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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Posts about Professional baseball

Diamond stuck in the rough

Posted by: Jim Souhan Updated: July 21, 2013 - 5:19 PM

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.

Leyland was right

Posted by: Jim Souhan Updated: July 17, 2013 - 10:35 AM

Glen Perkins messed up. He had a chance to make it big on the national stage. All he had to do Tuesday night was chase down Mariano Rivera as Rivera neared the Citi Field mound, push him out of the way, and pitch the eighth inning for the American League. He coulda been famous.

It's a shame Perkins didn't get in the game, but he'll have another chance. Tuesday night belonged to Rivera, and, by extension, to Tigers manager Jim Leyland, who did everything he could to win the game while paying homage to the Yankee great.

Leyland nailed it. He used Rivera in the eighth inning, knowing that if the National League rallied to take the lead in the bottom of the eighth off of someone else that Rivera could wind up without a chance to pitch in his last All-Star game.

Then, Leyland told his other players to stay off the field while Rivera warmed up, leaving the stage to the most accomplished closer in history.

Because this is the Twitter Universe, Leyland immediately took heat from people who couldn't figure out the possible scenarios.

Leyland got it just right. He ensured that Rivera would have his moment, and what a moment it was.

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T'oday's column is on John Randle's love of golf. I've never done a column quit like this one. I asked John one question about golf, and he spoke, rapidly and passionately, for 12 minutes straight.

So when I sat down to write, I just got out of the way and let John speak.

It's good to see John in such great shape and good spirits. I covered John when the Vikinigs signed him as an undrafted free agent out of little Texas A&I. I saw him out-hustle and outwork more talented players to become a Hall of Famer.

Monday, he was playing Hazeltine and helping promote one of the many charities for which he does work: The St. David's Center for Child & Family Development.

You can find out more about St. David's here: stdavidscenter.org

Thanks for reading.

I'm very jealous of John's golf game, by the way.

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I'll be on Judd & Dubay at noon on 1500ESPN, and running Sunday Sports Talk 10-noon on Sunday morning.

 

Why I don't hate the HR derby

Posted by: Jim Souhan Updated: July 16, 2013 - 10:12 AM

Here's why I don't hate the home-run derby as much as most baseball writers:

It's on cable TV.

Modern-day cable.

Are we really going to start enforcing old-school standards on modern cable?

Have you seen what becomes a hit on modern cable TV?

Duck Dynasty: A show about inbred southerners who make duck calls. (It's actually pretty funny in small doses, but Shakespeare it ain't.)

Cooking shows: Get one angry chef and a bunch of lowlife wannabe chefs and have 'em cook stuff. Brilliant!

Reality TV about wives: I'd review this genre if I could bring myself to watch any of it.

By these standards, the home-run derby IS Shakespeare.

Chris Berman is an embarrassment to himself and his profession, but the home-run derby is mediocre cable TV stretched out long enough to fill prime time. It's not awful. It's just not as good as ESPN and MLB want it to be.

It's like the NBA all-star game. There's no defense, but it can be interesting if the right personalities are involved.

The Josh Hamilton-Justin Morneau duel was fascinating theater. Seeing Yeonis Cespedes win the Derby on the same day that the San Francisco Chronicle published a wonderful story about his and his family's struggles to make it to America was heartening. Seeing Bryce Harper hit homers off his father's nasty cutter gave us insights into what made Harper such a prodigy.

It ain't Mad Men or Breaking Bad, but even those brilliant shows offer a few bad episodes.

The home-run derby is like most cable television: A decent way to kill time when nothing better is on.

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I'll be on 1500ESPN at noon with Judd & Dubay. Planning a couple of name guests for Sunday Sports Talk, 10-noon on Sunday on 1500ESPN, following the Ron Gardenhire Show at 9:30. (We will take a lot of calls this week if you'd like to ask the manager anything.)

Please follow me on Twitter at @Souhanstrib.

Ryan says Gibson close, but not quite ready

Posted by: Jim Souhan Updated: May 24, 2013 - 3:00 PM
I was speaking with Twins general manager Terry Ryan about a column that I’ll have in the Sunday Star Tribune when I asked about a more topical subject: Kyle Gibson.
Gibson is the best pitching prospect at Class AAA Rochester. He’s 3-5 with a 3.25 ERA. He’s pitched two complete-game shutouts. The Twins have opted to call up Sam Deduno and P.J. Walters instead of Gibson in the last week. Deduno is a journeyman with good stuff and poor control; Walters is a grinder whose stuff is not considered good enough for him to succeed over the long term as a big-league starter.
Gibson is a former first-round draft pick. When a team calls up lesser prospects, the team is accused of trying to save major-league service time to avoid losing the player a year earlier in free agency, or paying the player more because they become a ``Super 2’’ player who qualifies for free agency a year earlier than their service time would otherwise allow.
I asked Ryan whether the decision not to promote Gibson was made for baseball reasons, or financial reasons. He noted that if he was worried about service time, he wouldn’t have been so eager to put Aaron Hicks on the opening day roster or call up another rookie, Oswaldo Arcia, so early in the season.
``If I was worried about all of that, I wouldn’t bring up Hicks and Arcia,’’ he said. ``Any GM in any organization knows you’re always going to get that question. In every decision, it comes down to baseball factors first. Can you bring up Gibson now? Yeah. Sure you could. But I guess you’d be sending him back pretty quick, and I don’t want that to happen.
``There’s no hiding a guy who’s in your rotation. I’d like to tell you when we bring up a young guy that it’s for good. Gibson is getting there. He’s been inconsistent. His last outing was very good and I’m hoping he’ll back that up with another one.
``Every start for him is important, and so far he’s been good, bad, good, bad, good, bad. He’s close, but he’s not quite there yet. We’re looking for him to string together four or five of those good one. That would give us confidence that it’s time for him to come up here.
``I saw him recently and he hit a wall in the fifth inning.''
Whether coincidence or planning, Ryan's baseball judgement will align nicely with the Twins' long-term financial interests. By the time Gibson pitches well for four or five starts in a row, he will likely have missed the opportunity to be a ``Super 2'' qualifier in arbitration two years from now.
 

Saturday morning musings

Posted by: Jim Souhan Updated: March 16, 2013 - 11:08 AM

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.

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I'll be on Sunday Sports Talk on 1500ESPN from 10-noon on Sunday. My Twitter handle is @Souhanstrib

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