Tuesday, April 19, 2005
Twins Minor League Report
Good morning to everyone!
Well, the Twins fell 5-4 to the White Sox last night. Despite the efforts of Cuban-born Jose Contreras to let the Twins score a lot of runs early, the team was unable to come through with the big hits. The White Sox used the long ball to put the Twins away. Joe Crede hit a two run homer and Carl Everett knocked in the other three runs with two homers of his own.
Basically, as I was watching Jose Contreras pitch really horribly, it made me start to think about the other Cuban pitchers who defected, signed big contracts with big league clubs and then struggled. I started wondering what percentage of these guys actually were even average big league pitchers. What I found was that Cuba hasn't exactly been a haven for big league pitchers.
Now, that isn't really fair. I mean, before the whole Communist situation, there were a number of very good Cuban pitchers who pitched in the Major Leagues. Twins fans remember Camilo Pascual who pitched 18 big league seasons and went 174-170 with a 3.63 ERA. Luis Tiant spent a very short period of his 19 year career with the Twins. Overall, he was 229-172 with a 3.30 ERA. Mike Cuellar was born in Cuba and pitched in the majors from 1959-1977. He went 185-130 with a 3.14 ERA. A guy named Dolf Luque pitched from 1914-1935 and was 194-179 with a 3.24 ERA.
Cuba also produced a number of hitters including Twins great Tony Oliva and Tony Perez. 500 home run man Rafael Palmiero was boring in Cuba before coming to the United States. Trouble-make Jose Canseco was born in Havana. Steroids-first-victim Alex Sanchez was born in Cuba and was able to see his family for the first time in almost a decade before the season started. Rey Ordonez won three Gold Gloves. Bert Campaneris was a six time All-Star.
Diego Segui and Jose Tartabull had big league careers in the United States and were followed by their sons who also played Major League baseball.
But back to these prized pitchers signed in the past decade, the guys who went to The Dominican Republic on a raft and were available as free agents. What have they accomplished? Were they worth all the money? Let's take a look:
RENE AROCHA - Arocha was really the first Cuban defector to sign with a big league club. He signed with the Cardinals in 1991. He then came up with the Cardinals in 1993. He made 29 starts and went 11-8 with a 3.78 ERA. But he then spent the next two seasons pitching primarily out of the bullpen. He missed the entire 1996 season and resurfaced in '97 to pitch in just six games with the Giants. His ERA was over 11, so they let him go and he never pitched in the big leagues again.
ROLANDO ARROJO - Arroja signed with the Tampa Bay Devil Rays in 1997 at the age of 28. His rookie season, 1998, was easily his best season. He was an All-Star and finished the year 14-12 with a 3.56 ERA. But he went just 7-12 in the next year and was traded in the offseason to the Rockies. He lasted there half a season before being traded to the Red Sox. He pitched primarily out of the Sox bullpen the next two years and that was the last of his big league career. He ended with a 40-42 record and a 4.55 ERA.
DANYS BAEZ - Baez was talked up big time when the Indians signed him in 1999. He was a big kid, and just 21 years old. He came up to the Indians and pitched exclusively out of the bullpen in 2001. He was 5-3 with a 2.50 ERA (an impressive 181 ERA+). He then decided he wanted to start, so that's what he did in 2002. He made 26 starts and was very inconsistent. By the end of the year, he was moved into the bullpen, into the closer's role. He was again very inconsistent with that in 2003, and finally after that season, he was let go by the Indians and signed with the Devil Rays. Last year, he had 30 saves and a 3.57 ERA.
JOSE CONTRERAS - Contreras signed a huge four year deal with the Yankees prior to the 2003 season which led to the whole "Evil Empire" thing. The Red Sox may consider themselves lucky. Although Contreras is clearly talented, something is missing. In 2003, he went 7-2 with a 3.30 ERA for the Yankees in 18 games (9 starts). Huge things were expected of him going into the 2004 season. Although he was 8-5 with the Yankees, his ERA was at 5.64 and he was traded to the White Sox for Esteban Loaiza. It is thought that getting out of the limelight in New York would help, but last year, he was just 5-4 with a 5.30 ERA with the South Siders.
