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Minor League Report...June 18, 2011

The Twins farm clubs played near .500 ball all week, splitting last night to finish at 15-15. Hope is fading for a playoff spot for the Beloit Snappers who won five of seven.

The Twins are starting to get some of their veterans healthy with Tsuyoshi Nishioka, Joe Mauer and Glen Perkins rejoining the team. Dusty Hughes and Brian Dinkelman were both "outrighted" to Rochester, opening two spots on the 40-man roster. Upon clearing waivers, both joined the Red Wings. Justin Morneau was placed on the 15-day disabled list to make room for Nishioka. Chuck James was optioned to Rochester clearing a spot for Perkins.

Rochester placed outfielder Jeremy Reed (he was 0-15), who was recently acquired from the Brewers organizaiton, on the disabled list. The Red Wings activated pitcher Yorman Bazardo. Nick Romero also moved up to the Wings from Ft. Myers as an added player for a dangerously short bench. Michael Tarsi was sent back to New Britain after a short stay in AAA. Ft. Myers placed starter Brad Stillings on the disabled list and activated recently signed Ricky Bowen. In other news, Pat Dean was named the Midwest League Pitcher of the Week and Dakota Watts was selected as a replacement for Saturdays Florida State League All-Star game.

Although there may be more, I've seen reports of the Twins signing seventeen players from the recent draft. Included in that group are five of their top fifteen picks, Madison Boer (2nd round), Tyler Grimes (5th), Steven Gruuer (7th), Adam Bryant (9th), and Steven Evans (13th). Look for the Twins to work hard to sign their top fifteen picks (rounds one through thirteen). Minnetonka High School and former Excelsior Legion star, A. J. Pettersen, signed and is headed to Elizabethton. It's exciting to see the son of my former minister get a chance to fulfill his dream. The Twins also signed three undrafted college pitchers, Nick Cicio (Central Florida), Marcus Limon (Wayland Baptist), and Kyle Wahl (Southern U).

Although he was probably aided by six and two-thirds innings of no-hit ball last Saturday, Pat Dean was selected as our Player of the Week with 36% of the votes. With this week starting with a near no-hitter, was his second start good enough to get his hat into the voting again?

In our last week before the short season rookie league teams begin play on Tuesday, I will feature those starting pitchers that have the potential to be a part of future Twins starting rotations. If you believe I missed someone, mention who and why you believe they will make it to the Twins.

Rochester Red Wings (AAA) (3-2, 26-37, fifth place, -13.0 games behind Lehigh Valley)

The first step in turning their season around is for the Red Wings to get out of last place. With several of their top players still up with the Twins, the Wings have been playing roughly .500 ball as they worked themselves out of the International League cellar. Jim Mandelaro talks about an important twelve game stretch that started last night.

The Wings week began by splitting a four game series at Toledo, winning on Saturday and Tuesday (11-5 and 6-1) while losing Sunday and Monday (6-3 and 2-1). Glen Perkins was the starter on Saturday, pitching one inning with a hit and strikeout. Kyle Waldrop picked up the win in relief by pitching two shutout innings. The Wings, who scored six in the first inning, had six hitters with multi-hit games including Danny Lehmann (4-5) and Jeff Bailey (3-4, with his fourth home run). Kyle Gibson was very good in Monday's loss, allowing seven hits and two runs in six innings. Gibson picked up his sixth loss as Wings hitters managed only four hits off Toledo Ace and former Twins draft pick, Andrew Oliver. Scott Diamond had a good outing on Tuesday, picking up his fourth win (4-6), pitching six shutout innings with six hits and no walks. Perkins pitched two innings of relief with three hits and a strikeout. Dustin Martin was the hitting star, going three for three with a pair of walks.

After a scheduled day off Wednesday and cancellation on Thursday because Indianapolis was delayed at an airport, the Red Wings opened their homestand with a 7-4 win last night. Andy Badwin made one of his better starts, allowing one run in six innings. Carlos Gutierrez, who hasn't allowed a run in eight of his last ten appearances, pitched two shutout innings. Nick Romero had a key run batted in when he walked with the bases loaded.

