Tag: Jon Rauch

Minnesota Twins Approach the Best Record in Baseball, but Does It Feel Right?

For Minnesota, the magic number for clinching the American League Central title (8) is smaller than the Twins’ lead in the division (9).

Since the All-Star break no one has been better than the Twins this year—and over the past 50 years there are only two teams that have been this good. 

At 88-58, they are but one half-game from the best record in all of baseball and home-field advantage through the American League Championship Series.

The Twins are near the top of the team leader boards for defense, offense and pitching. 

Their .278 batting average is tied with the Rangers for tops in the league.

They have the second-best fielding percentage of .988, behind the Yankees’ .989. 

Their team ERA is 3.77, second only to the Oakland A’s at 3.59. 

Include the inaugural season of Target Field, and all of this points to a potential third World Series championship for the Minnesota Nine.

Yet something just doesn’t feel right.

Here’s my look at five things that just “feel” wrong, and an attempt to change that—in my own mind, at least.

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Twins Bullpen: Why Having a Deep ‘Pen Is Doing More Harm Than Good

After the acquisition of closer Matt Capps, the Minnesota Twins had a consistent bullpen. Every reliever knew what his job was going to be. Every reliever had his inning.

It was organized. Peaceful.

Flash forward a month.

The Twins acquired two more relievers: Randy Flores off of waivers from the Colorado Rockies and Brian Fuentes via trade from the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim of California of the United States in North America.

Now, everything is a complete mess and it’s evident by the pen’s performance as of late.

Starting with Thursday’s absolutely terrible loss to the Tigers in 13 innings, it became quite evident that Ron Gardenhire and the Twins’ coaching staff is too inclined on using the deep bullpen.

What do I mean by that?

Since the Twins acquired Flores and Fuentes, Twins manager Ron Gardenhire seems to be too keen on “playing the match-up.”

Instead of letting his reliever pitch his inning, Gardy is now using the one-and-done strategy where he brings in a pitcher to get an out, then goes to another reliever to get another out or the final two outs.

In Friday’s game, the Twins went through three relief pitchers in just one inning. Three. This is coming off the heels of a game that required the use of two starting pitchers, Brian Duensing and Nick Blackburn, as relievers.

It’s one thing if it’s a 17-inning game and you have no other choice to use a starter. However, if the starter is coming in during the 11th inning, something is wrong.

Now, the Twins entire pitching staff, sans Francisco Liriano and Carl Pavano, is in utter disarray.

What happens if Friday’s game goes into extra innings? You just burnt three pitchers in the eighth inning trying to get three outs and a handful of your previous relievers were taxed in the previous game and probably unavailable. 

Does Gardy send in Michael Cuddyer to toe the rubber? How about seeing what Denard Span has?

Before we had this depth, the bullpen had a rhythm. It was effective. Now, the bullpen seems disorganized and that may be leading to the inefficiencies we’ve been seeing over the past couple weeks.

Now, I’m not against playing the match-ups if you have the players. However, those match-ups should be in the eighth and the ninth, not the sixth or seventh or when your entire pen is available to throw. Two pitchers in an inning should be enough unless, of course, one flounders and needs to be yanked.

Also, it’s September. That means expanded rosters. More pitchers are available to use. However, for some reason, these pitchers weren’t with the team for Thursday’s marathon. 

Even with the expanded rosters, I’ll still want Crain, Guerrier, and Flores in the game before Alex Burnett and Rob Delaney. These pitchers should only be used when the game is out of reach or the bullpen in completely taxed like Friday’s game.

Hopefully, Gardenhire is taking a long look at his pitching staff and will rethink his strategy and going back to how things were before. 

Stick with what works. Now is not the time to experiment with a new bullpen strategy.

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Minnesota Twins: Getting Closer(s) to The Postseason

On Friday the Minnesota Twins acquired Brian Fuentes from the Los Angeles Angels.

On Saturday Fuentes earned his first Twins‘ save against the Seattle Mariners. For Fuentes it was his 24th save of the season.

For the Minnesota Twins, Fuentes gives their bullpen a proven closer—that makes three proven closers since Joe Nathan injured his pitching shoulder in spring training.

Within an hour of arriving at Safeco Field in Seattle, Fuentes had his first Twins’ save, giving him 24 for the season.

Jon Rauch started the season as Nathan’s replacement. He has 21 saves, a 3.40 ERA and a 1.38 WHIP.

