is injured. For this, we are going to assume that the player will be injured and on the DL for more than the 15 days. Player Hurt - Player Likely Called up Kurt Suzuki - John Hicks John Ryan Murphy - John Hicks Joe Mauer - Kennys Vargas Byung Ho Park - Kennys Vargas Brian Dozier - Jorge Polanco Eduardo Escobar - Jorge Polanco (extended time, Wilfredo Tovar) Trevor Plouffe - Jorge Polanco Eduardo Nunez - could be Polanco, but if extended, could go to James Beresford Eddie Rosario - Max Kepler Byron Buxton - Max Kepler Miguel Sano - Max Kepler Danny Santana - Max Kepler, but if extended, probably Mastroianni Oswaldo Arcia - Max Kepler Starting Pitchers: Tyler Duffey (Jose Berrios may enter this picture in a month) RH RP: JR Graham (though if Brandon Kintzler has an opt-out, that is possible). Alex Meyer is making himself an option right now too, though if he continues to succeed as a starter, they may want to keep him doing that. LH RP: Taylor Rogers. What do you think? Click here to view the article
  8. When Danny Santana went on the disabled list, the Twins summoned outfielder Max Kepler from Rochester. He had played in just three Red Wings games before his promotion. In the eight days that he has been with the Twins, he has made one start and has just seven plate appearances and is 0-5 with two walks. His one start came against left-hander Carlos Rodon. Otherwise, he has been a late-inning defensive replacement. To be fair, that is exactly what manager Paul Molitor said he would be. It is understandable too because the team came out of the gates with their outfield set with Eddie Rosario in left field, Byron Buxton in center field and Miguel Sano in right field. There is no way that any manager would want to make changes to that after just one week or struggles, and he shouldn't. Those guys all deserve the opportunity to break out. Unfortunately, that meant that Kepler sat the pine. About a week ago, when the Twins put Glen Perkins on the disabled list, they promoted Taylor Rogers. In the six days since he has been up, he has faced two batters and got them both out. He has warmed up at least three or four times. Again, it's understandable. Rogers was not brought in to replace Perkins as the team's closer. Instead, he comes up at the bottom of the totem pole and there weren't a bunch of opportunities to get him in the game. When Fernando Abad was placed on the bereavement list, the Twins promoted Ryan O'Rourke. Now that Abad has been reinstated, O''Rourke stayed and Taylor Rogers was sent back to Rochester. Why? Molitor knows O'Rourke. He knows what he can do against left-handers, even in the big leagues. In the one game he pitched, he got the one left-hander that he was brought in to get, on one pitch. It was a tight, late-inning situation and Molitor went to O'Rourke, not Rogers. And now Jorge Polanco comes up and likely takes Trevor Plouffe's roster spot. Brian Dozier will play second. Eduardo Nunez will play third. Eduardo Escobar will play shortstop. Polanco may get a start or two over the next two weeks. He may even pinch hit once or twice. Unlikely Kepler, Polanco is not someone who will be brought in as a defensive replacement. Again, the move is completely justifiable. Assuming Danny Santana is back by the end of the week, Polanco or Kepler can go down at that time. Santana, being out of options, is OK as a role player, a guy who may get two or three starts a week. With another move likely coming in three or four days, it doesn't make sense to add someone to the 40-man roster and potentially lose someone else. It's why it was justifiable when Polanco was called up a couple of times each of the last two years, but just for a day or two. It's why calling up Kepler made more sense than adding Darin Mastroianni to the 40-man roster. But when it comes to high-upside talent like Kepler and Polanco (and Buxton too), they need to play. They need every day reps. Sure, they'd love to soak up the service time in the big leagues, and the checks are much larger, but when you're counting on guys to be a big part of the future, it's much better for them to be playing, even if that means AAA instead of MLB. In the 8 days that Kepler has been in MLB, he has seven plate appearances and maybe 14-15 innings in the outfield. In AAA during that same time, he would be hitting third, playing three outfield positions and likely have between 32 and 37 plate appearances while playing 65-75 innings in the field. Which is better for the player? The same thing with Polanco. For every day that he's sitting the pine with the Twins, he is potentially losing nine innings in the field and four or five plate appearances. That accumulates. For Rogers, the path is a little less certain, but there is absolutely a sense that he will be part of the Twins long-term plan. With the Red Wings, he would likely have pitched three times in a week, maybe accumulating five innings or so. That's a lot of situational pitching, and it's more learning how to work out of the bullpen. With O'Rourke, he too can be part of the Twins future. The team and the manager know what he can and can't do. To this point, he can be a very good situational left-hander, and the work he did in the offseason and the spring to add a pitch to make himself more competitive against right-handers may play out positively. But O'Rourke knows the bullpen. He is a little older and he understands and appreciates the role he will have. Rogers certainly appreciates the opportunity he was given this week, but many think that he can be a really good one or two inning type, and the fact that he hasn't really pitched out of the bullpen, he can develop and learn more by pitching. It's a tough thing. I mean, as fans, we've been waiting for young players to get opportunities, so it's fun to see them on the roster. But at the same time, it's best for the player's development to play. I'd like to say that it is best for the team long-term to have those guys playing every day in AAA to help them become better players. Where there can be debate is what is better in the short-term. Despite the 0-9 start, the Twins went into the season with playoff plans and aspirations. In doing so, the short-term matters too. Having Max Kepler or Jorge Polanco on the bench likely means that if someone is getting an off day, the Twins can start one of them and have a quality player in the game. At the same time, it can take a lot of years and maturity for a player to understand being a role player. Eduardo Nunez is a good example. He came up as the heir apparent to Derek Jeter as the Yankees shortstop. Instead, Jeter kept playing and playing, and Nunez became more of a role player. He struggled in that. However, in 2015, he was clearly comfortable with the role. He could play once or twice a week and when he played, he would be able to contribute. We're seeing that again this year. So, to play or not to play, that certainly is the question when it comes to prospects and calling them up. What is best for the player? What is best for the Twins? What is best short-term, and what is best long-term? How will a guy adjust to playing just a small role with limited playing time? And of course, how does the 40-man roster construction affect it all? --------------------------------------------------- Those questions, and likely more, come into play with each and every decision. So, with each player and pitcher, this kind of thought needs to be given. I'm going to quickly go through the exercise of guessing who will be called up if each player is injured. For this, we are going to assume that the player will be injured and on the DL for more than the 15 days. Player Hurt - Player Likely Called up Kurt Suzuki - John Hicks John Ryan Murphy - John Hicks Joe Mauer - Kennys Vargas Byung Ho Park - Kennys Vargas Brian Dozier - Jorge Polanco Eduardo Escobar - Jorge Polanco (extended time, Wilfredo Tovar) Trevor Plouffe - Jorge Polanco Eduardo Nunez - could be Polanco, but if extended, could go to James Beresford Eddie Rosario - Max Kepler Byron Buxton - Max Kepler Miguel Sano - Max Kepler Danny Santana - Max Kepler, but if extended, probably Mastroianni Oswaldo Arcia - Max Kepler Starting Pitchers: Tyler Duffey (Jose Berrios may enter this picture in a month) RH RP: JR Graham (though if Brandon Kintzler has an opt-out, that is possible). Alex Meyer is making himself an option right now too, though if he continues to succeed as a starter, they may want to keep him doing that. LH RP: Taylor Rogers. What do you think?
