Startribune.com digital sports editor Howard Sinker used to cover the Twins and now shares season tickets with friends in Section 219 of Target Field. He blogs about baseball from the perspective of a long-time fan who loves the game, doesn’t always believe the hype and likes hearing what others think. Howard sometimes talks about sports with Cathy Wurzer on MPR's Morning Edition.

Section 219: Time for Twins to experiment

Posted by: Howard Sinker Updated: August 16, 2012 - 9:39 AM

We really shouldn't be surprised by anything that happens with the Twins over these final six weeks of the season as they try to figure out which of their moving parts should still be in motion as the team careens toward 2013.

The short version is that the Twins are without nearly enough starting pitching, a middle-infield combination, bullpen depth and enough bats on the bench to be taken seriously. There's enough stuff to be sorted out that waiting until the 25-man roster limit disappears on Sept. 1 doesn't give them enough time, which helps to explain the Pedro Florimon-for-Brian Dozier swap at shortstop.

Twins president Dave St. Peter tweeted Tuesday night that he sensed "angst over the Dozier move." Another tweet that flew across my screen complained to a local TV station that the Twins were sending down their best shortstop.

Angst and outrage are not called for. TwinsCentric's Nick Nelson described his play as being "roundly awful for a full three months," and others in the local blogging community have done a good job putting Dozier into context, including this Aaron Gleeman post.

In the office, a colleague called out during Wednesday's loss, "Was Dozier any better than Nishioka?"

Well, in 240 plate appearances last season, Nishioka had a hideous on-base percentage of .278. In 340 this season, Dozier's was .271. (Defensively, despite his errors, Dozier is superior.) The difference, of course, is that the Twins:

1) went halfway around the world in pursuit of Nishioka.

2) gave away J.J. Hardy to make room for him.

3) committed money that could have gone elsewhere while adhering to the "payroll as a percentage of revenue" mantra.

4) created the mess that Dozier was being asked to cover up.

Given the state of the season, it was fine for the Twins to give Dozier a chance to play through his mistakes, but it's also fine to give a look to Florimon, who comes with defensive skills and no pretense of adding offense, before the rosters expand and the remaining games take on even more of a March-in-Florida feel.

Keep in mind that Scott Diamond's call-up was seen as more of a prayer than a solution earlier this season and that Darin Mastroianni's arrival came only after the arrivals and failures of outfielders KKKKKKKKKKKKKKKKlete Thomas (16 K's in 28 at-bats, if you didn't count) and Erik Komatsu with his 46 OPS+.

Sometimes you try stuff and it works; sometimes you try stuff and get embarrassed. Given the circumstances, you have to be willing to understand both.

I won't be surprised if the Twins are very, very conservative with Denard Span's return in order to give Parmelee a look in right field and figure out how he fits into their future. I'm not at all confident that there will be any market for Justin Morneau (and not saying at this point whether there should be), so looking at Parmelee at first base for next season isn't on my radar. However, if he can be a successful outfielder, that could free up Span as bait for middle infield and/or pitching help.

The other ongoing tryouts are on the pitching staff. Which members of the Filler D's -- Diamond, Duensing, Deduno and De Vries -- will be serious candidates to start in 2013 and beyond? Diamond, of course, is the best bet, and I want to give Duensing the benefit of the doubt because of the way he's been moved from bullpen to rotation to bullpen to rotation in the last two seasons.

And Deduno is enough of a trip to watch that I can roll with him through the end of the season and then revisit my wildness-driven skepticism.

I'm sharing this statistic only if you promise not to accuse me of comparing Deduno to one of baseball's gods: Nolan Ryan averaged 5.5 walks per nine innings over the first half of his career (when he was barely a .500 pitcher) and then 3.8 over the second half (when he was among the most dominant). It was a different era, but Ryan also had some tiny ERAs while he was handing out lots of walks.

Again, that was NOT a comparison.

But if Deduno can find some command to go with the incredible movement on his fastball...

However, none of those guys -- not Cole De Vries or Nick Blackburn or P.J. Walters or Kyle Gibson or Scott Baker or anyone else -- abdicate management's responsibility to bring in a couple of proven starters for 2013, guys who would be considered at least No. 2 starters. The current Twins are a staff, at their best, of third, fourth and fifth starters. (Diamond needs to have more than 18 starts in a season before I'll move him any higher.)

The bullpen needs help to go with Glen Perkins and Jared Burton. Beyond them, there are no sure things for 2013. The coming weeks will show how many of the young guys are keepers and how much time the Twins will have to expend in scouting and signing the next batch of set-up/middle innings guys.

Here's a list of potential free agents, if you want to play along with the front office.

So don't fret much over the shuttling of personnel over these final weeks. Given what the Twins created for themselves, it's something that has to be done.

 

 

 

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