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Minor League Report...June 11, 2011

The Twins' farm clubs got wins in all five games last night to get back above .500 at 16-13. Beloit (4-2) and the DSL Twins (4-1) both had winning weeks with the Rock Cats and Miracle playing .500 ball at 3-3.

What started out as a slow week for player movement erupted mid-week as the organization was hit by a Tsunami of injuries. I have been critical in the past when clubs have been forced to play several games with only a player or two on the bench. With all the injuries this week, Jim Rantz and his team worked miracles to keep all the teams stocked with at least ten position players.

The Twins moved Joe Mauer and Tsuyoshi Nishioka to their 60-day disabled list last weekend to make room for two players added to their roster. It appears both could be back next week which will require some tough decisions by Bill Smith. Hopefully, the Twins won't lose anyone through the waiver process. The Twins activated Francisco Liriano from the disabled list which resulted in Anthony Slama being sent back to Rochester. Denard Span was put on the 7-day 'concussion' disabled list on Thursday with Rene Tosoni called up to replace him.

The Twins released infielder Matt Brown from Rochester opening a spot for Michael Holliman to move up from New Britain. Also joining New Britain were Cuban pitcher, Deinys Suarez, and top shortstop prospect Brian Dozier. Dozier was hit in the face with a pitch on Thursday and will be out for an unknown period. The Twins also moved Nate Hanson up to New Britain yesterday so that the Rock Cats would have at least one extra player.

Aaron Hicks returned to the Miracle as did starter Kane Holbrooks. It was reported that Angel Morales will undergo Tommy John surgery. An outfielder normally misses about nine months following this surgery, so Morales should be back next spring. The Twins released pitcher Brad Tippett who wasn't able to get past a series of injuries. It was reported that the Twins signed 2009 Reds draft pick, pitcher Ricky Bowen. Jamaal Hawkins joined the Miracle from Beloit with infielder Jairo Perez moving to Beloit from EST. In other Beloit news, Gunner Glad was released and Michael Gonzales, Daniel Ortiz and Adrian Salcedo were selected to play in the Midwest League All-Star game.

With the current shortage of healthy bodies, look for the organization to move quickly to sign several of the top draft picks who they believe are capable of playing in the Midwest or Florida State Leagues. Seth Stohs posted a tweet from Wichita State shortstop Tyler Grimes (5th round) who said he had signed and would be in Beloit this weekend. It was also reported that former Minnetonka High School, Excelsior Legion and Gopher star A. J. Pettersen had signed. Will AJ begin his career in Elizabethton? I am of the opinion that the Twins had an excellent draft. Now, can they sign all twelve of their picks from the first ten rounds?

Is Liam Hendriks becomming the organization's top pitching prospect? Twinkie Town voters selected him as last week's Player of the Week with 72% of the votes. This week I will focus on a pitcher and position player from each team who didn't make our Top 50, eight players who should get consideration next winter.

Rochester Red Wings (AAA) (2-4, 23-35, last place, -13.5 games behind Lehigh Valley)

With all the injuries in Minnesota the only thing consistant in Rochester's lineup has been change. Ben Revere, Luke Hughes, Rene Tosoni, Brian Dinkelman and Rene Rivera all were with the Red Wings on opening day. There still is time for the Wings to turn their season around, but they must get several of these players back and stabilize their roster.

The Wings took two of three from Norfolk last weekend. Scott Diamond had a great start on Saturday in the Wings 5-1 win. He pitched eight innings, allowing only four hits and an unearned run. They lost an extra inning outing on Sunday, 11-5. Their bullpen gave up six runs in the top of the eleventh, wasting a big day from Rene Tosoni who had three hits. Toby Gardenhire was one for five as he extended his hitting streak to ten games. The Wings closed their series with the Tides Monday, winning 5-2. Ryan Mullins pitched six innings with five hits and one run. Toby Gardenhire went hitless as his hitting streak ended at ten games.

