Twins GM refuses to lose confidence

  • Article by: SID HARTMAN , Star Tribune
  • Updated: June 12, 2008 - 4:06 PM

Billy Smith sees reasons for what went wrong in the lost series against the White Sox and also sees signs that such poor play won't continue.

Twins General Manager Bill Smith.

Photo: Bruce Bisping, Jm - Star Tribune

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The Twins ended their six-game losing streak Wednesday by beating Cleveland 8-5, supporting General Manager Billy Smith's prediction that the Twins will return to the level of performance they showed when they won three of four from the Red Sox and split a four-game series with the Yankees.

Smith had his theory for the poor pitching performance against the White Sox, who won four in a row against the Twins in a series that ended Monday.

The White Sox bombarded the Twins starters, hitting .400 with 10 home runs and striking out only 16 times. They had a .717 slugging percentage in the series.

"I think part of the thing was last week we had Scott Baker coming off of rehab and Nick Blackburn coming back off of getting hit in the face with that line drive," Smith said.

"The best thing is for Baker and Blackburn to get their full preparation between starts. Baker had a nice game last night [Tuesday], and hopefully Blackburn will come back with one."

Equally important is that the Twins get veteran righthander Livan Hernandez going. His ERA has risen from 3.88 on May 17 to 5.32. In the four games since May 17 Hernandez went 0-1 and gave up 44 hits and 23 earned runs in 211/3 innings, and opponents hit .444 against him.

Smith is willing to wait on Hernandez to find a solution himself.

"He's got enough of a track record over the last 10 years that he's going to bounce back," Smith said. "He's healthy. We're playing some pretty good clubs, and he's just run into a tough stretch in the last couple of weeks. Yeah, we're counting on him. We need to just get everybody settled down and back to where we were a couple of weeks ago."

The Twins were never in any of the games against the White Sox this past weekend. Smith said it was tough on the manager, tough on the coaches and tough on the fans.

"Michael Cuddyer had the best comment," he said. " 'We have to have a short memory and put it behind us and move forward.' We've got a long way to go."

The one positive thing about the competition with the White Sox is that the Twins don't have to play them in Chicago again. Seven games remain in the season series, all in the Metrodome.

Despite the recent poor performance of the starters, Smith said there isn't any thought of recalling Francisco Liriano, who has a 2-2 record and 3.94 ERA with Class AAA Rochester. On Tuesday night he held Durham to one run on six hits over six innings, with one walk and seven strikeouts."

"He's doing well," Smith said. "Liriano continues to improve and get better down in Rochester.

"We're going to leave him there until we're 100 percent certain that he's ready to make one more move, and that's from Rochester back to Minnesota, and then stay at the major league level."

Is there a chance to make a deal to add to the experience of the pitching staff?

"We're always looking to get better," Smith said. "I don't know if it's hard to make a deal, but we're always looking to get better. We'll see."

Tubby's wife in Kenya

For 12 days Donna Smith, wife of Gophers basketball coach Tubby Smith, has been on a mission in a small town outside of Kenya.

"They go to these villages to just talk to the women, because in Africa and a lot of those countries they are burdened with the workload, raising kids," Tubby Smith said. "I've never been. I need to go.

"They've adopted this village, digging wells, providing clothing, providing how to plant crops. She was brought up in a city, but this helps her, I think, understand and appreciate. When she comes back she's always sensitive of being overwhelmed.

"It is amazing."

Tubby Smith said that he worried about his wife's safety but that he knew she wouldn't be talked out of the trip.

"I was concerned about her going, but she said, 'No, I've got to go,'" he said. "Well, one of the things we feel, one of the things that I live by and one of the things that my parents taught me, is to whom much is given, much is expected. The more you give, the more youreceive.

"I've been to Kuwait and visited our troops, and I've done other things, in places like Guatemala and Chile, but I've never been to Africa. She did this through one of her close friends in Lexington, Kentucky, and she's been doing it ... I think this is her fourth trip."

Yes, the Smiths don't talk about it, but ever since their arrival in the Twin Cities they have gotten involved in so many different things to help the less fortunate and have continued to do what they did in Lexington, where Smith was the coach at the University of Kentucky and was deep into community work.

Jottings

Vikings safety Darren Sharper is one of a group of NFL players who have been invited by NFL Films, located in Mount Laurel, N.J., to a four-day session to test whether they have a future in talking football on television. Former Cretin-Derham Hall and NFL quarterback Steve Walsh attended the sessions last year and got some work as a result.

Tubby Smith reports that Jamal Abu-Shamala is in Jordan playing for the Jordanian national team. "This is great for him, and I think that's going to be very beneficial to him," Smith said. "He was concerned about leaving, but we communicated with the Jordanian nationals and they felt like he would benefit a lot by this."

Smith also reported that guard Lawrence Westbrook had surgery on his right hand, his shooting hand. The coach said a tendon was taken from his wrist and used to stabilize his thumb. "One of the things we have to do is see how that mends," Smith said.

Former Gopher John Gaub is 0-1 with a 4.22 ERA in 12 appearances for Cleveland's Lake County farm team in the Class A South Atlantic League. Gaub has struck out 33 in 21 1/3 innings. ... Dennis Boe has retired after 31 years as a teacher and baseball coach at Redwood Valley High School.

University of Minnesota assistant football coach Ronnie Lee was one of 28 coaches nationally who spoke at an NCAA Experts Forum last weekend in Dallas. The purpose of the forum was to teach ways of getting a head coaching job and then being successful as a college football head coach.

CSTV.com, a division of CBS Sports, ranks the Gophers' 2008 men's basketball recruiting class the ninth-best in the country.

Sid Hartman can be heard weekdays on WCCO AM-830 at 6:40, 7:40 and 8:40 a.m. and on his Podcast twice a week at www.startribune.com/sidcast. shartman@startribune.com

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