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Minor League Report...August 27, 2011

It's only a matter of time until Rene Rivera is back with the Twins. Or would the third catcher be someone else?
It's only a matter of time until Rene Rivera is back with the Twins. Or would the third catcher be someone else?

With less than two weeks remaining, only New Britain and the Elizabethton Twins remain in contention for the playoffs. The organization had a winning week at 22-19, with the GCL Twins on a 7-0 winning streak. The New Britain Rock Cats and Elizabethton Twins both were 5-2.

The Appalachian League announced their season ending awards. Eddie Rosario was selected as the co-MVP with Danville Braves third baseman Brandon Drury. Rosario and three other Twins, Miguel Sano, Tim Shibuya and Madison Boer, were named as all-stars. Sibuya was named the Appy League Pitcher of the Year. This week's transactions will be included in the comment section.

Manager Ray Smith was speaking about Sano earlier this week when he was quoted in the Elizabethton Star as saying, "He's got an upside that is very rare in professional baseball. He's a young pup (18). He can do some things. He's got a lot of work to do, don't get me wrong, he's got a long, long way to go. But if you're just talking tools and you're talking upside, he's special." Sano is special. He was also our Player of the Week with 67% of the votes.

Two weeks ago it appeared that the Rochester Red Wings (1-6) would dodge the bullet and not have consecutive seasons with ninety or more losses. With a 48-85 record, the Wings need to win seven of their remaining eleven games to avoid being the first Red Wings team in over a hundred years (1903-1904) to suffer through consecutive seasons of 90 or more losses. No other International League team has done that since the early 1960's.

The Wings problems began a few hours before opening day when Manager Tom Nieto was told to get Luke Hughes to the airport so that he could join the Twins. Roster chaos continued all summer with the latest being another call to Nieto a few hours before Thursday's game when he was told his starter that day, Scott Diamond, was needed by the Twins on Friday. We all remember Dusty Hughes, don't we? Hughes was inserted into the starting spot Thursday night, giving up three hits and two runs in 4.0 innings of the Wings sixth straight loss this week. The Wings lone win was Friday the 19th when they beat Lehigh Valley, 8-5, in a game they had only one extra player on their bench.

Lester Oliveros made two appearances for the Wings before being called up by the Twins. He pitched 3.0 innings, allowing two hits and a solo home run while striking out four with no walks. In somewhat of a surprising move, Jairo Fernandez was promoted to the Wings. This is unusual because the Wings had two catchers (Rene Rivera and Steve Holm), while the Rock Cats are in a playoff race with only one catcher (Danny Lehmann) on their roster, plus catcher/outfielder Chris Herrmann. With Joe Mauer unable to play much of this week, I expect Ron Gardenhire is begging for another catcher. Rivera is coming off a big week for the Red Wings. At 8-18 (.444 average) with three doubles, Rivera is my selection as Rochester's Player of the Week.

The New Britain Rock Cats (5-2) began their week by sweeping first place New Hampshire, 3-1, 5-4 and 8-5. Bobby Lanigan pitched a gem on Friday, a 7.0 inning three-hit shutout. Spencer Steedley, who has been needed as a starter of late, allowed three runs in 4.0 innings on Saturday when Deolis Guerra picked up his first save with a perfect inning.

The Cats next series was a homestand against Reading who was in second place, a game ahead of the Cats in the battle for a second playoff spot. Blake Martin allowed six runs in 2.2 innings of the opening night, 7-3 loss. Logan Darnell pitched one of the Cats biggest games of the year Tuesday, leading the Cats to a 4-3 win with 7.0 strong innings with six hits, two runs and six strikeouts. Bobby Lanigan was good in the rubber game on Wednesday when he allowed two runs in six innings. But Reading was better as they beat the Cats, 4-2. The Cats beat Trenton 11-8 Thursday night, which coupled with a Reading loss has them back to a game out of a playoff spot with a 66-65 record.

