Frank: The Minnesota Twins capped off an exciting week yesterday with a 6-5 victory over the perennially powerful New York Yankees, splitting a four-game series. Including the three-game sweep in Kansas City last week, we went 5-2 in the last seven days, a very good week. The team keeps scoring runs at an impressive clip; I asked Bert if we could keep it going:
The Twins were struggling to score runs early in the season, and I asked you a question about it. You told me to be patient and give the offense time to heat up. Well now, I guess you were right in predicting things would improve; it's funny how those 23 years of Major League experience pay off. Through the end of April, we had only averaged 3.8 runs a game, near the bottom of the league. But since then we have turned it on, scoring 5.5 times per outing to move up to fourth in the league in runs scored. Hitters like Carlos Gomez, Alexi Casilla, Joe Mauer, Justin Morneau, and Mike Lamb have raised their batting averages significantly, some just recently. Can we keep it going against the American League East? How about the Central; will we score enough to better our already impressive 18-9 division record?
Bert: Before I respond to your questions and comments, I just want to let everyone know that Nick Blackburn had x-rays and the ball that the Yankees‘ Bobby Abreu hit back at him was deflected just a little bit by Nick's glove and probably saved him from losing some teeth and maybe even more damage. We all are thankful he was not hurt worse than he was, especially Abreu, because no hitter wants to see this happen.
Yes, Frank, you need to listen to older people. We have been through the battles and we know that things aren’t always as bad as they seem, when time is on your side. The Twins offense took some time to come together, but the patience of Twins manager Ron Gardenhire and his staff is paying off. Will the offense continue to improve in runs averaged per game? Time will tell!
Frank: The Twins have some young, pitchers in the rotation. And while Boof Bonser and Scott Baker are not veterans like Livan Hernandez, they were the most experienced starters we had until signing Hernandez. Right now, Kevin Slowey, Glen Perkins, and Nick Blackburn are all pitching really well. Their ERA’s are all under 4.00. Tonight Slowey takes the mound at the Metrodome against the Baltimore Orioles, and then Wednesday night it's Perkins. Friday night will be Blackburn's turn at US Cellular field in Chicago, as he takes on the rival White Sox. What do you think of these young men and their ability to keep the ball in the ballpark? Do you think they can keep up the great work? Of the three, who is eligible for Rookie of the Year?
Bert: The starting pitching has had their ups and downs throughout the season. Giving up home runs is a part of the game and I always say, “Just make sure they are solo if you can help it!” The young pitchers will be hot and cold throughout the season, but that's what a 162-day schedule will bring them. Baker looks like he might return to the rotation this week, so we will have to wait and see what moves the Twins make to clear room in the rotation for him. Blackburn is my choice for Rookie of the Year right now over Slowey (who is not even eligible) and Perkins. But again, even though I probably sound like a broken record, time will tell!
Frank: Well, I think you forget that the vinyl record is a thing of the past! Music is all on newfangled electronic stuff these days! Speaking of which, here is a new fangle:
With Boof Bonser heading to the bullpen as fellow right-hander Scott Baker returns to the team Thursday after rehabilitating from a groin injury, the Twins lose an anchor of the starting rotation, one who has been there for a couple years and 60 starts. Could you discuss the new role he will have as a reliever? I remember hearing you and Dick talking once about the difficulty for a starter to adjust to coming out of the bullpen, why is that? It seems like pitching is pitching. Do you think that Boof will be able to adjust?
Bert: What will the Twins do when Scott Baker comes back? Since Boof is the starter who has struggled the most, it does look like he would be the likely candidate to head to the bullpen. That would mean 13 pitchers on the 25 player staff for the Twins! Way too many pitchers to try and keep happy! Boof is out of options and the Twins don't want to lose him. The only good news is that for the first time in a long time, the Twins have too many starting pitchers. Remember too that Francisco Liriano is getting stronger in Triple-A. I can tell you one thing and that is that Boof Bonser does not want to be a reliever and he will not be happy going to the bullpen. It's just one more thing for pitching coach Rick Anderson to try and figure out how to keep his pitchers focused.
Frank: Maybe Bonser needs a mentor . . . his team could do a lot worse than hooking him up with a draft pick this week (before the real amateur draft):
The Twins will take part this Thursday in a ceremonial draft of surviving Negro League players. The Negro Leagues, for those who don't know, were comprised of the racially segregated baseball teams that existed before the integration of the sport. They were founded in 1920 in Kansas City, and operated until 1960. So being almost 50 years old, there aren’t many survivors But the Twins found a native of the Midwest, Bill Bell, to draft. Bell -- from Des Moines, Iowa -- pitched for the Kansas City Monarchs. I don’t suppose you know anything about Bell, but what do you know about the Negro Leagues in general? . I remember buying a fascinating book titled “Only the Ball was White” at the Negro Leagues Museum, also in Kansas City.
Bert: Over my playing career I the opportunity to play with many African-American players. Baseball, through this year’s amateur draft, is honoring many of the black players that didn't get a chance to play in the Major Leagues until Jackie Robinson and the Brooklyn Dodgers broke the color barrier. This is a great thing that baseball is doing to remember these terrific athletes. I have never met Bill Bell but I can only guess that he will be very excited to sit at the Twins table during the draft!
Frank: Right fielder Michael Cuddyer is coming out of a slump -- which saw his batting average drop to .228 with just one home run and 19 RBI in 36 games -- that followed his three weeks spent on the disabled list, recovering from a finger injury. During the Yankees series, Cuddyer had nine hits in 18 at-bats (a .500 average), with his second homer of the year and six runs driven in. His continued offensive production is one of many things to look forward to that would help the Twins this week:
1) A quality start from Scott Baker – who starts again Thursday, four weeks after going on the disabled list with a strained groin muscle. He has been rehabilitating in the minors; and now he is ready to come back.
2) Continued production, not only from Cuddyer, but also from Joe Mauer, who hit his first home run of the season last night, and Delmon Young, who drove in the winning run yesterday with one of his three RBI doubles.
3) A triumphant return to the mound Friday night in Chicago for Nick Blackburn, who left the field in horror Sunday at the Metrodome. Ditto for Kevin Slowey tonight, who threw the first complete game of his career last week in Kansas City
Check out the Twins on FSN North this week:
Tuesday: vs. Baltimore, 6:30PM
Wednesday: vs. Baltimore, 6:30 PM
Friday: vs. Chicago White Sox, 6:30 PM
Saturday: vs. Chicago White Sox, 5:30PM