The Twins traded catcher Wilson Ramos to the Washington Nationals for All-Star closer Matt Capps on July 29th. Capps has six saves in 13 appearances for Minnesota.

Combined in 2010, the three-headed closer of Rauch-Capps-Fuentes has 77 saves, a 3.10 ERA and a 1.30 WHIP.

Minnesota General Manager Bill Smith has acted quickly after the Twins’ bullpen lost their two left-handed relievers, Jose Mijares and Ron Mahay. 

On Wednesday the Twins claimed left-handed reliever Randy Flores off waivers from the Colorado Rockies. Flores has pitched 27.2 innings with a 2.96 ERA and 1.28 WHIP.

The addition of Fuentes gives Manager Ron Gardenhire some extra flexibility at the end of games.

Rauch will probably alternate with Jesse Crain and Matt Guerrier for the eighth inning set-up role, while Capps and Fuentes gives the Twins a left-handed and a right-handed closer for the ninth. 


The Twins needed a closer with some experience, and with three post-season saves, the 34 year-old Fuentes gives them just that.


Nick Blackburn impresses with eight and two-thirds innings of shutout baseball.

On Saturday, starter Nick Blackburn found himself in some early trouble in the first inning. With two outs, he gave up back-to-back hits putting runners on first and third. He would get the next batter to end the inning, and then pitch into the ninth not allowing another hit. 

The Twins would pick up a run in the top of the third when Danny Valencia, J.J. Hardy and Denard Span would provide three hits in a row scoring the only run the Twins would need.

With one out in the second Blackburn would walk Ryan Langerhans, and then set down the next 22 batters, until with two outs in the ninth he would walk Chone Figgins.

With the winning run at the plate Gardenhire wasted no time bringing the left-handed Fuentes to pitch to the left-handed hitting Russell Branyan.

Fuentes had an easy four-pitch save, striking out Branyan on a 91 mile per hour fastball.

In his two starts since returning from Rochester, Blackburn has pitched 15.2 innings, allowing only three earned runs (a 1.72 ERA). He has dropped his ERA for the season from 6.66 to 6.02.

If Blackburn continues to pitch this well, Gardenhire will have some tough decisions to make when Kevin Slowey comes off the DL.   

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Minnesota Twins Are the AL Central Trade Deadline Winners!

The non-waiver trading deadline has passed.

The Texas Rangers made arguably the biggest move in the AL with the acquisition of ace Cliff Lee.

They also added some depth with shortstop Cristian Guzman, infielder Jorge Cantu, and catcher Bengie Molina.

In typical New York fashion, the Yankees have put themselves in a position to repeat as World Series champions with the additions of first baseman Lance Berkman, outfielder Austin Kearns, and pitcher Kerry Wood.

Berkman was rumored to be a target for both the Tigers and White Sox, and some reports are he vetoed a deal that would have sent him to Chicago.

So here’s a look at how the three teams contending for the AL Central fared in attempts to make improvements before the trade deadline at 3:00 pm CDT on Saturday.

Chicago White Sox

Key additions: Edwin Jackson—Right-hand pitcher, 6-10, 5.16 ERA.

Key subtractions: Pitcher Jake Peavy—out for the season with right shoulder surgery.

Going 25-5 before the All-Star break, the White Sox went from nine and a half games back and in third place to leading the division by half a game.

With the loss of Jake Peavy for the season, Jackson will help to add some depth to their rotation. With a slightly higher ERA and lower strikeout to walk ratio will have to pitch better in Chicago than he did in Arizona. 

This was the only deal General Manager Ken Williams was able to pull off before the deadline. Will it be enough to keep the Sox out front?

Having gone 9-7 since the All-Star break, their lead remains a half game, but Minnesota has taken over second place from the struggling Tigers. 

The White Sox will still need to add some depth in order to win the division. The task just became a lot more difficult. Any player will have to clear waivers before the deal is completed.

Detroit Tigers

Key Addition: Third baseman Jhonny Peralta—.251 batting average, nine HR, 46 RBI, .315 OBP.

Key Subtractions: Brandon Inge—Out four to six weeks with a broken hand.

The Tigers picked up Peralta from Cleveland for a 19-year-old class-A pitcher Giovanni Soto.

The Tigers were in desperate need of a replacement for Inge and Peralta will fit the bill.

He brings a little more power than what Inge was demonstrating this year, with a slight drop in average and on-base percentage.

The Tigers have been struggling since the break going 4-13, falling to 52-51 and six games behind the White Sox.

