Saturday, April 14, 2007

Recap 4/14/2007 Twins 12, Devil Rays 5

I am pleased as a pooch. Coming into tonight's game the Twins certainly had to feel as though they had a lot to learn about their team. This far this season the team has done a poor job of getting runners on base and an even worse job of plating the runners they do get. After getting hit hard in his Twins debt against the Yankees Sidney Ponson also had a lot to prove. He got off to a rough start in the second inning of todays game. During that inning the Devil rays scored two runs on three hits including doubles to right by Delmon Young who has been on fire so far this season hitting safely in 11 straight games, and Dioner Navarro. After that inning though Ponson settled in nicely, scattering 4 more hits over five and a third total innings of work. Ponson also showed an ability to miss bats striking out six, many on a split finger pitch he debuted tonight.

In the hearts of many the real test for the Twins tonight was to see if they could at least get their offense going against Edwin Jackson, a well below average pitcher. I think there are a lot of fans in the state right now who have been every bit as disappointed by the failures of the offense as they've been pleased by the success of the starting rotation. Tonight however the Twins did answer the bell against not just Jackson but a bunch of Rays relievers. That might not be saying much as the Rays may have the consensus worst bullpen in baseball but the Twins treated them as such. Most appreciated by me was that Gardenhire finally sat Nick Punto, a move I begged for a couple of days ago, and the guys who replaced him, Tyner and Rodriguez, hit extremely well.Tyner played center and batted second, while Hunter DHed, and Luis Rodriguez played third. If the Twins were to have Kubel DH most games, play Tyner in left and Rodriguez at 3rd I'd be pleased. On the night Tyner went 3-5 with a pair of doubles (contrary to popular belief he can register hits other than sinlges!) one of which was very nearly his first career homerun as well as scoring three runs and driving in another. Rodriguez on the other hand did homer in the seventh while playing a solid third base.

Of course the big four of the Twins order also hit extremely well going a combined 9-17 with Michael Cuddyer leading the way with 4 hits all of which well very well struck. They big four also scored six runs and drove in eight more. By the time the Twins finished the sixth up 9-2 the game was pretty much over. Also encouraging was Jason Bartlett's performance as his defense was good most of the game as he made the routine plays and in the ninth inning made a filthy play on B.J. Upton's hard hit grounder up the middle, making the diving play and making a strong throw to get the speedy Upton. At the plate he was 1-2 with a crisp single , a deep fly out and two walks. More encouraging is that he looked very comfortable at the plate and did a good job working counts. Hopefully the threat of having Alexi Casilla steal his position has done for him in two games what being sent down last spring did for his game last year. Presuming he does get on track now, lets hope he doesn't need this type of wake up call every year.

Friday, April 13, 2007

Recap 4/13/2007 Twins 2, Devil Rays 4

Boxscore 4/13/2007 Twins 2 - Devil Rays 4

With Johan Santana taking to the mound this evening I thought the Twins would be able to take away a win, even against a tough lefty in Scott Kazmir. Thats mostly because the Twins hadn't lost a game in the Dome that he started in his last 24 attempts. Santana pitched well enough to win as he went seven innings allowing six hits, one walk, and striking out ten over seven innings while allowing four runs. One of those runs however was on a terrible play by Josh Rabe in left who let a ball get by him and roll all the way to the wall allowing Carl Crawford an inside-the-park homerun. So really, three runs. Santana once again looked like he was in mid-season form in early April, something most baseball fans aren't accustomed to and opposing teams must be terrified about. However the offense was (I'm feeling like a broken record here) once again absolutely terrible and has cost us yet another game. Honestly, this team should probably be 8-2, not 6-4.

