Results tagged ‘ Luis Ayala ’

One Man Show

6421c48a-b99e-42ae-a2d8-48d44e134bc1.jpgBack in their hey-day, the Three Stooges used a gag in one of their infamous shorts where Curly and Larry create the “Two Man Quartet“, much to the dismay of Moe (2:22 in the clip).

Tonight, the Minnesota Twins used a similar approach to beat the Kansas City Royals.  A dinger from Justin Morneau (into the waterfalls!) and a run-scored from Joe Mauer provided the only offense of the game.  The M&M Boys strike again!

Scott Baker did just enough (i.e. got lucky) to survive through five innings and a buttload of pitches, but was picked up nice by a very strong outing from newcomer Bobby Keppel.  You mean we kept him the minors while Ayala and Crain stunk up the joint for months…grrr.

A strong showing?  By no means.  We should pound KC…we didn’t.  Baker should breeze through their lineup…he struggled.  Yet, a win is a win and keeps us in the same spot we were last night: On the cusp of contention, on the brink of utter failure.

Preview (40-39, T-2 w/CWS, 4.0 GB DET): Glen Perkins (3-4, 4.70) vs. Gil Meche (4-7, 4.27). With a big Detroit showdown looming this weekend, the Twins don’t want to fall any further behind in the “division race” (a.k.a. who sucks the least down the stretch).

A Decent (If Lucky) Start To The Road Trip

ad532242-5af8-48be-a9bb-47958d2d7a54.jpgIf you missed the first three innings of tonight’s Twins-Brewers contest at Miller Park, you were pretty much out of luck action wise.  The Twins put seven runs up on the board in those three frames, with Carlos Gomez getting a hit in each!

The bad news is that Liriano stunk once again, allowing three runs over five innings but walking guys all over the park, giving up deep flys, and then getting a lucky strikeout to end an inning.  He was essentially in trouble all night, yet ended up getting the win.

However, the bullpen (Dickey-Guerrier-Nathan) was able to take care of the latter four innings in perfect fashion, something that cannot be underestimated by the Twins pen on the road against a decent team.  I always love it when Nathan completely blows away the side in the ninth, and that is EXACTLY what happened tonight.

About the only thing that made the game less enjoyable was that my FSN North station was crap for the entire game.  It would skip, jerk, and blank out at intervals just enough to be maddening.  Did anyone else have this problem?  I hope it doesn’t continue into tomorrow.

Notes:

-You know, Joe Crede has got to be one of the most productive .230 hitters I have ever seen.  I don’t know how a guy with a batting average that low that provides so much offense when in the lineup.  He must never hit any singles, just extra-base knocks.

-I guess that before Luis Ayala was designated for assignment yesterday, he complained to Gardy about his role in the pen, as he thought he should (and was brought onto the team) to be the primary setup man.  Basically, that tells me why he didn’t last very long here in Minny, what with our general preference for team-first kind of guys.  Nobody gets a free ride around here.  He made have had one decent season in the National League, but when transferring to a different organization you have to prove yourself all over again.  The only thing he proved is that he could give up deep gopher balls with men on base.

-Also, as if this needs to be prefaced, Delmon Young made himself look silly out in left field tonight.  He had one nice running catch, but later on he misplayed a carom so badly that he fell down on the completely opposite direction of the ball.  Would have been quite funny if not for the fact that Young is getting a reputation for that sort of clumsiness.

Preview (36-36, 2nd, 4.0 GB DET): Nick Blackburn (6-2, 3.09) vs. Braden Looper (5-4, 5.21).

Ayala’s On Assignment (And Not The James Bond-Secret Spy Kind)

d47b_2.jpgUsually, when I hear that someone is “on assignment”, I think of something like this.  Guns firing, things blowing up, cool gadgets, and a guy in a suit who always gets the girl.

Unfortunately, for Mr. Ayala, his “assignment” will be the kind of trip where a stunt like this might be the most exciting baseball-related action that happens on any given day (thus is life in the minors for a former major leaguer).

