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Minor League Report...May 5, 2012

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After beginning their week by dropping six of seven on Friday and Saturday, the Twins four full season teams were never able to fight back to .500, finishing with a losing week at 10-15. Two teams are battling for playoff spots, Beloit who won four of five and New Britain who had a winning week at 4-3. Rochester won only one of six with Fort Myers winning one of seven.

In player movement, Josh Willingham returned from paternity leave with Ben Revere being optioned back to Rochester. The Twins designated Sean Burroughs for assignment to make room for Drew Butera. Burroughs cleared waivers and will report to Rochester today. The Twins also designated Clete Thomas for assignment and claimed former Rule 5 pick, twenty four year old outfielder Erik Komatsu from the Cardinals.

Rochester starter Sam Deduno was placed on the disabled list with Rene Tosoni returning to the Red Wings. There was also a series of promotions for pitchers affecting every team in the organization. Deolis Guerra and Luke French were promoted to Rochester with B. J. Hermsen and Caleb Thielbar replacing them at New Britain. Nelvin Fuentes and Madison Boer moved up to Fort Myers with outfielder Danny Ortiz. Outfielder Drew Leachman and pitcher David Hurlbut joined Beloit from EST. The Miracle also activated Cole Nelson, who had been on Beloit's disabled list. In other moves, Wilken Ramirez moved up to New Britain after a few games for the Miracle and the Rock Cats released pitcher Tony Davis.

Our Player of the Week was Eddie Rosario, who collected 53% of the votes.

For much of the last decade the Twins were known for playing baseball the right way, the Twins way. That consisted of strong pitching with several young starters knocking on the door at Rochester and New Britain. It also meant the team played excellent defense, had some speed and did the little things the right way. Watching the Twins this past month causes one to wonder how far they have strayed from the foundation upon which those successful teams were built.

Considering that a baseball team is only as good as its starting pitcher, I will focus my review of the past week on the starters for each club to see if there is any help on the way.

The Rochester Red Wings (10-17) have fallen into fifth place, five and a half games behind Buffalo. They began their week by dropping three to first place Buffalo, 7-3, 4-3 and 8-2. After an off day on Monday, they went on the road to play the Empire State Yankees who are playing most of their games at Rochester's Frontier Field. After dropping the first two, 5-2 and 2-1, they broke an eight game losing streak on Thursday, 4-3. A side note is that Empire State is scheduled to play this weekend at nearby Batavia (home of New York-Penn League Muckdogs). The Red Wings agreed to move Sunday's home game to a Saturday doubleheader so the Yankees can play at Frontier Field in what will be Andy Pettitte's last rehab start before returning to the Yankees.

Sam Deduno started Friday's game at Buffalo. After throwing six straight balls, the trainer came out and removed Deduno from the game. He was later placed on the disabled list with a sore shoulder. Deduno has a 3.94 ERA in four starts (16.0 innings). P. J. Walters allowed three runs in five innings on Saturday. Walters was another pitcher signed this past winter who has some major league experience. In five starts, he has a 2-1 record with a 3.08 ERA in 26.1 innings. Prior to Sunday when he allowed seven runs in 6.1 innings, Scott Diamond had been the Wings Ace and league leader with four wins. In four previous starts, he allowed only three earned runs in 25.1 innings. After Sunday, Diamond has a 2.84 ERA in 31.2 innings with only five walks for an excellent 1.17 WHIP. Diamond started last night and was removed after the third inning and forty-seven pitches. With Terry Ryan in attendance, there is much speculation that Diamond's next start will be for the Twins.

After a rough first inning against the Yankees on Tuesday, Daryl Thompson battled through six innings with only three hits and one run. In five starts this spring, Thompson has an excellent 3.60 ERA. Cole DeVries was the loser of a pitcher's battle on Wednesday when he pitched 6.1 innings with six hits and two runs. With an ERA of only 2.89, DeVries is doing very well in his return to the starting rotation. Luke French made his first start for the Wings on Thursday when he allowed four hits and three runs in five innings. While with New Britain, French had a 2-0 record with a 1.80 ERA in five starts (30.0 innings).