OSVALDO FERNANDEZ - The righty signed with the Giants in 1996. He came up to the team and started 28 games. He was 7-13 with a 4.61 ERA. He made 11 starts (and was 3-4) when his season ended with an injury. He resurfaced with the Reds in 2000. He made 14 starts and went 4-3 with a 3.62 ERA. He made 14 more starts for Cincinnati in 2001 and was 5-6 with a 6.92 ERA. That was his last season in the bigs.
ADRIAN HERNANDEZ - Another Hernadez with the Yankees. Little Duque was expected to be a big help after they signed him in 2000. However, it just never has happened for him. He pitched in six games in 2001, two in 2002 and six in 2004 for the Yankees. All told, he is 0-6 with 3.68, 12.00, and 8.44 those years. The problem has been control. In 44 innings, he walked 30 and struck out just 33.
LIVAN HERNANDEZ - It is hard to believe that Livan is still just 30 years old. H was signed by the Marlins in 1996. He has since played nine big league seasons. He came into this season with a 95-94 record and a 4.13 ERA. He became famous by going 4-0 in the 1997 NLCS and World Series. He has played for Florida, San Francisco, Montreal, and now Washington. The last two years, he has led baseball in innings pitched. He is very consistent and finally made an All-Star appearance last year. Oh, and he can hit too!
ORLANDO HERNANDEZ - Equally, it is hard to believe that El Duque is just 39 years old. The Yankees signed him in 1998 and he burst onto the scene. He is probably best known for starting his playoff career by going 8-0. He has only played with the Yankees in the big leagues. He has gone 61-40 with a 3.96 ERA. He went 12-4 in 1998 and 17-9 in 1999. He missed all of the 2003 season and then came back with the Yankees last year and made 15 second half starts. Showing a little magic, he went 8-2. The White Sox rewarded him with a two year contract in the offseason.
VLADMIR NUNEZ - The 6-4, 224 pound 30 year old was signed by the Diamondbacks in 1996. He has played for the D-Backs, the Marlins and the Rockies. He has pitched out of the bullpen and went 20-32 with a 4.83 ERA. But the last two seasons have been rough. In 2003 with the Marlins, he went 0-3 with a 16.03 ERA in 14 games. Last year with the Rockies, he was 3-3 with a 7.01 ERA in 22 games.
Well, I don't think that there is any questioning that Livan Hernandez has had the best career of any of these guys. Orlando Hernandez has fought plenty of arm injuries in his career, but has been very successful especially in the Yankees' glory years of the late '90s. Danys Baez has not been as bad as many seem to want to think. However, for the rest, it seems like there is a pretty similar situation happening. It appears that in each case, they were brought up shortly after signing and had their best seasons as starters. But I don't know if the league caught up to them, or their teams just didn't like their potential and they all ended up in the bullpen. Soon after, they just fizzled out.
So, I don't think that will mean anything for future Cuban pitching defectors and the teams that want to sign them. If a scout says that he could be great, money will flow. But I do think that it is fair to look back at the history of these Cuban signees. If their last name isn't Hernandez, you may want to think twice.
If you have any questions or comments, please feel free to e-mail me.
Well, that was an ugly game for the Twins. I mean, look at the first inning. Jose Contreras had loaded the bases and thrown over 30 pitches. But what does Torii Hunter do? Swing at the first two pitches. Makes no sense! But that wasn't the team's only opportunity. Every time they had some runners on, the White Sox pitcher would induce a double play.
And, making it worse, every time the Twins had an opportunity and didn't capitalize, the White Sox came back with a home run to take the lead. Kyle Lohse actually was not bad last night, with the exception of the home run ball. The first was actually hit by Carl Everett. Lohse made a really good pitch, a curveball, that might have hit the plate. Everett went down and got that one. However, the home run pitches to Joe Crede, and the second one to Carl Everett, were meatballs that should have been hit a long ways.
