Posted at 6:06 AM on June 6, 2008
by David Zingler
When the Twins claimed left-handed reliever Craig Breslow off waivers on May 29, it drew little notice. While Breslow may be the most anonymous member of the home team, the Yale graduate likely has the most interesting background. Curious to find out more, I had a quick chat with the 27-year-old before Wednesday's game:
DZ: Could you describe the circumstances that got you here to the Twins?
BRESLOW: Coming into this season, I was out of options so I couldn't be sent to the minor leagues without first clearing waivers. I came to spring training with Boston, was put on waivers at the end of spring training and claimed by Cleveland. I spent the first two months (of the season) there before being designated for assignment in which case they had 10 days to trade or release me. They put me on waivers and I was claimed over here.
DZ: I noticed that you have a pretty good track record - a 2.70 ERA in 40 innings in the big leagues - has it just been a numbers game (that has prevented you from sticking)?
BRESLOW: I think so. I think I've been a victim of always having options, always being the guy who would come up to fill in for weekend because the bullpen was tired or somebody was hurt and as soon as someone was ready to reclaim their position, I was always the guy who was sent down. Even this year in Cleveland, I never really got a true opportunity; I made the team out of spring training, but I was used very sporadically. A couple of times, I would go two weeks without throwing regardless of my performance.
DZ: The Twins have a history of picking up guys who are unknown, but make a name for themselves here. Were you encouraged to be picked up by them?
BRESLOW: Absolutely. A place like Boston where I started the season is a difficult place to establish a career. Obviously there are some big names and some money there to kind of throw around - bring in some high priced free agents, relievers, whatever the case may be. A place like Minnesota, or even a place like Cleveland, I think it's a good opportunity for a guy like me because there is obviously a tremendous advantage to pulling a guy out of scrap heap and give him the league minimum instead of paying a guy $3 to $4 million.
DZ: I was reading about your background and you went to Yale - which is rare in the big leagues - and majored in molecular biophysics and biochemistry. Have you ever found teammates to discuss that with - at any level?
BRESLOW: (laughs) You know what - at any level - I actually played with a teammate from Yale - I was drafted by the Brewers - in 2003 in Beloit in the Midwest League, a guy named John Steitz - who was drafted the previous year - his parents are professors at Yale in that field so we actually had a number of things in common.
DZ: I noticed you are involved in childhood cancer research (he's opened a non-profit foundation), what is the story behind that?
BRESLOW: My sister had cancer when she was 14 - she was diagnosed with thyroid cancer. I was 12 years old and taken back. The impact that something like that has on your life is pretty great. I've always wanted to somehow give back or get involved in the community and this - I felt - was the way to do so.
Note: Breslow's sister, Lesley, is doing well, 15 years after her diagnosis.
DZ: Did that play into your major at all?
BRESLOW: A little bit I guess. Medical research is done a molecular level and biochemistry plays a pretty significant role in that. Biophysics deals with structural biology and proteins and viruses and things like that. There is definitely some correlation and I think that getting involved in a charity especially one that is in medicine lets me maintain connectivity to the medical field.
DZ: A guy with your background has opportunities outside of baseball; did anything ever come up while you were in the minor leagues that made you think twice about coming back and playing?
BRESLOW: I always wanted to go to med school and it's still something I feel strongly about and obviously when you are toiling in the minor leagues - especially after being released out of A Ball - that weighs on you. You maybe take a realistic look at something you may be more productive doing, but to date I've never found something I want to do more than play baseball. So, as long as that rings true, that is what I am going to keep doing.
DZ: Do you plan on going to med school when you are done (playing)?
BRESLOW: I guess it kind of depends on what my future holds. If it's 15 years from now and I am winding down a pretty successful big league career and financially I am stable with a family, then perhaps not. But if I still have that urge to get back into a classroom, that's something I will think about doing.
(Photo by Nick Laham/Getty Images)
Posted at 2:06 PM on June 6, 2008
by Steve Rudolph
Juan Rincon didn't pitch Thursday, but his presence contributed to another Twins loss.
Handcuffed with 13 pitchers on his 25-man roster, Ron Gardenhire has few options to manufacture runs and it's quite possible the Twins would have won yesterday if Gardy had another bat on his bench.
Unfortunately the Twins shipped infielder Matt Macri to Class AAA Rochester instead of a pitcher when Scott Baker returned from the disabled list. The Twins opted for 13 pitchers because Brian Bass, Boof Bonser, and Juan Rincon are all out of options and would need to be placed on waivers.
If there's another team that wants to claim Rincon, I say they can have him and his nearly $2.5 million salary.
On Tuesday, Rincon entered the game in the sixth after the Twins had cut the O's lead to two. He yielded hits to both batters he faced and threw in a wild pitch for good measure.
It's become an all-too-familiar scene. Once one of the best setup men in the game, Rincon is now reserved for mop-up duty and is struggling in that role.
Regaining lost confidence isn't Rincon's problem. He simply isn't the pitcher he was prior to his 2006 drug suspension and the Twins should acknowledge this fact and move on.
From 2004 to 2006, Rincon was arguably the best setup man in baseball. During that span, Rincon averaged more than 75 appearances a season, posted an ERA in the twos, and was credited with 67 holds.
Last year his ERA ballooned to 5.13 and he hasn't improved on that much this season. Rincon has also struggled with his control as evidenced by a strikeouts-to-walks ratio that has gone from 3.31 in 2004 to 1.2 this season.
Rincon does have a reputation for bringing comic relief to the clubhouse. However, of late it's his pitching not his quotes that are laughable.