There were several candidates for Player of the Week. Logan Darnell threw his hat into consideration with his big start while Bobby Lanigan had two great starts. Brian Dozier, who got two hits in all three games against New Hampshire, was 9-29 (.310 average) with four home runs and seven runs scored. Evan Bigley had three multi-hit games and a 9-28 (.321 average) week with six runs scored. My nod for Player of the Week however, goes to closer Tyler Robertson. Robertson made four appearances (6.2 innings), picking up a win and three saves. He allowed two unearned runs, striking out nine while walking three. In 51 games (84.0 innings), Robertson has a 9-3 record, sixteen saves, 3.75 ERA, 82 strikeouts and 27 walks. In his first season as a reliever, Robertson has gotten better throughout the season with a 2.43 post all-star ERA. Robertson just may be putting himself on the Twins radar as someone who could be a candidate for their bullpen sometime next year.

Ft. Myers (2-3) is in fifth place, a game ahead of last place Jupiter with a disappointing 22-35 second half record.

The Miracle managed only five hits in Saturday's 6-2 loss at Charlotte. They moved on to split a four game series with St. Lucie. They won 2-1 Tuesday, split a double header on Wednesday, winning 3-0 and losing 4-3, before losing Thursday, 4-1. Alex Wimmers picked up his first win with an excellent relief appearance Tuesday. Wimmers pitched 4.0 innings with two hits, one run, six strikeouts and no walks. B. J. Hermsen made his best start for the Miracle in Wednesday's win, pitching 6.0 shutout innings with three hits, four strikeouts and no walks. It was surprising when the Twins promoted this year's forty-second round pick, Matt Tomshaw, from the GCL Twins to the Miracle. In his first two starts, Tomshaw pitched 8.0 shutout innings. He pitched 7.0 innings Thursday, allowing five hits and one run.

Recently acquired Cole Nelson appeared in two games, pitching 3.0 no-hit innings with two strikeouts and no walks. The other new Minnesotan to join the Miracle, Caleb Thielbar appeared in his first game Wednesday. Thielbar pitched two no-hit innings with two strikeouts.

There weren't a lot of hitting stars for the Miracle this week as Angel Morales was the only player with more than one multi-hit game. Morales, who hadn't played for five days, was 5-5 with two walks in his only two games. The top performance was B. J. Hermsen's 6.0 innings of shutout ball on Wednesday. Since joining the Miracle earlier this month, Hermsen has a 2-0 record and 2.70 ERA in three starts (16.2 innings) with thirteen strikeouts and only three walks. With a 3.10 ERA in 124.2 innings in Beloit, Hermsen is pitching up to those high expectations we all had since the Twins signed him in 2008.

Like the Miracle, the Beloit Snappers (2-5) are also playing out their season without any hope of post-season play. The Snappers, 26-33, are in fourth place, nine games behind Quad Cities and a game ahead of three teams who are tied for fifth.

The Snappers beat Kane County last Friday, 7-4, behind A. J. Achter who pitched an impressive game. Achter allowed three runs in 7.0 innings with thirteen strikeouts. The Snappers moved on to face division leading Quad Cities where they picked up a 7-5 win on Saturday before dropping three, 4-3, 5-4 in twelve innings, and 11-3. Blayne Weller allowed two runs in 5.1 innings on Saturday to even his record at 5-5. Perro Guerra and Ryan O'Rourke both pitched five innings in successive losses, allowing three and two runs, respectively. The Snappers opened a home series with Burlington Wednesday, losing the first two games, 6-1 and 4-0. A. J. Achter was the loser on Wednesday when he had another nine strikeouts in 6.0 innings. Achter has a 4-7 record in seventeen starts (89.1 innings) with a 4.63 ERA and 93 strikeouts.

