Results tagged ‘ Jeff Manship ’

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.

 

One More Day


38753be7-9185-4c9c-a7bd-b65cc59b9ef9.jpgFor about the last 2-3 weeks, the sentiment around the Twins organization has been to just continue to play meaningful baseball for as long as possible.  Well, that plan was in serious jeopardy earlier this afternoon, as a loss against the Tigers would have eliminated the Twins from playoff contention.

Thankfully, the Twins were able to win a sloppy game (Baker only went five innings, and the defense committed four errors) thanks to the offense’s ability to pick away at Nate Robertson in the early innings and the bullpen shutting the door (besides two unearned runs) for the rest of the way for the 8-3 victory.

Of course, were not this essentially an elimination game for the Twins, the big story would have been the bad blood that permeated the atmosphere all day long between both clubs.

It all started when Scott Baker skidded a pitch right by the face of Marcus Thames…

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Thames glared out towards Baker, but then quietly took his base after being hit.  It didn’t look as if Baker had an intention of plunking him, especially in such an important game, and there really isn’t any history between the two.

The next batter then grounded a ball that looked like a double-play all the way, but Thames slid hard into Orlando Cabrera and wasn’t called out for interference…

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Was it a close play? Certainly, as the tip of Thames’ toes did touch the base. Yet, it was clear that his intentions were to get in O-Cab’s grill.  Borderline dirty, especially if Cabrera would have been injured on the play, but understandable if you are Thames and still feeling the wind of that fastball by your chin.

Things heated right back up again in the next inning, when Thames stepped back into the box.  A high hard one forced Thames to move out of the box a bit, and he took a long glare out at Baker before reconsidering a charge.  Again, I really couldn’t determine intention from the pitch, as it wasn’t thrown at his body and I don’t think Baker would ever purposely throw at a guy’s head.

Unfortunately, that wasn’t the end of things either.  Who knows who (manager, player himself, etc.) instigates these things, but when Jose Mijares came into the game to relieve Matt Guerrier in the eighth, his first pitch sailed right behind Adam Everett.  This time, it was clear that retaliation was the name of the game, and both benches were warned, leading to the tossing of one manager (although not the one Twins fans would expect)…

JimmyBoy.jpg

Described as the “Ron Gardenhire Memorial Ejection” by the TV announcers, Jim Leyland was booted by home plate ump Angel Hernandez.  It was clear that the Tigers were now miffed, and it didn’t take too long for the final straw to break.

In the top of the ninth, leadoff batter Delmon Young was quickly plunked in the calf by Jeremy Bonderman, who was promptly give the old heave-ho by Hernandez.  But then, one of the strangest sights I had ever seen transpired behind home plate…

DelmonJerk.jpg 

Young, in obvious pain after getting hit in what looked to be square on the calf muscle, hopped around for a bit until the pain had subsided, then starting having words with a member of his one team! No Tiger player was within ten feet of him, and Young was mouthing obscenities and pointing towards his home dugout. Both benches emptied at that point, but by the time the bullpens got into things nothing really had developed (no punches or kicks thrown).

Dick and Bert were at a bit of a loss in deciphering what had set Delmon Young off, but the only thing they could think of is that Young was angry at Mijares for instigating the beanball war the previous inning.  You know, were this not happening in a crucial point of the season, I think that Young would be a big story in the papers and media.  To have words with your own teammate who’s just trying to have your back is upsetting, especially coming from a guy who might still be best known in professional baseball for this unsavory incident…

Like I said, little will be made of this incident in the coming days due to the pennant chase, but if Go-Go is playing the outfield at the Dome tomorrow you’ll know why.

Preview (83-76, 2nd, 2.0 GB DET): Lenny DiNardo (0-2, 7.52) vs. Jeff Manship (0-1, 5.81). The Tigers draw Peavy tomorrow, while the pitchers in this game leave little to be desired or hoped for.  Could be a crazy one!

5 Alive

deef4233-3c42-49dd-9e36-6eb410141a30.jpgFor much of this season, I had been rather disgusted (perhaps a bit strong…but not much) with the at-bats taken by one Michael Cuddyer.  In fact, in terms of the dollars and cents of his long-term contract, he might just be one of the worst investments (factoring in injuries) that the Twins have made over the last few years (although the jury is still out on that verdict, obviously).

