April 2009

Trying for a Sweep….Sunday lineups: Twins at Indians

The Twins will go for the three-game series sweep over the Indians on Sunday at Progressive Field — a feat they haven’t accomplished in Cleveland since June 14-16, 1991.

It will be a match-up of the lefties as the Indians send southpaw Aaron Laffey to the mound and Glen Perkins gets the nod for the Twins.

Carlos Gomez is back in the lineup, batting leadoff while Denard Span gets a day of rest.

UPDATE (12:20 ET): Catcher Joe Mauer walked into the office of Fort Myers manager Jeff Smith on Saturday night and told him, ‘Maybe they’re right.’

Mauer was referring to the Twins wanting him to wait until Friday to rejoin the team. Mauer had tried to encourage Twins skipper Ron Gardenhire to “keep an open mind” about possibly letting him return as soon as Tuesday. But after catching back-to-back days for Fort Myers, the first time he’s done that since last season, Mauer was dealing with some usual soreness in his legs.

“Catcher’s butt” is what Gardenhire called it.

So it appears that Mauer’s return will come, as originally expected, on Friday, May 1 against the Royals at the Metrodome. He’ll be the DH for Fort Myers in today’s game and then catch Monday and Tuesday for Fort Myers. He’ll then DH again in Wednesday’s contest for Fort Myers and use Thursday’s off day for both the Twins and Fort Myers as a travel day to Minnesota.
 

Today’s Lineups

Twins
Carlos Gomez, CF
Brendan Harris, 2B
Justin Morneau, 1B
Jason Kubel, DH
Joe Crede, 3B
Michael Cuddyer, RF
Delmon Young, LF
Jose Morales, C
Nick Punto, SS
Pitching: Glen Perkins, LHP

Indians
Grady Sizemore, CF
Asdrubal Cabrera, 2B
Victor Martinez, C
Shin-Soo Choo, DH
Ryan Garko, 1B
Jhonny Peralta, SS
Mark DeRosa, RF
Tony Graffanino, 3B
Trevor Crowe, LF
Pitching: Aaron Laffey, LHP

Saturday lineups — Twins at Indians

The Twins have faced Carl Pavano only once in his career and that came over two years ago, on April 9, 2007 when he was a member of the Yankees. He earned the victory in that contest at the Metrodome — pitching seven innings and allowing two runs in what would be his final start of that season for New York.

Tonight the Twins will get their second look at Pavano — this time at Progressive Field as he makes his fourth start for Cleveland.

Due to Pavano being limited by injuries in recent years, many of the Twins hitters haven’t faced him or have very little experience against him. Only three guys on the current roster  have tallied a hit against Pavano (and for all of them it really is only one hit) — Joe Crede, Michael Cuddyer, and Jason Kubel.

Today’s lineups:

Twins
Denard Span, CF
Alexi Casilla, 2B
Justin Morneau, 1B
Jason Kubel, DH
Joe Crede, 3B
Michael Cuddyer, RF
Delmon Young, LF
Mike Redmond, C
Nick Punto, SS
Pitching: Kevin Slowey, RHP

Indians
Grady Sizemore, CF
Mark DeRosa, 3B
Victor Martinez, 1B
Travis Hafner, DH
Shin Soo Choo, RF
Ben Francisco, LF
Kelly Shoppach, C
Tony Graffanino, 2B
Asdrubal Cabrera, SS
Pitching: Carl Pavano, RHP

Could Mauer return during the Rays series this week?

Catcher Joe Mauer spoke with manager Ron Gardenhire after catching seven innings for Class A Fort Myers and told the skipper to  “keep an open mind” about possibly activating him from the disabled list before his expected return date of May 1.

Mauer is scheduled to catch nine innings for Fort Myers on Monday night and Gardenhire said the club will decide after the game whether Mauer might return to the club as soon as Tuesday. Mauer already. So it sounds like that if everything keeps going well for Mauer, his return could come during that series against the Rays instead of waiting until Friday, as was expected.

Tonight, Mauer will catch around seven innings again for Fort Myers and he’s scheduled to DH in Sunday’s game.

