TwinsCentric was formed by Twins super-bloggers Seth Stohs, Nick Nelson, Parker Hageman and John Bonnes. Together they publish at TwinsDaily.com and have authored books, e-books and magazines that provide independent and in-depth coverage of the Minnesota Twins from a fan's perspective. You can contact them at TwinsCentric@gmail.com.
Saturday night was Minnesota Twins night at Perfect Game Field in Cedar Rapids. The rains came, but there was an excitement because Twins great Rod Carew made the trek to Iowa. Before the game, he was briefly in the Kernels locker room. He then spent over an hour signing autographs and shaking hands with fans that lined up, around several corners, trying to meet the Hall of Famer. He joined Morgan Hawk, the Kernels radio man who was also on TV locally on that night, for the first two innings.
At that time, he was made available to the media. He spent 15 minutes talking about all kinds of topics with the small group. Here is Part 1 of that interview, a look at his career. In the next two days, two more parts of the interview will be posted at TwinsDaily.com.
Of course, the first question he was asked was if he had been to Cedar Rapids previously, he said that he had. “It was in the dead of winter and it was cold.”
Carew never played in Cedar Rapids. The 68-year-old spent just over two years in the minor leagues before he advanced to the big leagues. He made us aware of an interesting rule from a previous era. “Back then, they could take 28 guys north, and at the end of the month they cut down to 25 man rosters.”
The Twins history is rich. He played his first big league game with the Twins on April 11, 1967. Carew talked about debuting with the Twins, with some great teammates. “As a 20-year-old kid coming up and being on the same club as Harmon Killebrew, and Tony Oliva, and Jim Kaat, and Mudcat Grant, and Earl Battey. Those are guys that I learned a lot from, especially Tony Oliva and Harmon Killebrew, and we remained friends until his death.”
He said that he continues to think about Killebrew frequently since he passed away a couple of years ago. “It’s still hard. We know we’re not going to live forever, but when you get close to someone. He was my mentor. I learned so much from him, and then to lose him. I still think about him. My wife and I were just talking about Harmon a couple of days ago, about his passing, so he’s always here, he’s always in my heart.”
He continued, “One thing I learned from Harmon is that it doesn’t cost anything to be nice. And so, when he told me that, I thought to myself that I would go through the rest of my life, no matter what happens, I’m always going to be nice.”
Last week marked 50 years since the Minnesota Twins signed Carew out of high school in New York City. Asked to reflect on that time, he said, “You know, I never thought that I would accomplish the things I accomplished in baseball. As a young kid, you hope that you do well, but I never thought I would go on and do the things that I did. But I was fortunate, I had people around me that worked with me and talked to me, so that helped. I was blessed with God-given talent, but having God-given talent is not all that it is. You also have to work. You have to continue honing those skills or trying to get better."
And to be an all-time great, Carew had to have a competitive edge. “I was greedy. I was never satisfied. If I had three hits one day, I wanted four. If I had four hits one day, I wanted five.” He continued, “That was my mentality. I learned that from being Tony Oliva’s roommate for ten years. He always used to tell me, ‘Rookie, get as many base hits as you can.’ So I was very fortunate.”
Carew's numbers are remarkable. In 19 years, he hit .328/.393/.429 (.822). He finished his career with 3,053 hits. He was an 18-time All Star. He won seven batting champions. He had six Top 10 finishes in MVP voting and won the 1977 award. That season was one of the greatest, if not the greatest, in Twins history. He hit .388/.449/.570 (1.059). His OPS+ was 178! He had 239 hits including 38 doubles, 16 triples, 14 homer runs, drove in 100 and scored 128 runs.
He played his final game on October 5, 1985, and in 1991, he was inducted into Baseball's Hall of Fame.
What does it mean to be a Hall of Famer to Rod Carew? “HOF means you’re at the top of your profession. And to be in the same place with Ty Cobb, Ted Williams, Christy Matthewson, and Willie Mays and Jackie Robinson and all those great players. As a young kid, you don’t think about that. You don’t think about playing to get to the HOF. You’re thinking about playing and surviving and hoping you stay healthy to do good things. I was fortunate to do that. It’s one of the greatest fraternities in the world. When we get together Hall of fame weekend, we have a good time. Pitchers talk about how they used to get you out, and hitters talk about how many HR they used to hit off of you. It’s just a great time that we have together.”
Over the next couple of days, I'll continue to post Mr. Carew's comments regarding several topics including what he tells young players and how the game is different today than in his era.
