Minnesota Twins: 4 Lessons Learned from the Philadelphia Phillies Series

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Minnesota Twins: 4 Lessons Learned from the Philadelphia Phillies Series
Hannah Foslien/Getty Images
They couldn't pull out the final game, but by taking two of three the Twins are inching towards .500.

For the second series in a row, the Minnesota Twins saw an old friend in a different uniform. Against the Washington Nationals it was Denard Span, against the Philadelphia Phillies last week it was Ben Revere.

“It’s a little different seeing Span-man over there,” said manager Ron Gardenhire. “Got a chance to talk to him and he said it’s different.”

“I haven’t had a chance to talk to Benny,” he continued, “but I saw him up there towards home plate. Same guy, always has a smile on his face, going out there and running around.”

After losing two of three against the Nationals, Minnesota got the best of the Phillies, but also saw Revere go 4-for-6 in the final game of the series.

Although Cliff Lee shut down the Twins lineup and Kevin Correia had to trod through Game 3, starter P.J. Walters played so well he deserved the win in Game 1 (it went to reliever Brian Duensing) and Mike Pelfrey finally looked like the player he was with the New York Mets last season.

Clete Thomas also went 4-for-4 in Game 2 and Oswaldo Arcia continues to remind everyone why he was considered such a highly touted prospect.

If Minnesota beats up on two division rivals—the Detroit Tigers and Chicago White Sox—it can enter its next mini-road trip with a .500 or, gasp, even a winning record after the Phillies series.

 

P.J. Walters and Mike Pelfrey have stepped up

Hannah Foslien/Getty Images
Mike Pelfrey has been, well, Mike Pelfrey lately...and that's a really good thing.

When P.J. Walters was called up over top prospect Kyle Gibson, many people (including me) were upset. Walters looked like a pedestrian, pretty replicable back-of-the-rotation guy and we all are curious if Gibson is the future.

Instead, Walters appears to have played himself into the Twins' future. It’s too early to say for certain, of course, but the 28-year-old Alabaman was dealing on Tuesday. He went 7.1 innings, gave up one earned run on six hits with 61 of his 97 pitches thrown for strikes.

He did not end up getting the win, but it is Walters’ third quality start in four outings this season. His 7.1 innings pitched and five strikeouts were season highs.

“Our starter was fantastic,” said Gardenhire on Tuesday, “threw the ball great.”

Even more surprising, however, was that Mr. Michael Alan Pelfrey lit things up on Wednesday. He struck out seven in 7.0 innings pitched and only allowed three runs on five hits. The former first rounder who was a staple in the Mets rotation before undergoing Tommy John surgery thwarted any, “Send down Pelfrey, give me Gibson!” talk…at least for the next few days (we’re a fickle bunch).

The key for Pelfrey was that he finished the game strong. Typically he tires out around 80 pitches sometime during the sixth inning. On Wednesday he gave up two runs in the first, but looked stronger as the game went on.

“I was a guy [that] during BP…and during batting practice, I picked up ball after ball and was throwing with Perkins or Roenicke or whoever would catch it,” said Pelfrey, who describes himself as both a workhorse and a tad bit impatient. “[Pitching coach Rick Anderson] told me I’m not allowed to do that anymore; I gotta give my arm a break.”

Pelfrey also admitted that his lack of patience might have made him come back from surgery a little earlier than he maybe should have.

“I really thought that if I was patient, I wouldn’t have come back in eleven months,” he said. “That’s not what I wanted, that’s not what I worked for, but hopefully this will keep going and I’ll keep getting stronger.”

Having two guys dealing is great for everybody…well, great for everybody but Gibson I guess.

 

Kevin Correia has taken a step back

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Correia was Minnesota's most consistent starter for the early part of the season, but took a step back against Philadelphia.

Kevin Correia used to be the Twins' rock. He would go seven innings, give up a couple runs here and there and pick up a win without burning through the bullpen. Unfortunately, while Walters and Pelfrey have found their game, Correia has yet to get a win in June and last went seven innings on May 14 against the Chicago White Sox.

