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Minor League Report...May 21, 2011

The Twins farm clubs battled all week to play better than .500 ball, then falling one game under when Beloit lost last night in the thirteenth inning. Finishing at 13-14, Ft. Myers led the way at 5-2 while New Britain also had a winning week at 3-2.

The moves Seth Stohs told us about last week were confirmed on Monday as Logan Darnell moved up to Ft. Myers with Pat Dean and Ben Tootle joining the Snappers from EST. Jim Hoey was optioned to Rochester with Jose Mijares going on the disabled list. Anthony Swarzak was recalled by the Twins who outrighted Steve Holm to open a spot on their 40-man roster. That spot was filled by lefty reliever Phil Dumatrait, who was recalled by the Twins. Holm cleared waivers on Wednesday and was assigned back to Rochester who had played a couple men short for a few games. Jason Repko began his rehab assignment with the Red Wings on Tuesday. Rochester also placed Yorman Bazardo on the disabled list, leaving them with only eleven healthy pitchers.

Daniel Osterbrock was reassigned to Ft. Myers, who placed him on their disabled list. It appears that an injury may have had something to do with his two rough starts with the Rock Cats. Finally, Matt Schuld was named the Florida State League Pitcher of the Week.

The readers of Twinkie Town selected Bobby Lanigan as last week's Player of the Week. Chuck James trailed Lanigan by eleven votes as the runner-up.

This week's review is after the jump. Considering all the problems the Twins have with their bullpen, I will focus on the organization's best relief pitchers.

Rochester Red Wings (AAA) (2-4, 16-23, tied for last place, -8.0 games behind Lehigh Valley)

At 16-23, Rochester's record is too close to their record last year when they came within a few games of having the worst record in International League history. If they are to recover and have a decent season they need to get most of their players back from the Twins, and soon!

Their week began with Andy Baldwin pitching one of their best games of the week in a rain shortened loss at Charlotte, 2-0. Baldwin pitched 4.2 innings in their fourth straight loss, allowing six hits and two runs while Rene Tosoni and Jeff Bailey got the Wings only two hits. With Anthony Swarzak up with the Twins, Jeff Manship returned to the starting rotation in a game they lost Sunday, 8-4. Manship allowed five runs in three innings while Chuck James pitched 2.2 no-hit innings with four strikeouts. Aaron Bates had a big game with three doubles in four at bats while Brian Dinkelman and Toby Gardenhire both had two hits.

The Wings moved on to Gwinnett where they began a four game series with a 7-6 win on Tuesday. Eric Hacker pitched 4.1 innings, allowing five runs. Carlos Gutierrez came on to get the win with 2.2 shutout innings with three strikeouts. Rene Tosoni had three hits while Jason Repko added two hits with a home run. Brian Dinkelman also had a pair of doubles. The Wings would lose Wednesday with Kyle Gibson on the mound, 4-0. Gibson allowed eight hits and three earned runs in 5.1 innings. Chuck James pitched another shutout inning of relief with one hit and three strikeouts. Red Wing hitters managed only three hits off the Braves' Todd Redmond. Scott Diamond had another rough outing in Thursday's 7-3 loss, allowing five runs (four earned) in 2.1 innings as he picked up his fourth loss in five decisions. Kyle Waldrop is getting back on track as he pitched 3.2 no-hit innings with six strikeouts. Ray Chang, Brian Dinkelman and Steve Holm all had two hits. The Wings split their series with a 5-2 win last night against Braves Ace Mike Minor, who had the fifth best ERA in the league. Andy Baldwin pitched his best game of the year, allowing only one run in 6.2 innings with eight strikeouts as he evened his record at 3-3. Carlos Gutierrez allowed a run in 1.1 inning with Jim Hoey picking up his first save with two strikeouts.

Wings relievers Alex Burnett and Phil Dumatrait are both up with the Twins. Burnett is pitching better with the Twins than he did in four brief appearances with the Wings. He had a 7.36 ERA in 3.2 innings as he shuttled between Minnesota and Rochester two times earlier this year. Dumatrait, who was the Wings closer, appeared in fifteen games with a 1.15 ERA and a team best four saves. Dumatrait struck out twelve hitters in 15.2 innings, however, struggled with his control by walking eleven. One reason he was called up by the Twins is that he held left handed batters to a .063 batting average.

