— Where BTF's Members Investigate the Grand Old Game
Monday, May 23, 2005
Divisional Diary - AL Central
Tony looks at the new, not-so-weak A.L. Central.
CHICAGO (31-13, 1st Place)
Recent Happenings –
The White Sox are a robust 14-5 in May, extending their lead
of Minnesota by 4.5 games this month.
While the entire pitching staff has been strong this season,
the bullpen has taken over this month. Dustin Hermanson has seven saves and a
hold in May, while extending his scoreless streak to over 20 innings. Damaso
Marte has allowed only a 1.59 ERA this month but his one earned run (a Kevin
Mench homer) cost the Sox a win. Shingo Takatsu has all but lost the closer’s
job, but he has been excellent too in May, allowing one earned run in 4.2
innings while striking out 7. Cliff Politte has dominated.
The White Sox offense staggered through April but it has
been solid in May. A.J. Pierzynski, the team’s only threatening left-handed
bat, has caught fire in May, hitting .307/.370/.673 with 6 homers and 15 RBI in
15 games. Jermaine Dye has recently gotten hot after an ice-cold April. Dye
is hitting .305/.359/.678 this month. Aaron Rowand seems to have come out of
his funk also and his hitting .318/.378/.500 in May. Paul Konerko is hitting
just .219 in May but he has drawn 13 walks to give him a .363 OBP this month. The
streakiest hitter alive, Joe Crede is hitting .172/.239/.310 in May after a
This and That –
- The White Sox have gotten off to a hot start despite a mediocre
offense that is 8th in the AL in on-base average and 9th
in slugging. If nothing else, manager Ozzie Guillen is philosophical and
refreshingly unhypocritical about the situation. “I can’t say be patient
at the plate when I was swinging at every first pitch all my life,” said
the Ozzard of Whizz. “This team is more balanced,” said Ozzie, comparing
his current squad to last year’s team that battered down the walls for the
first three months. “This year . . . I’m going to see if I can manage or
not. Last year, I just changed the pitchers for 162 games.”
- The White Sox have the majors’ best record in one-run
games at 14-5. Contrary to a current myth, the Sox were extremely good
in one run games last year, going 28-18 in one-run contests. On the
difference between this year’s team and last year’s, Guillen said “[Now]
we execute. We play . . . we play baseball. If we won by one run [last
year], it was probably 12-11.” Memory is a fleeting thing, no?
- As is the White Sox affinity for attacking strawmen,
Guillen got a lot of press early in the season for declaring that he’d
“rather have five guys hit 20 homers than two guys hit 50 homers.” Last
year’s White Sox had six players with 20 homers and none with fifty. This
year’s team projects to have three players with 20 homers. Hmmm.
- Here’s why you have to like Ozzie. First, apparently his
philosophy of teamwork applies to himself and coaching staff just as it
does to his players. “Everybody is safe here,” he said of his coaches,
“Everybody here helps each other. . . . We have titles [on] paper, but
we’re all friends.” Second, you’ve got to like a manager who says to an
inexperienced player (here to Willie Harris, playing SS for the first time
in a big league game), “I just told him to catch the ball and throw to
first and see what happens.”
- Refreshingly, Guillen seems to love bucking conventional
wisdom. Instead of going with hard-and-fast bullpen roles, Guillen has
been very flexible. “I have four closers,” he said. “And they have the
mentality that they will start closing the game out in the seventh
inning.” As for his rotation, while they are on a pitch count right now,
he plans on letting them lose the final two months of the season.
- Not surprisingly given their heavily right-handed lineup,
the White Sox have really struggled against right-handed pitching in
2005. While they have torched lefties to the tune of .299/.360/.482, they
are just .244/.317/.377 against righties.
- There has been a lot of talk about how this Sox team has
delivered in clutch situations. However, the team is hitting only
.248/.332/.358 with runners in scoring position. On the flipside of the
coin though, Sox opponents have hit only .220/.312/.304 in similar
- The Orioles and Rangers have recently accused the White
Sox of doctoring their home pitching mound by making it higher than the
regulation 10 inches. These complaints have not been supported, however.
Comings and Goings –
- Jamie Burke joined the squad for about 72 hours earlier
this month when Willie Harris was placed on the bereavement list. Burke
was shipped back to Charlotte (after clearing waivers) so that the Sox
could give Kevin Walker an inning of work a week.