Tuesday the Wings moved on to play first place Columbus. They lost the opener, 5-1, when Eric Hacker allowed five runs in 5.2 innings. They got another good start from Kyle Gibson on Wednesday, however, couldn't get their offense going as they lost 3-1. Gibson pitched 5.1 innings, allowing six hits and three runs (he has gone longer than six innings only once this year). Scott Diamond couldn't duplicate Saturday's performance on Thursday, allowing eight hits, four walks and seven runs in 4.1 innings of a 7-1 loss. The Wings were trailing 5-1 in the third inning last night when the game was suspended.

The Red Wings pitcher not in our Top 50 who is having a special season is Eden Prairie native and former Gopher, Cole DeVries. After a disappointing 2010 when he was 1-8 with a 5.79 ERA at New Britain and Rochester, Cole found his curve ball. He was so good the first month of the season at New Britain that he was named the organization's Pitcher of the Month. Before his late May promotion, DeVries had a 2.28 ERA in fifteen games (27.2 innings) with nine saves, thirty-three strikeouts and only five walks. In his first five appearances with the Wings, DeVries has allowed one earned run (1.04 ERA) in 8.2 innings. He also continued striking out more than one an inning (12) while walking four.

Although Toby Gardenhire is having a solid spring, the top Player not in our Top 50 has to be Brian Dinkelman. Recently added to the 40-man roster and called up by the Twins, Dinkelman was hitting .296/.374/.402 with a team best fifteen doubles and twenty-one walks. The Twins are going to need two spots on their 40-man roster next week and Dinkelman is a candidate to be outrighted back to Rochester. Hopefully he will clear waivers as he is a player the Red Wings need if they are to work their way back into the race this summer.

The Twins were hesitant to assign Steve Singleton to Rochester this spring and didn't let him stay very long on his first callup. After returning a week ago, Singleton has been the Wings top hitter with a hit in every game this week at nine for twenty-four (.375 average). Singleton, who scored four runs with three doubles, is hitting .283/.328/.450 in sixty AAA at bats.

New Britain Rock Cats (AA) (3-3, 33-26, third place, -3.5 games behind New Hampshire)

If the Cats are to remain within striking distance of the Fisher Cats, they need to get a few injured players (Brian Dozier, Joe Benson and David Bromberg) back.

The Rock Cats managed only two hits in Saturday's 6-0 loss at Bowie. Bobby Lanigan wasn't his normal self, allowing six runs in five innings. They also dropped the final game of the series Sunday, 4-3, in ten innings. Brett Jacobson was solid for five innings, allowing two hits and two unearned runs.

Akron came to New Britain Tuesday, with Cuban Deinys Suarez making his first appearance in the Twins organization. Suarez allowed five hits and three runs in four innings of work. Deolis Guerra came on in relief with his best outing of the year, pitching four shutout innings. Bruce Pugh recorded his first AA save as the Cats won, 5-3. Michael Holliman, Evan Bigley, Yangervis Solarte and Jair Fernandez all had multi-hit games. Steve Hirschfeld was the starter in Wednesday's 10-0 loss. Hirschfeld allowed six hits and five walks in six innings, however, gave up only one run. The bullpen would allow another nine runs as Rock Cats batters managed only two hits. The Cats bats came alive on Thursday. Liam Hendriks was again very good allowing seven hits and one run in six innings to pick up his sixth win. Dan Rohlfing came up to bat in the bottom of the third with the bases loaded, two outs and the Cats up 4-1. He would hit a bases clearing double, scoring after the catcher made an error on a throw to third base as the game got out of hand with the Cats up 8-1. Brian Dozier was next to bat against one of Cleveland's top prospects, Joe Gardner. Gardner's first pitch hit Dozier in the face breaking his sinus bone. Dozier tweeted yesterday that the specialist said he could play after the swelling subsides, hopefully in a week or so. With the Rock Cats down to nine players, retaliation wasn't an option. Will the league take action for a pitch that appeared to be an intentional beaning?

The Cats moved on to Erie last night, winning 4-3 behind a quality start by Bobby Lanigan. Bruce Pugh pitched two shutout innings to pick up his second save. Pugh hasn't allowed a run in three appearances following his disastrous first appearance when he allowed eight.

