Results tagged ‘ Tommy John Surgery ’

Spring Training 2011: On The Fringe

With the Twins now in Fort Myers, FL, for Spring Training, they’ve been getting more media attention than usual due to issues like Morneau’s concussion comeback, Nathan’s Tommy John rehab, and the new Japanese SS whose name I’m too lazy to look up for spelling (probably should get on that).

However, there are three other areas I would like to comment on that perhaps slip our minds in the midst of the “bit stories”:

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1. Alexi Casilla has never been an everyday player for a full season.  Whenever he’s been given the opportunity to start, he’s droppped the ball (sometimes even in the literal sense).  Considering Gardy’s love of guys like Matt “The Next Punto?” Tobert or the newcomer Luke Hughes, Casilla still has a lot to prove and will not be handed the job by any means.

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2. Can “Valencia Mania” continue? A favorite example of mine of this case comes from 2000, when the Mets had an outfielder named Timo Perez (heck, he might be bouncing around somewhere yet) who, in August-September that year, looked like the next coming of Junior Griffey.  He then made a few World Series blunders, pitchers figured him out, and he’s been a fringe player since.  Pitchers now have a similar “book” on young Danny-Boy, so those fat pitches will be fewer and farther between.

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3. Besides a summer (June-July) that was out of control, Delmon Young was very average at the beginning and end of 2010.  What if that “Beast Mode” doesn’t occur again in ’11, or for nearly as long?  He’s always been a streaky hitter.

Keep an eye on these issues, as they could be every bit as important as “the big boys”.

One Joe Gone…

amd_nathan.jpgWell, it’s official…Joe Nathan is now lost for the season due to Tommy John surgery.  Wow.

You know, as good as Nathan has been since coming over to the Twins in 2004, he has always been somewhat under-appreciated by many Twins fans, I think.  Part of that can be due to two heart-crushing blown saves against the Yankees in the ’04 and ’09 ALDS.  But when you really think about, Nathan has been the best closer Minnesota has ever seen.  Consider this lineage:

In the 1960s, before the term “closer” was even used, Al Worthington…

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…and Ron Perranoski…

ron_perranoski_autograph.jpg …”saved” games (often pitching multiple innings) for some pretty good teams.  They were two great pitchers, but you can’t really consider them “closers” in the traditional sense.

The next time the Twins were good enough to need a closer (mid-1980s), the great Ron Davis experiment failed miserably…

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Thus, the emergence of Jeff “The Terminator” Reardon…

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…seemed like heaven on earth, even though his stats (31 saves, 4.48 ERA) would be considered poor by today’s standards.

Next in line was Rick Aguilera:

 
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Aggie was really good for a short period of time (1990-1992) and pretty good for the rest of the 1990s, but during both those periods he was always susceptible to giving up baserunners and needing to pitch out of jams.  He would usually do it succesfully, but not without a few heart-stopping moments nearly every night.

During the late 1990s, a closer wasn’t really needed when the Twins would only win 70 games a year, so Mike Trombley…

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…usually did the deed.

In 2001, the year the Twins jumped back into contention, LaTroy Hawkins…

latroy_1.jpg …wowed fans with his live fastball, but his late-season meltdown was partially to blame for the Twins missing the playoffs.

Thus, the switching of Eddie Guardado…

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…from “Everday” to “closer” was like another Davis-Reardon transition.  Eddie was deceptive, but like Aggie he had a propencity for making things interesting since he didn’t have electric stuff.

Then, Joe Nathan rode into town and dominated like no other before him:

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He had the blow-’em-away fastball, coupled with an array of breaking pitches that kept batsmen confused inning after inning.  Despite a few high-profile blowouts (but nothing worse than, say, Brad Lidge has gone through in recent years), he had joined the company of Mariano Rivera and Jonathan Papelbon as the best closers in the majors.

Now that he is gone for the season (and likely more, if not his career, at least with the Twins), the Twins have a complex choice for that crucial ninth inning.  Pat Neshek would be my choice, but management is taking it slow after his own major arm surgery two years ago.  Jon Rauch used to close games for the Nats, but his control is spotty.  Guerrier would probably do okay, but his setup role is so valuable as not to be lost.  Mijares/Crain would a disaster, Ron Davis-esque.  Hopefully the Twins can find someone to fill that final frame.

For the time being, I will continue to call this blog “The Closer” until the fate of Nathan is more determined.  He was always a favorite of mine (thus the blog title), and I am hoping (one day in the future) to hear this booming through the speakers at Target Field…

 

Fingers Crossed

fingers-crossed_sxc-776014.jpgRight now, this is the approach I am taking towards the Joe Nathan situation.  There have been many dire predictions about the Twins’ chances without The Nathanator (predictions I don’t necessarily agree with) this season, but I’ll get into that in two weeks’ time if the arm still isn’t ready to go.

Nathan (as evidenced in the name of this blog) has been a favorite of mine since replacing Eddie Guardado, so I would really miss watching him do his thing.  Until the docs are scrubbing up, though, I’m holding out hope.

Frankie 2006 vs. Frankie 2009

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:

http://www.startribune.com/sports/twins/43931992.html?elr=KArks:DCiU1PciUoaEYY_4PcUU

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.

 

Liriano6.jpgIn 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:

http://minnesota.twins.mlb.com/media/player/mp_tpl_3_1.jsp?w_id=501349&w=2006/open/tp/archive06/061606_minpit_liriano_11kreel_tp_350.wmv&pid=mlb_tp&gid=2006/06/16/minmlb-pitmlb-1&mid=200606161509550&cid=mlb&fid=mlb_tp350&v=2

Yet, come September of ’06, Liriano felt his arm “snap” while out on the mound…

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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…

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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!

The Two Most Hated Words A Pitcher Can Hear

tommy_20john_small.jpgEarlier today on this blog, I reported that Twins relief pitcher Pat Neshek was flying back to the Twin Cities from his rehab in Florida to have an MRI performed.  The results of that MRI were not good.  The scan revealed a complete tear of Neshek’s ulnar collateral ligament, which can only be corrected by the dreaded Tommy John surgery, requiring the side-winding righty to miss the entire 2009 season (much like Francisco Liriano in 2007).

This devastating loss to the Twins’ pitching staff just further illustrates the Twins’ need to either develop another reliever (Jose Mijares looked promising in September) or venture into the trading or free agent markets to get one.

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