Phil Miller covered three seasons of Twins baseball, but that was at a different ballpark for a different newspaper. Now Miller returns to the baseball beat after joining the Star Tribune as the Gopher football writer in 2010, and he won't miss the dingy dome for a minute. In addition to the Twins and Gophers, Miller covered the Utah Jazz and the NBA for six years at The Salt Lake Tribune.

Twins' shakeup raises lots of questions

Posted by: Phil Miller under MLB Updated: July 15, 2013 - 12:54 AM

Judging by my Twitter (@MillerStrib) and email (phil.miller@startribune.com) accounts, there is much confusion about the Twins' postgame roster shakeup on Sunday. So here's an attempt to clarify a few things:

-- Why not announce third callup? The Twins said that shortstop Doug Bernier and catcher Chris Herrmann would be added to the roster, but didn't name the third player. I could not get the third name confirmed on Sunday, but it appears obvious that Chris Colabello is coming back. Why?

First of all, he's on the 40-man roster already; with Bernier claiming P.J. Walters' old spot on the 40-man roster, there are no other vacancies. The Twins could cut a current menber, but more likely, Colabello is the guy. After all, he's having an incredible season for Rochester, basically one home run short of winning a Triple Crown in the International League.

He's right-handed, which helps balance the Twins' roster, and could join Ryan Doumit and Joe Mauer to fill the right field, first base and designated hitter spots, along with Justin Morneau, on a sort-of rotating basis.

His numbers: a .356 batting average, 24 home runs and 75 RBIs in 84 games, with a .435 on-base percentage and a .656 slugging percentage. Sure, scouts have questioned whether he has the bat speed to hit like a major-league first baseman, and yeah, he'll turn 30 in October so he's no hot prospect. But with those numbers, why would an offense-challenged team like the Twins not give him an opportunity?

Ron Gardenhire admitted as much; when I suggested that the All-Star Game is the reason for the delay, all he would say is, "I'd have to kill you if I give you that information. ... That's a good guess, though."

So why not announce the move now? Because Colabello will represent the Red Wings in the Triple-A All-Star Game in Reno, Nev., on Wednesday. And he could get hurt. Normally, when a major-league team calls up a minor-leaguer, he no longer sets foot on a baseball diamond, for fear of injury. But the Twins, understandably, don't want to deprive Colabello of an All-Star experience (though I'm sure he'd prefer the call-up than a Triple-A honor.). So watch for an announcement of his promotion on Thursday.

-- Why demote Oswaldo Arcia? This one comes from Phil Mackey at 1500 ESPN and Casey Knollmaier, or @knollmcb on Twitter, who note that Arcia remains one of the Twins' top offensive players, statistically, even during his recent slump. Which is true; Arcia's .408 slugging percentage ranks third on the Twins.

But that doesn't take into account Arcia's age -- at 22, he's the youngest player on the team and has the fewest games of minor-league experience -- and the depth of his current funk. Seeing it up close, he's useless to the Twins at the moment; even his manager can't help making a joke of how badly he's pressing at the plate. Gardenhire compared him to a cartoon character on Saturday, saying he looks like he's swinging three times at every pitch. He's not coming close -- Arcia has struck out seven straight times, 11 of 13, and is obviously psyched out by his sudden inability to hit.

Sending Arcia to Rochester and allowing him to hit a few 400-foot bombs against lesser pitchers seems like an obvious prescription for his swing sickness. My guess: He hits a half-dozen home runs in the next three weeks, and is back by Aug. 10.

Parmelee is a tougher quandry; he was obviously stunned to be sent down.

(Side note to express genuine respect for Parmelee: He obviously didn't want to talk about his demotion, and it wasn't easy for him to do so, but Parmelee stepped up Sunday and consented to an interview after getting the awful news. What a professional.)

He hasn't hit the way he did last year at AAA, and seems mystified as to why. He's lost some playing time because of it, but clearly believed he was going to be given the chance to play out of it, especially since his defense in right field has been better than expected. He's 25 and has to be wondering if he'll ever stick in the majors. I'm sure he'll be back, but I wonder if he'll ever be given the opportunity he got this spring again.

-- So what's with the new guys? Well, that's an interesting subject. Bernier is 33 and has played 600 games -- more than 2,000 at-bats -- at Triple-A, and his numbers aren't particularly impressive. I'm assuming he's a great fielder, because he's a .241 hitter in the minors, with just 15 homers in 12 seasons. He's at .295 this year, and you have to imagine he's overjoyed to be getting a second chance (after two games with the Rockies in 2008) at playing in the majors, which is really cool.

But c'mon, he's not exactly part of the Twins' future. And 25-year-old catcher Chris Herrmann, batting just .230 at Rochester, isn't forcing the Twins' hand like Colabello. Far more likely: Terry Ryan and Ron Gardenhire are sending a message that you have to produce in order to stay in the majors, and Arcia and Parmelee might benefit from the motivation that a month in the International League should produce. Escobar, too, for that matter, though his history makes it less than certain that he's a major-league talent. He'll be force-fed at-bats so the Twins can learn what they have in the gregarious Venezuelan.

I would expect Herrmann and Bernier to play once a week for the Twins, other than pinch-hitting and pinch-running duty. With the possible exception of Colabello, these moves seem aimed more at the demotees than the promotees. If you get my meaning.

Ryan admitted that the Twins are in "trade mode," meaning that more changes are likely coming. But in the interim, this gives the Twins a chance to shake up the roster and keep everyone focused. Aaron Hicks has been worse than Arcia, but he stays -- why? Because he seems to be making progress, keeps getting better. It helps that the Twins have few options in center field at the moment, but there seems to be much more confidence that he will make the patience worthwhile.

"I've never seen it since i've been here -- three guys at once," said Justin Morneau. "I don't know -- there are guys playing well [at Rochester], you want to show those guys they're going to be rewarded. That's something they've always done in this organization -- if you play well, you're going to get a chance."

More questions or comments? I'm at @millerstrib on Twitter, or phil.miller@startribune.com on email. Please, no more emails about Joe Mauer being the root of all the team's problems.

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