The readers of Twinkie Town had several opportunities to select Steve Hirschfeld to our Top 50 last winter. As Rodney Dangerfield used to say, he couldn't get no respect! Hirschfeld, who has battled Liam Hendriks all year for the title of team Ace, has a 3-4 record, 2.32 ERA (5th best in the league) and 1.03 WHIP (third best). Hirschfeld has pitched six or more innings in eight of his eleven starts for a team high sixty-six innings, forty-four strikeouts and twenty walks.

The same can be said for Yangervis Solarte, who at times appears to be a man without a position. There is one position where he is very good however, and that is at the plate. Solarte, who currently has the league's third best batting average (.332), is a hitting machine who has sixteen doubles, three triples and three home runs. He seldom strikes out, only sixteen times in 212 at bats, however, walks even less (9).

By allowing no runs for the first time since his first appearance of the year, this week's Player of the Week nod goes to Deolis Guerra. Guerra picked up his fourth win in nine decisions by throwing four shutout innings of relief Tuesday with only two hits, one walk and seven strikeouts. Guerra has a 4-5 record to go with a 8.23 ERA in forty-seven innings. Maybe some Twinkie Town TLC will get this young pitcher back on track for the rest of the season.

Ft. Myers Miracle (Hi-A) (3-3, 31-30, tied for first place, tied with St. Lucie)

The Miracle worked themselves back into a tie with St. Lucie, although neither team has been playing exceptional baseball as their records would indicate.

The Miracle's Tom Stuifbergen was sharp in Saturday's 10-1 win over Jupiter. The big hit was Brian Dozier's grand slam with Anderson Hidalgo adding three hits. They would lose the next two, although Matt Schuld had a quality start in Sunday's 6-5 loss. Dakota Watts got a blown save and loss when he allowed three runs in one inning. Aaron Hicks and Derek McCallum both had three hit nights with Hidalgo and two others adding a pair of hits each. Hicks had another multi-hit game on Monday as the Miracle lost the series, 11-3. Edgar Ibarra allowed seven hits and six runs in 3.2 innings. Kane Holbrooks, who returned from a stint on the disabled list, allowed four runs (only one earned) in an inning of relief.

Palm Beach came to Ft. Myers on Wednesday, with Logan Darnell very sharp in a 5-1 win. Darnell pitched seven innings, allowing only one run as he is making a bid for consideration as the Miracle's Ace. Matt Hauser picked up his first save by pitching two no-hit innings of relief. Joe Mauer and Tsuyoshi Nishioka both had one hit with Nishioka making two errors at shortstop. Brad Stillings was the loser Thursday, allowing four hits and runs in three innings. Shooter Hunt would allow another three runs in 1.1 innings with one hit, four walks and a wild pitch. Mauer and Nishioka were both one for three with Anderson Hidalgo the hitting star with three hits including his second home run. The Miracle won the series last night, 7-0, behind Tom Stuifbergen. Joe Mauer hit a home run with four runs batted in while Nishioka added two hits.

Last year at Elizabethton, Logan Darnell had excellent numbers with a 2.08 ERA, thirty-two strikeouts and only six walks in 34.2 innings. However, that wasn't good enough to break Twinkie Town's Top 50. He had a 3.78 ERA in 33.1 innings at Beloit before moving up to Ft. Myers where he is 3-1 with a staff best 2.83 ERA.

Nate Hanson is an ex-Gopher who couldn't get the hometown vote last winter. He was one of the Miracle's top hitters before moving on to New Britain yesterday, hitting .267/.327/.383 with four home runs and a team leading twenty-nine runs batted in.

With Brian Dozier off to New Britain, Anderson Hidalgo is the team's best hitter at .317/.369/.433 in 164 at bats. After being Beloit's top hitters last year with a .316 average and hitting for a .364 average in the Gulf Coast League in 2008, Hidalgo is beginning to be recognized as one of the organization's better infielders. Hidalgo had three multi-hit games this week, finishing at 10-20 (.500 average) with three doubles, one home run, three runs scored and five runs batted in. But what about Tom Stuifbergen who was nearly unhittable in two starts? Stuifbergen pitched twelve innings, allowing eight hits and one run as he picked up his first two wins of the season. I will include both in this week's voting and let you choose who should get the nod.

