Monday, July 21, 2008

Pitching, Yankees and Bert's Favorite Teams

Frank: The last week was another great one for the Minnesota Twins. It started last Monday night when slugger Justin Morneau won the home run derby at the All-Star festivities. Not bad for a guy from a small ball team. Then it continued the next night with all three Twins representatives getting in the All-Star Game. Catcher Joe Mauer got the start, calling the first pitch of the game. First baseman Morneau got the finish almost five hours later, when in the bottom of the 15th inning he tagged from third and slid home just ahead of the throw with the winning run for the American League. In between, closer Joe Nathan pitched a perfect inning and the M & M boys went 3-5 with two walks and two runs scored. Not bad representation for a small market team.

As the first full week of the second half of the season gets underway tonight in New York, starting pitcher Nick Blackburn goes against the Yankees for the first time since Abreu knocked him out of the game on June 1 with a wicked line drive off his mouth and nose. Will the memories affect him more tonight than they have for the last month and a half? Did you ever get hit by a ball? How do pitchers deal with memories like that?

Bert: I was very fortunate that over my 23 years of throwing the baseball to the world’s greatest hitters that I was never hit by a line drive above the waist area. I was hit several times by line drives in my legs but never hard enough to make me come out of a game. What happened to Nick was a pitcher’s nightmare. Being hit in the head is always a fear you have when you stand 60' 6" away from home plate. Nick was very lucky, if I can use the word lucky, that the ball hit back up the middle deflected off his glove to slow it down just a little bit. Still the ball hit him near his nose and Nick had to leave the game. I'm sure he will remember that when he faces Abreu in New York but he also needs to realize that it could happen at any time when you are on the mound. Fear is not a bad thing when you can use it to your advantage. Knowing that a line drive could be hit back at you at any time keeps you aware of your surroundings.
Sidney Ponson has always had some of his best games against the Twins so let's just hope his nasty sinker isn't sinking tonight.

Frank: This weekend the second half divisional battles begin, as the Twins play 10 games in 10 days -- beginning Friday night in Cleveland -- against the Indians and the Chicago White Sox. How much of the focus that is obviously required by the playoff chase could be drawn away by the Francisco Liriano situation? Any chance that the Twins would part ways with 33 year-old veteran Livan Hernandez and his 5.30 ERA to let Liriano join the quartet of younger pitchers and their combined 3.73 ERA? Or is a six man starting staff possible?

Bert: I sure hope that the Twins don't go to a six-man rotation. Pitching once a week cannot and will not benefit the starting staff. All the Twins starters rely on their control and an extra day’s rest might make them feel too strong at the beginning of their starts, which would affect their control. This is especially true for pitchers like Livan Hernandez and Nick Blackburn, who rely on their sinkers to get hitters out. As a former starting pitcher, I would rather have a little bit of a tired arm than a stronger arm because I would have to rely on movement and control rather than overpowering the baseball.
Liriano will just have to wait his turn. He started the season with the Twins’ starting staff but we all saw he wasn't quite ready after having the Tommy John surgery. He was sent down to Triple-A Rochester to build his arm strength back and it sounds like he has done that. Francisco just wants to compete back at the Major League level because of his recent success in Rochester and wants another chance. To me there is nothing wrong with this, except that he and his agent went to the Players Association and the media to state their case. What are the Twins going to do? Eliminate one of the current starters? WHO? All the starters have done a great job and the main reason the Twins are in the race is because the starters have been very consistent. But isn't it nice knowing that "IF" something should happen to one of the starters that Liriano is in the wings waiting for another shot?

Frank: As the Twins wrap up our final trip ever to the current Yankee Stadium (the new stadium is being built on an adjacent lot and will share the name, but not the history) Wednesday afternoon, what do you think you can steal from the announcing booth or the stadium for me? Seriously now, let's talk about your favorite memories of, as Babe Ruth put it, some ballyard. This week you don't have to focus on home runs you allowed there, unless that's all you remember! Do you have a favorite statue or plaque, or any stories about all the retired jerseys?

Bert: To be honest with you Frank I was never a huge Yankee fan. Growing up in California I was more of a Dodgers and Angels fan. The Yankees were just the team that seemed to always win the World Series year after year, but as a kid falling in love with baseball, I loved watching and listening to the local teams’ games with my dad. He was a huge Dodgers fan. Having the opportunity to pitch in Yankee Stadium was a great thrill, but pitching in front of my parents in Anaheim and Los Angeles was a greater thrill for me. So when we leave Yankees Stadium on Wednesday, I will remember more the great players I got to pitch against that wore the Yankee uniform than what the stadium meant in Yankees history and baseball history. I can maybe try and get you a souvenir from the monument area out by the bullpens. How about Yogi Berra's plaque?

Have a great day and Go Twins!

Frank: I have heard that nobody ever goes out there to view his plaque, because it’s always so crowded (A paraphrase of my favorite of many famous quotes by Yogi.)
The Twins keep climbing the charts in batting average, slugging percentage, on base percentage, and other categories. The continuation of this offense is one of many things to look for that would help the Twins “Go” this week.

Check out the Twins on FSN North this week:

Monday, July 21: vs. NY Yankees

Tuesday, July 22: vs. NY Yankees

Wednesday, July 23: vs. NY Yankees

Friday, July 25: vs Cleveland

Saturday, July 26: vs Cleveland


twinswin08&09 said...

hey bert, i am a adved twins fan and i just wanted to know what do you think is the reason for the twins latest slump?

twinswin09 said...

hey bert why is it that justin got no attention for winning the dearby and that if halmition won it would be like one of the greates comebacks ever