Wednesday, March 30, 2011

MLB 2011 Preview-Recaps and Award Winners

Well the season is finally getting close. So here are my recaps of the divisional and wild card teams:

AL Central: White Sox
AL East: Red Sox
AL West: Rangers
AL Wild Card: Yankees
NL Central: Brewers
NL East: Phillies
NL West: Rockies
NL Wild Card: Braves

Now here is my Pennant and World Series Winners:

AL Champs: Red Sox
NL Champs: Braves
World Series Champs: Red Sox in 6

The Red Sox are the most complete team in the majors going into 2011. Its hard for me to see them not winning if they can stay healthy, which I think they will. Everyone is gushing over the fact the Phillies have a great starting rotation. They do, I'm not denying that. But their lineup is too left handed dominant, and has been battling the injury bug. I think they will be upset in the postseason once again.

Now here are my award winners in MLB in 2011:

AL MVP: Robinson Cano (NYY)
NL MVP: Ryan Braun (MIL)
AL Cy Young: Jon Lester (BOS)
NL Cy Young: Ubaldo Jimenez (COL)
AL Rookie of the Year: Jeremy Hellickson (TB)
NL Rookie of the Year: Aroldis Chapman (CIN)

There it is. I've made my predictions and its now time to just sit back and watch baseball. Enjoy the year and WIN TWINS!

Tuesday, March 29, 2011

MLB 2011 Preview-Minnesota Twins

As I mentioned in yesterdays post, I would have a more in depth one on the Twins, since this a Twins blog.

2010 Recap:
94-68, 1st in AL Central.
Lost ALDS 3-0 to New York

In 2010, the Twins ushered in a new ballpark, celebrated 50 seasons, and set a franchise high in payroll. Target Field disappointed absolutely no one. And the Twins broke in their new ballpark by going 53-29 on their new turf (Best in AL). The Twins began the season with out Joe Nathan as he required Tommy John early on in Spring Training. Jon Rauch would fill his spot through late July before the Twins traded stud catching prospect Wilson Ramos to Washington for Matt Capps. Key acquisitions Orlando Hudson and JJ Hardy proved to be valuable up the middle, but both missed various time due to injuries. But it was Jim Thome who proved to be the best acquisition, smashing 25 home runs and winning over the hearts of Twins fans after spending his career breaking them. The Twins broke out fast out of the gate, going 31-20 after May, and a 4.5 game lead in first. But June and July struggles, and losing Justin Morneau in July, took the Twins out of first place and dropped them back as much as 4.5 games of the surging Chicago White Sox. But following the All Star Break, the Twins took charge and went 48-26 in that span retaking first place, and ultimately crushed the rest of the division and uncorked the bubbly on September 21. The Twins won 94 games in 2010. This despite the fact Denard Span, Joe Mauer, Jason Kubel, and Michael Cuddyer all had down seasons. Carl Pavano lead the pitching staff in innings pitched (221.0), while winning 17 games and having a 3.75 ERA. But the shining star was Francisco Liriano, who found his nastiness once again, going 14-10 with a 3.62 ERA while striking out a team high 201. But, once again the Twins reached the postseason and found that team from the Bronx was waiting for them. The Twins did have home field advantage against the Yankees, but a late Yankee rally in games 1 and 2 doomed the Twins, sent them down 0-2 to New York, and were quickly kicked to the curb in game three ending the season. A bitter end to a magical season...

Key Departures:

RHP Jesse Crain (White Sox)
RHP Matt Guerrier (Dodgers)
LHP Brian Fuentes (Athletics)
RHP Jon Rauch (Blue Jays)
2B Orlando Hudson (Padres)
SS JJ Hardy (Orioles)
INF Nick Punto (Cardinals)

As you can see, the entire reliable contingent of the Twins bullpen had their contract years in 2010. And they all were allowed to leave via free agency. It would of been nice to see one of them return. But I guess they were just too expensive for the Twins to return. They Twins also parted ways with with their middle infield tandem of Hudson and Hardy. Hudson left via free agency and Hardy was surprisingly traded to Baltimore. Alexi Casilla, who had an average year off the bench in 2010, will fill in for Hardy at shortstop as the Twins wanted more speed up the middle, which is why Hudson and Hardy were shipped out. The Twins said goodbye to the lone remaining piranha, Nick Punto, as injuries in 2010 scared the Twins from bringing him back in 2011. With Danny Valencia taking the third base job, the Twins had really no room for Punto and he signed on with St. Louis.

Key Acquisitions:

2B Tsuyoshi Nishioka (.346 average for Chiba Lotte Marines)
LHP Dusty Hughes (3.83 ERA in 57 games in 2010 with KC)
RHP Jim Hoey (Played in minors in 2010 with Baltimore)
RHP Scott Diamond (Played in minors in 2010 with Atlanta)

The Twins marquee signing of the off season was Nishioka. They posted $5 million to talk to him, the signed him for 3 years and $9 million. He is regarded as one of the best players from Japan as the switch hitter batted .346 (Best in Japan) and won the equivalent of a gold glove at the shortstop position. He will play second base to start his major league career with the Twins and will bat in the second spot between Span and Mauer. Nishioka has had an impressive spring hitting .346 with an impressive 13 game hitting streak along the way. Dusty Hughes was a unknown signing late in the winter. His numbers don't stand out, but has been effective during spring and probably will break camp with the team. He does add another lefty presence to the bullpen, which is something the haven't had much of in the past. Jim Hoey and Scott Diamond were acquired separately by the Twins but could very well play together in AAA this season. Hoey was part of the JJ Hardy trade, and features a high 90s fastball, but has control issues with it. Diamond was a rule 5 draft pick, and has not had the best of springs. Rumor has it the Twins are trying to make a deal with the Braves so they can send him to AAA to begin the season, as they liked what they have seen out of him. Look for them to make an impact with the 2011 Twins if they have bullpen issues.