Beloit Snappers (A) (4-2, 31-30, tied for fourth place, -9.5 games behind Burlington)

Time is running out for the Snappers hopes of a playoff spot in the first half. They should get several players from this week's draft in the coming weeks which should give them a chance to make a playoff run in the second half.

Adrian Salcedo is very good every time he starts a game. Last Saturday, Salcedo pitched six innings with one earned run and five strikeouts in the Snappers 5-2 win at Bowling Green. Jose Gonzalez picked up his team leading sixth save with Michael Gonzales leading all hitters with three hits including two doubles. Pat Dean was even better on Sunday when the Snappers lost, 2-1.

The Snappers came home to face Ft. Wayne on Tuesday with A.J. Achter allowing six runs in 4.1 innings of a 9-5 opening night loss. Daniel Santana had two hits including his fifth home run. Manuel Soliman started Wednesday's game that was suspended in the fifth inning, allowing ten hits and five runs in 4.1 innings. The game was finished the next afternoon with B. J. Hermsen on the mound. Hermsen allowed two runs on eight hits in 3.1 innings before Jose Gonzalez pitched 1.1 shutout inning to pick up his third win. Michael Gonzales and Lance Ray both had three hits with Wang-Wei Lin hitting a three run home run in a 11-8 win. Ryan O'Rourke made a spot start in the regularly scheduled game, pitching 3.2 shutout innings. Michael Tonkin picked up the win with another 2.1 shutout innings with Clint Dempster recording his fourth save with a no-hit inning.

The Snappers opened a weekend series with Lake County last night. Adrian Salcedo pitched as expected, allowing five hits and two runs in eight innings with seven punch outs. Recently promoted middle infielder Jairo Perez hit a home run in the Snappers 3-2 ten inning win.

Ryan O'Rourke wasn't on anyones radar last winter after the Twins thirteenth round pick put up a 5.10 ERA at Elizabethton. Following his excellent spot start this week, O'Rourke has a 0-1 record, team best 1.91 ERA, twenty-four strikeouts and ten walks in thirty-three innings.

Michael Gonzales is another player who couldn't get votes the few times he was exposed to the voters of Twinkie Town. After hitting for a .236 average with thirteen home runs in 326 at bats at Beloit last year, Gonzales is one of the Snappers best hitters this year. Hitting .299/.396/.469 in 177 at bats with seven home runs, he is also tied with Danny Ortiz for the team lead with 41 runs batted in.

Last year's third round pick out of Boston College, Pat Dean, missed the first month of the season. After joining the Snappers, Dean has a 3.55 ERA, nineteen strikeouts and six walks in 25.1 innings. Last Sunday at Bowling Green, Dean pitched six shutout innings with six hits, one walk and nine strikeouts..

DSL Twins (Dominican Summer League) (4-1, 7-3, tied for second place, -1.0 game behind White Sox)

The Twins week began with a 4-0 win against the Diamondbacks. Jose Jimenez pitched four shutout innings with two strikeouts. Their game against the White Sox on Monday was suspeneded with the Twins leading, 3-2. They lost Wednesday to the Cubs1, 4-2 when Junior Subero allowed three runs. Sterling Bonilla made his second start in Thursday's 6-3 win against the Rockies. Bonilla pitched five innings with six hits and two runs. The Twins won two yesterday against the Reds, 3-2 and 6-5 in eight innings. Rookie Yorman Landa pitched four shutout innings in the opener. Rookie Melciades De La Cruz allowed two earned runs in four innings of the second game.

Ernesto Ciprian was this week's hitting star with hits in five of six games. With seven hits in eighteen at bats (.388 average), Ciprian has his average up to .345 with a .424 on base percentage and .448 slugging percentage in twenty-nine at bats. Ciprian, who is a twenty year old outfielder, is in his third season with the DSL Twins.

Short reliever Francisco Nunez is also a twenty year old in his third season with the Twins. Nunez, who leads the staff with four appearances and 9.2 innings, has yet to allow an earned run. He has rung up fourteen strikeouts while allowing only three hits and one walk for a 0.00 ERA and 0.41 WHIP. With three appearances this week, Nunez is the DSL Twins Player of the Week.