Aches and Pains –
- After losing Iguchi, Uribe and Ozuna to injuries, the Sox
lineup was so battered in Oakland that they had to start Chris Widger at
third and Joe Crede at shortstop. When Crede was tossed out of the game
for saying something not nice to an umpire (after he was not awarded first
base after sticking his elbow in front of a curveball) the Sox had to put
Jermaine Dye at SS. This was okay with Dye, who had volunteered to play
an infield position if necessary.
- 1B/OF Ross Gload was sent to the 15-day DL with “shoulder
inflammation”. The Sox recalled Pedro Lopez from Charlotte for a brief
spell. Not saying that anything sneaky is going on here, but with the
injuries to Ozuna and Uribe and Harris needing time off for personal
reasons the Sox desperately needed another middle infielder. Fortunately,
for them (wink, wink) Gload, who batted only 13 times in April, came down
with an injured shoulder just in the nick of time. Gload says that his
shoulder has felt great since May 10, but the Sox have no plans to lift
his D.L. banishment.
- Frank Thomas’s rehab of his surgically repaired ankle is
going more slowly than originally anticipated. Running on it isn’t the
problem. “It feels great when I’m running, but as soon as I stop it gets
real sore,” said the Hurt. Thomas will begin his rehab assignment with Charlotte on Tuesday the 17th in Ottawa. G.M. Kenny Williams’ preference is
for Thomas to get “at least 100 at bats” in Charlotte, so don’t expect to
see Thomas in the Sox lineup before June 1. These will be Thomas’s first
games at AAA; he skipped from AA Birmingham to the majors in August, 1990.
- Who had the over/under on May 21 as the date that El Duque
would go on the D.L.? Brandon McCarthy was called up when Orlando
Hernandez went on the D.L. with shoulder woes. Hernandez says that he’s
fine and didn’t even want to miss a start; the Sox say that they are just
being extra careful. I say, I’ve heard these things about El Duque
- The White Sox minor league system features several
intriguing OF prospects and a couple of solid young pitchers, but the USA
Today rates them as the seventh worst system in baseball.
- The lone offensive bright spot on the dreadful Charlotte
Knights team is OF Brian Anderson, 23, who is hitting .317/.384/.577.
Brandon McCarthy leads the minors with 61 strikeouts but, coming off two
shellings, his ERA has climbed to 4.72 in 47 innings. McCarthy has a 5.24
ERA with all nine of his homers allowed at hitter-friendly Knights
- At Birmingham, OF Ryan Sweeney has found his stroke,
hitting .319 with a .392 OBP but no power. Speedster Jason Owens, acquired
from Washington for Alex Escobar, has a .382 OBP and has stolen 12 bases
(caught just twice) in 34 games but with less-than-no power. The Sox are
converting Bobby Jenks into a closer. He has a 2.41 ERA with a .203 OAVG
and 8 walks in 18 innings. Something is still very, very wrong with Kris
Homel (8.69 ERA with a .354 OAVG and a 14/9 BB/K ratio in 19 innings).
On Deck –
After taking two of three from the floundering Cubs, the Sox
now have to face the Angels for 7 of their next 10 games. They also go to Texas and host Cleveland before squaring off against the NL West (minus the Giants) from
CLEVELAND (19-23, 4th place)
Recent Happenings –
After a sad 10-14 record in April, the Indians are 9-9 in
The Indians offense continues to flounder. They have scored
three runs or less in half their May games. And 22 of their 73 May runs have
come in two games and those against the dregs of the Angels staff. What little
offense they have received has come from the recently lost Coco Crisp and
Jhonny Peralta. Peralta has discovered his power stroke this month and has hit
five of his six homers in the last two weeks. Travis Hafner hit three homers
in four games at the beginning of the month but then didn’t hit at all for two
weeks. Grady Sizemore (.318.384/.485 in May) and Ben Broussard
(.292/.333/.508) have been very solid this month. But the offense continues to
lag under the weight of Belliard, Boone, Cora, Hernandez and Martinez, who have
been unable to get their OPSs above .550 (!!) this month.