For now, though, the man known as Cuddy is carrying the Twins’ offense on his back after Justin Morneau went done with his season-ending back issue.  Whereas for most of the season Cuddy was giving away at-bat after at-bat by chasing the breaking balls that drop away from him from a right-handed pitcher, he is now locked in at the plate and hitting everything with force.

Tonight, Cuddyer was 3-4 with a single, double, and home run, keeping up his long-held tradition of blasting everything that White Sox starter John Danks throws in his general direction (Cuddy is hitting over .500 against Danks in his career).

Michael also had some help tonight and it was needed, as Jeff Manship struggled in the early goings and didn’t make it past the third inning.  Orlando Cabrera, Jason Kubel, and Matt Tolbert (yep, that’s right) also contributed home runs in the contest, while Joe Mauer had a big RBI double that seemed to revitalize the team at the time.

Unfortunately, the Cleveland Indians left the bases loaded in the bottom of the eighth (you would have scored them against us!) and fell 3-1 to the Tigers.  However, the Injuns actually out-hit the Little Kitties, so it isn’t as if Detroit has righted the ship.

One final thought: How in God’s name is Jesse Crain 7-4 on the season?!  Ponder THAT one for a while…

Preview (78-73, 2nd, 2.5 GB DET): Brian Duensing (4-1, 3.22) vs. Mark Buerhle (12-9, 3.84). In Duensing, we may have just found the antidote to Buerhle…another crafty lefty who does whatever it takes to get guys out.

Matchups, Matchups

a89afc92-b2c3-485b-9648-a895602e3764.jpgWith just twelve games remaining on the 2009 regular season schedule for the Minnesota Twins, we are right back in the thick of things in the AL Central division race. It seems like every pitcher in the starting rotation (while underachieving terribly at one point or another over the course of the season) now has their defined “role” in the remaining tilts:

-Blackie’s job was to beat the White Sox, which he did with ease tonight. The Pale Hose (well, sans Thome at least) cannot solve Blackburn to save their lives.

-Carl Pavano was brought in to beat the Tigers, and he has done so succesfully so far (I’m sure he’s lined up for another start against them next week).

-Then, it is just up to Scott Baker to dominate the Royals (a very important feat with the KC boys creaming everyone these days).

I guess you also have to include Brian Duensing, whose job it is to continue pitching well against whomever he is thrown against!

Notes: A scary moment for Denard Span tonight, as he got hit right in the back of the helmet…

SpanDown.jpg

The report on (aside from Joe Mauer) the guy I consider to be our team MVP this year came back good and he’s officially listed as “day-to-day” (of course, as Bert Blyleven would say, “aren’t we all”?).  I’m sure he’ll get the night off tomorrow (unless he’s 100%) and then hopefully be back for Wednesday’s contest.

Preview (77-73, 2nd, 2.5 GB DET): Jeff Manship (0-1, 5.31) vs. John Danks (12-9, 3.59).

Big Mo (And The Loss Of)

momentum.jpgYou know, the more I watch sports, the more I begin to realize that the concept of “momentum” is almost as important as concepts like “talent” or “good coaching”.  I mean, just think about this for a second.  Heading into Wednesday of last week, the Twins were riding high having won 14 out of 17 or something, and looking to finish off a sweep of the White Sox at the Dome.  Then, Joe Nathan heartbreakingly blows a save, and everything comes crashing down, as Detroit goes on a terror (they never seem to lose anymore) and the Twins drop two of three to the Indians.

Now call me crazy, but I truly believe that had Nathan thrown one more key strike and finished off the Sox in that fateful ninth inning, the Twins would NOT have collapsed against the Indians and might still be in the thick of things in the AL Central race, not just scoreboard watching and needing to sweep the Tigers twice in the next few weeks to have any hope of the postseason.  I know that major leaguers are professionals and should be able to play every game on an even keel, but for what it’s worth, I doubt that ever actually happens (unless said players are in a rare mindset personified by guys like Derek Jeter or Tiger Woods).

Just look at it from a fan’s perspective…one day, we’re riding high and excited about the Twins after nearly giving up on the season two weeks previous.  Now, after the events of just a few more days, we’re starting to give up again.  You can’t tell me that the players don’t feel some of those same feelings, pondering the “what-ifs” and getting down just like “us”.

