Results tagged ‘ Brendan Harris ’

Good Deal

Well, for the first time since Shannon Stewart was acquired from the Toronto Blue Jays back in 2003, the Minnesota Twins finally pulled the trigger on a mid-season addition, this time in the form of A’s shortstop Orlando Cabrera:

130984_Athletics_Rangers_Baseball.jpgPersonally, I think this is a GREAT move for the Twins to have made, as Cabrera plays great defense and hits, at .280, rougly 70-80 points better than Nick Punto on any given day. Plus, he is on a terror with the bat (.377 this month) right now, so maybe we’re getting him just when he is starting to peak this year.

Back in ’03, when Stewart came on board, the Twins miraculously went from a team almost out of contention, to one that won the division almost going away. It’s amazing what a little excitement (from a big trade) can do for the players on a team. Shannon brought the leadoff presence that year, while now Cabrera brings offense out of the #2 hole in the lineup (exactly what we need).

What will be interesting is how Harris, Casilla, and Punto will be used now that Orlando is in town. Harris was terrible at the second sack last year, but can (and will) play third when (not if, unfortunately) Crede needs to be out of the lineup. That leaves Punto and Casilla at second, and assuming Gardy doesn’t stroke out in the near future, we all know what that means (although batting ninth, one is probably just as good as the other).

By the way, I attended the first two Twins/Sox games at the Dome earlier this week, and really, is there any better feeling than sweeping the Sox?! Hey, maybe we can give the Angels a little payback this time around now that Cabrera is on our side!

Other deadline deals:

-Victor Martinez is on the verge of going to the Red Sox.

-Halladay is still a Jay (two minutes to go!)

-Tigers acquired starter Jarrod Washburn

Preview (52-50, 2nd, 2.0 GB DET): Ervin Santana (3-6, 7.29) vs. Nick Blackburn (8-5, 3.75). No Cabrera yet tonight, but Blackie might not need him.

We Are Spoiled

f872189a-f3f6-4a93-8427-33b2b8629f1f.jpgThe Twins killed the White Sox today. Denard Span, Brendan Harris, and Carlos Gomez all homered, and Mark Buehrle was finally brought to justice. A good win to close out the unofficial “first half” of the 2009 regular season. Yet, while watching Sportscenter tonight, it was brought to my attention that this is the sixth straight season that the Twins have finished above the .500 mark at the All-Star Break. Though none of those clubs ever made it out of the first round of the playoffs, that is still quite an achievement nonetheless, and one that should be appreciated. I remember watching Twins baseball back in the late 1990s and wondering if the team would ever get back to this sort of excitement:

Of course, once the Twins DID become competitive again, yet never reached a World Series, we are now all spoiled because they don’t do it every single season:

Sure, the Twins may not win the division this year, but we will (barring a complete collapse) be one of only a handfull of teams with real playoff aspirations come September. Just think about being a fan of the Royals, who are all but mathimatically eliminated each All-Star break, or the number of other teams mired in the bottoms of their respective divisions. At least our Twins have something exciting to play for.

Preview: Tomorrow night is the annual Home Run Derby, including these participants…

American League: Joe Mauer, Nelson Cruz, Brandon Inge, Carlos Pena

National League: Adrian Gonzalez, Ryan Howard, Albert Pujols, Prince Fielder

Though the NL seems to have the stacked field in this competition, I’m going to go with Pena to win the whole thing. Mauer is my guy, and Pujols is the home-town boy, but that swing of Pena is just made to blast home runs.

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).

The Ace Was Wild

KazmirWild.jpgFrom the very first inning last night, it was clear that Scott Kazmir wasn’t going to have a good evening.  The Twins scored four runs in the opening frame without the benefit of a hard-hit ball, although Kazmir did uncork a wild pitch to allow the fourth run to cross the plate.

The rest of the evening wasn’t much better for Kazmir, as he allowed eight runs (six earned) in just four innings of work.

On the flip side, Nick Blackburn breezed through seven innings allowing just two earned runs while taming the Tampa Bay bats with his nasty sinker that produced grounder after grounder.

Offensively, the top-three-in-the-batting-order trio of Denard Span, Brendan Harris, and Justin Morneau all had three hits apiece.

Though the Rays are struggling, taking two of three from the defending AL champs is no small feat, as they still are a fundamentally sound ballclub.  Let’s hope that the momentum (and past history of beat-downs) continues with the Twins against Kansas City this weekend.

