Results tagged ‘ Kevin Slowey ’
Well, here we are just three games into the 2010 baseball season, and the Twins already look like a much more polished team from the under-achieving gang of ’09. I can only imagine the thoughts that must run through the minds of the opposition:
Opposing pitchers have to navigate through one of the strongest 1-6 in the American League, plus now Delmon Young and JJ Hardy (another homer tonight, along with Justin Morneau) are swinging the bat well, creating quite a Murderers Row, of sorts.
Opposing batters know that, no matter who they face in a series against the Twins (especially if Pavano keeps throwing like he did tonight), there will be no “gimme” games…all five starters give us a chance to win. Add in a deep pen that doesn’t really on just one or two guys to get late-inning outs, and that creates the all-important sense of pressure on every opposing at-bat.
The final blow we administer has been, so far, in an area (closer) presumed to be a gaping hole after the devastating Joe Nathan injury. Well, Rauch has saved two in a row without much trouble (although he did give up a run tonight).
I know I have to keep in mind that, for as down as I was after the season opener, I shouldn’t get too high after two straight wins. But this team just has oh so much potential that it is difficult not to get pumped up when things start rolling.
-Pavano had to pitch out of many jams tonight, but I liked his ability to make the Angels whiff. He’s never struck me as a guy with anything near overpowering stuff, but tonight he really located well and had great ball movement. I’m not as down on him as some, but my knock on him was always that he could compete against the bad teams but get hammered by the good ones. Not this time!
-JJ Hardy showed some great range in the ninth, coralling a ball deep in the hole and firing it to first for the out.
-Had a laugh at something the announcers said tonight after Punto tripled. He’s been pretty good in the last two even-numbered years (’06, ’08), but horrendous in the odd ones (’07, ’09). Kind of like watching Star Trek movies for all you fellow sci-fi geeks out there!
Preview (2-1, 1st, 0.5 GA All): Kevin Slowey (0-0, 0.00 ERA) vs. Joel Pineiro (0-0, 0.00 ERA).
Now 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:
- 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.
- 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.
- 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”.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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).
- 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.
- 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).
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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).
- 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.
- 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.
A few random thoughts from the first two games of the current Twins-Tigers series:
-Though going 16 innings and losing is bad enough for players and fans alike, I really can’t pin the blame on anyone in particular. The Tiger bullpen was just throwing gas, and the Twins’ batters were (by and large) having decent at-bats. They just couldn’t string enough hits together to get that elusive run across the plate.
-The Twins showed a little moxie today after Liriano gave up the big fly to Magglio Ordonez to give the pinstriped ones their short-lived lead. In a game that needed to be won, the Twins came up with some clutch at-bats and were able to get the job done. Now, we just need to take care of business tomorrow and things will be okay again.
-I never like to see a pitcher like Kevin Slowey go on the disabled list, but hopefully this will give him some time to either: A. get his wrist checked out, or B. get his mind right and back in that groove he had been in until a week or so ago. Swarzak can probably fill in decently for Slowey, but we need Kevin back to his Brad Radke-esque form, where he can pitched deep into games and always give us a chance to win.
-I really think that Denard Span and Carlos Gomez need to stop fighting over outfield assists. Eventually there is going to be a nasty train-wreck out there if they don’t get on the same page. I think the problem is that both players, being center fielders by natural position, are used to calling off all other fielders (usually the CF’s perogative) to catch the ball. However, Span is playing out in left alot recently, and in the back of his mind he probably knows that Gomez doesn’t take the best routes to balls but will scream for the catch anyway.
-Former Cubbie star Mark Grace was showing some serious love for the M&M boys today in the FOX TV broadcast. Well-deserved, too, as they contributed to most of the scoring. I look forward to watching them in the All-Star Game (which the roster for will be released tomorrow, by the way).
-Finally, today’s Fourth of July holiday also marks the 70th anniversary of Lou Gehrig giving what is now famously known as his ‘Luckiest Man” speech. I know that the Iron Horse was second-banana to The Babe for so many years, but in that moment he showed what was truly in his heart all that time…kindness, gentleness, yet a competitive spirit that made him choked up over being taken out of a lineup when he was actually dying. It still gives me goosebumps every time I see it. Greatest first baseman of all-time? Yes. Is there really any other serious competition?!
