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The Minnesota Twins Should Make RHP Anthony Swarzak a Starter

Anthony Swarzak is, without a doubt, the goofiest player on the Minnesota Twins.

He always has a sinister grin that gives you the impression he’s got something funny spooling in his brain, ready to unleash it into the world. You almost want to laugh before he says anything because his cheeky smile is just so wacky.

Swarzak kind of an oddball. He hails from Fort Lauderdale, but has none of the brashness Danny Valencia brought with him from South Florida. He’ll sing along with DMX after a win while making wild gestures with his hands in front of wide-eyed, clueless teammates.

When rookie Kyle Gibson was sent down recently, Swarzak immediately slapped a big, hearty hug on him and then placed his hand on Gibson’s shoulder, telling him something that made the dejected starter smile for a brief second.

Nobody can stay upset with Swarzak around.

My favorite Swarzak quote of this year was in regards to hitting.

On August 3, during a game against the Houston Astros, Twins manager Ron Gardenhire gave up the designated hitter spot and was forced to use one of his pitchers to hit in a crucial position.

He opted for Correia, who laid down a perfect sacrifice bunt.

A day later, Swarzak was asked if he was willing to pinch hit.

“I will never shy away from a baseball game in any aspect,” he said before pausing to grin. “But I don’t think the team wants me up to hit.

“I’ll jump at the opportunity, though, but for the game’s sake,” he said, stopping to chuckle for a second. “We should probably let somebody else get a chance.”

That’s right: Swarzak is worried that the baseball gods will strike him down if they ever see him with a bat in his hands.

Fortunately, the Twins play in the Junior Circuit and he should never have to hit a baseball.

When he is on the mound, however, he is all business.

Swarzak began his career as a starter, going 3-7 with a 6.25 ERA as a 23-year-old in 2009. After spending an entire year in the minors, he emerged better than ever in 2011, going 4-7 with a 4.32 ERA and seeing his ERA+, which adjusts for the difference in size between the Metrodome and Target Field, increase from 70 to 94.

He had a setback in 2012, however, and was moved to the bullpen after five starts. His 3-6 record and 5.03 ERA were far from sterling and his ERA+ dropped to 82.

Additionally, for the second time in three years (not including 2010), indicates that he had a negative WAR.

Despite his track record, Swarzak has earned a chance to start with his play this year. In 37 appearances, mostly as a long reliever, Swarzak has posted a 1-2 record and 2.87 ERA. His ERA+ has ballooned to 144 and his 1.3 WAR is a career high.

“I would love the opportunity to start,” he said after relieving Gibson, who only pitched three innings against the Astros on August 3.

“I’ll never let that go. Maybe I should for my own good, but as of right now I would love the opportunity to grab the ball every five days and give my team a chance to win.”

Gardenhire appeared to agree at the time, at least to some degree.

“I just got through saying that back there,” he told the media while gesturing to the rooms behind his office. “[But] he’s so valuable at what he’s doing right now that we’re probably going to try and leave him there.”

Fast-forward 16 days and Gibson once again exits in the fourth inning against an inferior opponentthis time, it’s the New York Mets—and once again Swarzak comes in and chews up the opposing lineup.

“He’s been overlooked a lot,” said catcher Joe Mauer. “The last couple of years, he goes in and does a great job.”

Gibson was sent down and Gardenhire was once again faced with the potential of putting Swarzak in the starting lineup.

“We’ve had Swarzy in the starting rotation before, you can go back and look at the numbers. He’s been there before,” said Gardenhire. “He’s done really well where he’s at, but that’s not to say we won’t put him there.

“He is a candidate.”

At this point, just about everyone is a candidate for the rotation next year.

Scott Diamond appeared to be the only sure thing coming into this year, but he has struggled after having bone chips removed from his elbow in the offseason and was ultimately sent down.

Kevin Correia dominated in the first half of the season, going deep into games with low pitch counts, but has been shelled in a few recent starts.

Mike Pelfrey had three years of success in Queens, but hasn’t been himself after Tommy John surgery.

Gibson got the T.J. bug as well.

Samuel Deduno and his wacky fastball are an absolute wild card. One day, he’s throwing smoke. The next day, he loses control.

And that’s just five names off the top of my head. Independent ball lifer Andrew Albers had two solid starts before faltering against the White Sox. Liam Hendriks and P.J. Walters each had a stint this season. Prospects Alex Meyer and Trevor May will both get a look.

With the rotation wide open and plenty of issues to boot, why not give Swarzak a shot?

He had his fair share of struggles, but remember that his record is also more indicative of how poorly the team played in 2011 and 2012 than anything else.

The bullpen already has two long relievers. Brian Duensing appears tailor-made for the role and Ryan Pressly can more than get the job done, so it is not as though Swarzak’s absence leaves a huge vacancy.

Also, consider that Swarzak really has nothing to loseunlike many of his other teammates.

Diamond went undrafted out of college and was selected in the Rule 5 draft from the Atlanta Braves. He seems in the midst of writing a rags-to-riches-to-rags story in the vein of The Jerk.

Pelfrey is a veteran who doesn’t have a contract next season. Correia’s is up after 2014. Deduno could easily be gone next year.

Swarzak, on the other hand, is under team control until 2017 and can always go back to being a long reliever.

He has nothing to lose.

Swarzak was upset to see Gibson go. On August 3, after the rough start against the Astros, he told the rookie that he needed to let go of all the outside pressure and just do his thing.

“He’s got unbelievable stuff, I told him,” Swarzak says. “And he was born to be here in this league and we all see that.

“When I got called up in ’09, I kind of l did the same thing. I was just trying too hard, forcing the issue a little bit. You want to do good so bad it kind of works against you sometimes.”

Gibson admitted that he was pressing on the day he was sent down, saying that he felt the pressure of playing against better players at the game’s highest level.

“I think a lot of it is coming up here and trying to do too much,” he said before heading out to Rochester. “I understand the hitters are better, and I haven’t been able to make good pitches.”

Unlike Gibson, Swarzak is no stranger to big league hitters at this point in his career. He also does not have to worry about his next contract. He can just go out there and do his thing.

Like when he is singing DMX in the clubhouse after a win, he can just let go while standing on the mound, which brings a smile to all of our faces.


All quotes were obtained firsthand.

Tom Schreier covers Minnesota sports for Bleacher Report and is a contributor to Yahoo! Sports.

