Startribune.com digital sports editor Howard Sinker used to cover the Twins and now shares season tickets with friends in Section 219 of Target Field. He blogs about baseball from the perspective of a long-time fan who loves the game, doesn’t always believe the hype and likes hearing what others think. Howard sometimes talks about sports with Cathy Wurzer on MPR's Morning Edition.
It's easier to write about things when they don't have the tinge of desperation, which was how a lot of people were feeling when the Twins started off by dropping four games without putting up much of a battle. But the two victories over the Angels have cheered up the fan base a bit, even if both of them came with downsides -- the subpar defense on Wednesday and the subpar work of Francisco Liriano and Matt Capps on Thursday.
On the plus side was the offensive wake-up call in the final game of the series, including the booming home runs by Mauer and Morneau and the four hits by Denard Span. And the first week of Josh Willingham is caused some people, in comments scattered around the Twins web, to make (premature) comparisons to Harmon Killebrew.
Willingham has had a Killebrew week, and has become a guy that you make sure that you're watching when he comes to the plate. Can four home runs in six games become 40 in 162? The Twins appear not to have oversold when they talked about why he's a good fit for Target Field, compared to Michael Cuddyer or any of the other alley-to-alley guys who don't thrive in the ballpark's layout.
Is anyone else wondering when Gardy may decide to break up Mauer/Morneau in the batting order and go Mauer/Willingham/Morneau? It's a left/right/left thing, as well as getting your purest power hitter into the clean-up spot in the order. There doesn't seem to be any downside to the move, especially with some combination Ryan Doumit, Chris Parmelee and Danny Valencia backing them up.
As heartening as it was to see Morneau's blast on Thursday, I'm still concerned about Mauer and Morneau batting consecutively against tough lefties, especially out of the bullpen. The Morneau-Willingham flip would make an opposing manager work a little bit harder in plotting late-game strategy.
And on the subject of late-game strategy, what about the closer situation? Matt Capps was OK in getting Wednesday's save and barely survived in getting Thursday's, giving up two-thirds of the lead that the Twins gave him going into the ninth. Meanwhile, Glen Perkins has picked up where he left off in 2011 -- three games, 3 2/3 innings, two hits, six strikeouts, no walks.
Does it make sense to switch their roles? Or to give Perkins the closer gig and find a better eighth-inning option? Maybe not right now, but it's definitely as issue to keep an eye on. Perkins was almost as effective last year against right-handers as against left-handed batters -- .318 OPS vs. .300 (although righties did hit him with more power) -- and Gardy has used him in a way that shows confidence left or right. Capps splits -- both career and in 2011 -- are neutral.
The closer call isn't one that needs to be made this week or next, but it's a good option to have.
And speaking of options, what do you do about Liriano? He's kicked butt in the first inning of his two starts and then gotten his butt kicked after that.
Does that make him a set-up candidate? You know, getting him in and out before he gets hurt.
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