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.

Postgame: The losses look alike

Posted by: Phil Miller under MLB Updated: July 1, 2014 - 12:53 AM

    Three more thoughts after a desultory night at the ballpark:

    DEJA VU, IN A BAD WAY: I know that beat writers tend to think that all games start to look alike after awhile, but tonight's game was simply a carbon copy of the six that came before it. The Twins' Anaehim-Texas road trip was like the movie Groundhog Day -- every day, the Twins would give up a couple of runs in the first inning or two to fall behind, then just go silent as though the game was over. Sunday was an exception, when the Twins actually did put together a game-winning rally, but even it was of the same pattern. Seven straight games now, the Twins have fallen behind early. And in all seven, the Twins have scored in no more than two innings themselves.

    (I thought coming home might shake the Twins out of it, as it did last week after a dreadful, shutout-filled stay in Boston. But maybe that had more to do with their opponent last week, the White Sox, than hitting in Target Field again.)

    This statistic sums up what's been going on: The Twins rank third in the AL in left on base, with 606. That's usually a good news/bad news sort of statistic, because you've got to put runners on base to leave them there. But the Twins rank ninth -- ninth! (after being in the top three during April) -- in on-base percentage, meaning they're wasting a far greater fraction of chances than most teams. I guess a .193 average with runners in scoring position over the past seven games is a pretty good indicator of that.

    WALK DON'T RUN? HOW TRUE: Speaking of on-base percentage, there's not much of a mystery about what happened to the Twins' offense. After showing incredible (and in some cases, uncharacteristic) patience early in the season, the Twins are walking far less. They drew five or more walks in 14 different games in April, but did it just six times in May and six in June. They coaxed 123 walks in April all together, but just two-thirds that many in May (81) and June (88). And as a result, look at the runs they scored: 131 in April, 92 in May (despite playing five more games) and 113 in June. I know pitchers tend to throw more strikes when the weather gets warm, but the Twins sorely miss all those extra baserunners.

    5 O'CLOCK POWER: OK, on to something a little lighter. Ron Gardenhire was asked before the game who he would like to see invited to the Home Run Derby next month. Giancarlo Stanton? Yasiel Puig? Justin Morneau? Nope, the Twins manager had a darkhorse candidate. "One guy I would put in there with anybody is [Oswaldo] Arcia," Gardenhire said. "He's absolutely murdered baseballs in this ballpark during [batting practice]. 'd love to see him go to this contest -- I know where he hits the ball."

Twins restore Plouffe, Nunez to roster

Posted by: Phil Miller under MLB Updated: June 30, 2014 - 5:13 PM

    Infielders Trevor Plouffe and Eduardo Nunez have both checked out healthy and been restored to the Twins' active roster, the team announced Monday. Both are in the starting lineup for tonight's game with the Kansas City Royals, the first game of a seven-game homestand.

    Plouffe and Nunez were both injured in a game in Detroit on June 14, Plouffe suffering a bruised rib and Nunez a strained hamstring. Nunez played four games at Class AA New Britain to rehab his injury, going 4-for-10, while Plouffe did not require a rehab stint.

    The two veterans replace shortstop Pedro Florimon, optioned back to Class AAA Rochester after going 0-for-11 in four games since being called up, and infielder Jorge Polanco, who was returned to Class A Fort Myers. Polanco, the first Twins player to make his major-league debut before his 21st birthday since Joe Mauer in 2004, was 2-for-5 in four games with the Twins.

    "It's good to have them back," manager Ron Gardenhire said. "Hopefully they'll be able to help us get it going again at the plate."