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Brian Dozier Is Proof That Aaron Hicks, Scott Diamond Can Bounce Back Next Year

Brian Dozier played his last game of the 2012 season on August 12. A year later, he has become the second-best player on the Minnesota Twins.

During that game, the Twins had a 3-2 lead over the Tampa Bay Rays entering the 10th inning. Alex Burnett loaded the bases with one out with the speedy Desmond Jennings standing at third, threatening to tie the game.

Jeff Keppinger hit a grounder to Dozier, who at the time was a shortstop. Dozier was presented with two options: Throw home and try to prevent the run or throw to second baseman Alexi Casilla to try and turn a double play.

Dozier opted for a third option, throwing to Justin Morneau at first. Jennings inexplicably sauntered home, tying the game, and the Rays exploded for four more runs in the tenth, putting the game out of reach.


The demotion

Dozier stood in front of his locker following the loss and defended his decision, saying that he was playing regular depth and Jennings is one of the fastest players in the league. He acknowledged that he could have gone for the double play, but it was a slow-roller.

“I could have tried to go to second, but to be honest, like Alexi said, there’s no chance. There’s no chance.”

He paused.

“And, to be honest with you guys, a smart infielder makes sure he gets and out right there.”

He said he was 100 percent certain that he could not have gotten Jennings at the plate. “My one little thought as I’m catching it was—it’s almost an impossible play on a slow roller—was to come back to second base as I caught it.”

Manager Ron Gardenhire said that he talked to Dozier about the play after the game.

“I got what his thoughts were,” he says. “He had good thoughts.

“Your two potions are to try and turn a double play, in my opinion, or go home. I just wanted to know his thoughts on the play. He’s out there; we’re not. Everybody has an opinion on where he should have thrown the ball, but I’m going to back my player here.”

Dozier sat in his chair outside his locker long after the interview was over, staring at the ground. After a few minutes, while the media lingered, waiting for starter Scott Diamond to emerge from the showers, he called over longtime Star Tribune beat writer La Velle E. Neal to discuss the situation once again.

Diamond finished his interview quickly and left a vacant room, save for Dozier. The loss had kept everyone outside of the locker room—nobody wanted to talk about it.

Dozier was still sitting, staring at the floor, in an empty room, when the media went back up to the press box.

Two days later he would be sent down to the minors.

“We were really trying to be patient because we know with a young player and a rookie he’s going to have his ups and downs,” said assistant general manager Rob Antony about the decision to option Dozier, “but it just got to the point where we felt it was better for him…to go down to Rochester and try to get his game in order.”

“It’s pretty tough, to be honest with you,” Dozier admitted, “but I know that I haven’t been playing good baseball, not what I’m capable of playing.

“I don’t want to be some .230, .240 hitting shortstop. I feel that I can be an offensive threat. I know I can.”

He would not be recalled in September.


Vast improvement in sophomore season

In the offseason, Dozier changed his number from 20 to 2, taking departed centerfielder Denard Span’s old digits, and had moved from shortstop to second base.

He immediately clicked with Pedro Florimon and proved to be a much better second baseman. His average runs saved per year per 1200 innings improved from 2 in 2012 to 13 in 2013 (per and he reduced his errors from 15 to 3.

At the plate, Dozier’s numbers do not look much better—he hit .234/.271/.332 last season and is currently hitting .245/.315/.428—but the numbers don’t tell the whole story.

Dozier struggled in the beginning of the year, hitting .190/.227/.286 in May, hovering around .240-.250 in June and July and then exploding with a .327/.390/.712 line in August.

He not only believes that he is not a .230-.240 hitter, but that he can be a leadoff hitter with a high average.

“I got into a big slump in the beginning of the year as far as average,” he admitted recently, “[but] I believe I can turn the page. Hopefully in the near future, I’d like to be a .300 hitter.”

He said because he got into such a hole early in the year, he is just focusing on having good at-bats, but that appears to be working out well for him.

“What got me in a little trouble last year was taking my at-bats to the field and vice versa,” he says. “Some people say if you make a great play, take it into offense or something, but you have to have a light switch on offense and defense—you have to separate it completely and do it one at a time.”

ESPN1500 contributor Brandon Warne writes that in addition to great defense, Dozier has become the second-best player on the Twins because he made an adjustment after nearly being no-hit by Anibal Sanchez of the Detroit Tigers on May 24.

According to Warne, he spent that night and most of the next day working with hitting coach Tom Brunansky on planting his feet in order to plug some holes in his swing.

Since May 27, when his season OPS bottomed out around .500, he has hit .271/.355/.504 with 10 home runs, raising his total to 12—good for second on the team behind Justin Morneau, but ahead of Trevor Plouffe, Josh Willingham and Oswaldo Arcia.

Dozier has come a long way in a year and, ironically, has been hotter than ever at about the time that he was sent down last season. Twins Daily blogger Nick Nelson justifiably called his rookie season a disaster and wondered aloud if he would ever be an impact player in Minnesota.

“[When] you consider that Dozier was given an incredibly long leash, isn’t all that young and was never an exceptional prospect to begin with,” he wrote, “it’s pretty tough to dismiss his initial struggles as a fluke.”

Nelson was not the only person questioning his ability last year, but as the 2013 season has unfolded, more and more people are rocking Dozier’s No. 2 and he is making believers out of even the harshest of critics.

It’s amazing what a position change and another year in the majors can do.


Sympathy for Hicks and Diamond

While Dozier has been hotter than the Mississippi sun, rookie Aaron Hicks and third-year player Scott Diamond froze up like Target Field in April and were sent down at the beginning of August.

Hicks and Diamond had dichotomous paths to the majors.

Hicks was Minnesota’s first round draft choice in 2008 and was fast-tracked through the majors, never having played a game in Triple-A. Twins hitting coordinator Bill Springman called him a combination of Denard Span and Ben Revere—two players that the Twins dealt in the offseason, making room for Hicks on the team.

When he reaches his potential, the Long Beach native who passed on a scholarship to USC to join the Twins should have Span’s prowess at the plate and Revere’s range in the field.

Diamond, on the other hand, joined the Atlanta Braves as an undrafted rookie out of little-known SUNY-Binghamton in 2008 and was left unprotected in the Rule 5 draft, allowing Minnesota to swoop in and take him.