Projected Lineup and Pitching Staff:

Lineup (2010 Stats)

Denard Span CF (.264 AVG, .331 OBP, 47 RBI)
Tsuyoshi Nishioka 2B (First season in MLB)
Joe Mauer C (.327 AVG, 9 HR, 75 RBI)
Justin Morneau 1B (.345 AVG, 18 HR, 56 RBI)
Michael Cuddyer RF (.271AVG, 14 HR, 81 RBI)
Jason Kubel DH (.249 AVG, 21 HR, 92 RBI)
Delmon Young LF (.298 AVG, 21 HR, 112 RBI)
Danny Valencia 3B (.311 AVG, 7 HR, 40 RBI)
Alexi Casilla SS (69 G, .276 AVG, .331 OBP)

Despite losing Hudson and Hardy, this is still a pretty good offense. With the good spring Nishioka has had, he should do very well in the two hole. If Justin Morneau has to miss time with his concussion, Cuddyer will move to first base and Kubel to right field, while Thome will DH. Cuddyer isn't the most defensively sound first baseman but he can do the job just fine there. If Alexi Casilla has issues at shortstop it will be interesting to see how the Twins handle that. The reason he is starting is because management wanted more speed up the middle. But, if he can't hit decently, then the speed is kind of irrelevant. But all in all, this will be a lineup that puts up a lot of runs. Delmon Young is poised for another good year, Danny Valencia gets his first crack at a full season in the major leagues, and they have some guy named Joe Mauer batting third. The Twins will put up some runs. Its a guarantee.


C Drew Butera (49 G, .197 AVG, .237 OBP)
INF Matt Tolbert (48 G, .230 AVG, .293 OBP)
DH Jim Thome (.283 AVG, 25 HR, 59 RBI)
OF Jason Repko (58 G, .228 AVG, .324 OBP)

The only legitimate bat off the bench is Thome. And he and Kubel will probably split time at DH. And all Thome is, is a pinch hit option. His fielding days are well behind him. When the Twins brought back Thome, I had objections to his return on the count of his only being able to hit. But if he can hit like he did in 2010, I won't complain. The rest of the bench are more defensive replacements and givers of the occasional day off to the regulars. Butera is an outstanding defensive catcher, and could become Pavano's personal starter once again. But he is a liability in the batters box. Same could be said for Tolbert and Repko. They are good defensive players and can be pinch runners, but they do not hit well. If Tolbert can't do the job, look for Luke Hughes to steal his job.

Pitching Rotation

Carl Pavano RHP (17-11 3.75 ERA, 221.0 IP)
Francisco Liriano LHP (14-10, 3.62 ERA, 201 K)
Brian Duensing LHP (10-3, 2.62 ERA, 1.20 WHIP)
Nick Blackburn RHP (10-12, 5.42 ERA, 161.0 IP)
Scott Baker RHP (12-9, 4.49 ERA, 170.1 IP)

The one two punch of this rotation should be solid once again for the Twins. Pavano will continue to eat innings and Liriano should continue to have those ace like numbers most times out. But a big key for the Twins will lie with the back three starters. Duensing was 7-2 with a 3.05 ERA in 13 starts after moving out of the bullpen and most people expect him to have a down year. Blackburn had his worst season in the majors, and his 2010 season included a stint with AAA as he couldn't keep his sinker down. Baker should be a 2-3 starter, but for some reason, he just can't have that great of a season. If one, or two for that matter, of these pitchers struggle mightily, Kevin Slowey and/or Kyle Gibson will move into their place. The Twins success in 2011 will be in large part to the back end of their starting rotation.

Projected Bullpen

Joe Nathan (Missed all of 2010)
Matt Capps (16 SV, 2.00 ERA, 1.19 WHIP)*
Jose Mijares (47 G, 3.37 ERA, 1.32 WHIP)
Dusty Hughes (57 G, 3.83 ERA, 1.47 WHIP)
Glen Perkins (13 G, 5.82 ERA, 14 K)
Jeff Manship (13 G, 5.28 ERA, 21 K)
Kevin Slowey (13-6, 4.45 ERA, 1.29 WHIP)

Last year, the bullpen was a great strength for the Twins. But in 2011, I consider it a great weakness. As before mentioned, they lost their four top relievers to free agency. They do get Joe Nathan back, but you won't really know what to expect until he gets out there. Nathan and Capps figure to be the closer and eighth inning setup man. Jose Mijares will be the top lefty reliever, and he makes me uneasy most times. He can be really good, or he can really be bad. You don't know what you're going to get from him. Hughes is another lefty reliever, and should do ok, but I would refrain from putting him in big spots. Perkins figures to make the 'pen because he is out of options so I would expect more long relief from him. It will be interesting to see what kind of role Manship has with the team. He could do middle relief or long relief. Slowey also will do more long relief than middle relief, but with this bunch you never know. If the Twins can stay in the hunt long enough, but the pen struggles, look for GM Bill Smith to acquire a more proven reliever.

Players Who Must Bounceback in 2011:

Denard Span
Going into 2010, Span had been a .300 hitter with a .390 on base percentage average in his first two seasons. But he posted career lows in average (.264), on base percentage (.331), and slugging percentage (.348) in 2010. With Orlando Hudson hitting behind him, the Twins were able to get by. But with Nishioka behind Span, he might have to step it up for some good top of the order production. When Span is on the bases, he has good speed and is a legitimate threat to steal. So a bounceback year is key for Denard Span and the top of the order in 2011.

Michael Cuddyer
When Justin Morneau went down with a back injury in September of 2009, Cuddyer stepped up big time. He hit 10 home runs and drove in 29, while the Twins surged back to win the central. And he was rewarded with the Twins picking up his 2011 option. But in 2010, he battled a bad knee most of the year and saw his numbers drop significantly. He only hit 14 home runs and drove in 81. With a more lefty dominant lineup, the right handed hitting Cuddyer must have a return to his 2009 self. It is his contract year, so another off year Cuddyer could be his last in a Twins uniform.

Jason Kubel
2009 was a breakout year for Kubel, as he hit .300, with 28 HR and 103 RBI. He was a big reason why the Twins made it to the postseason. But 2010, was a different story. Kubel's batting average dropped 51 points (.249) and saw his slugging percentage drop 122 points (.427 in '10). He did manage to hit 21 HR and drive in 92, but it was a step back for him. If Kubel has another year like 2010, he could be moved in the off season to make room for some rising prospects in the Twins system.

Nick Blackburn
In the prior two seasons to 2010, Blackburn had pitched an average of 200 innings and carried a 4.04. Not bad for a pitcher who solely pitches to contact. But in 2010, Blackburn lost control of his pitches and found himself demoted from the rotation to the bullpen and then eventually a demotion to AAA to help rediscover his sinker. "Blackie" has been tabbed a starter to open this season and with the uncertainty of the bullpen, the Twins need Blackburn to return to form and eat up a lot of innings.

Scott Baker
Baker isn't someone who can really be defined as having a down year in 2010. But I put him in this category because i believe it is time for him to step up and becoming the pitcher he is capable of being. His WHIP (average Walks and Hits per Inning Pitched) has been pretty good over his career (1.279 career average). And he carries a very decent 7.1 strikeouts per nine innings (SO/9) rate. But since he became a regular starter, he has just once produced an ERA below 4 (3.45 in 2008). And he also tends to give decent amount of home runs. Baker has tools to be a front line starter. If he can control his emotions on the mound, he can do just fine.