Sloane Martin wrote an excellent article earlier this week about Chuck James and his trip back to the big leagues. James has been pitching better than the Twins could have expected, appearing in sixteen games with a 1.90 ERA. In 23.2 innings, James has struck out thirty-three hitters while allowing only eight walks which is why he has a a 1.01 ERA. Another reliever we have seen with the Twins is Jim Hoey who joined the Twins in last winter's J. J. Hardy trade. Hoey has pitched better in Rochester, appearing in five games with a 2.16 ERA, nine strikeouts and only two walks in 8.1 innings.

Three relievers we are all familiar with are Anthony Slama, Kyle Waldrop and Carlos Gutierrez. Slama missed all of spring training and didn't join the Wings until late April. Slama has appeared in twelve games with a 4.42 ERA, seventeen strikeouts and ten walks in 18.1 innings, although he is pitching better this month. Kyle Waldrop has struggled as his 5.48 ERA in twenty-three innings would indicate. He has also been pitching better of late with seven strikeouts and no hits in his last two outings (four innings). Carlos Gutierrez has been excellent in his first exposure to AAA ball. Gutierrez has appeared in fifteen games (25.2 innings) with a 2-2 record, 2.45 ERA and eighteen strikeouts. Perhaps his only blemish are twelve walks which is nearly one walk every two innings. He hadn't allowed an earned run in his last six appearances (thirteen innings) before giving up a run last night. The Twins may want him to get a bit more seasoning in AAA before bringing him up, however, he and James appear to be the most likely relievers at Rochester who could make a difference for the Twins later this year.

Brian Dinkelman often appears to be a young man who has been forgotten by the Twins. He had another great week with four multi-hit games, going 8-18 (.444 average) with four doubles, four runs scored and three runs batted in. Dinkelman is hitting a team best .299/.389/.382 while also leading the Wings with ten doubles and seventeen runs scored.

New Britain Rock Cats (AA) (3-2, 23-15, second place, -2.0 games behind New Hampshire)

The Rock Cats are in a heated battle with the New Hampshire Fisher Cats in the Eastern League's Eastern Division. The Fisher Cats came to New Britain last night for an important series, leading the Rock Cats by only one game.

The Cats began their week by sweeping a double header from Portland last Saturday. After four brutal starts in which he had allowed thirty earned runs, Deolis Guerra pitched his best game of the season. He allowed only one run in five innings of the opener. Yangervis Solarte and Mark Dolenc both had a pair of hits in the Cats 6-3 win. Brett Jacobson would make a spot start in the nightcap, pitching three no-hit innings with four strikeouts. Ryan Mullins picked up his first win of the spring, pitching three shutout innings of the Cats 4-0 win. Steve Singleton and Deibinson Romero had a pair of hits while Chris Herrmann hit his second home run for the Rock Cats as they moved into a first place tie with New Hampshire. The final game of the series was cancelled before the Cats had an off day Monday.

New Britain moved on to Harrisburg, opening their series with a 4-1 win on Tuesday. Steve Hirschfeld picked up his third win without a loss, pitching seven strong innings while allowing only one run with seven strikeouts and no walks. Hirschfeld has the league's third best ERA (1.94) and best WHIP (0.84). Cole DeVries made his only appearance this week, pitching two shutout innings. The Cats scored four in the top of the eighth for a comeback win with only Evan Bigley having a multi-hit game. Wednesday's game was rained out and re-scheduled as part of a doubleheader on Thursday. Unfortunately, they were only able to get one game in as the Eastern League continues to battle terrible weather. Liam Hendriks would make another great start, allowing three runs (only one earned) in six innings. Unfortunately, he was charged with the loss as the Cats managed only one run on three hits.

With Bobby Lanigan on the mound, they expected to open their big series last night with a win. That wasn't to be as Lanigan had his roughest start of the year, allowing five runs in four innings of a 6-2 loss. Yangervis Solarte was the only Rock Cat to have two hits.

When talking about relievers on the Rock Cats roster you have to begin with the organization's April Pitcher of the Month, Cole DeVries. DeVries allowed two runs in back-to-back outings last week which were his first earned runs of the year. He got back on track Tuesday and now has a 1.46 ERA, 0.73 WHIP, thirty-one strikeouts and only five walks in in 24.2 innings. DeVries is holding all batters to a .149 batting average while limiting lefties to a .081 average. DeVries, who leads the organization with nine saves, credits his success this year to the return of his curve ball. The question the Twins have to be asking is can DeVries make the move straight from AA to the Twins?

