Since last offseason's regrettable Twins-Rays trade Matt Garza has a 3.67 ERA in 225 innings and Delmon Young has a .729 OPS in 698 plate appearances, but none of that even seems important after experiencing the sheer randomness of this photo:
That would be Garza in a Hayden Panettiere-Bristol Palinsandwich and there's more where that came from. I'm waiting for someone to send me the pictures of Delmon with Ali Larter and Meghan McCain.
Headline of the Week, courtesy ofReuters: "Chuck Norris sues, says his tears no cancer cure."
If you've ever wondered what it's like to be a longtime newspaper columnist and get fired via phone while in the press box covering an Orioles game, David Steelehas all the details:
[T]he people responsible for giving you the news were a few dozen blocks away, calling you on your cell phone in the middle of a baseball game you thought you were going to write a column about for the next day's paper.
To answer your question: yes, it felt just as bad as you imagine it would. To answer another of your questions: no, I have no real desire to visit the press box at an Orioles game any time soon. Next time, maybe I'll be told that they're foreclosing on my house during the seventh-inning stretch.
On a related note, one of my favorite newspaper beat reporters, Tony Jackson of the Los Angeles Daily News, was also let go last week after doing a great job covering the Dodgers. MLB.com has made an effort this season to beef up its content and move beyond the press release-style articles that were so prevalent in the past, but at the end of the day their writers are still employed by the organization they're covering and newspapers continuing to shed guys like Jackson is simply bad news for baseball fans.
As my MinnPost colleague David Brauerpoints out, Minnesotans are very lucky to have four full-time newspaper reporters (and good ones, at that) covering the team along with MLB.com.
Having become obsessed with Friday Night Lights recently after previously never watching a single episode, I've come to two conclusions: Lyla Garrity is one of the most annoying characters in television history and Minka Kelly is one of the most attractive actresses in television history. Her scenes would be almost unwatchable except for the fact that they're so watchable.
Alexi Casilla was scatter-brained and inept during his first extended stint with the Twins in 2007, hitting .222/.256/.259 with 10 errors in 56 games after taking over at second base following the late-July trade that sent Luis Castillo to the Mets. Not surprisingly he began last season at Triple-A, but Casilla was called up six weeks later when Nick Punto landed on the disabled list and jump-started the lineup in the No. 2 hole, hitting .313/.351/.424 through 62 games.
Unfortunately his strong play was halted by a late-July thumb injury that required a month-long stay on the DL and Casilla has been a mess ever since. Since coming off the shelf on August 21 of last year Casilla has hit just .204/.276/.257 in 60 games, including .167/.231/.202 with increasingly bad defense and decision-making in 24 games this season. Ron Gardenhire and the Twins decided yesterday that they'd seen enough, sending Casilla back to Triple-A.
Matt Tolbert was called up from Triple-A to replace Casilla on the roster and Gardenhire will no doubt give the poor man's Punto a long look at second base, but as a 27-year-old with a .287/.347/.417 line in 144 games at Rochester he's hardly a starting-caliber player. Brendan Harris is another option and is a better bet than Tolbert offensively, but Gardenhire has made it very clear that he's uncomfortable with his defense at second base.
Finding more at-bats for Harris isn't a bad idea and Tolbert is the type of aggressively mediocre player Gardenhire always loves, but ultimately the move was more about Casilla than his replacements and the Twins seemingly still view him as part of their long-term plans. However, at this point there's plenty of reason to question whether he still warrants that view. Casilla made a big impact prior to last year's injury, but has surrounded those two strong months with poor performances in the majors and minors.
Not only did he hit .222/.256/.259 with bad defense for the Twins in 2007 and .204/.276/.257 with many mistakes since last August, his .257/.344/.316 mark in 129 games at Triple-A hardly suggests big-time potential. Was the .300-hitting speedster with plus range and gap power just a mirage? I'd love to think otherwise, but Casilla has now hit .249/.300/.319 in 739 plate appearances with the Twins after batting .266/.351/.331 in 752 plate appearances between Double-A and Triple-A. That's a lot of bad offense.