Preview (11-11, 4th, 0.5 GB CHI, DET, & KC): Sidney Ponson (0-3, 5.79) vs. Kevin Slowey (3-0, 4.44). Well, it’s nice to see that Ponson is enjoying a typical season.  Losing to him was, is, and always will be a complete organizational embarassment.

A Few Things I Hate…

defusing-angry-cust.jpgI wasn’t able to blog at all over the weekend (probably a good thing as the Twins lost two of three to the Pale Hose over the weekend and were again beaten by the pitching of Mark Buerhle and the batting of Jim Thome), but I was pretty fired up about the final game of that series and last night’s contest…and not in a good way.  I have been VERY annoyed with some of the things I have been seeing, including:

-Gardy’s “getaway” days.  In the final game of the ChiSox series, Gardy threw a lineup on the field that included Michael Cuddyer at 1B and Brendan Harris at 2B and batting out of the #2 hole.  It absolutely drives me NUTS when Gardy does this every single Sunday and Thursday afternoon game.  I realize that guys need a break every once in a while, but why must Gardenhire do it all in one day?!  If I were a pessimist, I would say that he was just hedging his bet, so to speak, figuring that Buerhle would beat his club no matter who he threw up against him, so why not rest a few guys?  I don’t think Gardy would ever concede a game like that, though, so I just don’t understand his logic.  His Cuddy/Harris combination gave the Twins the weakest right-side infield combination possible, and that led to a big Chicago inning in that final game of the series.  I would rather see Gardy stagger, to an extent, the off-days he gives his players.

-Also, this is easily the worst bullpen the Twins have had in a long time.  I would give serious thought to letting guys like Brian Duensing and Philip Humber take over the late-inning roles, as I do not see the Crain/Ayala combination working out, and Guerrier/Breslow still need to prove themselves as being able to consistently get outs.  Oh, and R.A. Dickey is a joke who may be even worse than our most famous mop-up man…Terry Mulholland.  What really sticks in my craw, though, is that a while back the Twins lost relief prospect Bobby Korecky essentially because they needed to make room for Ayala.  Korecky was a hot prospect in the organization, and we lost him for a guy (Ayala) who can’t throw the ball over the plate and thus lays in meatball after meatball while behind in the count.  I think that Jose Mijares better get his butt in shape pretty quick before the current lot puts the Twins in too big of a hole right away.

-One quick positive note: I think that the Twins’ starting pitchers will be fine once the month of April passes.  Being young, they may just need a little more time to get comfortable out on the mound.  And really, when have the Twins EVER (in recent memory) had a bad starting rotation?!  The Mariners always beat us, Chicago only needs Thome to wreak havoc, and the Blue Jays are the best offensive team in baseball right now.  Things WILL improve on this front.

Preview (3-5, 4th, 1.5 GB CWS & KCR): Rickey Romero (1-0, 3.00) vs. Glen Perkins (0-1, 1.13). Can the Twins’ bats decipher another (any?!) left-hander pitcher?  With Roy Halladay looming on Thursday, we better take this game if we want any chance of even splitting this four-game series.

Saved From The Dark Side

Crede.jpgWell, the Minnesota Twins finally have the right-handed bat they have been so desperately looking for since Ron Coomer went from playing in the All-Star game to laughing like a goon during Twins TV broadcasts (!).  Now, as long as his back can hold out, the Twins have to be the favorite to win the division.

Joe Crede came over to the Twins (The Great White Light) from the Chicago White Sox (The Dark Side) for one year and $2.5 million guaranteed.  He could make up to $7 million in incentives revolving primarily around the number of at-bats he accumulates over the course of the season (which is exactly the kind of contract a guy with his injury status SHOULD sign).

A healthy Crede can be expected to hit in the .270-.280 range with 20-30 home runs.  He is also excellent at the hot corner (something neither Brian Buscher nor Brendan Harris have on their resumes) with the glove.

Perhaps the biggest implication of this move, though, is that it gives manager Ron Gardenhire much better depth on the bench.  In late-inning situational ball, Gardy can send up either Harris or Buscher (both decent batsmen) as well as the odd man out of the Gomez-Span-Cuddyer-Young conundrum.  In recent seasons, the Twins have lost big series (think the ’03 and ’04 ALDS rounds against the Yankees) because of their lack of depth, but this move for Crede changes all that.

The Golden Boy

GoldGlove.jpgYes, this is a bit of a late update (deer hunting opening weekend can do that to Twins fans!), but last Thursday it was announced that Twins catcher Joe Mauer received his first-ever AL Gold Glove award for his excellence at the catcher position.  Anyone who has watched Mauer catch for the Twins in recent years knows that this award is very deserving, and actually long overdue.  However, Gold Glove awards seem to run in bunches (Ivan “Pudge” Rodriguez” had a lock on the award in recent seasons), so Mauer could very easily be beginning a long streak of taking home that specific gold hardware.

