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"Not enough gets said about Michael Cuddyer. He's probably our MVP right now because he's had to pick up Morny and everybody else in the infield everywhere else. He doesn't get a lot of credit but from the manager, I can tell you how much I appreciate it."
While there's no doubt Cuddyer's ability to fill in at first, second and third base (aside from his regular OF gig) has been helpful, we can think of at least a few other Twins who get the MVP nod over a guy hitting .279 with 48 RBI. Gardy was probably just tipping his cap more than really naming his MVP, but still ... let's talk about Carl Pavano, Delmon Young, Morneau, Joe Mauer ... etc. ... before we get to Cuddy.
That said, it's office baseball time. The Twins are going for a sweep in a big way. The rules:
*If you think of any other team MVP candidates, shout them out.
*If Brian Duensing continues to solidify the rotation, start to feel optimistic again?
*If the Twins top double-digits in runs again, fax your pitching resume to Kansas City.
When given the chance, we like to combine two things that really don't have anything to do with each other: watching baseball and training for a marathon. Normally, these two things couldn't be much different. Watching baseball, while employing the proper slouch on the couch, can be thought of as ridiculously sedentary. Training for a marathon generally is not. But last night, instead of running outside like we usually do, we hopped on a treadmill and watched a few innings of Pavstache and Co. at the same time.
Luckily, in that hour or so, we were able to see not only three uniformed Orioles get tossed from the game, but also sort of see a fan spend more time on the field than Nick Blackburn has in a lot of recent starts. As such, we have some critiques.
*Ty Wigginton (pictured, via that video link): Bravo, sir, on most accounts. The spontaneous reaction leading to an almost immediate ejection. The steadfast belief that you were correct (and he was correct, that was a terrible call ... not only did the ball beat the runner by a considerable margin, but Wigginton actually did tag J.J. Hardy). The complete meltdown. The relative brevity. The only thing we would change is the angle and proximity to the umpire. Chest out, hips back. This isn't Night at the Roxbury.
*Originally, we didn't know who the middle Oriole ejection was. Thanks to Yahoo, we have this: After Hardy came around to score on a Drew Butera(notes) single, pitching coach Rick Kranitz sarcastically cheered and clapped so that the umpires could hear him. He was immediately ejected by home plate umpire Bill Hohn, who called Kranitz's actions "unprofessional and uncalled for." One man's unprofessional and uncalled for is another man's, "well done, sir!" It doesn't get much funnier than that.
*Juan Samuel (on the video). Sorry, it seemed forced. He might have been genuinely mad, but his production seemed a little too theatrical. Rather than reacting to the immediate slight of a bad call at first base, he seemed to be reacting to a multitude of things, not the least of which is that fewer than 100 games into the season Baltimore is more than 30 games out of first place. However: major bonus points for throwing his hat at the end. That never gets old.
*Whatever fan ran onto the field. As the amateur video below will show (note, we just updated with a better video thanks to @kobbybahn on Twitter) -- and as the Twins announcers were telling us last night -- this was one of the lamest on-field pursuits of a breakaway fan in history. Somewhere between an immediate Taser and what happened last night lies the solution to proper fan takedowns. Let him (or her ... oh, let's face it, him) have his 15 seconds of running around, but then get serious about it. It's only amusing for a little while. Michael Cuddyer joked on the post-game radio interview that the security guards were employing the Muhammad Ali rope-a-dope method. He wasn't that far off. They seemed to just be waiting for the fella to tucker himself out. LET'S SEE SOME HUSTLE.
"He hadn't been out there in a while, but we were looking for runs."
The "he," of course, was Michael Cuddyer -- who got the start at second base, getting his first significant action at the position since 2005. The move made sense -- in fact, when we heard Cuddyer was going to be in that spot, we quickly warmed to the idea in the short-term. With Orlando Hudson on the shelf for a few games, would you rather sacrifice a pretty decent amount of offense (Cuddy, Delmon, Kubel or Thome sits) or a little defense (Brendan Harris, a decent but not great glove man, sits while the other four play)? Long-term, Cuddyer could be exposed in the infield (as he has been at third base in the past). Short-term, though, you can get by. It looked even smarter, of course, when Cuddy, Delmon and Kubel all homered in a 5-4 victory.
