Tuesday July 20, 2004
The Devil Rays
This Year's Jose Guillen
TWINS MINOR LEAGUE REPORTS
Very good day for the Twins. They got a nice win over the Tigers. Rochester won another extra-inning game and then got a strong pitching performance in Game 2. New Britain got a win behind two strong arms, one which Twins fans should be paying close attention to. Ft. Myers won. OK, Quad Cities and the E-Twins didn't win, but I'm sure their players developed well!
But today, before getting to the Twins notes, I figured I'd spend a little time just talking about a couple of random thoughts from around the major leagues. There are a few stories that I think are interesting.
The Devil Rays
OK, those who have been reading this site for the last year or so know that I have been on the Tampa Bay Devil Rays bandwagon for quite some time. Last year, I wrote an article called Rays of Hope, in which I talked about their outfield of Carl Crawford, Rocco Baldelli and Aubrey Huff. I still really like all three of those players, but I absolutely love the direction the franchise is going. In recent weeks I have read that the Rays are trying to sign long-term contracts with Carl Crawford and Rocco Baldelli (Huff signed a three year deal before this season). Not just two or three year deals, but 5, 6 or 7 year deals. I love that. These guys have shown that they will be around for some time. Signing long term gives the players a sense of financial security and the knowledge that they will be with the same organization for a number of years. They give up the opportunity to maybe make more money should they become a star. So, there is give and take. They have also had talks with the agent of Julio Lugo, who is a solid performer at shortstop, that will be moved to 2B when BJ Upton is called up next month.
Now, this has happened in other organizations as well. Remember in the mid-90s when the Indians signed their young players to long-term contracts? Jim Thome, Kenny Lofton, and others were the centerpieces of the Indians division championship teams for a number of years. Before this year started, the Rangers and Hank Blalock agreed to a five year deal.
What I find most interesting is that these are not the only guys that the Devil Rays are trying to get signed long term. They are looking to sign BJ Upton and Joey Gathright to deals in the range of 8 or 9 years. The casual fan may not even recognize these names, but those who pay attention at all to minor league baseball know who they are. BJ Upton was the #1 overall pick in the country in 2002. The 19 year old has raced up to AAA where he is hitting for both power and average and collection stolen bases. He is the full package, like no SS who has come into the league since Alex Rodriguez. He should be in The Show within the next two weeks. Gathright was just recalled to the Devil Rays. He had spent a few games with the team last month as well. Gathright is probably the only guy in baseball who is faster than Carl Crawford. By next year, he will be the team's starting centerfielder, shifting the (incredibly fast) Rocco Baldelli over to right field. With that outfield, it is possible that no fly ball will ever hit the ground. And, Gathright may also steal 100 bases at some point in his career, something that has not been done for a long time.
If these deals get made, here is a look at the D-Rays possible lineup for the next 6-10 years:
LF Carl Crawford
2B Julio Lugo
SS BJ Upton
RF Rocco Baldelli
3B Aubrey Huff
DH Jorge Cantu
1B Tino Martinez or some Free Agent (eventually Delmon Young)
C Toby Hall/Pete LaForest
CF Joey Gathright
Now of course, we have to assume that these players will continue to push themselves to improve. But if they can and are able to stick together as a team for a long time, this is a strategy that best allows a team that works with the concept of a budget to compete with the spending of the Yankees and Red Sox. With the types of athletes some of these guys are, many could become superstars. And I haven't even mentioned Delmon Young, the #1 overall pick in the 2003 MLB draft. He is an OF, but I'm sure that, like his brother Dmitri, he could move to 1B.
I don't know about you, but that is a team that I would enjoy keeping up with!
This Year's Jose Guillen
In the beginning of the 2003 season, the Cincinnati Reds had a starting outfield of Adam Dunn, Austin Kearns and Ken Griffey Jr., and they were being touted as the best OF in baseball (generally it was thought that the Braves OF of Chipper Jones, Andruw Jones and Gary Sheffield was a little better). Unfortunately, all three OF ended up hurt. So, what happened? Jose Guillen stepped in and became one of the most wanted hitters at the trade deadline (eventually being traded to the Oakland A's). Guillen made the best of his opportunity.
So again this season, Griffey and Kearns have been injured. The Reds have another OF who is fully taking advantage of the additional playing time. Plus, he's got a cool name. Wily Mo Pena! He has been around for a long time, yet is still just 22 years old. He was hyped as a super-prospect by the Yankees. So much so that in order to sign him, the Yankees gave him a major league contract in 1999 when he was just 17 years old. That meant his options started. So, by 2002, he had to be kept on the major league roster or be lost to waivers. Before that season, he was traded from the Yankees to the Reds in the deal that brought Drew Henson back to the Pinstripes. He spent 2002 with the Reds but at age 20, he was the youngest player in the majors and got just 18 at bats in 13 games. In 2003, he played in 80 games, but accumulated just 165 at bats. Even this year, he was just a backup to start the season. I still can remember an at bat early this season. He came in to pinch hit and on an 0-2 pitch, he swung and literally missed the ball by two feet. I felt bad for him because he hasn't been able to develop in the minor leagues like most prospects. But now, he is getting playing time and putting up numbers. Since Griffey's injury, Pena has started every game and hit 6 homers in the last 8 games. Last night, he was 3-4 with a single, double and homer and 3 RBI. For the season, he is hitting .299/.344/.559 with 13 homers and 37 RBI. When you consider he was hitting .250 on July 10, that's pretty good!
