Monday, April 28, 2008

Time Off & May Day Baskets

Frank: Well, here is a brief recap of the weeklong road trip by the Minnesota Twins to Oakland and Texas: the Twins had a disappointing week, winning only one of three games in each series. The San Francisco Treat was set to Rochester, is now the Rochester Treat (would that be Mayo?). That’s right, Francisco Liriano has been sent to Triple-A Rochester. Now for the positives of the week: First of all was the opening of the floodgates that I talked about last week. For the first 18 games of the season, two Twins had homered – Jason Kubel and Justin Morneau. But Brendan Harris and Craig Monroe joined them in back-to-back games and then Carlos Gomez got in on the fun Thursday.

But more important was the return of outfielder Michael Cuddyer from injury. He joined the team Friday in Texas, and immediately made an impact. He started an unconventional double play with his first (of many, no doubt) outfield assist of the year to stop the bleeding and keep the score tied. After five runs had scored on six consecutive hits -- before Nick Blackburn recorded the first out of the third inning – Cuddyer fielded the seventh, a double by Jason Botts, off the right field wall and fired to second. Nick Punto relayed the ball home, where Joe Mauer was waiting to tag the runner who had started the play at second base (not first!). Mauer then threw to Mike Lamb at third base, where he tagged out Botts. The old 9-6-2-5, started by none other than Michael Cuddyer. He added his name to the homer list his second game back, showing his enormous all-around impact. So seven games later, the number of players who have gone deep has tripled to six. Tripling probably won’t happen again, because not many American League pitchers have that much pop in their bats (or opportunity to show it)!

Now for the potential positives: The spread of productivity needs to continue, with Delmon Young, Joe Mauer and Mike Lamb getting on that list. The impact of Michael Cuddyer should be felt more and more, as he plays himself back into shape. I asked Bert about another upcoming positive.

Frank: The Twins have three days off out of eight, including today. Can you, with your insight as a former starting pitcher, tell us about what the extra rest does for the pitching staff, be it good or bad. Manager Ron Gardenhire made it sound like it could be an interesting starting rotation. Why would that be? Did it change when Liriano got sent down to Class Triple-A Rochester, leaving the Twins with just four starters? What about the bullpen, which was roughed up in Detroit? Will the days off help them against the division rivals, the White Sox and the Tigers?

Bert: With the Twins having three days off over the next eight days, I don't think it will hurt the starting staff at all. The Twins decided that Francisco Liriano needed to be sent down to the minors, and I bet having the off days helped them make their decision. Right now the Twins have and only need four starters for the next two weeks. Kevin Slowey is going through rehab in the minor leagues right now, and when they need a fifth starter again, look for Kevin to rejoin the team. The days off will help Rick Anderson, Twins pitching coach, keep the current four starters on schedule. You win pennants with your horses -- meaning your starting pitchers -- and with three off days and only four starters, it helps getting those horses back to the mound more quickly. If there was a fifth starter it would mean that your numbers 1-3 starters would have more time between starts. Also, any off day during the season is great for the relief pitchers, because they are usually up in the bullpen every game. Off days help keep the relievers fresh.

Frank: Yes, that might be especially important this week, as we take on division rivals. During the off-season, the Detroit Tigers loaded up with all-stars, making several additions to an already imposing lineup. But picked to win the division, they have been an enigma so far this season. They lost their first seven games; then they beat up the Twins bullpen twice in a row, prompting you to say repeatedly, "Did we wake a sleeping giant?" But I think we actually only slightly nudged them, and the Tigers went just 4-6 over the next two weeks. But last week they started living up to their team nickname, clawing four in a row by a combined score of 42-11 (This question was written before the Angels series, which Detroit lost while scoring just 11 runs in the three games.) The giant is awake now, huh? Will it help the Twins enough to be at home and better rested when they battle the beast this weekend, rather than in Detroit on the last leg of a 9-day, 3-city road trip?

Bert: The Twins start this homestand against the Chicago White Sox, who are leading the American League Central Division. It's a short 2-game series, but an important one for the Twins. The two teams split the earlier series in cold and windy Chicago. It was suppose to be a 3-game series but the last game was rained out and will be made up on Monday, June 9 in Chicago. The White Sox are playing good baseball right now and the Twins need to show them they can play with them. It's important for the Twins to beat the teams in their own division since they will be facing all the teams in their division 18 times each. The Tigers will be doing the same thing the Twins will be trying to do, and that is to get back to the .500 mark for their record. Yes, the Tigers have a great offense but, as I will say in almost all our blog entries together, winning will come down to starting pitching. Their starters and their bullpen will be question marks for their success this season. Until the likes of Verlander, Bonderman, Robertson and Rogers are more consistent, it might be a tough job for the offense to score more runs than the starters give up. Their bullpen has missed the arms of Rodney and Zumaya, who have been on the disabled list.

The Twins are 6-6 so far at home and they will have to have a winning record if they want to compete in their division. The old saying is play .500 on the road and play about .700 at home.

Frank: I am really excited about this homestand, but you’re going to miss part of it?! I have heard that you are at your home in Florida right now (as of Sunday night). Please tell me, and other Twins fans, that you won't go circling anyone down there, unless you are at a Twins minor league game! The last day of your vacation is Thursday, May 1, also known as May Day. Have you ever given anyone a May basket (Back when I was in elementary school, it was a tradition to fill baskets with candy or flowers, and give them to friends - sometimes those of the opposite sex. I think that this tradition is on the way out, but I wish it were not.)? Any stories? Should I fill one for your mother-in-law, after I ran with your joke last week comparing her to a seal?
Bert: I am taking off the only game we are televising against the Chicago White Sox, Tuesday night. With Wednesday not a TV game and Monday and Thursday off, I am flying to Florida to spend the four days at home. Maybe I will work on my golf game a couple of days and make sure that the lawn is getting enough water. To be honest with you, Frank, I have never heard of May Day. I will have to ask my wife Gayle if she has ever heard of this very important day! If she has, I will almost have to buy my mother-in-law a basket of goodies, since I dropped the seal on her. How about a basket of fresh fish? You are hereby "Circled."

Frank: We will try to survive without you and your circles, but I don’t know if Boof can do it when you are not there praising the tight rotation of his curve ball; we will see . . . If you golf like I’m guessing you do, you might be able to water your lawn with your golf balls after a round! You have never heard of May Day? Oh yeah, I forgot, you grew up in Southern California! Do they even have Long John Silver’s in Florida? Well, that purchase might not be so fresh.

Watch the Twins on FSN North this week:
Tuesday, April 29: vs. Chicago White Sox at 6:30
Friday, May 2: vs. Detroit Tigers at 6:30
Saturday, May 3: vs. Detroit Tigers at 12:30

Don’t miss the Kids in the City Celebration at the Metrodome this Thursday, May 1 with host Michael Cuddyer and other Twins players including Craig Monroe and Nick Punto!

Tickets are still available: please visit http://www.boys/ and or call 612-435-1916 for additional information and to purchase tickets!

Kids in the City: a celebration of the accomplishments of the Boys and Girls Club youth. Mingle with professional sports celebrities, college athletes, team mascots and other special guests. Games, food, silent auction and raffle!

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