To replace Ayala, the Twins called up Bobby Keppel (a righthanded pitcher who has both relieved and started) from the AAA Rochester Red Wings.

 

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This is a move that, at least I felt, needed to be made quite a long time ago.  After only a month or so, it was pretty clear the kind of pitcher Ayala is now.  He can play the law of averages (much like Livan Hernandez before him), but on too many occasions he will give up the big dinger or just plain get hammered by batter after batter.

With Craig Breslow, Jesse Crain, and now Ayala gone from the pen, I actually like the direction this is heading.  Besides Sean Henn, the Twins are moving away from the re-treads holding on for one last hope and more towards the future.  Yes, it is a full-bore rebuilding effort, but the Twins have always had a knack for doing that kind of thing on the fly.  In all honesty, we seem to handle changes better DURING the season than before or after it.

Unless one of our current pitchers really struggles or gets hurt, it wouldn’t surprise me if Ayala never resurfaces in a Twins major league uniform.

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.

Wow…That Was Fun!

CelebrateGoodTimes.jpgGlen Perkins had another terrible start.

Luis Ayala gave up more runs.

Matt Guerrier initially blew it.

Jesse Crain is done.

Greatest game of the season so far!

What the Hill?

BakerDumb.jpgThe above picture pretty much perfectly describes Scott Baker’s first start of the season last night, as he gave up four home runs through the first four innings and didn’t even come out for the fifth frame.

The Twins actually took a quick 2-0 first inning lead in the contest, but it was all downhill from that point, as Scott Richmond and company quieted our bats (as if that is all that difficult so far this year) for the rest of the way.

That’s pretty much all in terms of game summary…a complete breakdown in every aspect of the game.

Notes:

-Let’s just hope that Baker was off because he hasn’t pitched in awhile, not because he’s going back to the “can’t throw strikes” Scotty-Boy of a few seasons ago.

-The Luis Ayala/R.A. Dickey experiment, just a week into it’s existence, has proven to be a complete failure.  Yet, Duensing was the one sent down to the minors when Baker came off the DL…grrr.

Preview (4-6, 4th, 1.5 GB DET and KCR): Roy Halladay (2-0, 3.86) vs. Francisco Liriano (0-2, 6.94). By all accounts Halladay should shut us down tonight, but he does throw the ball with his right (not left) hand, so at least we have a shot.

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.

17 Drab Innings…Then A Walkabout

Though I was a bit crushed that I had to work at night on the day of the Twins’ home opener against the Seattle Mariners, I taped the game and watched it later in the evening.  Gee, that was worth it.  First, this guy…

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…”King” Felix Hernandez, completely shuts down our bats.  Even in the sparse situations we scraped together that could have produced runs, Felix would always get out of the jam either via a strike out (usually Michael Cuddyer, who whiffed three times) or a double play (Justin Morneau).  This was especially frustrating due to the fact that it wasted a pretty decent effort from our mound man..

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Sure, Francisco Liriano gave up three dingers, but one came after a glaring error from Alexi Casilla.  All told, he pitched very well and just didn’t get any offensive support.

So, I went to bed hoping that the next day’s matchup (which I would be watching on TV…or so I thought) would produce a much better result.  The next morning, however, I was informed that my grandparents (who live in the Metro area suberbs…Fridley, to be exact) had received four free tickets from a Target store promotion and were wondering if my brother and I wanted to go with them?!  Stupid question, as we headed out the door right away!

Game #2 of 162 proved to be much more exciting than the previous one…and perhaps the next 160!  Of course, it didn’t start out so great, as our guy…

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…Nick Blackburn found himself down 4-0 after just four innings.  RBI hits from Denard Span and Cuddyer (he was basically either whiffing badly or driving in runs all game) brought the Twins to within one run for the middle innings, but Luis Ayala surrendered another Mariner run in the top of the ninth.  Thus, new Seattle closer Brandon Morrow was summoned to the Dome mound with a 5-3.  That’s when things started to get interesting:

Morrow got two quick outs in Joe Crede and Delmon Young, but Carlos Gomez put together a surprisingly good at-bat (he would have K’d on four pitches last season in that spot) and drew a walk.  Jason Kubel was called on to pinch-hit for Jose Morales (who had struck out in all three previous at-bats), and Kubel used patience to his advantage to coax another base-on-balls.