It has been the Indians’ pitching that has kept them
respectable this month. Their marvelous bullpen (which will be mentioned
later) has been nearly unhittable in May. Cliff Lee has been extremely strong
in May (2-1, 3.32 with a 8/23 BB/K ratio in 19 IP). Lee has thrown only one bad
inning (capped by a Ken Harvey grand slam on April 30) since April 13th.
Kevin Millwood has a 2.45 ERA in May, but he has really pitched two superb
games and two mediocre ones. C.C. Sabathia broke out of his three game funk
(May 5-15) with a nice game against Cincinnati on the 21st. Jake
Westbrook has also righted the ship after a rocky patch of sea. Westbrook has
a 3.00 ERA and a .167 average against in his last two starts with a 2/13 BB/K
ratio in those 12 innings.
This and That –
- The Indians have talked trade over the last weeks but have
“not considered making a trade” according to Paul Hoynes of the Plain
Dealer. This despite his “surplus” relievers and shortstops.
- The Indians’ leadoff hitters have the ugliest combined stat
line (.211/.270/.286) that you’d ever want to see. With everyone
struggling, manager Eric Wedge used four different leadoff hitters (Crisp,
Belliard, Sizemore and Cora) in four days at the end of April. It didn’t
help. Tribe leadoff hitters were 1 for 21 without a walk or a run scored
in those games. Said Cora, “I bat leadoff in winter ball so it’s no big
deal.” He went on to say, That is, unless you want to score runs, of
- The Indians bullpen is arguably the best in baseball.
While their starters have gone just 11-18 with a 4.63 ERA, the Tribe’s
relievers have compiled a 7-5 record with a 2.41 ERA. David Riske has
been their best pitcher, allowing just a 1.39 ERA with 27 hits, 38
strikeouts and only 7 walks in his last 45 innings (dating back to last
year). Arthur Rhodes, Bob Wickman and Scott Sauerbeck have combined to
allow only one run all month (over 20 combined innings). Rafael
Betancourt and Bobby Howry have compiled ERAs of 2.70 and 3.12 in May so
far. And now they are reenlisting Matt Miller, who has been nearly
perfect this season in Cleveland and Buffalo.
- After a .123/.198/.301 start, Aaron Boone was benched for
a weekend series against the Royals. Boone has been working on his hitting
with his father, Bob Boone. Boone the Elder was a lifetime .254/.315/.346
career hitter. GM Mark Shapiro is sanguine though: “He’s got the track
record, work ethic and intelligence. If we’re patient, he’ll hit.”
Boone’s 2-for-4 outing on May 15th raised his batting average
to just .142. “I come to the park every day thinking that this is the
day,” said a frustrated Boone. Boone has hit .333 over the last week.
Comings and Goings –
- C. C. (Baby Huey) Sabathia passed up a year of free agency
to sign a two year 17.75 million dollar contract.
- The Indians traded LHP Cliff Bartosh, who was out of
options, to the Cubs for RHP Ronald Bay. Bay, 21, had a 3.10 ERA for the
lo-A Lansing Lugnuts of the Midwest League.
- OF Jody Gerut was recalled from his injury rehab in Buffalo when Crisp went on the 15-day disabled list.
- A sulking Matt Miller was recalled from Buffalo when the
Indians optioned Jason Davis.
- Former menacing Indians reliever Paul Shuey retired on
April 27th. The second pick in the 1992 June draft, Shuey finished
his career with a 3.57 ERA, a 45-27 record and 22 saves in 451 games and
504 innings over 10 seasons. His best season was probably 1999 when he went
8-5, 3.53 with 6 saves and 103 strikeouts in 81 innings.
- Former White Sox prospect, Jason Bere announced his
retirement this week. Bere, who had been pitching in the Tribe
organization the last two years, finished his career with a 71-65 record
and a 5.14 ERA (86 ERA+). A 36th round selection in the White
Sox stellar draft class of 1990, Bere blitzed through the minor leagues in
the early ‘90s and then was a key component to the excellent Chicago teams of 1993 and 1994. The Sox fourth starter in those two years, he went 24-7
and posted a 3.64 ERA (ERA+ of 121 and 122) while striking out 256 batters
in 284 innings.