Former Twins 20-game winner Scott Erickson made his first major league start since August 31, 2002 last night for the New York Mets. In 6 innings, Erickson gave up two runs (1 earned) on eight hits and a walk. He actually left the game with the lead but got a no decision when the Mets bullpen, namely Braden Looper, blew the save. After so many injuries, you just have to be happy for Erickson.
I was just 16 when the Twins won the 1991 World Series. I remember things well, but I just watched the games. I didn't know any background information. So, it is fun to look back and Scott Erickson's career with the Twins. It was rather interesting. The Twins made him their 4th round pick in 1989. He rose through the minor leagues quickly and made his big league debut on my 15th birthday, June 25, 1990. He made 17 starts for the Twins and went 8-4 with an ERA of just 2.87. Then in 1991 Erickson went 20-8 and had a 3.18 ERA in 204 innings. He finished second to Roger Clemens in the Cy Young voting. Equally interesting, Jack Morris (18-12, 3.43, 247 IP) finished fourth and Kevin Tapani (16-9, 2.99, 244 IP) finished 7th in the Cy Young vote. No wonder the Twins have that pitching and defense philosophy! Remember Erickson was scheduled to start the All-Star game, but a minor injury kept him out of the game and he was replaced by Jack Morris. Also, Erickson won 12 consecutive starts at one point too. In 1992, Erickson dropped to 13-12 with a 3.40 ERA. In 1993, he finished 8-19 with a 5.19 ERA. In 1993, he was 8-11 with a 5.44 ERA when he was traded to the Baltimore Orioles for Scott Klingenbeck and Kimera Bartee. People talk about what a bad trade that was for the Twins, but look again at what Erickson was doing the two years prior to the trade. 61 of his 140 career wins came with the Twins.
Erickson was solid for the Orioles helping them to the playoffs in 1996 and 1997. He won 69 games in just over four years with the Orioles through 1999. However, here are his innings pitched numbers: 222.3, 221.7, 251.3, 230.3. That's a lot of innings. And in 2000, it appeared to take its toll. In 16 starts, he was 5-8 with a 7.87 ERA before ending that season. He missed the entire 2001 season. He came back in 2002 and went 5-12 with a 5.55 ERA in 28 starts before re-injuring his arm and missing the entire 2003 season.
This year the Mets signed him to a minor league deal. He was set to make the team out of spring training but hurt his hamstring and it has taken until now for it to heal. I just would like to see him stay healthy. If not, well, he is married to Lisa Guerrero, so things could be worse for him. I would like to see him do well again!
If you have any thoughts, questions, or comments, or ideas for future postings, please e-mail me.
TRANSACTION ACTION - The Twins put Joe Mauer on the Disabled List and called up Rob Bowen to replace him on the roster. My first reaction was to think that this is a great decision. The reason that Mauer's knee is bad is because he and Ron Gardenhire were unable to communicate enough to find the best way to bring him back from major knee surgery. Gardy insisted on playing him every day almost. Mauer, not wanting to let anyone down, probably always answered that he was fine to play. By putting him on the DL for the next 15 days (or more), it takes those decisions away and lets him rest and rehabilitate.
My beef originally was the Rob Bowen was then called up to replace Mauer. I knew it would happen, and there is just one real reason why it was Bowen that got the call. Bowen was hitting .188 in AA New Britain when he was called up. That's not good. Now, you will hear that they brought him up because of his defensive skills. Chris Heintz is hitting over .300 with some power at AAA Rochester. He has performed well enough to have warranted the call. So, why was it so obvious that it would be Bowen who was recalled. First, whoever they brought up is essentially a third catcher who will only play if absolutely necessary. Bowen is on the Twins 40 man roster. Heintz is not. In other words, if the Twins had chosen to bring up Heintz, they would have had to have dropped someone from the 40 man roster, meaning they could lose them. Since he wouldn't play much with the Twins anyway, it doesn't seem worth the risk to lose any player. That said, there are a few players on the 40 man roster who the Twins could lose without worrying much about, like BJ Garbe.
Twins 3, Tigers 1
Jason Johnson was fooling the Twins again. A week after throwing a complete game shutout against the Twins, Johnson had shut down the Twins offense for the first six innings last night. But in the 7th, the Twins put up a three spot and were able to hold the lead for the win. Lew Ford hit a double to lead off the inning. Justin Morneau then hit a ball off the fence in left-centerfield for an RBI double. The bases were loaded with one out, but Matthew LeCroy struck out. Jose Offerman came in to pinch hit, the role he was actually brought along to fill. As he had the day before, Offerman came through. This time, he hit a two-run single up the middle to give the Twins a 3-1 lead.