  9. The only things more embarrassing than the Minnesota Twins bullpen in Tuesday night’s 8-4 loss to the Yankees were the decisions that led to that bullpen. The bullpen only had two bad innings, an ugly disastrous detonation. But the fuse - the decisions that led to that explosion - show a pattern of both obliviousness and incorrect judgment that suggests that this problem isn’t going away soon.The Twins were forced to rely on Ryan O’Rourke and J.R. Graham in critical innings last night. O’Rourke is a rookie and lefty specialist. Graham is a Rule 5 draft pick who is primarily on the roster because if the Twins don’t keep him on the roster, they have to offer him back to the Braves. Those two were the bridge to the later innings because manager Paul Molitor was short-handed, partly because of the number of pitchers he had to use Monday night. But Monday’s game is only a fraction of the reason Molitor was short-handed. The bigger reason is that the bullpen has been both overused and short-handed since last Thursday when Twins management was confronted by Phil Hughes' back injury. To replace him for Friday’s start, they had a choice. Behind Door #1, they could call up JO Berrios, their top pitching prospect who was already scheduled to pitch Friday night in AAA-Rochester. Behind Door #2 was Trevor May, who has been their best reliever since the All-Star break. He had been a starting pitcher earlier this year and could throw 50 or so pitches, but then he would be unavailable to pitch in in the bullpen for several days. They chose Door #2. So May was not available the day before his start, when the Rangers scored the game-winning run off of Casey Fien in the eighth inning, an inning which May would have normally pitched. He was only able to pitch three innings in Friday’s game, meaning four other relievers had to throw 85 pitches to finish that game. And he was not available Saturday, Sunday or Monday either, forcing the Twins to use Kevin Jepsen and Glen Perkins in back-to-back-to-back games, which means they were not available on Tuesday night. So to review, the Twins decided to short their bullpen for five nights of their best reliever, so he could pitch the first three innings of one game during that stretch. They did this rather than call up a top-20 prospect with a 3.18 ERA and more strikeouts than innings pitched who also happened to have his start be that same night. A start, by the way, in which he threw a no-hitter for the first six innings. (And then got shelled in the seventh inning. But still.) The Twins just didn’t prioritize the bullpen. The questionable decisions didn’t end with the 8-4 loss, however. After the game, it was announced that Twins closer Glen Perkins would be flying back to the Twin Cities for an MRI and possibly a cortisone shot to relieve some neck pain with which he has been pitching. Perkins has turned from Mariano Rivera into Matt Capps since the All-Star break, leading to many wondering if he was healthy. Turns out, he wasn’t. And the Twins seemed to have known this. (And if they didn’t, they should have.) Which make the decision to only trade for one decent but not fantastic reliever at the deadline even more questionable. Jepsen has been a solid addition to the bullpen so far, but he’s never going to be a dominant closer. The reality is that it’s nearly impossible to paper over the rather large hole that removing Perkins would create, but if a team knows he’s hurt, isn’t getting at least a couple of arms – or one fairly dominant one – a priority? Again, the bullpen was not a priority. The questions go back further than July. Why was Tim Stauffer brought back from rehab so early (or at all)? Why was Aaron Thompson around into July when, over his last 23(!) games, he posted an ERA of 8.44 and struck out just three batters? Why haven’t the Twins been more aggressive in swapping out under-performing veterans like Brian Duensing, Brad Boyer and Casey Fien earlier this year? Why, if the bullpen is a priority, are they still trying to hide a Rule 5 draft pick out there? One answer to a lot of these questions could be that the Twins don’t have a lot of other options in the organization. But that just raises other questions which suggest that the dubious decisions go back further than just this year. For instance, the last several years, the Twins have loaded up on relievers in the draft, claiming they were going to develop their power arms into major league pitchers. At this point, the organization should be littered with them.So where are they? Even if the Twins didn’t focus on relievers in the draft, there is one other truth that might be the most damning: losing teams are always able to develop good bullpens. Losing teams have more flexibility on the 40-man roster to pick up intriguing arms. They have an earlier pick on the waiver wire. They have more opportunity to offer minor league free agents. Dozens of rules and market forces result in losing teams almost always having good bullpens. It’s the rest of the stuff – like scoring and starting pitching - that’s hard. Given four losing seasons, the Twins shouldn’t have been looking for bullpen help at the trade deadline. They should’ve been able to shop it. Tuesday night was just a couple of innings, but it’s a problem that has been building for years. Maybe even scarier, it’s a problem that management doesn’t seem to recognize it has, or doesn’t seem interested in addressing. This fuse has been burning for some time. Boom. Click here to view the article
  10. The Twins were forced to rely on Ryan O’Rourke and J.R. Graham in critical innings last night. O’Rourke is a rookie and lefty specialist. Graham is a Rule 5 draft pick who is primarily on the roster because if the Twins don’t keep him on the roster, they have to offer him back to the Braves. Those two were the bridge to the later innings because manager Paul Molitor was short-handed, partly because of the number of pitchers he had to use Monday night. But Monday’s game is only a fraction of the reason Molitor was short-handed. The bigger reason is that the bullpen has been both overused and short-handed since last Thursday when Twins management was confronted by Phil Hughes' back injury. To replace him for Friday’s start, they had a choice. Behind Door #1, they could call up JO Berrios, their top pitching prospect who was already scheduled to pitch Friday night in AAA-Rochester. Behind Door #2 was Trevor May, who has been their best reliever since the All-Star break. He had been a starting pitcher earlier this