Aches and Pains –
- How frail is Juan Gonzalez? His hamstring injury
continued to linger through May and he only began playing in extended
spring training games in mid-May. Jody Gerut, recovering from off-season
ACL reconstruction was promoted to the Tribe lineup before Gonzo. Gerut
started his Buffalo rehab on May 3 and was hitting .438/.518/.729, upon
- OF Coco Crisp (.283/.347/.428) could miss three months of
the season after he tore a ligament in his right thumb. He suffered the
injury when he jammed his thumb in the dirt on an attempt to stretch a
double into a triple. Crisp had been the team’s hottest hitter in May,
- According to the USA Today, the Indians began the season
with baseball’s third best minor league system. They are particularly
deep on the mound and in the outfield.
- In Buffalo, C Ryan Garko is pounding away at a
.283/.364/.480 clip, but the dying embers of Brandon Phillips’
(.244/.293/.423) career seem to be dying. The Indian’s bullpen is
swimming in arms but something’s got to be done to free up some room for
24-year old Fernando Cabrera, who has a 1.45 ERA and just two walks and 22
strikeouts in 18 innings.
- Jason Cooper (.267/.379/.548), 24, has led the attack for
AA Akron. He has 10 homers but just 4 doubles. His 46 Ks in 37 games is
a concern. J.D. Martin, 22, looked like he had turned a corner with a
1.40 ERA (34 Ks with just 4 BB in 4 outings) start, but he went on the DL
last week with elbow tightness.
On Deck –
The Indians face off against Minnesota for 7 of their next
10 games with Oakland sandwiched in between. Cleveland then has to go to Chicago for three before their June 7-19 interleague schedule, in which they are lucky
enough to miss the Dodgers while playing the rest of the NL West. With 13
games against their division’s best teams, these are two very important weeks
for the 2005 Indians.
DETROIT (20-21, 3rd place)
The Tigers have been the quintessential .500 team this
season, going 11-11 in April and 9-10 in May.
The Bengals pitching has kept them respectable in May. Jeremy
Bonderman has been great going 2-0 with a 2.77 ERA this month. He has struck
out 25 in his 26 May innings and hasn’t had a bad outing since April 21st
in Chicago. Jason Johnson is 0-2 in May but sports a 2.61 ERA. He has pitched
very well in three of his last four starts (the blemish coming at the Ballpark
at Arlington TX) and has a 7/19 BB/K ratio in 31 May innings. Nate Robertson
has allowed 10 runs in 24 innings, but only four of them were earned and most
of those came in a rocky start against the Angels. Aside from long-reliever
Matt Ginter, the bullpen has been just as good as the Tigers’ starters. Ugie
Urbina has dominated since he became the closer. In May, Urbina is 5 for 5 in
save opportunities with a 1.80 ERA and 13 Ks in 10 IP and he has allowed only
2runs and 9 hits in his last 15 innings, dating back to mid-April. Franklyn
German and Kyle Farnsworth, who have to be the scariest bullpen duo in the majors,
have combined to allow only 11 hits in May while posting a 3/14 BB/K ratio in
over 15 innings.
The Tigers offense, however, has struggled through May,
scoring only 67 runs in 20 games. The team’s veterans have been the most
responsible for the scoring drought. Although he’s has been hot recently, Ivan
Rodriguez is hitting only .225/.243/.366 in May. Rondell White’s May OPS is
only .703 and Dmitri Young is struggling along with a .279 OBP and .333 SLG
this month. Nook Logan, who hadn’t posted an OBP above .335 since 2000 in the
Florida State League, is hitting .250/.278/.289 in May, which is about what we
should expect from him. The team’s best hitters this month have been SS Carlos
Guillen (.364/.382/.515), OF Craig Monroe (.276/.400/.431) and 3B Brandon Inge
(.278/.376/.456). Most of the Tiger’s power has been supplied by LF Marcus
Thames who has a .564 slugging average in May. Why aren’t they scoring runs?
Well, in their most recent series Logan was leading off and the middle of the
lineup was Pudge (3rd), Rondell (5th) and then Young.
This and that –
- At just 22-years old, Jeremy Bonderman was the youngest
Opening Day starter since Dwight Gooden in 1986. Teammate Dmitri Young
declares that Bonderman is the next Roger Clemens. We call it the “Bondo
Show,” said OF Craig Monroe of Bonderman. “He talks it, man. But he also
walks it. He just goes out and does it”.