    Here are the lineups for tonight's game, with the Twins facing tough K.C. lefty Danny Duffy, who has lost his last two starts despite allowing only three runs over 13 innings:

 

ROYALS

 

Cain RF

Hosmer 1B

Butler DH

Gordon LF

Perez C

Infante 2B

Moustakas 3B

Escobar SS

Dyson CF

 

Duffy LHP

 

TWINS

 

Dozier 2B

Suzuki C

Mauer 1B

Willingham LF

Morales DH

Plouffe 3B

Parmelee RF

Nunez SS

Fuld CF

 

Pino RHP

    Infielders Trevor Plouffe and Eduardo Nunez have both checked out healthy and been restored to the Twins' active roster, the team announced Monday. Both are in the starting lineup for tonight's game with the Kansas City Royals, the first game of a seven-game homestand.

    Plouffe and Nunez were both injured in a game in Detroit on June 14, Plouffe suffering a bruised rib and Nunez a strained hamstring. Nunez played four games at Class AA New Britain to rehab his injury, going 4-for-10, while Plouffe did not require a rehab stint.

    The two veterans replace shortstop Pedro Florimon, optioned back to Class AAA Rochester after going 0-for-11 in four games since being called up, and infielder Jorge Polanco, who was returned to Class A Fort Myers. Polanco, the first Twins player to make his major-league debut before his 21st birthday since Joe Mauer in 2004, was 2-for-5 in four games with the Twins.

    "It's good to have them back," manager Ron Gardenhire said. "Hopefully they'll be able to help us get it going again at the plate."

    Here are the lineups for tonight's game, with the Twins facing tough K.C. lefty Danny Duffy, who has lost his last two starts despite allowing only three runs over 13 innings:

 

ROYALS

 

Cain RF

Hosmer 1B

Butler DH

Gordon LF

Perez C

Infante 2B

Moustakas 3B

Escobar SS

Dyson CF

 

Duffy LHP

 

TWINS

 

Dozier 2B

Suzuki C

Mauer 1B

Willingham LF

Morales DH

Plouffe 3B

Parmelee RF

Nunez SS

Fuld CF

 

Pino RHP

Twins prospects Berrios, Vargas picked to Futures Game

Posted by: Phil Miller under MLB Updated: June 24, 2014 - 6:09 PM

    J.O. Berrios may be only 20 and one of the youngest players in next month's Futures Game at Target Field, but he doesn't figure to be overwhelmed by the chance to represent his franchise in a big-league setting. After all, he's already represented his homeland in the World Baseball Classic.

    Berrios, who has posted a 2.05 ERA in 14 starts this season for Class A Fort Myers, is one of two members of the Twins organization to be selected for the July 13 Futures Game, which pits the best American prospects against a team of international prospects. New Britain first baseman Kennys Vargas, like Berrios a Puerto Rican, will be Berrios' teammate on the international team. Vargas is hitting .318 with 14 home runs and 57 RBIs for the Class AA Rock Cats this season.

    Berrios, a righthanded pitcher from Puerto Rico selected with the 32nd pick in the 2012 draft, has climbed quickly through the Twins' system. He struck out 100 batters in just 103 innings at Cedar Rapids last summer, and has 98 already this year at Fort Myers, in 83 1/3 innings. He also pitched twice for the Puerto Rican team in the 2013 WBC, allowing four runs over two innings.

    No Twins prospect was selected for the USA team. Last season, the Twins were represented by third baseman Miguel Sano and outfielder Byron Buxton at the Futures Game at Citi Field in New York. Both players have been injured all season this year, however.

    Though Sano and Buxton have not been to the major leagues yet, 22 participants in the 2013 Future Game, won by Team USA 4-2, have. Team USA has a 9-6 record in the Futures Game, and has won the last four in a row.

