Results tagged ‘ Kevin Slowey ’

December Ramblings…

My thoughts on a few Twins moves the last month or so…

Kevin Slowey traded to Colorado:  You know, I was always a big Kevin Slowey supporter.  I thought he had the stuff to be the next “Brad Radke”, and I think that concept still exists.  However, it will likely never be realized because of his inability to stay healthy for any prolonged period of time.  Slowey is one of those pitchers who needs to be 100% healthy to succeed, as he relies on such pinpoint control and sharp breaking pitches.  Any “hitch in his giddyup” will cause him not only to fail, but fail miserably.  Thus, despite having high hopes for him, I can’t say I’m all that sorry to see him go.

Matt Capps back as closer: I didn’t like Capps from the beginning, and I haven’t changed that opinion.  I honestly do not know what the organization sees in this guy.  Does he have the potential to be a decent middle-reliever?  I think so.  But CLOSER, where the pressure is magnified with every pitch?  Nah-uh.  He has proven time and time again (when healthy or hurting) that he can’t rise to that occasion like Mr. Nathan could.  I know we are a wreck bullpen-wise, but to pin a key spot on this guy is tenuous at best.

Jim Hoey released: This guy was an absolute joke.  I don’t understand how you can expect to have a major-league career when you can’t locate a fastball to save your life!  Yes, he can throw the ever-loving @#$% out of the ball, but it doesn’t matter a bit…it’ll either be wide of the strike zone or right down the middle (with one option being as unpleasant as the other).  Nothing lost here.

Jose Mijares released: Jose had one dominant year with the Twins…and hasn’t come close to that form since.  Personality-wise, he never arrives to training camp on time (always visa issues) and, when he does show up, he’s grossly overweight.  So, it isn’t until June when he’s even physically ready to pitch effectively.  When on the mound, Mijares is wild to the point of frustration.  Everyone can see he has “the stuff” to get lefty batters out at an alarming rate, but he just can’t do it consistently.  Again, I know our ‘pen is a train-wreck right now, but this guy was beginning to become more trouble than he was worth.

What Went Wrong

After the season ended, I had planned on doing a position-by-position look at the Twins to examine what exactly went wrong that sent a 94-win team (2010) to a 99-loss squad (2011).  However, with the recent front office move of swapping Bill Smith for Terry Ryan (again), it seems as if three key categories came into play during the ’11 season that really just doomed the Twins from the start.

First, from a tactical perspective, the injuries were horrific…

When half (or more) of your starting team is injured for half (or more) of the season, the plan you put in place all of last offseason was pretty much shot in the foot before it ever had a chance to walk.  Whether bad luck, bad conditioning, or bad “mental toughness” (to quote Mike Tice), the team was limping off the field all season long.

Also, the depletion of the bullpen was another crippling tactical shortcoming…

I realize that the money got too much to retain our key bullpen horses, but in the end the lack of any steady relief help came back to bite the team perhaps more than anyone thought possible.

Second, beyond the tactical stuff, was the inability of our “core group” (outside of Cuddyer, of course) to produce.

Mauer & Morneau needed to get back to this…

But instead they barely played two weeks of the season in the same lineup.

Then, the “solid five” (Baker, Blackburn, Liriano, Perkins, Slowey) starters that we envisioned a few years ago have never (and probably never will) produced to their expectations…

Liriano is an enigma, Slowey is in the doghouse, Baker is failed potential personified, Blackburn is a rollercoaster, and Perkins is now a reliever (and one who has injury troubles at that).

Finally, the final area that really killed the Twins last year was a step away from their tried-and-true organizational philosophy of hoarding draft picks, developing talent, throwing strikes, and playing solid, fundamental baseball (especially defense).

When Nick Punto left in the offseason and ended up winning a ring with the Cardinals…

It signaled a shift from playing “Twins baseball” towards “going all-in to win now”.

Perhaps this was a difference in philosophy between two GMS…

But clearly, the team got away from the “fundamentals”.  The defense was rot, the pitchers walked more batters than ever, and the whole foundation collapsed.

Notes:

-Amazingly enough, Terry Ryan’s first move on his second go-’round as GM impressed the heck out of me, signing Jamey Carroll to play shortstop in ’12…

From what I hear/read, Carroll can play solid defense, handle the bat, stay in the lineup, and get on base a little bit…nothing our middle infielders did in ’11.  Carroll is not a long-term solution by any means, but he adds stability to a team desperate for it right now.

Ready…Break

Last year at the All-Star break, the Twins were in third place in the AL Central, 3.5 games behind the Detroit Tigers.  They went on to win 94 games and claim the division crown by mid-September.