- Despite early season off-days, manager Alan Trammell and
pitching coach Bob Cluck decided to maintain the order of the rotation rather
than keeping their top pitchers on their normal rest.
- Rondell White needs to sit down with White Sox manager
Ozzie Guillen. After the Tigers lost three straight one-run games, White
declared, “In those on-run games, you really miss Magglio [Ordonez].” In Chicago, Guillen has been asserting that his team is so good in one-run games because they
don’t have Ordonez.
- The Tigers pitchers have had all kinds of problems with
left-handed hitters this year. Lefties are hitting .282/.349/.437 while
opposing right-handers are hitting only .226/.295/.348. Getting a solid
lefty for the pen and a southpaw complement to Maroth in the rotation
should be a Motown priority this off-season.
Comings and Goings –
- The Tigers traded LHP Steve Colyer to the Mets for RH reliever
Matt Ginter. Ginter has been used in long relief so far this season
- Adam Peterson was claimed off waivers from Arizona.
- The Tigers purchased the contract of LHP Doug Creek from Toledo when Higginson went under the knife. Creek had a 2.81 ERA with 21
Ks and only 9 hits allowed in in 16 AAA innings. He has allowed 5 hits
but no runs or walks in 3 1/3 innings since his recall.
- P Chris Spurling was brought up from Toledo when Percival
went to the D.L.
Aches and Pains –
- Magglio Ordonez is expected to miss up to three months
with a hernia. He also missed the first half week of the season with an
intestinal inflammation. Flying in the face of the bad press that the
White Sox organization has spewed about him, Ordonez asked Sox trainer
Herm Schneider to recommend a doctor for a second opinion about his
- Carlos Guillen has had recurring episodes of swelling in
his repaired knee. The injury has forced the Tigers to sit Carlos Pena at
times so that Guillen could DH.
- Ramon Martinez missed 16 April games with a left thumb
injury. Tigers optioned Andrew Good to Toledo to make room for Martinez.
- Both Not-so-pudgy Rodriguez and Dmitri Young were forced
from the Tigers’ May 15 game due to injuries. Rodriguez bruised the big
toe on his left foot after being struck by a foul tip while catching; he
is day-to-day. Young twisted his left ankle on the first base bag while
trying to beat out an infield hit. He had to be helped from the field.
- Troy Percival is expected to miss four to six weeks after
he “did something . . . warming up in the bullpen,” according to Alan
Trammell. That something was a partial tear of his right flexor pronator
muscle mass, whatever the heck that is. I’ll just call it,
- Speaking of the dying gasps of a career, Bobby Higginson
will have his right elbow operated upon to remove bone chips. This almost
certainly spells the end of the 35-year old Higginson’s career. Doesn’t
- RHPs Gary Knotts and Fernando Rodney are out indefinitely
with sore shoulders. And RHP Colby Lewis was transferred to the 60-day
- After stressing a high-risk, high-ceiling approach to the
draft for the last several years, the Tigers system is just the 22nd
best, according to the USA Today
- After muddling through three seasons at Erie, 3B Jack
Hannahan, 25, has gotten off to a solid start at Toledo, hitting
- At AA Erie, OF David Espinosa (.324/.450/.545), 23, has
been extremely good in his second go-round in the Eastern League.
Lefty-swinging SS Don Kelly, 25, has been on fire, hitting .324/.450/.545
with 34 BB in 39 games. Nate Cornejo (3-3, 3.25) has struck out 24 and
walked just 4 in 36 IP.
- RHP Kyle Sleeth hasn’t pitched yet in 2005 because of a
“tender” elbow. According to Baseball America, he was not expected to be
out for an extended period, and yet here we are.
On Deck –
The Tigers are the first of Al Central teams to face the
Yankees as the Bombers take a tour of the Midwest. Detroit then plays Baltimore six times in ten days. When you sprinkle in a series against Texas and one at the
Dodgers, this is makes for really tough stretch for the Tigers. .
KANSAS CITY (13-31, 5th place)
After a 7-18 April, the Royals won 6 of 19 May games.