The Red Wings starting staff has one starter who appears to be a definite member of a future Twins rotation, 2009 first round pick Kyle Gibson. After signing hours before the August deadline, Gibson didn't begin his professional career until 2010. Last year he moved from Ft. Myers to New Britain to Rochester with a 11-6 record, 2.96 ERA, 1.15 WHIP, 126 strikeouts and 39 walks in 152 innings. Gibson returned to Rochester this spring where he has twice flirted with a no-hitter while allowing more than three earned runs in only two of his thirteen starts. His biggest negative may be that he has pitched more than six innings only once. Gibson is clearly the Ace of the staff with a team high 71.1 innings, 3.79 ERA, 1.23 WHIP, 74 strikeouts (9.33/9 innings) and only 17 walks (2.14/9 innings). Two years after being drafted, Gibson is one last step away from joining the Twins. Although some would like to see him in a Twins uniform today, I expect the Twins want him to experience a full season at Rochester. Will the fact that he doesn't need to be added to the 40-man roster this winter keep him from being called up in September? I for one hope not as that would be valuable experience for a young man who could be at the front of the Twins rotation a few years from now. But with five starters who may all return next year plus Anthony Swarzak and Kevin Slowey on their staff, will we see Gibson in a Twins uniform before summer, 2012?

The Twins selected Scott Diamond in last December's Rule 5 draft. They liked him so much in spring that they traded former second round pick, Billy Bullock to Atlanta so they could keep Diamond and send him to Rochester. At times, that decision hasn't looked good as Diamond pitches a great game every few times out surrounded by several games that aren't very good. This week's start in Toledo was one of his best games of the year, pitching six shutout innings. Diamond allowed six hits and no walks with four strikeouts which is a start worthy of Player of the Week honors. For the season, Diamond has a 4-6 record, 4.96 ERA, 50 strikeouts and 25 walks in 65.1 innings.

New Britain Rock Cats (AA) (2-4, 35-30, third place, -4.5 games behind New Hampshire)

The Rock Cats need to get back to winning if they are to make a run for the Eastern League championship. They also need to get a few of their better hitters back to support the best starting staff in the organization.

The Cats week began with two losses to Erie, 8-2 and 2-0, as the offense couldn't support great starts by Brett Jacobson and Deinys Suarez. Jacobson pitched five innings on Saturday, allowing two runs and four hits. After a great relief appearance last week, Deolis Guerra allowed six runs (four earned) in two innings to pick up his sixth loss. The Rock Cats hitters managed only four hits on Sunday as Suarez made his second professional start, pitching seven innings with three hits and one run.

The Cats moved on to Altoona where their bats came alive in a 10-4 win on Tuesday. Steve Hirschfeld had one of his worst starts of the year, allowing three runs in five innings. Guerra would come back in relief to pitch the ninth inning when he allowed a hit but struck out the other three batters. Evan Bigley was 3-4 with a walk while Chris Herrmann, Chris Parmelee and Yangervis Solarte all had two hits. The Cats would drop the next two games to lose the series, 11-10 in ten innings and 3-1. Liam Hendriks had his roughest start of the year on Wednesday when he allowed four runs on eight hits in five innings. Blake Martin gave up three runs while getting only one out in the tenth inning for the loss. Six Cats hitters had multi-hit games led by Mark Dolenc at 4-5 with a walk and Chris Herrmann and Nate Hanson who were both 3-6 with a home run. Bobby Lanigan was very good Thursday, allowing three runs in 7.1 innings. Unfortunately, the Cats lone run was scored on a Nate Hanson solo home run.

Brett Jacobson returned to the hill last night at Reading, pitching a nine inning complete game shutout the Cats won, 6-0. Nate Hanson had his third consecutive multi-hit game and is now hitting .286 average at AA.

