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.
Let's not argue about using "the worst team in baseball" label when talking about the Twins. As long as they have the worst record in the league, that's how they'll be known here -- all the more because they have the worst record while playing in one of the two worst divisions in the majors. With some success in Chicago against the White Sox over the next few days, the Twins could upgrade their status to "worst team in the American League."
Keep your fingers crossed.
But here's something I like: The Rochester-to-Minneapolis shuttle has been in full effect over the last few weeks, and the Twins seem to have a clue when moves are being made. It took five starts for the Twins to act on the folly of the Jason Marquis signing, with his awful finale on Sunday dropping his statistics into Francisco Liriano territory.
My hope is they'll use the occasion to liberate Brian Duensing from the bullpen, where he appears to have cured himself of the extreme difficulties that he faced in 2011 against right-handed batters. I wouldn't be opposed to seeing the former Gophers pitcher Cole De Vries get a shot at the rotation, but that could also happen in the Nick Blackburn slot if he remains sidelined (or ineffective) or the P.J. Walters slot if his success turns out to be a mirage. (Four home runs in 12 1/3 innings concerns me a bit.)
I can come up with no better context for Marquis' awfulness than what Aaron Gleeman wrote on his latest blog post: "...opponents hit .371/.434/.629 (against Marquis). To put that in some context, consider Albert Pujols is a career .325/.417/.609 hitter, so Marquis basically turned every batter he faced into a souped-up version of this era's best hitter."
Last year, it felt like roster moves were being made to fill dead space. Yes, injuries had something to do with that, but you wonder how much the progress of some players -- Ben Revere, Chris Parmelee, Rene Tosoni and others -- was impeded by coming to Minnesota and then not playing as much, or being instructed as much, as they would have been in the minors.
By comparison, after keeping him with the team at the beginning of this season, Revere was held back at Rochester while the Twins brought in (the quickly departed) Clete Thomas, Erik Komatsu and Darin Mastroianni. None of those three players figure to have a future with the Twins that would rival Revere's, but it looks like Twins management showed some discipline in using his time in the minors as a teaching tool. I'll use four extra-base hits in 17 at-bats as early evidence, especially compared to Revere's 14 extra-base hits in 481 plate appearances in 2011.
Sometimes, minor league stats can be deceptive -- Revere had only one extra-base hit during his Rochester weeks -- when they're compiled while a player is being asked to try different things. But I'm also hoping that Drew Butera's time in the minors will make him a more functional hitter (read: not an assumed out) if he stays with the Twins. It's not often that a guy could have a .315 on-base percentage and it would be a 50 percent improvement over the previous year.
Whether time spent in Rochester with hitting coach Tom Brunansky and manager Gene Glynn, both in their first year with that team, will help Danny Valencia, Parmelee and some of the others is worth watching. At the very least -- and I am well aware that I'm operating in faint-praise territory here --the worst team in baseball is making like it has a plan for shedding that label.
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