Mike Sweeny has led the Royals suddenly-solid offensive
attack. In May, the Royals have scored 96 runs in 20 games thanks in great
part to Sweeney’s amazing .404/.444/.860 effort this month. In their series
at Tampa Bay, DH Matt Stairs drew 6 walks in 11 plate appearances. Stairs is
hitting .298/.450/.489 in May, including a recent stretch that has seen him hit
.313/.560/.438 since mid-May. Catcher John Buck has hit only .222 in May but
he is in the midst of a hot streak that has seen him club the ball to the tune
of .316/.391/.632 over the last couple weeks. Angel Berroa’s .361/.395/.556
since mid-May has helped him raise his monthly totals to .286/.321/.442. Now
platooning, 2B Ruben Gotay is .350/.409/.600 over the last two weeks.
The Royals’ pitching has been just dismal in May, allowing
107 runs in 20 games. Aside from relievers Mike Wood and Leo Nunez, the staff
has been a mess. The 21-year old Nunez, who was snatched from the Pirates for
Benito Santiago, throws in the mid-90s and has always shown a strong BB/K
ratio. He was shelled early this year in High Desert (despite a great BB/K
ratio) but he has been outstanding in AA Wichita and for the Royals thus far.
A starter last year, Wood has taken a liking to the pen in 2005. He allowed
only a .167 average against and has a 3/10 BB/K ratio in 12 May innings. Hard-luck
Matt Greinke is 0-3 in May despite a 4.00 ERA and a 5/17 BB/K ratio in 27
This and That –
- The Royals’ 11-27 start was the worst in franchise
history. If you believe the sources, it was not KC’s record that prompted
Tony Pena’s resignation, but their lack of fundamentals and smart play.
“I don’t care if you bring in the best manager is baseball,” said Jose
Lima a week before Pena’s resignation. “Whoever comes here, it’s the same
25 guys. It’s not Tony. It’s not the coaching staff.” A familiar
excuse, but is it true? I mean, who sent Ken Harvey to AAA to start the
season? Who has given Emil Brown 96 at bats? Who gave up on Cal
Pickering after 27 at bats? Who has let Jose Lima and his 7.77 ERA start
nine times, for heavens sake?
- The Royals have decided to “build the right way” (in the
words of GM Allard Baird) in 2005. Finally, I say. But it’s still not
- In his first eight starts, Zack Greinke received twelve
runs of support.
- With runners on base, Royals’ pitchers are have allowed
opposing batters to hit .318/.395/.512, which is like having George Brett
Comings and Goings –
- The Royals optioned Shawn Camp, Nate Field and Calvin
Pickering to Omaha during April, recalling Ken Harvey, Ambiorix Burgos and
Matt Diaz. According to Peter Gammons, Harvey was only in Omaha in the first place to slow down his eventual arbitration payday.
- Pitchers D.J. Carrasco and Leo Nunez were recalled from Omaha when Snyder and Anderson were sidelined.
- Chris Truby was outrighted to Omaha.
- The Royals purchased the contract of Ryan Jensen, a 13
game winner for the 2002 Giants), when Harvey went to the D.L. Jensen
started and beat the Cardinals on June 22nd.
Aches and Pains –
- Jeremy Affeldt is still a couple weeks away from returning
from a strained groin. Mike Wood and Mike MacDougal have been sharing
what few save opportunities that have arisen during Affeldt’s absence.
- Mark Teahen missed time with a lower back strain. The
Royals returned Matt Diaz (pronounced DYE-az, by the way) to Omaha because (and I have this from a reliable source) Emil Brown has very, very
incriminating pictures of Allard Baird and an ostrich.
- RH reliever Scott Sullivan is out indefinitely with a
lower back problem. He is reworking his sidearm delivery to take stress
off his back. Neither the problem nor the solution bode well for the
continuity of Sullivan’s career.
- RHP Denny Bautista went to the D.L on May 16 with shoulder
tendinitis. Matt Diaz, who knows the pilots on the Omaha to K.C. shuttle
personally by now, was recalled.
- RHP Kyle Snyder’s strained right shoulder allows him to
continues his extended stay in the Land of the Disabled. Snyder has not
pitched since 2003.
- LHP Brian Anderson’s left elbow soreness forced him onto
the DL. There is no timetable for his return.
- Ken Harvey went to the D.L. with a sore back. His back has
bothered him all year, but he should be back in two weeks.
