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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Speaking with some Twins employees today, they noted that I could have expanded my list of Twins curses in today's column.
In 1996, the same spring that Kirby Puckett woke up with impaired vision that would lead to the end of his career, Rick Aguilera had come back to the Twins in an attempt to be a starting pitcher. He picked up a suitcase late in camp and was unable to start the season with the club.
Remember, while the late-'90s Twins were pretty consistently lousy, that '96 team had a chance to win. If Aguilera had been able to lead the rotation and Puckett had been healthy, that would have been a pretty good team. Chuck Knoblauch and Paul Molitor hit .341 each. Rich Becker and Scott Stahoviak had their best seasons. Marty Cordova was a force in the middle of the lineup. Aguilera could have given the Twins a competitive rotation.
Also, top prospect Miguel Sano, maybe the most intriguing player in this year's camp in February, suddenly needed Tommy John surgery.
You can't make it up. Nor would you want to.
Coupla sights and sounds from the minor-league side:
Kennys Vargas, the prospect who reminds everyone of David Ortiz, hit a mammoth home run on Sunday from the right side. When I was there today, he hit a line drive double to right-center from the left side. He's got a chance to become a real prospect.
Byron Buxton has a sore left arm after diving for a ball on Sunday and was given the day off.
Former first-round Alex Wimmers, who has struggled mightily, looks much better now. He has a good changeup and needs to increase velocity on his fastball to make the changeup a better weapon.
I'll be on WJON in St. Cloud at 7:15 every weekday, and on 1500ESPN in the Twin Cities every weekday at about 12:15.
My Twitter handle is @Souhanstrib.
Fort Myers, Fla.
First impressions of some key people in the Twins' spring training camp:
-Byron Buxton: It might be the strangest thing I've ever seen in early spring training, when pitchers throw live batting practice to hitters. Buxton takes every pitch. He told me he wants to improve his pitch selection, and he's working on that by tracking pitches and not swinging.
Most young hitters want to show off, to hit tape-measure home runs. And that's what Miguel Sano and Kennys Vargas do every day. Buxton is so supremely confident in his swing and ability to hit that he would rather spend live BP getting used to the movement of pitches. Remarkable.
-Miguel Sano: Yes, he's about 260 pounds. (Last I heard he weighed in at 255, and that was before dinner.) But he's not fat. He has massive legs and shoulders. He is a powerhouse. I think he'll be a better defensive third baseman than Trevor Plouffe and has a chance to hit 40 home runs in the big leagues whenever he settles in as an everyday player.
-Kennys Vargas: Excellent power from both sides of the plate. Needs to work on pitch selection, taking good at-bats, fielding, but he's come a long way. He, Buxton and Sano could play together at Class AA New Britain this season. They could put on a show.
-MIke Pelfrey: Looks to me like he's throwing easier and with more zip than last spring.
-Alex Meyer: Eddie Guardado pulled me aside and mimicked Meyer's motion. He said when Meyer leads toward home plate with a firm left (non-throwing) arm, his mechanics fall into place and he pitches with a downward angle that makes his fastball sizzle and his breaking pitches dive. When he gets lazy with his front arm, he tends to sling the ball three-quarters, losing velocity and downward movement.
Guardado, who is not always easy to please, says he ``loves'' Meyer, meaning Meyer can listen and implement advice. Meyer has by far the best arm in camp.
-Vance Worley: When he succeeded as a rookie in Philadelphia, he threw 93-94. Last year, he sometimes began games throwing in the high-80s, and sometimes it didn't get much better than that. He doesn't have the kind of pitch command to be able to throw 89. He tends to pitch up in the strike zone. He needs to recapture velocity to have a chance to make it back to the big leagues.
-Trevor May: Needs to work on control, but the Twins hope/believe he can develop into a member of their future rotation, which could look like this: Meyer, Ricky Nolasco, Phil Hughes, Mike Pelfrey, Kyle Gibson, May. (I listed six because someone always gets hurt.) Then the Twins have good young arms like Jose Berrios and Kohl Stewart on the way.
