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Monday (Twins making plays at the plate a confusing adventure) edition: Wha' Happened?

Posted by: Michael Rand under Target Field, Twins game coverage Updated: April 25, 2011 - 9:27 AM

Coaching third base and being a baserunner trying to decide whether to try to score/take an extra base have to be considered among the toughest judgment calls in baseball -- and, when they fail, the easiest things to criticize. How many times have we hollered at a base coach for getting a guy thrown out or for a player getting nabbed trying to grab an extra base? Or, on the other hand, torn our hair out when a throw comes in well off-line, while the runner sits cautiously back at the previous base?

It's an imperfect science. There are game situations that make risks or cautious plays smarter "baseball plays," of course. Down by a bunch and trying to create a big inning? Hold up. Runner on second, two outs, sharp single to left, lower part of the order coming up? Send him if he has a chance and hope for the best.

All this said, the Twins seemed to be suffering from dysfunction when it came to a few decisions around the third base bag over the past couple of days. On Saturday, Jason Repko rounded third, received what looked to be mixed signals form third base coach Steve Liddle -- we saw a wave in and a stop sign at various points -- barreled through and scored on a close play. On Sunday, Alexi Casilla physically did a head turn to look at the play in right field, touched third and ran through a very clear stop sign by Liddle and was thrown out by several steps. Later in the same inning, Justin Morneau made the third out at home after getting the arm crank from Liddle followed by a quaint little push-down motion that we're still trying to figure out. (The latter two highlights you can see right here, including a quick bit of Liddle's hand motion).

Liddle, of course, is new to the third base coaching role with the Twins after swapping spots with Scott Ullger, who is now the bench coach. No offense to Ullger, but he drew the ire of plenty of Twins fans over the years with his third base coaching techniques. We should be willing to cut Liddle some slack as he works to fine-tune his craft. However, you can be sure the adventures at third base over the past couple of days -- by the coach and the runners -- would have led to even more outrage had the Twins not won both games. In particular, imagine if yesterday's game had finished 3-2 after two early runners were nailed at home? In short, if the Twins are going to continue to trumpet doing the little things right, this is another little thing they must improve upon in the early part of the season -- lest it become a big thing when it matters most.

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