Sunday, May 13, 2007

The Move We've All Been Waiting For

Minnesota Twins designate Sidney Ponson(P-RH) for assignment and promote Garret Jones(DH-L) from AAA-Rochester.

Well, this is the move. This is The Move We've All Been Waiting For, except that it isn't. It's just removing the obstacle that allows the Twins to make the move that we've all been waiting for. (That Jack built?)

Expectations were low, but to be fair, Sidney Ponson ended up being considerably better than was advertised in several ways. There were no hints of off-the-field issues. He took responsibility for every start, and he didn't always need to, because the Twins played very poorly behind him a couple of times. Finally, he didn't work himself into trouble too often, such as being afraid to attack the strike zone. He pitched like a professional, throwing his pitches and daring hitters to hit it.

Unfortunately for Ponson, they obliged. The oft cited statistic about giving up twice as many baserunners as innings was bad, but not as bad as the 54 hits in 37.2 innings. With that kind of hittability, it's damn commendable for him to pitch like he did. Ponson looks like he needs to rediscover his stuff at AAA right now.

The beat reporters are saying that's unlikely to happen as a Rochester Red Wing, though it is a possible result of being designated for assignment. I'm not as sure. It must be apparent to Ponson that he needs to redefine himself at that level, and the Rochester staff could use a veteran presence. And it's not like the Twins would hesitate to turn to him again if he were to find success there. Terry Ryan also has a track recrod of making veterans like him available to another team that's looking if there isn't an opportunity.

But like I said, this isn't truly The Move We've All Been Waiting For (TMWABWF), unless you're a Twins fans who likes to play the lottery. Garret Jones is essentially a Twins Scratch Game ticket, and it's one the Twins have saved for a while because it didn't look like a winner.

Remember Dustan Mohr, who came up through the Twins system despite not being drafted by them? Jones is similar. He's has been with the organization since 2002, but he was originally with the Braves who let him go (I think he was released) because he swung and missed too often. He continued that trend with the Twins, until 2004, when he was finally promoted out of A ball, and had some real success in AA-New Britain, hitting .311.

For the last two years, he's been in Rochester, hitting 45 home runs, but batting just .241 with 230(!) strikeouts. This year he's hitting .316, but has struck out 25 times already, so it's not apparent much has changed. On the other hand, Tom Kelly reportedly met with Twins management this weekend, which bodes well for Jones, because Kelly is the last guy who would recommend promoting a player like Jones if Jones wasn't adjusting.

My best guess is that his role will be that of designated hitter versus right-handed pitchers, though it's worth noting he hit lefties well in limited (just 22) at-bats this year. He'll practice in the outfield outside of games, but this is the first year he's ever played there, so I wouldn't expect him to replace Jason Kubel or Jason Tyner there. This may just be an example of the Twins finding themselves with an open roster spot and deciding to see if this guy they held back for a couple of years can prove them wrong.

TMWABWF is likely happening much later this week, since the Twins don't need to fill Ponson's spot in the rotation until next Saturday night. Everyone will focus on who the Twins want to call-up, but the real problem is going to be who the Twins send down.

This latest swap means the Twins are down to eleven pitchers, which is as many as they want for interleague play. So the obvious move would be to move Glen Perkins from the bullpen to the rotation. The beat reporters seem to think that's not likely, because Gardenhire like Perkins in his left-handed bullpen role, but then what are the options? The obvious choice to send down would be the seventh bullpen arm, but that's Perkins again. So why not move him into the rotation?

If Gardy wants his two bullpen lefties, he's going to need to shorten his bench. But that makes Jones the obvious choice to be sent down, just four days after being called up? Maybe Luis Rodriguez, but that leaves the bench without a true middle infield backup. Or Tyner, but that means more Kubel in left field. Or Ford, but he was just called up, too.

So unless the Twins get an injury, I still think it's going to be Perkins starting that game next Saturday. He's stretched out a bit after Saturday night, he's been having success, and there just isn't another great option. It's also probably the least satisfying option for TMWABWF. After all, we've seen Perkins, and he has been far from dominant.

You might want that last sentence to sink in a bit, because it serves as a reality check on TMWABWF. Young pitchers are like recent graduates - their potential is what makes them exciting, not necessarily their immediate performance. Whether it's Perkins or Kevin Slowey or Scott Baker or Matt Garza that is pitching on Saturday night, we may be getting what we've been waiting for, but not neceesarily what we want.


Anonymous said...

What about Matt Gurrier? He has some starting experience, has looked good all season, has his long distance inning role covered by Perkins plus wants to be a starter? Admittedly not as flashy or the gamblers sort of stance but a could be a safe bet?


Jack Ungerleider said...

I agree with h.

The other option is to have Gurrier make this start and see how he does. This move is in part for upcoming Inter-league series with Milwaukee. They need a longer bench in that situation.

What the Twins should do is develop a Rick Reuschel. In his prime he could start one game and pitch a couple of innings of relief if needed on his "mound" day. I remember seeing him win an extra inning game in relief the day after winning a game as a starter. (Reuschel is just the example I had handy. There are many other starter/relievers in the history of the game that somebody else can add.)

Basically if they found a guy who could pitch 4-5 innings every three days he'd be the perfect swing man. You setup rotation so that go 1 2 4 3 5 with your 5th guy the rubber arm. He can then backup the #4 guy. But this is way off topic. So I won't bring up the Jim Kaat theory of having nine pitchers who pitched 3 innings every 3 days plus a closer. That would be too radical.

Keep up the good work.

Brian said...

Isn't someone pitching like that for the Yankees this year?

Anonymous said...

Why does the AAA staff need a veteran presence?