September 2009

Gardy likes the look of the bullpen

Just a few weeks ago, Twins manager Ron Gardenhire stressed how important it was for his club to address its bullpen situation this offseason.

But after the bullpen had been an area of concern for much of the past two seasons, lately it’s been going through a resurgence. That’s in part due to general manager Bill Smith adding some extra pieces to the mix last month.

The acquisitions of Jon Rauch and Ron Mahay, who will be a free agent at the end of the season, have added some veteran presence to Minnesota’s relief corps. Combine that with Matt Guerrier’s emergence as a solid eighth inning option, Jesse Crain’s rebound since returning from the Minor Leagues and Jose Mijares now figuring out how to get right-handed hitters out, and Gardenhire has been pleased recently be what he’s seen from the group.

“We struggled early out of the bullpen,” Gardenhire said, “but I think good things have happened.”

With Rauch signed through 2010, Pat Neshek and Boof Bonser as options to challenge for spots as they are set to return in Spring Training following surgeries and some young starters like Anthony Swarzak and Brian Duensing in the mix if they don’t make the starting rotation, the club’s bullpen is already looking to have plenty of options for next season.

“I think we’re going to have lots of good
competition,” said Gardenhire. “It should be fun.”

That’s not to say Gardenhire doesn’t want other options. The Twins still could be looking for one more left-handed reliever for 2010, which could be Mahay as Gardenhire said he’d like to have the lefty back, and perhaps another arm in long relief.

“I like the arms [we have].” Gardenhire said. “Can you use more? Always.”

Neshek getting ready to throw off mound

I chatted with Pat Neshek yesterday at the Metrodome, as he was in town to see Twins physician Dr. Dan Buss.

The visit was for Neshek, who underwent Tommy John elbow ligament replacement surgery last November, to get clearance to begin throwing off a mound.

Twins manager Ron Gardenhire said Saturday that Neshek did indeed get clearance, although he’ll start by throwing just fastballs at first and working up to throwing breaking pitches again.

Neshek said that with his current program he’ll be “game-ready” by mid-November but the plan is not to have him pitch any winter ball. Instead, he’ll remain in Fort Myers during the winter to work with Twins Minor League rehab coordinator Lanny Tucker so that he’ll be ready to go at the start of Spring Training.

While everything has been going well in his rehab process, Neshek said he’s had a mild case of tendinitis in his right elbow. But he spoke with a couple other Twins pitchers who had Tommy John, Carl Pavano and Jeff Manship, and both told Neshek that it’s normal for that to happen in the recovery process.

“There is nothing wrong with the ligament where i had the surgery,” Neshek said. “The doctors say that’s really strong. So I can work with a little tendinitis.”

Having not pitched for the Twins since May 2008, Neshek acknowledges that this process hasn’t been completely easy on him. But he’s looking forward to finally getting back with the team in February.

“It’s a long road,” Neshek said. “I’m just taking it day by day
right now. I just want to feel like I felt [before the elbow injury] and it’s starting to feel like that already. I have
no clue how my arm’s going to respond. If it goes according to plan,
I’ll be good to go in Spring Training.”

College football and a noon Saturday game

The University of Minnesota Gophers may no longer play in the Metrodome, but that didn’t mean the Twins were unaffected by the college football schedule. Today’s game was made a noon contest so that the Twins didn’t interfere with the home opener of TCF Stadium. The big difference? No 11 a.m. start time and there’s no way this game is postponed if it goes past a certain time today.

Here are today’s lineups:

A’s (63-77)
4th place in AL West, 22 games back
 

Adam Kennedy, 3B
Rajai Davis, CF
Kurt Suzuki, C
Jack Cust, DH
Scott Hairston, LF
Mark Ellis, 2B
Daric Barton, 1B
Eric Patterson, RF
Cliff Pennington, SS

Pitching: LHP Brett Anderson (8-10, 4.45)

Twins (70-71)
2nd place in AL Central, 5.5 games back

Denard Span, CF
Orlando Cabrera, SS
Joe Mauer, DH
Justin Morneau, 1B
Jason Kubel, LF
Michael Cuddyer, RF
Brendan Harris, 3B
Mike Redmond, C
Nick Punto, 2B
Pitching: RHP Jeff Manship (0-0, 4.41)

A reminder you can follow me on Twitter  @kellythesier

Au revoir Canada: Thursday lineups

The Twins are trying to capture the series victory when they close out their four-game set with the Blue Jays this afternoon and Scott Baker will try to see if he can extend his winning streak to eight games.