Joe Nathan
Since coming to the Twins in one of the most lopsided trades in baseball history, Nathan has been one of the best closers in baseball. Between 2004-09, he averaged 40 saves a year and carries a 1.87 ERA during that time. But early on in Spring of 2010, he suffered a torn UCL and ultimately had Tommy John surgery. To fill his place the Twins used Jon Rauch and Matt Capps. But the Twins need Joe Nathan to return to his all star form. With the bullpen in its current state, the Twins need a reliable pitcher at the end of the 'pen. If he can't get it done, Capps will step in for him and Nathan will go into the middle relief. So here's to hoping he returns to his old smoke throwing self.

Prospects Who Could Impact 2011:

OF Ben Revere
In the four years Revere has been in the Twins system, no one has hit for a better average (.328). He has advanced through the system very quickly as well (A higher level each season). He is a very good contact hitter and has tremendous speed on the bases. Defensively, he has good range, but he carries a weak arm. If one of the starting outfielders has to miss time with injury, look for the Twins to call up Revere and let him play in the outfield instead of Jason Repko. Revere did get a call up with the Twins in 2010 when the rosters expanded in September. Used more as a pinch runner, Revere hit .179 (5-28), with 2 RBI. He will begin the season with AAA Rochester.

INF Trevor Plouffe
The Twins have pushed Plouffe through the system more than let him advance on his own. But he still can be a solid player. Since the Twins drafted him in the first round of the 2004 draft, Plouffe has only hit .254. He has decent power (.419 Slugging percentage at AAA) despite the low average numbers. He primarily plays shortstop, but can play second or third base too. He is not great defensively. He has a decent throwing arm, but his glove work still has a ways to go. If Casilla or Nishioka goes down with injury, look for Plouffe to be the man to fill in for them.

INF Luke Hughes
As I before mentioned on this blog, I believe Hughes as done enough this spring to earn a spot on the opening day roster. He has shown he can rake from the right hand side of the plate (something this team needs!). He might not hit for a decent average, but he is a more scary pinch hitter late in the game than Matt Tolbert. Hughes has played all around the field defensively. He has played more of his time at second base and has played it very well. If the Twins do not go with Tolbert, or he fails to impress them during the season, look for Hughes to take his place on the roster.

P Kyle Waldrop
Last year, the Twins minor leagues did not have many pitchers stand out. But Kyle Waldrop was one of those pitchers. In 59 games out of the Rochester bullpen, he had a 2.57 ERA while striking out 60 in 87.2 innings pitched. He doesn't throw for a high velocity, but makes up for it with decent control. If a bullpen slot should become available, look for the Twins to give Waldrop a call.

P Jim Hoey
Coming over from Baltimore in the JJ Hardy trade, Hoey battled most of spring training for a spot in the bullpen. But ultimately his control issues earned him a trip to AAA to begin the season. He has a power arm and if he can get his control in order, could be a valuable asset to the Twins. Look for him to get a call up for middle relief sometime this season.

P Carlos Gutierrez
Gutierrez was once a starter. But injury and ineffectiveness forced him to become a reliever in the minors. His stats don't jump off the page at anyone (3.93 ERA, 1.42 WHIP), but he is regarded by many as one of the 10 best Twins prospects. He has a high 90s fastball (something most Twins minor leaguers do not have), but an issue for him has been controlling it (3.7 walks per 9 innings). If he can find his control look for him to have a place in the Twins' future, whether their bullpen needs help or not.

P Anthony Slama
For his minor league career, Slama has been a closer. And he has done impressively well (194 G, 85 SV, 1.95 ERA) and now finds himself on the doorstep of being a major league reliever. He did make his MLB debut last year, but had a couple of rough outings and was sent back down to Rochester. Slama is more of a strikeout pitcher (12.5 K per 9 innings pitched) and does not allow many batters to reach base (1.06 WHIP). His fastball doesn't have much velocity, so control is very key to him. Look for him, like the past few guys as well, to get a call up sometime this year for middle relief.

P Kyle Gibson
Gibson fell to the Twins in the late in the first round of the 2009 draft. And in his first year in the Twins system he rose through the ranks and made it to AAA by seasons end (11-6, 2.96 ERA between class A, AA, and AAA). He will begin 2011 at Rochester, but he could be in the majors by the end of '11. He has a good fastball, slider, and changeup. He pitches to contact so a big key for him is keeping the ball down. If Gibson has a season at AAA like he did in 2010, he will be with the Twins full time in 2012. He is that good.

2011 Prediction:
Well, you may of read that yesterday. But my reasoning for that is simple. The Twins did not make the necessary adjustments they needed to (A right handed power bat, proven power bullpen arm) and the White Sox filled the holes they had to. In fact, the Twins took a small step backwards. Their bullpen is a huge liabilty. The back end of the rotation is unpredictable and also should be considered a liability. And their middle infielders speak different languages and have yet to prove themselves in the major leagues (scary!). It pains me to do this. It really does. The Twins will finish second in the AL Central in 2011. The White Sox are just a better team. They have the necessary assets to win. But lets hope I'm wrong. In fact, I really hope I'm wrong! Here's to another good season at Target Field.


Monday, March 28, 2011

MLB 2011 Preview-AL Central

This is the final division in my 2011 prediction series. You may notice, the Twins won't have any comments next to their name. I will have a more in depth post on them tomorrow. Then on Wednesday, I will have a recap and MVP and Cy Young predictions.

5. Kansas City Royals
-The Royals traded away their best pitcher (Zack Greinke) and arguably their best hitter (David DeJesus) this past offseason. They have young players looking to make a name for themselves mixed with veterans who are past their better years. Basically it will be another long season in Kansas City. They will feature poor pitching (Except for Joakim Soria), and a sub par lineup. If they have one thing going for them, it is the fact they feature the most stacked farm system. With any luck, it will produce the quality pitchers and hitters the Royals need to make their franchise respectable once again. Otherwise, it could be another long 25 years of last place teams.

4. Cleveland Indians-Cleveland is a team in the midst of a rebuilding phase. They still feature decent hitters (Grady Sizemore, Travis Hafner) and some decent pitchers (Fausto Carmona and Chris Perez). But around them, they have many young players looking to prove themselves. A key player for the Indians is 1B Matt LaPorta, who was acquired in the CC Sabathia trade. To date, he has performed far below expectations. For an Indians resurgence to take place, he needs to become the player he was projected to be. But for 2011, the Tribe will suffer offensively and on the mound. Maybe those Nats came come out for more than just an October game and get this team a few extra wins...

