Frank: What a Treat! Even during his phenomenal rookie season of 2006, Francisco Liriano was never more saintly than he was Sunday at the Metrodome, producing a litany of six shutout innings to take the lead as the Minnesota Twins went marching into first place in the American League Central Division. Another great week for the Twins was capped off by the return of the real “San Francisco Treat.”
We talked last week about home field advantage. The Twins certainly enjoyed the weeklong home stand, taking the division lead, and this week we hit the road for series against the only two American League teams with losing home records. Will these series, at the Seattle Mariners and Kansas City Royals, be easy for the Twins to win? If not, will it be even harder without injured second baseman Alexi Casilla? Will new call-up Randy Ruiz have an impact against lefties, starting with Jarrod Washburn Wednesday afternoon?
Bert: You take nothing for granted in the game of baseball. Even though the Mariners and the Royals have losing records the Twins need to continue to take one game at a time and try to win each series. Seattle has had a tough year. Some baseball experts had them competing with the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim (a mouth full), but that hasn’t happened and right now they have the worst record in the American League. This will be the first time the Twins have seen the Mariners and we play them nine times this month, in two three-game series in Seattle and one three-game series at the Dome. The Royals seem to always play well against the Twins, even though the Twins have won seven of the first nine meetings with them. It will be the last time the Twins will be in Kansas City this season. Too bad because I love the ballpark there! The good thing is that the Twins are 5-1 in Kansas City so far this season.
Livan Hernandez and Craig Monroe were released by the Twins to make room for LHP Francisco Liriano and right-handed power hitter Randy Ruiz. Good move by the Twins! Liriano is ready to show now that he belongs again at the Major League level; and good for Randy Ruiz! He has spent 10 years in the minors and has played for eight different organizations, and finally he gets an opportunity in the majors. I love hearing stories about guys that don't give up on their dreams. Ruiz played on Friday night against the Cleveland Indians, and in his third Major League at bat he singled to right field against LHP Jeremy Sowers for his first Major League hit. Congratulations to him for his dedication and commitment to baseball! Hopefully he can continue to hit LHP because that's one reason the Twins released Craig Monroe.
Frank: With one of the roster moves made by the Twins last week, releasing Livan Hernandez and promoting Francisco Liriano to take his spot on the starting staff, the team completed the young rotation many have wanted for a while. As a former starting pitcher, do you think that Hernandez achieved the goals the Twins had when we signed him last winter? Why was he released a day after the trade deadline instead of being traded for something? Is Liriano ready? How long will it take for him to adjust to the major leagues? Will his April experience help him adjust more quickly?
Bert: I'm sure the Twins tried to trade Livan Hernandez and Craig Monroe before the trading deadline but you have to have someone interested in picking up their remaining salary to trade them. Once the trading deadline passed the Twins decided to make their move. I feel that Hernandez did a good job for the Twins’ starting rotation but it was time to make a move because it looks like Francisco is ready and Livan had really struggled lately. I wish Hernandez and Monroe nothing but the best. They represented the Twins organization with class. I also believe the young pitchers will do a good job the remainder of the season without the veteran leadership of Hernandez. The young pitchers had four months, plus spring training, to watch how Livan got hitters out by mainly changing speeds and using the corners on the plate.
Frank: Last time you spent an off day in Kansas City, we talked about Gates BBQ, and how you love to eat barbecue when you are there. But I know that you are also a big burger fan. So, have you ever been to Winstead's? It's an old favorite spot in KC; is there any chance that you won't go there for a meal this Thursday? I would recommend that after your "steakburger," you finish off the meal with a malt or a chocolate "frosty," a drink that eats like a meal (They recommend using a spoon.)
Bert: If the malt or the chocolate "frosty" drink eats like a meal, then why would I need a burger? Are you trying to get me fatter? If I have time I will try and eat at Winstead's. I know I am playing golf on the off day in KC so maybe that can be my evening meal. Thanks for the tip. But I'm sure I will also make a trip to Gates!
Go Twins and you be safe.
Frank: Slugger Justin Morneau had a huge series against the Chicago White Sox, going
5 for 14 with two home runs and 10 RBIs. His continued offensive production is one of many things to look for that would help the Twins “Go” this week. Here are some other things:
1) The home run production as a whole picked up last week, with seven in seven games. But it’s probably not the return of the Homerdome, as we are tied for last in the league in long balls. However, keeping it up on the road might help ease the pressure on our young starting pitchers.
2) Kevin Slowey tied the other three young starters with his seventh victory, briefly, last Monday. Glen Perkins passed him the following day; then things changed a lot Friday. First Francisco Liriano was called up to replace struggling veteran Livan Hernandez, meaning 26-year-old Scott Baker is now the father figure of the rotation. Then Nick Blackburn tied Perkins with his eighth win, the new team lead. Slowey will try to even his record, again, this weekend in Kansas City.
3) Michael Cuddyer is flying to Rochester, New York today to play a few games for the Triple-A Red Wings, hoping to rejoin the Twins either before or after the series in KC. We look forward to getting his bat and outfield presence back in the lineup every day. Matt Tolbert is also rehabilitating and hopes to return this month. The Twins could use his speed and versatility.
Go Twins tonight in Seattle!