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Continued: Sid Hartman: Twins-Rays trade may yet pay dividend

  • Article by: SID HARTMAN , Star Tribune
  • Last update: May 10, 2009 - 12:44 AM

Righthander Matt Garza and shortstop Jason Bartlett were big stars for Tampa Bay last season, as the Rays made it to the World Series after acquiring the two players in an offseason trade from the Twins.

The two continue to perform well for Tampa Bay, which has won seven of 10 games after a slow start to the season.

The trade also sent pitcher Eduardo Morlan to Tampa Bay, while the Twins received outfielder Delmon Young, infielder Brendan Harris and outfielder Jason Pridie.

There was a lot of enthusiasm among fans and the media when the Twins acquired Young, but not long into the season, the second-guessing started, as he wasn't hitting for power and Harris lost his job at second base, while Garza and Bartlett were helping the Rays go from last to first place in the American League East. Young and Harris didn't seem an adequate return in the trade.

Still, while the Twins might be a better team with Garza and Bartlett, Young and Harris have started to contribute.

Harris hit a three-run homer Friday and is hitting .300 after going 0-for-4 in Saturday's 9-6 victory over Seattle. He started at shortstop again Saturday in place of the slumping Nick Punto and also has seen action at second and third base this season.

Young has yet to hit for a lot of power with the Twins. However, before going 0-for-4 Saturday, he was hitting .455 in May and is getting a chance to play more than he was at the start of the season. And it's worth noting that, though he has a reputation for swinging at the first pitch, in the first seven games of the month he took the first pitch in 16 of 24 plate appearances, and of those 16 first pitches he took, 14 of those were balls, so perhaps he has learned to become a more disciplined hitter.

However, the trade still looks like it's in Tampa Bay's favor.

After going 11-9 with a 3.70 ERA last year and being named the MVP of the American League Championship Series against the Red Sox, Garza is 3-2 with a 3.51 ERA this year, and he is averaging only one baserunner per inning (17 walks and 24 hits in 41 innings pitched). He also has 36 strikeouts. He pitches against the Red Sox tonight on national television.

Bartlett is hitting a sizzling .351 with four home runs -- one off his career high of five, set in 2007 with the Twins -- and 12 RBI. He also had six stolen bases in seven attempts, and after hitting ninth in 2008 he is now getting a chance to move up in the lineup. Last year, even though his offensive numbers were modest -- .286 with one homer, 37 RBI, 48 runs and 20 stolen bases -- the Rays named him their team MVP for the outstanding defense he provided at shortstop.

You wouldn't expect Twins General Manager Bill Smith to say he made a bad deal. But when the trade was made, Smith received a lot of accolades.

Smith certainly can end up looking good if Young, who now is hitting .288, and Harris can continue to swing hot bats.

Smith said he didn't want to give up Bartlett, but since Harris was involved in the trade, he decided to make the move.

"I have no regrets about making the deal," Smith said. "Young is 23 years old with a great future."

Jottings

Even though he is manager of the Twins, Ron Gardenhire is no different than any other father. So after Friday's Twins victory over Seattle, he was on his computer to learn that son Toby got two doubles for New Britain to help the Twins' Class AA affiliate win a game. Toby Gardenhire played third base Friday for the Rock Cats and has not only played every infield position this year, he also has played catcher, too. Toby Gardenhire is hitting .256 for New Britain.

With the final Twins game at the Metrodome on Oct. 4 being close to a sellout, Patrick Klinger, vice president for marketing, said there is some thought of removing the blinds on the upper-deck seats in the outfield, which would make the capacity of the Dome 56,000, so that they might set an attendance record in the final game in the building. There a lot of seats available for the Friday and Saturday games against the Royals that weekend. ... Klinger, incidentally, said the Twins already have sold 1.5 million seats for this season. ... Like the Vikings, next year will be the 50th anniversary of the Twins' presence here. A lot of activities are planned to celebrate.

Sent down to Class AAA Rochester with a batting average of .167, second baseman Alexi Casilla went 2-for-5 Saturday night and is hitting .333 in two games in the minors. Jose Morales was hitting .349 for the Twins but the catcher is DHing for Rochester and is hitting .250 in 16 at-bats. ... Of the three Twins pitchers sent to Rochester this season, Philip Humber is 1-1 with a 5.06 ERA; Brian Duensing is 2-1 with a 6.00 ERA; and Juan Morillo is 2-0 with a 4.26 ERA, winning Saturday night's 7-6 victory over Charlotte with two scoreless innings.

Talk about scholars on last year's Gophers' football team, which had all 12 seniors graduate, tight end Jack Simmons not only has a undergraduate degree in marketing, but has completed his master's too.

Included in the two openings that remain on the Gophers football schedule for 2010 are the Sept. 4 opener, which will be a road game, and the Sept. 25 game, which comes after the Southern California contest. The second game finds South Dakota here on Sept. 11. The Gophers will have seven home games. They play Northwestern, Penn State, Ohio State and Iowa at home. The road games are at Wisconsin, Purdue, Michigan State and Illinois.

With veteran Ravens defense end Terrell Suggs not signing his franchise tender and expected to hold out for a while, former Gopher Willie VanDeSteeg is going to get a lot work in the minicamps.

The Gophers football staff continues to recruit hard in Wisconsin, with Mike Hardy of Kimberly, Wis., a recent visitor. GoldenSports.net reports that the 6-5, 260-pound defensive end had six sacks, 10 tackles behind the line of scrimmage, two forced fumbles and a blocked punt last season. And in track, he threw the discus 160 feet, 10 inches and the shot put 51-11.

The Pittsburgh Penguins called up former Gophers defenseman Alex Goligoski as "insurance" after Sergei Gonchar was injured Friday against the Washington Capitals. Goligoski had six points (one goal, five assists) in nine postseason games for the Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Penguins; he played 9 minutes, 32 seconds in Saturday night's 4-3 overtime victory at Washington. ... Former Gopher Phil Kessel is the third-leading scorer for Boston in the playoffs with four goals and four assists in eight playoff games. Blake Wheeler has yet to register any points in the playoffs for the Bruins.

Some of the top high school basketball players in the country have been at Bloomington Jefferson this weekend, where the annual Sabes Invitational is being held. The group includes one Harrison Barnes, a member of Iowa Attack unit, who told Gopher Illustrated that Minnesota is one of the schools he is interested in.

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

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