Then, with the Jumbotron at the Dome flashing the “Walks Will Haunt” graphic, Morrow walked a third straight batter (Brian Buscher) and was pulled in favor of Miguel Batista.  By this time the lineup had turned over again, so Span The Man stepped in and hit a high chopper that Adrian Beltre couldn’t will down into his glove fast enough, making the score 5-4.

This brought Alexi Casilla to the plate, and my flashback started…the last time I was at the Metrodome, Lexi singled to center field with the bases loaded against the Chicago White Sox to complete the late-season sweep.  This time, Casilla again ripped the first pitch he saw into center, plating both the tying and winning runs…

BuscherWin.jpg

 

Though this wasn’t the greatest run-differential the Twins have ever come back from, it still has to go down in team history as one of the great late-inning victories due to the fact that all the action transpired with two outs.  When Buscher slide across the plate and was mobbed by his teammates, what was left of the 23,700 announced crowd was in a bedlam!

Man, I think I need to starting getting to more of these games…whenever I’m there, something crazy seems to happen.

Preview (1-1, 2nd, 0.5 GB CWS): Kevin Slowey (0-0, 0.00 ERA) vs. Carlos Silva (0-0, 0.00).  Though Silva is gone from “Fatboy” to “Slim” over the off-season, he still lives and dies by the sinker.  If “on” he can be maddening.  If not, he WILL get pounded.

3 Up…or 3 Down?

andersoncallingbullpen-739405.jpgI will be very busy in the upcoming days leading up to the Minnesota Twins’ Opening Day on April 6th, so I just wanted to post a few season-preview thoughts before the regular season campaign kicks off.

The way I see it, there are three areas in which the Twins need to excel this season in order to win the division crown.  In all honesty, these areas are pretty much the same for all other teams as well, but the Twins have their own unique challenges:

1. First, the starting pitching quintet of Scott Baker, Francisco Liriano, Kevin Slowey, Nick Blackburn, and Glen Perkins needs to continue to keep the team in games.  This is the most important cog in the machine, as if the quality starts keep pouring in the Twins will at the very least compete no matter how bad the bullpen or offense stinks.  The old baseball adage that “good pitching beats good hitting” holds as true now as it always has.  I mean, if say Johan Santana faced no one but Ichiro Suzuki all season long, the very best that Ichiro could do is get a hit four times in every ten at-bats.  Thus, the starting rotation is the anchor of every staff, and the Twins’ staff is still a bit of a question mark:

Baker: Has ace-type repertoire but struggles to pitch into the later innings.  Is usually up around 100 pitches by the fifth inning or so, putting a strain on the bullpen.

Cisco: Could dominate, could fall apart due to control issues.

Slowey: This is the guy I think is poised for a huge season.  He is essentially the second coming of Brad Radke, only with a better assortment of pitches.  Just needs to work on limiting damaging situations, as they tend to snow-ball on him pretty quick.

Blackie: As a play-to-contact, ground ball sort of pitcher, Blackburn walks the fine line between Carlos Silva and Jack Morris.  On some days he can be the most frustrating guy in the world to drive the ball off of, while on other days he gets lit up.

Perkins: The great unknown.  Was very up-and-down last season…showed flashes of both excellence and utter failure.

So, the extent to which that rotation comes together is the biggest factor in how the Twins will finish in the standings in 2009.

