Results tagged ‘ Alexi Casilla ’

Remembering ’11


Although the 2011 season did not end well for the Minnesota Twins (the understatement of the year, to be sure), it is still another baseball season in the books, full of ups and downs and memorable moments along the way. This post list those moments that I remember…

-On my couch, hot dogs and brats in hand, to watch Opening Day…and then seeing the Twins out of it in Toronto before it even began, really.  Should have known something from Day One, I guess.

-Getting all excited about Nishioka, then seeing the Yankees take him out early and him become a basket case late.

-Liriano’s May no-no against the White Sox.  Probably the most unimpressive no hitter I’ve ever seen, but still a special night.

-The mid-June surge that saw Ben Revere and Alexi Casilla ignite the team.

-Watching at Target Field as Matt Capps blew ANOTHER save against the Brew Crew.

-Walking on the hallowed “Field of Dreams” in Iowa as part of a baseball-themed vacation.

-Seeing the Twins play the White Sox at The Cell as part of said vacation.

-Attending (at one point in early July) four games in the span of five days.

-The terrible months of August & September which, towards the end, even tested my patience in sitting through an entire error-ridden, pitching-splintered game.

And then, of course, there was perhaps the most meaningless season finale in Twins history.  Except, of course, that it wasn’t.  With John Gordon behind the microphone for the final time, the Twins rallied in the ninth for a walk-off win thanks to the bat of Trevor Plouffe and the legs of Denard Span.

Though, for sure, those last few months were trying and many times I just wished the season would mercifully come to a close, that final game really put things in perspective.  With each passing day without baseball (and especially when football comes to an end), all I’ll want is simply this, with my Minnesota Twins…

Two Things…

Two things to ponder in the middle of a hot streak…

1. It never ceases to amaze me that if Alexi Casilla is playing well (both in the field, at the plate, and on the basepaths), the Twins are almost guaranteed to be winning games.  The theory doesn’t hold true in the reverse, as the Twins have played well without Casilla on many occasions the last few years, but I’ve never seen him play well in losing efforts.  Don’t ask me why this is, but it seems to be the case.

2. When things are at their most bleak…and I mean the VERY PIT of despair…the Twins always seem to play their best as well.  It wasn’t until both Thome and Kubel went down on the same day that the winning streak began.  I suppose one could argue that when rock bottom is hit, the ONLY way to go is up, but I’d still like to think that the Twins are a better team WITH Kubel/Thome than without.  The same effect was seen after the loss of Morneau in 2009 & 2010.

Notes:

-A tough loss in Cleveland tonight, but it was a well-contested contest that saw Liriano look solid and the bullpen do a great job.  We just ran into the buzzsaw of Carlos Carrasco for a night.  The key now is to bounce back and still take the series tomorrow afternoon.

Preview (22-38, 5th, 4.0 GB KCR): Carl Pavano (3-5, 4.83) vs. Justin Masterson (5-4, 3.28)

Spark & Fire

Spark:

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Gardy said he likes the Tolbert-Casilla combination up the middle. If the Twins keeping winning, Cuddy can put away his small glove.

Fire:

New call-up (but old hand) Jim Hoey came into the game throwing these…

 

Very impressive, to say the least

Two wins in a row?!  Against these hapless O’s, it should be more as the week plays out.

Preview (): Carl Pavano (1-1, 3.60) vs. RHP Jake Arrieta (1-1, 7.04).

What I Want To See On Opening Day…

What I want to see Friday night in Toronto…

-Denard Span having a 9-pitch at-bat and drawing a walk.

-Alexi Casilla getting through a whole game without a bonehead mistake of some kind (not holding my breath on this one)

-Nishioka lining a single to left/center/right and being halfway to first base before the ball leaves the infield.

-The M&M boys together in the lineup.

-Cuddyer gunning a ball in from RF.

-Danny Valencia just being himself…or cool.

-Pavano laboring through 7-8 innings and keeping us in the game.

-Jim Thome just swinging.  Seriously…even a whiff is epic with that guy.

And finally, what I’ve been waiting to here for over a year now…

If that song is playing, I’ll know a win is within reach!!

Spring Training 2011: On The Fringe

With the Twins now in Fort Myers, FL, for Spring Training, they’ve been getting more media attention than usual due to issues like Morneau’s concussion comeback, Nathan’s Tommy John rehab, and the new Japanese SS whose name I’m too lazy to look up for spelling (probably should get on that).