year and could throw 50 or so pitches, but then he would be unavailable to pitch in in the bullpen for several days. They chose Door #2. So May was not available the day before his start, when the Rangers scored the game-winning run off of Casey Fien in the eighth inning, an inning which May would have normally pitched. He was only able to pitch three innings in Friday’s game, meaning four other relievers had to throw 85 pitches to finish that game. And he was not available Saturday, Sunday or Monday either, forcing the Twins to use Kevin Jepsen and Glen Perkins in back-to-back-to-back games, which means they were not available on Tuesday night. So to review, the Twins decided to short their bullpen for five nights of their best reliever, so he could pitch the first three innings of one game during that stretch. They did this rather than call up a top-20 prospect with a 3.18 ERA and more strikeouts than innings pitched who also happened to have his start be that same night. A start, by the way, in which he threw a no-hitter for the first six innings. (And then got shelled in the seventh inning. But still.) The Twins just didn’t prioritize the bullpen. The questionable decisions didn’t end with the 8-4 loss, however. After the game, it was announced that Twins closer Glen Perkins would be flying back to the Twin Cities for an MRI and possibly a cortisone shot to relieve some neck pain with which he has been pitching. Perkins has turned from Mariano Rivera into Matt Capps since the All-Star break, leading to many wondering if he was healthy. Turns out, he wasn’t. And the Twins seemed to have known this. (And if they didn’t, they should have.) Which make the decision to only trade for one decent but not fantastic reliever at the deadline even more questionable. Jepsen has been a solid addition to the bullpen so far, but he’s never going to be a dominant closer. The reality is that it’s nearly impossible to paper over the rather large hole that removing Perkins would create, but if a team knows he’s hurt, isn’t getting at least a couple of arms – or one fairly dominant one – a priority? Again, the bullpen was not a priority. The questions go back further than July. Why was Tim Stauffer brought back from rehab so early (or at all)? Why was Aaron Thompson around into July when, over his last 23(!) games, he posted an ERA of 8.44 and struck out just three batters? Why haven’t the Twins been more aggressive in swapping out under-performing veterans like Brian Duensing, Brad Boyer and Casey Fien earlier this year? Why, if the bullpen is a priority, are they still trying to hide a Rule 5 draft pick out there? One answer to a lot of these questions could be that the Twins don’t have a lot of other options in the organization. But that just raises other questions which suggest that the dubious decisions go back further than just this year. For instance, the last several years, the Twins have loaded up on relievers in the draft, claiming they were going to develop their power arms into major league pitchers. At this point, the organization should be littered with them.So where are they? Even if the Twins didn’t focus on relievers in the draft, there is one other truth that might be the most damning: losing teams are always able to develop good bullpens. Losing teams have more flexibility on the 40-man roster to pick up intriguing arms. They have an earlier pick on the waiver wire. They have more opportunity to offer minor league free agents. Dozens of rules and market forces result in losing teams almost always having good bullpens. It’s the rest of the stuff – like scoring and starting pitching - that’s hard. Given four losing seasons, the Twins shouldn’t have been looking for bullpen help at the trade deadline. They should’ve been able to shop it. Tuesday night was just a couple of innings, but it’s a problem that has been building for years. Maybe even scarier, it’s a problem that management doesn’t seem to recognize it has, or doesn’t seem interested in addressing. This fuse has been burning for some time. Boom.
  11. The Minnesota Twins’ bullpen has been a mess for the last six weeks. For the first six weeks of the season, guys like Blaine Boyer and Aaron Thompson were incredible, helping the Twins to a great month of May. They could do no wrong. Did the clock strike midnight on them? Did they get over-used, and over-exposed? Quite possibly. Following their walk-off win on Monday night, the Twins announced that Thompson had been optioned to AAA-Rochester and the contract of lefty Ryan O’Rourke had been selected. He was the first guy on my list of possible left-handed relievers called up to replace Thompson or Duensing. So yes, there could still be another left-hander added. And they could use right-handers.The Twins made one move on Monday night, but the bullpen is still full of questions. Today, I’m going to write about the internal options for the Twins bullpen should they go that direction. Left-Handed Relief Pitchers RYAN O’ROURKE O’Rourke, the 27-year-old from Massachusetts absolutely dominated same-sided hitters in 2014 at New Britain. He has done very well again in 2015 against left-handers in AAA. Right-handed bats have hit him very well, so O’Rourke should be considered a LOOGY. Of the 36 lefties he’s faced this year, he has struck out 20 of them. (O’Rourke was added to the 40-man roster on Monday night and will join the Twins at Target Field on Tuesday.) CALEB THIELBAR After spending all of 2014 and the final four months of 2013 in the Twins bullpen, Thielbar began the 2015 season in Rochester. He did come up for a six-game stint, but he is back with the Red Wings. He has struggled. In 26 innings, he has walked 17 and struck out just 13. Lefties have posted a .548 OPS on him this year. He remains on the 40-man roster. LOGAN DARNELL Darnell made four starts and three relief appearances for the Twins in 2014. This spring, he was moved to the bullpen exclusively. He has worked 30 innings over 23 appearances and has a 2.40 ERA despite a 1.57 WHIP. However, since May 19, he has given up an earned run in just one out of 11 outings including 23 strikeouts in 19 innings. Left-handers are hitting .306/.364/.306 (.670) against him. He is on the 40-man roster. Right-Handed Relief Pitchers AJ ACHTER Coming into Monday night, Achter had a 2.15 ERA and a 0.69 WHIP. In 37.2 innings, he had just ten walks and 38 strikeouts. He was 13 for 13 in save opportunities. On Monday night, he gave up four runs on five hits in one inning, but that was really his first