After a disappointing year at Rochester last year, Scott Diamond made seven starts for the Twins where his ERA (5.08) was actually better than in Rochester (5.56). Diamond certainly has improved this year and should be a serviceable member of the Twins rotation. Another starter who should get consideration is Eden Prairie's Cole DeVries. After a few disappointing years at New Britain, he was the organization's Pitcher of the Month last April as a reliever. He moved up to Rochester where he became one of the Red Wings most effective relievers with a 3.90 ERA in thirty games. After starting several games in the Arizona Fall League, Cole returned to the Red Wings starting rotation this spring. He isn't a hard thrower, yet, one would think he has earned a chance to see how he performs on the big stage. Kyle Gibson was the organization's top pitching prospect, however, he will miss this entire year because of Tommy John surgery last September.

By hitting .411 average (7-17), Ben Revere is my selection as Rochester's Player of the Week. Revere also scored two runs, drove one in, had a double and a stolen base in four games.

The New Britain Rock Cats (17-10) are in second place, a game and a half behind Reading. They began their week at Richmond, where they dropped two, 5-4 in thirteen innings and 5-3, before winning the getaway game, 5-2. They moved on to Harrisburg where they won three, 1-0 in twelve innings, 6-1 in twelve innings, and 5-4, before losing the finale, 5-4.

Andrew Albers pitched six strong innings at Richmond on Friday when he allowed only two runs. He returned Wednesday at Harrisburg, allowing four runs in five innings. Steve Hirschfeld also made two starts, beginning at Richmond on Saturday when he allowed five runs (three earned) in six innings. He lost his second game of the week Thursday when he pitched six innings with four runs (three earned). Logan Darnell was the winner at Richmond Sunday, pitching 6.2 innings while allowing only two runs with eight strikeouts and one walk. David Bromberg made his second start of the spring at Harrisburg on Monday, pitching five shutout innings with only one hit, eight strikeouts and one walk. B. J. Hermsen made his AA debut on Tuesday, allowing one run in seven innings.

New Britain is winning because they are pitching very well with a staff ERA (3.27) that is fifth best in the league. Although three of their best are gone, Luke French (1.80 in 30.0 innings), Jason Marquis (1.93 in 14.0 innings) and Deolis Guerra (0.71 in 12.2 innings), they still have an excellent starting rotation. The Twins pushed Logan Darnell from Beloit to New Britain last year following his being drafted in the sixth round in 2010. Although his 4.56 ERA isn't great, allowing six runs in one game can be misleading early in the year as he has three quality starts in his first five games. David Bromberg, who was a two time Twins Pitcher of the Year, seemed destined for Minnesota a year ago when he broke his arm in late April and missed most of the season. He was used out of the bullpen the first few weeks and it didn't go well, allowing nine runs in his first two innings. After a few better relief appearances, Bromberg returned to the starting rotation this week. If Monday's game is any indication of what is to come, Bromberg could get his name back on the Twins A list before fall. Another prospect who could help the Twins in a few years is B. J. Hermsen. Although he doesn't throw hard and doesn't strike out a lot of batters (twelve strikeouts in 23.0 innings at Fort Myers), he has become a workhorse who goes deep in games and doesn't allow a lot of runs as his 0.78 ERA at Fort Myers confirms. Although none are likely to be front of the rotation starters or that sought after Ace, Darnell, Bromberg and Hermsen all could become solid middle of the rotation starters for the Twins by 2014. The other pitcher on the Rock Cats roster who could help the Twins is Alex Wimmers. Unfortunately, he was placed on the disabled list after his first start of the season.

Pedro Florimon has a reputation for being a slick defensive shortstop. Two errors in his first 27 games would confirm that reputation. He also has been a solid addition to the Rock Cats everyday lineup with his bat. In seven games, Florimon was 10-30 (.333 average) with three runs scored, one driven in, two doubles, three walks, six strikeouts and two stolen bases. Florimon, who is my selection as the Rock Cats Player of the Week, is hitting .297 average in 101 at bats with a .366 on base percentage.

The Fort Myers Miracle (10-17) are in last place, twelve games behind St. Lucie who is 22-5. The better news is that they are only three games out of second place. Their week began with a 3-2 loss to Palm Beach before being swept by St. Lucie, 4-0, 5-1 and 2-1. They traveled to Palm Beach on Tuesday, where they lost 9-3 before winning 2-1 in eleven innings on Wednesday. They would drop the rubber game Thursday, 5-0.

