There are several reasons why the Twins have failed to put together a long winning streak. After Sunday’s 9-8 loss to Kansas City, they are 3-7 this season against the Royals, who also are having a hard time winning.
If players such as outfielder Josh Willingham and pitcher Scott Diamond were performing like they did last year when the team was also struggling, and relief pitcher Jared Burton was as effective on the mound as he was earlier this season, the Twins (36-42) would have a much better record than in the previous two years.
A year ago after 14 starts Diamond was 8-4 with a 3.16 ERA, compared to being 5-7 with a 5.40 ERA this season.
A year ago after 70 games, Willingham was hitting .275 with 15 home runs and 49 RBI, compared to a batting average of .224 this season with 10 home runs and 37 RBI.
Then you have the case of Burton who, along with Glen Perkins, was outstanding in the bullpen in 2012, when Burton had a 1.50 ERA in 18 innings in his first 19 appearances.
On Sunday, Burton not only gave up the go-ahead home run to the Royals’ David Lough but, counting that performance, he is now 1-4 in his last 16 games with a 5.79 ERA in 17⅓ innings.
Nobody is more disappointed in the failure of the team to reach .500 than Twins General Manager Terry Ryan.
“It’s important that you get to .500 and go from there, but we have to get better than that,” Ryan said. “Anytime you’re below .500 at this point in the season, you can’t be happy with it.”
It was pointed out that if the Twins could go on a long winning streak, something they haven’t done all year, they could get to .500.
“That’s true, but [six] games is quite a bit to make up because we’re behind three clubs,” Ryan said. “We’re behind Kansas City, we’re behind Cleveland and we’re behind Detroit. You can’t be satisfied where we’re at. We’re trying to get better and we are getting better.”
Need better pitching
Ryan makes it clear that for the team to turn around, the starting pitchers have to give the team a chance to win and the lineup has to start hitting better with runners on base.
“We get people out there and we’ve had trouble getting them in,” Ryan said. “We’ve had opportunities to put some games away early and we haven’t tacked on. Those are the types of things we have to improve upon.”
Ryan believes the talent he and his personnel people have put on the field should be hitting much better than they have. The Twins are 10th in the American League in hitting as a team at .248 with Joe Mauer the only hitter above .300.
What needs to happen for the hitting to come around?
“It is not that coaching can’t help, it can, but ultimately a player has to relax and remember that they’ve certainly been trained to drive in runs for the most part,” Ryan said. “The people that are run producers know their job, the people who are catalysts know their job. All we’re asking them to do is be themselves.”
As for making any trades in the near future, Ryan said: “We are not going to be out of the race by the All-Star break, unless we implode here over the next 10 games or so. You can always have a trade happen before the All-Star break. I’m not sure it will with us, but I guess there will be a lot riding on the next 10 games for us. We play some very good clubs with the Yankees, Toronto and Tampa Bay. We have our work cut out for us the next 10-12 days.”
Can Ryan see himself moving some of the team’s top players right now?
“Not as long as we’re in the race, no,” Ryan said. “Yeah, we have a long way to go before we dictate that.”
Duffy on Budinger
Bill Duffy, the former Gophers guard and agent to Timberwolves first-round draft pick Shabazz Muhammad, is hopeful another one of his clients will be with the Wolves next season: free-agent forward Chase Budinger.
“Chase is interested in coming back,” Duffy said. “He’s an unrestricted free agent. Minnesota has been very clear in their interest in him. Hopefully things will work out, we’ll find out here in the next few weeks.”
Budinger tore a lateral meniscus in his left knee in November, returned in March and averaged 8.5 points on 39 percent shooting in 17 games to finish the year.
Duffy said Budinger is fully healthy. “He’s 100 percent now, so we have high expectations for him. Hopefully he’ll be there in Minnesota. That would be great.”
• Wolves owner Glen Taylor said the team could have signed forward Andrei Kirilenko if they had extended his option of $10.2 million over two more years. “We have [center] Nikola Pekovic to sign, and we want to sign Chase Budinger, and a veteran shooting guard, so we decided not to extend that,” Taylor said.
• Flip Saunders, president of basketball operations for the Wolves, said Muhammad could not have gone into a better situation than with coach Rick Adelman. “Coach Adelman is a teacher. He gets his players to play the right way by passing the ball and moving without the ball,” Saunders said. “As I talked to Shabazz and his people about it, what better place to come than [where] someone who is going to teach him that? If he can take what he does offensively … and incorporate that into our team offense, which he is going to have to do to play, than we have our diamond in the rough.”
• It will be a beat-up Yankees team that comes to Target Field for a four-game series starting Monday. Missing from the lineup because of injuries are four of their superstars in outfielder Curtis Granderson, shortstop Derek Jeter, third baseman Alex Rodriguez and first baseman Mark Teixeira, plus one of their better players in Kevin Youkilis. The fourth-place Yankees are 42-39 and 6½ games out of first place in the AL East.
• Andre Hollins was one of 29 players invited to USA Basketball’s World University Games team camp, but the Gophers junior point guard was not one of the 16 finalists for the final roster, which will be announced Monday. Hollins was cut this past week.
• Trevor Mbakwe will join former Gophers teammate Rodney Williams with the Philadelphia 76ers summer league squad in Orlando starting Sunday. Mbakwe does not have a contract with the club.
• Michael Cuddyer extended his hitting streak to 27 games with an up-the-middle single in his final at-bat in the eighth inning against the Giants on Sunday. Cuddyer has been on fire for the Rockies. The former Twins star is hitting .372 with six home runs, 19 RBI and 17 runs scored during the streak.