3. Detroit Tigers-The Tigers are a very good hitting team. They will continue to be one in 2011. They have good hitters such as Miguel Cabrera, Magglio Ordonez, Austin Jackson, and newly acquired Victor Martinez. Pitching wise, they frighten me. And thats not a good thing for Tigers fans. They have a solid ace in Justin Verlander. Behind him they have Max Scherzer, Rick Porcello, Brad Penny, and Phil Coke. The latter three scare me. They come off as streaky to me. And if they hit a cold streak, it will be difficult to recover with the other teams in this division. Bullpen wise, they will be consistently good with newly acquired Joaquin Benoit and closer Jose Valverde. This team could very well finish first, second or third. And it all depends on the back end of that rotation.

2. Minnesota Twins-See Tomorrow's Post

1. Chicago White Sox-Last year, Chicago got smoked on the count of poor power hitting on the left side of the plate and a poor bullpen. They were out of the division race not much past September 1. So in the offseason, they added Adam Dunn to DH and brought in Jesse Crain and Will Ohman to patch up their bullpen. The only concern in the bullpen is the fact they lost closer Bobby Jenks and replaced him with Matt Thornton, who has very little experience. In the starting rotation, Chicago looks to be solid. Their ace Jake Peavy, is still on the comeback trail from a shoulder injury, but should be back by at least June. Hitting wise, they hold a very talented lineup with Dunn in the mix now. They will be no easy task for a starter on any given night. GM Kenny Williams did a marvelous job on improving his team in the offseason. And his improvements get them to the postseason once again.

Sunday, March 27, 2011

Spring Training Notes-3/27

  • Yesterday, the Twins finalized their opening day roster by sending Jim Hoey, Anthony Slama, and Luke Hughes down to AAA to start the season. The moves mean Glen Perkins, Jeff Manship, and Matt Tolbert will begin the season with the big club. I don't mind the bullpen moves, but I was hoping to see Luke Hughes start the season with the big club. But Hughes did not have a good final two weeks, giving Tolbert the job. Tolbert will be used as a pinch runner late in games and will give the occasional day off to an infielder.
  • Saturday night the Twins staged a six run ninth inning to come from behind and defeat the Red Sox 9-8 and win the Mayor's Cup. I can't confirm this but I believe the last time the Twins won the Mayor's Cup is 2006 (No one really cares about a Spring Training award, so records are hard to find). Chase Lambin hit a bases clearing triple off of new Red Sox Bobby Jenks to give the Twins the lead. It's kind of nice to see the Twins beat up on the Red Sox, even if its just exhibition.
  • With today's start from Carl Pavano, it would appear that the starting rotation will be Pavano, Francisco Liriano, Nick Blackburn, Scott Baker, and Brian Duensing to open the season. The Twins open the season in Toronto on April 1 for three games then travel to New York to play the Yankees for four games. The starters will definitely be tested on the opening road trip.
  • Sunday, Ron Gardenhire said that he believes that Justin Morneau would open the season with the team and not on the disabled list. At some point in the next day or two, Morneau is expected to meet with his doctors and get clearance to play full time again. Morneau has apparently been feeling great and has had no setbacks with his concussion since he resumed playing games this spring. Fingers crossed folks!
  • Monday marks the final Spring game in Florida for the Twins as they play the Pirates. Tuesday, they fly to Atlanta for two games against the Braves at Turner Field before having a off day Thursday and the opener Friday. Good thing they didn't have the two exhibition games at Target Field before the season, like they did in 2010. Snow, would of been kind of in the way. It would of been interesting to see how the Twins would of handled that.
  • This marks my final Spring Notes blog of 2011. Kind of hard to believe the Spring is almost over. But the incredibly great news is that the regular season is right around the corner! It will be nice to watch games on TV and get out to the ballpark once again.

MLB 2011 Preview-AL East

5. Toronto Blue Jays-Every year, Toronto fields a pretty decent team. The problem is, they play in the toughest division in all of baseball. As they head into 2011, they find themselves without the face of their franchise, Vernon Wells, who was traded to the Angels in the offseason. But even without Wells, the Jays will still pack a pretty good punch on offense. Offensively, hey are led by home run champ Jose Bautista (54 in 2010) and the power hitting second baseman Aaron Hill. This team will continue to hit the long ball (257 home runs in 2010; the most in MLB), considering the band box they play home games in. Pitching wise, they have young starting pitching (Ricky Romero, Brandon Morrow, Brett Cecil, and Kyle Drabek), which will be the setback for them in 2011. If they can get a lead to the late innings, they should be able to hold it down with a pretty solid bullpen. But the problem will be getting to the late innings with a lead. And someone in this division has to finish last, and the Blue Jays will be that team.

4. Tampa Bay Rays-Tampa enjoyed a very successful 2010, winning the AL East but fell in 5 games to the Rangers in the ALDS. And in the offseason, the lost key players, such as Carl Crawford, Carlos Pena, Grant Balfour, and Rafael Soriano. They enter the 2011 season with no set closer, and a bullpen that lost its best pitchers from 2010. They did bring in OFs Johnny Damon and Manny Ramirez at very cheap deals, but they cannot fill the void left by Crawford in the lineup. They still boast a strong starting staff, led by David Price, and have a good up and coming pitcher in Jeremy Hellickson at the back end of the rotation. They play in one of the worst stadiums in the big leagues, they have a fan base that never comes out to the ballpark, and a owner unwilling to spend money on maintaining a great roster. All of this adds up to a fourth place finish in 2011 for Tampa Bay.

3. Baltimore Orioles-Derrek Lee, JJ Hardy, Mark Reynolds, and Vlad Guerrero. These were the players Baltimore brought in to help their offense. And with those additions added to the presence of Adam Jones, Matt Wieters, Brian Roberts, and Nick Markakis; the O's now boast one of the best lineups in all of baseball. They also boast one of the youngest rotations in all of baseball. The staff is led by Jeremy Guthrie (11-14, 3.83 ERA in 2010) and Brian Matusz (10-12, 4.30 ERA). If these two can continue to improve on their 2010 numbers they should be very tough to beat. And if they can get decent production from the back end of the rotation (Brad Bergesen, Jake Arrieta, and Justin Duchscherer), the O;s could put up a serious fight. Their bullpen should be halfway decent now with the addition of closer Kevin Gregg. Add him with Koji Uehara and Mike Gonzalez, the O's might win quite a few games if they can get the lead in the late innings. The O's are set up very nicely to have a good year. And they find themselves no longer in the AL East cellar, but in a very respectable third place.

