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Minor League Report...April 14, 2012

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What a wonderful start to the 2012 season for all the Twins farm clubs. They were 15-11 in their first full week and 17-13 to start the season. All four teams were .500 or better with Beloit at 3-3, Rochester and New Britain, 4-3, and Fort Myers leading the way at 4-2.

I will continue with the change I made late last year, ie, reporting on weeks that run from Friday through Thursday. When I refer to last Friday it is Friday of a week ago, not yesterday. This change enables me to write most of this report on Friday.

Another change this year deals with the Player of the Week. When two or more players from the same team have special weeks, both will be included for you to vote on. With forty-five percent of the votes, Matt Carson was your first selection this year as Twinkie Town Player of the Week. My review of the first full week of the season follows the jump.

With a 5-3 record, the Rochester Red Wings (AAA) are in second place, a game behind Lehigh Valley. The Red Wings began their week on Friday by finishing a two game sweep at Syracuse, 3-1. They returned to Rochester for their home opener, dropping the first two of their series to Buffalo, 4-2 and 5-3, before picking up two wins for a split, 3-2 and 5-3. It took Cole DeVries thirty pitches to get through the first inning on Sunday. He loaded the bases with no outs before striking out the next two batters and getting out of the inning without allowing any runs. DeVries would give up three runs in 3.2 innings as his pitch count built before yielding to Jeff Manship. Manship has appeared in three games, pitching 7.0 innings while allowing only five hits and one run. P. J. Walters allowed three runs in 6.0 innings on Tuesday to pick up his first win.

The Pawtuckett Red Sox came to Rochester on Wednesday. The Red Wings won the opener, 2-1, before an ugly loss Thursday night, 10-1. Although Tyler Robertson allowed two runs in an inning of work on Thursday, he had two earlier appearances when he pitched 2.1 perfect innings to pick up his first save. Anthony Slama made four appearances, pitching 4.1 innings to pick up three saves. Slama has yet to allow a run, however, had four walks with five strikeouts.

Everyone related to the team is talking about the Red Wings carrying three catchers on their roster. All have big league experience and are solid defensively as Drew Butera and J. R. Towles have thrown out three of the four runners attempting to steal. With two outfielders dealing with minor injuries, Manager Gene Glynn was forced to play a catcher in left field the last few games. Towles was in left on Wednesday with Drew Butera in left Thursday. Several hitters are off to a tremendous start, including Matt Carson who is hitting .321 average with a .894 OPS. Rene Tosoni was injured in their third game when he got a deep cut on the tip of the ring finger on his left hand while trying to score on a suicide bunt attempt. He received several stitches and is expected to miss a week to ten days. Brian Dozier missed Tuesday's game with a stiff back. When Brian Dinkelman sprained his wrist on Wednesday, Dozier was forced back after missing only one game.

When Rene Tosoni was asked what Dozier's injury was, he said "Dozier hurt his back carrying the team." And that is not an understatement as Dozier is hitting .480 average with a 1.272 OPS. He is 12-25 with three doubles, a home run, three runs scored and four runs driven in. Veteran Rochester reporter Bob Matthews stated that he wouldn't be shocked if Dozier is the Twins starting shortstop by May 1st. The other Red Wing who is off to a great start is Scott Diamond. Diamond picked up the win in his first two starts on Friday and Wednesday, pitching 12.1 shutout innings with only eight hits, four walks and nine strikeouts. With these types of efforts, Dozier and Diamond are my Co-Players of the Week for the Red Wings.

The New Britain Rock Cats (AA) are also 5-3 and in second place, two games behind Reading. The Rock Cats took two from Richmond on Friday, 6-2 and 4-1, before suffering their first loss on Saturday, 3-1 in twelve innings. Logan Darnell made his first start in the nightcap of Friday's doubleheader, pitching 5.0 innings with two hits and one run. David Bromberg and Bobby Lanigan made their first relief appearances, each pitching a shutout inning. Jason Marquis pitched 6.0 innings with seven hits, one run, four strikeouts and no walks in Saturday's loss.

They took Easter Sunday off with Harrisburg coming to town on Monday. They won the first game, 6-3, before dropping two games and the series, 7-2 and 8-4. Alex Wimmers made his first start on Monday, pitching 4.1 innings with two runs. Deolis Guerra pitched 2.2 shutout innings of relief to pick up the win. Luke French returned to the hill on Tuesday, taking a shutout into the seventh inning when he tired and allowed two runs. Bromberg came on in relief, lasting only 0.2 inning while giving up six hits and four runs.

The Rock Cats traveled to New Hampshire Thursday where they won 5-3 in what is likely Jason Marquis last start before returning to the Twins. He pitched 8.0 innings (89 pitches), allowing five hits and two runs while striking out seven with no walks.

The leading hitter early this season has been Deibinson Romero who was 2-4 on Thursday with two home runs and three runs driven in. Romero, who once was on the Twins 40-man roster, is hitting .357/1.114 OPS in 28 at bats. Others off to hot starts include Mark Dolenc, who is hitting .357/.718, Nate Hanson, .300/1.064, and Pedro Floriman at .296/.700.