Also, it speaks to the state of the bullpen and more importantly perhaps the health of Jesse Crain that in the eighth and ninth innings of a two run game the Twins didn't turn to their usual middle and short relievers but to long reliever Matt Guerrier and starting prospect Glen Perkins. Jesse Crain it was reported a couple days ago was suffering from tendinitis and now in a situation where he normally would have pitched and being well rested after not pitching last night, he sat on the bench. Cause for concern? It wouldn't be if Juan Rincon and Dennys Reyes were looking as good as they did last year, but they aren't. The only two reliable arms the Twins have had so far have been Pat Neshek's and Joe Nathan's, and Neshek has historically struggled mightily with lefties.

As for the offense, well I called last night Nick Punto's immediate benching. I think after yet another 0-4 game with four more runners left on base we might be better off sending him back down to low A ball. Ok, that might be a little extreme but his plate appearances have been just about that bad. In his first three plate appearances tonight he saw a took a total of three pitches before finally milking a count in his last at-bat, getting up 3-1. If nothing else get him out of the two hole.

Joe Mauer also had an uncharacteristically bad game going 0-4 with two strikeouts. I can't remember the last time he struckout twice in a game. Cuddyer also was an o-fer going down four times and twice on strikes as well. I'm not nearly as concerned about those two however as they are each hitting .324 for the season, not .132 like someone I wont name (Punto)... On a positive note Jason Bartlett got the nod at short and not only played an error free game at short but also had a base hit raising his average to a solid. 089. Seriously though, he did a good job getting deep into counts, made contact, and got a base hit, good for him.

The one real bright spot for the Twins tonight was Justin Morneau who hit his fourth homerun of the season, a ball which I believe pierced the roof of the Metrodome and is currently in low-earth orbit. In all sincerity, there wasn't a millimeter of that ball he missed... completely crushed. He also added a double in the ninth. Its good to see him get going again after a bit of a slump since the Baltimore series, hopefully he carries it over.

Thursday, April 12, 2007

Recap 4/12/2007 Twins 3, Devil Rays 2

Boxscore 4/12/2007 Twins 3, Devil Rays 2

What an emotional roller-coaster of a game, this one had it all.

You can say a lot of things about Carlos Silva: you can mention his ghastly 2006 season where he registered a 5.94 ERA while allowing 246 hits in 180 innings, or his 11.06 ERA coming out of spring training this season. The truth is the man hasn't been right since his 2005 campaign where he pitched 188 innings with a 3.44 ERA. What you can't say is anything bad about his season through his first two starts. Thats not because you need to lay off him to protect his fragile emotions as Gardenhire did all last year, but because he's been inconceivably good. In his first 11 2/3 innings pitched this year he's allowed all of one run for a 0.77 ERA. His first start in Chicago in freezing temperatures was very nice as he went five innings in the freezing cold allowing just one run. He sinker was sinking and the White Sox hitters were pounding it into the ground. Today he was even better. The Devil Rays came into town averaging 5.75 runs per game over their first 8 contests and Silva shut them down. He did give up seven hits and walk two but he did a good job of scattering the base runners and no one reached third while he was pitching. I could complain that his sinker didn't look as good tonight as it did in his first game but whenever a pitcher goes nearly seven scoreless I try not to nit-pick.

By contrast the Twins usually un-hittable bullpen was whacked by the Rays when Juan Rincon took the mound in the eighth. Rincon was clearly never in the game as his very first pitch was a home run by Ty Wigginton. Following the homerun Delmon Young singled sharply up the middle on Rincon's third pitch and Iwamura walked. After a strikeout of Dioneer Navarro, Carlos Pena single to right scoring Young and leaving runner on first and third. That was the end of Rincon's night. Sadly in just 1/3 of an inning he managed to undo all of Carlos Silva's hard work meaning he ended up with a no-decision. After his 1 run in Chicago earned him the loss in that game it means he's been the victim of bad luck and an inept offense twice this season. Thankfully to say Pat Neshek managed to strikeout the next two Devil Rays to get out of the jam and limit the damage.