clunker of the year. Achter has been the most consistent relief pitcher in the Twins minor leagues since moving to the bullpen in 2012. He pitched in 11 innings over seven games last year with the Twins. All he does is get people out. He remains on the 40-man roster. MICHAEL TONKIN If anyone would benefit from frequent flyer miles, it’s Tonkin. He has been up and down from Minnesota to Rochester a dozen times over the last three seasons. In 50 big league games, he has a 3.92 ERA and a 1.43 WHIP. He also has walked too many and given up the long ball too often. In 17.2 innings at Rochester this year, he has walked three and struck out 27. At some point, the Twins need to just let him pitch in the big leagues and see what they have. He will be out of options in 2016, so they do need to figure out if he can produce in the big leagues. He is on the 40-man roster. ALEX MEYER The progression of Meyer has been well documented here in the pages of Twins Daily. After just nine games in the bullpen, the Twins called him up. It didn’t go well. His struggles with control of the strike zone were apparent. He was sent back to Rochester to continue to work from the bullpen. As a starter, opponents had an OPS of .845. As a reliever, it’s been .672. It’s clear how much movement he gets from his fastball and slider. The Twins can be patient with him. He is on the 40-man roster. MARK HAMBURGER Hamburger was one of the bigger stories of spring training. He made it to the final week of big league camp before being sent to Rochester where he began the season as a starter. After four starts, he had an ERA of 6.30 in 20 innings. He has made 22 appearances out of the bullpen since then and has a 3.47 ERA. He is not on the 40-man roster. SCOTT ATCHISON Over the weekend, the Twins quietly signed 39-year-old Atchison a few days after he was released by Cleveland. He has been placed on the Chattanooga roster for now. He pitched in the big leagues in parts of nine seasons between 2004 and 2015. He is a good reminder of the nature of most relievers. In 2014 with Cleveland, he posted a 2.75 ERA and a 1.02 WHIP in 72 innings over 70 games. In 23 games (19.2 innings) this season he posted a 6.86 ERA and a 1.37 WHIP. Most likely, he has an opt-out date and will have to be called up or lost. He is not on the 40-man roster. LESTER OLIVEROS After missing all of 2013 because of Tommy John surgery, he returned and was cautiously used in 2014. He ended the season with the Twins. He wasn’t 100% in spring training and began the season in Rochester. He got off to a fast start, but his performance has leveled off. Overall, he has a 3.79 ERA and a 1.46 WHIP in 35.2 innings. He has walked just 13 and struck out 46. Opponents posted an OPS of .947 off of him in June, and he missed seven days because he was suspended for throwing at an opposing batter’s head. He is not on the 40-man roster. STEPHEN PRYOR Pryor came to the Twins from the Mariners last August in exchange for Kendrys Morales. He didn’t get a September call-up. He was invited to big league spring training. However, he has been on the disabled list all season. Over the weekend, he began a rehab stint in the GCL. He has made two appearances and would likely go to Rochester (or even Chattanooga) before going further. He is not on the 40-man roster. Starting Pitchers TAYLOR ROGERS Rogers has been a starter since he was drafted in the 11th round out of Kentucky. In four seasons, he is 33-21 with a 2.96 ERA. More relevant to the here and now, he is 7-5 with a 3.04 ERA and a 1.22 WHIP with Rochester. With so much starting pitching depth, the bullpen is an option for Rogers. A quick look at his AAA splits this year shows that he has been really dominant against lefties. They are hitting .178/.197/.186 (.383). He has given up no home runs, two walks and 36 strikeouts. Right-handers have hit .296/.352/.423 (.775) with six home runs, 25 walks and 41 strikeouts. He is not on the 40-man roster, but he will need to be added following the season, so if he continues to pitch well, he could find himself In the Twins bullpen. TYLER DUFFEY Duffey has been the one example of drafting a college reliever and trying to make him into a starter can be successful. He was a co-closer at Rice with JT Chargois. Since going pro, he has primarily started. He began this season with eight starts in Chattanooga and posted a 2.56 ERA and a 1.10 WHIP. He now has made eight starts in Rochester and has a 2.44 ERA and a 1.14 WHIP. He’s got good control, throws strikes, and has a good mix of pitches. However, as a reliever, he can hit 97 which would make his secondary pitches look even better. Again, due to the Twins starter depth, Duffey may need to come up as a reliever. Like Rogers, he was a spring training invite and would need to be added to the 40-man roster following the season. He could come up before that. JOSE BERRIOS Berrios was recently promoted from AA to AAA. After 15 starts, an 8-3 record, a 3.27 ERA and a 1.14 WHIP with the Lookouts, he moved up to Rochester where he made his first start on Friday. He is clearly the Twins top starting pitcher prospect. He has great stuff, fastball, change-up and breaking pitches. He could come in out of the bullpen (which would be short-term) if the Twins remain in the pennant race. A September call up may be less likely as he doesn’t need to be added to the 40-man roster until after the 2016 season. So there you have it, the internal options that are there should the Twins decide to make more changes in the bullpen without trading away prospects and talent. We’ll be back later in the week to talk more about the Twins bullpen. Click here to view the article