Next year, besides Mauer, I think Denard Span (if he sees everyday playing time) could very much be a Gold Glove candidate.  Wouldn’t it be something to see Torii Hunter and his protege (Span) win the award in the same season?!

Twins Notes:

-A few rumors have been going around that Twins RF Michael Cuddyer has been mentioned in trade talks with the Colorado Rockies for their 3B Garrett Atkins.  Don’t believe a word of it!  With the kind of contract we gave Cuddyer prior to this season, he will be a Twin for a LONG time.  Barring injury, he is a great right fielder with a cannon arm and good power…he’ll be sticking around.

-Also, the Twins have expressed interest in Dodgers 3B Casey Blake.  However, Blake will ultimately have much too high of a price tag for the Twins’ budget.  Plus, the platoon of Brian Buscher and Brendan Harris wasn’t all that bad last year, and Buscher has the potential to be an everyday player.  My guess is that this rumor started up when Twins GM Bill Smith made one simple phone call to the Dodgers inquiring about Blake (likely at a bargain-basement price) like most other teams in the MLB right now that could use a third baseman.  We had our shot at Blake earlier, but we went with Corey Koskie instead.

LF: The Breakout Candidate

YoungSlidingReview.jpgWhen the Minnesota Twins traded promising young starter Matt Garza to the Tampa Bay Rays last offseason, the keystone of the deal was Delmon Young, who had batted .288 and drove in 93 runs during his rookie season in 2007.  From the Twins’ perspective, Young was one of the most promising young talents in the American League.

Of course, as had happened at the second base (Brendan Harris), shortstop (Adam Everett), and third base (Mike Lamb) positions, Delmon got off to a slow start in a Twins uniform, flailing away at unhittable pitches and not hitting anything but singles when he did connect (his first home run didn’t come until June 7).  This was at the same time that Garza was near the league leaders in both wins and earned run average for the AL.

Then, on June 27, Michael Cuddyer (the most powerful right-handed bat in the Twins’ lineup to that point) was essentially lost for the season due to a wrist (and later a foot) injury.  From that point, Young really stepped up and became a force in the Twins’ lineup, finishing with a .290 BA, 80 R, 10 HR, and 14 SB.

Defensively, Young was heavily criticized (yes, this is you Patrick Ruesse) during one portion of the season where he misjudged a few fly balls in the Metrodome.  To me, though, that criticism was entirely undeserved.  First off, Young has a rocket arm out in left (a HUGE improvement over our last full-time left fielder Shannon Stewart).  Second, every rookie has their struggles at the Dome, whether it be with the roof (outfielders) or the turf (infielders).  Yes, Young struggled a little bit, but by the end of the season he saved many more hits, runs, and advancing base runners than he allowed.

The key thing that Twins fans must remember about Delmon Young is that his last name is synonymous with his current status in MLB.  Delmon is only 22 years old, and after his breakthrough rookie season in 2007 he had a bit of a “sophomore slump” in the early goings of ’08.  As the season came to a close, though, it became clear that Young can provide some right-handed pop to the lineup (as well as good speed), making him potentially the starting left-fielder of the Minnesota Twins for many years to come.  I, for one, have no qualms about that.

Playoff Notes:

-What a clutch win for the Phillies last night, with Shane Victorino hitting a late-inning two-run home run to give the Phils the victory.  I predicted the Philadelphia squad to win this series in five games, and right now they are one win from doing exactly that.

-ALCS Game Four Starting Pitchers (Tampa Bay 2, Boston 1): Tim Wakefield (10-11, 4.13) vs. Andy Sonnanstine (13-9, 4.38).  Can the Rays win two consecutive games in Fenway Park in October?  I lean towards one, but of course I also doubted their ability to even win one. 

3B: The Platoon

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During spring 2008, the Minnesota Twins were counting on Mike Lamb (like Adam Everett, also acquired from the Houston Astros) to man the hot corner and, more importantly, provide some pop to the offense with his seasoned bat.  Neither occurred (Lamb played below-average defense and hit just .233), and within a few months the platoon of Brian Buscher and Brendan Harris took over the third stop.

Buscher (a lefty) hit .294 in just 218 at-bats and proved to be an RBI machine (47 in 70 games).  His defense was a bit shaky earlier one, but tightened up as the season progressed into September.

