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Last night, the Twins Triple-A affiliate, the Rochester Red Wings, lost 2-1 to Charlotte. It was their ninth straight loss, and 13th loss in their last 17 games. The team fell to 39-72 on the season, 33 games below .500 and 25 1/2 games out of first place.
The bright spot for the team had to be the performance of starting pitcher Nick Blackburn. The Twins right-hander made his first start since being demoted and pitched well. He threw five shutout innings. He gave up three hits, walked none and struck out two.
It has been a disappointing season for the Red Wings, and certainly for their fans. There are many reasons for their struggles. As always, it starts with the starting pitching. The three still-somewhat-young starters (Glen Perkins, Anthony Swarzak and Jeff Manship) were disappointing. Swarzak missed about six weeks with a broken toes. Mike Maroth made three starts and threw 11 innings and hasn't pitched since (although he has started throwing rehab innings in the GCL). Things were going so bad for Cuban Yoslan Herrera, that he just left. They brought in veteran knuckleballer Charlie Zink in an attempt to at least provide some innings. He was the International League's pitcher of the year just two seasons ago. He made three starts and was 0-2 with a 12.75 ERA before going on the Disabled List.
The starters' struggles meant that the very talented Red Wings bullpen has been overused all season. Jose Lugo is already over 70 innings pitched. Kyle Waldrop, Tim Lahey and Rob Delaney are all over 60 innings. Anthony Slama was over 50 when he was promoted.
And finally, the Red Wings have provided the Twins with players and injury replacements and depth throughout the season. Danny Valencia has taken over as the Twins 3B after spending hte first two months of the season in Rochester. Luke Hughes was summoned and homered in his first at bat (and then hurt after returning to the Red Wings). Wilson Ramos had a nice showing to start his Twins career and has now been traded. Jason Repko was the Red Wings best, most consistent hitter and earned his promotion to the Twins. He has served well as the team's backup outfielder. Trevor Plouffe has 15 AAA home runs and is now with the Twins for the third time already this season. After missing the first six or seven weeks of the season, Jose Morales came back and struggled. He came on of late and is now on the Twins bench as the third catcher and a pinch hitter. Jeff Manship was been up with the Twins four times. And Anthony Slama finally made his much-anticipated Twins debut. So, the AAA affiliate of the Twins is still fully meeting its responsibility of providing the Twins with players that can help at the big league level.
There have been some good points of late:
There is also plenty on the other side of the spectrum:
The role of a team's Triple-A affiliate is to provide players to the big league club when needed. To that extent, the Rochester Red Wings have again been terrific for the Minnesota Twins. However, for fans of the Rochester Red Wings, this 2010 season can be little more than disappointing.
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