Other relievers pitching well for the Cats include Brett Jacobson and Michael Tarsi. Jacobson, who came over from Baltimore last winter, has an excellent 2.66 ERA in eleven games (23.2 innings) with sixteen strikeouts. Unfortunately, he has allowed eighteen walks which is a flaw that won't get him promoted in the Twins organization. Michael Tarsi is a Connecticut native and product of the University of Connecticut who has returned home. Tarsi has been very good at a few stops on his way to AA while struggling as a starter at Ft. Myers last year. Tarsi has an excellent 2.12 ERA in thirteen appearances (seventeen innings) in his first AA experience.

Yangervis Solarte had another big week for the Rock Cats. Solarte was 7-16 (.437 average) as he stretched his current hitting streak to six games. He also scored three runs with two doubles and a triple. Solarte is the fifth best hitter in the league at .358/.380/.555 with his fifteen doubles only one behind the league leader.

Ft. Myers Miracle (5-2, 24-18, second place, -1.0 game behind St. Lucie)

The Miracle recovered from their struggles last week and are getting very close to St. Lucie who had a six game lead a few weeks ago.

They opened their week with a 4-1 win against the North Division leading Daytona. Matt Schuld pitched the best game of his professional career, a game that would earn him Florida State League Pitcher of the Week recognition. Miracle pitchers struck out sixteen Daytona hitters with relievers Bruce Pugh and Blake Martin getting seven in three innings of work. Daytona beat the Miracle on Sunday, 8-3, with Kane Holbrooks allowing seven runs in only three innings. Brian Dozier picked up three hits with Danny Rams hitting his third home run. Daytona also won game three, 6-4, as Edgar Ibarra allowed five runs (only two were earned). Shooter Hunt pitched an inning of no-hit relief. Anderson Hidalgo led the hitters with three hits with Rams, Ramon Santana and Steve Liddle all getting a pair of hits. The Miracle would split the series behind recently promoted Logan Darnell on Tuesday, 6-5. Darnell pitched five innings with six hits and two earned runs to pick up his first win for the Miracle. Ramon Santana had three doubles, Hidalgo two doubles and Aaron Hicks a pair of hits including his second home run.

The Miracle returned home to face Brevard County on Wednesday. Tom Stuifbergen, who has struggled since coming off the disabled list, allowed five runs in three innings Andrew Albers threw three shutout innings with Blake Martin picking up the win with 2.2 no-hit innings. Dozier and Liddle both had three hits with Aaron Hicks having his second straight two hit game as Miracle hitters led the way to a 6-5 win. Matt Schuld returned for another start Thursday, a game the Miracle would win with a 4-3 tenth inning comeback. Brian Dozier and Josmil Pinto both had multi-hit games. The Miracle made it four straight last night, coasting to a 7-2 win. Kane Holbrooks was back in form, allowing one run in five innings. Brad Tippett threw two no-hit innings in his best outing since his return from the disabled list. Aaron Hicks had his third multi-hit game of the week (9-26) with Brian Dozier getting his fourth multi-hit game (13-28) as he raised his team leading average to .322/.423/.473 with only sixteen strikeouts in 146 at bats.

Bruce Pugh and Dakota Watts have shared the closer role for the Miracle this spring. Pugh has a 2-2 record with a 4.00 ERA in thirteen appearances (18.0 innings). He also leads the Miracle with twenty-five strikeouts while walking only four batters. Watts has a 3.66 ERA in fifteen appearances (19.2 innings) with fifteen strikeouts and five walks. Both have seven saves and appear in line for promotions to New Britain before the season ends.

The Miracle's best reliever has been Blake Martin. Martin has a 2-0 record with a 2.82 ERA in twelve appearances (22.1 innings). Martin has seventeen strikeouts, however, sixteen walks may limit his upside. Perhaps the most watched reliever on the staff is former first round pick, Shooter Hunt. Hunt has certainly improved over the past two years as he has been able to effectively pitch an inning or two in most outings. He has appeared in twelve games (21.2 innings) with a 2-0 record, 4.98 ERA and 1.89 WHIP. Hunt has twenty-three strikeouts, however, has also allowed twenty walks with three hit batters and nine wild pitches.