Be sure to head over to TwinsDaily.com the next few days for the rest of the Rod Carew interview and much more.
Aaron and John talk about the starting pitching (and podcast hosts) falling apart, Jorge Polanco's rushed arrival, Alex Meyer and Trevor May having issues in the minors, Chris Parmelee as a center fielder, puking in cabs, throwing out backs, Joe Mauer turning things around, Eduardo Escobar returning to earth, Aaron Hicks going back to Double-A, and Clayton Kershaw vs. Johan Santana. You can listen by downloading us from iTunes, Stitcher or find it at GleemanAndTheGeek.com.
Meanwhile, at Twins Daily:
The rosters for the MLB Futures Game were announced on Tuesday. Representing the Twins organization will be Single-A pitcher Jose Berrios and Double-A slugger Kennys Vargas.
None of Minnesota's "Big Three" will be participating. Byron Buxton and Miguel Sano obviously have been injured, and Alex Meyer -- the team's top pitching prospect and its greatest hope for a top-of-the-rotation starter -- simply isn't having a very good season.
That's fairly worrisome, especially when you look at his recent performance.
Back in late April, it appeared that Meyer had turned a corner after reportedly learning a new changeup grip from his teammates. In his fourth and fifth starts of the season for Class-AAA Rochester, the lanky right-hander was as dominant as could be, striking out a combined 22 hitters over 12 2/3 innings while allowing no runs on five hits.
At that point, Meyer was perhaps one or two more strong starts away from joining the big-league rotation and making a major impact. Yet, since that high point in his season, he has largely been a mess.
In 10 starts since the beginning of May, Meyer has a 4.43 ERA and 1.54 WHIP, and has completed six innings in an outing only twice. He continues to miss bats with his high-end stuff (he ranks second in the International League with 83 strikeouts) but that's really the only aspect of his game that you could point at as being close to MLB-ready.
The short outings are the biggest red flag. As a 24-year-old top prospect, Meyer is at a point where you'd like to see him facing some big-league competition, but the Twins aren't going to call up a guy who is routinely unable to complete five or six innings at Triple-A. Granted, his pitch counts are being watched closely, but he hasn't been effective. In his last three starts, the righty has failed to even reach the fifth.
This raises an uncomfortable question: Is everything OK physically?
It's hard not to wonder, considering that Meyer missed two months last year with shoulder soreness. Right now, he's laboring through short outings, struggling to throw strikes and uncharacteristically giving up bunches of hits. In his latest start for Rochester, he coughed up multiple home runs for just the second time in his pro career.
This is just strange to see from a player of his caliber. If his problems are mechanical, the coaching staff has got to find a way to get him straightened out. If there's an injury at play, well, that's just beyond depressing considering the way things have already played out this year with Sano and Buxton.
On the bright side, the Twins have had plenty of positive developments down on the farm. Berrios, who has been absolutely inhuman down in Ft. Myers (2.05 ERA, 10/6 K/9), ranks highly among them. Trevor May also continues to pitch well in Triple-A, providing another MLB-ready option with upside and making Meyer's setbacks a little easier to stomach.
But, as I've often stated, I believe that Meyer is the single most important prospect in the organization, so as long as he continues to scuffle through short outings, it's going to be tough to get excited about the Twins' short-term outlook.
They need more front-end talent in the rotation and nobody fits that profile better than a healthy, effective Alex Meyer. Despite some flashes, we simply haven't seen that guy consistently.
Aaron and John talk about the pleasure of dominating the White Sox, Yohan Pino's impressive debut, Aaron Hicks going back to switch-hitting, Kyle Gibson's good run, Joe Mauer showing signs of life, Oswaldo Arcia swinging "too hard," Tony Gwynn's lasting legacy, and how to have fun and injure yourself at a 25-year reunion. You can listen by downloading us fromiTunes, Stitcher or find it atGleemanAndTheGeek.com.
And at TwinsDaily.com..
Despite being perpetually trapped in the shadows of Byron Buxton and Miguel Sano within the Twins' system, Eddie Rosario had firmly established himself as a true upper-tier prospect by the end of the 2013 season.
At the age of 21, he had cruised through Single-A and Double-A, batting .302/.350/.460 between the two levels all while working on the defensive transition from outfield to infield. His bat was so good, and his athleticism so outstanding, that it appeared he may have a chance to make an early impact for the Twins here in 2014.
My, how things change.
As we all know, Rosario was tagged with a 50-game drug suspension during the offseason, costing him a crucial chunk of development time just as he was preparing to graduate to the highest level of the minors.
