Jim Souhan analyzes the local sports scene and advises you to never take his betting advice. He likes old guitars and old music, never eats press box hot dogs, and can be heard on 1500ESPN at 2:05 p.m. weekdays, and Sundays from 10 a.m.-noon.
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Scott Diamond allowed five earned runs in 4 2/3 innings on Sunday, and it could have been worse. Clete Thomas saved a home run and Aaron Hicks made a diving catch of a line drive in centerfield.
In fact, those two plays preceeded a stretch of five batters that knocked Diamond from the game, a walk, single, single, popup and bases-clearing triple in the fifth.
I spoke with Twins' pitching coach Rick Anderson about Diamond after the game. Diamond has failed to contribute a quality start (six innings or more and three earned runs or fewer) in seven of his last eigth starts.
``He's inconsistent right now,'' Anderson said. ``He'll throw a good curveball, then he'll try to throw one that's even better, and it will just spin up there. He needs to get back to throwing strikes early in the count.
``I called down and asked (bullpen coach) Bobby Cuellar, `Is this the same guy we saw warming up earier?' Scott just has to relax and have some fun with the game.''
Although the Twins don't have any pitchers at Class AAA they consider worthy of an immediate callup, they could find a way to give Diamond a break from the rotation. They could always use a long reliever for a spot start if they think Diamond would benefit either from a mental break while in the big leagues, or if they think he needs to work on his pitches in the minors.
I think Diamond could return to being a good big-league starter, but he falling behind in the count right now, and his stuff isn't good enough to allow him to pitch in those situations. He has to get strike one, then turn to his breaking pitches and try to get hitters to at pitches down in, or out of, the strike zone.
``He's just trying to do too much right now,'' Anderson said.
Bits: Joe Mauer's eight-game hitting streak ended on Sunday. He hit .483 during the streak...Justin Morneau's slugging percentage fell to .405. That's going to dampen his trade value. I wrote the other day that the Twins need to trade him, but they won't get much...Brian Dozier leads all big leaguers with 18 doubles since July 1.
Upcoming: I'll be on 1500ESPN at noon every weekday. Please follow me on Twitter at @Souhanstrib.
Joe Mauer went 1-for-3 on Thursday.
He has at least one hit in his last eight games at Target Field, hitting .423 in that time. He's hitting .424 at Target Field in his last 16 games with a .521 on-base percentage.
He's hitting .378 at Target Field this season. Entering last night's game, he ranked second in the AL and third in baseball in home average.
He's hit only two of his six home runs at home.
The dimensions of Target Field, with a deep leftfield fence, limit his power production.
The Twins are 29-34, and I'm not sure how their record is even that good.
Their rotation hasn't been good enough. Their fielders lack range. They don't have speed to create runs. They have only one true home-run hitter on the team, Josh Willingham, and his 10 home runs are offset by the slump that has reduced his average to .214.
The bullpen has been the team's strength, but the bullpen tends to be most important for good teams that frequently attain leads.
Wrote about closer Glen Perkins for the Friday paper. He's a Sabermetrician who doesn't think Sabermetrics properly appreciate the way a bullpen should be set up in real life.
Ben Revere, who had four hits last night, is hitting ..319 in his last 35 games.
I'll be on 1500ESPN at noon tomorrow, and on WJON in St. Cloud at 7:15 a.m.
Yes, I stole that line from John Gordon. Saw Gordo in Fort Myers, and he's doing well.
To the new stuff:
-Good luck, Pedro Florimon. With Florimon started at shortstop today, the Twins haven't had the same starting shortstop in consecutive years on Opening day since Cristian Guzman had the job in 2003-2004.
The starters: 2005 Jason Bartlett; 2006 Juan Castro; 2007 Bartlett; 2008 Adam Everett; 2009 Nick Punto; 2010 J.J. Hardy; 2011 Alexi Casilla; 2012 Jamey Carroll; 2013 Florimon.
And somewhere in there someone named Nishioka played a few games, too.
-Justin Verlander has never won on Opening Day, although he had a lead that was blown last year. The Tiwns' hope today is that he's overly emotional after signing his new contract and a combination of emotions and cold keeps him from being himself.
Verlander is 0-1 with four no-decisions in five Opening Day starts. He's pitched more than six innings only once, when he went eight innings last year.
-Tigers manager Jim Leyland pregame on expectations: ``I've managed some teams people didn't expect to do very well at all, and we didn't let 'em down.''