  12. The Twins made one move on Monday night, but the bullpen is still full of questions. Today, I’m going to write about the internal options for the Twins bullpen should they go that direction. Left-Handed Relief Pitchers RYAN O’ROURKE O’Rourke, the 27-year-old from Massachusetts absolutely dominated same-sided hitters in 2014 at New Britain. He has done very well again in 2015 against left-handers in AAA. Right-handed bats have hit him very well, so O’Rourke should be considered a LOOGY. Of the 36 lefties he’s faced this year, he has struck out 20 of them. (O’Rourke was added to the 40-man roster on Monday night and will join the Twins at Target Field on Tuesday.) CALEB THIELBAR After spending all of 2014 and the final four months of 2013 in the Twins bullpen, Thielbar began the 2015 season in Rochester. He did come up for a six-game stint, but he is back with the Red Wings. He has struggled. In 26 innings, he has walked 17 and struck out just 13. Lefties have posted a .548 OPS on him this year. He remains on the 40-man roster. LOGAN DARNELL Darnell made four starts and three relief appearances for the Twins in 2014. This spring, he was moved to the bullpen exclusively. He has worked 30 innings over 23 appearances and has a 2.40 ERA despite a 1.57 WHIP. However, since May 19, he has given up an earned run in just one out of 11 outings including 23 strikeouts in 19 innings. Left-handers are hitting .306/.364/.306 (.670) against him. He is on the 40-man roster. Right-Handed Relief Pitchers AJ ACHTER Coming into Monday night, Achter had a 2.15 ERA and a 0.69 WHIP. In 37.2 innings, he had just ten walks and 38 strikeouts. He was 13 for 13 in save opportunities. On Monday night, he gave up four runs on five hits in one inning, but that was really his first clunker of the year. Achter has been the most consistent relief pitcher in the Twins minor leagues since moving to the bullpen in 2012. He pitched in 11 innings over seven games last year with the Twins. All he does is get people out. He remains on the 40-man roster. MICHAEL TONKIN If anyone would benefit from frequent flyer miles, it’s Tonkin. He has been up and down from Minnesota to Rochester a dozen times over the last three seasons. In 50 big league games, he has a 3.92 ERA and a 1.43 WHIP. He also has walked too many and given up the long ball too often. In 17.2 innings at Rochester this year, he has walked three and struck out 27. At some point, the Twins need to just let him pitch in the big leagues and see what they have. He will be out of options in 2016, so they do need to figure out if he can produce in the big leagues. He is on the 40-man roster. ALEX MEYER The progression of Meyer has been well documented here in the pages of Twins Daily. After just nine games in the bullpen, the Twins called him up. It didn’t go well. His struggles with control of the strike zone were apparent. He was sent back to Rochester to continue to work from the bullpen. As a starter, opponents had an OPS of .845. As a reliever, it’s been .672. It’s clear how much movement he gets from his fastball and slider. The Twins can be patient with him. He is on the 40-man roster. MARK HAMBURGER Hamburger was one of the bigger stories of spring training. He made it to the final week of big league camp before being sent to Rochester where he began the season as a starter. After four starts, he had an ERA of 6.30 in 20 innings. He has made 22 appearances out of the bullpen since then and has a 3.47 ERA. He is not on the 40-man roster. SCOTT ATCHISON Over the weekend, the Twins quietly signed 39-year-old Atchison a few days after he was released by Cleveland. He has been placed on the Chattanooga roster for now. He pitched in the big leagues in parts of nine seasons between 2004 and 2015. He is a good reminder of the nature of most relievers. In 2014 with Cleveland, he posted a 2.75 ERA and a 1.02 WHIP in 72 innings over 70 games. In 23 games (19.2 innings) this season he posted a 6.86 ERA and a 1.37 WHIP. Most likely, he has an opt-out date and will have to be called up or lost. He is not on the 40-man roster. LESTER OLIVEROS After missing all of 2013 because of Tommy John surgery, he returned and was cautiously used in 2014. He ended the season with the Twins. He wasn’t 100% in spring training and began the season in Rochester. He got off to a fast start, but his performance has leveled off. Overall, he has a 3.79 ERA and a 1.46 WHIP in 35.2 innings. He has walked just 13 and struck out 46. Opponents posted an OPS of .947 off of him in June, and he missed seven days because he was suspended for throwing at an opposing batter’s head. He is not on the 40-man roster. STEPHEN PRYOR Pryor came to the Twins from the Mariners last August in exchange for Kendrys Morales. He didn’t get a September call-up. He was invited to big league spring training. However, he has been on the disabled list all season. Over the weekend, he began a rehab stint in the GCL. He has made two appearances and would likely go to Rochester (or even Chattanooga) before going further. He is not on the 40-man roster. Starting Pitchers TAYLOR ROGERS Rogers has been a starter since he was drafted in the 11th round out of Kentucky. In four seasons, he is 33-21 with a 2.96 ERA. More relevant to the here and now, he is 7-5 with a 3.04 ERA and a 1.22 WHIP with Rochester. With so much starting pitching depth, the bullpen is an option for Rogers. A quick look at his AAA splits this year shows that he has been really dominant against lefties. They are hitting .178/.197/.186 (.383). He has given up no home runs, two walks and 36 strikeouts. Right-handers have hit .296/.352/.423 (.775) with six home runs, 25 walks and 41 strikeouts. He is not on the 40-man roster, but he will need to be added following the season, so if he continues to pitch well, he could find himself In the Twins bullpen. TYLER DUFFEY Duffey has been the one example of drafting a college reliever and trying to make him into a starter can be successful. He was a co-closer at Rice with JT Chargois. Since going pro, he has primarily started. He began this season with eight starts in Chattanooga and posted a 2.56 ERA and a 1.10 WHIP. He now has made eight starts in Rochester and has a 2.44 ERA and a 1.14 WHIP. He’s got good control, throws strikes, and has a good mix of pitches. However, as a reliever, he can hit 97 which would make his secondary pitches look even better. Again, due to the Twins starter depth, Duffey may need to come up as a reliever. Like Rogers, he was a spring training invite and would need to be added to the 40-man roster following the season. He could come up before that. JOSE BERRIOS Berrios was recently promoted from AA to AAA. After 15 starts, an 8-3 record, a 3.27 ERA and a 1.14 WHIP with the Lookouts, he moved up to Rochester where he made his first start on Friday. He is clearly the Twins top starting pitcher prospect. He has great stuff, fastball, change-up and breaking pitches. He could come in out of the bullpen (which would be short-term) if the Twins remain in the pennant race. A September call up may be less likely as he doesn’t need to be added to the 40-man roster until after the 2016 season. So there you have it, the internal options that are there should the Twins decide to make more changes in the bullpen without trading away prospects and talent. We’ll be back later in the week to talk more about the Twins bullpen.