He was a no-show at spring camp while dealing with "personal issues." And as the season got underway, with Rosario completely out of the picture, Brian Dozier turned his hold on second base into a tight grip, emerging as one of the better players in the majors at the position.
So when Rosario finally returned from his ban late in May, he returned to a dramatically different set of circumstances from the ones that prompted the Twins to experimentally try to switch him from center field to second base a couple seasons ago in an effort to more quickly move his bat up to the majors.
Back then, center field was overloaded and second base was a position with no clear future.
My, how things change.
The embattled Rosario started playing games again at the end of May, opening in Ft. Myers where he got back up to speed with a quick eight-game stint before heading back to New Britain. He's played a bit of second base, but is back to playing mostly in center, where there is now a huge hole in Minnesota.
And while the Twins have plenty of quality arms available in the high minors to supplement their pitching staff, they are lacking reinforcements for their scuffling offense at Triple-A. Josmil Pinto and Deibinson Romero are really the only intriguing bats at Rochester, and Pinto will likely remain there indefinitely to work on his defensive game.
With the Kendrys Morales signing, the Twins made a loud statement that they are in "win-now" mode, with more of their decisions being driven by a desire to improve the current club. If offense continues to be an issue and they find themselves needing a boost later in the summer -- particularly in center field -- they may find that Rosario is in fact their best option.
My, how things change.
He needs to demonstrate complete mastery of the Double-A level -- and perhaps even the Triple-A level -- before the Twins would consider bringing him up, but Rosario is one of the most dynamic hitters in the organization and could provide a critical infusion into the lineup in the second half. As far as his stock has fallen in the past eight months or so, he'd be able to revive it substantially by coming up and making a positive impact for a Twins team that is trying to compete in a weak division.
There has been plenty of speculation the last week or two about which Twins starter would be replaced in the rotation, and by whom. First, it was Kevin Correia, and now he has had two straight terrific starts including last night’s 1-0 loss to the Red Sox. Sam Deduno has had two very poor starts in a row, and now the discussion is about who will take his spot in the rotation starting on Thursday.
The starting rotation has been very impressive which means that speculation of who will make Deduno’s start on Thursday can lead in several directions. We’ll try to clarify that today, or at least arm you with what you need to know as it relates to the Twins decision.
While we are at it, we’ll take a look at some of the other players (relievers and hitters) in Rochester who deserve at least consideration for a call up to the Minnesota Twins.
RED WINGS STARTERS
We’ve been informed via Chris Fee that Sean Gilmartin has been called up to the Red Wings and will start on Tuesday. Yohan Pino will now start on Wednesday. Alex Meyer has been pushed to Thursday. Logan Darnell follows Meyer in the Red Wings rotation. Trevor May pitched on Monday night, and Kris Johnson pitched on Sunday. So, here’s a look at the Red Wings starters and their promotion credentials.
Alex Meyer – Meyer is the top prospect, the guy that we are all waiting for. He has been solid with the Red Wings this year. Meyer has a record of 4-3, with a 3.62 ERA. In 64.2 innings, he has given up 56 hits, walked 30 and struck out 76. We love the strikeout rate. We love the big fastball, and the fact that he has four pitches that most evaluators believe will make him a top of the rotation starter. That said, if you’re walking 4.2 per nine innings in AAA, that isn’t very good. It is his career high.
He is coming off of his worst start of the year. He went just two innings on Friday and gave up three runs on five hits and two walks. He threw 55 pitches before being removed. The start before that, he threw six shutout innings and gave up just four hits and a walk while striking out eight. The game before that, four runs in five innings. Consistency is a legit concern at this point for the 24-year-old, but there’s little question that he can be a good big league starter.
Yohan Pino – The Twins signed Pino in 2004. He was traded to Cleveland in the Carl Pavano trade in 2009. Since then, he’s been between AA and AAA but never made it to the big leagues. The 30-year-old right-hander is at least putting his name on the map as a possible call up. He is 9-1 with a 1.92 ERA and a 0.93 WHIP. Though he doesn’t throw very hard, he has been racking up strikeouts. In 61 innings, he has 61 strikeouts to go with just 16 walks. He has pitched out of the bullpen and as a starter and done well in either role.
