August 2009

Final Dome Series

It may not feel close, but with each passing game, the end of an era in Twins Baseball draws near. The Minnesota Twins have 34 games remaining this season, and 17 will come under the roof.

Fans looking to be in a seat for the final game in the Metrodome’s baseball history may be out of luck — it has been ruled a sellout with the outfield curtain being pulled up. A baseball sellout with no curtain has been considered a crowd of over 55,000 fans; the exact total of tickets sold has not been released.
There are still tickets remaining for the other two games of the final Dome series however, which will come against the Kansas City Royals and could potentially be critical to the team’s playoffs hopes.
The other games will too provide highlights worth seeing, including appearances by former players, giveaways and more.

Wheeling and Dealing

Entering their three-game series with the Texas Rangers, the Minnesota Twins find themselves one game below .500 with 35 games remaining on the regular season schedule. After acquiring shortstop Orlando Cabrera at the non-waiver trade deadline, the Twins have decided to attempt to bolster their roster for the final month.

The team today acquired relievers Jon Rauch and Ron Mahay, and according to major league sources, won the claim on starter Rich Harden.
Neither reliever acquired by the team has a dominant ERA, but both could provide an upgrade in the bullpen to help support Matt Guerrier and Jose Mijares; Rauch could also contribute in 2010, the final year of his deal.
After getting off to a slow start with a 9.31 ERA in April, Rauch has drastically improved since with ERA’s of 3.46, 2.08, and 1.86 in the months of May, June and July. Thus far in August Rauch has a 5.00 ERA, but has allowed all runs in two of his nine total outings.
Ron Mahay meanwhile has posted solid numbers in half of the months, and less-than-stellar numbers in the other half. Mahay could provide another left-handed option out of the bullpen which could take a load off Mijares.
The additions in the bullpen for the Twins might not be the end of the team’s activity. Before the end of the day Monday, the Twins could also add starting pitching. Major league sources have confirmed that the team placed the winning claim on Chicago Cub, Rich Harden.
In the second half Harden has posted a tremendous 1.80 ERA and has held hitters to a .151 batting average. The sides have until noon Monday to work out a deal, but it won’t be easy. Projected as a Type A free agent, the Cubs couldreceivetwo draft picks by holding onto Harden and letting him walk this off-season.
While Harden may seem like along shot, starter Brad Penny has been called a more feasible option. Reports say the Twins may be willing to pay Penny nearly $1.5 million over the final month which could be enough to put him in Minnesota pinstripes.
Whatever might happen in the final 35 games, the front office is making moves and attempting to make the final season in the Metrodome a memorable one.

Target Field: Grass Installation Begins

Playing Surface
With each passing day the opening of Target Field draws closer. Seats continue to go in around the ballpark, and by the end of fall the ballpark will be ready for testing. Next spring, reportedly on April 12th, the Minnesota Twins will finally take the field to begin a new era in Twins Territory.
Tonight at 10 p.m. the stadium will begin to resemble a ballpark and more so a baseball field. Early this morning the transporting of Kentucky Blue Grass began in Fort Morgan, Colorado; tonight it will arrive at Target Field and throughout the week the process will continue until the field turns green.
You can follow the installation live on your computer by watching the Ballpark Webcam.
The diagram above shows the field surface at Target Field. The top layer is the Kentucky Blue Grass. The grass is followed by the sand-based root zone which is 10” deep and is a water storage area. Next comes the field heating tubes which will heat the field in the cold days of spring and fall. A 4” drainage gravel blanket helps further drain water, and the bottom layer is compacted sub-grade which helps support a high quality playing field.
The bulk of the playing field is completed, and by week’s end, the final step will be taken.

Homestand Highlights: Orioles, Rangers, White Sox

HH 8-24.png

After a three-game sweep of the Kansas City Royals, the Minnesota Twins return home for a nine-game homestand that will feature three finals in the Metrodome with the Baltimore Orioles, Texas Rangers and Chicago White Sox.
There will be many highlights on the field and goodbyes from the opposing players, but there will also be highlights for the fans at the box offices and gates.

Orioles (8-24)

Rangers (8-24)
White Sox (8-24)

Interview: Ben Tootle

Tootle Interview.png
The Minnesota Twins were pitching heavy in the 2009 Draft, and after selecting pitchers in the first round, compensation round, and second round, the team continued the trend in the third round when they selected right handed pitcher Ben Tootle from Jacksonville State University.
Tootle went a combined 19-9 in his career at Jacksonville State, and was highly regarded by many teams. Named as one of the best prospects in the Cape Cod League, Tootle throws a mid-90s fastball that has touched 99 MPH according to reports.
After signing with the organization quickly, Tootle headed to play for the Elizabethton Twins. Thus far, Tootle has appeared in six games and pitched 6.1 innings allowing no runs and an opponents batting average of just .190.
Ben took some time to answer a few questions for an interview.
Voice From Twins Territory: Growing up, what was your favorite team, and who were a few of your favorite players?