Twins Minor Leaguer Henry Sanchez suspended 50 games

Henry Sanchez, the Twins first round sandwich pick in the 2005 First-Year Player Draft, has been suspended for 50 games after testing positive for a drug of abuse in violation of the Minor League Drug Prevention and Treatment Program.

Sanchez, 22, is currently playing first base for Class A Beloit. Sanchez was batting .231 (3-for-13) with nine strikeouts in the four games he’s played for Beloit this season. In five Minor League seasons, he has batted .210 with eight home runs and 48 RBIs. He’s also tallied 140 strikeouts in 343 at-bats over that span.

Sanchez’s suspension will begin immediately.

Break Time….and a welcome back to the Inbox

Some disappointing news today for the Twins bullpen with the club placing Jesse Crain on the 15-day disabled list with right shoulder inflammation.

That means that Crain will be out until at least Sunday, May 3. From everyone I’ve talked to it doesn’t sound like this is a big concern. It seems like during Crain’s outing on Friday, he started feeling a little something in his shoulder. My guess is that based on the amount of work the bullpen has gotten lately, the club didn’t want to go a few extra days short an arm. So they decided to be extra cautious and put Crain on the DL to call up left-hander Jose Mijares.

All of the reports lately on Mijares have been positive. It will be interesting to see if he can come up and duplicate the success he had last September. If so, that could be a big boost to this bullpen that’s been having a hard go of it so far this season.

As for me, I’m not making the trip to Boston so I’ll be off for the next few days. That means the blog will be quiet until Friday when I’m in Cleveland for the start of the three-game series with the Indians.

Over my few days off, I’m planning to work on another edition of the Inbox. Because it’s been a little time since the last one, I could use some new questions. So please log into your email and shoot me a few questions to twinsmailbag@yahoo.com. Any help from you guys would be greatly appreciated.

NOTE: Also, just to let everyone know that I’ll be doing a short segment on the Twins Radio Network every Tuesday when the Twins are on the road. The first one will run tomorrow night during the pre-game show.

Make it 14 straight…

Different lineups that is. The Twins will finish off their stretch of 14 consecutive games to start the ’09 season on Sunday. And so far, not a single lineup this season has been the same.

Twins manager Ron Gardenhire used Sunday to give days off to Michael Cuddyer and Joe Crede. This is the first rest of the year for Cuddyer. Brendan Harris is slotted at third in place of Crede.

The club has a chance at its first series sweep of the year today. They’ve already secured the first series win by winning the first two games.

Today’s Lineups:

Angels
Chone Figgins, 3B
Howie Kendrick, 2B
Robb Quinlan, RF
Bobby Abreu, DH
Torii Hunter, CF
Kendry Morales, 1B
Juan Rivera, LF
Jeff Mathis, C
Erick Aybar, SS
Pitching: Shane Loux, RHP

Twins
Denard Span, RF
Alexi Casilla, 2B
Justin Morneau, 1B
Jason Kubel, DH
Delmon Young, LF
Brendan Harris, 3B
Jose Morales, C
Nick Punto, SS
Carlos Gomez, CF
Pitching: Glen Perkins, LHP

Opening Day Lineups….and a little NCAA action

For the first day of the season, it’s Delmon Young that’s the odd man out in the outfield. The starting lineup for Monday’s opener against the Mariners has Denard Span in left, Carlos Gomez in center and Michael Cuddyer in right. So Young will be on the bench tonight.

Again, it’s only the first day so I’m sure we’ll see plenty of shuffling over the next couple days when it comes to the outfield.

There is plenty of excitment here at the Dome for its final Opening Day, but I’ll admit that my heart is a little torn since my Michigan State Spartans are playing North Carolina in the National Championship game tonight. Don’t worry I’ll be keeping careful watch on the game here, but yes I will also try to sneak a peak to see how MSU is faring. Thanks to everyone who has sent me nice messages about the Spartans…here’s hoping to one more victory for them tonight.

All right, I’ll have more info here or on the site tonight about Opening Day. For now, here are the lineups.