Here is the complete Team USA roster for the 2014 Futures Game:

 

RHP Christian Binford,  KC

RHP Lucas Giolito, Wash

LHP Marco Gonzales, StL

RHP Hunter Harvey, Balt

LHP Daniel Norris, Tor

LHP Henry Owens, Bos

RHP Braden Shipley, Ariz

RHP Robert Stephenson, Cin

RHP Noah Synergaard, NYM

RHP Jake Thompson, Det

 

RF Josh Bell, Pit

2B Mookie Betts, Bos

3B Kris Bryant, ChC

SS J.P Crawford, Phil

3B Joey Gallo, Tex

2B Micah Johnson, CWS

C Peter O'Brien, NYY

C Justin O'Conner, TB

3B D.J. Peterson, Sea

C Kevin Plawecki, NYM

CF James Ramsey, StL

RF Hunter Renfroe, SD

SS Corey Seager, LAD

RF Michael Taylor, Wash

LF Jesse Winker, Cin

 

Here is the complete World Team roster for the 2014 Futures Game:

 

RHP Alfonso Alcantara, LAA

RHP J.O. Berrios, Min

LHP Edwin Escobar, SF

RHP Domingo German, Mia

RHP Tayron Guerrero, SD

RHP Jorge Lopez, Mil

RHP Francellis Montas, CWS

LHP Enny Romero, TB

RHP Luis Severino, NYY

LHP Julio Urias, LAD

 

C Jorge Alfaro, Tex

CF Dariel Alvarez, Balt

SS Javier Baez, ChC

C Christaian Bethancourt, Atl

SS Carlos Correa, Hou

1B/3B Maikel Franco, Phi

RF Gabriel Guerrero, Sea

SS/3B Rosell Herrera, Col

SS Francisco Lindor, Cle

RF/LF Steven Moya, Det

3B Renato Nunez, Oak

2B Jose Peraza, Atl

CF Dalton Pompey, Tor

RF Domingo Santana, Hou

1B Kennys Vargas, Min

Postgame: Arcia's spiral nears record territory

Posted by: Phil Miller under MLB Updated: June 22, 2014 - 9:19 PM

    A handful of extras from the Twins' fourth straight win on Sunday:

    HISTORY YOU DON'T WANT: By all accounts, Oswaldo Arcia seems to be holding up well during one of the longest slumps in Twins history. But it can't be easy.

    Arcia is 2-for-43 with 17 strikeouts since June 6, and it's gotten even worse in the past week. The Venezuelan slugger was 0-for-4 on Saturday, including two strikeouts, extending his hitless skid to 31 straight at-bats.

    That brings him within range of the longest slump in Twins history -- an 0-for-39 blanking in 1978.

    THE FIVE AND DIVE: Phil Hughes was upset with himself, but also at umpire D.J. Reyburn, when he had trouble throwing strikes during Chicago's five-run third. But Gardenhire was much angrier.

    Reyburn ejected Gardenhire for yelling from the dugout, so the manager came out, kicked dirt on the plate, and shouted briefly at the ump. It was Gardenhire's 69th ejection, and second this year.

     "Obviously, I didn't want him to get thrown out of the game, but it's good to know he's behind you," Hughes said. "I was frustrated in the moment. We can laugh at it now, but in the moment, I wasn't a happy camper. ... I guess we both went five-and-dive today."

    BAM-BAM-BAM BURTON: The Twins don't designate a substitute for closer Glen Perkins on days when he's unavailable due to heavy workload, but calling upon Jared Burton on Sunday was an easy call, acting manager Terry Steinbach said. "He has some experience at it. It's a situation where he's been there before," Steinbach said.

    And it was not, Steinbach also insisted, a reflection of the team's confidence in Casey Fien, after the setup man allowed back-to-back home runs to lose a game in Boston on Wednesday. "Absoutely not. I would be confident putting Fiener back in the ninth," Steinbach said. "It's more of a situation where, Burtie has some experience, and he was more rested."

    Burton collected his eighth career save, and first since May 30 of last season, with a 1-2-3 ninth. Said catcher Kurt Suzuki, "He came in and bam-bam-bam. The last three outs, it takes a special person to get those. It's not easy."

    STURDY PEN:  The blown saves by Casey Fien and Glen Perkins got the most attention this week. But the rest of the bullpen, the middle guys who form a bridge to the closer, has been terrific over the past seven games, going 15 innings without allowing an earned run.