Like Hicks, Diamond struggled in his first season, going 1-5 with a 5.08 ERA in 2011, but established himself as the team’s best starter last year with a 12-9 record and 3.54 ERA. His ERA+, which adjusts for park size, jumped from 80 to 117.

His ceiling was always questioned, however, because as a soft-throwing lefty he did not have lights out stuff required to be an ace in the league. At best, he is a Jamey Moyer-type pitcher and probably will end up being a No. 3 starter in a functional rotation.

Both demotions came as a surprise to Twins fans. Diamond was considered the only sure thing in the rotation entering the season and the team was expected to give Hicks a long leash.

Former Twins outfielder Torii Hunter struggled early in his major league career, never hitting above .250 until his third season in the league and taking until his fourth year to earn an OPS+ of 100 and the expectation with Hicks, who entered the season with Hunter-like expectations, the thought was that he would have a lot of leeway to work with.

Defense was a focus for Hicks entering the year and, for the most part, he was pretty solid in the field. He provided a few highlight reel grabs and one famous run-in with Gardenhire.

He struggled at the plate, though, and while he his .280/.308/.400 June was promising, his .192/.259/.338 average was not high enough to keep him in the majors in August.

“You have to be able to produce and produce on a daily basis,” he acknowledged. “The past couple of weeks I haven’t been producing really well.”

Diamond knew that he wasn’t contributing either and felt that another stint in Triple-A could help his confidence and allow him to have more success getting deeper into games. He had only gone six innings in three starts since May 7.

“I have to face the facts that I haven’t been pitching well, haven’t been executing, haven’t been putting hitters away,” he admitted. “I really just haven’t given our team the best chance to win. If you’re not impacting the team and contributing at all, you don’t deserve to be here.”

Dozier drove Diamond to the airport on the morning of August 3, a day after he had been demoted, and had a long talk with him about what he used to do right.

“He got called up when I did in May (of 2012) and he was outstanding,” said Dozier in reference to Diamond’s second go with the Twins, “He was our best pitcher and so he’s had success. He just got away from the basics this year and he knows that.

“He feels he wasn’t attacking hitters like he always did and that was a big part of the conversation—attacking hitters. He was just trying to nibble, nibble, nibble and then you find yourself 3-2.”

Dozier also had a conversation with Hicks before the centerfielder left for Rochester. He feels that some time in Triple-A will help him work out kinks in his game and that it will open his eyes a little bit, letting him know that he has to work really hard in the majors to stay on the team, even with how naturally talented he is.

“He definitely has a lot of tools,” says Dozier, “but you see guys each and every day that have tools up here. What separates you from being a Triple-A player to the big leagues is being consistent.”

A major league player always throws to the right bases and knows when to take, when to swing and when to bunt in any given situation.

“I was a prominent example,” says Dozier. “If you do those things: Draw more walks, get more guys over, get your sac flies, you start to see on-base percentage and your average go up and everything. It’s a funnel. It’s one after the other.

“You have to be a total baseball player, really fundamentally sound. That’s what separates you.”

Dozier became that complete, or at least a more complete, player this year and, safe to say, with Hick’s natural talent he can be too.



Dozier’s improvement after his August demotion should be a good omen for Hicks and Diamond. Both players possess plenty of talent and have had their fair share of success at the big league level, but they also have multiple issues to work through down in Rochester.

Very few people saw the potential in Dozier last season, just as fans may now write Diamond off as a Rule 5 fluke or Hicks as an over-hyped prospect.

If we’ve learned anything though, it is to reserve judgment on a player. Dozier looks like he can be, at the very least, a strong defensive second baseman that can hit .280 with power. Diamond is capable of being a No. 3 pitcher in the rotation if he attacks hitters and Hicks has the talent to be a strong defensive outfielder that will vie with Dozier for the leadoff spot.

All three players were upset about being sent down, but sometimes an August demotion can do wonders for a player.

Just ask Brian Dozier.


All quotes were obtained first-hand.

Tom Schreier covers Minnesota sports for Bleacher Report and is a contributor to Yahoo! Sports.

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Odds of Possible Minnesota Twins Trades Actually Happening

There are three players that would bring in significant returns, and make headlines, if the Minnesota Twins traded them before the July 31 deadline: first baseman Justin Morneau, closer Glen Perkins and outfielder Josh Willingham.

Moving Morneau would mean putting a franchise player that has sold myriad No. 33 jerseys (and some No. 27s for the hipsters) in a different team’s colors—something that would be a poor public relations move.

Believe it or not, dealing Perkins might be worse. He is from Stillwater, went to the University of Minnesota and could easily be the long-awaited heir to Joe Nathan in the ninth (sorry Matt Capps…).

Finally, the fact that Willingham is still in a Twins uniform irks many fans. The 34-year-old slugger hit a career-high 35 home runs last season and could have brought plenty in return. Now he is injured and unlikely to bring much in return.

There are other players that could be dealt, and they will be addressed in the article, but for the most part the Twins are a young team and there is not much here that will bring much in return, so the team is better off holding on to the rest of their guys for right now.


Justin Morneau, the franchise player

Here is why this is a bad public relations move:

In the early 2000’s—in between the time that people thought the Twins were going to be contracted (2002) and built Target Field (2010)—there was a feeling that Minnesota would be a perennial contender in their new park.

It wasn’t far-fetched. After that drought from 1993-2000, the team had dominated the AL Central, could spend more money with the new ballpark instead of having to always do more with less and, most importantly, the team had two superstars: Joe Mauer and Justin Morneau.

The M&M Boys.

Mauer and Morneau were going to turn the Twins into Cardinals North—a small market team that, against all odds, beats all the big market teams in Major League Baseball.

(Quick aside: I always tell my friend, who is St. Louis native and a die-hard Cards fan, that Missouri is the south, not the Midwest. BAD IDEA. People from St. Louis are adamant that it is NOT the south.)

By trading Morneau, the team is admitting defeat.

People will remember how the 94-win team that opened up Target Field in 2010 became a 60-win team the next year.

They will remember that Minnesota got Carlos Gomez, jetsam and flotsam for Johan Santana.

They will remember that Gomez was traded for J.J. Hardy and then Hardy was subsequently traded to the Baltimore Orioles for magic beans.

They will remember that Hardy went on to be a hard-hitting shortstop while the man that replaced him, Tsuyoshi Nishioka, became one of the biggest busts in Japanese import history right behind your 2011 Toyota Camry that had an electrical failure.

