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Minor League Report...August 25, 2012

PHOENIX, AZ - JULY 10:  U.S. Futures All-Star Kyle Gibson #44 of the Minnesota Twins pitches in the seventh inning during the 2011 XM All-Star Futures Game at Chase Field on July 10, 2011 in Phoenix, Arizona.  (Photo by Jeff Gross/Getty Images)
PHOENIX, AZ - JULY 10: U.S. Futures All-Star Kyle Gibson #44 of the Minnesota Twins pitches in the seventh inning during the 2011 XM All-Star Futures Game at Chase Field on July 10, 2011 in Phoenix, Arizona. (Photo by Jeff Gross/Getty Images)
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After a long run of winning weeks, the organization fell to four games under .500 at 21-25.

In player movement, the Twins outrighted Nick Blackburn and Tsuyoshi Nishioka to Rochester. Those moves removed both from the 40-man roster while keeping them under contract with the Twins on the hook for the $8,500,000 owed them in 2013. Will either ever play again for the Twins?

Liam Hendriks and Kyle Waldrop moved up to the Twins with Matt Carson going back to Rochester. In other moves of interest, Kyle Gibson moved up to Rochester where he will make his first start tonight against Lehigh Valley. He will be limited to about 65 pitches. Depending on his progress in the Fall Instructional League, he may be assigned to the Arizona Fall League. Gibson will replace Pedro Hernandez, who left Tuesday's game in the third inning with an injury reported to be a strained rotator cuff. The Twins also promoted Miracle all-star catcher Josmil Pinto, who hit .295 average with a .834 OPS and a dozen home runs, to New Britain. Terry Ryan, who is in New Britain this week, will have a decision to make later this year about adding Pinto to their 40-man roster.

In other news, Candido Pimentel became the third consecutive Twin to receive recognition as the Appalachian League's Player of the Year. He and teammate Max Kepler were the only two Twins to be selected as Appy League All-Stars. The Eastern League also announced their all-stars. They included three Rock Cats, third baseman Deibinson Romero, outfielder Aaron Hicks and designated hitter Chris Colabello.

Last year was a disappointing year for the organization as only Elizabethton made the playoffs. I wrote this spring about the organization's need to be better in 2012 with at least half their teams playing post-season baseball. When Elizabethton clinched their West Division championship, they became the second team to qualify for the playoffs. Although none of the other four teams have been mathematically eliminated, both New Britain and the Gulf Coast League Twins have a realistic chance of joining Elizabethton and Beloit in the playoffs.

Read about an exciting week for the GCL Twins and more after the jump.

The GCL Twins (32-26) began their week two back of the Red Sox. After winning five of six, the Twins woke up Friday morning only one back. They had only two games left in their season with both against the team they were chasing, the Red Sox. After an impressive 4-1 victory yesterday, they will face-off later this morning for a winner take all final game.

Most Twins fans know the Twins biggest problem is their lack of quality starting pitching. We remember how correct Tom Kelly was when he often said, "you are only as good as your next day's starting pitcher." Although there are five levels between the Gulf Coast League and the Twins, the GCL Twins win because of their starting pitching. In six games last week, their five starters did not allow a single earned run. No, you didn't misread that. Their five starters pitched 33.0 innings with two unearned runs, 18 hits, 5 walks and 36 strikeouts. Yes, in six games that is a 0.696 WHIP. What is most exciting is that all five, Randy Rosario (1.64 ERA), Austin Malinowski (2.27), Kuo Hua Lo (1.19), Yorman Landa (2.43) and this year's sixth round pick, Andre Martinez (4.50), are all eighteen or nineteen years old.

Rosario was especially sharp, pitching five shutout innings of their only loss last Friday to the Red Sox while allowing three hits. He was even better Thursday against the Orioles, pitching seven shutout innings with one hit, no walks and nine strikeouts. Twelve shutout innings with four hits, two walks and twelve strikeouts is a performance that certainly qualifies him for consideration as this week's Player of the Week.

The Twins called on Gonzalo Sanudo to make his second start of the year in yesterday's must win game. Sanudo responded by allowing only one run in four innings. Josue Montanez threw 2.1 shutout innings with one hit for the win after throwing 3.0 shutout innings on Tuesday. Melcaides De La Cruz threw the last 2.2 innings of shutout ball with two hits, no walks and four strikeouts to pick up his team leading sixth save. One run on eight hits and a walk gave the Twins the win and the opportunity to play for the South Division championship and a spot in this year's Gulf Coast League playoffs.

Meanwhile, the New Britain Rock Cats (68-64) weren't playing good baseball. Losing seven of their past eight, the Rock Cats lost control of their own destiny and now trail the Reading Phillies by two games for the Eastern Division Wild Card spot. With ten games remaining, they need to go on a nice winning streak beginning today if they are to extend their season past Labor Day.