Nobody should ring any alarms after one bad outing—Correia still managed to go 5.0 innings and only gave up one earned run (although the Phillies did leave 16 men on base on Thursday—but Correia can’t regress now that the other guys are doing well.

“All my pitches felt pretty good,” said Correia on Thursday. “I was locating fairly well, I was getting into some deep counts, but it was a matter of falling behind and working my way back in.

“It wasn’t like I was struggling to command any of my pitches.”

That’s a good thing, of course, and hopefully these last few bumps in the road are simply just a fluke. Correia is Minnesota’s rock right now and we can’t have him splintering.

 

#Cletesanity and Oswaldo Arcia

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Yeah, his fielding is not as clean as Hicks is, but the fact that this man has his own hashtag makes things like that trivial.

Yes, I guess that’s a thing: #Cletesanity. It sounds like a reference to footwear, but really it is just a reaction to Clete Thomas’ 4-for-4 night on Wednesday. The undrafted Jacksonville native was claimed off waivers from Detroit and forced into center field when Aaron Hicks suffered a hamstring injury against Washington.

He was hilariously humble about his accomplishment. It was a rare moment where the media was actually more excited than the player about something that happened on the field.

“It was a great game; all the balls fell,” he said simply. “I hit some hard and they found all of the holes.

“It was great.”

It was great? It was probably the best game of your life, Mr. Thomas.

“No idea,” he said when asked about the last time he got four hits. “I feel like I had four with Detroit at some point, but I never went 4-for-4 though.”

There is no saying how long Thomas will be around; Hicks is a better fielder and has more upside at the plate, but I’m going to enjoy it while it lasts.

Arcia, on the other hand, still smacks the hell out of the ball and has improved his play in the field. He had a crazy, flailing grab on Wednesday and a sweet sliding catch in foul territory on Thursday.

“He’s working at it,” said Gardenhire of Arcia’s defense. “He’s working hard and he’s moving a lot better laterally. We’ve seen that a couple times and we’ve also seen some fly balls that used to drift on him and now he’s getting behind the ball so he’s working at it.

“He’s going to make himself a better player.”

If his defense holds up and Arcia can continue to make contact with off-speed pitches, he may earn himself a full-time job with the big league club.

 

Justin Morneau is hitting around .300, but those homers are illusive

Hannah Foslien/Getty Images
Oh man, that ball looks damn juicy right now, eh? One of those will get belted eventually.

Justin Morneau’s last home run came on April 28 against Texas. For a guy that used to hit the ball so hard you would think he was trying to puncture the Metrodome roof (trust me, it might have worked), this is definitely hanging over his head.

“I’ve never been through something like this,” he admitted. “It’s frustrating when you’re not hitting.”
He says that nobody has reached out to him about this issue specifically, other than hitting coach Tom Brunansky, but he says that he has not reached out to anyone either. He appears to want to take this one on mano e mano.

“I’ve been doing everything I can to try and find that swing,” he said. “I’ve been doing everything and I feel I’ve been having good swings.

“It’s one of those things where I can drive myself crazy trying to figure it out, but I’m going to go out there and try to hit the ball hard and eventually it will turn in the right direction.”

I’m hoping this is something that is building up and building up and all of a sudden he provides a souvenir for one of his countrymen up in Canada. Or maybe he hits it so hard that it pops the Metrodome on its way down.

Either one works for me.

 

Conclusion

At 29-35, that .500 mark feels just out of reach. It is going to take a big effort against the mighty Tigers and a good ol’ beat down of the rival White Sox to get there, but if Walters and Pelfrey continue to pitch like they did against the Phillies and Thomas and Arcia continue to do crazy stuff anything can happen.

 

All quotes were obtained first-hand, unless otherwise indicated.

Tom Schreier covers Minnesota sports for Bleacher Report and is a contributor to Yahoo! Sports.

 

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