The Minnesota Twins are at the point of the season where they can either take advantage of the position they are in or are going to watch it fade away and drift right past them. There are several steps that need to take place for this to once again be a magical season and at this point we just might not reap any rewards.
Bill Smith and Ron Gardenhire need to make some moves and decisions sooner than later.
There are questions that need answers for now and for the future. Here are a few of those.
The lineup needs to be regulated so that Mauer hits third and Morneau fourth. Yes, over the long haul and from game to game that may take some at-bats away from Morneau, but in reality this should add a few more base runners and that will lead to RISP (runners in scoring position). With the continued hitting of those two and people behind them, it results in more runs and we all know what more runs result in: potential wins.
They have yet to reach the full potential of their offense this season and this will only help ignite it.
Brendan Harris needs to play everyday at either shortstop or second base.
Nick Punto needs to be the reserve defensive fielder he his and Denard Span needs to bat second and be able to use his speed and ability to get on base to further assist Mauer and Morneau. We traded our starting shortstop from 2007 in Jason Barlett along with Matt Garza for Delmon Young and Brendan Harris and the Twins are not properly using those two players.
Harris has shown he can handle the duties of playing everyday and has the ability to create runs and play defense to save them too. Everyone needs to remember that Delmon Young is just that, young.
He came to the Twins with a little more than one season of major league experience after a moderately successful minor league campaign, added to that he is still just 24-years old and still maturing and adding on to his skills. Give him a chance to grow into his body and gain his full potential.
Alexi Casilla needs to find a home at the major league level.
He needs to play everyday at second base or move him over to shortstop where he has shown the defensive ability to regularly excel there. If he is not going to come back up and participate at the major league level now, then it is time for Bill Smith to do his job and go and get someone like J.J. Hardy.
He is a player that can help them now offensively and defensively and give Alexi a little more time to develop and take over next season.
If the Twins were going to trade for Hardy, best do it early because as the trade deadline arrives he will be a wanted commodity. The organization stepped up in the off season and made the move to get Joe Crede to fill the hole at third base, that has existed the past few seasons, and that move has been very successful to date.
If you are going to make one move, this should be it.
Francisco Lirano needs to visit Rochester or New Brittain and learn to believe in his ability and relearn how to pitch and not to throw.
He's thinking too much out there and seems like he's panicking at times. He always seems to have that one bad inning each appearance and it always appears to be a train wreck and be decisive in the game.
He needs to understand he has changed from when he was a rookie due to the injuries and surgery and adjust to the new Francisco that we know and want to be our ace, but right now it appears to be hurting himself with his appearances more than the team. Let him spend some time in one of those situations and let him learn and become all the pitcher he can be and then come back up to the majors and put those tools to great use for the organization.
He needs to take that step back to enable him to take that leap forward. He can be and should be the ace of the staff, he just needs to believe that the new Francisco can be that player just like the old Francisco was capable and showed in the past, just with new and different abilities.
Now for the biggest change needs to happen.
Gardenhire needs to stop teaching first and then managing games. He primarily needs to manage the games and players and secondarily teach the players during the game. There have been too many moments where he gets caught up in other events and has incorrectly handled situations.
It appears in many critical situations he manages not to lose a game instead of reacting in trying to win it. It is time to throw out that subscription and start out anew.
He needs to start showing confidence in his pitchers and let them work themselves out of certain situations. At this level they should be able to throw strikes and know what to do in situations late in the game. Let them learn how to clean up their mess instead of having it passed on to the next reliever and hope he can bail him out. Let them take off their kid gloves and get their hands dirty and clean their mess.
Instill some confidence in letting your starters go deeper in some of these games and save your bullpen by not using three to four relievers a game. There is a factor why you have tired arms in the pen. They are all seasoned veterans after experiencing a great pennant race last season so let them all progress to their potential instead of having some of them regress.
If they cant get outs on a regular basis, the system has proved it has players ready to step in. We have accumulated some depth at pitching, lets use it to out advantage finally. Teaching is secondary, managing is primary. If for some reason they can not perform those functions, this organization has always had somebody in line waiting to succeed. Next in line please.
The time is now to make a move for the division or the opportunity may be lost. We have a favorable inter-league schedule against teams we should be able to defeat.