  13. The Minnesota Twins used their 13th round pick of the 2010 draft to select O’Rourke, a four-year senior from Merrimack College. In high school, O’Rourke was a three sport athlete. He played football, hockey and baseball. He thinks that it is important for kids today to be involved in more than one sport. “I think playing more than one sport is crucial. All the kids that I talk to, or parents that ask me to talk to their kids, I tell them to go out there and find as many things as you can possibly do athletically and try to excel in them. Work as hard as you can because the stuff that translates to the mound is great, not just physically, but mentally. It’s great.” Though he skated with the Merrimack hockey team in college, he didn’t play on the team. However, he had a role in his years in high school hockey. “I kind of had to be the guy who checked a lot of people. I’ve taken that bulldog mentality, and I try to bring it to the mound. At this point in my career, I’m coming out there for one or two innings, so I need to bring my all for that point and time. All the sports I’ve played tell me that I need to come with everything I’ve got. I try to take that to the baseball mound as well. ” O’Rourke began his professional career splitting time between the rotation and the bullpen. After a solid 2011 season in Beloit, he returned to the Snappers roster to start the 2012 season. Through mid-July, he was struggling with a 5.59 ERA in 29 appearances. Already 24, he could not help but wonder about his future in baseball. “Without a doubt, there’s a thought that creeps into everyone’s head. You could be the best or the worst player in the world, but there’s a point where that thought always creeps into your head. I did think about it. Am I out of my league? Is this too far above me?” Fortunately, O’Rourke had some supporters. “I had a few conversations with coaches and staff and the front office. They told me that they believed in me, that the numbers were kind of a fluke. I believed them. I think the confidence that they gave me really propelled me to the next year, 2013, and this year, 2014. Just knowing that someone is there in your corner, I think that really helps. Confidence is probably the most important thing that you can have on the mound. There can be days when your stuff is not there, but if mentally you think that you’re the top of the hill that day, then you’ll probably have a good day. Yeah, there was a time back then where I didn’t think I was very good. That’s always there. You just kind of have to kick that aside and focus on what you can control.” In Beloit, Jon and Erin Pingel decided that, for the first time, they would be willing to be a host family for members of the Beloit Snappers. They, along with their two young children, were fortunate to be able to host O’Rourke. According to Erin, “We were very excited those two stayed with us. We had met them the year before, and we really liked that Ryan picked AJ (Achter) to room with him.” O’Rourke is a very competitive pitcher on the mound, but what about off the field? According to Ping, “He was fun, just one of the kids. They played their games, and then they came home and played with the kids in the backyard.” O’Rourke made some adjustments and figured some things out the last two seasons. In 2013, left-handed batters hit just .173/.214/.250 (464) against him. Those are tremendous numbers. In 2014, the southpaw limited lefties to a .114/.162/.129 (.291) stat line. “I really can’t explain it. I don’t know if I attack them differently. I throw fastballs and sliders to lefties and righties, so it’s not like my pitches are different. Obviously my pitches are coming from different angles, one is seeing it break in and the other is seeing it break away. I’ve even asked lefties on my team to step in against me, and they just say it’s a really sharp breaking ball. I don’t know what it is I do. I just go out there. I’m just going to keep going out there and doing what I know how to do and what I’m blessed to do. I’m not really trying to change up anything at this point.” With that kind of success against left-handed batters, that sounds like a good plan. That said, he knows that he is not yet a finished product. He said, “I need to refine some things, yes, but with the success I’ve had against lefties, I’m just going to try to build on that. Work on whatever I was weak at and build my strength. You may be asking yourself, “Did Ryan O’Rourke cut down on the number of pitches he throws now that he’s pitching solely out of the bullpen? What is his strategy on the mound?" “I throw the same bag of tricks I had as a starter now as a reliever. I’ve thrown a couple of change-ups this year to righties and lefties. I’ve thrown a lot of curveballs to lefties and righties. I throw a ton of two-seamers to lefties and righties. I don’t know what it looks like to them. In my head, I try to speed up and slow down stuff depending on what the batter is doing. If he’s trying to cheat to a fastball, maybe I’ll throw a really slow breaking ball. If he’s trying to sit back on my slider, maybe I’ll throw a cutter, so they think it’s a fastball, jump on it and it tails away a little. I just try to mix things up with every pitch I have. There are not too many people in the world who can just throw two pitches and get away with it. Mariano Rivera only had to throw one pitch. I really just use everything I have and keep it down, keep it low.” O’Rourke has seen his role altered, particularly in 2014. Whereas previously he would typically pitch an inning or two, he now was being used as a LOOGY (left-handed one out guy). O’Rourke provided a scenario. “This past year, I really started focusing on it because I would see a left-hander is batting fourth next inning. The coach would be like ‘Ryan, you have the fourth hitter. The fourth batter gets up, you get it.’ That’s where I kind of saw my role of OK, here’s a lefty, you need to get a lefty.” As he saw more and more success against same-sided hitters, he noticed some changes. “I started seeing batters just kind of standing there and just being like, ‘I’m going to wait for him to prove that he can throw three strikes because I’m not going to swing at a ball and miss.’ Then toward the end of the year, the managers were just pulling every lefty. If a lefty was coming up, they’d just put in a righty.” Sure, O’Rourke probably would have liked to face more left-handed hitters, but he understood and looked at it the right way. “I just took it as a compliment.” After playing in Puerto Rico during the previous offseason, Ryan O’Rourke had the opportunity to play in Venezuela this year. He pitched 12.2 innings over 21 appearances for Aguilas del Zulia before coming back to the States for the holidays and for some rest before spring training starts. He was very excited about going to Venezuela and had goals to make the most of the opportunity. “I was told this is the hardest winter league. My goal was to go down there, enjoy myself, immerse myself in the culture and have a good experience. That was goal #1 for me. And goal #2 was to get better at baseball, learn what guys are going to do, everything. A lot of the hitters there are veterans, big leaguers. I mean, I faced Bobby Abreu down there. That was pretty cool!” There are many difficulties for American ballplayers in Venezuela. One of the obvious ones is the language barrier. O’Rourke worked on it, and he really thrived. “I took Spanish in college, but I’ve probably learned more in minor league baseball. Down there, it’s 100% necessity that you need to know. If you know broken Spanish, you’ll get by, but I got pretty close to conversational fluency. All the Americans were asking me to translate. We’d go out to eat and guys would ask me to sit with them so I could order for them.” All in all, it was a great opportunity for the 26-year-old left-hander from Massechusetts. “I went down there and it was a great experience. I was happy with what I accomplished on the field, and I was happy with everything I learned off the field. My time there, I think I spent it intelligently, and I’m happy I did it. I think that the Twins were happy I did it as well.” Whether it was his performance in Venezuela, or his performance with the New Britain Rock Cats (and one appearance with Rochester) in 2014, O’Rourke made an impression. Enough of an impression that while he was sitting on the beach in Venezuela one day, he received a call on his cell phone with