Results tagged ‘ Anthony Swarzak ’

Texas Beatdown

When a lineup consists of Josh Hamilton, Michael Young, Adrian Beltre, and Nelson Cruz, sometimes a blowout occurs.

About the only positive to take from it is Swarzak saving the bullpen after Duensing’s disappointment.

Preview (24-39, 5th, 3.0 GB KCR): Colby Lewis (5-6, 4.37) vs. Scott Baker (3-4, 3.86)

Snatch & Grab It

Finally, a Twins callup from Rochester (AAA) is taking the opportunity of a lifetime and running with it.  Anthony Swarzak made his second consecutive strong start, the Twins (even without Thome/Kubel) knocked out a bunch of runs, and we inched one game closer to fourth place.  Gee whiz, I know, but progress is progress at this point.  Maybe a series win on the road can occur next??!!

Preview (18-37, 5th, 6.5 GB KCR): Carl Pavano (2-5, 5.19) vs. Danny Duffy (0-0, 4.11)

Minnesota Twins Spring Training Preview 2010

sect-101-450.jpgNow that the Twins are cranking things up down in Fort Myers, here is a little preview of what to expect in terms of the build-up to Opening Day 2010:

Last Year: 87-76, 1st in American League Central Division (1 GA of Detroit Tigers), lost to New York Yankees in ALDS (3-0).

 

Manager: Once again, the Twins will have Ron Gardenhire at the helm.  Since taking the reins from Tom Kelly back in 2002, Gardy has posted a 709-588 (.547) record with the Twins.  Besides the lone 1969 Billy Martin tenure, that winning percentage constitutes the highest mark in franchise history, and trails only TK (1140-1244) in overall wins.

 

Venue: After nearly three decades of playing in the Hubert H. Humphrey Metrodome, the Twins will now christen open-air Target Field as their new home.  Dimensions: LF-339, LCF-377, CF-404, RCF-367, RF-328.

 

Projected Starting Lineup & Positions:

 

  1. Denard Span (R), CF (2009 stats: .311 BA, 97 R, 180 H, 23 SB, .807 OPS): Though primarily just a singles hitter who runs the bases well, Span is very adept at working counts, getting on base, and coming up big in the clutch.  The best lead-off hitter wearing “TC” since Chuck Knoblauch jumped ship.  Plays Torii Hunter-like defense in the outfield.
  2. Orlando Hudson (S), 2B (for LA Dodgers: .283 BA, 74 R, 35 2B, .774 OPS, All-Star, Gold Glove): One of the newcomers this year.  Can’t say I’ve watched him play much, but the stats don’t seem to lie.  He’s very comparable to the departed Orlando Cabrera, who did wonders for the top of the order down the stretch in ’09.
  3. Joe Mauer (L), C (.365 BA, 94 R, 96 RBI, 28 HR, 1.031 OPS, All-Star, Gold Glove, MVP, Silver Slugger): Perhaps the most talented player in baseball this side of Albert Pujols.  The kind of guy who could hit .320 and call it a “down year”.
  4. Justin Morneau (L), 1B (.274 BA, 100 RBI, 30 HR, .878 OPS, All-Star): Take a look at those stats, and then consider he missed the final month of ’09 due to injury.  His ability to hit for average and maintain a selective eye separates him from the hackers.
  5. Michael Cuddyer (R), RF (.276 BA, 93 R, 94 RBI, 32 HR, .862 OPS): The biggest hurdle for Cuddy is making it through an entire season.  When hurt, he struggles with things like consistency and strike outs.  When healthy, he puts up numbers like last season.  Possesses a rifle arm.
  6. Jason Kubel (L), DH (.300 BA, 28 HR, 103 RBI, .907 OPS): Could be the cleanup hitter in many other teams’ lineups.  Is just coming into his own (a bit late) after struggling through a serious knee injury as a rookie.  Can also more than hold his own in the outfield, where he may find himself on more than a few occasions if Jim Thome heats up.
  7. Delmon Young (R), LF (.284 BA, 60 RBI, 12 HR, .733 OPS): Will be the first to sit if Kubel and Thome play their way into the lineup, but also has tremendous upside.  Is clumsy in the field (but just good enough to make up for it) and prone to hitting nothing but singles for long stretches, but when locked in can be a deadly force.
  8. J.J. Hardy (R), SS (for Milwaukee Brewers: .229 BA, 53 R, 47 RBI, 11 HR, .659 OPS): The Twins are hoping for the ’07-’08 Hardy to re-emerge…the one who hit 25+ homers and posted a respectable average.  The verdict is still out on his D, which is decent but not Punto-like.
  9. Nick Punto (S) (.228 BA, 56 R, 82 H, 16 SB, .621 OPS) or Brendan Harris (R), 3B (.261 BA, 44 R, 108 H, .672 OPS): A classic “offense vs. defense” choice here.  Gardy loves Punto for the defense he brings to the infield, but Little Nicky is often an albatross at the bottom of the order.  Harris is an average fielder, but can rattle one off the wall every so often.

