Simeon Woods Richardson made his 12th start of this season for the Twins on Thursday as they were concluding a nine-game homestand that once again had the minds of regional ball fans doing 180-degree twists in what to anticipate from this outfit in the long summer ahead.

The Twins had spent most of a nine-game road trip making their bats look like pickle-ball paddles and then came home as mashers. And just when they had pulled you back in, those bats cooled, the lower tiers of the bullpen went haywire and they lost two of three to the Tampa Bay Rays.

Thus, Woods Richardson's six strong innings had gone for naught, but he was the player brought down the clubhouse corridor for a postgame interview to answer questions from BSN's Audra Martin and then other reporters waiting their turn.

What occurred was the highlight of the afternoon, as SWR responded as if he were fresh from watching "Bull Durham" and taking to heart the instructions from Crash Davis (Kevin Costner) to young Nuke LaLoosh (Tim Robbins) on how to offer cliched non-answers when snoopy reporters started asking questions.

Those of us gathered in the little room were sure of this: What we had watched was a "baseball" game played in which SWR was trying to go six innings, or at least five-plus, to give his "baseball" team a chance to win.

No usable quotes here, but no harm.

The Twins will reach the halfway point of the schedule Thursday as they conclude a three-game series at Arizona.

What can be said as the first half of the 2024 schedule winds down for a Twins team that is close to impossible to evaluate is that there's no greater surprise than Woods Richardson capably holding a place in the rotation for two months.

Watched him a bit last season. Nope. Watched SWR's third start on April 30 in Chicago, when he lasted 3⅔ innings and should have given up a handful of runs, but he was charged with one earned run as the Amazin' South Siders determinedly avoided home plate.

Since then, nine starts and he's been good in most, and subpar in only a couple. He's 23, called up as an afterthought when Louie Varland couldn't hold down the fifth spot in the rotation, and he gets top billing in the preferred category for these Summer Solstice Surprises for the zany 2024 Twins.

First half top five

1: Simeon Woods Richardson, starter. See above.

2: Carlos Santana, 1B. Spring: "He just turned 38, that bat looks slow; they'd better off playing Alex Kirilloff every day at first base." Summer: "That old guy can pick it over there, still has some pop and is an everyday competitor."

3: Willi Castro, utility. Spring: "Don't ever put Willi in center field again. He might hurt himself. And the strikeouts … uff da." Summer: "Darn, that guy can play anywhere, and every day. Willi might be the team MVP."

4: Griffin Jax, reliever. Spring: "Going to miss Jhoan [Duran] to start the season. Maybe Jax can step up." Summer: "Jax is the best pitcher they have. He should be on the All-Star team."

5: Jose Miranda, hitter. Spring: "Poor Miranda is starting the year in St. Paul and might never escape." Summer: "That guy's got some pop and he doesn't look lost in the field anymore."

First half bottom five

1: Pablo López, starter. Spring: "Maybe we should get a couple of those yellow jerseys and sit down there in right field corner on Pablo Day." Summer: "Those eight people down there in yellow jerseys … those Pablo's relatives?"

2: Alex Kirilloff, 1B-LF. Spring: "Wrist finally looks healthy, and if it is, that swing works." Summer: "If that Emmanuel Rodriguez ever stops getting hurt in Wichita, that's another lefty shooting past Kirilloff with the Twins."

3: Edouard Julien, 2B. Spring: "I like the lightning in the bat, but he has to stop taking third strikes." Summer: "Brooks Lee now playing a lot of second in St. Paul. Bad sign for Julien."

4: Caleb Thielbar, reliever. Spring: "Lefty, enough strikes, good fastball and he still can drop that looping hook on 'em." Summer: "He's 37 now. Amazing story, but it might be about that time."

5: Kyle Farmer, IF. Spring: "Righthanded hitter, three infield positions … Kyle's good insurance." Summer: "Twins must really like what Farmer brings to the clubhouse."

And in conclusion, I have no strong feeling where this wacko ballclub is headed in the second half, except for full confidence our fellas will finish ahead of the White Sox.