a Minnesota number. “Terry Ryan called me and asked how are things were going down there. He talked to me about the season, said I had a good year and that there are always things to improve on. Then he told me that they were going to invite me into spring training. It was a short, quick conversation. It was a good conversation. I was excited, and surprised. You always think in the back of your head that you have a chance.” Being a non-roster Invitee to big league spring training guarantees nothing for a player, but as O’Rourke acknowledges, it is an opportunity. “That’s the way I look at it. In minor league camp, we always have a talk that someone in that room is going to get to the big leagues that year who didn’t pitch at all in big league camp. And it does happen every year. Look at AJ Achter last year. He was in minor league camp, pitched and got a call in September. But, the amount of guys that were in big league camp that pitched in the big leagues last year was exponentially higher. I’m hoping to make the team right out of camp, don’t get me wrong, but if that doesn’t happen, I want to get the first call. I mean, that’s just the reality of it.” He was very excited for his long-time friend AJ Achter when he got his September call up to the big leagues. “Everyone in the locker room that day was just pumped. Couldn’t happen to a better guy.” However, O’Rourke sees Achter’s situation as something more. “I was probably one of the first guys that AJ met in pro ball and we’ve been great friends ever since. It was just a great moment for me for it to happen to him because… this might sound weird, but look at my good buddy getting called up there. It’s motivation. I’ve been with him every step of the way. So, what’s to say I can’t do it too?” So, what will it be like when Ryan O’Rourke does, at some point, get that call that he will pitch in the big leagues? What will it be like to don that Minnesota Twins uniform in a regular season game for the first time? He quickly pointed out, “Don’t knock the spring training games. That will be a big moment too.” He continued, “Everything’s a step on the way. When you get the call from A-Ball to High-A, that was a good moment. High-A to AA was a cool moment. AA to AAA… They’re all cool moments. But getting the call to the peak of baseball is going to be… I don’t know… I don’t know. I’ll probably sit there and wonder if it’s real. When it happens, it’s going to be a great moment. I’ll just think of all the long bus rides, the struggles, the ups and downs, and all that culminating in the eventual biggest moment of your life when you get called up to the big leagues. I’ll probably call my Mom and my Mom is going to start crying. I’m going to work hard and if it happens, it happens. That’s why I play baseball. That’s why I give it all I have to put myself in a position to get that call.” On the morning of Christmas Eve, Ryan O’Rourke boarded a six-passenger plane in Venezuela. It traveled to Aruba where they encountered a storm that shook the plane. Somehow, the pilot landed the plane safely. Another flight later, and he was home with his family for Christmas and some time off before heading down to Ft. Myers in early February for his first spring training. He’ll try to get to some Boston Bruins games and hopes to get to a Patriots game in Foxboro if they keep their season alive. I’m sure that, on some level, O’Rourke has felt his career has been as shaky as that small plane ride. The Pingel family calls him “A kid at heart.” He is also a kid with heart, heart that has him attending big league spring training next month. O’Rourke has kind of always been an underdog, and he’s been able to get to this point. He’s certainly one guy to cheer for this spring. (Almost three years ago, in the early days of Twins Daily, Ryan O’Rourke wrote an article for our site which you can read by clicking here.)
  14. This article was originally posted in January. Ryan O'Rourke had just found out that he had been invited to big league spring training. Tonight, O'Rourke learned that he is heading to the big leagues, replacing lefty Aaron Thompson who was optioned. ----------------- When Merrimack College beat the University of Minnesota’s Men’s Hockey team in the Mariucci Classic a week ago, one member of the Twins organization was very happy. Ryan O’Rourke is a proud Merrimack alum. Recently, the left-handed reliever was invited to big league camp with the Twins. He is trying to meet a goal that many may have seen as unlikely just three years ago.The Minnesota Twins used their 13th round pick of the 2010 draft to select O’Rourke, a four-year senior from Merrimack College. In high school, O’Rourke was a three sport athlete. He played football, hockey and baseball. He thinks that it is important for kids today to be involved in more than one sport. “I think playing more than one sport is crucial. All the kids that I talk to, or parents that ask me to talk to their kids, I tell them to go out there and find as many things as you can possibly do athletically and try to excel in them. Work as hard as you can because the stuff that translates to the mound is great, not just physically, but mentally. It’s great.” Though he skated with the Merrimack hockey team in college, he didn’t play on the team. However, he had a role in his years in high school hockey. “I kind of had to be the guy who checked a lot of people. I’ve taken that bulldog mentality, and I try to bring it to the mound. At this point in my career, I’m coming out there for one or two innings, so I need to bring my all for that point and time. All the sports I’ve played tell me that I need to come with everything I’ve got. I try to take that to the baseball mound as well. ” O’Rourke began his professional career splitting time between the rotation and the bullpen. After a solid 2011 season in Beloit, he returned to the Snappers roster to start the 2012 season. Through mid-July, he was struggling with a 5.59 ERA in 29 appearances. Already 24, he could not help but wonder about his future in baseball. “Without a doubt, there’s a thought that creeps into everyone’s head. You could be the best or the worst player in the world, but there’s a point where that thought always creeps into your head. I did think about it. Am I out of my league? Is this too far above me?” Fortunately, O’Rourke had some supporters. “I had a few conversations with coaches and staff and the front office. They told me that they believed in me, that the numbers were kind of a fluke. I believed them. I think the confidence that they gave me really propelled me to the next year, 2013, and this year, 2014. Just knowing that someone is there in your corner, I think that really helps. Confidence is probably the most important thing that you can have on the mound. There can be days when your stuff is not there, but if mentally you think that you’re the top of the hill that day, then you’ll probably have a good day. Yeah, there was a time back then where I didn’t think I was very good. That’s always there. You just kind of have to kick that aside and focus on what you can control.” In Beloit, Jon and Erin Pingel decided that, for the first time, they would be willing to be a host family for members of the Beloit Snappers. They, along with their two young children, were fortunate to be able to host O’Rourke. According to Erin, “We were very excited those two stayed with us. We had met them the year before, and we really liked that Ryan picked AJ (Achter) to room with him.” O’Rourke is a very competitive pitcher on the mound, but what about off the field? According to Ping, “He was fun, just one of the kids. They played their games, and then they came home and played with the kids in the backyard.” O’Rourke made some adjustments and figured some things out the last two seasons. In 2013, left-handed batters hit just .173/.214/.250 (464) against him. Those are tremendous numbers. In 2014, the southpaw limited lefties to a .114/.162/.129 (.291) stat line. “I really can’t explain it. I don’t know if I attack them differently. I throw fastballs and sliders to lefties and righties, so it’s not like my pitches are different. Obviously my pitches are coming from different angles, one is seeing it break in and the other is seeing it break away. I’ve even asked lefties on my team to step in against me, and they just say it’s a really sharp breaking ball. I don’t know what it is I do. I just go out there. I’m just going to keep going out there