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When Jason Kubel connected on the Mariano Rivera cutter and deposited it into the right field seats on Sunday, shock waves were felt in Minnesota and in New York. That just doesn't happen, and yet, it happened. And after Jon Rauch struck out Derek Jeter, Brett Gardner and Mark Teixeira to end the game, the Twins losing streak, which had reached twelve games in Yankees Stadium, was over.
Let's remain optimistic and say that the Twins have a one game winning streak in Yankees Stadium rather than say they now have one win in their last 13 games against the Bronx Bombers.
However, in the series, some of the Twins biggest weaknesses were exposed. That hitting-with-the-bases-loaded thing (or not, as it were) hurt them on Friday night. The Twins bullpen, with the exception of Rauch, showed why being able to record strikeouts can be very important against such a strong lineup. On Saturday, when Joe Mauer was unable to play due to a sore heal, the back of the TWins lineup was very weak. And on Sunday, when the team had Matt Tolbert at 3B and Alexi Casilla at SS, the Twins bench depth was exposed.
So, is there any help? Do the Twins have any players that are close to ready to help the Twins this summer, to shore up some of those weaknesses? The answer is a resounding Yes.
\Let's start with the easiest one to probably fix, the bullpen. With Brian Duensing and Ron Mahay pitching so well, and Jose Mijares struggling all year, I think it makes sense to option Mijares to Rochester and call up Rob Delaney. I've been as big of a Jesse Crain supporter in recent years, believing he deserved a chance to return to his old ways, and despite random visions of the potential, it's clear that the time has come to say good bye to Jesse Crain. By Designating him for Assignment, the Twins risk losing him (and likely would), but it would provide a 40 man roster spot for Anthony Slama. Slama is already 26 while Delaney is already 25. Both have dominated at each level of the Twins farm system deserve to be big leaguers. Meanwhile, Kyle Waldrop has been terrific all year. He impressed in training camp and has continued to induce a ton of ground balls at Rochester. He appears to be nearly ready as well.
How about the left-side of the infield? With JJ Hardy out of the lineup, the Twins bench is exposed. Trevor Plouffe has been around for a long time, and he is now in his third season at AAA Rochester. But he is still just 23 and through this weekend, he is hitting .300 with some extra base power. He actually had four errors this weekend, but prior to that, he had done a very good job defensively as well. At 3B, Danny Valencia started out very slow. At one point, he was hitting just .152. That was 20 games ago. Since then, he has had a hit in each game and is now hitting .305 while playing solid defense. Valencia is also already 25 and ready for his shot.
Wilson Ramos has again struggled at Rochester since being sent back to AAA. At the same time, Jose Morales came off of the DL and was sent to the Red Wings as well. He was 5-5 in his first game back, and 3-4 with a walk in the second. He needs to show he can play defense at all to be ready to come up.
Jeff Manship showed what he can do at the big league level when he was needed a few weeks ago. Luke Hughes showed that he could become a 2B or bench option as well.
In other words, the Twins have done a good job of promoting from within, and there's more where that came from.
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