Ben Tootle:My favorite team is the Atlanta Braves, and my favorite player has always been John Smoltz.

VFTT: You were ranked by some as the 4th best prospect in the Cape Cod League. What does that mean to you?

BT:Being ranked is neat, but it really didn’t mean too much to me because it’s basically just someone’s opinion or projection. I try not to think about what others think I am or could be, I just like to play.

VFTT: Had you talked with scouts, and were you expecting to be selected when you were?

BT:I talked with scouts the entire year, but they told me many different things. The draft is so crazy that it’s hard to tell when you will actually go.

VFTT: When were you when you were drafted by the Minnesota Twins, how did you find out, and what was the feeling like?

BT:I was at my apartment in Jacksonville, AL with my parents. It was basically a big relief that it was over and I’d be taking the next step in my career.

VFTT: Going from being selected, to working on getting signed, to getting started in games, what is the entire process like?

BT:The drafting and signing process isn’t something I enjoyed, honestly. I’m happiest when I’m actually on the field. The processin betweenjust gets me to that point and you have to do it.

VFTT: What have been your initial impressions of professional ball since your debut?

BT:My initial impression was that there is such a variety of cultures and different people from different parts of the world who are talented and come together to play on one team.

VFTT: What is your goal for the rest of the season at Elizabethton, and what are you looking to do in the off-season?

BT:My goal for Elizabethton is to get adjusted to pro ball life and get better. My off-season goal is to get stronger and work on my skills.

VFTT: Through little league, high school, college, and even the first games at Elizabethton, what is your greatest baseball moment?

BT:My greatest baseball achievement I think is my summer in the Cape Cod league. All my drills, bullpens, long toss and conditioning paid off and everything came together for me to put forward a great summer for myself.

VFTT: Who is one person or a few people who helped you along the path to get into professional baseball?

BT:My parents have supported me my entire life and were very supportive during the whole draft and signing period, so they had the biggest impact. Coach Case at Jacksonville Statedefinitelyhelped me a lot, believing in me during my three years at Jacksonville, so he also had a huge impact in getting me to where I wanted to go.

VFTT: What do you think it would be like to make a major league debut with the Minnesota Twins?

BT:Making a major league debut for me would be a dream come true because it’s what every player wants to achieve. I would not take it for granted and would soak up the entire experience to remember every detail.

Quick Thoughts:
Favorite baseball movie? Rookie of the Year
Superstitious?I toss some dirt after my last warmup pitch every inning. I don’t know why, I just do it.
Pre-game meal? Don’t have one.
Do you wear a particular number?I try to get number 13. If not, the closest number to it. When I was younger everyone said it was unlucky so I wanted it to prove them wrong.
I’d like to thank Ben for taking some time to answer these questions, and wish him the best of luck for the remainder of the season at Elizabethton.

Interview: Matthew Bashore

Bashore Interview.png
With a compensation pick sandwiched between the first and second rounds, the Minnesota Twins used the 46th overall pick in the June draft to select left-handed pitcher Matthew Bashore from the University of Indiana.
Bashore was a two-time All-Big Ten selection, once on the first team and once on the second. He finished one strikeout shy of the school record with 108 strikeouts last season, and he signed quickly after being selected and has already made his professional debut with the Elizabethton Twins.
Matt took some time to step away from the field and answer some questions.
Voice From Twins Territory:Growing up, what was your favorite baseball team, and who were some of your favorite players?

Matthew Bashore:Growing up in Ohio my favorite team was the Indians and my favorite players were Jim Thome, Omar Vizquel, Kenny Lofton, and Sandy Alomar Jr.

VFTT:What current player would you say you’re most like and why?

MB:A current player that I am most like would be Andy Petite. I think he was my dad’s favorite pitcher and my dad taught me to pitch after him.

VFTT:What was the college experience like, and what does it mean to you to make two All Big Ten teams?

MB:The college experience was great for me because it taught me so many things. It helped me grow up and learn to be on my own.

VFTT:Had you talked with scouts, and were you expecting to be selected when you were?

MB:Yeah, I had talked to scouts and I went around where they seemed to say I would.

VFTT:Where were you when you were drafted by the Minnesota Twins, how did you find out, and what was the feeling like?

MB:When I got drafted I waswatchingit on the computer at my parents house with my family and girlfriend.It was funny because some teams were outspoken about what they thought of me and showed interest. The Twins were very quite about it with me.So when it was their turn to pick and they selected me, I was already looking ahead to see who I thought maybe would pick me.