A young man who has many believing he may be the top pitcher in the organizaiton is Liam Hendriks. A twenty-two year old starter out of Perth, Australia, Hendriks is in his fifth year in the organization. After posting a 2.05 ERA in ten starts in the GCL in 2007, Hendriks missed all of 2008 with an injury. He would make it to Beloit in 2009 before gaining notice in 2010 when he had a 8-4 record and amazing 1.74 ERA in 108.2 innings at Beloit and Ft. Myers. He was selected to last summer's Futures All-Star game, a game he would miss because of an emergency appendectomy. After only twelve starts at Ft. Myers, it was a bit surprising when Hendriks was assigned to AA New Britain this spring. He has the league's eleventh best ERA (2.96), tenth best WHIP (1.16), and ninth most strikeouts (64) in 70 innings with only fifteen walks (1.93/9 innings). Whereas some pitchers hit a wall at AA Hendriks has dominated, allowing more than two earned runs in only four of his twelve starts with eight quality starts. Hendriks is looking a lot like a pitcher we will see in Minnesota on opening weekend a few years from now.

After a sterling season at Ft. Myers in 2009 where he had a 2.23 ERA in 117 innings, Steve Hirschfeld earned an assignment to the prestigious Arizona Fall League. He was expected to be the Rock Cats Ace in 2010, but that was before an injury limited him to thirty-two innings. To recover from a lost season, Hirschfeld pitched 48.1 innings in Puerto Rico last winter where he had a 3.72 ERA. Although now twenty-five, Hirschfeld is back on track and pitching like the Twins expected two years ago. In the league's eleventh most innings (71), Hirschfeld has the fifth best ERA (2.54) and third best WHIP (1.06). Although not a strikeout pitcher (46), Hirschfeld appears to be another in the long line of pitchers who are destined to be a solid fourth or fifth Twins starter, perhaps as early as sometime in 2012.

The staff's top starter on opening day was David Bromberg, who many expected to begin the year at Rochester. The organization's Pitcher of the Year in 2008 and 2009 was solid last year at New Britain and Rochester, where he had a 3.98 ERA in 52.0 innings. With the Twins signing several minor league free agents this winter, Bromberg began his season back at New Britain. He was pitching very well until April 26th when he was hit by a line drive that broke his non-pitching arm. Bromberg had a 3.63 ERA in his first four games (22.1 innings) with eleven strikeouts and four walks. Perhaps the most notable change is that the young man who led all of minor league baseball with 177 strikeouts in 2008 is now striking out less than a batter an inning. Although Bromberg certainly has a future with the Twins, he will likely return to New Britain for the remainder of this season. Like Hirschfeld, Bromberg appears destined to become a fourth or fifth starter for the Twins as early as late 2012 or 2013.

Brett Jacobson was obtained by the Twins in last winter's J. J. Hardy trade and may end up making Bill Smith look very good. A young man who hadn't started a game as a professional until after Bromberg was injured, it would be expected for him to not go deep into games as he built his arm strength. Although the Cats lost last Saturday, Jacobson allowed only two runs in five innings. He returned last night to pitch a nine inning, complete game shutout. Jacobson allowed only three hits and one walk while striking out nine as he picked up his third win without a loss. Jacobson has a staff best 1.92 ERA, however, only thirty-seven strikeouts and thirty-one walks in 51.2 innings. If he keeps pitching like last night, he may be looking a lot further than just being a contender for this week's Player of the Week.

Ft. Myers Miracle (Hi-A) (2-4, 33-34, second place, -2.0 games behind St. Lucie)

There are only three games remaining in the first half following this weekend's all-star game. With the Miracle two games behind St. Lucie, it will take a miracle for them to win a championship. The good news is that the break will enable them to change their rotation so that Logan Darnell and Tom Stuifbergen can make two starts in their three game series at fifth place Palm Beach beginning Monday.