Pat Dean was solid last Friday, losing his second decision after allowing three runs in six innings. Jhon Garcia lost his third game Saturday, allowing only one run in five innings. Jose Gonzalez made a spot start Sunday, allowing four runs in three innings. In their final game with St. Lucie, Adrian Salcedo got only one out before being hit in the face with a comeback ground ball. Nelvin Fuentes pitched 3.2 innings and Miguel Munoz pitched three innings with each allowing a single run. Marty Popham started the opening game at Palm Beach, allowing three runs in 6.1 innings. Pat Dean broke their five game losing streak on Wednesday. He pitched seven innings while allowing only one run, however, wouldn't get a decision. Madison Boer made his first start for the Miracle on Thursday, allowing eight hits and five runs (three earned) in 5.2 innings.

It is hard to project whether anyone pitching in the Florida State League has what it takes to make it to the big leagues unless he dominates the league. No one other than B. J. Hermsen was doing that for the Miracle this spring. Pat Dean has a nice 3.68 ERA and has been within an out of making quality starts in three of his six outings. Adrian Salcedo is considered by most to be one of the top two or three pitching prospects in the organization, yet, he struggled with his control, issuing eleven walks in seventeen innings before being injured Monday. None of us expected Salcedo to have a 5.82 ERA and 2.00 WHIP in his first month this year. Another starter with a lot of promise was Manuel Soliman, who also was placed on the disabled list after two starts with a 5.40 ERA and 2.40 WHIP. With a month gone this season, there isn't anyone the Twins can point to on the Miracle staff as someone who will definitely help two or three years from now.

With two quality starts, Pat Dean gets my nod as the Miracle Player of the Week. In thirteen innings, he allowed four runs on fourteen hits and six walks with four strikeouts.

The Beloit Snappers (15-11) are in second place, a half game behind the Wisconsin Timber Rattlers. Beloit beat Bowling Green last Friday, 6-3, before taking two of three from Dayton. After losing the opener Saturday, 7-3, they won 4-3 and 7-0. They traveled to Cedar Rapids, winning Wednesday night, 6-5, before Thursday's game was suspended with the Snappers leading 2-1 in the third inning.

Madison Boer made his last start Friday, pitching six innings with six hits and two runs to even his record at 2-2. Steven Gruver lasted only 1.2 inning against Dayton, allowing seven runs (three earned) in the second inning. Tim Shibuya didn't get the win on Sunday, however, pitched 6.1 strong innings with three runs, eleven strikeouts and no walks. Jason Wheeler picked up his third win in three decisons on Monday. Matt Summers allowed three runs (one earned) in five innings Wednesday at Cedar Rapids.

Madison Boer departed for Fort Myers with a 2-2 record and 3.58 ERA in five starts (27.2 innings). He struck out twenty and walked ten. Jason Wheeler, last year's eighth round pick out of Loyola Marymount, has a 2.33 ERA in five starts (27.0 innings). Wheeler has struck out nineteen while allowing only six walks. Tim Shibuya, last year's Pitcher of the Year in the Appalachian League, has an excellent 3.00 ERA in five starts (24.0 innings). He has allowed thirty hits, however, has walked only four batters while striking out twenty two. Matt Summers is a former reliever who has a 5.68 ERA in five starts (25.1 innings). That is misleading as he has pitched very well in every start until allowing most of his runs to score in the fifth or sixth inning.

If it is hard to project whether someone from the Florida State League will make it to the big leagues it is nearly impossible to do so with players in low A ball at Beloit. The good news is that last year's second round pick Madison Boer was solid before his promotion this week. Tim Shibuya is following up on his big year at Elizabethton and the biggest surprise this spring has been Jason Wheeler, who is arguably Beloit's top starter.

Although Miguel Sano was 7-20 with a pair of doubles and five runs driven in, I have to go with Jason Wheeler's performance on Monday as this week's Player of the Week selection. In his only start, he pitched six shutout innings with two hits, seven strikeouts and one walk.

There are several starters at each level who could project as pitchers who can become members of a future Twins rotation. But the reality is that there isn't a Scott Baker, Matt Garza, Kevin Slowey or Francisco Liriano, pitchers who dominated each level as they moved rapidly through the organization. Can a current starter at one of the four full season teams become that type of pitcher, certainly. Unfortunately, the two most likely starters who should be part of the 2014 Twins starting rotation, Gibson and Wimmers, are on the disabled list.