Minnesota Twins: Players of the Week 5/14-5/20
Finally! After 41 games and seven weeks, the Minnesota Twins played a winning week of baseball.
Not only did the Twins manage a 4-3 record on the week, they won their first and second series of the season as well.
This past week saw the returns of Justin Morneau from the disabled list and Ben Revere from the Minor Leagues.
Having Morneau and Revere in the lineup seemed to give the hometown nine the spark they needed to rattle off four straight victories.
Not only did the two provide spark, their presence also seemed to give Twins fans a look at what the lineup should be for the rest of the season, barring injury.
While the lineup clicked for most of the week, starting pitching continued to be an issue for the Twins.
Despite that, the bullpen continued its solid performance this week and played a major role in conserving precious leads in the late innings.
This probably is not the start of a Twins run to the playoffs, but it is without a doubt a step in the right direction for a club searching for an identity during the early part of the season.
Of course, some performances were much better and some were terrifyingly worse than others this week.
Let us now look back and name the Twins players of the (winning!) week.
Hitter of the Week: Brian Dozier
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As I asked last week with Scott Diamond, I will ask this week about Brian Dozier: What took so long?
Clearly, Dozier has things he needs to learn and improve upon in order to be a mainstay in the Major League lineup for years to come, but there is no way he should have started the year in the Minors in order to get Jamey Carroll and Alexi Casilla at-bats.
Dozier started all seven games this week at shortstop, going 9-for-31 (a .290 batting average) with three runs scored, six runs batted in, one home run, two doubles and one walk.
His nine hits tied Joe Mauer and six RBI tied Justin Morneau for most on the Twins this week.
Dozier ended the week on a six-game hitting streak and has had a hit in 11 of the 14 games he has played as a Major Leaguer.
This week also saw Dozier being moved down in the order, hitting behind Morneau in the absence of Ryan Doumit, and the move paid off.
Dozier took advantage of RBI situations either by driving in runs with hits or sacrifice flies to net him six RBI on the week.
It will be interesting to see where Ron Gardenhire chooses to hit Dozier in the batting order when Doumit returns, but if his production this week is any indication, Dozier will be up to the task in any spot.
Honorable Mention: Ben Revere
Ben Revere was supposed to be recalled from Triple-A Rochester when Doumit injured his calf celebrating a strikeout Wednesday night in Detroit.
In the end Doumit did not go on the DL, but Revere was still recalled and excited Twins fans with his play at the plate and in the field.
Revere played in four games this week, hitting 5-for-14 (.357 BA) with four runs scored, one RBI, three doubles, one triple, two walks and two stolen bases.
The kid is flat-out exciting to watch in the field and on the bases, as his speed brings an element to the Twins that was lacking early in the season.
Questions will continue to be raised about his poor arm from the corner outfield positions, but his range makes up for it.
Twins announcer Dick Bremer speculated during Sunday's game that Revere was in the Majors to stay this time around. Dick, I hope you are right.
Pitcher of the Week: Glen Perkins
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With the starting pitching struggling so much early in the season, the bullpen for the Twins has been extra important.
The Twins cannot afford to give leads up late in games when they have been in that position so few times and Glen Perkins did his job almost flawlessly this week.
Perkins appeared in three games this week, all Twins victories, totaling three innings pitched with one hit allowed, two walks, three strikeouts and no runs.
While those numbers will not blow anyone away, the fact that they were amassed in late-game situations that the Twins could not afford to lose make them the most important numbers of the week.
The lefty has now pitched in four consecutive games without allowing a run, lowering his earned run average to 4.24 on the season.
Honorable Mention: Drew Butera
Okay, I know this is cheating, but I had to acknowledge the play of Drew Butera somehow this week.
Butera did make an appearance on the mound this week, throwing the eighth inning of the 16-4 blowout loss to the Brewers on Sunday afternoon.
Drew pitched the full inning, giving up no hits, walking one, striking out one and allowing no runs.
Even more impressive than his 93 mph fastball was his work with the bat this week.
Butera appeared in five games this week, going 6-for-13 (.462 BA) with two runs scored, one RBI, three doubles and two walks.
If Butera can somehow keep up his hot hitting, which is optimistic to say the least, he will allow Gardy to mix and match his lineup even more than usual, allowing the injury-prone Joe Mauer and Justin Morneau days at the designated hitter spot and on the bench.
Francisco Liriano Award for Baseball Non-Excellence: Jason Marquis
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It has been nice knowing you, Jason Marquis.
I shouldn't say that yet, as the Twins are running out of able bodies to put into their starting rotation, but if anyone other than Francisco Liriano has earned a trip out of town, it surely is Marquis.
Jason started and lost two games this week: a 5-0 loss to Cleveland where he pitched five innings giving up nine hits, five earned runs, two walks, two strikeouts and three home runs, and the 16-4 debacle versus Milwaukee where he lasted 1.2 innings, allowing eight hits, eight earned runs, one walk and two home runs.
It pains me to not be able to give Liriano the least valuable player award this time, but Liriano actually pitched admirably out of the bullpen this last week.
That is why the award has been renamed in Liriano's honor; if he can't win the award, then we should honor the memory of his terrible performances. It's like the reverse Cy Young Award.
Maybe the Twins move Marquis to the bullpen and hope he has better results like they did with Liriano. Maybe they just designate him for assignment. Either way, Twins fans have probably seen the last of Jason Marquis.
Dishonorable Mention: Nick Blackburn
At least the Twins managed to win Nick Blackburn's start this week.
Blackburn managed only two innings pitched, giving up six hits, six earned runs, two walks and striking out two in the Twins 11-7 win over Detroit on Wednesday.
Even more troubling than Blackie's pitching was his placement on the disabled list after the game with some sort of leg injury.
It is never a bad thing to get a struggling player some time off by putting him on the disabled list, but what will the excuse for his pitching be when he gets back?
We were told earlier this year that he was struggling because he was not standing in the right place on the mound.
Then we were told that he had too much rest and his arm was not tired enough in order for his sinker to work effectively.
Now, Blackburn finds himself on the DL and is running out of excuses for his pitching this season.
I know that Blackburn typically finds a groove somewhere during the summer and will be effective for about two months, but there has got to be some way to even out his performances over the course of the whole season.
May I suggest he brings a ruler out to the mound with him so he stands in the right spot every time and he runs a half-marathon the morning before games to ensure his arm is tired enough to get the proper sink on the ball?
The worst part of this is that Liriano will more than likely make starts in Blackburn's absence.
On second thought...
The Week Ahead
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The Twins have an off day on Monday, then continue their road trip with three games in Chicago against the White Sox starting Tuesday.
Tuesday's match-up has P.J. Walters squaring off against Gavin Floyd, A.J. Pierzynski and the rest of the pale hose.
Scott Diamond will try to reach 4-0 on Wednesday, but the pitching rotation for the rest of the week is up in the air with Nick Blackburn's trip to the disabled list and Carl Pavano's continued arm troubles.
Friday, the Twins return to Target Field for a three game series against the Detroit Tigers over Memorial Day weekend.
The team will try to build off of the two-game sweep of the Tigers this past week and gain ground in the Central Division.
The Twins' record currently stands at 14-27, nine games back of division-leading Cleveland.
Before the Twins can catch Cleveland, they have to catch the other three teams in front of them in the standings and six games this week against division foes may be just what the Twins need to push themselves back into the picture.