Minor League Report.....May 1, 2010

After another week in which the Twins minor league clubs struggled, we all must remember that the purpose of a minor league organization is to develop players for future Twins teams.  Unfortunately, each of these teams also have local fans who support each team throughout the year, fans who are as passionite about their team as we are about the Twins.  After a disappointing 2009 season, only fans of the Beloit Snappers have anything to cheer about this spring as they again were the only winning team this week as the organization won only nine games with fourteen losses.

There were several moves this week including Jhonathan Goncalves being assigned to Ft. Myers from EST.  With Mike Maroth (elbow inflammation) going on Rochester's disabled list, the Twins signed veteran minor league knuckleball pitcher Charlie ZinkDerek McCallum was placed on Beloit's disabled list with a wrist injury.  Brandon Roberts was shut down while in Ft. Myers on a rehab assignment after he re-injured his groin.  The Twins activated Nick Punto after last night's game with Luke Hughes re-assigned to Rochester.  Nick Blackburn was placed on the seven day family bereavement list.  In his absence, the Twins recalled Jeff Manship who will make a spot start later today in Cleveland.  In other news, Daniel Osterbrock was the second consecutive Snappers pitcher to be named the Midwest League Pitcher of the WeekTrevor Plouffe was named the Salvatore/Donuts Delite Player of the Week.  The Twins lost Steve Tolleson to Oakland last year when he was waived to make room on their 40-man roster.  Tolleson, who was callup up by the A's this week, has one hit in his first three at bats.     

Rochester Red Wings (AAA) (2-5, 9-13, Tied/5th place, -5.0 games behind Syracuse)

The Wings began their week dropping two of three on the road at division leading Syaracuse.  Jeff Manship was the starting pitcher in Monday's 9-6 win, pitching 6.0 innings with 8 hits, 3 runs and 2K/2BB to pick up his second win in four decisions.  Ryan Mullins was very good in Sunday's 4-2 thirteen inning loss.  Mullins pitched 6.0 innings with 4 hits, 1 run and 2K/1BB.  Glen Perkins had a rough start in last Saturday's 6-3 loss, allowing 5 runs on 6 hits in 3.2 innings.  Perkins lost his third game in three decisions against Lehigh Valley on Thursday, when he pitched 5.0 innings with 9 hits, 4 runs (3 earned) with 6K/0BB.  Ryan Mullins was again very good in last night's 10-3 win against Lehigh Valley.  Mullins pitched 7.0 innings (the longest start of the year for a Rochester starter) with 6 hits, 3 runs (2 earned) and 6K/1BB.

When I spoke with Ryan Mullins this spring at Ft. Myers, he was clear that he believed that after two plus years at AA, he deserved another shot at AAA.  Although he had always been a starter, he said that if necessary he would work out of the bullpen.  Ryan began the season working out of Rochester's bullpen.  That didn't go very well as he allowed 7 hits and 6 runs in two relief appearances (3.1 innings).  Since moving into the starting rotation, however, Mullins has a 2-0 record in four starts while allowing only 7 earned runs in 23.0 innings for a 2.74 ERA.  Jeff Manship, who will probably be with the Twins for only one start, has a 3.48 ERA with a 2-2 record in four starts (20.2 innings) with 13K/3BB.  Kyle Waldrop continues to be the Red Wings top reliever with a 2.35 ERA in 11 appearances (15.1 innings).  Rob Delaney is on the Twins 40 man roster and could earn a callup to the Twins this summer.  Delaney has also appeared in 11 games (13.2 innings) with a 3.95 ERA and 18K/5BB. 

SLAMA watch.....Many of the readers of Twinkie Town believe it is time for Anthony Slama to join the Twins bullpen.  One problem is that the Twins would need to make a move to clear space for Slama on the 40-man roster.  Slama continues to walk a few to many batters, 7 in 15.1 innings.  Yet, with 19 strikeouts and a 1.17 ERA, Slama must be the leading option for the next bullpen callup.  Slama made five appearances this week (6.1 innings), picking up his fifth save with 5 strikeouts and 2 walks.  He also picked up his second blown save, which is a bit of a head scratcher considering that he didn't allow any hits or earned runs in his five appearances.  It happened when he came into Sunday's game in the eighth inning with the bases loaded, allowing the tying run to score with a wild pitch.      

Jacque Jones returned to action on Thursday after missing about a week with a minor leg injury.  Jones is hitting .300/.382/.500 in 30 at bats as he works to make it back to the major leagues.  Matt Macri is hitting .353 Average in his first 17 at bats since coming off the disabled list when Luke Hughes was called up by the Twins.  The Twins signed Jason Repko this spring to have a veteran center fielder with some major league experience.  Repko is off to a great start, hitting .345/.448/.527 in 55 at bats with 2 home runs.  Danny Valencia got off to a terrible start this spring which likely cost him a callup last week when Nick Punto went on the disabled list.  Valencia must have realized this as he had four multi-hit games this week when he hit .406 (13-32) with 5 doubles and 4 runs scored.   