Matt Schuld is the Miracle's nominee for Player of the Week following two starts in which he allowed only one earned run in 13.1 innings. Schuld pitched six strong innings last Saturday, allowing one run with nine strikeouts. Schuld returned Thursday, pitching 7.1 innings with four hits and one unearned run. In seven starts this season, Schuld has a 3-0 record, 3.43 ERA, twenty-three strikeouts and twelve walks in 39.1 innigs.

Beloit Snappers (3-6, 21-20, tied for fifth place, -8.5 games behind Burlington)

As the Snappers slip farther behind league leading Burlington, they remain within striking distance of a first half playoff spot as they trail second place Wisconsin by a game and a half.

Their week began with the first of three double headers at home against fourth place Quad Cities. Adrian Salcedo pitched six innings, allowing four runs (two earned) in a 6-4 win in the opener. Beloit hitters were efficient, scoring six runs on five hits and four walks. The Snappers lost the second game, 6-2, with Michael Tonkin allowing two runs in a three inning spot start. Blayne Weller allowed four runs (two earned) in two innings of relief to get the loss. Wang-Wei Lin had the Snappers only multi-hit game of the day. The Snappers lost again on Sunday behind Pat Dean who allowed two runs in three innings of his first start since moving up from EST. Ben Tootle also made his first appearance, pitching a perfect inning. Danny Ortiz had a pair of doubles.

After an off day, the Snappers traveled to Wisconsin where Manuel Soliman made his best start of the year in a 7-0 win. Clint Dempster pitched two shutout innings of relief. Jamaal Hawkins, Nate Roberts and Michael Gonzales all had two hits. They split a doubleheader on Wednesday, losing the opener 1-0 behind a six inning complete game by B. J. Hermsen who allowed only two hits, unfortunately one was a solo home run. They came back to split the doubleheader, 4-2. Ryan O'Rourke made a spot start, pitching three innings with four hits and one run. Blayne Weller pitched 2.2 innings with only an unearned run while Matt Hauser picked up his third win with 1.1 shutout inning. Jamaal Hawkins and Michael Gonzales both had multi-hit games. The two teams returned for another doubleheader Thursday. Adrian Salcedo allowed four runs in five innings for a 6-1 loss in the opener. Wisconsin got the sweep, 4-3, in a game Michael Tonkin would allow three runs in three innings. Ben Tootle was stretched out to three innings with two hits and one run as he was charged with the loss.

The Snappers and their depleted pitching staff returned home to face Kane County last night. Pat Dean was very good, allowing only one run in six innings with five strikeouts. Unfortunately, the game would last thirteen innings when Ryan O'Rourke allowed a run in a 4-3 loss. Wang-Wei Lin and Lance Ray both had their second multi-hit game of the week. Playing nine games in seven days has also taken its toll on the hitters who certainly miss Oswaldo Arcia's big bat. Danny Ortiz has been hitting only .194 average in the last ten games while Nate Roberts continues to hit well at .328/.464/.403.

Blayne Weller may be the Snappers top reliever, appearing in fourteen games with a 3-1 record and 1.46 ERA. Weller has struck out ninteen batters while allowing fifteen walks in 24.2 innings. Matt Hauser has been excellent as their closer, picking up five saves in fifteen appearances (17.1 innings) with a 3-0 record, 1.04 ERA, twenty-four strikeouts and twelve walks. Clint Dempster is another member of last year's draft class who has been very good. Dempster is 2-2 in fourteen appearances (21.1 innings) with a 2.95 ERA, 0.94 WHIP, twenty-three strikeouts and only six walks. Ryan O'Rourke and Jose Gonzalez have both pitched very well out of the Snappers' bullpen. O'Rourke has a 2.37 ERA with fourteen strikeouts and seven walks in ninteen innings. Gonzalez has been even better in sixteen appearances with twenty-six strikeouts and only eight walks in ninteen innings with a 1.89 ERA. All of these young prospects have been very good with several likely to take the next step to Ft. Myers before Labor Day.

It surprised many when Manuel Soliman skipped the GCL last year to open his career in Elizabethton. After all it was only a year earlier that he was converted from a light hitting third baseman to a pitcher in the DSL. He pitched so well in the Appy League that many of us view him as a potential future star. He struggled a bit earlier this spring in the competitive Midwest League before pitching his best game of the year on Tuesday. Soliman pitched six shutout innings with only two hits and three walks while striking out eleven. Is this game the turning point for this week's Snappers Player of the Week?