Most of all, they will remember that the Twins traded Wilson Ramos, a potential backup for Mauer and his aching knees, for Matt Capps who served up more meatballs than Chef Boyardee.

Holding on to Morneau is the right call.

It is not just the fact that he is a fan favorite or that he is the second half of the M&M Boys or that he’s also from the Great White North. It’s that the Twins probably won’t get much in return for him.

Morneau has hit a few bombs this year, but Brian Dozier, Chris Parmelee and even Joe Mauer have more home runs than him. He could get that home run swing back, but at this point Morneau looks like a guy that will hit .300, drive in a few runs while playing first base.

He’s still valuable to the Twins, make no mistake about that, but general manager Terry Ryan and his men will not get enough in return to it to be worth trading him.

The baseball nerds will go nuts about this, saying Morneau isn’t worth what the team will have to pay to keep him in town, that some crazy statistic like xFIP, BABIP, UNICEF or CONCACAF says they should trade him for a second-tier pitching prospect, a couple maple bats and Ty Wigginton’s jock strap before he has less value than the Canadian dollar.

The only team that might overpay for Morneau is the Toronto Blue Jays. Although British Columbia and Ontario are completely different geographically, the Jays might want to bring the Canadian across the border. If the Twins can go international and get a solid return, then they should pull the trigger.

Otherwise, they should hang on to Morneau. I’m not trying to knock knowledgeable baseball people or advance statistics here, but No. 33 is closer to people’s hearts than any other number can measure.


Odds of moving: 15 percent


Glen Perkins, the hometown kid

Here is why the Twins should keep Perkins:

This is his home!

As a Shoreview native, I’m a little biased towards Minnesotans, but it isn’t like I’m begging the Twins to call up Cole De Vries. I’m asking them to hold on to one of the best closers in the game.

That’s not to say that I’ve ignored that Perkins is from Stillwater, played for the Gophers or is childhood friends with Mauer. But that is important! There are only four players from the Land of 10,000 Lakes playing in the bigs and three of them—Mauer, Perkins and Caleb Thielbar—are playing in Minneapolis. (Jack Hannahan is the Prodigal Son. He will eventually return.) Localization is huge in a small market! He’s ours!

Perkins has dominated hitters in the ninth by pumping 95 MPH fastballs at them and keeping them honest with the slider. He has a sub-2.00 ERA with 20 saves. His WHIP, which essentially measures a player’s heart rate, is 0.765. That’s good. (See baseball nerds, I don’t hate you and your fancy stats!).

Best yet, Perkins is under team control until 2016.

Unless the Twins get Miguel Cabrera for him, they should keep Perkins right where he belongs: In Minnesota!


Odds of moving: 10 percent


Josh Willingham, the late bloomer

Here are a few interesting facts about Willingham:

He went to the University of North Alabama, in his hometown of Florence, which had a Division II baseball program.

He was drafted in the 17th round of the 2000 draft, played for the Miami Florida Marlins before they had color in their uniforms and the Washington Nationals when they were the Natinals.

Oh yeah, and at age 33 he hit a career high 35 home runs.

People are absolutely tweaking out that Minnesota didn’t trade him last year when he had good value. It seemed like a win-win: Willingham was signed for a bargain at three years, $21 million and could potentially bring them a few good pitching prospects in return. Plus, the outfield was getting crowed with Oswaldo Arcia, Chris Parmelee and Aaron Hicks.

Here’s the problem with dealing Willingham one year into a three-year deal: They will never get another bargain like him. While it happens, it is a bit dishonest for a team to ask a player to commit to them for three years and trade them after one.

Willingham also has a lot to offer as a veteran in a young clubhouse. He has also been a mentor for Trevor Plouffe, who exploded for 24 home runs last year.

On the other hand, he is not worth much on the open market right now. His left knee has given him trouble and after a cortisone shot and some time off, Willingham went under the knife.

The surgery was deemed a success, but the now 34-year-old outfielder will be on the disabled list for four-to-six weeks—meaning he won’t play again until long after the trade deadline.

For right now, it looks like the Twins will keep Willingham.

It’s not all bad, he still leads the team with 10 home runs and, hey, they can always deal him next year!


Odds of moving: 10 percent



Minnesota could also deal Kevin Correia and Trevor Plouffe, but it doesn’t make much sense.

Correia has shown an ability to go deep into games and has thrived in the Junior Circuit after spending the first 10 years of his career in the National League. Because he has played well and isn’t worth too much on the open market, Minnesota would be wise to take the good pitching for another year and deal him next season.

Plouffe hit 24 home runs last year and is under team control until 2017. Yes, everyone knows that super-prospect Miguel Sano is a third baseman and the crack of his bat can be heard around the world, but there is no need to rush him to the majors and ruin his development.

Even if Sano comes up next season, Plouffe can always play a hybrid outfield-DH role with the team. It’s worth doing for a cheap player that possesses the power Plouffe does.

I know, I know, this article is kind of boring because I’m not putting anyone on the trading block, but consistency is key in baseball—especially with a young team. It’s better to allow everyone to grow and keep the producing players around than to scramble everything just for the sake of doing so.

That’s just rearranging the deck chairs in the Titanic and while this team may have hit an iceberg three years ago, there is a lot of young talent in Minneapolis and it doesn’t hurt for them to have some old guys talk to in the clubhouse during a slump.

Sometimes the best move is not to make a dumb one.


Tom Schreier covers Minnesota sports for Bleacher Report and is a contributor to Yahoo! Sports.


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Minnesota Twins: What to Make of 1B/RF Chris Parmelee

In my mind, Chris Parmelee is like a baby Trevor Plouffe. This is confusing, of course, because the latter is occasionally referred to as Babe Plouffe due to his ability to hit the long ball (and because of his Ryan Gosling looks). Plouffe, by the way, is a baby Josh Willingham. All three players are selective with what pitches they hit, occasionally get beaned and are power hitters at heart.

Willingham, of course, is nobody’s baby because he is all that is man. Willingham is the master; Plouffe and Parmelee are his disciples.

So, just to keep everything straight: Parmelee is 25, Plouffe is 27 and Willingham is 34, or as the good book says, “Willingham begat Plouffe who begat Parmelee.”

It may be hard for people to believe that I am comparing Parmelee to Plouffe. After all, Plouffe hit 24 home runs last year and Parmelee hit five. But there are similarities that go beyond their bats.