2. New York Yankees
-During the offseason, the Yankees banked on signing Cliff Lee. They failed. They banked on Andy Pettitte returning. They failed. So the bombers go into the season with a rotation that could potentially be disastrous after C.C. Sabathia. AJ Burnett had his issues in 2010, and Phil Hughes had a decent season, but he could fall either way this year. After those three, the Yanks have Ivan Nova, Sergio Mitre, Bartolo Colon, and Freddy Garcia battling for the final two rotation spots. Its not exactly a model blueprint for a good starting staff. Besides the rotation the Yankees have a solid team. A good lineup and a very good bullpen. They brought in former Rays closer Rafael Soriano to be the setup man for Mariano Rivera for the next three years. They also brought in former Dodgers catcher Russell Martin, to hopefully put his career on the right path again. The Yanks will be a good team. But, their rotation issues will prevent them from winning this division. It does get them the Wild Card though.

1. Boston Red Sox-If you think anyone but the Red Sox were the sweepstakes winners this offseason, your crazy. They first signed Carl Crawford to man left field, they then went on to finally acquire Adrian Gonzalez from the Padres to play first base. It gives the Red Sox the best lineup in all of baseball. The hope is for this team, is it can stay healthy for the season. Last year the Sox lost Kevin Youkilis, Dustin Pedroia, and Jacoby Ellsbury to injuries, forcing the Sox to play with a depleted lineup. Pitching wise, this is a very deep team. The rotation is led by lefty ace Jon Lester, who is becoming one of the premier pitchers in all of baseball. Their bullpen, is one of if not the best in baseball. The addition of Bobby Jenks coupled with Daniel Bard, Hideki Okajima, and closer Jonathon Papelbon (if he can be effective) will make it nearly impossible to get a win in the late innings. As I before stated, this is a very deep team. It is team built to win the World Series. And they might just do that.

Saturday, March 26, 2011

MLB 2011 Preview-AL West

4. Seattle Mariners-Heading into 2010, I'll admit, I picked Seattle to win the AL West. And they came out and just played awful. Chone Figgins was a bust, and they traded Cliff Lee by midseason. It amazes me that Ichiro still plays for this team. And going into 2011, I pick them to come in last. Despite having some premier players like Ichiro and reigning Cy Young award winner Felix Hernandez. Besides Ichiro, this team won't hit very well. Especially when you bring in players like Brendan Ryan and Jack Cust, who hit closer to the .240 mark. Pitching wise, they are a mess behind Hernandez and Justin Vargas (9-12, 3.78 ERA) in the rotation and their bullpen will have many problems holding the few leads they get. This will be another awful year for M's fans in the Emerald City.

3. Oakland Athletics-It pains me to pick Oakland this low. You take a look at their pitching staff, they have great talented young starters (Dallas Braden, Brett Anderson, Gio Gonzalez, and Trevor Cahill) and a very stacked bullpen (Grant Balfour, Brian Fuentes, Andrew Bailey to name a few). But, their lineup has a ways to go. They brought in OF David DeJesus and Hideki Matsui to help their stale offense. But, I don't think they can help very much. Besides Matsui, this team doesn't have much for power hitters. And they won't be able to hit for much of a decent average. So if Oakland can maybe find some more decent hitters to plug into the lineup, they can be a great team. But for 2011, they will just be a third place team.

2. Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim-The Angels were the constant reject of the top free agents this winter. So how do they fix that? Trade for Vernon Wells in an already crowded outfield. Their offense should be halfway decent now, assuming Kendrys Morales returns in short time (left ankle surgery). He is a huge part of their offense and without him, they might struggle to score runs. Pitching wise, they have a solid starting 5 (Jered Weaver, Dan Haren, Ervin Santana, Joel Piniero, and Scott Kazmir). Their bullpen should do a decent job, but Fernando Rodney at the end kind of frightens me. The Angels have some good pieces in place, and they are just a few short of being a big time contender again like they were in 2009.

1. Texas Rangers-Texas' amazing run in 2010 took them to the World Series. They have new ownership, a big TV contract, and a talented team that could continue to win for many years. They did lose their ace Cliff Lee in the offseason, but countered that loss with signing Adrian Beltre. Their pitching will still do the job. They brought in Brandon Webb to fill the spot left open by Lee. They still have a pretty good bullpen, with Neftali Feliz throwing gas at the end. Offensively, the team is stacked with stars like Josh Hamilton, Nelson Cruz, Ian Kinsler, and Michael Young. This is the deepest team in the division. They will win it once again, but the loss of Lee will really hurt them when they reach October.

Friday, March 25, 2011

MLB 2011 Preview-NL East

5. New York Mets-The Mets long trip down the sewer has finally hit its destination: the cellar. They have great players (Johan Santana, Carlos Beltran, Jose Reyes) who can't stay off the DL anymore. And when they are not present the team suffers. And 2011 will be no different. The Mets will have awful pitching. They have decent hitters, but they play in a pitchers ballpark with relatively no speed (Not a good idea!!). They now have serious ownership issues (For previous examples see: LA Dodgers and the McCourts), as the Wilpon's are suffering from the Madoff scam. The Mets do have a new manager (Terry Collins) and a new general manager (Sandy Alderson). So they should be moving in the right direction. But it won't be found in 2011. And probably not 2012 either.

4. Washington Nationals-The Nationals turned some heads in the baseball world when they landed OF Jayson Werth to a ridiculous $126 million contract. They are a team on the rise. They are getting some good up and coming prospects (Ian Desmond, Danny Espinosa, and Roger Bernadina) to perform well in the majors. They have some established veterans (Livan Hernandez, Werth, and Ivan Rodriguez). And come 2012, they get Stephen Strasburg back. For 2011's sake, they will have poor pitching and slightly decent hitting. It won't be great to watch, but it will be better than what its been in the past for this franchise. But they won't be the worst team in the division anymore. And if they can continue the path they are on, they won't be for a while either.

3. Florida Marlins-Somehow, someway, the Marlins find a way to win despite having young teams and relatively low payrolls. They have one of the game's best young pitchers in Josh Johnson, who is a dark horse for the Cy Young in 2011. They have a great up and coming hitter in Mike Stanton. They added a good hitting catcher in John Buck. And, Oh yeah! They have Hanley Ramirez, one of the game's elite players. Many don't expect much from Florida. But look for them to start keeping their young talent now that they are moving into a new ballpark in 2012. And look for them to come in third once again in 2011.

