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Picking your moments (and minor league notes)

Posted by: Seth Stohs Updated: July 1, 2010 - 11:39 AM

The Twins finished the month of June with a 12-15 record. It wasn't a good month for the hometown nine, but they weathered that storm and still hold a 1.5 game lead over the Tigers in the AL Central. But things don't get easier. The Tampa Bay Rays come to town tonight to start a four game series. The Rays played about as well as the Twins did in June and fell into third place in the AL East. But don't be fooled, this is a very good team, and they're getting frustrated and fiesty (as evidenced by Evan Longoria calling out BJ Upton in the dugout for his lack of hustle). These will certainly be four tough games. Then the Twins head to Toronto to play the bashing Blue Jays before heading to Detroit for three games against the Tigers.

Today, I thought a round of quick notes and Twins topics would be fun:

In Jim Souhan's column today, he pointed out that Jim Thome's playing time needs to  be rationed. In the article, he had a quote from manager Ron Gardenhire that was a little amusing.

""We can run Thome out there every day, but he wasn't as good today as he was the last two days," Gardenhire said. "You can see he's a little stiffer in his swing. You're pushing it when you play him three days in a row. If you kill him now, he won't be any good the rest of the way. You have to pick your moments.""

It is one quote, but it speaks volumes. 

"He wasn't as good today (Wednesday) as he was the last two days." OK, he was 2-3 on Monday night with a walkd, a triple and a home run. On Tuesday, he was 1-3 with a walk and his 8th home run. Then on Wednesday, he was 0-3 with three strikeouts. Wsa it really that his swing was a little stiffer on the third day? Or, was it that he was facing a left-handed pitcher? Against left-handers this year, Thome is 7-37 with two walks and 17 strikeouts.

That's why the comment, "You have to pick your moments" stands out so much for me. Those "moments" probably aren't against left-handed pitching, right? Doesn't that make sense?

Why is this noteworthy? Because it appears that in Gardy's mind, Thome now needs a day off. If you're 'pushing it when you play him three days in a row," what happens when he plays on the fourth day in a row? 

The problem is that tonight, the Twins will face Jeff Niemann, a very solid, right-handed pitcher for the Rays. Thome's OPS against right-handed pitchers this year is 1.088. Versus lefties, it is .555.

So what is my concern? In my mind, picking his moments would (should?) have meant that Thome would have had the day off on Wednesday against a left-handed pitcher (Andy Oliver). Then he could play tonight against a right-handed pitcher (Niemann). Then he would get the day off on Friday night against a very tough lefty in David Price. Then Thome could play on Saturday and Sunday against right-handed pitchers (Wade Davis and James Shields).

Why else is this frustrating? Because the Twins have a player in Michael Cuddyer who defensively should not be playing much 3B. I understand why he is there, to some degree, against right-handed pitching. It made sense in the National League to keep Jason Kubel and Delmon Young's bats in the lineup. But against left-handed pitching, Cuddyer should move back to RF and Jason Kubel should move back to DH with Thome on the bench. In that scenario, Danny Valencia can play 3B.

Which brings up another point. Did the Danny Valencia fly out on the first pitch he saw with the bases loaded in the first inning of the game in Milwaukee really hurt his standing with the Twins manager that much? Since he was called up a month ago, he has exceeded all expectations with his glove and arm at 3B. Offensively, despite lack of power to this point, he has managed to hit .300. I still believe that the power will come for Valencia, but for now, that production level works just fine in the 8th spot in the batting order.

So yes, it is about 'picking your spots." I 100% agree. I think that picking moments to give players days off is wise. it's always been strange to me that Joe Mauer (or most catchers) don't catch the day games after night games. I fully understand that catchers need days off, and that it is a very physically-demanding position. But what if there is a better matchup for Mauer, in this case, in the Sunday afternoon game? What happens if the White Sox pitched John Danks on a Saturday night and had Freddy Garcia pitching on a Sunday afternoon? Why wouldn't Mauer get Saturday night off and catch on Sunday afternoon?

So, what do you think?  While you ponder, here are some quick minor league notes:

  • Kyle Gibson was named to the AA Eastern League All Star roster this week. He was also named to the High-A Florida State League All-Star team earlier but obviously did not participate because he had been promoted. Gibson is joined by Ben Revere and Deolis Guerra from the New Britain Rockcats.
  • Yesterday, the International League named its All-Stars as well. The Rochester Red Wings will be represented by outfielder Dustin Martin and reliever Anthony Slama. Both are very deserving, but it's a shame that the Red Wings best bullpen pitcher, Kyle Waldrop, was not named to the team.
  • Former Twin Chris Heintz was hired as the Twins Gulf Coast League manager for the 2010 season. This week, he resigned the position to become an assistant coach at his alma-mater, the University of South Florida. He was replaced by Ramon Borrega.
  • JJ Hardy made his first rehab appearance last night in Beloit with the Low-A Snappers. He went 0-3, was hit by a pitch and had a throwing error in the game.
  • Last night in short-season rookie league Elizabethton, Manuel Soliman threw seven no-hit innings. He was replaced in the game by Andrei Lobanov who gave up one hit, but completed the 1-0 shut. Soliman is an interesting story. He signed with the Twins as a hitter in March of 2007, but after hitting .189 and .211 his first two seasons, the Twins made him a pitcher in 2009.
  • By the way, the Twins won't be the only one headed to Detroit on July 9th to watch the Twins and Tigers? I will be there. So will Parker, and Sooze will be there too. We are all boarding the Twins Train. Check out the Twins Train site and see if there are more seats for the Tigers trip. They have also added two more trips to AL Central cities in August.

With that, I'm going to call it a day. Please feel free to comment below. And also, be sure to keep attention here and on the TwinsCentric guys' blogs for details on a couple of big projects that will be announced in coming days.

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