 

Bench:

 

  1. Jim Thome (DH/1B, L) (for White Sox & Dodgers: .249 BA, 23 HR, 77 RBI, .847 OPS): Hopefully the big bat the Twins have desperately needed off the pine.  Could easily play his way into everyday lineup if balls start clearing the walls.
  2. Jose Morales (C, S) (.311 BA, 119 AB, .742 OPS): Showed enough poise as a youngster for the Twins to let veteran Mike Redmond leave.
  3. Alexi Casilla (2B, S) (.202, 228 AB, .538 OPS): At times provides a spark to the top of the order and plays flashy D, but is still far too prone to mental errors/goofs that Gardy can’t stand.
  4. Matt Tolbert (IF, S) (.232, 198 AB, .611 OPS): Plays the kind of scrappy ball and defense that the manager loves and his adept at handling the bat (if not racking up hits).

-Others battling for roster spots include Drew Butera (C), Wilson Ramos (C), Jacque Jones (OF), Luke Hughes (IF), Trevor Plouffe (IF), and Danny Valencia (IF).

 

Starting Rotation:

 

  1. Scott Baker (RHP, 15-9, 4.36 ERA, 200 IP): Baker has shown spurts of ace-like outings, but needs to consistently pitch further into games to really match up against the league’s best.
  2. Nick Blackburn (RHP, 11-11, 4.03 ERA, 205.2 IP): Has a knack for coming up big in the clutch starts, but also needs to work on consistency.  A typical sinkerball pitcher in that if the ball isn’t diving, it’s jumping (off bats, that is).
  3. Kevin Slowey (RHP, 10-3, 4.86 ERA, 90.2 IP): At times looks like the second coming of Brad Radke, but needs to stay healthy for an entire season to prove it.  Has absolutely pin-point accuracy with an assortment of pitches to keep the hitters guessing.
  4. Carl Pavano (RHP, 5-4, 4.64 ERA, 73.2 IP): The only veteran in the starting rotation, but his overall effectiveness is questionable.  Showed he could compete against the AL Central after being acquired during the latter months of the season, but needs to prove his worth against the “big boys” of the league.
  5. Francisco Liriano (LHP, 5-13, 5.80 ERA, 136.2 IP), Glen Perkins (LHP, 6-7, 5.89 ERA, 96.1 IP), Brian Duensing (LHP, 5-2, 3.64 ERA, 84 IP), Anthony Swarzak (RHP, 3-7, 6.25 ERA, 59 IP), or Jeff Manship (RHP, 1-1, 5.68 ERA, 31.2 IP): Liriano is obviously the wild card of this group, as he could become unquestioned ace of the staff or play himself right out of the majors.  Perkins is not on the organization’s good side after squabbles over service time and just plain poor performance, while Duensing is the conservative pick after impressing in the heat of the pennant race last year.  Swarzak and/or Manship would have to pitch their tails off to even warrant consideration.

 

Bullpen:

 

  1. Joe Nathan (RHP, 2.10 ERA, 68.2 IP, 47 SV): Still a top-tier closer in all of baseball, but somehow needs to shake late- (and post-) season demons.  Too many batters (7) tagged him with the long ball last year, so that is a good place to start.
  2. Matt Guerrier (RHP, 2.36 ERA, 76.1 IP): The primary setup man to Nathan.  Is very solid, but fatigue always an issue due to over-use.
  3. Jose Mijares (LHP, 2.34 ERA, 61.2 IP): The lefty-lefty matchup guy who his almost unhittable when in decent shape and possessing a clear head.  Has tendency to put balls in the dirt and sometimes inexplicably loses his control for short periods of time.
  4. Pat Neshek (RHP, DNP-Injured): After missing almost two whole seasons due to Tommy John surgery, the side-winding Minnesota native is back to confuse opponents once again.  Could be a god-send to take some of the strain off Matty G.
  5. Jon Rauch (RHP, 1.72 ERA, 15.2 IP): One of the big (literally!) reasons the Twins made the playoffs last season.  Is very flexible in terms of duration (1-3 innings).
  6. Jesse Crain (RHP, 4.70 ERA, 51.2 IP): An enigma: some fans love his electric stuff, while others cringe at his predictability, wobbly control, and inability to pitch out of jams after creating them.
  7. Clay Condrey (RHP, for Philadelphia: 3.00 ERA, 42 IP): A newcomer who is coming off two solid seasons in the National League.  Adds valuable depth to a unit that would often carry a green rookie or past-his-prime vet in this spot.

