Terry Ryan was hoping that three players the Twins recently called up from Class AAA Rochester -- shortstop Brian Dozier and starting pitchers Scott Diamond and P.J. Walters -- would turn the Twins around and so far the trio has contributed quite a bit for a team that has now won four games in a row.
Since his recall, Diamond is 3-0 with an impressive 1.40 ERA and has given only 17 hits in 19 1/3 innings.
"Diamond's got the ability to hide the ball, and he also can add and subtract and he's certainly looked much more confident than he was last year," said Ryan, the Twins general manager.
"Walters has been with the Cardinals some and Toronto a little bit last year. He did a good job for us at Rochester this year and got off to a good start. He throws strikes. He was obviously one of those guys that, if we had trouble with our rotation, he might be one we go get, and we did."
Walters has a 3.65 ERA and has given up 10 hits in 12 1/3 innings.
Dozier has played great at shortstop, with one error in 13 games. He hit two sacrifice flies off Milwaukee ace Yovani Gallardo on Saturday and is hitting .286, and his two home runs in the short time he has been up is already good for fifth on the team.
"[Dozier] has made most of the plays," Ryan said. "They're starting to change speeds on him, it's apparent that he can hit the fastball. But he's doing everything we're looking for in the middle of that diamond. He can run and throw and he can steal a base. He knows how to handle the bat and I think he's going to get better.
"He's hit about everywhere he's been. He's stronger than he looks, he's got some strength in his bat. He can hit the ball quite away when he barrels one up. He can use the whole field, which is probably more important, he can go to the opposite field with some authority. I think he'll figure it out."
And Ryan added that Dozier can play all over the infield but added: "The good thing about him is that shortstop is something he can handle. We've been certainly gearing up and grooming him for shortstop up here and he's accepted that. He can play a lot of places. We've had him at second, third, center, all over actually. But I think we'd be very comfortable if he could just settle in at shortstop and we could put [Alexi] Casilla and [Jamey] Carroll over at second, it fits pretty good."
Catcher Drew Butera is another of the recalls who have done well. Butera, who hit just .167 a year ago, was batting .360 after getting two hits Saturday and, as always, has done a fantastic job behind the plate.
Down on the farm
Ryan just returned from a scouting trip to Rochester. "We've got a few pitchers down there that are doing well," he said. "We don't need that right now. We're looking for something offensively. I think if we could get this pitching staff to settle down and start giving us opportunities to win, we'd be more in tune to probably looking position-wise down there."
Demoted third baseman Danny Valencia began Saturday on a five-game hitting streak for Rochester. After a slow start, he was hitting .214 with a homer and four RBI in seven games with the Red Wings.
Joe Benson, a September callup for the Twins last year, homered for Class AA New Britain on Friday night but was hitting .156 with a homer and two RBI in eight games since being demoted from Rochester.
Local connections on Rangers
Along with the local players playing for the New York Rangers, there's a few familiar names in their front office. Former North Stars winger Glen Sather is the team president and general manager; Former Wild General Manager Doug Risebrough is a consultant. Tommy Thompson, a former Wild assistant GM, is an amateur scout.
As for the Rangers players with a local connection, they of course include former Wild superstar Marian Gaborik, who is third on the team in playoff scoring with four goals and six assists in 17 games. Hastings native Derek Stepan has a goal and seven assists in 17 games, while former Cretin-Derham Hall standout Ryan McDonagh has two assists and logs nearly 27 minutes of ice time per game. Both Stepan and McDonagh played at Wisconsin. Former Gophers defenseman Stu Bickel, a Chanhassen native, has played in 16 of New York's 17 playoff games, registering no points and four penalty minutes. He had 108 penalty minutes in 51 games during the regular season.
For New Jersey, Minnesota native and pending free agent Zach Parise is third on the Devils in playoff scoring with four goals and five assists while former Wild defenseman Marek Zidlicky is eighth with a goal and six assists. White Bear Lake native Ryan Carter has two goals and two assists in 14 games, with one of the goals a game-winner. Former Wild assistant coach Dave Barr is a Devils assistant coach.
• Minneapolis Mayor R.T. Rybak said that Phil Krinkie, who as a member of the Legislature always was very anti-Minneapolis and now is continuing his negative approach as president of the Taxpayers League of Minnesota, is busy trying to get members of the City Council to vote no when it comes to a vote on the Vikings stadium. Krinkie is Mr. Negative. However, Rybak is confident the 7-6 vote will stand when the subject is voted on Friday.
• Not taking part in the Vikings offseason workouts at Winter Park are Jared Allen, Chris Kluwe, Percy Harvin, Adrian Peterson and Michael Jenkins.
• Jerry Bell, chairman of the Twins executive board, has been involved in the building of three stadiums: the Metrodome, Target Field and Sun Life Stadium in Miami. He could be a good adviser for those planning the new Vikings stadium.
• Now that former Gophers wrestler Brock Lesnar is back in the WWE, it looks like there’s two potential chances for his fans in this area to see him in action this summer. On July 21, the WWE SmackDown World Tour will stop in Sioux City, Iowa, for an event and on Aug. 27, the WWE will host their weekly “Monday Night Raw” SuperShow in Milwaukee.
• Former Gophers basketball player Maurice Hargrow is having a great season in Japan with the Chiba Jets. He leads the team with 21.6 points per game and is also averaging 6.3 rebounds a contest. He’s shooting 45 percent from the field and 31.3 percent from three-point range. … Also in Japan, Rick Rickert continues to average a double-double for Kyoto Hannaryz with 13.9 points and 11 rebounds per game. He is shooting over 53 percent from the floor as well. … Former Gophers guard Kevin Payton’s 2012 season recently ended with the Raiffeisen Furstenfeld Panthers in Austria. Over 30 games, he averaged 7.4 points, 3.6 rebounds and 2.3 assists.