The Twins offense returned to it anemic ways tonight after a brief one-game respite. The only runs of the game were scored in the 4th innings when Joe Mauer singled and Michael Cuddyer unloaded on a 2-0 offering for his first homerun of the season. Then finally, after Silva's great game, Rincon's miserable collapse, and Cuddyer/Mauer's great defensive play to turn two the hard way in the ninth, Justin Morneau redeems himself after four terrible at-bats with a game-winning walk-off homerun to my seats in left.


- Silva was awesome. Sure he allowed 9 baserunner's in 6 2/3, but thats not too bad. In 11 2/3 he's allowed just one run and earned some slack from fans as well as his standing ovation tonight. Much like Ramon Ortiz, I don't know how long this can last but for now, good for him. Better for us.

- The bottom of the order combination of Jason Kubel and Josh Rabe has been good the last two games. Kubel has continued his hot hitting of this week going 2-3 with a couple more hard hit singles. Whats more, he's one of the few Twins willing to work the count.

- Josh Rabe had another base knock tonight. What I don't understand is why when he decideds to play both Rabe and Kubel, Gardenhire DH's Rabe who is clearly the superior fielder. However when you look at the numbers Kubel is clearly better when he fields, though the numbers from last year I'm going to show you could be misleading as most of his DH duty came in the second half when he was playing hurt which also coincided with his precipitous batting decline.

As DH; 19-89 (.194), 2 HR's, 7 RBI
AS LF; 31-97 (.320), 6 HR's , 18 RBI

If you projected his numbers as a left fielder out to a full 600 AB season thats 186 hits, and 36 homeruns and 108 RBI's. Not too shabby. I suppose if he can show he can put up those numbers over a full season, let him play in left, it won't be too much worse than it would be having Rondell White there.

- Despite not getting a hit tonight I think Alexi Casilla had another good game. Once again he was solid on defense and has still put the ball in play in each of his at-bats, thats more than can be said for Jason Bartlett.

- Pat Neshek got Elijah Dukes and Rocco Baldelli to strikeout to get out of a major jam in the eighth. Juan Rincon owes him dinner tonight.

- Justin Morneau after a terrible night at the plate proved his worth a game winning homerun, not surprisingly he took as many pitches in the final at bat (3) as he did in his first three at bats combined (2).

- Michael Cuddyer was good hitting a two-run homerun in the fourth which gave the Twins a lead they held until Rincon gave it away in the eighth. He also had a long AB in the eighth with Mauer on first which he lost when he popped up to first.


- Michael Cuddyer was bad seeing a total of four pitches in his first two outs. Ditto for Morneau, see above.

- Juan Rincon. I wrote about it earlier and theres not much else to say. Maybe his head was with his mother-in-law who just passed away, it certainly wasn't on making quality pitches.

- I'm officially calling for Nick Punto to be benched in favor of Luis Rodriguez. Simply put he's been way worse than even I thought he'd be, and I figured he'd hit about .220 this year. If he were hitting .220 right now I'd be thrilled, but he's not, he's hitting .147. For as many times as he's failed to get innings going for the Twins, he's ended just as many innings with strikeouts. I know we're looking at a small sample size but there has been absolutely NOTHING to suggest his year last year was anything but a fluke. He's striking out a lot, not getting bunts down, and the balls he puts in play have nearly all been harmless pop-ups or soft grounders. Tonight he was 0-4 and struckout with runners on 2nd and third to end the 5th inning. Enough is enough, ElRod deserves his chance if for no other reason than Punto is out of excuses. 34 AB's, 5 hits, 7 strikeouts. I know the counter-argument, "who do you play in the two hole?" Right now I don't care, put Kubel there, sure he can't run well, but at least he'll get on base and move guys along with his bat. Heck if Chris Hientz didn't get sent down I'd give him a shot at third base and second in the order, its not like he's going to do significantly worse. In case you can't tell, I'm steamed. This may have been amongst the worst signings T.R. has ever made.