-Spoke with Torii Hunter, who raved about the Tigers' ``first-class'' operation. He noted he's been as healthy the last two years as he's ever been, and said he undergoes ART therapy on his muscles, and that has kept him feeling loose and healthy. He's cut out heavy weight training.
``I haven't had an ache or pain the last two years,'' he said. ``Except when I ran into that wall.''
It's Active Release Therapy, and Hunter described it as chiropractic for muscles.
-Joe Mauer batting second is a good idea. It's also been a good idea for a long time. Mauer might be the big-league player most-suited to batting second. Having anything but a good on-base-percentage hitter in the 2 hole is a terrible idea.
-As listeners to Sunday Sports Talk and my noon hits with Judd&Dubay on 1500ESPN know, I'm glad Flip Saunders didn't take the Gophers' job, and I don't mind waiting another week or two for Norwood Teague to land a coach. What matters is the result, not the process.
Teague was hired because of his exhaustive knowledge of college basketball. To settle for a 58-year-old guy who is not a college basketball coach would strike me as giving in to public sentiment, which is usually a bad idea.
-Jim Leyland smokes in his office. That's got to be a violation of some kind. Then again, in baseball, you're grown men are allowed to spit in the faces of umpires.
-Leyland, looking typically grizzled, said that nobody who works in baseball - including writers and broadcasters - should look good the last day of the season. ``If you're not tired at the end,'' he said, ``you probably didn't do your job very well.''
-Yes, expectations are low for the Twins this season. My sure-to-be-wrong prediction is 73 victories. But at least the Twins have a better lineup than the Yankees for the first time I can remember.
-I'll be running Sunday Sports Talk this week by myself, with Tom Pelissero on vacation, so I'll take calls and do a little different show than usual. That's 10-noon Sunday, preceeded by the Ron Gardenhire Show at 9:30 on 1500ESPN.
I'll be doing noon appearances with Judd and Dubay on 1500ESPN all week, as well. Thanks for listening.
A few observations now that I've been in Twins' camp for about a week:
-Don't believe anybody who tells you Aaron Hicks won't be the Twins' centerfielder on opening day. He's taking excellent at-bats and playing centerfield better than Denard Span ever did. He's a lock, if healthy. Joe Benson remains raw and needs to prove himself for a long stretch in the minors before he'll be considered a big-leaguer, and Darin Mastroianni is, was and ever shall be an extra outfielder.
-The pitching staff is in big trouble. Mike Pelfrey is coming back from Tommy John surgery and may struggle with command, at least early in the season. Vance Worley should be a solid starter but isn't going to improve the rotation all by himself. Scott Diamond is a fine pitcher but might not be ready until mid-April. Liam Hendriks has not impressed. Sam Deduno is talented but inefficient. Cole De Vries will open the season as the team's fourth starter simply because he has guts and knows how to execute a game plan.
The bullpen has two guys you want to see with the ball in their hands: Glen Perkins and Jared Burton. Everyone else is either unproven or having a lousy spring.
-The middle of the order could be outstanding. Joe Mauer looks as locked in as I've ever seen him at this juncture of spring training. Justin Morneau is as healthy and optimistic as I've seen him since mid-2010. Josh Willingham is an excellent slugger in his prime. If Hicks and the to-be-determined No. 2 hitter can get on base, this team could score plenty of runs.
-The team's fielding has a chance to be better than last year. Pedro Florimon has excellent range and plenty of arm, and he looks more composed than he did last year, when he made some careless errors. Brian Dozier is playing second base like he has something to prove. Eduardo Escobar is a very good fielder at several positions. Hicks is better than Span in center. He may not quite have Ben Revere's range, but he has 10 times the arm.
Having Morneau's glove at first base should help, too.
-Great to see Doug Mientkiewicz on the back fields, managing Class A Fort Myers. One of the best people I ever covered. I'll have a feature on Doug in the Sunday paper.
-Miguel Sano could be the Twins' starting third baseman on Opening Day, 2014. His bat is already big-league ready. He just needs to work on his footwork at third so he can be serviceable there.
Sano seems like a very affable kid, and he knows how to hit. Mientkiewicz said he already has a big-leaguer's approach and mentality when he steps in the box.
I'll be on Sunday Sports Talk on 1500ESPN from 10-noon on Sunday. My Twitter handle is @Souhanstrib
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