Their lone win was last Saturday when Steve Hirschfeld allowed two runs in seven innings. Hirschfeld wasn't as successful Thursday when he allowed seven runs in 4.1 innings in a 9-6 loss to New Hampshire. In his defense, the Fisher Cats had Adam Lind and Jose Bautista in their lineup on rehab assignments. Bautista was especially nasty as he hit two home runs with five RBI's.

After being the Eastern League's Player of the Month for July, Oswaldo Arcia picked up another award when he was named the League's Player of the Week for the week of August 6-12. Although he doesn't have enough at bats to qualify for the Eastern League batting title, Arcia is the league's best hitter. In 220 at bats, Arcia is hitting for a .327 average with a .938 OPS, nineteen doubles, three triples, seven home runs and 53 runs driven in. He hit for a .317 average in his last ten games which also puts him on the list as a candidate for this week's Player of the Week. With Mr. Ryan in the stands this week, will he see enough to make the call to Arcia as a September call up after the Rock Cats' season is over?

In disappointing news, Joe Benson's season ended when he had surgery to clean up the knee that he injured in 2011. After a slow start at Rochester, a demotion to New Britain, a hamate bone injury and now his knee, Benson will probably be happy to have this season behind him. While watching the Red Wings play Pawtuckett this week, the Red Sox announcers were talking about hamate bone injuries. Of interest was their discussion about how you may come back to play in six weeks, the hand will remain weak for some time after that. Yes, Benson had a terrible first month this year, but injuries are the reason his entire season was lost. He has two options remaining and there is no reason that this very talented young man cannot overcome this year and get his career back on track. He has all the tools to be a future star, all that he needs to do is reach within himself and make it happen.

With a two year extension in hand, the Rochester Red Wings (67-67) also went on a losing streak, losing six of their past eight. With ten games remaining, they trail Lehigh Valley by four games and Pawtuckett by three and a half for a wild card spot in the playoffs.

They had several excellent starts this week, including one by Nick Blackburn in Wednesday's 1-0 loss to Lehigh Valley. Blackburn pitched seven innings with seven hits and one run. Esmerling Vasquez allowed two runs in six innings Monday with Shairon Martis allowing only one earned run in 7.1 innings of Thursday's 5-2 win.

With Matt Carson up with the Twins, Wilkin Ramirez took charge with a big week. He was 11-27 (.407 average) with a double, two home runs, three runs scored and six driven in. He had the big hit, a grand slam home run in Monday's 9-6 win over Pawtuckett. Also add him to this week's voting for Player of the Week.

Although not eliminated from contention, the Fort Myers Miracle (28-32) are in fourth place, five games behind Jupiter. With ten games remaining, the magic number for elimination is six and there are two teams they would have to pass to make the playoffs.

Kyle Gibson allowed a run on three hits in his last start for the Miracle on Sunday. Matt Summers allowed two runs in 5.2 innings of a 3-2 win against Bradenton Tuesday. Pat Dean had a quality start on Thursday, however, their best start was by Tom Stuifbergen in Wednesday's 2-1 loss to Bradenton. Stuifbergen gets added to this week's Player of the Week voting for a nine inning complete game in which he allowed two runs on six hits with no walks and three strikeouts.

The Beloit Snappers (31-29) are in third place, seven games behind Clinton. They will open their best of three quarterfinal playoff series at Clinton on September 5th.

Jason Wheeler pitched a game Tuesday worthy of inclusion in this week's Player of the Week voting. He pitched eight shutout innings in a 11-0 win at Quad Cities with six hits, one walk and three strikeouts. The win was his league leading fourteenth win in twenty decisions.

The Snappers top hitter with a .319 average in 113 at bats is Kennys Vargas. Vargas, who hit safely in every game this week, was 13-32 (.406 average) with four runs scored, five driven in, a double and home run. Add Vargas to this week's voting. After missing nearly all of July and much of June, Eddie Rosario is back hitting .308 average in 104 August at bats. Rosario had a big game in Friday's 8-2 win when he was 4-5 with two doubles and his eleventh home run. Miguel Sano has likely wrapped up the Midwest League home run title with 26 as the player with the second most has only 19.

On Wednesday the Elizabethton Twins (42-19) clinched the Appalachian League Western Division championship. They will play a best of three first round playoff series against the Eastern Division second place team, most likely the Danville Braves.

Jose Berrios made two starts this week, beginning with five shutout innings with two hits, no walks and eleven strikeouts last Friday. He wasn't as sharp in a 6-4 win against Pulaski Thursday when he pitched five innings with five hits, two runs, no walks and six strikeouts. Byron Buxton is hitting .316 average (12-38) in his last ten games as he has his average up to .281 in 64 at bats with a .774 OPS. He has stolen five bases without being thrown out while scoring twelve runs.

The Dominican Summer League Twins (31-39) season ended early when this weekend's games were cancelled because of Tropical Storm Isaac. They finished in sixth place of their eight team division, twelve games behind the Diamondbacks.