It was a pretty slow day in terms of news. Perhaps a little bit of Halladay hangover from the club’s first ever win over Toronto’s ace.

Twins manager Ron Gardenhire did say that Joe Crede might get a DH day this weekend against the A’s. Oakland will throw lefties Brett Anderson and Gio Gonzalez in the final two games so perhaps Crede will DH in one of those contests.

Here are today’s lineups:

Twins (70-69)
2nd place in AL Central, 5.5 games back

Denard Span, CF
Orlando Cabrera, SS
Joe Mauer, C
Justin Morneau, 1B
Jason Kubel, DH
Michael Cuddyer, RF
Delmon Young, LF
Brendan Harris, 3B
Nick Punto, 2B
Pitching: RHP Scott Baker (13-7, 4.34)

Blue Jays (62-77)
4th place in AL East, 28 games back

Joe Inglett, 2B
Travis Snider, RF
Adam Lind, LF
Lyle Overbay, 1B
Edwin Encarnacion, 3B
Randy Ruiz, DH
Jose Bautista, CF
Raul Chavez, C
John McDonald, SS

Pitching: LHP Brett Cecil (6-4, 5.46)

A reminder you can follow me on Twitter  @kellythesier

Wednesday Lineups: Twins at Blue Jays

Michael Cuddyer is getting a little breather today while manager Ron Gardenhire shuffles the lineup a bit to get Joe Mauer in the DH spot. With Cuddyer out, Kubel is in right field. And yes, for those of you who were aware of yesterday’s lineup mixup, that’s accurate this time.

Francisco Liriano has been activated from the disabled list but he won’t be available out of the bullpen until tomorrow.

As for Joe Crede, Gardenhire said that he’s not ready to start in the field right now. The belief is that if Crede were to dive in the field, his back probably would not be able to handle that yet. So instead, Crede is being looked at as a pinch-hitter or perhaps a DH option against a left-handed pitcher.

The Twins have a stiff test in Toronto tonight as they face Roy Halladay, who is 8-0 with a 2.77 ERA in his career against Minnesota. There aren’t many Twins with strong numbers against Halladay with the exception of Delmon Young, who is 6-for-14 (.429). So Young is in left field again tonight.

Here are today’s lineups:

Twins (69-69)
2nd place in AL Central, 6.5 games back

Denard Span, CF
Orlando Cabrera, SS
Joe Mauer, DH
Justin Morneau, 1B
Jason Kubel, RF
Delmon Young, LF
Brian Buscher, 3B
Jose Morales, C
Nick Punto, 2B
Pitching: RHP Carl Pavano (11-11, 5.09)

Blue Jays (62-76)
4th place in AL East, 27 games back

Marco Scutaro, SS
Jose Bautista, RF
Adam Lind, DH
Lyle Overbay, 1B
Vernon Wells, CF
Rod Barajas, C
Edwin Encarnacion, 3B
Travis Snider, LF
John McDonald, 2B

Pitching: RHP Roy Halladay (14-8, 2.98)

A reminder you can follow me on Twitter  @kellythesier

Twins at Blue Jays on Tuesday: Mauer gets a day off and Crede activated

Joe Mauer is not in the lineup tonight against the Blue Jays. Manager Ron Gardenhire had planned to try to give Mauer, who went 3-for-5 in Monday’s win, a complete day off at some point on this roadtrip and he felt this was the best time. Gardenhire also said that he plans to give Mauer a DH day on Wednesday to give him a couple days of rest with so many long stretches of games coming up for the club.

Mauer is available to pinch hit tonight if needed. And with off days in
each of the next two weeks, Gardenhire said he hopes that this is the last game
Mauer won’t start this season.

Early in the day, there was a little lineup mixup. Originally we were told that Michael Cuddyer was the DH and Jason Kubel was playing right field. But Gardenhire was flip-flopping players to take Mauer’s spot in the lineup and forgot to switch the position numbers as well. So Cuddyer is actually in right field and Kubel is the DH, while also filling in for Mauer in the No. 3 hole.