However, there are three other areas I would like to comment on that perhaps slip our minds in the midst of the “bit stories”:

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1. Alexi Casilla has never been an everyday player for a full season.  Whenever he’s been given the opportunity to start, he’s droppped the ball (sometimes even in the literal sense).  Considering Gardy’s love of guys like Matt “The Next Punto?” Tobert or the newcomer Luke Hughes, Casilla still has a lot to prove and will not be handed the job by any means.

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2. Can “Valencia Mania” continue? A favorite example of mine of this case comes from 2000, when the Mets had an outfielder named Timo Perez (heck, he might be bouncing around somewhere yet) who, in August-September that year, looked like the next coming of Junior Griffey.  He then made a few World Series blunders, pitchers figured him out, and he’s been a fringe player since.  Pitchers now have a similar “book” on young Danny-Boy, so those fat pitches will be fewer and farther between.

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3. Besides a summer (June-July) that was out of control, Delmon Young was very average at the beginning and end of 2010.  What if that “Beast Mode” doesn’t occur again in ’11, or for nearly as long?  He’s always been a streaky hitter.

Keep an eye on these issues, as they could be every bit as important as “the big boys”.

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Some Twins signing news from this week:

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Glen Perkins gets a 1-year deal. This surprised me, as I thought he was on the outs with the Twins organization.  I guess being a lefty on a team that hoardes pitching has its benefits.

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Alexi Casilla is also back for another year, and being given his umpteenth chance to win a starting role.

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One more year of Matt Capps (that sound you hear is me getting down on my knees to pray that Joe Nathan comes back strong).  He’s not that bad…but not that good, either.

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Jon Rauch is now a Blue Jay.  Perhaps he will thrive again as more of a setup option, like his 2009 role.  He lucked into some gimme saves here last April, and held the job for far too long.  If only his repetoire and velocity were as intimidated as, well, him!

Are You Watching Closely?

Man, it’s been awhile since I’ve written on this blog. I guess this year, I’m taking the annual loss to the Yankees in the playoffs a bit harder than usual.

To be honest, I’m not even going to comment on that ALDS.  If you are curious as to some analysis about why we were beaten by the Yankees again, just look at two older posts from this blog:

http://zkonedog.files.wordpress.com/2010/10/ramoswilson1.jpgarchives/2009/10/why_we_lost_theory_1_we_beat_o.html

http://zkonedog.files.wordpress.com/2010/10/ramoswilson1.jpgarchives/2009/10/why_we_lost_theory_2_we_were_o.html

Just change around a few of the names and faces, and that (once again) perfectly explains why the Twins can’t quite topple the mighty Yanks (even though a team like Texas doesn’t seem to have much trouble with them).

What I want to look at right now, instead, is a huge missed opportunity.  After seeing Cliff Lee (Game 1 WS start aside) pretty much buzz-saw his way through the playoffs once again, I can’t help but wondering if Twins execs shouldn’t be “watching closely” as to the difference one ace pitcher can make.

Consider this:

Throughout the regular season, the Twins were the far superior team than Texas.  In those final months of the year, we practically ran away with the #2 seed in the American League.  The ultimate turning point, though, came at the All-Star break, when we had a chance at acquiring Mr. Lee…

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However, it seemed as if Wilson Ramos…

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…was the stumbling block (at least as reported in the papers) as to why the deal fell through.

Basically, the way I understand it, the Twins didn’t want to give up such a touted prospect for a guy who they knew they would only be renting, especially at a time when a playoff spot was not a given at that point.

Here’s what boggles my mind, though.  Ramos eventually did get shipped out of town, but for the services of one Matt Capps, who did relatively nothing to lock down a solid closing role and was a non-factor in the playoffs.

Now, on one hand, I get what the mid-market (with the new stadium) Twins were trying to do, and that is not tie up too much money in a short-term player when our own talent will need to be paid again soon.  I just wish that Twins execs would have taken a page out of the 2009 Vikings handbook.  The Vikes gambled on Brett Favre, and it took them to the NFC Championship game with a magical season.  Why couldn’t the Twins have done the same?!

I truly believe that we were a much better team than the one that lost to the Yankees in a short three games.  We could hit, field, and pitch (despite a lack of a star bullpen) quite well, but we were just missing that one ace who could give us that confidence-building lead in the series.  Cisco and Pavano did their best, but once it got to Duensing it was all but over.