Plouffe is a converted shortstop that spent time in right field before settling in at third base. Parmelee spent most of his time in the minors playing first base, but moved to right field in order to accommodate Justin Morneau and Joe Mauer.

Parmelee raked in Triple-A, hitting .338/.457/.645 with 17 home runs in Rochester and put up similar numbers at all his stops in the minor leagues.

Two years ago, at age 23, he was brought up directly from Double-A—where he hit .282/.355/.416 with 19 home runs in two seasons—and killed it in his short big league stint. He hit .355/.443/.592 with four homers in 21 games.

Things slowed down a bit for Parmelee last season. He split time between Rochester and Minneapolis, hitting only .229/.290/.380 with five home runs in 64 games at Target Field. He spent 38 games at first base but had to move around the outfield in order to keep his spot on the team.

Parmelee has had spurts of greatness this season. He hit a bomb against the Orioles in Baltimore that probably landed in a different area code. He has played 60 games already and has similar numbers to last year—.223/.302/.346 with five home runs.

“I feel good at the plate,” he says. “The numbers aren’t where I’d like them to be. I’ll do whatever I can to get the runners in, get a run over—hit some balls hard and hit some soft ones for hits.”

“It all evens out at the end of the year.”

Parmelee is being pilloried for those numbers. While fans tend to acknowledge his ability to hit home runs, they say he hits too many squibblers that stay in the infield and too many fly balls right at fielders.

NBC’s Aaron Gleeman writes, “[The] jury is very much still out on whether Parmelee is part of the future anyway,” while acknowledging how well he played in his debut and during his stint in the minors.

In short, there is a feeling among many fans that Parmelee can take care of business in the minors but struggles to produce in the big leagues. The “Quad-A” label has been thrown around from time to time.

Take a look at Plouffe, though. He did not play at age 23, like Parmelee, but he batted .146/.143/.317 with two home runs at age 24 in 2010 and .238/.305/.392 with eight homers the next year at age 25. At that time, people were saying the same thing about him: He’s a great minor league hitter, but can’t produce in the majors.

After all, Plouffe reached Triple-A at age 22 but spent six seasons at that level. While his numbers were impressive (.261/.316/.449 with 47 home runs), they did not mean much unless he could replicate them in the big leagues.

Last season, however, Plouffe hit 24 home runs with a .235/.301/.455 line and probably would have hit 30 if he had not had a nagging thumb injury that set him back immediately after a hot streak. It is no coincidence that that production came both when he entered his prime at age 26, but also when the team assigned Willingham to a locker spot next to his.

This year, he is hitting .264/.344/.457 with five homers. But the injury bug got him again. He suffered a concussion and then had his calf flare up following an eight-game hit streak, but Plouffe returned to face the Tigers on his birthday and hit a home run to celebrate.

Safe to say, I think he’s doing just fine.

Here’s the similarity between the two Southern Californian sluggers: At age 25, people thought they were “Quad-A” players. But, remember, as soon as Plouffe entered his prime, at age 26, his production jumped.

And, for the record, Parmelee’s locker is right next to Plouffe’s.

The biggest difference between Plouffe and Parmelee is that it was the former’s bat that kept him in the lineup, where Parmelee’s defense is likely to keep him on the field.

Parmelee has an incredible ability to play the ball off the wall, which compliments his arm strength and allows him to throw players out at second or relay a ball to home plate.

“He works really hard at it,” says manager Ron Gardenhire. “He’s got quick feet, and he’s got a nice spin that’s under control—he’s very accurate with his throws.”

“That throw to second base is one of those throws where, if you play it off the wall well, he’ll have a lot of chances [to throw people out].”

Parmelee primarily played first base in the minors and people questioned his ability to man right field when the Twins placed him there this season. “It’s interesting that the Twins are using Parmelee in right field,” wrote Gleeman last year. “Because he figures to be below average there and played zero innings in the outfield for Rochester.”

Parmelee’s biggest asset in the field is his ability to play the ball off the wall; a task is more difficult than it appears.

“The wall here, it’s really tough,” says Gardenhire. “There’s a lot of things out there that it can hit.”

“It seems like there are 15 different surfaces out there, with the limestone fence, wood, padding, tin—a little bit of tin, concrete,” says Parmelee.

Yes, there is a little bit of tin in right field.

“Where the scoreboard is in right-center, the big screen, right above it is almost like a rain sheet of tin,” he continues. “Every once and a while, it’s pretty rare, but you see a ball come off that and just die.”

All the surfaces play differently. If the ball hits the scoreboard, it goes straight down. If it hits the concrete, it jumps farther than it would if it hits the padding. The wood is somewhere in between. The limestone fence is a complete wild card.

“It’s definitely repetition,” says Parmelee. “Sometimes there’s not much you can do about it. It’s just knowing how the ball is going to go.”

“If you know that the ball is going to hit the plywood, repetition tells you how hard it is going to come off and where you need to be.”

Every park has a unique design, so when Parmelee goes on the road, he will take time during batting practice to practice playing balls off the wall.

“We’ll have a guy, usually Scottie Ullger, our outfield coach, he’ll hit balls down the line just to see how [they play],” he says. “Just because sometimes stadiums come to a point and sometimes they curve, so during batting practice we’ll get out there on the first day and throw some balls off the walls.”

“He fields balls off that bat,” says Gardenhire. “He takes a lot of pride in it and that’s a start.”

Parmelee says he has the AL Central parks down for the most part, but playing in an unfamiliar park, like when they traveled to D.C. to play the Washington Nationals in the beginning of June, is particularly difficult.

“The places you go the least,” he says. “You definitely have to do a bigger refresher course.”

As soon as he finished his sentence, Willingham, who had just received a cortisone shot in his knee, walked by and gave him a purple nipple. Parmelee froze for a few seconds, waiting until he thought Willingham was out of earshot. “Ow!” he expressed in pseudo-anger, half chuckling as he said it. There was a smile on his face, but also a little wince once his shirt finally untwisted.

That too was a refresher course; a reminder that Willingham may be 34, may have just gotten a cortisone shot and may only be hitting .211/.352/.411 with 10 home runs, but he’s still the man around here.


All quotes were obtained first-hand, unless otherwise indicated.

Tom Schreier covers Minnesota sports for Bleacher Report and is a contributor to Yahoo! Sports.