Casilla has plenty of valuable skills and at 24 years old is hardly a lost cause, but at this point waiting for that guy from early last season to return is wishful thinking. His production in the high minors was anything but impressive and he's basically been a replacement-level player through 187 games in the majors, posting a measly .619 OPS while playing mediocre, mistake-filled defense. Aside from those two months last season, nothing Casilla has done in the past three years predicts long-term success.
Down On The Farm: Hunt, Gutierrez, Valencia, Revere, Morales
Shooter Hunt's issues throwing strikes after moving from rookie-ball to Single-A last season have unfortunately taken a turn for the worse to begin this year, as he's walked an astounding 29 batters in 14.2 innings back at Beloit. His per-start walk totals are 4, 7, 6, 6, and 6, so things aren't improving and his problems are clearly beyond standard control issues. Asked about Hunt's situation, Twins director of minor leagues Jim Rantzsaid: "I don't know if it's insecurity, but eventually he has to throw it over."
What makes Hunt's control problems so maddening is that he has little reason to be insecure. When he throws the ball over the plate opponents have hit just .202 this season after batting .172 against him last year, and he's racked up 82 strikeouts in 65 pro innings. Unfortunately as pitchers like Rick Ankiel and Mark Wohlers have shown on much bigger stages all the overpowering stuff in the world won't do any good if you're simply unable to throw strikes. Hunt has started down a very dangerous path.
So far the Twins' plan to make former University of Miami closer Carlos Gutierrez a starter has gone extremely well despite concerns that spotty secondary pitches made him a better fit out of the bullpen. Working out of the rotation at high Single-A, he has a 0.78 ERA and .135 opponent's batting average in 23 innings while inducing a ground ball on 74 percent of his balls in play. To put that ground-ball rate into some context, Brandon Webb of the Diamondbacks led MLB starters last year at 64 percent.
There are still questions about how his off-speed stuff will play against more experienced competition, but Gutierrez was touted as a "sinker-ball specialist" when the Twins surprisingly made him the 27th overall pick in last year's draft and his worm-killing ability is definitely living up to the hype. Between his college experience and 1.05 ERA through 68 pro innings Gutierrez shouldn't be long for Single-A, but I'd still bet on him ending up as a reliever by the time he arrives in Minnesota.
Danny Valencia is off to a strong start at Double-A, hitting .276/.396/.500 with three homers and nine total extra-base hits in 20 games. He continues to strike out often, whiffing 17 times in 90 trips to the plate, but has also drawn 14 walks after totaling just 18 walks in 69 games at Double-A last year. As a high-strikeout guy who projects to have good but not great power, improved plate discipline will be the key to Valencia developing into a solidly above-average hitter.
Ben Revere has moved up to high Single-A after batting .379 at low Single-A last year and has held his own through 22 games, hitting .286/.369/.341 with 12 steals. He hasn't shown much gap power yet, although with one homer Revere has already matched his 2008 long-ball total. He continues to make great contact, striking out seven times in 102 plate appearances, and perhaps most encouragingly has drawn 11 walks after totaling just 27 free passes in 374 trips to the plate last season.
On the other hand, Angel Morales has really struggled after making the move from rookie-ball to low Single-A. Morales is hitting just .179/.214/.358 with an ugly 22-to-2 strikeout-to-walk ratio in 18 games, although he does have two homers and six total extra-base hits in 67 at-bats. Handling off-speed stuff and making consistent contact are questions that were raised about Morales even while he clobbered rookie-ball pitchers last season, so struggling in his first taste of full-season ball is a concern.
Robert Delaney and Anthony Slama were an incredible tag team out of Fort Myers' bullpen last year before Delaney's midseason promotion up to New Britain, and the duo has been reunited at Double-A. For now, at least. Slama has 2.31 ERA and 20 strikeouts in 11.2 innings while Delaney has a 3.31 ERA and 22-to-1 strikeout-to-walk ratio in 16.1 innings. Ron Gardenhirehas started sniffing around Slama as he eyes bullpen help and at the very least matching promotions to Triple-A would make sense.