-Of course, for a little lighter holiday fare, you could check out the annual SciFi Channel Twilight Zone marathon. Still a creepy show all these years later!
Preview (42-40, 2nd, 0.5 GB CWS for 2nd): Rick Porcello (8-5, 3.90) vs. Nick Blackburn (6-4, 3.10). Need to win this series…that is all.
Up until just recently, the Minnesota Twins had owned the Kansas City Royals. During the “division title years” earlier this decade, the Twins would routinely come into KC and get fat both at the plate and on the mound. Recently (the past few seasons), though, the Royals have morphed into one of our toughest divisional opponents. Though perennial cellar-dwellers (although I won’t gloat too much, as I, having grown up in the 1990s with Twins Baseball, know what that is like), the Royals seem to bring their A-game when the Twins come to town. The first two games of this series only served to continue that trend, with the Twins and Royals playing each other very tough, right down to the wire.
That being said, today the Royals reverted back to their old ways and gave the Twins a much-needed victory. Glen Perkins was by no means perfect (allowing 10 hits over seven innings), but the Royals could only muster a measly one run for all their efforts. More daunting, though, were the defensive miscues, such as a ball that went right through the wickets of second baseman Callaspo, and a ball lost in the sun by Willie Bloomquist. John Bale walking in a run even put a cap on things. For a time, and had the Twins not needed a win so badly I would have felt worse, I felt bad for the boys in royal blue, as this kind of play just seems to be their kind of lot in life. I know how difficult it is to compete in today’s game without a large payroll, and the Royals continue to get bit time and time again. Whenever a guy gets good (Johnny Damon, Carlos Beltran, etc.) he gets shipped somewhere else, or else a player that once looked great suddenly falters and is gone within a year or two (too many to count).
The Twins were actually really lucky back in the early 2000s to have the nucleus (Santana, Hunter, Jones, Koskie, Dougie Baseball, Guzman, etc.) come together so quickly. The Royals have not been so lucky, instead reduced to playing “payroll roulette” and hoping the hit the jackpot. Were it not for the fact that the Twins need to make a living by beating them, I would love to see the Royals develop into a competitive franchise once again.
Preview (41-39, T-2nd w/CWS, 3.0 GB DET): Lucas French (0-0, 0.00) vs. Kevin Slowey (10-3, 4.41). The fact that the Tigers, playing in perhaps the most important series of their season so far (as are the Twins), are sending a guy making his major league debut to the Metrodome mound tells you something about where they are right now pitching-wise. Hopefully the Twins can take advantage of it.
If one thing has become crystal clear during the 2009 Interleague Play schedule, besides the fact that the Twins can win on the road when playing the NL, it is that starting pitcher Glen Perkins cannot hit. He goes up to the plate, takes a few feeble waves, and (in nearly every occasion past, present, or future) goes back to prepare for the next inning on the mound.
That didn’t matter tonight, however, as Perkins was brilliant for seven innings, holding the Cardinals to just four hits and one earned run. He didn’t strike many batters out (3), but nobody really hit anything hard off of him, either. The bullpen then shut the door from that point. Guerrier struggled a bit in the eighth, but with one out Gardy summoned Jose Mijares, who proceeded to throw one pitch, get the double play, and get back in the dugout.
The offense left a few men on base again tonight, but two-hit games from Kubel and Cuddyer proved to be enough.
Perhaps the most telling stat, though, is that Albert Pujols was just 1-4 on the night, and whiffed against Joe Nathan in the final frame.
-At one point, a camera showed former Twin Dennys Reyes warming up in the bullpen. My first thought was, “Geesh, that’s the ugliest guy I’ve ever seen”…
But then, Ryan Franklin was brought in for the top of the ninth…
I rest my case.
Preview (38-37, 2nd, 4.0 GB DET): Kevin Slowey (10-2, 4.04) vs. Todd Wellemeyer (6-7, 5.53). Though still a bit of a long-shot, Slowey might just be pitching himself into All-Star consideration. He doesn’t have the dominating ERA, but a win tomorrow would give him the AL-lead in that category. Of course, I remember a year or two ago that Kyle Lohse (for the Cards) was something like 12-2 at the break with a similar ERA and didn’t make the Midsummer Classic. However, if a few guys picked by the managers fall ill or have other conflicts, you just never know.