The Miracle lost control of their own destiny by dropping two of three last weekend at last place Bradenton. Matt Schuld was solid in Saturday's 5-4 eleven inning loss, allowing four runs (two earned) in six innings. Aaron Hicks had three doubles in three at bats with three walks. Edgar Ibarra allowed four runs (two earned) on ten hits in five innings of Sunday's 7-3 loss. Logan Darnell salvaged the only win in the series, 5-3, on Monday when he allowed three runs in 5.2 innings.

The Miracle moved on to Jupiter where they again dropped the first two of a three game series. Kane Holbrooks allowed four runs in four innings of his first start back from the disabled list, however, the offense couldn't score as they lost 6-0. Tom Stuifbergen made another quality start on Wednesday as the Miracle lost, 3-2. Recently signed Ricky Bowen made his first start on Thursday, pitching four shutout innings with only one hit in a 4-1 win. Edgar Ibarra pitched a shutout inning of relief in what appears to be a shift to the bullpen for Ibarra, who has a 6.12 ERA.

When Tom Stuifbergen allowed two runs Wednesday, he doubled the number of earned runs he had allowed in his last five starts (31.2 innings). Although he has a 3.58 ERA in eleven games (50.1 innings), seven of his twenty earned runs were allowed in one early April game before going on the disabled list. With four straight quality starts, Stuifbergen is pitching like the pitcher who started for the Dutch team in the pivotal WBC game against the Dominican Republic a few years ago. Unfortunately, this year has been another in which Stuifbergen's potential has been marred by injury. Can he stay healthy the remainder of the year? If he can, he should continue to dominate the Florida State League, thus, making the Twins decision easy when they have to decide whether or not to add him to the 40-man roster in November. If Stuifbergen can stay healthy, he has proven he is as good as anyone in the organization.

The other current Miracle starter who may have a future in Target Field is 2010 sixth round pick, Logan Darnell. Darnell had an excellent professional debut last summer, posting a 2-3 record with a 2.08 ERA and 0.98 WHIP in 34.2 innings at Elizabethton. He moved up to Beloit this spring, where he had a solid 3.78 ERA with a 0.96 WHIP in six starts (33.1 innings). He was promoted to Ft. Myers in mid-May, where he has a 4-1 record with a 3.15 ERA in six starts (34.1 innings). Nine walks at Ft. Myers is excellent (2.37 walks/9 innings), although one concern is that as the level of competition has risen his strikeouts have gone down. After striking out 8.31/9 innings last year at Elizabethton, Darnell is striking out only 3.14/9 innings at Ft. Myers. Granted this is a very small sample, but could indicate he will struggle when he makes his next move up to AA.

This week's Player of the Week is outfielder/first baseman Steve Liddle. After seeing some time with the Twins in spring training, Liddle hit for only a .155 average in 58 April at bats. He stepped it up a level in May, hitting .254 before having his best week of the year. In 18 at bats, Liddle had 10 hits (.555 average) with three runs scored, one double and three runs batted in. Hitting .325 average in June, Liddle has his average up to .236 with a .320 on base percentage in 157 at bats.

Beloit Snappers (5-2, 36-32, fourth place, -9.0 games behind Burlington)

With the first half drawing to a close, winning five of seven wasn't good enough to close the two and a half game gap for a wild card spot.

The Snappers began this week by taking two from Lake County at Pohlman Field. Last week's Twinkie Town Player of the Week, Pat Dean, was as good as one can be in Saturday's 6-1 win. Dean pitched six and two-thirds innings of no hit ball when he was removed from the game. Making only his sixth start of the season, the Twins will always limit how deep into games a pitcher can go. But being pulled from a game while pitching a no-hitter has to be tough! Dean completed 6.2 innings with two walks and nine strikeouts. A. J. Achter had another great start in Sunday's 7-2 win, pitching six shutout innings with three hits.

