Monday, May 3, 2010

Loosening the Collar

The hits keep on comin'... First it was Joe Nathan during Spring Training, then Jose Morales, then Jose Mijares shortly after the season started, then Nick Punto, then Pat Neshek, and now...Joe Mauer. Mauer hasn't been put on the DL yet, but everything I've read doesn't look great, including a report that Mauer was in great pain just putting his cleats on the other night. This obviously isn't a season-ending type injury, but having Mauer miss any time, even despite Ramos' big night last night, makes a big difference. On the flip-side, despite playing more than twice as many away games so far this year, this team is still in 1st place. The Twins start a 9-game home-stand tonight which should be a nice respite from the road and hopefully allow this team to heal up a little before the next road-trip.

Wilson Ramos had himself a nice little Major League debut last night going 4 for 5, the first Twin to have 4 hits in their 1st Major League game since Kirby Puckett. Ramos was ranked #58 in Baseball America's Top 100 this year and at 22 years old, looks like he could be a good one down the road. He was signed out of Venezuela in 2004 and has played 320 games in the Twins MiL system. With a .288/.336/.441 line in those 320 games, it's clear that Ramos can hit, and Baseball Prospectus says about the young Ramos:

"Ramos offers above-average skills both at the plate and behind it. He has consistently shown the ability to hit for average with an outstanding contact rate, and there's raw power in his hitting mechanics as well. He's agile defensively with a plus arm, and he works well with a pitching stuff."

I suspect that the Twins don't mind a whole lot that they're getting to feature Ramos at the Major League level as he is one of their better trade pieces. Considering that Mauer is now locked up for awhile and they have Morales and Butera, there simply isn't enough room for Wilson and it would be a shame to waste him in a back-up role.

Francisco Liriano was excellent once again last night throwing 7 innings of 3-run ball while striking out 9 and walking 3. Liriano now ranks 8th in all of baseball in ERA at 1.50 and 2nd in all of baseball (behind only Lincecum) in FIP at 2.17 proving that his performance so far this year has been no fluke. Liriano's K/9 rate is back up to an even 9.00 now and well, it's hard not to be thrilled with how he going right now.

Orlando Hudson has really come on at the bat of late, hitting in 9 straight games with 5 multi-hit efforts. In those 9 games has raised his batting average 58 points and now has a very respectable .308/.385/.413 line. The Twins will need Hudson to continue setting the table in the absence of Mauer. Jim Thome continues to be just what the doctor ordered, hitting his 5th HR of the season yesterday tying Rafael Palmeiro for 11th on the all-time HR list. Thome's .265 batting average is about normal for him, but his .410 on-base percentage along with his .633 slugging percentage have really been a nice addition to the lineup. Now if they could just get J.J. Hardy going, this lineup would really scary.

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