Kris Johnson – Johnson came to the Twins this offseason in a trade for Duke Welker, who was the player to be named later in the Justin Morneau trade to Pittsburgh. Last year, he led the International League with a 2.39 ERA. He’s doing just as well this year. He is 6-3 with a 2.60 ERA. He has 62 strikeouts and 28 walks in 72.2 innings. He did make one start for the Twins earlier in the season and went five innings. Johnson has struggled in two of his last three starts. Most recently, he gave up three runs on five hits and three walks in 5.2 innings. The start before that, he gave up two runs in eight innings. Three starts ago, he gave up five runs on four hits and three walks in five innings.
Logan Darnell – The 25-year-old had a nice ten-day stint with the Twins earlier this season when the Twins needed a bullpen guy who could eat multiple innings. In his one appearance, he was very impressive in three shutout innings. With the Red Wings, he is 2-4 with a 2.75 ERA and a 1.37 WHIP. In 55.2 innings, he has 53 strikeouts, but he also has walked 24 (3.9 BB/9 IP). On June 8, he gave up four runs on eight hits and three walks in 5.1 innings. In his most recent start, he threw five innings and gave up only an unearned run. He gave up just three hits, but he uncharacteristically walked five. His spot in the rotation comes up on Thursday, making him the starter who is in line to start in Deduno’s spot without altering his schedule.
Trevor May – The speculation was that the 24-year-old might be the guy to come up to replace Deduno. Some of that may be because he was on the same schedule as Kevin Correia who two starts ago looked to be on his last leg. May made his scheduled start on Monday night. He wasn’t on a pitch count limit, to be sure. He threw 120 pitches and pitched in the ninth inning and gave up just one run. Control was his biggest issue earlier in his career, but his walk rate has drop from 4.7/9 innings in 2012 to 4.0/9 innings in 2013. After last night’s start, his walk rate is at 3.5 per nine. Like Meyer, May has the “stuff” and the prospect status that people believe will give him a shot to succeed in the big leagues.
Let’s just compare the stats of these five starters. Try your best not to look at the name and especially their ages when evaluating in your mind who has been the best, or is the most deserving of the promotion.
There is no statistical analysis that can look at the above numbers and say that Yohan Pino is not deserving of an opportunity. However, that’s where the statistical world and the scouting world will butt heads. Many will say that Pino doesn’t have the stuff to get big league hitters out. That may very well be true. However, my opinion (and maybe mine alone) is that when you put up those kinds of numbers at the highest level below the big leagues, you deserve an opportunity to just see. That said, if any of these five guys got called up, or get called up later in the season, it will have been earned.
If you believe that Trevor May should be the one promoted, they can do so creatively. They could have Darnell start for the Twins on Thursday, in his normal spot, and then after the game send him down. At that point, there could be a shifting of the rotation such that May would start on Sunday or Monday for the Twins as well. It can happen if they choose to go in that direction. That said, if it is Logan Darnell, he’s earned the opportunity and it would be nice to see him get a handful of starts.
THE BULLPEN OPTIONS
Real quickly I wanted to point out that there are a couple of good options in Rochester if the Twins needed a bullpen arm (and didn’t just move a starter there). AJ Achter and Michael Tonkin both have pitched well for the Red Wings. Tonkin has the name, and he’s on the 40 man roster, and he throws pretty hard. Achter is not on the 40 man roster, doesn’t throw as hard, but has consistently put up remarkable numbers. If they were to want or need a left-hander, Aaron Thompson should be considered.
Chris Colabello and Josmil Pinto were a big part of the Twins offense early in the season. They are each working their way back in Rochester, but a few other names are worth getting to know.
Deibinson Romero made a strong impression with his bat in spring training, and he has continued to rake in Rochester. He is now hitting .312/.407/.468 (.875) with 17 doubles and five home runs. He does already have 15 errors at third base, but his bat may be able to play in the big leagues.
While Romero is the hitter, the Twins have a couple of glove-first guys in Rochester who would have to be considered if the Twins need another utility infielder (they have several already). We saw Doug Bernier last year. He has been playing all over the diamond this year, and he’s hitting .288/.369/.412 with 10 doubles and three home runs. James Beresford has been the Red Wings second baseman. He’s hitting .293/.343/.360 (.703) with 11 doubles, a triple and a homer.
Eric Farris got one at bat in 2011 with the Milwaukee Brewers. In 2012, he went 1-8 with the Brewers. He came to the Twins a year ago and split time between New Britain and Rochester. He’s been the primary centerfielder for the Red Wings this year. He has hit .289/.328/.362 (.690).
So, there may not be as many hitters as pitchers putting up big numbers, but it’s always nice to know who could be next should a need arise.
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