Jim Souhan analyzes the local sports scene and advises you to never take his betting advice. He likes old guitars and old music, never eats press box hot dogs, and can be heard on 1500ESPN at 2:05 p.m. weekdays, and Sundays from 10 a.m.-noon.

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A Series of Random Thoughts from Target Field on a beautiful Tuesday night

Posted by: Jim Souhan under All-Stars and honors, Professional baseball, Ron Gardenhire, Target Field, Twins fans, Twins management, Twins offense, Twins transactions Updated: June 28, 2011 - 11:21 PM

Twins won tonight, 6-4, to move back to nine games out of first place.

The highlights:

-Joe Nathan looked filthy, retiring all three batters he faced. His fastball topped out at 93 or 94, but he had much better movement tonight than in his last outing. After getting the third out on a slider in the dirt, he pumped his fist as he left the mound.

-Matt Capps, too, is throwing with greater movement now than a few weeks ago. The Twins said he was pitching through forearm pain, and that notion has greater credibility when you see Capps throwing with more life, as he did on Tuesday.

-These would be good developments, because internally the Twins are more worried about their bullpen than any of their other failings.

They know Joe Mauer will eventually hit. They expect to eventually get their best position players back on the field. They don't know how or if they're going to fix the bullpen.

The best scenario for this team would be to move close enough to the division leaders that the front office feels compelled to trade for another power reliever. Add one more live arm to this mix, and Capps, Nathan, Glen Perkins and Reliever X could be enough, given the strong showing by the rotation this month, to allow this team to make a move.

-Gotta share this: I was on Sirius Radio this morning with disgraced former Mets executive and disgraced former ESPN fraud Steve Phillips this morning.

He and his bozo sidekick were angry about the column I wrote about Joe Mauer. That's fine. I'm an opinion writer. Every time I offer an opinion, I hear from people who disagree with me. That's kind of the point of writing an opinion column, to generate discussion and take hard stands that objective reporters can't take even if they want to.

What drove me nuts about this interview, though, was that they basically invited me on the air to yell at me.

This is why you have to be really careful which former athletes and executives you hire into the media. I'm a big fan of Roy Smalley, Ron Coomer, Jim Petersen, Mike McCollow, and a lot of the experts who work in our market. They're not paid to be critical, but they do offer real insights into the games they cover.

Now here you have Phillips, Mr. Embarrassing Tabloid Cover, berating me because he disagrees with an opinion that was based on information he has no ability to access. And here's the kicker: Bozo Sidekick starts the interview by passionately arguing that in criticizing Mauer I am criticizing the guy who staved off contraction and got a new stadium built.

Let me repeat: This guy thinks Mauer staved off contraction and got a new stadium built.

For the record, Mauer was in high school when the Twins were threatened by contraction.

And when the new stadium was approved, on April 26, 2005, Mauer had spent most of his time in the big leagues on the disabled list, and had 51 big-league hits.

So maybe Bozo The Sidekick was thinking of A.J. Pierzynski? And if he was, I would have given him credit. As wacky as A.J. can be, he was a prime player in making the Twins relevant and popular. The Twins had no fallback if he hadn't become a good big-league catcher.

Again, this was the first thing the guy said, that Mauer staved off contraction and got the new stadium built.

If the interview had lasted long enough, I think this guy would have asked how I could criticize a guy who taught Prince to play guitar.

Nice homework, dude.

I'm sure Phillips will do something embarrassing to disgrace himself soon, so hurry up and listen. You never know what you'll hear.

-It has become a favorite complaint of fans that Ron Gardenhire seems to be tough on Danny Valencia and easier on other players who aren't performing to Valencia's level.

There is a simple explanation.

 Gardenhire thinks Valencia could be really good. Valencia has power, is capable of hitting for average, has a strong arm and can make the spectacular play at third. At a position that is tough to fill in the big leagues, he could be an All-Star someday. So Gardenhire wants to push Valencia to tighten up his game, avoid silly mistakes, and become more of an impact player.

Gardenhire isn't going to get on Matt Tolbert. Tolbert works incessantly on his game. He doesn't need to be pushed. Gardenhire is going to get on talented players who allow their minds to wander, or who become lackadaisical in the field, like Valencia and Casilla.

-Cliff Lee pitched his third straight complete-game shutout on Tuesday night, against Boston. According to ESPN's Jayson Stark, only one pitcher has pitched four straight: Orel Hershiser.

-Writing about Tsuyoshi Nishioka for the Wednesday paper. Watching him is painful. I don't mean that to sound cruel, I mean that to sound sympathetic. I haven't seen a big-leaguer look so nervous since...the last time I walked past Tolbert.

 I agreed with the Twins' decision to trade J.J. Hardy after he seemed uninterested in playing hurt last year, and I understood why they didn't want to commit to mutli-year deals for Jesse Crain and Matt Guerrier.

In retrospect, the Twins would have been much better off keeping Hardy and spending the money the lavished on Nishioka on one of their key relievers, perhaps Guerrier, who was a great professional for the Twins. If the Twins can fix their other problems, the strength of their bullpen could be the difference between contending and falling out of the race.

-Still waiting for the Wolves to fire Kurt Rambis. Or were they hoping The Rapture would take care of that?

 

 

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