- The Royals are 14th in minor league depth
according to the USA Today
- In Omaha, 1B Chad Santos, 25, is having his best
professional year at .264/.352/.544 while Aaron Guiel (.292/.386/.583) is
trying to figure out what else he has to do to get back to The Show
- At Wichita, 1B Justin Huber, now moved from the catching
position, has been destroying the Texas League, hitting .373/.480/.613.
Huber was acquired from the Pirates when Allard Baird found a way to get a
piece of the Kris Benson trade to the Mets. DH Josh Pressley
(.325/.423/.521), still just 25, is finally starting to hit a few homers.
On Deck –
The Royals go west for sets in Texas and Anaheim before
returning to face the Yankees and Rangers at Kauffman. Their June 7-19
interleague includes the NL West’s Giants, Dodgers and D-Backs and the NL
MINNESOTA (25-17, 2nd place)
The Twins have played .500 ball in May, going 10-9.
Twins pitchers have allowed 73 runs in 19 May games (3.41
ERA). Brad Radke has had a great month. While he continues his pace of walking
only two batters a month, he has allowed only 2.57 earned runs a game in May
and has struck out 17 in 28 innings. Radke has allowed only ten runs this
month but has given up five homers. Santana had back-to-back bad outings (at Baltimore and against Toronto) to raise his monthly totals to 1-2, 4.08 ERA. The teams
setup men (J.C. Romero, Juan Rincon and Jesse Crain) have been great in May but
closer Joe Nathan’s May ERA is 5.14, thanks to rough outings against Texas and
The Twins offense is rather schizophrenic right now. Their
hitters have been either fire or ice this month giving the offense little
continuity. For example, 1B Justin Morneau has an .881 OPS in May but he is
hitting only .147/.211/.265 since mid-month. Lew Ford may be hitting .333/.412/.567
since mid-month but he was completely impotent for the May’s first couple
weeks. Joe Mauer was incredibly hot early in the month but has been rather
non-descript of late. Balancing out Torii Hunter’s crappy .219/.271/.297 May
has been new SS Juan Castro, who has hit .360 and slugged .520 since mid-May. Jacque
Jones is hitting only .167/.219/.267 over the last week or two and Luis Rivas,
given back his 2B job during Nick Punto’s assorted maladies, has been
Rivasesque (and that’s not good). The lineup’s only constants in May have been
Shannon Stewart (.917 OPS for May) and 3B Michael Cuddyer. Cuddyer is a
smokin’-hot .438/.486/.656 over the last couple weeks, lifting his monthly
totals to .371/.403/.516.
This and That –
- The Twins lost their primary right-handed setup man as
Juan Rincon tested positive for a banned substance and was suspended for
10 days beginning Monday, May 2. One of Rincon’s close friends on the
Twins insisted to Peter Gammons that Rincon is “not a juicer” and
explained that “to do his job requires bouncing back, day after day,
getting up, sitting down, getting up, and the recovery requires some
supplement. He didn’t know it was illegal.” Twins recalled Scott Baker
to fill Rincon’s slot.
- The Twins are wearing sleeve patches this year to commemorate
the 40th anniversary of their 1965 A.L. Championship team. The
Twins lost a seven-game World Series that year to the Dodgers after Sandy
Koufax threw a four-hit shutout in game five followed by three-hit shutout
on two day’s rest in game seven. That was the Series in which the jewish
Koufax famously sat out game one in respect of Yom Kippur. To show you
how old players never fade away but their perspectives do, Rod Carew spent
an inordinate amount of TV air time to bemoan how “today’s ballplayers” don’t
play as hard as they did back in his day. Thirty minutes with an internet
database and you’ll find a half-dozen contemporary references to Carew’s
“laid-back” style of play.
- Nick Punto, slowed in spring training by a rib-cage
injury, has claimed the Twins’ second base job from Luis Rivas.. The
Twins believe that Punto is a cross between Lenny Dykstra and Larry Bowa,
which is really an image that I don’t need in my head. Former-second
baseman Rivas was hitting .195/.244/.195 when he was benched. “Our goal
is to get Luis playing better baseball,” said Gardenhire of Rivas. Boy,
talk about low expectations!
- The Twins ended their experiment with four catchers on
their 25-man roster.