and doing what I know how to do and what I’m blessed to do. I’m not really trying to change up anything at this point.” With that kind of success against left-handed batters, that sounds like a good plan. That said, he knows that he is not yet a finished product. He said, “I need to refine some things, yes, but with the success I’ve had against lefties, I’m just going to try to build on that. Work on whatever I was weak at and build my strength. You may be asking yourself, “Did Ryan O’Rourke cut down on the number of pitches he throws now that he’s pitching solely out of the bullpen? What is his strategy on the mound?" “I throw the same bag of tricks I had as a starter now as a reliever. I’ve thrown a couple of change-ups this year to righties and lefties. I’ve thrown a lot of curveballs to lefties and righties. I throw a ton of two-seamers to lefties and righties. I don’t know what it looks like to them. In my head, I try to speed up and slow down stuff depending on what the batter is doing. If he’s trying to cheat to a fastball, maybe I’ll throw a really slow breaking ball. If he’s trying to sit back on my slider, maybe I’ll throw a cutter, so they think it’s a fastball, jump on it and it tails away a little. I just try to mix things up with every pitch I have. There are not too many people in the world who can just throw two pitches and get away with it. Mariano Rivera only had to throw one pitch. I really just use everything I have and keep it down, keep it low.” O’Rourke has seen his role altered, particularly in 2014. Whereas previously he would typically pitch an inning or two, he now was being used as a LOOGY (left-handed one out guy). O’Rourke provided a scenario. “This past year, I really started focusing on it because I would see a left-hander is batting fourth next inning. The coach would be like ‘Ryan, you have the fourth hitter. The fourth batter gets up, you get it.’ That’s where I kind of saw my role of OK, here’s a lefty, you need to get a lefty.” As he saw more and more success against same-sided hitters, he noticed some changes. “I started seeing batters just kind of standing there and just being like, ‘I’m going to wait for him to prove that he can throw three strikes because I’m not going to swing at a ball and miss.’ Then toward the end of the year, the managers were just pulling every lefty. If a lefty was coming up, they’d just put in a righty.” Sure, O’Rourke probably would have liked to face more left-handed hitters, but he understood and looked at it the right way. “I just took it as a compliment.” After playing in Puerto Rico during the previous offseason, Ryan O’Rourke had the opportunity to play in Venezuela this year. He pitched 12.2 innings over 21 appearances for Aguilas del Zulia before coming back to the States for the holidays and for some rest before spring training starts. He was very excited about going to Venezuela and had goals to make the most of the opportunity. “I was told this is the hardest winter league. My goal was to go down there, enjoy myself, immerse myself in the culture and have a good experience. That was goal #1 for me. And goal #2 was to get better at baseball, learn what guys are going to do, everything. A lot of the hitters there are veterans, big leaguers. I mean, I faced Bobby Abreu down there. That was pretty cool!” There are many difficulties for American ballplayers in Venezuela. One of the obvious ones is the language barrier. O’Rourke worked on it, and he really thrived. “I took Spanish in college, but I’ve probably learned more in minor league baseball. Down there, it’s 100% necessity that you need to know. If you know broken Spanish, you’ll get by, but I got pretty close to conversational fluency. All the Americans were asking me to translate. We’d go out to eat and guys would ask me to sit with them so I could order for them.” All in all, it was a great opportunity for the 26-year-old left-hander from Massechusetts. “I went down there and it was a great experience. I was happy with what I accomplished on the field, and I was happy with everything I learned off the field. My time there, I think I spent it intelligently, and I’m happy I did it. I think that the Twins were happy I did it as well.” Whether it was his performance in Venezuela, or his performance with the New Britain Rock Cats (and one appearance with Rochester) in 2014, O’Rourke made an impression. Enough of an impression that while he was sitting on the beach in Venezuela one day, he received a call on his cell phone with a Minnesota number. “Terry Ryan called me and asked how are things were going down there. He talked to me about the season, said I had a good year and that there are always things to improve on. Then he told me that they were going to invite me into spring training. It was a short, quick conversation. It was a good conversation. I was excited, and surprised. You always think in the back of your head that you have a chance.” Being a non-roster Invitee to big league spring training guarantees nothing for a player, but as O’Rourke acknowledges, it is an opportunity. “That’s the way I look at it. In minor league camp, we always have a talk that someone in that room is going to get to the big leagues that year who didn’t pitch at all in big league camp. And it does happen every year. Look at AJ Achter last year. He was in minor league camp, pitched and got a call in September. But, the amount of guys that were in big league camp that pitched in the big leagues last year was exponentially higher. I’m hoping to make the team right out of camp, don’t get me wrong, but if that doesn’t happen, I want to get the first call. I mean, that’s just the reality of it.” He was very excited for his long-time friend AJ Achter when he got his September call up to the big leagues. “Everyone in the locker room that day was just pumped. Couldn’t happen to a better guy.” However, O’Rourke sees Achter’s situation as something more. “I was probably one of the first guys that AJ met in pro ball and we’ve been great friends ever since. It was just a great moment for me for it to happen to him because… this might sound weird, but look at my good buddy getting called up there. It’s motivation. I’ve been with him every step of the way. So, what’s to say I can’t do it too?” So, what will it be like when Ryan O’Rourke does, at some point, get that call that he will pitch in the big leagues? What will it be like to don that Minnesota Twins uniform in a regular season game for the first time? He quickly pointed out, “Don’t knock the spring training games. That will be a big moment too.” He continued, “Everything’s a step on the way. When you get the call from A-Ball to High-A, that was a good moment. High-A to AA was a cool moment. AA to AAA… They’re all cool moments. But getting the call to the peak of baseball is going to be… I don’t know… I don’t know. I’ll probably sit there and wonder if it’s real. When it happens, it’s going to be a great moment. I’ll just think of all the long bus rides, the struggles, the ups and downs, and all that culminating in the eventual biggest moment of your life when you get called up to the big leagues. I’ll probably call my Mom and my Mom is going to start crying. I’m going to work hard and if it happens, it happens. That’s why I play baseball. That’s why I give it all I have to put myself in a position to get that call.” On the morning of Christmas Eve, Ryan O’Rourke boarded a six-passenger plane in Venezuela. It traveled to Aruba where they encountered a storm that shook the plane. Somehow, the pilot landed the plane safely. Another flight later, and he was home with his family for Christmas and some time off before heading down to Ft. Myers in early February for his first spring training. He’ll try to get to some Boston Bruins games and hopes to get to a Patriots game in Foxboro if they keep their season alive. I’m sure that, on some level, O’Rourke has felt his career has been as shaky as that small plane ride. The Pingel family calls him “A kid at heart.” He is also a kid with heart, heart that has him attending big league spring training next month. O’Rourke has kind of always been an underdog, and he’s been able to get to this point. He’s certainly one guy to cheer for this spring. (Almost three years ago, in the early days of Twins Daily, Ryan O’Rourke wrote an article for our site which you can read by clicking here.) Click here to view the article
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