Hartman: Pitching, timely hitting still eluding Twins

  • Article by: SID HARTMAN , Star Tribune
  • Updated: June 30, 2013 - 11:36 PM

The team is only six games under .500, but the next 14 before the All-Star break are against AL East powers.

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Twins starter Scott Diamond was 8-4 with a 3.16 ERA after 14 starts in 2012, compared to being 5-7 with a 5.40 ERA this season.

Photo: J. Pat Carter, ASSOCIATED PRESS file

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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?

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