Monday, August 28, 2006

Old Name, Old Lesson

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The whole year has been a forced exercise in trusting youth. Will anyone really be surprised if the Twins need to trust another unproven rookie to carry them if Brad Radke’s shoulder doesn’t respond?

Most Twins fans will likely shudder a little if that means trusting Scott Baker again. But though Baker has struggled this season, one need not go back very far to remember exactly how much promise this 24-year-old holds. How about April, when he was the Twins second best pitcher? Or last year, when he posted a 3.35 ERA in his 10 major league starts? If you want to go further back, you might recall that two years ago he was the 2004 version of Matt Garza, racing from A-ball to AAA-ball in his first full year in professional baseball. There were legitimate reasons why this guy ranked above Francisco Liriano in the pecking order this spring.

There’s no indication from his stats in Rochester that he’s taken a step backwards. In Baker’s dozen starts there, he has a 2.67 ERA, and isn’t showing any of the gopher ball tendencies he’s shown in the majors. We’ve heard a lot about how some minor leaguers can coast through AAA on their fastball, but Baker’s never had that kind of “stuff”. His reputation is that of a control pitcher, whose strength has been throwing off-speed pitches.

When we step back and look at Baker’s profile, we see the same lesson that we’ve learned a dozen times already this season – it would be damn foolish to think that this kid can’t succeed. Or that he would somehow be less successful over the next month then a scrap-heap rent-a-pitcher that Terry Ryan might pick up before the final trade deadline on Thursday.

What to Look For

The town is giddy over the performance of the bullpen, and for good reason considering they’ve carried this team for the last two weeks. Also, nobody is reporting any injuries or concerns in the media, so maybe there really is nothing wrong with Juan Rincon. On the other hand…

In two of his last three outings, he’s given up a couple of runs before getting a second out. In the other outing, he was only asked to throw eight pitches. And twice more in the last week Ron Gardenhire has relied on Jesse Crain to pitch an eighth inning that traditionally belonged to Rincon. While everyone worries about overworking the bullpen, Rincon has pitched just 1.1 innings in the last three series.

The usage is surprising. The silence is more surprising. And I’ll be surprised if we don’t hear about some health concerns by the end of the week.

On the Hill

Royals: Mark Redman (7-8, 5.85 ERA)
  • 2005: 5-15, 178.1 IP, 101 K, 4.90 ERA

  • 2006: 129.1 IP, 158 H, 57 K, 52 BB, 17 HR

  • Ladies and Gentlemen, posting a 5.85 ERA and 57 strikeouts, the All-Star representative for the Kansas City Royals! Let’s hear it!

  • Redman probably holds the distinction of being the worst trade that Ryan ever made. In 2001, Ryan tried to complete three trades that would have upgraded the team’s pitching (Rick Reed for Mark Redman), its outfield (Shannon Stewart for Matt Lawton) and its bullpen (gaining Todd Jones). Ryan completed two of the three trades, but couldn’t finish the deal for Stewart with Blue Jays GM Gord Ash. That preceded an incredible collapse as the team finished six games behind the Indians.

Twins: Matt Garza (1-2, 6.59 ERA)
  • 2005: (between rookie and low-A affiliates): 4-4, 3.59 ERA, 75.2 IP, 89 K, 67 H

  • 2006 (minors): 14-4, 135.2 IP, 154 K, 1.99 ERA

  • Garza carries a mid-90’s fastball, a change up and a couple of breaking balls.

  • One bad start, followed by a mediocre one, had people wondering. But these players have histories beyond our exposure to them. It may take a couple of weeks for him to settle in, but 95+ mph fastballs have a way of buying time for a prospect to adjust. His history suggests he’ll do just that.

  • Watch the radar readings. When they’re under 90, is he throwing strikes? If so, he’s fine. If not, the Royals will wait for the cheese.


Anonymous said...

Rincon pitched a scoreless inning on Sunday.

Anonymous said...

Did I remember the trades wrong?
I was thinking it was Lawton for Reed, Kielty for Stewart and Redman for Jones. Who remembers?

Anonymous said...

Yes, Lawton for Reed and Kielty for Stewart, for sure. And that Lawton/Reed trade wasn't as lopsided in the long run as it looked like it might be.