Hey, Terry Tiffee is looking pretty good at 1B. I am more and more convinced every day that he should stay on the team when Justin Morneau comes off the Disabled List on Friday. Yes, I still believe it is Corky Miller who should be sent down.
By the way, I have also been impressed by Matt Guerrier. He is locating his fastball well at 90-92 mph. He also has a very good, very sharp curveball that seems to have hitters buckling. No, he isn't great and probably shouldn't be in the rotation for anyone, but he is able to fill that long reliever role well. Maybe that means that they can get rid of Terry Mulholland and let David Gassner stay up as well!
Joe Mauer just doesn't seem the same yet. But the ball he hit well into the bleachers in left-centerfield was hit well. That was an excellent swing and hopefully something that will get him going and hitting the ball with more authority.
I understand that Jason Bartlett has not been hitting the last three of four games, but I continue to be impressed by his approach at the plate. He takes pitches and he swings that bat. May not make sense, so let me explain. He isn't afraid to take a pitch on the corner early in the count. He looks for a good pitch. But when he gets a good pitch, he also puts a good, strong swing on it, and that is good to see.
Shannon Stewart has been on base in all but one game for the Twins this year, but he has not been good. Yesterday, he busted out with three hits. So, hopefully that is a good thing.
Have I mentioned that Torii Hunter can be very frustrating to watch at the plate?
Jacque Jones is equally frustrating at times, but to this point in the season, I really can't say anything bad about him!
Anyway, there wasn't much positive to say about last night's game, so I am going to keep this short. The Twins and Sox play the second and final game of the series tonight. Here is the pitching matchup:
Tonight - 7:05 - Brad Radke (1-2, 5.59, 0.93, .233) vs Orlando Hernandez (1-1, 3.75, 1.50, .292)
TWINS MINOR LEAGUE REPORTS
Monday - REDWINGS 2, Ottawa 4 - Boof Bonser continues to pitch well. He went five innings and gave up two runs (1 earned) on six hits and two walks. He also struck out six hitters. His ERA is now at 1.93. Jim Abbott fell to 0-3. He gave up two runs on two hits in his two innings. Beau Kemp pitched a scoreless 8th inning. Brent Abernathy went 2-4 with a walk. He's hitting .379. Rob Bowen is 2-3 with a walk. Glenn Williams and Kevin West each hit their third double.
NEW BRITAIN ROCKCATS
Monday - ROCKCATS 4, Reading 3 - Francisco Liriano is seriously going to be incredible. Last night, he went six innings. He gave up two runs (1 earned) on four hits and three walks. He struck out 11. Ricky Barrett gave up a run in an inning and a third. He gave up three hits and walked one. Kevin Cameron gave up two hits and walked three, but didn't give up a run in 1 2/3 innings. Pat Neshek got the win by pitching a scoreless 10th inning. He struck out three. Gabby Torres led the offense with a 2-4 night. Selwin Langaigne and Alex Romero each had a double.
FT MYERS MIRACLE
Monday - MIRACLE 1, Clearwater 1 - Errol Simonitsch improved to 2-1 with a 3.00 ERA. He allowed a run in six innings. He gave up three hits and a walk while striking out six. Josh Gray got the next five outs, but walked three. Tristan Crawford recorded his first save by striking out three batters and getting four outs. Denard Span went 2-4 (hitting .357) with his fourth stolen base. Matt Moses, Kyle Phillips and Chris Tolbert each doubled.
Monday - SNAPPERS 6, Lansing 8 - Anthony Swarzak is human. After two remarkable starts, he struggled last night. He went four innings and gave up five runs on eight hits. True to form, he walked none and struck out six. Evan Meek pitched two scoreless innings. Kevin Culpepper then gave up three runs on four hits and a walk in his inning. Steven Duguay pitched two perfect innings. Luke Hughes led off and was 3-5 with his 2nd homer and two RBI. Tarrence Patterson was also 3-5 with a double and two RBI. Angelo Fermin went 2-4 with a double, two runs and an RBI.
On that note, I am going to call it a day. Thanks again for stopping by this site. If you have any questions, comments or ideas for future postings, please e-mail me.
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