There has been lots of talk about the Twins top pick this year, shortstop Levi Michael. The Twins took two more shortstops in the first nine rounds, including ninth round pick Adam Bryant from Troy University. Bryant had three multi-hit games, going 9-28 (.321 average) with four doubles and two triples. After a slow start, Bryant is hitting .288 average in August. As has been the case so often this year, the top player at Beloit was third baseman Jairo Perez. Perez was 11-28 (.392 average) with three doubles, two home runs, five runs scored and three driven in. Perez leads the Snappers in hitting at .339 average with a 1.010 OPS and will certainly finish the season as one of the organization's top hitters.

The Elizabethton Twins (5-2) doubled their lead over Kingsport for the second playoff spot in their division to two games. The Twins, who have the organization's second best record, 37-26, trail Johnson City by five games with five remaining.

The Twins began their week by taking two of three at Greeneville, winning 12-7 and 14-3 with a 6-0 loss sandwiched between the wins. All-Star Tim Shibuya allowed three runs in 7.0 innings Sunday with seven strikeouts and no walks. Shibuya leads the Twins with a 8-2 record and 3.46 ERA in a staff high 67.2 innings. The Twins moved on to Bristol where they lost the opener, 5-4, before taking the series with 9-0 and 7-3 wins. Tim Atherton pitched 6.0 shutout innings with only three hits on Tuesday. They moved on to Bluefield Thursday, winning 17-8 with David Hurlbut pitching 5.0 innings of relief with only one run for the win.

When you look at the scores this week, it isn't surprising that there were lots of hitters with big numbers. A. J. Pettersen had two three hit games in four played. Nikko Goodrum had five multi-hit games, going 12-28 (.428 average) as he got his average up to .274 in 190 at bats. Recently signed catcher Matt Koch had two multi-hit games with a home run. Leading hitter JaDamion Williams had hits in every game including four multi-hit games. Williams was 12-35 (.342 average) and is now hitting .331 average with a .880 OPS. MIguel Sano had three multi-hit games, going 8-30 (.266 average) with two doubles, his sixteenth home run, eight runs scored and five driven in.

Eddie Rosario is the Appy League's co-MVP for a reason, he is hitting better than anyone in the league. Like Oswaldo Arcia last year, Rosario leads the league or is close to the lead in most offensive categories. Rosario had four multi-hit games, going 12-30 (.400 average) with six home runs including two, two home run games. He scored ten runs while driving in thirteen. For the season, Rosario is hitting .319 average with a 1.013 OPS which is the league's twelfth best average and second best OPS. He leads the league with ninteen home runs (Sano is tied for second with sixteen), runs scored (61), and triples (7). He is tied for the second most hits (80) and runs driven in (54). With six home runs this week, Rosario again gets my nod as Elizabethton Player of the Week.

The GCL Twins (7-0) were perfect this week as they surged into second place, seven games behind the Orioles. The Twins have a winning record (30-28) with two games remaining.

They took two from the Red Sox last Friday and Saturday, 7-1 and 5-4. They took two more from the Rays, 12-3 and 5-2 before taking three from the Orioles, 4-2, 1-0 and 12-6. Angel Mata had another great start on Monday, pitching 3.0 shutout innings with two hits. German native Marcus Solbach had the best performance of his career in Wednesday's 1-0 win, pitching 4.2 shutout innings with three hits.

Josh Hendricks had another big week with three multi-hit games, going 7-17 (.411 average). Shortstop Javier Pimentel had two multi-hit games, 8-21 (.380 average) with a home run. Catcher Philip Chapman had two multi-hit games in four played with a 4-4 game on Monday. With several Twins bats heating up, the top player was shortstop Jorge Polanco. Polanco, who had three multi-hit games, was 11-26 (.423 average) with two doubles, two triples, seven runs scored and four driven in. By hitting .291 average in August, Polanco has his season numbers up to .253/.323/.353 in 170 at bats.

The DSL Twins finished their season with the organization's best record, 42-26. The Twins finished second in their division, three games behind the Orioles. They lost their last game on Friday the 19th, 4-0 to the White Sox when they were held to three hits. Sterling Bonilla pitched 6.0 innings with four runs (only one earned run).