- Torii Hunter was AWFUL tonight. I know with Hunter you've got to take the good (Homers, doubles and defense) with the bad (impatience at the plate, strikeouts, and GIDP's so routine its a standing joke between people to guess where and when he'll bounce into one and kill an inning,) and tonight was classic Hunter. 1-3 with a double in the second and he saw a total of 5 pitches in those three at-bats. 5 pitches... good hitters see five pitches each at-bat on average. In taking so few pitches he not only hurts his batting average but the team as well because those short at-bats extend the duration a starting pitcher is able to go. And against teams like the Devil Rays who have one of the worst bullpens in baseball, every hitter should go to the plate with the understanding that they need to extend their plate appearances and get the starting pitcher out of the game. I keep wondering how good he could be if he'd just see 3.5 pitches per at-bat, but at this point in his career you know it'll never happen.

New Faces

The Twins began this year by disappointing a large number of fans with some of their roster moves, like deciding to keep Silva in the starting rotation instead of giving Garza another chance. Also disappointing to people were that players like Kevin Slowey, Glen Perkins didn't get a chance with the club. The Twins explained that they had confidence in the veterans even as Silva's ERA ballooned too 11.00+. So far the Twins veterans have proved their mettle pitching well in every contest except Sir Sidney's contest against the Yankees (I'm not including Bonser in the 'veterans' category) which he could be forgiven for since the Yankees have shelled just about every pitcher thats been sent to face them this year except Ramon Ortiz. Even though Ponson was hit hard in that game, you'd be hard pressed to find a Twins writer who wouldn't say that his game could have been much better than it was. He had a number of balls find holes and his defense was shaky behind him.

That said, there have been a number of troublesome issues for the Twins early this season. And while many fans remember the debacle that was last years first two months, the Twins seem determined to do everything they can to avoid a similar slow start. One of the biggest problems has been at shortstop, a position I think few people expected to be a point of concern. Sure people we're worried about the team's depth but I don't believe many would have thought Jason Bartlett's bat or glove would have been as big of liabilities as they've been. At the dish Bartlett has just one hit in twenty at-bats and in the field he's committed four errors (and misplayed a handful of others). In response the Twins brought up 2nd base/shortstop prospect Alexi Casilla. In his first start Casilla went 1-3 with a single to center and was robber of a double or triple on a fantastic diving play by Doug Mientkiewscz at first in his final at bat. He was also solid in the field making all of the routine plays that Bartlett had been struggling with.

A little background on Casilla. He's 22 years old, born in the baseball player factory that is San Cristobal Dominican Republic, and was acquired in another good move by Terry Ryan (I never get tired of saying that) in the J.C. Romero trade with the Angels in 2005. He projects as a near Luis Castillo clone, and thankfully to say a much younger Luis Castillo with non-arthritic knees. He'll show a good, patient eye at the plate, play solid defense and slap the ball around the field. He also has league leading stolen base potential once he learns the art more. If he continues to develop the skills above he could be a major league player for a long time.

Another new face this year is Josh Rabe. Rabe isn't actually an entirely new face as he played with the big club last year hitting .286 with 3 homeruns in 49 at-bats over 24 games. A 29 year old left fielder who played his college ball at Division II Quincy University and was drafted in the 11th round of the 200 amateur draft, Rabe is replacing Rondell White who went on the disabled list. Rabe brings a solid bat against lefties, hitting .375 in 24 at-bats last year as well as playing solid left field. He'll likely split time with Jason Kubel in left field, with Kubel batting on days a right hander pitches, and Rabe when a southpaw makes the start.

The last new player the Twins have added to the major league roster is one of the aforementioned pitchers, though not the one I think most Twins fans would want. Glen Perkins will be coming up and will likely be a long reliever out of the bullpen assisting Matt Guerrier who's seen more action this year than I imagine Gardy would like. The reason for bringing Perkins up has to do with a few factors such as the Twins heavy reliance on the bullpen so far this season, as well as an injury to Jesse Crain, and the death of Juan Rincon's mother in law. Crain is expected to miss a couple games with shoulder soreness, "I think I just have a little tendinitis," Crain said. Since my girlfriend has, "just a little tendinitis," right now and is in constant pain, I'm curious how much tendinitis he'll need to be 'really hurt.' Rincon is expected to be gone anywhere from 1-3 days attending to his family.

