Monday, May 04, 2009

OtB Twins Notes (05.04.09)

Joe Christensen says the Twins sent catcher Jose Morales to Rochester after they activated Jesse Crain from the 15-day DL.  Morales has been a decent contributor in Joe Mauer's absence, hitting .349/.391/.419 going into Sunday's game but allowed 13 of 14 would-be base stealers to gain an extra base.  There will be some dissension regarding demoting what happens to be the third-best hitter on the team to the minors, but Morales's average was unsustainable (he possesses a highly-inflated .405 batting average on balls in play) and was bound to watch his numbers drop like the stock market as his plate appearances increased.  With the 38-year-old Mike Redmond on the last year of his contract and unlikely to return to the team as a player in 2010, it is nice to know there is someone in Triple-A that is a capable catching caddy for Mauer's days off.    
After getting an MRI performed on his shoulder last Wednesday, catcher Mike Redmond told reporters that "they found a Bud Light in there."  Phil Miller tells us that the backup catcher's quip pleased the people over at Anheuser-Busch, enjoying the free promotion in a tough economy (the quote wound up in both Twin Cities papers and, that the company is rumored to have supplied Redmond with a few bottles for personal consumption.   
The Twins decision to send reliever Juan Morillo to the minors was a sound one.  Though his potential upside is certainly intriguing -- getting comparisons ranging from Detroit's Joel Zumaya to Durham's Nuke Laroosh --his walk rate flirts with the "pitching while blindfolded" territory.  Even with Rick Anderson working with Morillo in bullpen sessions, Morillo's type of repair would have been too consuming for Anderson to correct during the season.  Still, if nothing else, Morillo's 100.3-mph pitch in April was the fastest recorded in the season's opening month.
Ron Gardenhire reiterated that he has no immediate designs on sending Alexi Casilla back to Rochester for more work after beginning the season.   "We're [25] games into the season. I think you start one way, you give it a little bit here. We have to get Lexi to play better, not just ship him to somebody else because he's not hitting right now," the manager told Joe Christensen.  His Sunday benching aside, Casilla stung several line drive outs on Saturday night from the left-side of the plate, an indication that he might be beginning to zero in on the ball better.  Matt Tolbert, a potential replacement for Casilla at Triple-A, is struggling at the plate as well, hitting 18-for-84 (.214) with a .290 on-base percentage.     
In the aftermath of Boston's Jacoby Ellsbury's steal of home off of New York's Andy Pettite  (and Royals' catcher Miguel Olivo's botched attempt on Saturday night), Dom Amore revisits 1969 and the master of home stealing, Rod Carew, and his seven swipes of the plate that season.  It was rookie manager Billy Martin's idea in the spring to exploit both Carew's speed and the league's indifference to pitching from the stretch with a runner on third.  Martin and Carew would run the drill over and over, timing a pitcher's wind-up as Carew would break for home.  Carew would go 7-for-9 in his quest of stealing home but a leg injury would keep him from getting more.       
In an otherwise minor transaction, the Twins traded Double-A New Britain outfielder Joe Gaetti to the Texas Rangers for a player-to-be-named-later.  Gaetti, the son of Twins great Gary Gaetti, has proven that he has tons of pop but does not play any position particularly well (he got his mother's defensive gene).  At the time of the trade, the 27-year-old Gaetti was hitting just .179 (5-for-36) with a brutal 14/1 K/BB ratio which makes it hard to provide roster space to an aging prospect that is no longer hitting.
Former Twin fan favorite Lew Ford has resurfaced with the Long Island Ducks of the Independent Atlantic League after being released by the Colorado Rockies following spring training reports Newday's Cody Derespina.  To add insult to injury, after being released by the Rockies Ford accepted the Ducks' offer in April and loaded his truck up to drive from Florida only to have the vehicle breakdown en route.  "His truck broke down in some podunk town and they wanted to charge him an arm and a leg for it and now he's got to have [the truck] shipped," Former MLB catcher and current Duck manager Gary Carter said. "So I'm sure he's got a lot of things on his mind, and once that works its way out, he'll get back to basics and play." Ford was a big contributor on the 2004 Twins team and batted .299/.381/.446 (.827 OPS) with 15 home runs and 72 RBIs while stealing 20 bases as a 27-year-old.  His plate discipline eroded quickly in the next several seasons as his walk rate dropped from 10.2 percent in 2004 to 7.6 percent in 2005 to 6.3 percent in 2006 and with it, his on-base percentage slid from .381 in 2004 to .287 in 2006 making his inevitable breakup an easy decision.   
Twins pitching prospect Bobby Lanigan is having a super start to the 2009 season in Low-A Beloit, not allowing a run in 11 consecutive innings.  In four starts, Lanigan is 2-0 in 22 innings with a 3.68 ERA while maintaining a 21/5 K/BB ratio and a 54 percent groundball rate.  Drafted in the third round in 2008, Lanigan, a Staten Island, NY-native, has had a rough transition after losing his father late last year. Jay Price of the Staten Island Advance has a must read article on how the Lanigan's are coping in the patriarch's absence. 
He does not throw 100-mph like Morillo, but last year's first round draft pick Shooter Hunt is having the same type of control problems but at Low-A Beloit.  Hunt added six more walks and two wild pitches to his numbers in his most recent start bringing his total to 29 walks in 14 2/3 innings of work.  Left-handed batters seem to be giving the right-handed Hunt the most problems as he has walked 11 of them and struck out just three.
Former Twin and current Tampa Bay Ray Matt Garza took a crack at the decision to construct an outdoor stadium in Minnesota.  After going 1-10 with a 5.91 ERA in 13 career starts at the Dome, Garza wished the facility a fond farewell but questioned the choice of not having a roof.  "Not one of the smartest moves I've seen in baseball." Garza told the St Petersburg Times, "Just weather-wise, it will be great in June, July and August, but into September, April, May it's going to be horrible. And if they get into the postseason, it's even worse. Usually you build a park to benefit your team, the home team. But that's just going to hurt, because they're going to have to pitch more in the cold than anyone else."
Speaking of the Rays, apparently with the new Target Field opening up in a few months, the Twins are unwilling to invest any more money into the Metrodome.  In spite of renaming their team the "Rays" more than a year ago and taking every opportunity to reiterate the image makeover, the Twins still have a sign place above the visitor's clubhouse that reads "Tampa Bay Devil Rays" on the name plate.  On the last game, the visiting team placed white tape over "Devil" to drive the point home.