This year, after taking 3 of 4 in ChiTown, the Twins enter the break in 4th place, 6.5 games behind Detroit.  Are we contenders?  Are we pretenders?  Well, the first homestand (KC, DET, CLE) after the break will go a long way towards answering that question.  If we come out flat, we’ll likely never be able to make up the necessary ground.  However, a good homestand would beg the question of whether or not the Twins should make a deal at the deadline.

Our biggest need right now is a solid arm out of the pen.  The starters are what the are, and the offense can only get better (heck, if we can win with Tosoni, Hughes, Rivera, etc. we can win with anyone!), but the ‘pen is where the help is sorely needed.  Barring further setbacks, Joe Nathan should quickly supplant Matt Capps as closer, with Capps sharing setup duties with Perkins.  Beyond that, however, the pen is barren.  Phil Dumatrait has been good for a rookie, but who knows, really.  Alex Burnett and Jose Mijares cannot be consistently counted on to get the job done.

Thus, here is how I see the trading deadline scenario playing out in my head: The Twins package Delmon Young (the most expendable outfielder) and perhaps a Kevin Slowey for a decent bullpen arm.  Then, as we always seem to do, we either call up another ready rook, or pick a guy (remember how we got Pavano in ’09?!) from the scrap heap in September.

If I didn’t think the Twins had at least a decent chance of winning the division this year, I would say “trade a few more guys and replenish the minors”.  However, considering that Detroit ALWAYS chokes in the second half, the Indians are fading, and we OWN the White Sox, a division crown (though not easy by any means) is no doubt within reach.

Preview (41-48, 4th, 1.5 GB CWS): Bruce Chen (5-2, 3.26) vs. Francisco Liriano (5-7, 5.06).

Five Aces? Not So Much

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In light of the Twins’ recent struggles, I wanted to comment on one of the reasons WHY I feel we are sitting in the basement of the AL Central right now:

Just think back about 3-4 years, after we traded Johan Santana.  Likely one of the reasons we let Johan walk was because we thought we had a five-pitcher nucleus that would last for many years at a relatively low cost.

Well, you know what they say about “best laid plans”…

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Nick Blackburn: Maddeningly inconsistent, including various nagging injuries.  Typical sinkerballer…either boom or bust on any given day.

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Kevin Slowey: Almost chronically injured at this point.

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Francisco Liriano: Was supposed to be the ace of the staff, but post-TJ (except for parts of 2010) has been a mess.  No consistent delivery, no control, seemingly lax attitude.

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Scott Baker: The biggest disappointment of the bunch.  Has not improved one iota since the day he arrived in a Twins uniform.

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Glen Perkins: Bad-mouthed the Twins organization, served his minor league “sentence”; has been decent of late as a reliever.

At one point, all five of those guys showed tremendous promise.  Sadly, they have each fizzled for different reasons, leaving the Twins somewhat pitching-poor when they thought they would be solid in the next decade.

All About Potential

Kevin Slowey is a Twin for another season.

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When Slowey first debuted with the Twins, I thought he would be the next coming of Brad Radke, as they both share pinpoint control and a wide variety of off-speed pitches.

Unfortunately, Slowey has never realized that potential due to inconsistent performance and injuries.  At times (like throwing a no-hitter for seven innings in 2010), Slowey looks like he could be the ace of the staff.  But then, either something flares up on him or he mysteriously has 2-3 horrific, short outings in a row and fans lose confidence in him all over again.

Yet, this is a good re-up for the Twins, if only to give Slowey one more season to realize that potential and maybe stay healthy for an entire campaign.  Plus, we have no other go-to guys to take his place in the rotation. 

Hey Mikey…He Likes It!


Angels_Twins_Baseball_sff_189655_team.jpgTwo pitches decided the outcome of the game tonight:

#1…the one to Danny Valencia that Danny Boy sent 426 feet into the second deck in leftfield;

#2…the one that Jered Weaver grooved to Michael Cuddyer after Cuddy had fouled off all sorts of pitches high and low, outside and in, but eventually turning it into a three-run double.

Preview (72-52, 1st, 5.0 GA CWS): Nick Blackburn (7-7, 6.66) vs. Rich Harden (4-4, 5.45).  With Slowey on the DL, Blackie is back and (hopefully) here to stay now.

Their Own Medicine

Athletics_Twins_Baseball_sff_188151_game.jpgThis weekend series against the Oakland A’s was billed with the young, very talented Oakland starting staff potentially shutting down the Twins’ bats.  Instead, we beat them at their own game:

-On Friday, Pavano got hit around quite a bit, but still managed to pitch into the seventh inning and get the win.

-Saturday saw Brian Duensing completely mow down the A’s to the tune of nine innings and three hits.

-Kevin Slowey then pitched seven no-hit innings against Oakland on Sunday, only to be removed from the game due to pitch count issues.

Now, the Pale Hose come to our house.  We can really put a dent in Guillen’s crew by just doing what we do best…winning the series.