As for Perkins he's a 5-11, 200LB southpaw who throws three pitches, a fastball from 90-94, a curve and a changeup. He's known as a fly ball pitcher with the ability to strike guys out. He pitched well in a limited role at the end of last season and hopefully will be a capable arm at the major league level as either a bottom half of the rotation starter or long reliever. I project him out as Eric Milton. Though hopefully we'll get at least a few years of the good Eric Milton vs the Eric Milton we gave the Reds.

Wednesday, April 11, 2007

Recap 4/11/2007 Twins 5, Yankees 1

Boxscore-4/11/2007 Twins 5, Yankees 1

I came into this game essentially resigned to the belief that the Twins were going to face down Tampa Bay with a 4-4 record. I justified my pessimism with the "knowledge" that Ortiz, a fly ball pitcher would get slaughtered worse than either Sidney Ponson or Boof Bonser. Even if Ortiz did have a good game (ie: less than 5 runs in 7 innings) the anemic Twins offense would surely spoil the opportunity. Well, proving all things in life are possible I was wrong. Don Imus type really wrong. Last night Ortiz delivered not just the best start of this series but perhaps the best start of the season, with the exception of Santana's gem against the White Sox and it came at an important time. Certainly I think its unreasonable for fans to assume that Ortiz will continue to be this good throughout the year, however if he can pitch even half as good as he has so far, while continuing to eat innings and deliver quality starts Terry Ryan will once again prove why he is perhaps the best GM in all of sports.

There are simply not enough ways to describe how good Ortiz was tonight. While he'll never strikeout hitters the way Johan Santana or Fransisco Liriano will, his game tonight was almost vintage Greg Maddux. He didn't have the same type of pin-point control as Maddux but he did a phenomenal job of working the strikezone in, out, up and, down all while mixing in all of his pitches. For the night he threw 95 pitches in eight masterful innings of work with 53 for strikes and 38 balls. Things were going so well tonight he even struck out long time nemisis Alex Rodiguez twice as well as Robinson Cano. The career fly ball pitcher lived up to his reputation with 7 ground outs to 13 fly outs but most were harmless pop flys in the infield or cans of corn to the corner outfielders.

The other big story of the game was the re-emergence of the Minnesota Twins offense which had been in hibernation for the first two games of this series and both games against the White Sox. On the night the Twins put up 11 hits, including two each from Cuddyer, Hunter, and Luis Rodriguez who got the start as the DH and delivered. More importantly the Twins started hitting with runners in scoring position. They came up short through the seventh inning with just one hit in seven opportunities but broke through in the eighth with four hits bringing in four Twins runs.


- Nick Punto hit a double and walked. More encouraging though were the quality of his at-bats as he started laying off pitches down in the zone and worked the count.

- Michael Cuddyer had two more singles in four at-bats driving in two runs with players in scoring position.

- Torii Hunter also went 2-4 with a pair of doubles and an RBI. He drove the ball to the opposite field and at least saw a few pitches in each at-bat.

- Jason Kubel, who was 2-4 with a pair of RBI singles the past two nights picked up where he left off going only 1-4 but was robbed by Robinson Cano on a ball I was certain was on its way to right-center.

- Luis Rodriguez went 2-4 with a pair of singles in a rare start.

- Alexi Casilla looked good at shortstop going 1-3 at the plate but putting the ball in play all three times. He was also robbed on a lined shot down the first base line by a diving Doug Mientkiewicz which could well have been a triple.