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3 Lineup Changes the Minnesota Twins Should Implement

The Minnesota Twins have a sticky situation where they have a lot of players that can hit the ball for power, but few that can hit for average. On top of that, sluggers like Trevor Plouffe, Ryan Doumit and even Justin Morneau have gone through slumps this year.

The one player that does hit well for average, Joe Mauer, topped out at around .360 early in the 2013 and has recently dropped below .300.

In order to get the most out of its roster, Minnesota must make adjustments that will give guys days off and get other players at-bats.

The following are a few lineups manager Ron Gardenhire could use in the near future.


The Chris Parmelee at First Base Lineup

I think Parmelee is Plouffe’s long lost brother. Not only are they both in their mid-20s, from California and begin their last name with the letter P, but both players also hit for power, not contact.

Plouffe is currently hitting .229/.330/.446 with four home runs and five extra base hits.

Parmelee is currently batting .209/.300/.337 with three home runs and two extra base hits.

The former may be playing a little better, but Plouffe is also two years older than Parmelee and has gone on a tear recently, batting .286/.444/.786 with two home runs in May.

On the other hand, former MVP Justin Morneau is batting .238/.250/.286 with no homers this month and is looking like a shell of himself.

Parmelee is currently playing in right field, but has played first base and could move there to give Morneau time off. It would also give Minnesota the option of putting Plouffe in the outfield and starting either Eduardo Escobar or Jamey Carroll at third.

This is how that lineup would look:

Brian Dozier, 2B

Joe Mauer, C

Josh Willingham, DH

Chris Parmelee, 1B

Trevor Plouffe, RF

Oswaldo Arcia, LF

Aaron Hicks, CF

Eduardo Escobar, 3B

Pedro Florimon, SS


The Ryan Doumit at Catcher Lineup

I intentionally left Doumit out of the first lineup because he is slumping.

This year, he’s hitting below the Mendoza Line (.198/.270/.284) with zero power (no home runs, seven doubles). Last year, he hit .275/.320/.461 with 18 homers and 34 doubles in a career-high 134 games after coming over from Pittsburgh.

He is still a good defensive catcher, however, and as much as Mauer is willing to catch just about every game, he needs flexibility to play first base, DH or take a day off.

This also would allow Minnesota to go with two traditional table-setters at the top of the lineup and give Hicks the chance to move up in the order.

This is how that lineup would look:

Brian Dozier, 2B

Aaron Hicks, CF

Josh Willingham, LF

Justin Morneau, 1B

Chris Parmelee, RF

Trevor Plouffe, 3B

Ryan Doumit, C

Oswaldo Arcia, DH

Pedro Florimon, SS


The Murderer’s Row Lineup

I was texting with my friend from St. Louis the other day and he was listing off the Cardinals lineup. I laughed when I saw it, responding that it was all beef and no speed.

Mike texted back, saying that it was 100 percent American (this is the kind of guy that wraps his hot dogs in bacon and tucks them between ground beef).

The Twins players prefer to call this lineup Murderer’s Row.  Or at least Brian Dozier does. When the Mississippi native says it, it sounds so awesome that I can’t possibly call it something different.

So, without further ado, here is the Murderer’s Row:

Brian Dozier, 2B

Joe Mauer, C

Josh Willingham, LF

Justin Morneau, 1B

Chris Parmelee, RF

Trevor Plouffe, 3B

Oswaldo Arica (or Ryan Doumit), DH

Aaron Hicks (or Wilkin Ramirez), CF

Eduardo Escobar, SS



By just looking at stats alone, Minnesota’s lineup doesn’t look that impressive. Hicks is still well below .200, Doumit and Morneau are slumping and Parmelee and Plouffe are not hitting for average.

In fact, the Twins are in the bottom third of the league in terms of runs scored.

Actually sit down and watch the games, however, and you’ll notice that Hicks is getting more selective at the plate, Plouffe is hitting to opposite field (and with men on base) and Dozier packs a little more punch than you’d expect.

In short, there are a lot of improving players on this team, which leaves the Twins with a lot of options on game day and gives baseball fans in Minnesota a reason to believe that this team is going to turn it around sooner that everyone expects.


Tom Schreier covers Minnesota sports for Bleacher Report and writes for Visit his Kinja blog to see his previous work.


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Minnesota Twins’ Signing of RHP Kevin Correia May Weed out Last Year’s Starters

By signing Kevin Correia to a two-year, $10 million contract the Minnesota Twins may be weeding out anyone that pitched for the team in 2012—except for Scott Diamond.

As it stands, Correia, Diamond and former Philadelphia Phillies pitcher Vance Worley should have spots in the rotation at the beginning of the 2013 season. Kyle Gibson should also have a spot, assuming his recovery from Tommy John surgery goes well.

This means that the non-Diamond rotation from last year—Brian Duensing, Cole De Vries, Samuel Deduno, PJ Walters, Nick Blackburn and Co.—may not pitch another game after next season.

Disgruntled Twins fans are probably popping champagne at the sound of that.

Duensing is better suited as a reliever.

De Vries is a nice story. He’s both an underdog and a local guy, but ultimately there’s nothing special about the way he pitches. He may get another shot, but he’s never going to blow anyone away.

Deduno walked way too many people last year to give him a spot in the Opening Day rotation. He’s a wild card, however. If he can get his wacky fastball under control, he could be something special.

Walters looked solid in the beginning of the year, but really tailed off.

And finally, Blackburn looked really great at the beginning of his contract, but was the worst pitcher in baseball with 15 or more starts last season.

In essence, Twins General Manager Terry Ryan is giving these guys a shot to become something special next year, and then closing the door.

As much as Ben Revere and Denard Span will be missed in the outfield, Ryan’s aggressive offseason moves already look like they are paying off.

If none of the starters from last season pan out, with Diamond being the exception, then he has a projected 2014 rotation—Worley, Diamond, Correia, Gibson and Trevor May or Alex Meyer—that does not include any of them.

To be honest, it would have been disingenuous for Ryan and the Twins organization to trot out last year’s rotation and just say, “Hey, we’ve got guys that can hit well and we hope that all of last year’s starters improve with more experience under their belt.”

By dealing away two beloved center fielders, Ryan has addressed the team’s biggest need; pitching.

