Last night, the Twins Triple-A affiliate, the Rochester Red Wings, lost 2-1 to Charlotte. It was their ninth straight loss, and 13th loss in their last 17 games. The team fell to 39-72 on the season, 33 games below .500 and 25 1/2 games out of first place.
The bright spot for the team had to be the performance of starting pitcher Nick Blackburn. The Twins right-hander made his first start since being demoted and pitched well. He threw five shutout innings. He gave up three hits, walked none and struck out two.
It has been a disappointing season for the Red Wings, and certainly for their fans. There are many reasons for their struggles. As always, it starts with the starting pitching. The three still-somewhat-young starters (Glen Perkins, Anthony Swarzak and Jeff Manship) were disappointing. Swarzak missed about six weeks with a broken toes. Mike Maroth made three starts and threw 11 innings and hasn't pitched since (although he has started throwing rehab innings in the GCL). Things were going so bad for Cuban Yoslan Herrera, that he just left. They brought in veteran knuckleballer Charlie Zink in an attempt to at least provide some innings. He was the International League's pitcher of the year just two seasons ago. He made three starts and was 0-2 with a 12.75 ERA before going on the Disabled List.
The starters' struggles meant that the very talented Red Wings bullpen has been overused all season. Jose Lugo is already over 70 innings pitched. Kyle Waldrop, Tim Lahey and Rob Delaney are all over 60 innings. Anthony Slama was over 50 when he was promoted.
And finally, the Red Wings have provided the Twins with players and injury replacements and depth throughout the season. Danny Valencia has taken over as the Twins 3B after spending hte first two months of the season in Rochester. Luke Hughes was summoned and homered in his first at bat (and then hurt after returning to the Red Wings). Wilson Ramos had a nice showing to start his Twins career and has now been traded. Jason Repko was the Red Wings best, most consistent hitter and earned his promotion to the Twins. He has served well as the team's backup outfielder. Trevor Plouffe has 15 AAA home runs and is now with the Twins for the third time already this season. After missing the first six or seven weeks of the season, Jose Morales came back and struggled. He came on of late and is now on the Twins bench as the third catcher and a pinch hitter. Jeff Manship was been up with the Twins four times. And Anthony Slama finally made his much-anticipated Twins debut. So, the AAA affiliate of the Twins is still fully meeting its responsibility of providing the Twins with players that can help at the big league level.
There have been some good points of late:
- Rob Delaney was so overused early in the season, and his 5.17 ERA in 48 games is not good. But in his last eight games (8.1 innings), he has given up just one run and has a one walk to 13 strikeout ratio. On the season, he has 72 strikeouts to just 18 walks in his 62.2 innings. Interestingly, the right-hander has allowed right-handed batters to hit .305 against him this year while lefties have hit just .298.
- Pat Neshek feels back to 100 percent and his velocity is back to 89-90 mph. He has allowed just one earned run in his last eight outings.
- Glen Perkins made six starts in July. Twice he has given up four runs in five innings, but he has been significantly better than he had been the entire rest of the season. He had six walks and 26 strikeouts . Some want him considered as a second left-hander out of the bullpen, but consider this; while righties hit .310 against him this year, lefties have hit .329.
- Kyle Waldrop and Anthony Slama were both posting incredible numbers this season. Slama was promoted, and Waldrop has to be considered as well. On the year, he is 4-3 with a 1.98 ERA. In 68.1 innings, he has given up 64 hits. He has walked 17 and struck out 68 while allowing just two home runs. While Slama was pitching at the Futures Game, Waldrop had a game where he gave up six earned runs and got just two outs. Without that outing, his ERA would be 1.20. Since that outing, he has given up just two runs in 11 innings, and his supreme ground ball tendencies make him a legitimate option for the bullpen.
- Since returning to Rochester the most recent time, Jeff Manship has one walk and 15 strikeouts in 13 innings.
There is also plenty on the other side of the spectrum:
- I think that Alex Burnett is suffering through the dreaded dead-arm period right now. It is not unusual for a 22 year old. Since he was demoted from the Twins, Burnett has pitched 7.2 innings in five games. He have given up six runs on 12 hits. I still believe that he has a chance to be the Twins closer in the future, or certainly a very strong relief pitching option, so he's just got to continue working through this.
- Brendan Harris has not hit much since his demotion either. From June 30 through July 10, he went 2-37. He has one hit in his last 19 at bats, and three in his last 27.
- Matt Macri has gone 8-57 (.140) in his last 18 games. Those are the exact same numbers for 1B Brock Peterson over his last 18 games too.
- Brian Dinkelman hit his eighth home run of the season last night, but he is just 4-26 (.154) in his past six games.
- Jacque Jones had his average above .300 on the season, but he has just nine hits in his last 58 at bats over the last 14 games he has played.
- Toby Gardenhire is a solid minor league utility player. On the season with the Red Wings, he is hitting .208/.272/.215 (a .488 OPS) with just one double in 130 at bats. In his last 18 games, he has five hits in 51 at bats.
The role of a team's Triple-A affiliate is to provide players to the big league club when needed. To that extent, the Rochester Red Wings have again been terrific for the Minnesota Twins. However, for fans of the Rochester Red Wings, this 2010 season can be little more than disappointing.
- On last night's SethSpeaks.net Weekly Minnesota Twins podcast, Seth was joined by Jeff Dooley, the long-time voice of the New Britain Rockcats. He was later joined by JJ Stankevitz of the White Sox blog at Examiner.com and Rays blogger (and Fanball guru) Jason Collette called in to talk about the Tampa Bay Rays and this series with the Twins.
- Tonight on Twins Minor League Weekly, Seth will be joined by several Twins minor league players and discuss the goings on in the Twins farm system.