Posted at 1:42 PM on April 28, 2009
by Chris Dall
We all know that it's still only April, and there's a lot of season left, but nonetheless, the top of the Twins rotation isn't inspiring much confidence right now. And Scott Baker's 6 hit, 4 run performance last night against the Rays doesn't make me feel too much better.
Although it's damning him with faint praise, last night was easily Baker's best performance. Despite taking his third loss on the season, he did make it through 6 innings, didn't give up any home runs (after giving up 7 in his first two starts), and struck 7. Woo hoo! Gardy called it a "step in the right direction." We'll see.
It would also be nice to see step in the right direction by the defacto ace of the staff, Francisco Liriano, who takes the mound tonight against Tampa. Liriano currently stands at 0-4 with a 7.06 ERA, and has shown few of the flashes of dominance that we've seen in the past. Unlike Baker, Liriano's problem is control, and walks are killing him this year. He also has a tendency to lose focus when things start going wrong, which makes you wonder if he has the head to be a true ace.
The struggles of Baker and Liriano of course put more pressure on Kevin Slowey, Nick Blackburn, and Glenn Perkins. They seem to be holding up fairly well so far. But the bigger concern is what regular 5-inning outings by the 1 and 2 starters will do to the bullpen, which was the weak point going into the season. I'm not sure Twins fans can stomach seeing Matt Guerrier, Jesse Crain, and R.A. Dickey on a regular basis.
Maybe the Twins should try signing this kid.
Posted at 10:06 PM on April 28, 2009
by David Zingler
On April 17, Jason Kubel provided the most exciting moment of the young season when his 8th inning grand slammed capped an 11-9 comeback win over the Angels and ended a 4-game losing streak. Oh yeah, he also hit for the cycle that night.
I caught up with Kubel before tonight's 4-3 win to see what was on his mind...
DZ: This year probably has a different feel to it than the past couple of years. You got the contract extension (2 years, $7 million), what did that mean to you?
KUBEL: It means a lot. It means I can relax a little bit and not worry about financial things or where I am going to be next year. It's just the sense that no matter what (happens), I will be all right for a while.
DZ: Did you go out and do anything to celebrate the signing?
KUBEL: No, not really. I just - the off season goes so fast - I just stayed with the family. Nothing big.
DZ: Is your family (wife and 15 month old son) in (the Twin Cities) during the season?
KUBEL: They're here. So I see them whenever I am here, so that's nice. I don't know how I would do if they weren't here.
DZ: With the contract extension and a successful season (20 homers/78 RBI) behind you, the confidence had to be up this year.
KUBEL: Definitely. Spring training started off so well - that just added to the confidence. I haven't really looked back yet. I am happy with the way things are going right now - the past couple of games could have been better - but that's going to happen, so I am going to rebound tonight.
DZ: The past couple of years, your role has been up in the air. This year you knew you were probably going to be in the line-up most days - that had to make a difference too.
KUBEL: Yeah, definitely. I know I am going to be in (the line-up) tomorrow. It's a good feeling. It doesn't matter if I go 0 for 4 - that's happened a couple of times this year, unfortunately - I know I'll get my at-bats and my playing time. Whatever slump I get in, I'll work myself out of it.
DZ: You've hit behind Morneau before, but this year it's been in the clean-up spot. Do you notice a difference hitting behind someone like that?
KUBEL: I hit behind him last year, but I think it's different like this year, it's happened once already - they walked him to load the bases and I hit a grand slam. So that's hopefully opened some eyes....(maybe) they'll think twice before they pitch around him...hopefully he gets some better pitches to hit and hits some more balls out of the park. That means, I'll have guys on base when I get up to hit too.
DZ: It makes it easier to get RBIs...
KUBEL: I love it (laughs). There have been a couple of chances already where there have been guys - Morneau's on 2nd and Alexi's on 3rd or Denard Span's on 3rd and all I've got to do is roll over a ground ball to 1st and that's a run.
DZ: You mentioned the grand slam. That had to be a big night for you, hitting for the cycle. When you've got a single, double and triple, how do you not think about hitting a homerun?
KUBEL: I thought about that my 4th at-bat and I ended up striking out. My last (at-bat) with bases loaded, I just calmed myself and didn't try to hit it out, but I tried to hit it hard. I just try to see pitches and get a good one up to hit and I was able to that.
DZ: You seem to have good timing with your grand slams. You had the big one in '06 (in extra innings vs. Boston in June) that kind of ignited the whole season in retrospect...
KUBEL: Yeah, we went on a little roll from there, but we're in a tough spot now...it's still way early and we've got plenty of time to make up ground.
DZ: You played in leftfield that night and are out there tonight...does that make a difference (to you)?
KUBEL: This is my second time in the outfield...we've got some guys on the bench that should be playing. It's just a good opportunity - Buscher is playing 1st tonight, Morneau's DHing - so, it's good opportunity to get guys who should be playing in there also.
DZ: Like you said, you've got a lot of guys who play in the outfield and have had some success in the big leagues, how does that work in the locker room - you all want to play, but at the same time you all want to support each other?
KUBEL: It is going good. I don't think about it at all because I am not going to play the outfield a lot anyway. My job is to DH and I am going to do that. We've got four guys for three outfield spots. It's working now; you'd like to get everybody in, but you can't. It's a tough situation, but everybody is doing pretty well with it.
(Photo by Scott A. Schneider/Getty Images)