Of course Twins fans wanted a guy like Brett Myers, Brandon McCarthy, Anibal Sanchez or, if they were really out of their mind, Zack Greinke. Unlike the Dodgers, however, the Twins operate under a budget—a strict one—and they will continue to do so unless a significant part of the American population moves to the Twin Cities in the next few years.

This offseason, Minnesota has done things the Twins way—signing free agents from the bargain bin and focusing on player development—and that should be seen as a positive thing. Instead of having multiple financial albatrosses in 2014 and beyond, the team should begin to field a competitive team at a reasonable price.

And, c’mon, who doesn’t like a bargain?


Tom Schreier covers the Twins for Bleacher Report and writes a weekly column for


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Tsuyoshi Nishioka Released by Minnesota Twins: 8 Takeaways from the Experiment

The Tsuyoshi Nishioka era in Minnesota is over.

The Minnesota Twins announced that the move was requested by the struggling Japanese shortstop, who batted .215, had 50 hits (no home runs) and 19 RBI with two stolen bases.

A much-hyped player before coming to America, Nishioka was a standout for the Chiba Lotte Marines in his home country. From 2003-’10, he hit .293, had 911 hits (55 home runs) and 19 RBI with two stolen bases.

His play did not transfer to the majors, however, and he requested his release yesterday.

Here are a couple takeaways from his career in Minnesota.

Begin Slideshow

Minnesota Twins: Sam Deduno’s Season Over, Last Start Reveals Key to Future

As reported by John Shipley of the St. Paul Pioneer Press, Minnesota Twins pitcher Samuel Deduno’s season has come to a close.



It is unfortunate that it has ended following a difficult start against the Yankees on Sept. 26, where the pitcher only lasted 1.2 innings.

After a strong outing on Sept. 10 against Cleveland, he has only pitched eight innings in his final three starts.

During the Sept. 26 start against New York, the Twins dugout noticed that he was flinching every time the ball was thrown back to him. He was diagnosed with eye irritation, and after a long confrontation on the mound, the team forced him to leave the game.

“I couldn’t get his glove open to get the ball even,” said manager Ron Gardenhire after the game. “He kept saying he was fine, but if you just watch with your eyes there, and you see that he’s kinda flinching from balls and that’s not good enough.

“I will never leave a player out there in that situation.”

He had his eyes checked out before the start, but was cleared to play after telling the team doctors he was fine.

Gardenhire says Deduno hoodwinked the team.

“Before the game everything was fine,” said the manager, “he was having no problems and that’s what the kid was telling us and that’s all we’ll go by.”

After going 5-2 with a 3.62 ERA in July and August, Deduno, who originally began the seasons in the minors, went 1-3 with a 6.43 ERA in September.

It wouldn’t be far-fetched to think that the 29-year-old wanted to get everything under control and end the season on a good note, knowing an Opening Day rotation spot was available for him next season.

A spot that is his for the taking if he can just get that crazy fastball under control.


Hey I heard you were a wild one/


If I took you home/

It’d be a home run/

Show me what you do

Flo RidaWild Ones


Deduno is pleasant and soft-spoken off the diamond. Once the takes the mound, however, he’s a wild one.

One night he’s throwing more strikes than Pete Weber. The next he’s issuing more free passes than Groupon.

He’s as predictable as the Minnesota weather in late summer.

The erratic righty from the Dominican Republic made 15 starts, going 6-5 with a 4.44 ERA while throwing slightly more strikeouts (57) than walks (53).

“He has a lot of movement on his pitches,” says catcher Joe Mauer.

“With him I just kinda sit in the middle and aim down. Some will cut and some will sink, but the stuff that’s tougher to catch is probably tougher to hit too.”

Mauer compares him to another pitcher he caught—Mets knuckleballer RA Dickey.

“The ball is kinda all over the place,” he says. “It’s kinda like Dickey.

“It’s kinda unpredictable a little bit.”

His strikeouts and walks are not evenly divided on a nightly basis. Rather, Deduno tends to have one night where he leaves opposing hitters befuddled as they head back to the dugout crestfallen and on others he’s perplexed as they take a slow trot to first.

For example, on Aug. 19 at Seattle he pitched six innings, issued six walks and had two strikeouts. Then on Aug. 29 against Seattle he had seven innings pitched, no walks and nine strikeouts. And on Sept. 10 against Cleveland he pitched seven innings, walked three and struck out six.

 “He fits the mold of an effectively wild pitcher,” continued Doumit. “He’s always going to be like that.

“He’s always going to be a high-walk, high-strikeout kind of guy, but if he can harness it, you don’t see too many pitchers with natural movement like that, and it’s a testament to him.”

The difference between Triple A and the majors comes down to one thing: Sam Deduno has to harness that fastball.


No one man should have all that power/
The clocks tickin‘ I just count the hours/
Stop trippin‘ I’m tripping off the power/
Till then, f*ck that the world’s ours

Kanye West – Power


To understand Deduno’s fastball, imagine a sorcerer summoning lightning from the sky.

He holds it in between his palms for a moment before unleashing it upon his enemies.

That ball of lighting swells as it is held between the hands of the sorcerer, quivering in every direction while the energy is mustered.

If released at the right time, it will dart in an irregular pattern before disposing of the enemy.

If it is held too long, it will blow up in the sorcerer’s face.

That’s what it must feel like to toss Deduno’s fastball.

“It’s like a screwball,” says Doumit. “It’s funky—that’s the best work I can use to describe it.”

Nobody in the Twins clubhouse has seen anything like it.

“You’ve got to be ready because you don’t know where the play is,” says outfielder Ben Revere. “It’s like, you make that sinker, is it going the other way? Or he might just leave it straight and they’ll pull it so I’m just like, ‘I don’t know.’

“I told Jerry White, my coach, I don’t know where to play him because I don’t know if he’s going to be painting or how his ball’s going to be.”

 “Some will cut and some will sink,” adds Mauer, “but the stuff that’s tougher to catch is probably tougher to hit too.”

On some nights the opposing batters can’t hit him.

“He was buckling some guys over on that side,” said Gardenhire after his Aug. 13 start against Detroit. “That’s not the norm for the Detroit Tigers. They’re a really good hitting baseball team.”

On other nights the opposing batters get hit.

“He’s been throwing the ball pretty decent lately and the last few starts have been good,” said manager Ron Gardenhire following a particularly wild outing on Sept. 15.

