Hartman: Road trip displays Twins' many flaws

  • Article by: SID HARTMAN , Star Tribune
  • Updated: June 30, 2014 - 7:18 AM

If the team continues to slump, a fourth 90-loss season in a row isn’t out of the question.

Minnesota Twins manager Ron Gardenhire

Photo: Orlin Wagner, ASSOCIATED PRESS - AP

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The Twins finally stopped their 10-game road losing streak, beating Texas 3-2 on Sunday and moving to six games under .500 at 37-43 following a 1-5 road trip against the Angels and Rangers.

They are eight games out of first place in the American League Central and six games out of the American League wild-card race.

While there seemed to be reason for optimism only last week following their four-game sweep of the White Sox at home, their recent road trip has to make one wonder if the Twins are headed for their fourth consecutive 90-loss season.

The team seems more competitive, and everyone around the organization says this is a better ballclub, but it doesn’t show in the record.

Last year the Twins were 36-41 on June 29, five games under .500 and six games out of first place. They were in fourth place in the division, only a half-game behind the Royals for third.

But they followed that start by going 30-55 down the stretch, a .353 winning percentage, to finish 66-96. This year could be a repeat of the previous three years with the way they performed on their recent road trip.

One of the major issues with this team has been health and consistency.

The team is currently missing Danny Santana and Trevor Plouffe, two of its best infielders.

The Twins’ record hasn’t been helped by the play of shortstop Pedro Florimon, who is hitting .092 after Sunday’s game.

Chris Colabello was an early star for the team, but his drastic inconsistency — he hit .346 with 26 RBI, three home runs, nine doubles and 10 runs scored through the first 20 games of the season, only to hit .110 with four RBI, one home run, one double and three runs scored over the next 20 before being sent down — is a microcosm of the Twins’ issues as a whole. And Colabello continues to struggle at Class AAA Rochester, hitting only .261 with three home runs and 20 RBI in 34 games.

Joe Mauer hit .356 with a .437 on-base percentage, eight RBI and nine runs scored over a 16-game stretch from April 22 to May 15. His season batting average stood at .301 at that point. But then Mauer went on a 30-game stretch from May 16 to June 18 in which he hit only .203 with a .258 on-base percentage with three RBI as his batting average dipped to .254. He has really turned it around lately, hitting .375 with 10 RBI and five doubles over his current 10-game hitting streak.

Kendrys Morales was tremendous in his first six games with the Twins after joining the club June 9, hitting .360 with four RBI and four runs scored, but since then he has drastically cooled off, hitting .152 with five RBI over his past 13 games.

After coming off the disabled list on May 26, Josh Willingham hit .316 with five home runs, 17 RBI and 11 runs scored over his first 17 games back. Since then he has hit .146 with four RBI, two home runs and five runs scored in 13 games.

Even Brian Dozier has recently cooled off, after hitting .263 with 11 home runs, 25 RBI, 12 stolen bases and 41 runs scored through his first 43 games of the season. Dozier has hit .206 with four home runs, 13 RBI, 19 runs scored and three stolen bases over his past 35 games.

The Twins’ starting pitching inconsistencies have been covered here recently, and those remain outside of solid efforts by Phil Hughes and Kyle Gibson over the weekend, but the offense has recently floundered, with only Mauer seeming to come around.

If the Twins can’t get on the same page and get their infield healthy, there’s a good chance this team could hit a bad stretch of losing in the second half like it did last season.

Jeter, Puck compared

Billy Beane, the former Twins player and current general manager of the Oakland Athletics, was asked to comment on Derek Jeter’s impending retirement by ESPN.com. He drew an interesting parallel between Jeter and Beane’s former teammate with the Twins, Kirby Puckett.

“I was just telling one of my younger players that Derek reminds me of my teammate in Minnesota, Kirby Puckett,” Beane said. “Do you know what it’s like when your best player, a Hall of Famer, is also the most respected and best-liked guy in the clubhouse? It creates a unique dynamic for a team. From an outsider’s perspective, Derek has been that guy. In 20 years, I’ve never heard a bad word about him.”

Jeter will be in town this week for his final series against the Twins, while Beane’s Athletics, at 51-30, have the best record in baseball.

Jottings

• One additional financial bonus for the Vikings owners, with the building of the new stadium, is the Wilfs no longer will have to pay the family of former Vikings General Manager Mike Lynn, who received about 10 percent of the suite income (or about $500,000 a year) from the time the Metrodome was built until it’s replaced by the new stadium. Lynn died in 2012.

• Glen Robinson III, the Timberwolves’ second-round draft choice, says he worked out or had contact with 18 NBA teams, but the only contact the former Michigan forward had with the Wolves was at the NBA draft combine in Chicago.

• Former Vikings wide receiver Randy Moss is now an associate head coach at Victory Christian Center School in Charlotte, N.C., according to the Charlotte Observer. Moss is going to coach there because his son, Thaddeus, is on the team. The Observer reported that Thaddeus is about 6-4, 240 pounds.

• Twins center fielder Aaron Hicks is really struggling in his rehab assignment at Class AA New Britain, hitting only .162 with one home run and three RBI in 12 games.

• Gophers goalie Adam Wilcox is in an interesting situation. Wilcox was selected by the Tampa Bay Lightning in the sixth round of the 2011 draft, but if Wilcox decides to come back to the Gophers next season, the Lightning will lose the rights to his contract and he will become an NHL free agent and available to sign with any team. And unless Wilcox has a change of heart, he will be back with the Gophers next season.

• Former Gophers All-America distance runner Hassan Mead finished third in the men’s 5,000-meter final this weekend at the 2014 USATF Championships in Sacramento, Calif. Mead ran a time of 13 minutes, 31.42 seconds in the event after qualifying with a time of 13:02.80, the fifth-fastest time in the world this year. One current Gopher, John Simons, ran in the 1,500 meters but failed to qualify, as did former Gopher Harun Abda in the 800 meters.

 

Sid Hartman can be heard weekdays on 830-AM at 7:40, 8:40 and 9:20 a.m. and on Sundays at 9:30 a.m. shartman@startribune.com

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