After an off day, the Snappers played two against Cedar Rapids on Tuesday. They lost the opening game, 3-1, with Manuel Soliman allowing two runs in five innings. Ryan O'Rourke pitched five shutout innings in a spot start in the second game that the Snappers won, 4-0. Clint Dempster, who has a 2.04 ERA and four saves, pitched two no-hit innings of relief with four strikeouts. B. J. Hermsen made one of his best starts of the year in Wednesday's 6-5 win. Hermsen allowed only one run in seven innings to pick up his fifth win (5-6). Jairo Perez, who is hitting .333 average, hit his second home run since joining the Snappers ten days ago. Adrian Salcedo led the Snappers to a series win on Thursday, 7-2. Salcedo allowed two runs with seven strikeouts in 6.2 innings with Clint Dempster picking up the win with 1.1 shutout inning of relief.

The Snappers lost last night at league leading Burlington, 5-4 in eleven innings. Pat Dean returned with a quality start, pitching six innings with two runs and six strikeouts. Wang-Wei Lin had his fifth multi-hit game of the week.

Pat Dean was the Twins third round pick last year out of Boston College. He was very good in five starts for Elizabethton with a 2.59 ERA, thirty-two strikeouts and only one walk in 24.1 innings. He wasn't a hundred percent this spring and remained in EST until mid-May. In seven starts (38 innings) for the Snappers, Dean has a 2.84 ERA, 1.11 WHIP, thirty-four strikeouts and eight walks. By allowing more than two earned runs in only one of his starts, Dean is making a statement that he is ready for the next step up to Ft. Myers.

Adrian Salcedo is believed by many, including me, to be the one young man in the organization who just could be that Ace every team is looking for. A very athletic 6'5" who turned twenty in mid-April, Salcedo was very good last year at Elizabethton and a short stop in Ft. Myers following two years where he dominated the Dominican and Gulf Coast leagues. Salcedo has a 5-3 record in thirteen starts (79.1 inning) with a 3.06 ERA, fifty-eight strikeouts and ninteen walks. He had a rough couple games in mid-May when he allowed nine earned runs, the only games all season in which he allowed more than two earned runs. Although he is dominating the Midwest League, I look for the Twins to keep him in Beloit all season as they take it slow with his valuable right arm.

With six and two-thirds no hit innings last Saturday followed by another quality start last night, Pat Dean must be included again in this week's Player of the Week voting. But how can we not also include Wang-Wei Lin? Lin had five multi-hit games, getting eleven hits in twenty-six at bats (.423 average) with five runs scored, four runs driven in, three doubles and one home run. Hitting .279 average after starting with a .186 average in April, Lin has been one of the Snappers' most valuable players since the first of May when Oswaldo Arcia went on the disabled list.

DSL Twins (Dominican Summer League) (3-3, 10-6, second place, -1.0 game behind the White Sox)

The Twins dropped a one run game to the Padres last Saturday, 4-3. Rookie Felix Jorge pitched three innings, allowing two hits and a run. They lost another one run game to the Diamondbacks, 1-0, on Monday. Jose Jimenez pitched four innings, allowing one unearned run. The Twins bats came alive on Tuesday when they beat the league leading White Sox, 12-6. Rookie Randy Rosario started, pitching three innings with one run. Last year's staff ace, Sterling Bonilla, allowed three runs in 0.2 innings of relief before Elias Villasana picked up the win by pitching 2.2 no hit innings.

The Twins swept a double header from the Orioles on Wednesday, 11-1 and 6-2. Melciades De La Cruz allowed one run in four innings with Jose Vasquez pitching two no hit innings of relief for his third win. Yorman Landa pitched four innings in the nightcap, allowing two unearned runs. Landa, who turned seventeen last Saturday, hasn't allowed an earned run in his first three professional starts. He has a 1-0 record with five hits, two unearned runs, ten strikeouts and three walks in ten innings. The Twins lost, 6-0, to the Rockies yesterday even though Junior Subero allowed only one unearned run in four innings.

After getting only two hits in his first six games, seventeen year old shortstop Javier Pimentel has been five for thirteen (.386 average) with two walks in his last four games to be this week's DSL Twins Player of the Week.