But let's get back to the big picture, even if this is a short-term move. What did Gardy's decision mean:
*He can see that offense is a vital third strength of this team. While the pitching has been solid and the defense has been other-worldly in terms of errors, the Twins' offense -- when loaded up the right way -- can be very dangerous. Unlike years past, when taking defense instead of offense might have been prudent because stealing runs was more likely than creating them, this year's team can slug its way to some wins.
*The Twins closing the book on Brendan Harris, at least as a somewhat regular player. The opening of Joe C's story was telling:
Michael Cuddyer and Nick Punto sat on the Twins' flight to Seattle late Sunday night, discussing the team's lineup options with second baseman Orlando Hudson out because of a left wrist injury. Together, they realized it might be best for Cuddyer to briefly return to second base. "Nick decided to go back and tell [manager Ron Gardenhire]," Cuddyer said. "I guess Gardy said he'd already been thinking about it."
Put another way: Cuddyer and Punto decided that, instead of Harris playing 2B or Punto playing there while Harris slid over to third, it would be better for the ballclub if someone who hasn't played the position in five years took a crack at it. Gardenhire not only agreed, but also had already been considering it.
If Harris can't get a start when the regular 2B goes down and another backup (Alexi Casilla) goes on the DL, that's pretty telling. He had 400+ at bats in both 2008 and 2009 for the Twins. He's at 88 right now and batting .170. None of this is a vote of confidence for Harris.
All in all, Gardy has seen what life is like when he has a threat like J.J. Hardy or Delmon Young (last night) down in the No. 8 hole. And while he still loves pitching and defense, he also looks like he loves having a good chance to score every inning.
In case you are interested, the Twins' Class AAA affiliate in Rochester plays Pawtucket tonight, and a pretty fun little pitching matchup is set: Anthony Swarzak for the Red Wings vs. ... ex-Twin Boof Bonser for the Sox.
Bonser is apparently making a rehab start while recovering from a groin injury.
Of course, Boof's spring numbers didn't exactly sparkle: 0-2 record, 11.57 ERA, 3 home runs allowed in 7 innings.
If that doesn't do much for you, there is always a caption contest.
Coming tomorrow, we hope: the return of We Said, She Said. We have the scandalous copy from Lizzy in hand. Now it's up to us to properly eviscerate her points. We're currently working on carving out a three-minute stretch tonight. That should about take care of it.
A couple Twins thoughts to lead off the morning, since news from their neck of the woods has replaced college basketball and even Tiger Woods' embarrassing sexting skills (seriously, the 40-year-old virgin had smoother lines) as the topic du jour. What's the topic du jour? It's the topic of the day. And it's the Twins.
*Absolutely great news on the Joe Mauer contract. We thought 8 years would be the final number on length, and we thought $180 would be the final number on price. They virtually hit that on the nose with the 8-year, $184 million deal that includes a no-trade clause. No more speculation. No more wondering. No more possible trade scenarios. You can say he had 23 million reasons (per year) to stay, but he could have fetched even more next year on the open market. Crazy, but true. The biggest relief for Minnesotans is that what they thought about Mauer -- that he really does want to be here -- is true.
*The Mauer extension was extra good news on a day that started sour, when -- expectedly -- Joe Nathan shut it down for the season and said he will have Tommy John surgery. The official word has led to another round of discussions, this one more intense and official, about who will close ballgames for the Twins this year. Manager Ron Gardenhire made it pretty clear that the subject will be broached with Francisco Liriano, a pitcher Gardenhire said is "one guy we all know that can probably be a closer." Sorry, but if Liriano is back in form -- the kind of form that could make him a reliable closer -- then he is much better suited for the starting rotation. We've maintained all along that he gives a team of No. 3 and No. 4 starters the best chance it has at an ace, which is less important during the regular season but critical during the playoffs. (Scott Baker might grow into being a No. 2 starter, but we don't ever see him being a staff ace). There are plenty of candidates in the pen to get three outs in the ninth inning. Don't make a huge mistake by wasting them on a guy who can get 20-plus dominant outs when he's on his game.
Coming up later: A guest report from the Target Field open house over the weekend ... and we finally saw "The Blind Side."