-Trevor Plouffe: Came into camp looking stronger, but he already had good power. If he wants to have a big-league career, he needs to become quicker and more alert at third base. He doesn't anticipate well and he lacks initial quickness, which is why so many seemingly catchable balls fly by him.
-Aaron Hicks: Let's face it. He's a mystery. I still believe he'll be a good everyday outfielder, with a high on-base percentage and excellent fielding range. But who knows when he'll figure it out? And if he succeeds this spring, that won't prove anything, because he succeeded last spring.
-Michael Tonkin: Excellent stuff, good attitude, could be a big part of the bullpen for years to come.
-Caleb Thielbar: Even in live batting practice, impresses with his stuff and aggression.
I'm not saying any positive developments in camp could make the Twins contenders. But I don't think they'll embarrass themselves this year the way they have the last three years.
I"ll be on WJON in St. Cloud at 7:15 every weekday ,and on 1500ESPN in the Twin Cities (that's 1500 AM) at 12:15 or so with Mackey & Judd every weekday. I'll be back in studio with Scott Korzenowski 10-noon on Sunday on 1500ESPN.
You can follow me on Twitter at @Souhanstrib.
Some thoughts on the Twins' 8-1 loss to Kansas City last night. I may be wrong a lot, but there's no way I swing and miss as much as your Twins:
1. Joe Mauer won't be back for a while. No matter what they say, they're not going to rush a $184 million player at the end of a lost season when he has a concussion. Maybe he'll be back in a week. Maybe not.
2. The Twins set a record for strikeouts in a season on Tuesday night, with more than a month remaining in the season. As some people in the organization have noted, it's one thing to strike out because you hit a lot of home runs. It's another thing to strike out when you're just trying to put the ball in play.
3. Why worry about whether Miguel Sano is ready for the big leagues when the guy he would replace still isn't ready for the big leagues? Trevor Plouffe made two sloppy errors last night and his OPS is .675. Sano is not only better than Plouffe offensively, he's already better defensively.
4. I love watching Andrew Albers pitch. He allowed two earned runs in seven innings to a decent team. Through four big-league starts he'd had one big innings. He pitches with guts and intelligence and he doesn't walk people. I'll take guys like Albers and Sam Deduno in my rotation. They're competitors, and while Albers lacks velocity, his pitches seem to sneak up on hitters the way Eddie Guardado's did.
5. Doing radio on 1500ESPN at the Fair on Sunday. Gardenhire Show 9:30-10, then Sunday Sports Talk with myself and Scott Korzenowski from 10-noon.
6. I'll also be hosting Talking Twins on Saturday from 9-10, with Terry Ryan as my guest.
Remember the good ol' days, when Twins fans could just blame everything on hitting coach Joe Vavra?
Guess what: The 2013 Twins are even worse offensively than the 2012 Twins.
Replacing Vavra with Tom Brunansky hasn't helped. I'm not saying Brunansky isn't good at his job. I'm saying that hitting coaches don't create good hitters.
The Twins struck out 30 times in the three-game series against the Royals.
They've struck out 65 times in their last six games.
They haven't scored more than four runs in a game since July 23, when they had 10 at Anaheim.
With Cris Carter heading to the Hall of Fame, a couple of my favorite memories of covering him:
-At the begining of his career with the Vikings, we talked for an hour about his struggles in life and with the Eagles. Then he told me, ``If I like what you write, we'll get along fine. If I don't, I"ll punch you in the eye.''
I didn't get punched.
-During his last season with the Vikings, I asked how he had maintained his talent. He said he has assembled an entourage: A chiropractor, trainer, masseuse, physical therapist, chef, nutritionist...and about five other people.
He was one of the most dedicated and divisive athletes I've ever covered. A lot of his teammates couldn't stand him because he could be vain, and arrogant, and outspoken. Noone questioned his drive or his toughness.
Wrote about the Twins' pathetic effort and pathetic roster for the Friday paper.
I'll be on 1500ESPN at noon tomorrow. Scott Korzenowsky and I will run the Ron Gardenhire Show and Sunday Sports Talk from 9:30-noon on Sunday from the 3M Championship.
Please follow me on Twitter at @Souhanstrib
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.
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