- Nothing really, but if pressed I'd say that the M&M boys didn't have great games going 2-7, but they did each drive in critical runs in the eighth. But still, 2-7 with a couple RBI's isn't bad.

Tuesday, April 10, 2007

Game Notes and Recap 4/10/2007 Twins 1 - Yankees 10

One night after Sir Sidney got severely served, Boof Bonser got Bronx bombed. I came into this game feeling decidedly non-optimistic and my worst fears were quickly realized as the Yankees put up 3 runs in the first inning, two of which came on Alex Rodriguez's monstrous homerun to left. Thankfully to say I got to attend the game with fellow MNSG writer and good friend Mike Pahl who contributes for the Vikings.

Although I didn't write a recap for last nights game, I do think that I should say that despite the final line, I thought that Sidney Ponson pitched fairly well. He induced a number of ground balls which were either poorly played or found holes as well as breaking a couple of bats which still fell in for hits. Of course he didn't help matters by allowing two bombs by Rodriguez and Bobby Abreu, but the run total could have and should have been much lower than they were. For as bad as Ponson fared, I was certain that Bonser would have at least as much if not more trouble than his sinkerballing counter-part. I wasn't too far off. While Boof didn't give up as many hits or runs, he was no more effective. Boof, like Ponson, did have some success in the middle innings but against a tough Yankees lineup getting behind at all can spell doom. That small margin for error is obviously exaggerated when your team has hit just .161 in their last three games and just.177 in the series.

One disturbing stat for Twins fans. On the season the Twins are just 12/57-.210 with runners in scoring position if you take away leadoff man Luis Castillo's 4/5. Even if you include that, they're hitting a paltry .258. Even worse, middle of the order hitter Mauer, Morneau, Cuddyer, and Hunter are hitting just 6/33-.181.

That very important stat came into play both today and yesterday as the Twins have consistently failed to capitalize on the few opportunities that they've generated. In the third inning of todays game for example, Cuddyer led off with a double off the 3rd base bag which was followed by a Morneau grounder to second, and strikeouts by Hunter and Rabe. Again in the fourth inning Punto and Mauer led off with singles and then Cuddyer grounded into a double play and Morneau bounced to 1st to end the inning. In the seventh Morneau and Hunter led off with walks and Rabe and Redmond flew out before Jason Kubel got his second hit in four at-bats against the Yankees, again driving in a run. Luis Castillo with runners on first and second then grounded out to end the inning. Even if the Twins would have capitalized on these opportunities it obviously wouldn't have won them the game. But failing to do so over a prolonged period will end up costing this team wins.

While Boof's final line for the evening, 4 1/3 innings, 6 hits, 6 earned runs is bad, the twins have a larger long-term problem brewing in the bullpen as Dennys Reyes has really struggled so far this season. In three innings this season he's allowed 8 hits, walked three and allowed 5 earned runs. No one expected Reyes to duplicate his numbers from last year, but I don't think many people would have thought that he'd have been this bad so early in the season. On a positive note, Pat Neshek put together another nice inning for the Twins striking out two, including righty Derek Jeter and getting through the seventh in order.

The other big news for the Twins today was the appearance of a couple 'new' faces. Josh Rabe and Alexi Casilla both were called up after the club placed both Jeff Cirillo and Rondell White on the 15 day disabled list. I for one am excited about both. Casilla reminds me of a young Luis Castillo and Rabe should be able to play solid defense and provide a capable bat against lefties as he went 9/24-.375 with two home runs against LHP in 2006.


- Jason Kubel is 2/4 in his last two games but has driven in a run with both of his hits and has really been making solid contact, lining out in the two plate appearances he failed to reach base.

- Pat Neshek has looked great so far this year allowing just 1 hit in 3 2/3 innings.

- Mauer's bionic swing is in mid-season form and he doesn't seem to have skipped a beat since last year. Also good news is that he's started every game at catcher and hasn't reported any issues with his leg since he had his stress reaction this spring.


