Like a thousand other captains on a thousand other battle fields, I wait for the dawn...
Or at least you wait for people to get healthy. Everywhere you turn there are different faces to be seen. Exit Hunter, Stewart, Ford, Punto and occasionally Kubel; enter Rabe, Tyner, White and Rodriguez. Amazingly we've been able to win in spite of all these injuries, and it's a good thing. The Tigers lost last night, and the White Sox have lost three in a row. Minnesota is now a mere 6 games behind Chicago. Things could easily be much, MUCH worse.
The Last Few Days
Shannon Stewart is on the disabled list again, and may not return in 2006. Torii Hunter is on the 15-day DL, although he's optimistic he'll be ready to go by July 31. Jason Kubel has been getting some light playing time and was kept out of the game completely on Sunday due to sore knees. He'd been putting more weight on the healthy knee to rest ths sore one, and now it's the healthy knee that's the issue. Lew Ford is on the DL, but considering the disappointing season he's been having it might do him some good.
Rondell White has been back for just two games, but he's chosen a great time to be effective. He blasted his first homer of the year on Sunday, and last night he drove in 3 runs. Welcome back to the land of the living, Rondell!
In addition to White, Josh Rabe and Jason Tyner were brought in from Rochester to fill out a suddenly plagued outfield. Here's how they faired in AAA.
Player Age AB H 2B HR SB Avg Obp Slg
Rabe 27 316 94 18 4 6 .297 .364 .399
Tyner 29 316 104 14 0 8 .329 .379 .405
What we're looking at are a couple of light-hitting minor-league veterans. In reality they're both probably servicable backups and stop-gaps, but ideally neither would be starting for an extended period of time. As peased as I've been about our success over the past four days, I'm incredibly nervous. You know when Picard sent Worf on away missions, and there was some loser who took over at tactical? I'm pretty sure Picard was shitting bricks. Hunter was Worf. Tyner is Ensign Everyman.
Captain Picard Says: Get well soon, Torii!
Lost in the shuffle of madness the last few days is the fact that the Twins signed veteran free agent Erubiel Durazo. Currently in Rochester, we could see him on the bench soon. We'll meet Mr. Durazo tomorrow.
Just two nights ago I was singing the praises of Punto to my dad. As if that's something new. Last night the little sparkplug was hit by the bug, and while it appears to be nothing serious, he will be getting an MRI done today.
It's easy to say how instrumental Punto has been in the resurgence we've seen out of the Twins. He's been far superior to anyone else we could play at third base, and beyond that he's been consistent in all areas of his game and incredibly reliant. Punto is currently hitting .313/.395/.406.
American League Third Basemen
Name OBP Team
Punto .395 Min
Rodriguez .388 NYY
Izturis .367 Ana
Chavez .352 Oak
Lowell .352 Bos
Mora .351 Bal
Glaus .343 Tor
Blalock .342 Tex
Teahen .338 KC
Crede .336 Chi
Beltre .323 Sea
Boone .306 Cle
Inge .294 Det
The only team we're missing is Tampa Bay, where Huff was traded to Houston. His replacements are Sean Burroughs (.320 in 21 AB's) and Thomas Perez (.219 in 65 AB's). You could make a case that with the bases loaded and the game on the line, Punto would be a better option at the dish than Alex Rodriguez.
Losing him would mean more than losing a great table setter. The Twins would be losing a lot of heart. He's never had a chance to play everyday before, and he's never been the face of a franchise, but he's a guy who's seized his opportunity and made himself into a better player than anybody thought he was. Punto is one of those players you take for granted, and it's unfortunate because this summer he's been really, really good.
The Immediate Future
Ten games ago the Twins were 11 games over .500, at 46-35. Thanks to a four-game winning streak we're there again, this time at 51-40. This is the closest we've been to Chicago, and therefor to wildcard contention, in a long, long time. We have three more games against Tampa Bay and three games against the Indians before we split six between the two teams above us in the standings. Right now the Twins control their own destiny, and by playing well can put themselves in a position to make up some serious ground over the next two weeks. There's a lot of season left, but this is the most important stretch of games Minnesota will have played so far.
Nope...I've never seen Picard kick dirt.