A year ago, Dustin Martin had a great spring training with the Twins before a disappointing season in AAA where he hit for a .254 Average with only 5 home runs.  I don't know what Martin's personal reaction was to not being invited to spring training this year, however, his public response was to be the Red Wings best hitter.  With three multi-hit games this week, Martin is hitting .338/.419/.585 in 65 at bats with a team leading 4 home runs and 17 RBI.

New Britain Rock Cats (AA) (0-5, 4-16, 6th place, -9.5 games behind New Hampshire)

With several of the best players (Parmelee, Benson, Revere, Bromberg and Robertson) moving up from last season's division champion Miracle to join returning players such as Gutierrez, McCardell, Robbins, Portes and Tosoni, the Rock Cats should be a very good team.  

Wednesday's loss to Richmond is typical of their problems this spring, losing 5-3 by leaving 10 runners on base while going 2-15 with runners in scoring position.  Another example was last night when they lost 13-4 at Portland, wasting a solid start by David Bromberg who pitched 6.0 innings with 9 hits and only 2 runs (1 earned).  Joe Testa came on to pick up his third loss in three decisions when he allowed 3 runs without getting an out.  Chris Province picked up his first blown save by allowing 6 runs with 1 hit and 5 walks in 0.1 inning.  The best start this week was in Tuesday's 2-0, seven inning loss to Richmond when Michael McCardell pitched 7.0 innings with 5 hits, 2 runs and 5K/2BB. 

Bromberg leads an excellent starting staff with a 1.13 ERA in a team high 24.0 innings with 19K/6BB.  Michael McCardell (3.97 ERA), Deolis Guerra (3.50 ERA) and Tyler Robertson (3.18 ERA) are all pitching very well.  Their top reliever is Spencer Steedley who has a 1.23 ERA in 7 games (14.2 innings) with 17K/4BB.  Joe Testa is struggling in his move to AA, allowing 12 earned runs in 7.1 innings (14.73 ERA). 

Rene Tosoni was on the Red Wings roster before they signed Jason Repko a few days before the season's opener causing Tosoni to return to New Britain.  Tosoni, who has been limited to designated hitter with a shoulder injury, is leading the Rock Cats at .338/.385/.493.  Another player who had an excellent season last year at Ft. Myers is Mark Dolenc who is off to an strong start, hitting .304/.319/.391.  Last year's repeat Minor League Player of the Year, Ben Revere is hitting .274/.361/.306 in 62 at bats with 5 stolen bases.  On the flip side, several big names in the organization are off to terrible starts.....Whitney Robbins (.146 Average), Joe Benson (.169), Chris Parmelee (.169) Juan Portes (.188) and Steve Singleton (.197). 

Ft. Myers Miracle (Hi-A) (3-4, 8-13, Tied/5th place, -6.0 games behind Bradenton) 

The Miracle dropped three games against Palm Beach to start this week, wasting two very good starts by Kyle Gibson and Bobby Lanigan.  Gibson pitched 5.0 innings in Saturday's 5-2 loss with 4 hits, 1 run and 4K/3BB.  Lanigan pitched 5.0 innings with 4 hits, 1 unearned run and 6K/1BB in Monday's 8-4 10-inning loss.  The Miracle then lost the opening game at Jupiter on Tuesday, 6-2 before picking up wins behind two of the best pitching performances of this young season.  Bruce Pugh pitched 7.0 innings of shutout ball in Wednesday's 3-0 win when he struck out 12 with only 1 walk.  Kyle Gibson was even better in Thursday's 2-0 win, but we will get to that later in this report.  The Miracle made it three straight last night at St. Lucie when Michael Tarsi pitched 6.0 innings with 5 hits and 3 runs (2 earned).  Shooter Hunt came on to pick up his first win in two decisions.  After allowing 4 runs (2 earned) in Monday's loss to Jupiter, Hunt was nearly perfect last night, pitching 2.0 shutout innings with 1 hit, 3 strikeouts and no walks, wild pitches or hit batters...dropping his ERA to 5.40 in 13.1 innings with 20 strikeouts and 7 walks (3 in his first outing when he failed to get an out). 

Gibson leads the staff with 30.2 innings, while his 1.76 ERA is sixth best in the Florida State League.  His 0.95 WHIP is seventh best in the league and his 28 strikeouts are tied for sixth best.  As last year's first round pick, everyone follows every start with the same question.....When will Gibson move up to AA?  Others speculate whether he will make it to the Twins later this year?  If he continues to pitch like he has in his first five professional starts, Gibson should move up to New Britain by the all-star break.  But as of this morning, Gibson doesn't have the best numbers on the Miracle starting staff.  That honor goes to Bobby Lanigan who has the league's second best ERA (0.81) and fourth best WHIP (0.90) to go with 20 strikeouts and only 4 walks in 22.1 innings.