Harris (a righty) moved to third after being exiled from both second and short on a starting basis.  Harris played against lefties (and a good share of righties), hitting .265 in 434 at-bats.  Harris tended to be a streaky player, going through stretches where he seemed to get all the key hits, followed by slumps that would find Buscher even starting against left-handers.

Personally, I would like to see the Busch Man installed as the everyday third baseman.  I feel that he gives the lineup more pop, and his defense will only get better.  The key, though, is how Buscher progresses in his development.  At the end of 2008, Buscher struggled for the most part, so perhaps pitchers are figuring him out and now he needs to make the adjustment.  Thus, Harris is very much worth keeping.  If Buscher fails to produce up to expectations, Harris is still a prospect to keep an eye on, as he is still pretty young.

Fan response to the 2008 Twins may lean towards signing a third baseman with a little more pop in his bat than the unproven Harris or the youngster Buscher, but knowing the Twins’ budget a move will almost certainly not be made.  We’ll have to rely on one (or both) of those two players to improve on their ’08 campaign.

Playoff Notes:

-Boy, the Rays sure surprised me by thumping the Red Sox today 9-1.  I never thought I’d see the day when the Tampa Bay baseball organization would make a World Series appearance, but now the world is just two more victories away from that exact feat.

-Right now, the Phillies and Dodgers are just winding down a crazy contest that I believe has featured a lead change every time a run has been scored!  It is currently 7-5 Philly in the top of the ninth, but in a game like this nothing is over until the final at-bat.

2B: The Rabbit

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The Twins started the 2008 series with Brendan Harris (acquired from the Rays in the Matt Garza trade) installed at second base.  After a month or two of sluggish fielding from Harris, however, the Twins called up young Alexi Casilla from Triple-A to man the second sack.  Yes, that was the same Casilla whose boneheaded plays were seen night after night as the Twins wallowed into obscurity at the end of 2007.  This time, however, things were much different…

During this season, in 385 at-bats, Casilla netted 108 hits, scored 58 runs, drove in 50, and hit .281 in the process.  More importantly, though, was the stability Casilla brought to the Twins’ lineup once manger Ron Gardenhire planted him in the #2 hole for good.  Sure, Nick Punto is great at bunting leadoff guys around the bases, but Little Nicky often breaks down (either physically or talent-wise) when used for an entire season.  So, Casilla was a perfect fit to bat behind Gomez/Span throughout the later months of the season, as his speed really put the screws to opposing pitchers.

Defensively, Casilla was spectacular.  Whereas at the end of 2007 Alexi played himself back to the minor leagues with one fielding blunder after another, it was obvious this season that all those kinks were worked out, as Casilla now makes every play required of him (and many that are not!).  Essentially, he’s Luis Castillo without the balky knees.

As far as areas of improvement, there are two things that Casilla could work on in order to become a more well-rounded player: First, he still needs to keep his head in the game on the basepaths.  Every once in awhile, he would get thrown out at a base for no apparent reason, or make a bad judgment call.  It was probably just the excitability factor that is inherent in all young players, but it still needs to be tamed just a bit.  Second, Casilla also needs to work on driving the ball more.  He did hit for a decent average in 2008, but most of those hits were singles.  Every once in awhile we saw Alexi’s ability to turn on a pitch and launch it either into the gap or over the right-field fence, but those occurences were much too few and far between.  I’m not saying he should turn into a power hitter, but he could really keep defenses honest (not just playing in all the time) if he could start driving the ball more.

However, those weaknesses (keeping a cool head and driving the ball) are areas that all young players likely need to work on, and are pretty nit-picky at that.  With a full season under his belt, Alexi Casilla will likely continue to give the Twins that dimension of speed that so often powers the offense when the big sluggers aren’t slugging.

Twins Notes:

-I heard the other day that the Twins are going to (and perhaps already did) pick up their $900,000 option on backup catcher Mike Redmond for 2009.  Print the World Series tickets now…(I shouldn’t joke, though, as I wish Justin Morneau had someone to back him up like Joe Mauer has in Red Dog).

Playoff Notes:

-ALCS Game Three Pitching Matchups (Boston 1, Tampa Bay 1): Jon Lester (16-6, 3.21) vs. Matt Garza (11-9, 3.70).  It will be interesting to see how the fiery former Twin Garza handles the pressure-cooker of October baseball in Fenway Park.

-NLCS Game Four Pitching Matchups (Philadelphia 2, Los Angeles 1): Joe Blanton (9-12, 4.69) vs. Derek Lowe (14-11, 3.24).  Lowe was beaten by the Phillies in Game One of this series, but if anyone can come back on short rest in the postseason it’s the grizzled Lowe.

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