Everyone has been anxious to see if Aaron Hick's fine play in the AFL would carry over to AA ball in New Britain. After getting only one hit in his first four games, Hicks was 7-14 in his last four. Although it is a small sample, Hicks, who is hitting .308 average with a 1.064 OPS, has two doubles, three home runs and eight runs driven in. In what is different than the past, he has struck out seven times in 26 at bats while taking only two walks. More important, he is hitting better against right handed pitchers than southpaws (.313 average against right handed pitchers while hitting .300 against lefties). He also has two of his three home runs from the left side of the plate. With this type of start, Hicks is my selection as New Britain's Player of the Week.

After dropping their first three games the Fort Myers Miracle (Hi-A) have won four straight and are tied for second, a game behind St. Lucie. They opened their week with two losses to Charlotte, 6-2 and 4-3. We wondered last year what Pat Dean would be like if 100% healthy. We are finding out this spring that he can be very good. He pitched 6.0 innings on Friday, allowing six hits and two runs with four strikeouts and no walks. Bruce Pugh had a rough outing in relief of Dean, giving up four runs (three earned). Pugh would follow up that appearance with two outings later in the week, pitching 2.0 shutout innings to pick up two saves. B. J. Hermsen threw 5.0 shutout innings with two hits on Saturday.

Jupiter came to Hammond Stadium on Monday for a three game sweep by the Miracle, 3-1, 3-2 in thirteen innings, and 6-5. Adrian Salcedo made his first start on Monday, pitching 4.0 innings with two hits and only one run. Only Manuel Soliman struggled a bit, allowing five hits and two runs in 3.0 innings on Wednesday.

The Miracle kept their streak alive on Thursday when they beat Bradenton in a pitchers duel, 1-0. Dean was the starter, pitching 5.2 shutout innings with six hits. Ricky Bowen pitched 1.2 shutout innings to pick up the win. Edgar Ibarra also pitched 1.2 shutout innings with one hit and three strikeouts, earning his first save. Ibarra appeared in three games (7.0 innings) this week, without allowing a run.

It is great to see Angel Morales off to a good start after he missed most of last season. Morales is hitting .357 average with a .835 OPS in 28 at bats with a triple and two stolen bases. Catcher Josmil Pinto has also opened some eyes by hitting .304/.688 with three multi-hit games. After going hitless in his first two games, Levi Michael is on a five game hitting streak with his average up to .269.

I recall Jake Mauer commenting this spring that he was excited to see Danny Santana at second base with Levi Michael at short. Little did he know that Santana would open the season as his top hitter. Santana, who is hitting .364/.898 in 33 at bats, has two doubles, a home run, two stolen bases and leads the league with eight runs scored. With that type of start, Santana is an easy choice as the Miracle's Player of the Week.

After dropping their opener and going 3-3 this week, the Beloit Snappers (A) are the only team in the organization under .500. They are tied for fourth, two games behind the Burlington Bees. The Snappers got into the win column last Friday, 6-1. They dropped their opening series with Peoria with a 6-2 loss on Saturday. Lefty Steven Gruver was sharp on Friday, pitching 6.0 innings with five hits and only one run. Michael Tonkin pitched 2.0 innings of one hit relief to pick up his first win. Tim Shibuya was tagged with the loss Saturday when he allowed five runs (three earned) in 3.2 innings. I have heard several comments this spring that Corey Williams may have the nastiest stuff in the organization. He made his first appearance in relief of Shibuya, pitching 2.0 innings of one hit ball.

The Snappers went on the road to Kane County Monday. They had a 8-3 loss Tuesday sandwiched between 9-7 and 3-2 wins. Jason Wheeler made his professional debut Monday, pitching 4.0 innings with five hits and one run. Matt Summers, who is being converted to a starter, struggled on Tuesday when he allowed six runs (two earned) in 4.2 innings. The good news is that he sailed through three innings before tiring. Madison Boer was very good on Wednesday when he pitched 5.0 innings of three hit ball with one run and nine strikeouts. Clint Dempster picked up his first save with a 2.0 inning outing with only one hit.

They traveled to Clinton on Thursday where they lost, 5-2. Steven Gruver lasted only 3.0 innings for his first loss. A. J. Achter came on in relief to pitch 3.0 shutout innings with only one hit and four strikeouts.

A. J. Pettersen has the team's second highest average, .300, although he has only ten at bats. Adam Bryant is hitting .333 in eighteen at bats. Catcher Matt Koch is hitting .273 average while Danny Ortiz and Eddie Rosario are both hitting .250 average in 24 at bats.

Considering that he leads the league in home runs (3), runs driven in (10), and walks (tied with three at 7), Miguel Sano is an easy pick as Beloit's Player of the Week. Although he is hitting only .238 average, he also has the league's second best OPS (1.210). He put Friday's game away with a grand slam while keeping the Snappers in Monday's loss at Kane County by hitting a pair of home runs with five runs driven in and two walks. Clinton had scouted him well, walking him three times in four plate appearances on Thursday. And he won't turn nineteen years old until next month!