2. Atlanta Braves-The Braves finally returned to the postseason in 2010. And they bid adieu to manager Bobby Cox after 20 seasons on the Braves bench. In comes former Marlins skipper Fredi Gonzalez (used to be the Braves third base coach before his stint with Florida0 to take the reigns. The Braves also brought in 2B Dan Uggla to add a bit of power to their lineup. Their lineup should be up there as one of the games best. Gonzalez also inherits a pretty good pitching staff. Craig Kimbrel, who takes over as closer for the retired Billy Wagner, could be shaky at the start but the Braves believe he can do the job. Fredi Gonzalez is a stellar manager (The Marlins have gone through so many good ones they have lost count), and the whole baseball world will see that now that he is on the Braves bench. And he will lead them to the NL Wild Card.

1. Philadelphia Phillies-Last year the Phillies acquired Roy Oswalt mid season. They then had the best front three of starters in baseball. In the offseason, they somehow landed Cliff Lee, and now have the four best starters in all of baseball. Starting pitching won't be the problem. The bullpen (For the most part if Brad Lidge can shut the door consistently again) won't be the problem. Their lineup could be a problem (If they run into a lefty starter), since their lineup is mostly left handed hitters. They lost their big right handed bat, Jayson Werth, via free agency and will fill his place with Domonic Brown another left handed hitter. But, this might be the best Phillies team of the past five years. And they win the division for the fifth straight season. But, can they get over the failure of the past two seasons coming up short for that second World Series ring?

Thursday, March 24, 2011

MLB 2011 Preview-NL Central

6. Pittsburgh Pirates-Its hard to look at the Pittsburgh roster and not cringe. Their hitting should be below average and pitching should be one of the worst in baseball. The only bright spot on the team is OF Andrew McCutchen. But realistically, its Pittsburgh and any good player that comes up through their system gets shipped out. So please don't expect much from the Pirates. Maybe someday, while I'm alive, Pittsburgh will be a relevant baseball team again...maybe someday...

5. Houston Astros-Last year, Houston got off to a terrible start. They traded the two franchise cornerstones (Roy Oswalt and Lance Berkman), and somehow the team took off. They ended up in third place after a fantastic second half. They have some great young players (OF Michael Bourn, OF Hunter Pence, P J.A. Happ) to build around for their future. But in the 2011 season, Houston simply will not be able to run with the big teams atop this division. Their bullpen has many question marks, the back end of their rotation is very questionable, and their lineup comes off as streaky. Maybe moving forward they can fix these issues and put Houston back in the race, but you won't see them fixed and/or in the race in 2011.

4. Chicago Cubs-It astonishes me how every year, the Cubs seem to do worse than the last one. They have a decent lineup (When healthy), and seem to have an effective pitching staff (When their not throwing tantrums). But lets face it...its the Cubs. They are destined to lose. Regardless of who they bring in to pitch, hit, or manage...the Cubs will lose. Their lineup could be good if Alfonso Soriano can rediscover his swing and if Kosuke Fukudome can possibly find that early 2008 form. Pitching wise, Carlos Zambrano is the key. He needs to return to his dominant form. But he would rather argue with his fielders than focus on his location. I pity new manager Mike Quade. Maybe he can fix whatever is wrong with the Cubs.

3. St. Louis Cardinals-I pity anyone who is a redbird fan. Their best pitcher, Adam Wainwright, was lost for the season early on in spring training. Their best player, Albert Pujols, is in the final year of his contract with no extension talks coming until the season ends. And they now are playing in a very tough division. last year, besides Pujols and Matt Holiday, the Cards had struggles offensively. So they brought in Lance Berkman to help with that. But that just won't be enough. They still will lack offensively. Pitching wise, they should be average with out Wainwright in the rotation as long as Tony LaRussa and Dave Duncan guide this staff. Their bullpen is serviceable, but not great, especially in a division with heavy hitters. The Cardinals will struggle with the two teams that finish above them in the standings. And more importantly, will this be the final season we see Pujols in a redbird uniform?

2. Cincinnati Reds-The Reds were a great story in baseball. They captured the division title and saw one of their young stars (Joey Votto) turn into a superstar while en route to the MVP crown. And they locked up their young stars this past offseason, which is all the more they seemed to do. They return the same team from 2010. And it appears that Aroldis Chapman will come out of the bullpen once again in the late innings rather than him be a starter. So for this year, the Reds will finish second due the fact they made no significant acquisitions in the offseason. But keep your eyes on them. They will still be very good.

1. Milwaukee Brewers-The Brewers had one of the best offenses in the NL last year. But their pitching staffs was one of the worst. So how do you fix that: Acquire a former Cy Young Winner (Zack Greinke), a decent pitcher from the AL East (Shaun Marcum), and sign a very good setup man (Takashi Saito) to bridge the gap to John Axford in the ninth inning. Yes the Brewers did all of that. And now, the Brewers are primed to not only take the division but contend for the NL crown. True, Greinke and Marcum are battling injuries right now. If they can get those out of the way early, they will be a great team to watch. 1B Prince Fielder is entering what should be the final season with the Brewers. So there is great urge to win now. And GM Doug Melvin has set up his team to do exactly Because he has gone "All in" with this team and this season.

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

MLB 2011 Preview-NL West

Today I begin my annual divisional predictions. Last year I accurately predicted 5 out of the 8 playoff teams. I hope to top that this year. Today I start with the NL West...

5. Arizona Diamondbacks-
I don't really know where to start with the Diamondbacks. They were one of the worst teams in baseball last year and could be the same in 2011. They do have some bright spots on the team. OF Justin Upton appears to be the center of the offense at the ripe old age of 23 (.272 career hitter). Daniel Hudson (Acquired from the White Sox for Edwin Jackson in 2010) came over midseason and was very sharp going 7-1 with a 1.69 ERA in 11 starts. But behind these guys, its a questionable roster. Their offense can be ok, if they can put the bat on the ball (1529 strikeouts in 2010, a MLB record). And behind Hudson, the pitching will be questionable, especially in a division with some heavy hitters. So hopefully the minor league system can begin to produce some quality players soon. Or else the DBacks will be the cellar dwellers for a very long time.

4. San Diego Padres-San Diego was a great story in 2010. But a late season slump killed their chances at the division title. And they followed a great season by trading their superstar 1B Adrian Gonzalez to Boston for four prospects. They added OF Cameron Maybin, SS Jason Bartlett, 2B Orlando Hudson, and 1B Brad Hawpe to help a stale offense and replace Gonzalez. They have a couple of good young pitchers in Mat Latos and Clayton Richard. They have one of the best closers in the game in Heath Bell who comes at the end of a pretty stellar bullpen. But the offense to me is still questionable. They play in a pitchers ballpark with very little speed in the lineup (They need much more speed!!). They have some good young talent in the minors, but they still are a few years off from reaping the benefits of those players. So for 2011, they may be able to hover around .500, but won't amount to anything more than a fourth place finish.