Notes:

-I completely understand Gardy taking out Slowey after that seventh inning, as he has been struggling with elbow tendonitis of late.  However, it took even more (insert term loosely related to “guts” here) from Gardy to put in Rauch with a no-hitter on the line.  Didn’t you just know he would blow it…and he did?!  For the first time in my life, I was actually hoping to see Crain jog in from the ‘pen.

Preview (68-50, 1st, 3.0 GA CWS): John Danks (12-8, 3.19) vs. Scott Baker (10-9, 4.76)

Right Move…But Right Guy?

Just heard today that the Twins got closer Matt Capps from the Washington Nationals…

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From a purely personnel standpoint, GM Bill Smith got it right. I’m glad he realized that Jon Rauch is not a playoff-caliber closer, and that adding a reliever to allow Duensing a spot in the starting rotation might be just as good as a high-caliber, high-risk, rental-player trade.

The only thing I’m concerned about is that, from what I’ve heard, Capps isn’t all that steadier than Mr. Rauch.  I don’t know too much about him, though, so I would appreciate some comments from more informed minds on the matter.

For now, though, I’ll say I like this trade going forward.  Pavano, Liriano, Duensing isn’t too shabby at the front end of the rotation, Blackburn will likely be pitching in big games (and probably suceeding, knowing him) in September again, and anything from Baker/Slowey is a plus at this point.

Pinballin’

2955623966_1bdf7a3c4b.jpgMan, since when did Rogers Centre turn into Coors Field?  Once again tonight, the home of the Toronto Blue Jays turned into something akin to a pinball machine, with the Jays bashing enough long fly balls (both in and out of the park) to beat the Twins 6-5.

Both Alex Gonzalez and Jose Bautista hit moonshots for the blue birdies, while John Buck, Vernon Wells, and that pesky Fred “my batting stance looks exactly like Fred McGriff” Lewis also added big hits.

Of course, both Orlando Hudson and the unstoppable Delmon Young added dingers of their own, but it wasn’t enough to push Kevin Slowey (6.1 IP, 5 ER) and Matt Guerrier (blown hold) out on top.

Like I said yesterday, the Twins hitters will come around (even if it is at the frenetically-charged Rogers Centre), but it is the pitching that needs to turn in a few more quality starts.  It doesn’t help that our staff’s biggest weakness (the gopher ball) plays right into the Jays’ greatest strength.

Notes:

-Just heard tonight that Jake Peavy of the White Sox will likely miss the rest of the season.  This is a huge blow to the ChiSox, because they really folded down the stretch without him last season.

-Hopefully Morneau is okay after taking a knee to the head sliding into second base (he left the game as a precautionary measure).  Wouldn’t surprise me to see him take a day off tomorrow.

Preview (44-38, 1.5 GB DET): Scott Baker (7-7, 4.72) vs. Brett Cecil (7-5, 4.19).  It’s halfway through the season and Baker has an ERA near 5.00?  Perhaps this is why we are so strongly in the running for Cliff Lee?!

A Solid Nine

1662593145_d329719b43.jpgThis afternoon, the Twins rapped out 9 hits (two apiece from Morneau, Kubel, & Cuddyer) against the Tigers, while Kevin Slowey followed Blackie’s example and turned in his first quality start in ages, beating the Tigres 5-1 and pushing them just a bit further back in the AL Central standings.

The thing I wanted to comment on today, though, is the kind of lineup the Twins will be able to put on the field everyday once JJ Hardy gets back from his injury (likely this weekend):

1. Denard Span, CF

2. Orlando Hudson, 2B

3. Joe Mauer, C

4. Justin Morneau, 1B

5. Michael Cuddyer, 3B

6. Jason Kubel, RF

7. Delmon Young, LF

8. Jim Thome, DH

9. JJ Hardy, SS

Wow…Thome batting eigth?!  Of course, the two concerns are Cuddy’s defense at third and Thome’s status as everyday player (even at DH), but if those things pan out, that lineup could be as deadly as any order this side of the Yankees in the American League.  Plus, Gardy could (and would) bring Nick Punto off the bench as a defensive sub at practically any infield position late in the game.

I know that the Twins have always been a streaky bunch of hitters the last few years, with Young, Cuddyer, and Morneau (although perhaps not his ’10 form) prone to terrible dry spells, but that is where the depth comes in.  When guys 1-9 can provide big hits, it would take every single one of them in a slump to slow production.

Notes:

-It was nice to see Slowey strike a few guys out today.  Whereas Blackburn needs the ball to dive to get outs, Slowey needs to have his perfect control, which will lead to some K’s in big spots.

Preview (43-35, 1st, 1.5 GA DET): Jeff Niemann (6-2, 2.72) vs. Carl Pavano (9-6, 3.33). Man, if Pavano was any shorter, he’d be the spitting image of this guy:

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