“Today, it’s one of those things that was just going everywhere. He threw fastballs, probably 55-footers. Fastballs.”

So, in short, his fastball is always a threat to opposing batters.

But that’s not always a good thing.

He has been working with pitching coach Rick Anderson constantly to help him with control.

“There’s some mechanical things Andy’s talked with him about that have allowed him to get his fastball over the plate more,” says Gardenhire.

“He has great stuff. Now it’s about mastering the strike zone a little better.”


Things are getting outta control/
Feels like I’m running out of soul/
You are getting too heavy to hold/
Think I’ll be letting you go

Lupe Fiasco – Letting Go


“My mechanics [were] perfect,” said Deduno after a treacherous Sept. 15 outing against Francisco Liriano and the White Sox.

He had thrown 86 pitches. Only 40 were strikes.

Anderson had gone to the mound in the second inning to speak to Deduno.

“He told me, like—it was in my mind…”

His voice breaks. He is visibly upset.

“I tried to do too much.”


“I tried to be perfect.”

He pursued complete control of his fastball.

“He said that he was putting too much pressure on himself,” said Gardenhire, “he was getting mad at himself and when you do that you don’t relax and that’s what happens.

“That’s the reason: Everything tenses up and you don’t let the ball go right.”

After that start he faced Detroit and, unlike his Aug. 13 appearance, he struggled. He went 2.1 innings, walked three batters and gave up seven hits.

Sometime after that night he had the eye irritation, but told the team’s medical staff that he was fine and ready for his next start.

He wanted to hold on to that ball once again. With that ball, he could get his season back on track and end the year on a high note.

And that brings us to that Sept. 26 outing. In the second inning Gardenhire went to the mound, asking for the ball.

But it remained in his hand, concealed by a tightly closed glove.

With that ball he does something that cannot be contained and in that moment he couldn’t do what is ultimately in his best interest:

Just let go.


All quotes were obtained first-hand.

Tom Schreier writes a weekly column for and contributes to Hockey’s Future and Stadium Journey.

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Minnesota Twins: Has Pitcher Brian Duensing Found His Role on This Team?

Minnesota Twins pitcher Brian Duensing is in his element as a reliever.

On Saturday, Duensing pitched in relief of starter Sam Deduno, who only went four innings in a 5-3 loss to the Chicago White Sox.

He went 3.1 innings, allowing only one hit and a walk while striking out Alejandro De Aza and Kevin Youkilis.

“I felt real good,” he said. “I felt I was in my own rhythm immediately when I got on the mound.”

He pitched three straight 1-2-3 innings before a difficult eighth inning.

“He really shut it down today,” said manager Ron Gardenhire. “Came in, threw over the plate, used all of his pitches, looked really efficient and relaxed out there.”

“I was very efficient,” echoed Duensing, whose fastball stayed in the low 90s. “Quick innings and all the results were for the most part on the ground and that’s all I can really ask for.”

In the eighth he fanned Youkilis, but gave up a double to Adam Dunn and walked Paul Konerko.

“I felt like Dunn hit a really good pitch,” he said. “With Konerko, I didn’t want him to beat me.”

At that point the Twins were down 4-2 with the heart of the lineup coming up in the latter innings.

“We kinda got back into the game there, I wanted to keep it close,” he continued. “I told myself I’ll keep it close, and if I miss I and if I walk him that’s fine, we’ll have a chance for a double-play ball.

“The walk was kind of an unintentional, intentional walk.”

The double play never came, but relievers Casey Fien and Tyler Robertson got the team out of the inning without giving up a run.

“I’ll take this outing every time,” said Duensing.

He has found his role on this team.


All quotes were obtained first-hand.

Tom Schreier writes a weekly column for


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Minnesota Twins: Pitcher Esmerling Vasquez Improving, but Is It Enough?

A three-strikeout first inning of Friday’s game indicated that Minnesota Twins starter Esmerling Vasquez had figured out his control problems and was going to go deep into the game.

A three-walk fourth revealed that the control problems are still there.

“He just kinda misfired,” said manager Ron Gardenhire after the 6-0 loss.

“He tried to get them to chase some pitches and they laid off some pretty decent pitches, close pitches, but ultimately he ends up walking in a run.”

Vasquez hit Chicago White Sox third baseman Kevin Youkilis with a pitch in the first inning, a harbinger for things to come that night.

“He made some pitches,” continued the manager, “got through it.”

The pitcher already has 12 walks and only eight strikeouts in his 14-inning career with the Twins.

A 9-6 record (2.78 ERA) in Rochester, where he had a 98-to-39 K/BB ration, merited a call-up in September, but it’s hard to see him sticking with the team next season.

True, there are still five open spots in the rotation next season and putting the Carl Pavano and Scott Baker situations aside (and assuming Nick Blackburn won’t be back) it’s a rat race to see which pitchers will earn major league starts next season.

Scott Diamond is the most likely candidate to get a spot next season.

His second-half numbers have dropped off a bit (since being ejected in Texas he’s only pitched seven innings one time in three starts), but his early numbers indicate he should have a spot in the rotation for years to come.

For Sam Deduno it’s all about controlling that crazy fastball. If he can keep the walk rate low, that’s a dangerous pitch. If not, he’ll be in Triple-A next season.

Cole De Vries had a string of three straight wins going before snapping a rib in his last start. The local kid is likely to get a long look during spring training next season.

After that it’s hard to tell.

P.J. Walters showed some promise early in the year but got lit up in his last two starts since coming off the disabled list, and Liam Hendriks has yet to earn a win in the major leagues.

That left the door open for Vasquez, but it’s hard to see him stepping through it.

The Dominican pitcher topped 100 pitches in the sixth inning of Friday’s contest and didn’t seem to have any control after the first. Toward the end of his outing, he actually bounced a pitch to Konerko.

Kyle Waldrop replaced him with two outs in the sixth after A.J. Pierzynski hit a single off of him and he walked Dayan Viciedo.

“Today I feel much better,” said Vasquez. “I was more confident in my stuff today and I stayed more aggressive and used more pitches.”

“He used all of his pitches: his breaking ball and his changeup and his fastball and got through six innings.

“That was way better than last time and improvement’s what we’re looking for.”

There certainly has been some improvement, but it’s hard to see Vasquez cracking the Opening Day roster next year.


All quotes were obtained first-hand.

Tom Schreier writes a weekly column for


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