Twins plan to cut bullpen to 7

Posted by: Phil Miller under MLB Updated: June 22, 2014 - 12:14 PM

    The Twins close another brief homestand today and head for the West Coast, where they will open a three-game set with the Angels on Tuesday. But not all 25 players on today's roster figure to make the trip.

    Manager Ron Gardenhire said before today's game that the team is discussing reducing the bullpen to seven relievers, instead of the eight they are carrying now, in order to add another position player to the bench. That means somebody faces demotion, trade or release after today's game, though Gardenhire is obviously not ready to say who's being moved.

    There are a lot of ways this can go, and it appears to be a difficult decision, so it will be interesting to see what Terry Ryan's chooses to do. Closer Glen Perkins, setup man Casey Fien and left-handed specialist Brian Duensing are obviously safe, but the other five have varying reasons to worry. Jared Burton has the highest ERA on the current roster, though he's also the highest paid and has been pitching better lately. Matt Guerrier has pitched very well, but he's 35 and doesn't figure to have many seasons left; he might interest a contender who needs to upgrade. Anthony Swarzak has been mostly good this year, albeit not as consistent as in 2013, but it's in long relief. Sam Deduno is a starter who couldn't keep his rotation spot; he's not a great fit for the bullpen, unless it's in a role like Swarzak's. And Caleb Thielbar has been good as the second situational lefty and gives Gardenhire flexibility, but he's used so infrequently -- he doesn't yet have 25 innings this season -- that the Twins would be able to absorb his workload.

    Deduno, Swarzak, Guerrier and Burton are out of options, further complicating the calculation. There might be some trade interest in one or two of them, but at least a couple would be almost certain to be claimed if the Twins tried to pass them through waivers and assign them to the minors.

    Injuries, of course, could easily change the Twins' plans. And there is a game today, after all.

    Phil Hughes will start that game and try to keep the bullpen mostly out of it. He's thrown 10 quality starts in his last 11 games.

    Here are today's lineups as the Twins go for their first four-game sweep of a series in more than three years, since June 2-5, 2011 in Kansas City. Their last four-game home streak came in the Metrodome, July 12-15, 2007 against Oakland:

WHITE SOX

 

Easton CF

Beckham 2B

Abreu 1B

Dunn DH

Ramirez SS

Gillaspie 3B

Sierra RF

De Aza LF

Flowers C

 

Danks LHP

 

TWINS

 

Santana SS

Dozier 2B

Mauer 1B

Willingham LF

Morales DH

Arcia RF

Suzuki C

Escobar 3B

Fuld CF

 

Hughes RHP

Nunez says he's available as Twins try to avoid sweep

Posted by: Phil Miller under MLB Updated: June 18, 2014 - 11:56 AM

    BOSTON -- Eduardo Nunez ran from first to third base a handful of times this morning, and while he said he's OK to play again, it sure didn't look like he was moving at top speed. But he apparently will escape a trip to the disabled list, though I'd be surprised if Ron Gardenhire was comfortable with putting him in the lineup for another couple of days.

    Gardenhire shook up his lineup for the series finale in Fenway Park, in part to give some of the reserves some playing time and in part in hopes of producing a run or two. Pedro Florimon gets his first start since May 7, and Danny Santana is back in the outfield. The Twins have scored just one run in Fenway during this series, and things get no easier today against John Lackey.

    Here are the lineups for the 12:35 CT start:

TWINS

 

Santana CF

Dozier 2B

Mauer 1B

Willingham LF

Morales DH

Parmelee RF

Escobar 3B

Fryer C

Florimon SS

 

Gibson RHP

 

RED SOX

 

Holt RF

Bogaerts 3B

Pedroia 2B

Ortiz DH

Napoli 1B

Nava LF

Pierzynski C

Drew SS

Bradley CF

 

Lackey RHP

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