Without adding some pitching depth to the lineup is President and General Manager Dave Dombrowski throwing in the towel?

Minnesota Twins

Key Addition: Closer Matt Capps—27 saves, 2.68 ERA

Key Subtractions: Justin Morneau—Currently on the 15-day DL for a concussion.

The Twins needed to add another quality starter to the rotation, and should have been looking for some insurance to back-up Morneau at first.

Michael Cuddyer has been doing a good job filling in, but the addition of either Berkman or Adam Dunn would have gone a long way to plug any potential long-term absence of Morneau.

The only deal GM Bill Smith was able to pull off was the addition of Washington closer Matt Capps. In return, the Twins gave up Double-A left-handed pitcher Joe Testa, and Triple-A catcher Wilson Ramos.

The addition of Capps bolsters the Twins bullpen, allowing interim closer Jon Rauch to move back into the set-up role. This helps fill the gap made with the promotion of Brian Duensing to the starting rotation.

Having gone 12-4 since the All-Star break, the Twins have moved past the Tigers for second place, only a half game behind the White Sox.

Based more on the lack of moves made by the White Sox or Tigers than the move made by the Twins, they can claim victory in deadline deals for the AL Central division. 

At this point the division appears to be the a two-team race between the White Sox and Twins.

The winner will earn the probable right to face either the Rangers or Yankees in the divisional round—and an early exit in the playoffs.     

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Minnesota Twins Acquire Matt Capps: More Trades To Come?

It had been reported over the last couple of days that the Minnesota Twins were looking to acquire a pitcher in order to bolster a bullpen that could use work, despite having the best ERA in the league today.

It appears as though the Twins have found that man. But he most certainly came with a price.

In exchange for the 26-year-old right-hander, Minnesota had to trade one of their best prospects, catcher Wilson Ramos.

Ramos, who will turn 23 on August 10, was called up on May 1 in order to start for Joe Mauer, who was injured at that time.

In seven games with Minnesota, Ramos averaged .296 at the plate with 1 RBI. His best game actually occurred in his first contest with the club, where he went 4-for-5 with a run scored.

However, in his next 22 at-bats, Wilson managed only four hits, and was sent back down to the Triple-A Rochester Red Wings on May 13.

Minnesota also sent minor league pitcher Joe Testa along with Ramos in the deal for Capps.

Testa, a left-hander, is a 24-year-old pitcher who will likely need more time in the minors before he can make any significant value to the Nationals organization.

In Matt Capps, the Minnesota Twins are getting an all-star closer who will take over for the man who was substituting for Joe Nathan, Jon Rauch.

Where we stand now, Minnesota will likely move Rauch to the set-up role, which will allow Matt Guerrier to be a middle-reliever that the Twins needed.

Capps, who was an all-star this year, recorded 26 saves in 30 opportunities for the Nationals this season.

Matt is currently pitching on a one year, $3.5 million deal, which means Minnesota is likely only going to use Capps as a rental in order to help their bullpen, and give them a better shot at competing with the likes of the Yankees, Rays, Red Sox, White Sox, and Rangers in the American League.

Many question why Twins General Manager Bill Smith was willing to give up so much for so little. But in retrospect, Ramos would likely only see the field on rare occasions, especially with Joe Mauer in front of him.

Also, Minnesota has Drew Butera and Jose Morales, who are both young and talented catchers who will be able to fill in for Mauer when he’s either resting or injured.

As a Twins fan myself, I am pleased with the move. If we didn’t have such a stable catcher in Mauer on our roster, I would be opposed to the move.

It’s also being reported that the Twins may not be done making trade deadline moves in order to upgrade their pitching rotation.

With both Scott Baker and Nick Blackburn pitching terribly, Minnesota could use another quality starter.

A year ago, the Twins acquired Carl Pavano from the Indians in order to help out their staff. To this day, Pavano has been an ace for the Twins pitching staff.

Ted Lilly was said to be a target of interest for the Twins a couple days ago, but that rumor has since been shot down because Minnesota is apparently on Lilly’s “no-trade list.”

Nonetheless, there are still quality starting pitchers out there who are looking to be traded before the deadline occurs.

Edwin Jackson, Jeremy Bonderman, Javier Vazquez, and Dontrelle Willis are all starting pitchers with expiring contracts that the Twins could make a move for.

It’ll be an interesting 24 hours for the Twins organization. I’ll definitely be checking the web and ESPN to see if Minnesota makes any moves.

Stay tuned!

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