- The team is hitting .258 with runners in scoring postion.

- Justin Morneau has as many strikeouts as hits (6)

- Torii Hunter is hitting .208 with as many hits as strikeouts (5)

- Jason Bartlett, who few expected to struggle looks completely lost at the plate, hitting .050 which would seem like a typo but it's not. He's also struck out 5 times.

- Nick Punto who some people expected to struggle is batting just .148 with 6 strikeouts.

Simply put there are holes at the top, middle and bottom of the order and thats a really bad way to play baseball. Except for Mauer of course, because he hits everything.

Tomorrow we get to see how Ramon Ortiz fares. I imagine he'll pitch a lot like Bonser, but end up with a stat line more like Ponson's. Hopefully he can hang in for 6 innings though because once again the starters are failing to get deep into games and the bullpen is really being taxed. If your a fan of A-Rod's tune in, Rodriguez is a career .333 hitter off Ortiz (16/48) and half of those hits have left the yard. He also sports a serviceable 1.310 OPS. Bombs away!

Sunday, April 8, 2007

Game Notes and Recap 4/8/2007 Twins 3- White Sox 1

Boxscore-April 8, Twins 3, White Sox 1

On a day spent by many wishing, "happy Easter," to friends and family, Johan Santana was wishing the entire state of Minnesota a happy Easter. In doing so he ruined the White Sox day as he allowed just one hit, a blip to Michael Cuddyer in right field by Joe Crede in the second inning. However, despite the impressive final line Santana did struggle in the early going as he walked three batters in the first two innings before settling down and retiring the final seventeen batters he faced. Coming into the game Ozzie Guillen, clearly desperate to try to find a way to solve the Santana riddle decided to load up his lineup with left handed hitters. While it seems counter-intuitive Santana has actually fared worse against lefties than righties allowing a .230 BAA to lefties and a .218 BAA to righties. People much more intelligent than me like Aaron Gleeman attribute this to his changeup. Of course, when your talking about career BAA's below .230, 'success' becomes a very relative term.

As for the bullpen they had their second straight 'rough game,' once again, the term is very relative. After allowing two innings in last nights contest, Jesse Crain allowed a solo homerun for the only White Sox run of the game. After eight shutout innings against the Orioles the Twins have allowed 3 runs in six innings to the White Sox. While this certainly doesn't spell gloom and doom I'm a bit concerned about how effective Dennys Reyes may be this year. After being a journeyman reliever for his career and posting such a great season last year you have to wonder whether or not team within the division are going to be used to him now and perhaps he'll come crashing back down to earth.

As for the Twins offense tonight, it was the middle of the order doing what they're paid to do. Between Batting Champ, MVP and Cuddybear the Twins went 5-11 with all three runs coming on MVP's second homerun of the season. After a slow first couple games Cuddyer is suddenly leading the team in batting with a .412 average despite having only one extra base hit, a double and two RBI's as the cleanup hitter.

On a down note, two of the hitters who made the Twins so successful last year, Jason Bartlett and Nick Punto have come tumbling back down to Earth so far this season hitting a combined 4-35 (.114). If the Twins intend to compete this season, those two players will NEED to be contributors this year, getting on base, stealing bases, and scoring runs. I don't want to sound the alarm too loudly as obviously one week of baseball is a long way from a definitive sample size, but it's certainly something that needs to be noticed. In Bartlett's case, with Alejandro Machado on the DL and unproven, it's conceivable if he continues to struggle that the Twins may be forced to use Alexi Casilla. However, if Punto turns back into his old self, having Jeff Cirillo as a backup at third, though not ideal is a decent fall back option.

Despite the bullpen struggling, the top and bottom of the order having a couple holes, the Twins are 4-1 so far, and thats not so bad. Next up, Yankees baby. Look for me in left, I'll be that guy harassing Melky Cabrera, and if Will Young gets his way, maybe even pulling a Bobby Knight (check his WPA chart for April7).