July 9, 2008 – The Twins find themselves in Detroit this evening awaiting the start of a four game series just before the All-Star break after losing three in a row to the Red Sox in Fenway Park. Yes, the team did lose three games in Beantown but they had a chance to win the first two games of the series when Baker battled tooth and nail with Daisuke Matsuzaka before the Red Sox scored the one and only run in the eighth inning off Brian Bass for a 1-0 win. In the second game Nick Blackburn pitched the Twins to a 4-2 lead after 6 and 2/3 inning before turning it over to the bullpen that could not hold the lead and the Twins lost 6-5. Game 3 ended up 18-5 in favor of the Red Sox and again bullpen relief was nowhere in sight. Boy, do the Twins miss Pat Neshek.
The Twins find themselves at 50-41 at this point and 3.5 games out of the Central Division lead. Are the Twins really in the hunt? I don’t think so, the Twins are not as bad as they showed against the White Sox just a little over a month ago but they are not as good as they have played recently. The Twins are somewhere in between, they are a .500 ball club. Don’t get me wrong, I am not down on the Twins at all but remember that this is a team where the only regulars from last year are Mauer, Morneau, and Cuddyer. The starting pitching staff is totally new with Hernandez, Baker, Blackburn, Slowey and Perkins.
Their two stars Johan Santana and Torii Hunter moved on to other teams as did SP Carlos Silva. If someone would have told me before Spring Training started that this team would be 50-41 at this point in the season I would have asked you what you were smoking. This Twins team is young, exciting, enthusiastic, learning new things about themselves and their teammates every day and best of all, they are just a fun and exciting team to watch. But, they are not yet ready to contend for a division title, they need more experience and they still have a couple of holes to fill at 3B and at SS. Brian Buscher has been hot since he was called up and replaced Mike Lamb at 3B but for some reason Gardy is platooning him now. Nick Punto has returned from his most recent injury and is playing some great SS and is even hitting a bit. If the Twins had a top notch 3B then I think they could leave Punto at SS but they can’t afford to have weak hitter at both SS and 3B.
The Twins desperately need an everyday 3B with some pop but I don’t know where they can find one without giving up the farm. Some rumors out there have the Twins looking at Adrian Beltre from the Mariners but he has a big salary and has been very inconsistent, I don’t think he is the answer. Scott Rolen from Toronto might be available but he too is making big bucks and is well past his prime but the man can play some defense. Bill Hall is probably available in Milwaukee but he can’t play defense at all so he is not the kind of player that would make Gardy happy.
The Twins could also use a little help in the bullpen too what with Bass and Bonser getting kicked around here lately. But again, the price to get some reliable relief help will not come cheap.
Bottom line, I think the Twins should probably be sellers (Lamb, Hernandez, Bonser, and Monroe) and not buyers during this trading period. Francisco Liriano will probably be up soon and he can replace Hernandez. Danny Graves deserves a call up and a shot in the bullpen. As for 3B, it probably remains a platoon position for the rest of the season between Buscher and Harris.
The Twins do seem to be strong in the outfield and there are clubs out there that would “kill” for a Denard Span to play CF but I am not sure the Twins are ready to make that deal yet.