Terry Mulholland pitched another excellent outing. The media wants you to know that the Tigers were the only team in the league that Mulholland had not recorded a win against. He has now done that, but more impressively and more importantly, he pitched 6 2/3 strong innings. He gave up one run on just four singles. He walked one and struck out two. JC Romero did his job last night, getting the one batter he was brought in to face to close that inning. Juan Rincon pitched a strong 8th inning, and Joe Nathan came in and recorded his 25th save of the year. He walked Pudge Rodriguez on a close pitch. With two outs, Carlos Guillen hit a ground rule double that hit first base and bounced out of play. With runners on 2nd and 3rd, Nathan got a ground out off the bat of Rondell White to end the game.
The Twins will try for the sweep of the short Tigers series. I look at the numbers of the two pitchers who will face off today and think they are strange. Lohse has less wins, but both are under .500. Lohse has and ERA that is 1.23 less than Bonderman's despite giving up more walks and hits, and a significant difference in opponent's batting average. What does it mean? Not a lot. Who knows what will happen today!
Kyle Lohse (3-7, 4.74, 1.58, .303) vs Jeremy Bonderman (6-7, 5.97, 1.46, .264)
Any thoughts on the Twins? E-mail me.
TWINS MINOR LEAGUE REPORT
Game 1 - Redwings 6, Scranton/Wilkes-Barre 5 (12) - After playing 12 innings on Sunday, the last thing the Redwings needed was extra innings, especially considering they had a double-header yesterday. But that's exactly what happened. Seth Griesinger started and gave up three runs in 5 1/3 innings (his ERA is now 7.01). Kevin Hodge gave up a run in 1 2/3 innings. Jesse Crain came in and pitched two perfect innings, with two strikeouts. Beau Kemp got the win by giving up just one run in four innings of relief. He gave up four hits and four walks, but kept the Phillies affiliate from scoring enough runs. On offense, Jason Kubel led, going 2-5 with his fourth homer. Michael Ryan went 2-5. Josh Rabe was 2-2. Todd Dunwoody was 2-3 with an RBI double. Chris Heintz went 2-3 (to raise his AVG to .307). Terry Tiffee hit his 7th homer.
Game 2 - Redwings 2, Richmond 3 - Brent Schoening gave the Redwings exactly what they needed in Game 2. Normally a reliever, Schoening gave the team five shutout innings. Jeromy Palki kept the shutout for the next two innings to record the save. Rochester had just six hits, but Jason Kubel's 5th homer and Juan Diaz's 7th homer were all the team needed to record the win.
NEW BRITAIN ROCKCATS
Rockcats 4, Harrisburg 1 - A great outing for JD Durbin has to be the highlight of the Twins organization yesterday. Durbin went 6 innings. He gave up just one run on five hits and 2 walks. He struck out two. Terry Ryan reported on Sunday that Durbin is touching 95-96 on the radar gun. Durbin and Scott Baker give the Twins an exciting future! Jason Miller pitched the final three innings to record his first save. He gave up just one hit and a walk, and he struck out six batters. The offense was led by Kevin West. He hit his 19th homer and drove in his 73rd run in a 2-4 game. Garrett Jones went 2-3. Luis Maza hit his 24th double. C Bryan Kennedy, replacing Rob Bowen, hit his 2nd homer.
FT. MYERS MIRACLE
Miracle 6, Brevard County 1 - Francisco Liriano pitched a great 7 1/3 innings last night. In 7 1/3 innings, he struck out 12 batters. He gave up just one run on four hits and a walk. He improves to 5-7 with an ERA of 3.75. Jannio Gutierrez came in and got the final five outs on two hits and a walk. Doug Deeds went 3-5 with a triple and 3 RBI. Brett Tamburrino went 3-4. Ron Perodin was 2-4 with a walk.
SWING OF THE QUAD CITIES
Swing 2, Battle Creek 5 - Scott Tyler has been pitching well, and actually yesterday, he did not pitch poorly. He started and gave up three runs in six innings (a quality start). He walked just one and struck out three. Eric Brandon got four outs and allowed one run. Kevin Culpepper gave up a run and got just two outs. Tristan Crawford pitched a scoreless inning. JR Taylor went 2-4 with his 16th double. Scott Whitrock went 3-3 with a walk and a double.
E-Twins 1, Greeneville 5 - The E-Twins had just four hits. Only LF Javier Lopez double was an extra-base hit. Steven Duguay started and gave up three runs (1 earned) in five innings. He gave up seven hits but walked none and struck out four. Kyle Aselton pitched 1 2/3 innings and gave up three hits and two walks, but no runs. Jeff Mousser gave up two runs on two hits and a walk in 1 1/3 innings.
Al Bethke writes Al's Ramblings, a great website primarily regarding the Milwaukee Brewers. But he also dabbles with other baseball topics, TV, and more. Really, it is one of the sites that I still check out every day. Recently, Al conducted another Roundtable Discussion on topics regarding the Brewers. It's interesting that these guys are not bashing the Richie Sexson trade any more. It's really a fun read, especially if you have any interest in the Brewers team.
And on that note, I am going to call it a day! Have yourself a great day! As always, if you have any questions or comments on anything, please e-mail me.
Back to Archives Home