The Twins activated Crede from the DL on Tuesday. Everything went well for Crede in the simulated game against Francisco Liriano — he saw about 10-15 pitches from the lefty– and the third baseman will be available off the bench tonight for the Twins.

Liriano also did well in the game as he threw 42 pitches. Gardenhire said the pitcher’s fastball was jumping. The plan is to activate Liriano on Wednesday and he will likely be available out of the bullpen for Thursday’s contest against the Blue Jays.

And for those of you interested, first base coach Jerry White did get a hit off Liriano in the simulated game. In the last at-bat of the contest, White blooped a single into the left field gap and all of the players gathered behind the batting cage greeted him with many high-fives.

“I think [Liriano] tried to sneak a fastball by him,” Gardenhire said with a laugh. 

Also a note, Gardenhire and his wife, Carol, who is on the trip to Toronto, are celebrating their 30th wedding anniversary today. So here is a congratulations to both of them and a happy anniversary!

Here are today’s lineups:

Twins (69-68)
2nd place in AL Central, 6.5 games back

Denard Span, CF
Orlando Cabrera, SS
Jason Kubel, DH
Justin Morneau, 1B
Michael Cuddyer, RF
Brendan Harris, 3B
Delmon Young, LF
Mike Redmond, C
Nick Punto, 2B
Pitching: LHP Brian Duensing (2-1, 3.81)

Blue Jays (61-76)
4th place in AL East, 27 games back

Marco Scutaro, SS
Jose Bautista, RF
Adam Lind, LF
Vernon Wells, CF
Randy Ruiz, DH
Kevin Millar, 1B
Edwin Encarnacion, 3B
Raul Chavez, C
John McDonald, 2B

Pitching: LHP Rickey Romero (11-7, 4.15)

A reminder you can follow me on Twitter  @kellythesier

Greetings from Toronto and Happy Labor Day!

After missing the last three games in Cleveland to attend a friend’s wedding, I’m back on the beat with the club in Toronto.

It’s the first time I’ve made the trip to Toronto since the Twins opened the 2006 season here. So I’ve been getting reacquainted with the city as well as trying to catch up with the Twins after a tough weekend in which they went 1-2 vs. the Indians and  fell to 7 games back of Detroit in the AL Central standings.

The Twins will try to get back on track offensively at the Rogers Centre, where they’ve lost seven straight and have won just 1 of their last 10 games.

As I’m writing this, Twins manager Ron Gardenhire and some of the players are greeting former Twin Randy Ruiz behind the batting cage. Ruiz, who is is batting .296 with six home runs and 11 RBI in 20 games for Toronto, was struck in the side of his face by a pitch in a contest against the Yankees on Sunday afternoon and is not in the lineup for the Blue Jays today. Ruiz seems to be OK though as he joked with his former teammates and coaches, motioning how the pitch hit his face.

Orlando Cabrera and Brendan Harris are both getting a day off. Gardenhire said that many of his club’s bats looked a little slow on Sunday so he decided to mix up the lineup a little bit. Nick Punto will get the start at shortstop and Brian Buscher is slotted in at third base.

Joe Crede planned to do everything in batting practice today, including fielding ground balls. How Crede feels after today will determine whether he takes part in the simulated game that Francisco Liriano will pitch on Tuesday.

Here are today’s lineups:

Twins (68-68)
2nd place in AL Central, 7 games back

Denard Span, CF
Nick Punto, SS
Joe Mauer, C
Justin Morneau, 1B
Jason Kubel, DH
Michael Cuddyer, RF
Delmon Young, LF
Brian Buscher, 3B
Alexi Casilla, 2B
Pitching: RHP Jeff Manship (0-0, 3.75)

Blue Jays (61-75)
4th place in AL East, 25.5 games back

Marco Scutaro, SS
Aaron Hill, 2B
Adam Lind, DH
Lyle Overbay, 1B
Vernon Wells, CF
Rod Barajas, C
Edwin Encarnacion, 3B
Travis Snider, LF
Joe Inglett, RF
Pitching: RHP Scott Richmond (6-8, 4.53)

A reminder you can follow me on Twitter  @kellythesier

Wednesday Lineups: Twins vs. White Sox

Here are today’s lineups:

White Sox (64-69)
3rd place in AL Central, 7 games back

Scott Podsednik, DH
Gordon Beckham, 3B
Paul Konerko, 1B
Jermaine Dye, RF
Carlos Quentin, LF
Alexei Ramirez, SS
Alex Rios, CF
Jayson Nix, 2B
Ramon Castro, C
Pitching: LHP Mark Buehrle (11-7, 3.89)

Twins (67-65)
2nd place in AL Central, 3.5 games back

Denard Span, CF
Orlando Cabrera, SS
Joe Mauer, DH
Justin Morneau, 1B
Jason Kubel, LF
Michael Cuddyer, RF
Brendan Harris, 3B
Mike Redmond, C
Nick Punto, 2B
Pitching: LHP Brian Duensing (2-1, 4.37)

A reminder you can follow me on Twitter  @kellythesier

Another OF on the way?

September is the time when managers have extra bodies at their disposal, thanks to the expansion of active rosters.

But on Tuesday night, Twins manager Ron Gardenhire was short on one thing that he could have used — another outfielder.

In the scenario that Gardenhire faced on Tuesday night in a tie game against the White Sox –one out in the ninth and the go-ahead run at third base — the skipper would have considered using a pinch-hitter to replace Carlos Gomez. That is, if he had a sixth outfielder

Having already inserted Gomez as a defensive replacement for Delmon Young and replacing Jason Kubel (who led off the ninth with a single) with pinch-runner Nick Punto, Gardenhire didn’t have another outfielder on his bench to use if the game went to extras.

“We were kind of stuck there,” Gardenhire said.

So the skipper had Gomez take the at-bat and instead turned to Jose Morales to pinch-hit for Alexi Casilla with two outs in the inning. Morales came up with the big hit in that spot, but Gardenhire was asked after the game if he might want an additional outfielder knowing how things played out on Tuesday

“Funny you said that,” Gardenhire said. “Yeah, we’ve been talking…I don’t know how many outfielders you can have but it’s a possibility when [Triple-A Rochester’s] season ends.”

The Twins only made one immediate call-up on Tuesday, the day rosters officially expanded, bringing up infielder Brian Buscher from Triple-A Rochester. Infielder Matt Tolbert is also expected to join the club once his knee starts feeling better, but so far there had not been any plans so far to bring up another outfielder. But after Tuesday’s 4-3 walkoff win over Chicago, Gardenhire hinted that the club might add one when Rochester closes out its season on Sept. 7.

“Tonight was one of those circumstances, you are going to run out of players if you keep making moves and the game gets tight,” Gardenhire said. “But if you have an opportunity and you’ve got another player you can use like that, it would be wonderful.We’ll just see where we’re at here in a few days.”

Welcome September!…Tuesday Lineups: Twins vs. White Sox

After it sounded like the Twins wouldn’t call any players up today when rosters expanded, the club decided to make one move after all. Infielder Brian Buscher was promoted and is expected to join the team shortly before game time, manager Ron Gardenhire said.

The switch to indeed bring Buscher up now, although he’s been playing through a sore thumb, came after Gardenhire told general manager Bill Smith that he needed another backup infielder on the bench. So that’s the only move for now. It still sounds like Matt Tolbert (knee) and Anthony Swarzak could join the club at some point in the near future.

The big topic of the day of course was the two moves the White Sox made on Monday night — trading away Jim Thome and Jose Contreras. Neither club seemed to view it as Chicago completely throwing in the towel but I’ll have more on that in a story later.

Here are today’s lineups:

White Sox (64-68)
3rd place in AL Central, 6 games back

Scott Podsednik, LF
Gordon Beckham, 3B
A.J. Pierzynski, C
Paul Konerko, 1B
Jermaine Dye, DH
Carlos Quentin, LF
Chris Getz, 2B
Alex Rios, RF
Alexei Ramirez, SS
Pitching: LHP John Danks (12-8, 3.82)

Twins (66-65)
2nd place in AL Central, 3.5 games back

Denard Span, CF
Orlando Cabrera, SS
Joe Mauer, C
Justin Morneau, 1B
Jason Kubel, DH
Michael Cuddyer, RF
Brendan Harris, 3B
Delmon Young, LF
Alexi Casilla, 2B
Pitching: RHP Jeff Manship (0-0, 5.14)

A reminder you can follow me on Twitter  @kellythesier