 

Prediction: If the starting pitching holds up for the entire season and the bats produce even a trifling of what they should, this could be a very scary team.  Must prove first and foremost that, as well as beating up on the Kansas City’s and Cleveland’s of the world, they now have the firepower to take on the likes of New York and Anaheim (teams that destroyed them in ’09).  A division championship is a very achievable goal, with the sights set on further venturing into the playoff tournament.

 

In The Big Inning

Besides the pun, I could have just as easily titled this blog post “Out Of Our League”, as that is exactly what the Twins are when playing the Angels.

Yesterday, it was the pitching of John Lackey shutting us down.  Today, it was one inning that led to our undoing.

 

dd98b77f-3f85-4397-bbec-2e796c2b4a40.jpgIn the bottom of the fourth, with the Twins actually leading 2-0 thanks to a Jason Kubel dinger, the Angels scored nine runs against Nick Blackburn and R.A. Dickey.  At one point, after the Izturis home run, Gardy actually turned his back to the field in disgust (I thought he was going to stroke out.

This was probably the most action that happened all day (from a Twins fans’ perspective, of course):

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A week ago, while the Twins were still in the thick of things in the AL Central (how quickly things can change, huh?), I purchased tickets to the Monday and Tuesday night games next week against the White Sox.  Now, I’m just hoping that the division isn’t already cinched up by then.

Preview (48-50, 3rd, 2.0 GB CWS): Anthony Swarzak (2-3, 4.15) vs. Ervin Santana (3-5, 7.29). I fully expect a sweep, so a victory would just be icing at this point. 

The Lonely Goatherd (aka Diary Of An Insane Night)

A recap of the events on the fateful night of 7-20-09 in Minnesota Twins fan history:

From 7:00 to 10:00 p.m., I was at the local theater performance of “The Sound of Music”

 

It was a great performance, especially considering the small-town venue.  It ran a bit longer than I thought it would, so I hurried out to the car radio to get the Twins games on the sub-woofers.  At that point, I found out that this was happening…

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Basically, it was a good ‘ole fashion beat-down courtesy of guys like Justin Morneau, Jason Kubel, and, well, pretty much everyone else. The high point came at 12-2 in the third inning, I believe, when it looked as if the Twins might set a new single game scoring record.

The only damper on the evening is that the A’s kept trying to crawl their way back into the game due to the fact that Nick Blackburn was essentially throwing batting practice (his sinker wasn’t moving at all). He left after five innings having given up seven runs.

Of course, the bullpen would come in and cobble together the rest, right. Yeah…the lines for the next two Twins hurlers:

Brian Duensing: 1.1 IP, 3 ER

Bobby Keppel: 0.0 IP, 3 ER

As I thought the game was well in hand, I was kind of messing around on Facebook while all the horrendousness was going down, so I don’t remember exactly what transpired, but suffice it to say that Duensing loaded the bases in the seventh, then Keppel gave up a grand slam to Matt Holliday to tie the game at 13-13…

 

SucksBigTime.jpg Then Gardy, looking like he could bite the head off a bat, pulled Keppel for Jose Mijares.  On the first pitch. Jack Cust took HIM deep, and the A’s had remarkably taken the lead.  This was my status quote on Facebook at that point:

**** (14-13)

But that wasn’t the last of it by far.  With two outs and the Twins looking to go down meekly in the bottom of the ninth, Cuddyer doubled and Kubel was intentionally walked.  Delmon Young then stepped to the plate and did his level best to prolong the game (by not swinging…his premier aspect).  On the second pitch to Young, the ball bounce high of the plate and, to the horror of Oakland catcher Kurt Suzuki, could not be found.  Cuddyer easily took third, then made the now-fateful decision to try and tie the game.  He came barreling into the plate, slide across the dish right between Suzkuki’s legs and before the tag, and looked to home plate umpire Mike Muchlinski for the “safe” sign that would surely be forthcoming:

CuddySlide.jpg

Unfortunately, to paraphrase poet Ernest Thayer:

Oh, somewhere in this favored land the sun is shining bright;

The band is playing somewhere, and somewhere hearts are light,

And somewhere men are laughing, and somewhere children shout;

But there is no joy in Twinsville – mighty Cuddy was called out.