3. Los Angeles Dodgers-Can someone please tell me when the Dodgers are going to shape up and become that great team they are capable of being? But maybe new manager Don Mattingly will shake them up. They have some talented young hitters (Matt Kemp and Andre Ethier) and young pitchers (Clayton Kershaw and Chad Billingsley). And they brought in former Twins reliever Matt Guerrier to help bridge the gap to Jonathon Broxton. Their bullpen after Guerrier, Hong-Chih Kuo, and Broxton are questionable to me. Their starters should do fine and they should do fine hitting wise if Kemp can have a bounce back year. Everyone thinks the Dodgers are going to be the team that finally kicks it up a notch in 2011. And I'm not one of them. They will have to prove me wrong. I just don't see it. Not with the two teams that will sit above them.

2. San Francisco Giants-There is no more torture for Giants fans. Their young pitching staff and timely hitting carried them to the top. And they hope that continues going into 2011. They lost Juan Uribe and Edgar Renteria at SS and replaced him with Miguel Tejada. But besides that, this is the same team from 2010. They have one of the games best pitchers in Tim Lincecum and one of the best rising stars in the game in C Buster Posey. But I still have to question the offense. If Pablo Sandoval can return to 2009 form, the Giants should be fine. But I don't like to play the IF game. Posey is a great hitter, but he can't carry the Giants. Pitching wise, they are fine. In fact, they are stacked. Lincecum, Matt Cain, Jonathon Sanchez, and Madison Bumgarner lead the starting staff (The second best rotation in baseball) and Brian Wilson shuts the door at the end of another outstanding bullpen in this divison. But I just have a gut feeling that the Giants won't make it to October. I'll blame it on World Series hangover.

1. Colorado Rockies-The Rockies had the quietest most solid offseason this winter. They locked up their superstar players Troy Tulowitzki and Carlos Gonzalez. And added some nice other pieces (RP Matt Lindstrom, INF Ty Wiggington) to help bolster their bench and bullpen. They have a decent starting rotation led by Ubaldo Jimenez. The back end of the rotation kind of scares me (You never know what you will get out of Aaron Cook), but the front end should make up for their ineffectiveness (Jorge De La Rosa is quietly solid). The bullpen should be solid, with Houston Street at the end. And their lineup should be considered one of the best in all of baseball. This team has some experience from their previous playoff runs, which will help them a great deal. Again, I just have this gut feeling. And it says there will be another Rocktober!

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

Spring Training Notes-3/21

  • Prior to today's game, manager Ron Gardenhire named Scott Baker as the team's fifth starter. The move means Kevin Slowey will start the season in the bullpen as a long reliever. This was no surprise to me. Baker has looked good this spring and has appeared to put the elbow injury behind him. You may remember earlier on in the spring, teams were scouting Slowey, so I wouldn't be shocked if he was moved before the season starts. But, with the way the starting staff behind Liriano and Pavano performed last year, the Twins will more than likely hold on to him in the event of an injury or a slumping starter.
  • On Sunday, Pat Neshek tweeted that he had become a member of the San Diego Padres. The move was later confirmed by the Twins writers moments later. The team had placed him outright waivers and the Padres scooped him up. He is not guaranteed a spot on their opening day roster, but his chances are better there than what they were here. He had apparently fallen out of favor with the team and Gardy was looking at other players to fill the final couple of bullpen spots. I'm not big on this move. I was hoping to see Neshek get one last shot to become the pitcher he was before Tommy John Surgery in 2008. He was one of the best middle relievers in 06 and 07 before 08 was cut short by the TJ surgery. And since returning, he has struggled to find his velocity and his command was not there. Neshek had one minor league option left, but the Twins just wanted to let him go. Maybe its a change that he needs.
  • Joe Mauer, Justin Morneau, Michael Cuddyer, and Delmon Young have all been in game action this past week since missing the first part of spring with various injuries. Mauer, Cuddyer, and Young appear to be locks for Opening Day. But Morneau is still a toss up for the April 1 opener. He will start appearing in back to back games this week to see if he can handle that as he is on the comeback trail from a concussion. If he can pass that test, I can see him being ready for the opener. Look for all these guys to be in the lineup tomorrow night (Televised on FSN) vs the Orioles. It would appear the entire projected opening day lineup will play tomorrow night, so that should be fun to watch.
  • This spring three players have jumped out at me: Danny Valencia, Luke Hughes, and Jason Kubel. They have all played exceptionally well. But to me, the more key player here is Kubel. He needs to be more like the 2009 Kubel than the 2010 Kubel. His numbers suffered from an awfully slow start in 2010 and his average hovered around .250 all year (He finished at .249). He needs to be that force in the DH or RF (If Cuddyer needs to play 1B) spot. Especially, if Justin Morneau can't start the year in the lineup. I'll have more on this in a later post, but I can't stress how important a bounceback year from Kubel is.
  • This morning, Wally 'The Beerman' McNeil was found not guilty of serving alcohol to a minor at a Twins game last September. This is awesome news to any sports fan in the Twin Cities who is of the drinking age. Hopefully we will see Wally in the Target Field concourse selling beer on April 8.
  • Also today, the Twins added a new food to their already staggering menu. El Burrito Mercado's Walk A Taco will now be sold at Target Field. I have not yet had one, but from what I've heard they are really good. Can anyone only go to Target Field just once and try all the food there?
  • Upcoming this week, I will take gaze at all of Major League Baseball with some divisional breakdowns and predictions. And I will also have a few posts on some players for the Twins who need to make a big impact in 2011 for the Twins to have a shot in the competitive AL Central.

Monday, March 14, 2011


As Dave St. Peter tweeted earlier today was Kirby Puckett's Birthday. And as he said, he is deeply missed. So here is a video tribute to 'Puck'.

Happy Birthday Puck!

Saturday, March 12, 2011

Hughes or Tolbert?

You may remember in my previous post, I hinted that this topic was coming up. It is one I am strongly opinionated on. This spring, you may have seen a guy named Luke Hughes getting a lot of at bats. You may remember him last year as that kid who came up in late April and homered in his first MLB at bat. Hughes only was with the Twins for a week (A cup of coffee with the Twins, as the baseball terminology would say). And going into 2011, he is still considered the underdog in the race for a spot on the bench between him and Matt Tolbert.

