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.
Find him on Twitter
Greetings from Fort Myers, Fla. Yes, it's beautiful here.
Twins manager Ron Gardenhire has hinted at a willingness to take 13 pitchers north when spring training camp breaks. Here's an early look at the possibilities, if all of the key figures remain healthy:
Starting rotation: Ricky Nolasco, Phil Hughes, Kevin Correia and Mike Pelfrey are locks. Sam Deduno and Kyle Gibson are the leading candidates for the fifth spot. Deduno may have the edge because of his raw stuff and occasional games in which he looks unhittable, and because Gibson may benefit from another stint at Triple A. If both fail to earn the job, the next contenders would be Vance Worley and Scott Diamond. Worley is pitching to keep his career alive. Diamond would give the Twins a lefthander in the rotation. The most interesting aspect of this competition is that Diamond, Worley and Deduno are out of options. What happens if Worley fails to impress but the front office doesn't want to cut him for fear he'll resurface later as a success elsehwere, or for fear that cutting him will make the Ben Revere-for-Worley and Trevor May trade look bad? The easy way out might be to keep Deduno as the fifth starter, send Gibson to Triple A temporarily, and keep Diamond and Worley in the bullpen.
Bullpen: Glen Perkins will close. Casey Fien, Jared Burton, Caleb Thielbar and Brian Duensing are close to being locks. Anthony Swarzak has been a bullpen-saver the last two years and deserves to stick, but may face competition for the long role from starters without options who fail to make the rotation.
Kris Johnson is a lefty with good stuff. Michael Tonkin has the stuff to handle late-game roles once he cracks the big-league roster, and the field staff will likely want him on the team. There are a handful of other invitees with good stuff, but the last couple of bullpen spots could be used to protect pitchers who are out of options.
For all of their struggles the last three years, the bullpen is a point of strength. The Twins may be in a position to trade someone - Swarzak? - for a bat or young starting pitching if their key pitchers remain healthy.
This is a much stronger group than last year's, thanks to the addition of Nolasco and Hughes. And I didn't even mention top prospect Alex Meyer, who should be pushing for a spot in the rotation by midseason, if not sooner.
I'll be on the air weekdays in St. Cloud on WJON at 7:15 am, and on 1500ESPN at 12:15 with Mackey & Judd. You can follow me on Twitter at @Souhanstrib.
The Pirates try to secure their first winning season since 1992 tonight in Milwaukee.
Former Twin Francisco Liriano will start for the Pirates, and former Twin Justin Morneau will bat cleanup and wear a new number: 66.
I guessed that was a result of the intense hockey fan paying homage to Penguins great Mario Lemeiux. I was wrong.
``Nope,'' Morneau said. ``It's just 33 times two.''
Morneau wore 33 during his prime with the Twins. Is 99 a possibility? ``Nope,'' he said. ``There's only one 99 for us Canadians.''
He means Wayne Gretzky, of course.
``I wore 27 in '05,'' he said. ``And I wore 27 in the first World Baseball Classic because Larry Walker was there. in spring training in 2003, I wore 61.''
I admitted I had forgotten all of that. ``I only have one person's number to remember,'' he said.
Wednesday afternoon, Pirates manager Clint Hurdle said he plans to keep Morneau in the cleanup spot because of Morneau's experience, and experience in pennant races. ``He's been through this,'' Hurdle said.
Tuesday night, Morneau went 3-for-3 with a walk as the Pirates came back to beat the Brewers.
``That was needed,'' he said. ``You want to have good at-bats, but at the same time you want to have quality at-bats and have an impact. I think that was a good day for feeling like a part of the team. You're kind of jumping into somebody else's party. You want to feel like you contributed, that you're not just along for the ride.''
I'll be on 1500ESPN at noon tomorrow.
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
Everytime I write something nice or even neutral on Joe Mauer, I get emails. Oh, I get emails. Mostly from people telling me he's overpaid.
Well, if he is overpaid, it's not by much.
There are two ways of assessing a veteran player's monetary value. One is anecdotal. Talk to people in the game. They said Mauer would have made a killing as a free agent had he become one. Can you imagine what the Red Sox would have paid for a potential Hall of Fame catcher in his prime with a swing that might produce 50 doubles a year off the Green Monster, and who would constantly be on base in front of their sluggers? Probably $25 million a year. And all quality free agents end up being paid more than their actual value, because the bidding becomes a competition between super powers.
So Mauer is certainly worth $23 million anecdotally.
In terms of statistical valuation, I always turn to the great site Fangraphs.com, which calculates the obective value of a player.
Here is how Fangraphs values Mauer, year by year, since 2006: $23.1 million, $12.7 million, $26.6 million, $34.5 million, $21 million, $6.1 million and $21.2 million. This year, he is valued, so far, at $21.5 million.
Obviously, when he doesn't stay on the field, he's not worth the money, which is why 2011 was such an abomination.
When he is on the field, he's worth about what the Twins are paying him. Factor in that the Twins signed him in part to keep his contract status from ruining the opening season at Target Field, and he was an incredible bargain from 2006 through 2009, and the Twins and their fans have little to complain about other than the mystery ailments of 2011.
Mauer's real problem is he plays for a bad team. He doesn't have people on base ahead of him, and he doesn't have people who can drive him in batting behind him. He's not as valuable as Miguel Cabrera, but he's more valuable than the great majority of players with big-money contracts.
He's also the Twins' only above-average position player. He's not the guy you should be complaining about.
I'll be on 1500ESPN at noon with Judd & Dubay. Please follow me on Twitter at @Souhanstrib.
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