The Miracle's top hitter, Paul Kelly, did not play this week after re-injuring his ankle in a brief appearance last week.  Yangervis Solarte is the only other Miracle hitter with an average over .300 at .317/.386/.397 in 63 at bats.  Drew Thompson is hitting .269/.324/.403 with a team high 7 RBI.  In somewhat of a surprise move, Jhonathan Goncalves joined the Miracle this week without ever playing at Beloit.  Goncalves, who is playing centerfield, is hitting .250 Average in his first 20 at bats.       

Beloit Snappers (A) (3-1, 12-8, 3rd place, -2.0 games behind Quad Cities)

The Snappers lost two games this week to rain, winning three of four behind excellent starting pitching.  Daniel Osterbrock was very good Saturday in a 7-5 win at Wisconsin when he pitched 7.0 innings with 5 hits, 2 runs and 8K/1BB.  Miguel Munoz pitched 6.0 innings with 4 hits, 3 runs and 8K/1BB in a 6-4 win at Burlington on Monday.  Tom Stuifbergen got the win Wednesday, when the Snappers beat Burlington 11-1 behind his 7.0 inning start with 5 hits, 1 run and 5K/3BB.  Steve Blevins got the win last Saturday when he loaded the bases before Edgar Ibarra came on with one out to get the Snappers out of the inning with a strikeout and fly ball to end the game.  After a couple solid starts to begin his season, Brad Stillings struggled the last two times out.  He allowed 8 hits and runs (6 earned) in only 2.0 innings in Tuesday's 13-3 loss at Burlington.   

Stuifbergen (1.38 ERA) and Liam Hendriks (0.41 ERA) lead the staff with 3-0 and 1-0 records, respectively.  Osterbrock has a 3.10 ERA while Miguel Munoz has a 2.75 ERA as these four starters are the main reason the Snappers are battling for the league lead.  Steven Blevins has been excellent in relief, picking up 5 saves in 9 appearances with a 1.08 ERA and 7K/6BB in 8.1 innings.  Dakota Watts has also been solid in 8 relief appearances (13.0 innings) with a 2.08 ERA and 14K/7BB.  Kane Holbrooks has yet to allow an earned run in 9 appearances (12.2 innings) with 14K/3BB. 

After a very slow start to his season, Top Prospect Aaron Hicks has been on fire hitting .514/.617/.811 in 37 at bats in his last ten games with 3 home runs, 6 RBI, 14 runs scored, 10 walks and only 9 strikeouts.  After getting only one hit in his first 30 at bats, the Snappers lead off hitter is now hitting .299 Average.  Shortstop Brian Dozier leads the Snappers at .319/.395/.389 in 72 at bats.  Anderson Hidalgo is hitting .314 Average while Steve Liddle is hitting .294/.347/.485 in 68 at bats.  Angel Morales is hitting .281/.356/.500 with 3 home runs and 11 RBI in 64 at bats.  Morales is tied for eighth most stolen bases in the league (8 in 9 attempts).

Player of the Week

Normally a player such as Aaron Hicks, who was 9-16 (.562 Average) this week, would be an easy choice as the Player of the Week.  But we may have seen the best pitching performance of the year by Kyle Gibson on Thursday, a performance so special that he must be recognized as this week's Player of the Week.

After Gibson's very good start in Saturday's 5-2 win over Palm Beach, he took the mound Thursday morning at Jupiter.  Nine innings later, Gibson had pitched a complete game that the Miracle won 2-0.  Gibson allowed only one hit with six strikeouts, one walk and one hit batter while throwing a total of 91 pitches. 

Gibson had a perfect game going until the sixth inning when Isaac Galloway hit a ground ball that went off his glove to the second baseman who was unable to get the runner who reached for an infield hit.  Gibson immediately took care of Galloway by picking him off first.  He allowed a walk to the next hitter who was removed with a 6-4-3 double play.  He led off the seventh inning by hitting Kevin Mattison who became the third base runner of the day.  Mattison was taken out by a 4-6-3 double play, enabling Gibson to finish the game by facing a minimum 27 batters.

Gibson pitched to contact throughout the game and gave a lot of credit to his defense, saying that he would need to buy them lunch.  He threw mostly his two seam fastball, ranged between 89 and 93, which led to 16 ground ball outs.  The season is early and there certainly could be a better pitching performance in the organization this season.  It is also likely that at season's end, we will look back at Thursday's start by Kyle Gibson as the best start of the year.       

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