Hughes, was signed by the Twins in the winter of 2002 as a free agent out of Austrailia. He made his pro debut in 2003 with the Gulf Coast League Twins and has slowly worked his way up the minor league ranks ever since. Hughes has a solid upper cut swing and hits for decent power from the right side (Something the Twins really need off the bench). He probably won't hit for a good average and he does strikeout a bit. But, he should strike some fear in the opposing pitcher rather than Matt Tolbert. Another down side to Hughes, he is a frequent visitor to the trainers room. He has never played in more than 100 games in a season as he has battled various injuries throughout the years. in 2010, knee and groin injuries cut his season short after being sent down by the Twins. Put aside the injuries, the guy can be a great help to the big league club.

Meanwhile, you have Matt Tolbert on the other side of this battle. He is more a defensive player than offensive. He came up with the Twins in 2008, and has been a up and down (Between Rochester and the Twins) player ever since. His last two years he has hit .232 and .230 respectively. His on base percentage in the last two years is a combined .300 (Hughes' minor league OBP is .332). Tolbert has very little power. An average base hit for him is a 5 hopper that just gets past the infield. He will give an occasional line drive hit, but seeing eye singles are his specialty. Defensively, he is slightly above average. He has a career .975 fielding percentage. He does have better range than Hughes on the infield and his arm is average for a second baseman (Meaning: Don't put him at short!). When Tolbert is at his best, all he can do for you is be a pinch runner to Kubel or Thome and be a backup infielder for when someone gets taken out of the game.

But what makes Tolbert the favorite to win this race is his spot in the manager's heart. Ron Gardenhire loves the hustle Tolbert displays, despite his lack of performance on the field. And at day's end, if you are in the manager's good graces, he will be giving you a spot on the big club. And not to long ago, Gardy has said that bench spots are up for grabs (Translation: Tolbert's spot isn't guaranteed). So Hughes has a chance. And if he continues to hit like he has in spring games (.370, 3 HR, 10 RBI in 10 games), Gardy has to give him very serious thought to be a bench player. Especially when Tolbert (.158 AVG in 11 games), is not off to as hot a start. Don't get me wrong I love watching hustle players like Matt Tolbert play in the big leagues. And it is fun to see them succeed. But at day's end, you have to the guy who can get it done. And it looks like Luke Hughes is that guy with each passing day...

Tuesday, March 8, 2011

Spring Training Notes-3/8

  • What came as a surprise to most, Justin Morneau suited up for the Twins 'B' Game today vs Pittsburgh. Just last week Morneau had not been cleared for game activity, but it seemed that it came to the point where the only move left was to play and see how it goes. Morneau played first and hit cleanup. He had two at bats, going 1-2, with a bases clearing double in the third and eventually scored a run. After the game he said he felt fine, and hopefully it feels fine in a few hours. This was great news for Twins Territory. But lets be real, he is not past this yet. He could have some lingering symptoms tonight and tomorrow which would signal a stop sign on his recovery. But if all goes well, he could be seen in a game on Thursday at the earliest. I will keep my fingers crossed for the next two days.
  • Also in the 'B' game, Delmon Young made his Spring debut getting a pair of walks before leaving the game. Young had missed time this spring with turf toe injury. But it appears he should also have this behind him and should be good to go for the remainder of spring. Young, to me, is crucial to the success of the 2011 Twins since they front office failed to acquire a right handed bat with some pop this past offseason. Last year Young batted .298 with 21 HR and 112 RBI (All career highs).
  • In the past week manager Ron Gardenhire noted that Brian Duensing and Nick Blackburn will begin the season in the starting rotation. They join Francisco Liriano and Carl Pavano with assured spots in the starting 5. The announcment leaves Scott Baker and Kevin Slowey battling for the final starters spot. Personally, I would rather see it go to Slowey, but my gut feeling says it will be Baker. Slowey is under team control for 2011-2013 and is arbitration eligible following the 2011 and 2012 seasons. Meanwhile Scott Baker is owed $5M and $6.5M over the next two seasons and has a $9.25M team option for 2013. Slowey's contractual status makes him a much easier move. And as Joe Christiensen tweeted today, many scouts were there to watch Slowey. So it will be interesting to see how this plays out.
  • Some players who have impressed me so far this spring is Danny Valencia, Ben Revere, and Luke Hughes. Hughes is a player who I would rather see make the opening day roster over Matt Tolbert (I'll have a post on this later on this week). Despite what everyone says about Valencia having a down year compared to a year ago, I have a gut feeling that he will have another good year at the hot corner. And Ben Revere probably won't make the opening day roster, but an injury to one of the outfielders could open the door for him as he looks to squeeze his way on to the MLB roster.
  • And for those who don't know, today was the release of MLB 11: The Show for Playstation. Joe Mauer once again graced the cover for the second year in a row. Here is a trailer for the game.

Tuesday, March 1, 2011

Spring Training Notes-3/1

  • Today, closer Joe Nathan pitched 1 inning, in the team's 5-0 loss to the Red Sox. He only allowed a walk while getting the other three batters to flyout twice and groundout. Nathan reportedly was clocked in the 86-90 MPH area on the radar gun today. This is a great step for him and his recovery. Also its a positive sign for a bullpen that will need as much help as it can get in 2011. Nathan said he feels "normal" following his outing, which is another good sign for him returning to form in 2011.
  • Also today, it was announced the Michael Cuddyer had the wart on his left foot removed. He will now be out 7-14 days. Honestly, i'm glad this happened now and it was taken care of now, rather than waiting it out. Last year Cuddyer battled a knee injury most of the season, which explains for his falloff in production. Hopefully, with healthy knees and feet, he can return to his 2009 form where he hammered 32 home runs.
  • As La Velle Neal writes, Justin Morneau was in Pittsburgh today to be examined as he continues to return from a concussion suffered in early July. If all goes well (Knock on Wood), Morneau could be cleared to play very soon. He has been hitting, fielding, and running so far in camp and reportedly has had no setbacks yet. Again, here's to hoping he checks out and can start playing so he can be ready for Opening Day. (Also, if you don't read La Velle's blog, here is the link. He updates it multiple times a day with what is going on around the team down there in Fort Myers)
  • Yesterday, reports started to swirl about a Francisco Liriano to the Yankees trade again. But another report said that the teams haven't spoke in a month or so. I won't say much on it if and when this rumor gains serious steam. Also, it was surprising to see Liriano was yanked from his start on Friday in the 'A' game, to now where he will start the Twins 'B' game the same day. I got a funny feeling about him (No contract extension, no opening day start, trade rumors, and lack of work ethic played into this feeling).
  • With the 5-0 loss today, the Twins now trail in the Mayor's Cup series with Boston 2-1. Since both teams play their Spring Training home games in Fort Myers, the Mayor's Cup goes to the team with the better head to head record at the end of Spring. Its been a while since the Twins won the Cup. The last time they won...I'm not to sure. I'll do some digging. Check back later or check my twitter.