La Velle E. Neal III has covered baseball for the Star Tribune since 1998 (the post-Knoblauch era). Born and raised in Chicago, he grew up following the White Sox and hating the Cubs. He attended both the University of Illinois and Illinois-Chicago and began his baseball writing career at the Kansas City Star. He can be heard occasionally on KFAN radio, lending his great baseball mind to Paul Allen and other hosts. Mark Rosen borrows him occasionally for WCCO-TV.

Twins postgame: Thoughts on many things

Posted by: La Velle E. Neal III Updated: June 21, 2012 - 10:41 PM

The Twins lost 9-1 to Pittsburgh. Here are some thoughts:

Is that the abyss up ahead?: The Twins went 10-3 over a stretch of 13 games to improve to 25-35 by June 12. Twins manager Ron Gardenhire said something to extent that still being ten games under .500 at that point showed them how poorly they played. They are back to 14 games under .500. So was that stretch of good play just one of those stretches that every team has during a season? And not a sign that they were better?

They have to get pitching: Look at the Pirates. Their offense is terrible (well, the Twins made it look better than that) but they are winning with pitching, hustle and pretty good defense. The Twins won't get this thing turned around until they sort out their pitching. Don't be afraid to get aggressive on the free agent market AND try to get pitching through trades, which could be tough because teams hold on to pitching. One thing I know: Josh Willingham would look good in the middle of the Pirates lineup.

That leads to another thought: Would Twins fans buy in to a total remodeling? When you have Joe Mauer locked up for so long, they might feel compelled to try to put a winning team on the field in order to keep attendance from slipping too much. But where will that get them if they don't have any pitching? Their rotation for next year looks to be Nick Blackburn, Scott Diamond, Liam Hendriks and Kyle Gibson - but Gibson will be on an innings count coming off of Tommy John surgery. That's not a rotation. I would not be surprised if they buy Scott Baker out of his option year and bring him back with an  incentive-based deal. They STILL need two starters after that. If Frankie continues to improve he might have some trade value. Willingham should have trade value. Matt Capps could have value as a set-up guy. And teams surely will ask about Span, Perkins and Burton. Terry Ryan has done rather well in the past with plucking the right players out of other organizations. Can he do it again? And can he deal for someone who's close to being major league ready? Twins front office: Don't be afraid to take another step back. You lost 99 games last year, so it won't be a shock if it happens again.

Morneau's base running: I gave Morneau points for tagging from second and advancing to third on a fly ball in the second. Then he stole second base in the sixth inning. "Why is he running?" I thought to myself when he took off. But he pulled it off and stole his first base since 2007. But then he got caught cheating toward third on a ball in the dirt and was thrown out after a semi-rundown. That took away from his nice baserunning day.

Mauer's quad: Some folks are taking shots at Mauer for not being able to play in this series. I believe No. 7 should be given a break this time. He had played in 60 of 65 games before this series. He's answered the bell, folks. He won't come out and say it, but I think he's getting more and more peeved about Rickie Weeks' slide into home plate on Sunday the longer he is out. It stinks for Mauer. He's going to block the plate. He has the technique to avoid injuries - he never would have had his leg turned the way Buster Posey did when he was nailed last year (that's one thing you don't hear about, that Posey used poor technique on that play). On the play with Weeks, Mauer gave him enough plate for him to take. So some Twins don't understand why Weeks slid the way he did. Let's see if Mauer can get on the field this weekend.

Stadiums. Make sure to read my Sunday Insider. Now that I've been to PNC Park, I'm releasing a new top five of favorite stadiums. Joe Christensen, when he's not at Skyline Chili or Montgomery Inmn BBQ, will cover the series against the Reds.

 

 

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