Earlier 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).
Though playing in the friendly confines of the Hubert H. Humphrey Metrodome tonight against the Cleveland Indians, where the Twins are 19-11 so far this year, inevitably the team will have to hit the road again soon, where they are 6-16.
My question is: Why??????????????????????????????????????
Are the pillows at the hotel not fluffed up enough?
Are the players just suffering from a mental block?
Does Gardy and his coaching crew need to try something different to motivate his players on the road?
Is having “last ups” really that important?
Heck, if the Twins can’t compete at Tropicana Field, the closest thing to the Dome there is in the AL right now, then what chance do we have to go into, say, Boston or Anaheim and pick up even a single victory.
Does anyone have any thoughts about this? I just don’t get it. At the Dome, the pitchers (even Liriano) look terrific and the bats get the job done on a nightly basis. Yet, have us bat in the top of innings and we look like “Hitless Wonders” and our pitchers get clobbered.
I mean, it’s still baseball, isn’t it? The same dimensions, same batters, same pitchers, same basic strategies…yet a huge disparity exists.
Preview (25-27, 3rd, 4.5 GB DET): David Huff (0-1, 10.97) vs. Kevin Slowey (7-1, 4.11). A few more quality starts and the Slow-dog may start to garner some All-Star recognition.
A week or so ago, Jim Souhan (a columnist for the Minneapolis Star Tribune newspaper) wrote an article about how the “2006” Francisco Liriano (with the essentially unhittable slider) will never return, but maybe the current version can recreate some of that success. The article can be found here:
After reading the article, although I know that Souhan was just trying to “tell it like it is”, I really didn’t think that Souhan was making a fair comparison.
In 2006, Liriano came up from the minor leagues and absolutely sent the league on fire. His stats were incredible (12-3, 121 IP, 144 K, 2.16 ERA), and starts like these proved that hitters just couldn’t touch that sizzling fastball and devastating changeup:
Yet, come September of ’06, Liriano felt his arm “snap” while out on the mound…
Likely due to a violent delivery that put extra strain/torque on his arm, Liriano ended up needing Tommy John surgery on the arm and missed the entire 2007 season. When he finally made it back in 2008, his early-season outings ended with many conversations like this…
He did manage to make some quality starts after a long stint in the minor leagues, but the jury was still out as to whether he could even come close to the same type of domination he showed in ’06.
So far this season, Liriano (2-4, 40 IP, 33 K, 5.75 ERA) has had very mixed results. In some starts he has been very solid (http://minnesota.twins.mlb.com/media/video.jsp?mid=200905054423501&c_id=min), while other times batters have seemed to tee off on him (like most other Twins starting pitchers this year).
Clearly, a little more time is needed to see whether or not Liriano can make a comeback from his arm injury, but let’s not compare him back to his former 2006 self. He’s trying to dominate again without the violent delivery and wrist motion, and sometimes he has done so, while other times he has struggled. Remember, Mr. Souhan, if he goes EXACTLY back to his ’06 form, he had better keep up to date on his health insurance premiums. Personally, I’d rather have him healthy and battling then spectacular but always one pitch away from disaster.
Preview (15-17, 3rd, 3.0 GB DET): Armando Galarraga (3-2, 4.08) vs. Kevin Slowey (4-1, 5.50). We’re only three games out?! What a division!
I didn’t see the game last tonight (had to work…boo), but it featured the return of Joe Mauer, who promptly deposited a Sidney Ponson offering into the left field seats. Welcome back, Joe! Despite a shaky outing from Kevin Slowey, the Twins still held on for the 7-5 victory and dropped Sir Sidney to 0-4 on the season (the team who loses to him will be a pretty embarrassed bunch).
Oh, about the theme song…does anyone find it strange that such a white-bread, boring guy like Mauer (Monotone: “The good-good-goodness of Land O’Lakes milk”) would have a hard-core rap theme song?!
Preview (12-11, T-2nd, 0,5 GB CWS): Brian Bannister (2-0, 0.69) vs. Glen Perkins (1-2, 2.48). The bats won’t be able to swing away with ease tonight, but I look for MN’s dominance over KC to continue.
From 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.