Just a theory, but would explain the rollercoaster play of the Twins for the past three seasons, as young guys are very excitable and prone to those ups and downs.

At least the Twins were able to get a Labor Day victory today, thanks to a big first inning and a strong bullpen picking up Jeff Manship.  Oh, and Nathan dominated the ninth…

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Preview (69-68, 2nd, 6.5 GB DET): Brian Duensing (2-1, 3.81) vs. Ricky Romero (11-7, 4.15). Maybe we can get Big Mo back with a good series in Toronto (after collapsing there last fall).

No Way…Yep, Jose!

JoseMoralesYes.jpgCan anything go wrong for the Minnesota Twins right now (especially with Chicago in town)?!

After the game ended in dramatic fashion, with Jose Morales pinch hitting with two outs and a man on third in the bottom of the ninth and getting a solid base hit to win the game, I began thinking of all the remarkable occurences that transpired over those nine innings:

-For starters, Jeff Manship held the Sox to just one earned run over five innings.  Yep, Jeff Manship, facing guys like A.J., Konerko, and Dye got the job done.

-Jon Rauch (recently acquired from Arizona) made just his second appearance in the white pinstripes, pitched a scoreless ninth inning, and got his second win of the season.  I believe it took Francisco Liriano about two months to get to two wins!

-Michael Cuddyer once again clubbed two bombs in one game.  We’re turning this place back into the Homerdome yet!

-And finally, there’s Jose Morales, the hero himself.  In his first at-bat since God knows when (a month or two at least), Morales didn’t allow himself to be cowed by the pressure situation and just got good wood on the ball.  A new hero emerges every night, it seems.

The only thing to go wrong tonight was Jose Mijares and Matt Guerrier combining to blow a late-inning lead, but that only set the stage for all the dramatics (so maybe they just have a keen sense of theatre)!

Preview (67-65, 2nd, 3.5 GB DET): Mark Buerhle (11-7, 3.89) vs. Brian Duensing (2-1, 4.37).  Let’s make Buerhle’s last Dome start a “memorable” one for him.

Blame It (On The T-T-T-T-T-T-T-Twins)


abd12ee9-c0c5-4ce0-9a3a-3447ff6bc19e.jpgLast night, as the Chicago White Sox opened their last three-game series at their personal house of horrors, the Metrodome, the team was essentially playing for the rest of the season in one night. With the post-season roster deadline kicking in at midnight, it represented teams’ last chance to improve their club for the stretch run.  The Pale Hose were the epitomy of a bubble team, quickly fading from the AL Central race and needing to win this series to have any realistic hopes of remaining in the conversation.

Good thing that the Twins showed up to play then, huh?!  Nick Blackburn (7 IP, 1 ER, 7K) continued his mastery of the Sox, while both Jo-Mo and Kubel went deep for most of the home boys’ offense.  Can you believe that Mauer (now at 26 dingers) has a shot at 30?!  If Albert Pujols is the undisputed king of NL hitters, than Joe Mauer obviously holds that position in the junior circuit.

After the loss, then, the Pale Hosers decided to cut bait, trading Jim Thome and Jon Garland to the LA Dodgers and sending Jose Contreras to the Colorado Rockies.  So even if the Twins don’t game another game on the Tigers all season, at least we have the satisfaction of knowing that he did our part to knock our fiercest rivals out of it (sounds crass, yes, but I cannot and will not sympathize with a team coached by a nutjob like Ozzie Guillen).

Notes:

-Wild prediction of the day: The Tampa Bay Rays will win the Wild Card in the AL.

-Speaking of the Rays, their big slugger Carlos Pena, quite remarkably, has more home runs than singles this season.  Baseball Tonight continues to chart his progress, and it would be funny to see him finish that way.  I believe Mark McGwire did that in his 70-homer season, if I’m not mistaken (or at least was close).

Preview (66-65, 2nd, 3.5 GB DET): John Danks (12-8, 3.82) vs. Jeff Manship (0-0, 5.14). Manship starting a game scares me a bit, but at least he won’t have Big Thome to deal with anymore!

 

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