2. The bullpen, however, isn’t far behind.  Whereas I am confident that the starting five can find a way to hold up their end of the bargain, I’m not nearly as sold on the bullpen, which looks to include:

Joe Nathan: The only sure-bet of the bunch.  Will blow a few (who doesn’t…well, besides Brad Lidge last year), but let’s just say that a “down” year would be an ERA over 2.00.

Jesse Crain: Pretty much the root of all frustration in the world. Was overhyped even when he was good, but does have a glimmer of hope in that now is arm is finally “back” after having surgery a while back.

Matt Guerrier: Will have to prove that last year’s collapse WAS just a fluke (or due to fatigue), not because batters just figured him out.

Craig Breslow: The lefty-lefty specialist.  Will likely do a good job, and is an upgrade over Dennis “Throw One WP And Leave The Game” Reyes.

Luis Ayala: Don’t know much about his guy, only that he came from the Nats (not a good sign) and struggled mightily last year.  Has potential…but so did Mike Fetters.

The final bullpen spot, thought to be filled by Jose Mijares until he came to camp looking like Hideki Irabu, is now up for grabs between newcomer Brian Duensing, Philip Humber (obtained in the Santana trade), and R.A. Dickey, a knuckleballer.

All in all, that is not a very impressive bunch.  Like I said, Nathan is solid, but getting to him will be the difficult part.  Someone is going to have to step up and become the eighth inning man that guys like LaTroy Hawkins and Juan Rincon were in the past.

3. Finally, I would like to quickly comment on the Twins’ offense.  Here is a sample lineup that the Twins could trot out on a semi-day basis:

Denard Span, Alexi Casilla, Joe Mauer, Justin Morneau, Joe Crede, Jason Kubel, Michael Cuddyer, Delmon Young, Nick Punto.

Essentially, it would likely be the best starting lineup the Twins have had in quite some time (plus Carlos Gomez off the bench).  However, I am very wary of predicting a high offensive turnout from this bunch, as it so rarely happens up here in MN.  It seems as if the Twins are much better at developing pitchers than hitters (perhaps due to the small-ball philosophy that reins hitters in instead of turning them loose?), so even a lineup that looks rock-solid can quickly turn gooey.  Actually, I think the biggest positive this season, as opposed to ’06 or ’08, is that no old fogeys are being counted on to produce.  The days of experimenting with guys like Tony Batista, Rondell White, Mike Lamb, and (cringe) even Bret Boone seem to be behind the Twins, with the lineup now given over completely to the young veterans and just youngsters period.

So there you have it…how the Twins perform in those three areas will go very far in determining their division standings come October.  Hopefully before the season begins I will post an article about my divisional predictions for MLB (if it ever stops snowing here to allow the mail through!).

One That May Have Gotten Away

Korecky.jpgI was very surprised to learn yesterday that the Twins lost right-handed reliever Bobby Korecky to the Arizona Diamondbacks via wavers.  Besides his exciting extra-inning base hit in that crazy game last season, I was very impressed with his poise on the mound.  Give him another year, and he could become a major-league reliever, with closer status not far behind (he was the primary closer for the Twins’ Triple-A team the past two seasons).

I think what’s even more bitter is that we lost him to fill a spot for Luis Ayala.  Personally, I think Ayala will be one of those guys who will stick around for a few months (probably a month too long, if the Livan Hernandez experiment showed us anything last season) and then be gone due to just plain old bad pitching.  Thus, I think letting Korecky go for Ayala is a mistake that, although it may not be season-breaking, is one that may haunt the Twins a bit when/if Korecky makes it big somewhere else.

Notes:

-In other Twins news, Gardy mentioned the other day that he would love to have Dennys Reyes (who is still a free agent) back in his pen.  While I can see the rationale (Reyes did have his moments against lefty batters), there were just too many times last season where the Big Sweat would come in and walk the only batter he was asked to face, or throw one in the dirt and allow a baserunner to advance.  Craig Breslow can do just as good of a job against lefties and throw less wildly in the process.

-Tomorrow night, I will give my thoughts on the signing of Joe Crede to a one year contract.

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