- Joe Mauer and Justin Morneau, the “M&M Boys Show,”
have only played twenty games in the same lineup at any level, but they
have been the main cogs of the solid Twins offense. Why? “They don’t
swing at bad pitches,” reasoned C/DH Matt LeCroy. “It’s amazing what
those guys are going to be able to do when they see all the pitchers in
- Shannon Stewart claims that he was fined $1,000 dollars
for bumping into Cleveland pitcher Jason Davis after Davis hit him with a
pitch. Manager Ron Gardenhire was hit with a $750 dollar fine for
throwing his cap during a related argument with umpire Ted Barrett. “This
guy hit me with a 90-plus [mph] pitch. . . . I played through it, but I
could hardly swing a bat for three days,” Stewart told the Minneapolis Star Tribune. “That has an effect on my play. And I get fined?”
In the ensuing three games, Stewart was had two singles in twelve at bats
with three walks and two strikeouts at Tampa Bay. The Twins won all three
- The Twins struck out 17 Milwaukee Brewers on Sunday, May
22nd tying a club record. Johan Santana fanned 11 (with just
one walk) in seven innings and then the bullpen struck out six more over
the next four innings of Minnesota’s 6-5 extra inning win.
- Minnesota is hitting .298/.364/.469 in the Humpdome but
only .245/.317/.356 on the road.
- The Twins have hit .322/.409/.489 with runners in scoring
position this year.
Comings and Goings –
- The Twins signed lefty Jimmy Anderson to a minor league
contract on April 15th.
- The Jason Bartlett at SS experiment has ended, for now
anyway. Bartlett was shipped back to Rochester in favor of Luis
Rodriguez. Rodriguez was hitting .287/.359/.357 at Rochester.
Aches and Pains –
- Kyle Lohse was hampered by a shoulder injury suffered
during his April 28 game at KC. Since then, however, he’s made two good,
if abbreviated starts and a relief outing. His ERA since the injury is
2.77 although he has allowed 14 hits and had a 5/4 K/BB ratio in 13
- Justin Morneau missed a dozen April games with a
concussion. Switch-hitting infielder Terry Tiffee filled in well for
Morneau, hitting .280/.345/.520 in 25 at bats. Morneau is becoming a cult
hero of sorts. He’s just, well, a bit odd. “He’s such a bonehead, but
he’s Canadian, what else do you expect?” said Jacque Jones, trying to
alienate a whole country in one fell swoop. “He actually makes more sense
now after he got hit in the head. Maybe he needs a few more
concussions.” “Maybe [the beaning] made me smarter,” ventured Morneau.
- Young fireballer Grant Balfour will undergo Tommy John
surgery and miss the rest of the 2005 season. Balfour’s injury was
originally listed as a forearm injury.
- CF Torii Hunter sat out on May 14th and 15th
with a sore right wrist, but he is expected to play on Tuesday against Toronto.
- The Twins have the fifth best minor league depth according
to the USA Today.
- In Rochester, switchy 1B Garrett Jones (.331/.368/.581)
has thumped eight homers but walked only seven times while striking out 37
times in 33 games. Scott Baker (1.74 ERA with just 9 BB in 31 IP) has
been nearly untouchable and the bullpen has been strong, led by Todd
Bowyer and Willie Eyre who have combined for a 2.52 ERA with just 38 hits
and 55 Ks in 50 innings).
- 1B Dan Matienzo, 24, has too many good players ahead of
him in the system but he’s hitting .293/.336/.521 at New Britain. Trying
to force his way into the Twins future bullpen picture, sinker/slider
pitcher Pat Neshek has been very good with a 2.29 ERA and 26 strikeouts in
19 innings. LHP Francisco Liriano (part of the booty from SF for
Pierzynski) continues his solid pitching at AA. He’s struck out 59 in 50
IP with just 16 walks. Liriano can hit 97 mph and, according to Peter
Gammons, one scout points out that “the way he slings it makes him really
tough on lefties.” The same source says that Liriano could be
“devastating this fall out of the [Twins] pen.”
On Deck –
The Twins continue as soft spot in their schedule. They
play Cleveland in 7 of their next 10 games and go to Toronto before playing the
Yankees in early June. In their subsequent interleague interlude of June 7-19
the Twins will miss the N.L. West’s worst team, Colorado.
Posted: May 23, 2005 at 07:01 PM | 23 comment(s)
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