As much as I hate to say it, the window may have just closed a bit.  Thome’s status is uncertain, Hardy/Hudson might both be gone (leading the old faithful Punto/Casilla middle infield that inspires little confidence both on the field and in the box), and who knows if Pavano can put together another inspired season again (if he even does return).  As evidenced by Texas bouncing the Yanks rather easily, they were ripe for the picking this year.  It just would have taken one ace…the one ace we didn’t gamble on.

Twins execs…are you watching closely?

Thanks Again, ‘Lexi!

Blue_Jays_Twins_Baseball_sff_197164_game.jpgIf the Twins were to start Alexi Casilla at second base (or SS for that matter) on a regular basis, he would hit .250 with no power, strike out often, and make enough bonehead plays (both in the field and on the basepaths) to send Gardy to an early grave.

However, put him in a late-season pressure-cooker situation, and the results speak for themselves:

 

For a team looking for a spark going forward into the playoffs, this could be it!

Notes:

-Still don’t know our first-round opponent.  Tampa Bay holds the tiebreaker over New York, so (with both teams tied heading into the regular season’s final day) a TB win would automatically give us the Yanks.

Preview (94-67, 1st, 7 GA CWS): Marc Rzepczynski (3-4, 5.56) vs. Nick Blackburn (10-11, 5.55)

When Delmon Ain’t Happy, Ain’t Nobody Happy

Twins_Rays_Baseball_sff_185986_game.jpgOne of the startling (but in a good way) characteristics of the 2009 Minnesota Twins has been their ability to overcome injury adversity and play on despite extended DL trips for three starters (Orlando Hudson, Nick Punto, and Justin Morneau) and a beat-up Joe Mauer.  Guys like Delmon Young, Michael Cuddyer, Alexi Casilla, Drew Butera, and Danny Valencia have found their niches over the past few months.

However, if the first two games dropped in Tropicana tell us anything (besides the fact that the Rays are fast and shouldn’t be walked, respectively), it is that Delmon Young is the key to everything right now (at least with Morneau still on the sidelines).  So far against Rays pitching, Delmon is 1-9.  Without him spraying the ball everywhere, the Twins just don’t have enough lineup depth to keep mounting rallies when needed.

Thus, against good teams that we can’t just clobber, we all too often send a bullpen full of late-inning collapsers (Guerrier, Crain, Mijares) into the game at the most pressure-filled situations.  Unless the splits/matchups go exactly our way, bad things are almost bound to happen.

I’m not saying that the pen is altogether rotten, but put it this way…right now I have as much confidence in Jesse Crain as in anyone else that comes out of those swinging doors, and anybody who has read my blog in the past knows how difficult it is for me to even CONSIDER that statement.

Notes:

-Another good start for Duensing (just one mistake that happened to be hammered by Sean Rodriguez), but still too many walks, which only serve to raise the pitch count and tack on runs that shouldn’t ever materialize.

-Woke up this morning, heard Brett Favre had texted his retirement to the Vikings, and thought “Well, the Twins had better be the bread-winners this sports season”.  Of course, that would mean I actually BELIEVE #4…

Preview (59-48, 2nd, 1.5 GB CWS): Scott Baker (9-9, 5.00) vs. David Price (14-5, 2.90).

Best Of The West?

Rangers_Twins_Baseball_sff_173980_game.jpgBefore this weekend series, the Texas Rangers were battling for first place in the AL West.  They still are, but now do so just two games over .500 thanks to a three-game sweep by the Twins.

Boy, so far this season is shaping up pretty much like last year (with one key difference):

-Twins beat up on the AL Central (same as ’09)

-Twins cannot touch the AL East (same as ’09)

-Twins beat up on the AL West (different from ’09 and the reason why we are considered a much better team this season).

This bodes well for the start of a rather lengthy west coast road swing starting on Monday in Seattle.

Notes:

-Scary moment at the end of Sunday night’s contest when Denard Span collided with Orlando Hudson on the final play of the game.  Both were a bit slow to get up, with Hudson taking a really long time to get to his feet and likely not playing for a day or so.  Don’t have any official word yet, but the loss of Hudson for any prolonged period would be a big blow to our infield configuration (Casilla playing every day is NOT something I am comfortable with).

Preview (30-20, 1st, 3.5 GA DET): Francisco Liriano (4-3, 3.17) vs. Doug Fister (3-2, 2.03)

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