I have watched a lot of baseball over the years, and that “out” call may have been the worst umpiring decision I have ever seen. Cuddyer was halfway across home plate before Suzuki’s glove hit him, yet Muchlinski gave him the fist pump. I am usually not one to call for suspensions/fines lightly, but if Muchlinski doesn’t get some sort of reprimand from MLB I would be disappointed. A major league umpire should make that call in his sleep.

Preview (47-46, 3rd, 1.5 GB CWS): Anthony Swarzak (2-3, 4.50) vs. Dallas Braden (7-8, 3.45). How exactly does a team bounce back from a loss like last night?  That is the question I posed to Bert Blyleven on the Carsoup.com “Email the Booth” website before tonight’s game.

Emperors And Idiots

EmporerIdiots_Large.jpgJust recently, I finished reading Mike Vaccaro’s book entitled “Emperors and Idiots” and had fun re-living the Yankees/Red Sox rivalry of 2003 and 2004 (as well as down throughout the years).  However, after watching the Twins get swept (once again) by the Yankees this past week, I think that title could very well ring true to the contests between these two teams as well.  Basically, the Yankees are the emperors, and they make the Twins look like idiots.

Each of the three games of this most recent series was, in its own right, a little slice of why the Yankees thump the Twins so bad each and every game.  First, was the big blowout where the Yankees just teed-off on Scott Baker.  Second, was the Twins’ bats running into the buzzsaw that is A.J. Burnett (I almost titled this post “Why do guys named A.J. always haunt the Twins?”) while we throw Anthony Swarzak in against the most powerful lineup in the game.  Finally, Thursday’s matinee was just that kind of game where the Twins kept battling for all nine innings, but the Yankees always had an answer with their bats.

To put it bluntly, the Yankees make us look like a minor league outfit for one primary reason: our pitching isn’t good enough to stop their tremendous hitting.  Unless Nick Blackburn were to take the mound, there would be no starter-starter combination that would favor the Twins.  Baker is too inconsistent, Liriano is Liriano, Swarzak’s just a kid, and Perkins is erratic.

All told, the series can be summed up in two pictures:

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d56283f4-f836-4067-ad83-bd83f9ee915f.jpgPreview (43-43, 3rd, 1.5 GB CWS): John Danks (7-6, 3.76) vs. Nick Blackburn (7-4, 2.94). Coming into the Yankees series, the Twins were in second place and nipping at Detroit’s heels.  Now they are in third place and looking up at the Pale Hose as well.  A “statement series” before the All-Star break would be nice, as would the bump in the standings.

With A Name Like Milton Bradley, Don’t You EXPECT Something Childish?!

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brand.gifEarlier today (Friday), the Twins got a great start from starting pitcher Kevin Slowey, the bullpen did its level best to blow the lead, and the bats got just enough clutch hitting to push enough runners across the plate.

However, were Milton Bradley not playing right field at Wrigley, the game may have gone completely different for a number of different reasons…all related to Bradley.  Through seven innings, Bradley had made a baserunning blunder, lost a ball in the sun, and was unable to catch a bloop double that went for an RBI for Michael Cuddyer.

In the eighth inning, though, Milton pulled a stunt that will be remembered by the 41,000 paid attendance at the game for a long time.  With Joe Mauer up and runners at the corners, Jo-Mo hit a deep fly ball to right field…right into the sun.  Bradley finally located the ball and, once it was nestled safely in his glove, proceeded to strike a dandy pose.  Never once looking in towards the infield, Bradley remained in that statue-like position for a few moments before casually flipping the ball over the fence.  Unbeknownst to him, of course, was that he had only caught the SECOND out of the inning, and thus Brendan Harris continued circling the bases to third.  He didn’t end up scoring in the inning, but the Cubs fans really got on Bradley (booing) as he trotted off the field.

So thanks Milt, for providing some entertainment in the afternoon.  Hope to see you again (roughly same time, hopefully same place!) tomorrow!

Preview (31-32, 2nd, 4.0 GB DET): Anthony Swarzak (1-2, 5.23) vs. Rich Harden (4-2, 4.74). Harden is making his first start since early May in coming off the DL, while Swarzak is basically pitching for his major league roster spot (what with Glen Perkins due back next week).

