Over the weekend, the Twins announced their call-ups for the stretch run. If you have been living under a rock, then you haven’t heard. THey were Ryan Jorgenson (catcher), Matt Macri (utility IF, 3B), Matt Tolbert (UT INF), Jason Pridie (OF), Jose Mijares (LHP), Phil Humber (RHP, SP), and Bobby Korecky (RHP, CL).Really, only one of them was a surprise: Jose Mijares. Overall, about what I expected, though I would have liked to see a couple more dark horses. However, this is still a playoff race, though I am getting less encouraged at this point, and I can see the Twins wanting slightly more proven things.
- Mijares was quite good last year in AA New Britain, then was in a potentially devastating car accident over his offseason; the lefty broke his pitching elbow and injured the shoulder. I heard reports that he wouldn’t be back for at least a year. Those reports turned out to be exaggerated, as he is back, posting a pretty decent line in both Fort Myers (2.61 ERA and .097 WHIP) and New Britain (2.63 ERA and 1.39 WHIP). To be honest, I have no idea where these numbers came from. Last season, he was sketchy at best, putting up mediocre (bordering on bad) lines in both New Britain (3.54 and 1.44) and Rochester (6.23 and 1.62). He throws in the mid-nineties, but shouldn’t be too much of a factor in the stretch run.
- Korecky is also back, finally, after continuing his good year at Rochester. He finished the season with 26 saves and a 2.91 ERA (1.18 WHIP), as well as the only hit by a Twins pitcher in the DH era at the Metrodome. Korecky can provide a much needed arm in the back end of the bullpen, especially with the troubles that Crain has been having (making a good righty even more important).
- I am interested to see what the Twins do with Phil Humber, after the way his Rochester season went. He started the year, well, badly would be an understatement. He did so badly that he pulled a Boof and ended up in the Rochester bullpen. Pitchers are given a spot in the bullpen to get confidence back and get control of their pitches; Humber did neither. However, when he was given another shot at the starting rotation, he grabbed it and performed very well. For my two cents, I would put him into the rotation when the time comes for one of the young starters to move to the ‘pen for the playoffs, if such a thing is in the cards; once the playoffs arrive, teams need a max of four pitchers anyway, what with the extra days off and all.
The rest of the players recalled were position players.
- Jason Pridie (pronounced PRIDE-ey, not pretty) had an abysmal start to his season, but turned it around. In a way, he is Gomez, but backwards. Gomez started out great, then fell apart. Both strike out at an absurd level (Gomez: 122; Pridie: 150), both are good in the outfield. I look for Pridie to get an occasional spot start for Delmon Young or when either of Span or Gomez need a day off; he would also be a good pinch hitter/runner.
- Matt Tolbert is back, having a healthy thumb again. I just about cried when he hurt his thumb; that’s the ONLY time that has happened to me. Tolbert brings an exuberance and love of the game that is just infectious; even when he couldn’t use the hand, he was at the games, shagging balls and signing autographs (with the other hand). I haven’t ever seen the kind of enthusiasm he brings; the kind of joy for the game. It’s as if he knows that his time in the majors is a gift, and he certainly took advantage; he was playing well before he hurt himself sliding into first (grumble). Oh, yeah, and he plays good defense. Tolbert would have been the long-term solution at second had Casilla not stepped up; he should be the utility infielder next year, after the Twins forget to re-sign Nick Punto. We’ll mostly see him as a pinch-runner and a late-inning defensive replacement at third, methinks.
- Ryan Jorgenson: Not a big deal. We knew the Twins had to call up a catcher and we knew it wasn’t going to be Jose Morales (after he re-aggravated his horribly strained ankle last year). I was rather hoping to see some of Jeff Christy, but I’ll take Jorgensen. He really isn’t a big deal, though he calls a decent game from what I’ve heard.
- Finally, Matt Macri is back! For everyone who thought Bass should have gone instead of him when Baker came back from the DL, be happy. Macri will probably be a non-factor, as it seems Harris has come into his own, and has generally (excepting Sat.) shown a better glove than Macri did. However, I do see Macri coming in as a pinch-hitter and as a late-inning replacement for Buscher against left-handed pitching.
Finally, a word to our two right-handed relievers whose names start with J.
Jesse Crain. What the H-E-double-hockey-sticks happened to you? You were throwing, at one point, over 97 mph and locating like crazy. Apparently, being good stuck in your craw, and you have become Brian Bass/Juan Rincon almost overnight. Keep it up, and I’ll have to come up with an incendiary nickname for you, which won’t be easy, since Gas Can Man (Rincon) and Kerosene Boy (Bass) have both come and gone. However, just so you don’t think I’m not up to the task, I’ll come up with something. And I’ll use it, unless you don’t start using your pitches better.
All yelling and frustration aside, Crain has given up the winning runs in three of his last five outings, and was charged with ERs in two of those innings. In addition, he has failed to keep inherited runners, well, on the bases. He is flirting with a 50/50 Ball/strike ratio over the same time period; he would be below 50% on strikes if he didn’t give up so many hits. Frankly, I want Crain either shut down for a week (at least) and then we can talk about his future with the club. I hesitate to want him to go away permanently, as Leslie Monteiro of Twins Killings does, but his future should be in question at this point. The only reason I hesitate, however, is that he really stepped up when Guerrier fell apart, and might be suffering from a bit of a dead arm at this point. Korecky should help give him a break.
As Leslie pointed out earlier, though, I would not be doing my job as a blogger if I didn’t call out Joe Nathan for his recent failures.
Let me be clear about something. I have never been a Joe Nathan devotee. He really reminds me of Todd Jones, who seems to relish in letting a few baserunners on before getting out of the inning. I remember what the Detroit announcers said about Jones when we played there in July: Jones may not get a lot of 1-2-3 innings, but he closes out wins and ends games. That is what Joe Nathan has done for the Twins; he makes my blood pressure rise about 30 points every time he comes in, but whatever it takes to win, i suppose.
However, I am not willing to let what he has been doing recently slide without saying something. He has done a great job of losing games for the Twins. He has five blown saves on the year; two have come on this road trip, including the unforgettable bad throw he made on Saturday to lose the game. Delmon Young gave it his lumbering best, but by the time he got to the ball in the bullpen, the second run had nearly scored. That kind of play doesn’t fly, especially when he had allowed the two runners before to reach base. Seriously, Joe. You need to stop letting people on without any effort, and then, magically, you will start to be, well, good again.