Mariners
Endy Chavez, LF
Franklin Gutierrez, CF
Mike Sweeney, DH
Adrian Beltre, 3B
Ken Griffey Jr, RF
Jose Lopez, 2B
Russell Branyan, 1B
Kenji Johjima, C
Yuniesky Betancourt, SS
Pitching: Felix Hernandez, RHP

Twins
Denard Span, LF
Alexi Casilla, 2B
Michael Cuddyer, RF
Justin Morneau, 1B
Jason Kubel, DH
Joe Crede, 3B
Carlos Gomez, CF
Mike Redmond, C
Nick Punto, SS
Pitching: Francisco Liriano, LHP

Morneau returns

Justin Morneau returns to the Twins lineup today after missing four games due to stiffness in the middle of his back.

Twins manager Ron Gardenhire prepared two lineups this morning — one with Morneau and one without. He was waiting to see how Morneau was feeling after taking some swings in the batting cage, and after the session Morneau declared himself ready to go.

“I’m in there,” Morneau said. “Good to go.”

The Twins will still have to wait and see how Morneau makes it through the game. The starters aren’t expected to play more than five innings so Morneau should get a good test of his back in a few at-bats and some time at first base.

Scott Baker was scheduled to play long toss today. He said that he’ll throw two bullpen this week — one on Monday and one Wednesday — putting him on schedule to pitch a game for Class A Fort Myers on Friday. His shoulder is feeling much better after taking two days off throwing and his expectation is still that he’ll be back with the team when his DL stint is over on April 12.

I talked with Joe Mauer this morning and he said that he caught R.A. Dickey in a bullpen session yesterday. It was a step in the right direction as far as his back is concerned, but Mauer was more excited about finally getting a chance to see the knuckleball since he hopes to see be catching it soon.

Mauer said he’d heard about the amount of movement on Dickey’s knuckleball, but didn’t really get a good feel for just how much until he was catching it.

The clubhouse was full of players packing bags this morning and the team is ready to head to the airport right after the game. So expect this to be a day of players taking a lot of early swings.

Lineups

Twins
Denard Span, CF
Alexi Casilla, 2B
Justin Morneau, 1B
Jason Kubel, DH
Joe Crede, 3B
Delmon Young, LF
Carlos Gomez, CF
Jose Morales, C
Nick Punto, SS
Pitching: Glen Perkins, LHP

Pirates
Nyjer Morgan, LF
Freddy Sanchez, 2B
Nate McLouth, CF
Ryan Doumit, C
Adam LaRoche, 1B
Eric Hinske, DH
Brandon Moss, RF
Andy LaRoche, 3B
Jack Wilson, SS
Pitching: Ross Ohlendorf, RHP

Baker to start season on the disabled list

Twins right-hander Scott Baker will not get the Opening Day start after he was placed on the 15-day disabled list Thursday with right shoulder stiffness.

The move was made retroactive to March 28. So Baker will be eligible to come off the disabled list on April 12.

Francisco Liriano will start Opening Day against the Mariners on Monday in place of Baker. The Twins rotation will then go as follows — Nick Blackburn  Kevin Slowey, and Glen Perkins in the next three games vs. Seattle.

Friday’s starter in Chicago has not yet been named but it’s expected to be knuckleballer R.A. Dickey, who started Wednesday’s Grapefruit League contest against the Rays.

Baker threw just 58 pitches in a Minor League start against Triple-A Norfolk on Wednesday.

Joe Mauer and Boof Bonser were also placed on the 15-day disabled list. Those were expected moves.

Wednesday Postgame updates

Here are some tidbits that didn’t get into the stories…

–Scott Baker threw five shutout innings in a Minor League start against Triple-A Norfolk on Wednesday. He allowed three hits and struck out four while throwing a total of 58 pitches in the outing. Baker’s next start will come on Opening Day, April 6, against the Mariners at the Metrodome.

– Left-handed pitcher Jose Lugo, a Rule 5 Draft pick, was returned to the Twins by the Mariners. He was assigned to Double-A New Britain

– The Rays stole five bases in Wednesday’s contest with backup catcher Jose Morales behind the plate. While the Rays are known for using their speed on the basepaths, manager Ron Gardenhire said that Morales was also trying to be a little too quick in trying to throw guys out.

“He had a couple of chances, the one to third base, that’s the one he should have thrown him out on but he got too quick and dropped the ball,” Gardenhire said. “But we know that’s a process. That’s not the best part of his game, but you have to do a better job than that. He knows that and he’s been working hard.”

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