Before the Twins headed out on their current road trip, I had a discussion with manager Paul Molitor about the exciting play of his young squad. Though they lost to the White Sox 4-3 Wednesday, they are still 15-7 over their past 22 games and are in the running for a wild card position with 36 games remaining.
And make no mistake about it, the smartest thing Twins Chief Baseball Officer Derek Falvey could do would be to sign Molitor to a multiyear contract right now. Molitor has proved he can really develop young talent on the field, and nothing would make Twins players happier than to see their manager get a deal.
With Molitor continuing as manager, and the addition of a couple of good starting pitchers, this team could contend for years to come.
And even though Falvey traded pitchers Brandon Kintzler and Jaime Garcia before the nonwaiver trade deadline, the Twins have taken off in August.
Molitor spoke of the resiliency from his squad, and how it seems like every time they look like they are finished, they come back stronger than before.
"We've had a couple stretches this year where we've been tested," Molitor said. "I think back early in the year to losing a long game in extra innings to Tampa and then getting swept by Houston. Then the West Coast trip where we actually played some good baseball but lost four games that we had the lead heading into the eighth or ninth inning, and those were tough ones to rebound from.
"But these guys are showing that they have a lot of fight left in them. We've had to overcome some adversity, but the way the wild card shapes up, the division, there's a lot of opportunity to go with 40 games left."
And while the Twins are dealing with the tough timing of third baseman Miguel Sano going on the 10-day disabled list, Molitor said several players are stepping up. For example, first baseman Joe Mauer is hitting .300 in August and .396 over his previous 13 games.
"We had a lot of guys descending statistically and the last couple weeks there's a lot of guys ascending, including Joe," he said. "I think he has had a really consistent year, and we've tried to make sure we keep him fresh with rest here and there. But it has played well. He has been able to sustain himself and I think he's in pretty good shape heading into the final 40 games."
No one has been hotter than Eddie Rosario, who despite going 0-for-4 Wednesday is hitting .336 over his past 61 games, with 13 home runs, 38 RBI and 36 runs, including a two-run homer Tuesday.
Molitor attributed that to Rosario's approach.
"He is still a little bit of a free swinger but I think he's learned to control it well," the Hall of Famer said. "He's doing a good job of getting better hitter's counts and his hands are so good at the plate that he trusts it and recognizes pitches and he can do a lot of damage. He has been on a nice offensive run for us.
"I think Rosie is one of those guys that has a lot of fun playing the game, and he doesn't overthink, he trusts his ability. When he gets into a groove offensively, it's really fun to watch him swing the bat."
Fellow outfielder Byron Buxton also has put a charge into his offense. He is hitting .324 with five homers, 15 RBI, 23 runs and nine stolen bases in his past 33 games.
"It is nice to see," Molitor said. "I think it's part of the confidence of a lot of individuals and melding collectively. I don't think anybody cares about the attention anyone is getting in particular as much as they care about the fact that we're playing meaningful games."
And the latest to catch fire has been Jorge Polanco, who homered in his fourth consecutive game Wednesday. He is hitting .389 with four homers, five doubles, two triples, 18 RBI and 11 runs scored this month. That comes after he hit .148 in 35 games over June and July.
This group of young talent should be able to continue to compete for a postseason spot for years to come.
"Our core offensively, we haven't added a lot because most of the guys have been here now for the last one, two, three years," Molitor said. "Pitching is going to be the key moving forward. We've had a lot of guys stepping up, and a lot of guys getting opportunities. But I think when you look at our core position players we're in really good shape.
"It's just part of the growing process of some of our young talent. I think we've seen really good baseball in stretches and now we're just starting to see it a little more consistently. I hope it runs itself right into October."
• With Tuesday's big NBA trade sending Kyrie Irving from the Cavaliers to the Celtics for Isaiah Thomas and some other nice parts, it's clear the Timberwolves are going to keep Andrew Wiggins and hopefully sign him to a max deal in the immediate future, despite Wiggins breaking with his agent, Bill Duffy, this week. Owner Glen Taylor has said he wants to speak with Wiggins face-to-face before making the deal. … Las Vegas continues to put a high value on the Wolves' chances this season. Their most recent NBA championship odds, following the Irving deal, have the Wolves tied with Oklahoma City with the sixth-best odds to win it all next season at 25-1, according to Bovada, trailing Golden State, Cleveland, Boston, Houston and San Antonio. But for the Wolves, their first concern is breaking that 13-year playoff drought.
• The two Wolves preseason games that will take place in China in October sold out within 24 hours of going on sale to the public. The Wolves play the defending NBA champion Warriors in Shenzhen on Oct. 5 and in Shanghai on Oct. 8.
• Gophers football coach P.J. Fleck said he knows the team is going to have to play some freshmen this season if it is going to have any depth behind the starters. "We're going to play as many newcomers as we can," he said. "We're not the most experienced team as it is, so we're going to have to be able to fill a lot of our gaps and holes in terms of our depth with our freshman. Do I want to play all the freshmen this year? No. Am I going to have to play a lot of them? Possibly."
• Kintzler is not closing for Washington, but he has continued to shine as a setup man, going 2-0 with a 0.82 ERA in 11 innings. Meanwhile, Tyler Watson, the 20-year-old lefthander the Twins got in the deal, is 0-3 with a 4.84 ERA with 12 earned runs in 22⅓ innings at Class A Cedar Rapids.
• As for the other Twins pitcher traded away in July, Garcia has made three starts for the Yankees and has a 6.32 ERA and has walked 10 batters in only 15⅔ innings. Zach Littell, the 21-year-old righthander acquired in the trade, is 3-0 with a 3.03 ERA and 24 strikeouts in 29⅔ innings at Class AA Chattanooga. Lefthander Dietrich Enns landed on the disabled list after two appearances with the Twins.
Sid Hartman can be heard on WCCO AM-830 at 8:40 a.m. Monday and Friday, 2 p.m. Friday and 10:30 a.m. Sunday. firstname.lastname@example.org