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The Bleacher Bums: May 3, 2005 Archive

The Yankees shake up their roster

Posted at 1:27 PM on May 3, 2005 by Ben Tesch (1 Comments)

After a poor April start, the Yankees decide to tweak their roster and lineup, moving Matsui to center, Womack to left, and calling up Robinson Cano from AAA to play second. With the law of averages (and their many all-star players), it was bound to turn around eventually, but this might just give them something to cite as the turning point.

How would you shake up the Twins lineup? Lobby for Tiffee's return? Put Rivas out of his misery? Ride Corky Miller's hot bat?

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Posted at 2:18 PM on May 3, 2005 by David Zingler (1 Comments)

Unfortunately for Juan Rincon, he is now the most famous middle relief pitcher in America. As we all know, it was announced yesterday that the right-hander has been suspended 10 days for using a performance enhancing drug. It could have been something he bought at GNC, it could have been something the FDA has deemed illegal – we really don't know.

The real question is, why do we care so much?

When Rincon comes into a game we want him to get hitters out. If he doesn’t we boo. If that happens too often, he ends up with the Rochester Redwings. It’s that simple. So if we want Juan Rincon to get hitters out and he wants to get hitters out, why do we get so upset at him for doing everything he can to get hitters out?

Is it because he “cheated”? When Joe Niekro pulled an emery board out of his pocket in 1987, we laughed and he ended up on the David Letterman Show.

If Rincon had been arrested for a DUI or domestic violence, would it have generated a full page spread in the sports section of the Star Tribune?

Was anyone really hurt by his actions?

The recently righteous commissioner, the suddenly intolerant owners and the newly responsive players union all contributed to a culture that fostered and tolerated steroid use for over a decade. If not for the BALCO investigation, pressure from congress, a few ambitious reporters and even Jose Canseco’s book that culture would most likely still exist today. So as the positive test results roll in, let’s not direct all of our angst and frustration at the unfortunate saps who get caught.

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Wrong Rincon

Posted at 5:15 PM on May 3, 2005 by Bob Collins

It seems to me that lost in the brouhaha over the Juan Rincon situation is the rather strident comments of Angels manager Mike Scioscia.

He's still going to have the benefits," Scioscia said Monday night in Seattle. "In 10 days, I guarantee you Juan Rincon doesn't become a mere mortal."

For years, I had no problem uttering the phrase Juan Rincon and
mere mortal in the same sentence. I didn'think he was very good.

He came up in 2001 like a house afire -- after the fire. He appeared in only a few games in 2001 and then got into 10 of them in 2002, as a bullpen specialist. He specialized in giving up lots of runs.

Then in 2003, he stopped giving up homers and suddenly he was decent. He always had a high walk-to-strikeout ratio and that continued in 2004 when he was unbelievable. In 82 innings he gave up only 52 hits, walked 32 and struck out 106 for an unconscious 2.63 ERA. Must be the drug, right?

I don't really know the nuts-and-bolts of Major League Baseball's substance abuse policy, but I have to believe that someone, somewhere was sitting in a dugout for a Twins opponents before it went into effect this year muttering, "wish we had steroid testing."

The trouble is: there isn't anything in Rincon's minor league numbers to suggest he would be this good. But there isn't anything there to suggest he wouldn't either.

Assessing minor leaguers is always a dicey proposition. I like to look at hits per 9 innings pitched (h9) and walks-and-hits-per-innings-pitched (whip).

From 1997 with the Twins' Gulf Coast League team to New Britain, Rincon was steady. Not great. Steady. His WHIP was between 1.30 to 1.58, which is about what your average pitcher does. His hits per 9 innings was around 8, which is pretty good. The minor leagues, by the way, have had a drug testing policy in place for several years.

In 2001 with New Britain, he had a great year as a starter and earned his call-up where, like most kids, he bombed in his first three dozen or so innings.

So I'm looking at these things trying to determine precisely when it was he began taking whatever the bigshots say he was taking. I can't find it. Most pitchers who end up making their debuts in the major leagues at age 22, are probably going to be pretty good pitchers.

But, still, his statement this afternoon was anything but a powerful defense.

"Baseball is my life, and I was devastated after becoming aware that I tested positive for a violation of Major League Baseball's Joint Drug Prevention and Treatment Program," Rincon said. "The details are confidential, and I have asked the players' association to challenge the suspension.

"What I can share with you today is that I would never knowingly compromise my position within Major League Baseball or jeopardize my relationship with the Minnesota Twins organization or the relationships that I enjoy with my teammates.

"I will make no further comments, or answer any questions, until the process plays out in its entirety. However, I will add that I look forward to returning to the field to continue pitching to the best of my ability to help the Twins organization win its fourth consecutive division title."

Somehow, I'm betting when the process has played out, we still won't know what the alleged crime was.

But is it asking to much for a "I didn't do it"? Or even a "I did"?

Johan's right hand man

Posted at 9:59 PM on May 3, 2005 by David Zingler

Johan Santana’s rise from obscure Rule V draft pick to dominating Cy Young winner has been well documented. Chances are however, that you have never heard of the man who may have the best perspective on his unlikely path to greatness. Aron Amundson, the Twins’ bullpen catcher, can remember the days when the Venezuelan national hero was an afterthought buried deep in the Twins bullpen.

“He was one of those guys in my first year, 2001, who had to have live bullpen (sessions) before the game so he could get innings in,” Amundson said of Santana, who pitched just 43 2/3 innings that season. “With the team we had, our starters would go a long time and LaTroy (Hawkins) and Eddie (Guardado) would finish the games, so he wasn’t getting his innings in. He would have to throw to live hitters during batting practice.”

During Santana’s tenure with the team, several catchers – A.J. Pierzynski, Tom Prince, Henry Blanco, etc. – have suited up for the Twins, while their current trio of backstops, Joe Mauer, Mike Redmond and Corky Miller, are all in their first full season with the team. Amundson meanwhile, joined the organization before Santana’s second big league season.

It was the following year, Amundson says, that he began to realize Santana was headed for stardom. “In 2002 he started the season in Triple A and we had an injury and he came up and was like a different person,” the bullpen catcher explained. “He got all those starts under his belt (in Triple A) and finally got a chance to throw…he’s been amazing ever since.”

Forget the high tech radar guns and super slow motion break downs of his windup and delivery, according to Amundson the secret to Santana’s dominance is quite simple, yet very difficult to master.

“One thing I’ve noticed is that he has really worked hard on trying to make all of his pitches look exactly the same coming out of his hand,” the former Gophers’ first baseman said of the Twins ace. “For a long time there he was struggling with this change up and his slider would come out of a different spot every time – he would throw one kind of side armed, then the next one would be over the top. He’s really worked hard at making those pitches look exactly like his fastball. That’s one thing that has made him so successful – the hitter has no idea what is coming.”

Corky Miller Note

Anyone who has read this blog with any regularity knows I have a strange fascination with Twins reserve catcher Corky Miller. So it should come as no surprise that I asked Amundson, who spent a lot of time with Miller during spring training, what he thought of the now legendary Cork man. Here is his take:

“He’s kind of a hard guy to figure out. He’s one of those guys that you never really know if he’s serious or not so you just kind of play him kind of careful. I am starting to figure him out – he’s a real funny guy.”

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