Laying Down The LAW(rie)

Lawrie.jpgAlthough I did enjoy watching the Twins hold the lead against the Indians last night, the premiere baseball excitement came from the Women’s College Softball World Series Championship on ESPN.

My Dad got me into watching the games a few days ago, and they really are very exciting.  One playoff game was decided by a walk-off grand slam, while another came down to a freshman (Jazlyn Lunceford) pinch hitting for a senior and team captain (Brittany Rogers) and hitting a granny!

However, the entire tournament was really dominated by Washington Huskie pitcher Danielle Lawrie.  She was the PAC-10 player of the year in 2009 and, at least during the playoffs, pitched every inning of every game (one going 15 innings!) for her team.  Although she had a few off innings, most times she was absolutely unhittable.  During the final game, where the Florida Gators needed to beat WASH to force a deciding game three, Lawrie and her Huskies were clinging to a slight 3-2 and Lawrie was struggling.  Once the fifth inning dawned, though, Lawrie came out to the mound with a look of determination that I don’t think I have ever seen from a baseball player of any kind, major leagues or otherwise.  From that point on she completely dominated the Gators’ bats and, pretty obviously, was named MVP of the World Series.

The amazing thing is, Lawrie is just a junior, so you can bet that she will have the Huskies back in the hunt next year as well.  I will be watching!

Twins Preview (26-27, 2nd, 3.5 GB DET): Cliff Lee (2-6, 3.16) vs. Anthony Swarzak (1-1, 2.08).  As beat up as the Indians are right now, I have to give Swarzak the nod in this one.  Of course, Lee could always (as a southpaw) pull a complete game shutout out of his hat against our bats.

One Profane Man

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Yesterday afternoon, the Twins and Red Sox hooked up for a pretty intense duel, with the Sox coming out on top 3-1.  Things really got interesting in the seventh inning, for both clubs:

Top: With the Sox batting, a close play at the plate from Kubel (a great throw) to Redmond was called “safe” for the Sox when replays seemed to show that he was actually out.  Redmond popped up and did his best “Yogi Berra after Jackie Robinson steals home” impersonation.  He was immediately run from the game (which hurt the Twins by losing the DH and thus not pinch hitting for Matt Tolbert in the game’s key moment an inning later) and closely followed by manager Ron Gardenhire.

Bottom: Up until the seventh inning, Josh Beckett had been absolutely mowing down the Twins’ batters (besides the one Joe Crede bomb).  Yet, throughout the game I noticed that he was incredibly angry and often (even after a 1-2-3 inning) would stomp off the mound uttering terrible profanities.  I never really got the feeling that he was being squeezed at the plate, but obviously he thought differently.  Thus, in the seventh, a very close pitch was called a ball and Beckett immediately told the umpire that he could “go have carnal relations with himself” (to put it nicely).  Boy, was Beckett ever hot, almost throwing a temper tantrum right on the mound!  Within minutes, both Jason Varitek and Terry Francona were joining Gardy and Red Dog in the bowels of the Dome.  Why Beckett didn’t get the old heave-ho as well is completely beyond me.  Personally, I lost some respect for him for that little tirade.  I have rarely seen a pitcher get so angry out on the mound (especially when dominating the opposing team) and it makes Beckett seem like just a hot-headed jerk who happens to have some nasty stuff.

All in all, though, a sweep with the Sox isn’t the end of the world by any means.  The real test now will be going into Tampa Bay and trying to play just as tough.  Much like last year, the Twins won’t become a legit contender unless they can even just play below-average (not God-awful) ball on the road.

Notes:

-Joe Crede is coming around.  His defense alone is darn near enough to keep him in the lineup every game, especially considering the struggles of Brian Buscher, while his bat is showing good pop.

-Glen Perkins may not have a job when he gets healthy.  Anthony Swarzak has been VERY impressive in both his starts in the majors so far.

Preview (24-25, 2nd, 3.5 GB DET): Scott Baker (2-5, 6.32) vs. James Shields (3-4, 3.63).

Bye, Bye, Breslow

610x.jpgYesterday, the Twins announced that they had placed relief pitcher Craig Breslow on waivers and he was claimed by the Oakland Athletics.  In his place, the Twins brought up Anthony Swarzak…

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…who will make the start on Saturday against the Brewers in place of Glen Perkins.

One down, two (Crain and Ayala) to go!

Preview (18-23, 3rd, 5.5 GB DET): Nick Blackburn (2-2, 4.38) vs. Bartolo Colon (2-3, 4.21). This season is on the brink of spiraling out of control before the end of May.  Blackburn needes to turn in a quality outing and have the pen back him up.

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