VFTT:What have been your initial impressions of professional ball since you made your debut?

MB:Myinitialimpressions of pro ball are great, I enjoy the freedoms that come with pro ball compared to college ball. It’s hard to complain or have a bad impression when your getting paid to play baseball.

VFTT:What do you feel is your biggest strength, and one thing you’re looking to most improve upon?

MB:I feel that my biggest strength is my mental strength. I am always composed and can always relax myself. I feel that I can push myself harder and further than others. The biggest thing that I look to improve on would be getting a good change-up. When I get a grasp for that pitch I will become a more complete pitcher.

VFTT:Through little league, high school, college, and even the first games with Elizabethton, what is your greatest baseball moment?

MB:Throughout my baseball career my favorite baseball moment would be in legion ball when I was in high school. I had pitched a good ten inning game and I was being DH’d for until the bottom of the tenth. We were down by two and the coach let me hit for myself with the bases loaded. I hit a ball which I thought was gone so I was jogging a little to first. It hit the wall so I started running hard. I tried to stretch it into a triple and the ball kicked away into the dugout. So I then got home for what I call a walk off grand slam.

VFTT: Who is one person or a few people who helped you along the path to get into professional baseball?

MB:The one person who has helped me the most would be my father. He has put so much time and energy into helping me with the game and I wouldn’t be the player or person I am without him.

VFTT: What do you think it would be like to make a major league debut with the Twins?

MB:To make a major league start with the Twins would be an amazing feeling. I have a lot of hard work to get there but that thought helps me push myself each and everyday.

Quick Questions:
Favorite baseball movie? Major League
Superstitious?Yes, I amsuperstitiousbut only on the days I pitch. I have a pair of sliders that I only wear on the days I pitch and whatever I do inbetween innings I’ll do exactly again if I have a good inning. I’ll sit in the same spot if I have a good inning, but if I don’t, I’ll sit somewhere else.
Do you wear a particular number?Any number the Twins give me I’ll wear, I just want one. But if I had a choice my favorite number is 22.
I’d like to thank Matt for taking some time to answer these questions and wish him the best for the remainder of the season at Elizabethton.

Overlooking Jason Kubel

While Justin Morneau has put himself on pace for career numbers and Joe Mauer has put himself on pace for historical numbers, the third wheel in the Minnesota Twins’ left-handed combination has been widely overlooked.

Jason Kubel entering the season had career highs of 20 homeruns and 78 runs batted in. With yet another productive game in the series opener with Cleveland on Friday night, Kubel continued to make progress toward a career year.
Kubel currently has 20 homeruns to match his career high, and is only 10 RBI shy of his career high in that category. With 46 games remaining in the season, Kubel finds himself on pace for 29 homeruns, 100 RBI, and quite possibly most impressive, a .312 batting average.
No doubt already overlooked behind Morneau and Mauer, Kubel has been overlooked among everyday designated hitters as well. Out of seven qualified designated hitters, Kubel finds himself at the top or in the upper tier in most categories.
Kubel vs DH.pngThe numbers include totals from games where the players have moved into other positions onoccasion, and while Kubel is behind Adam Lind of Toronto in the homerun and RBI departments, he has nearly 80 fewer at-bats.
With Kubel playing in the outfield on occasion, his numbers at the plate can be compared to other outfielders. Nelson Cruz was an American League All-Star this season, and Kubel stacks up quite well:
Kubel vs Cruz.png
While Kubel has hit five fewer homeruns, he has outdone Cruz in the batting average category by over 40 points and has 10 more RBI. He also has a higher slugging percentage and his on-base percentage is nearly 50 points higher.
Stacked up against his fellow designated hitters and All-Star Nelson Cruz, Kubel proves to be no slouch. Amongst all American Leaguers, Kubel ranks 10th in batting average, 7th in OPS, and 6th in slugging.
On pace for career numbers, totals that will place him near the 30/100 mark if correctly projected, Kubel has been one of the league’s best. Nonetheless, he has been lost by the general baseball fans behind superstars Justin Morneau and Joe Mauer.

Interview: Kyle Gibson

Gibson Interview.png
Back in 2006, Kyle Gibson was selected out of high school in the 36th round by the Philadelphia Phillies. The young right-hander opted for college, and for the past three years he spent his time pitching in the Big 12 for the Missouri Tigers.
Ranked as high as number four on draft prospect lists by Baseball America, the Twins were pleasantly surprised that the youngster fell their way. With the 22nd pick in the first round, the Minnesota Twins made Gibson their pick.
After this past season, it was discovered that Gibson had a stress fracture in his right forearm. The injury was not considered serious, and since being selected in the June draft, Gibson has went through rehab and is now completely recovered.
With one week remaining before the signing deadline, Gibson remains unsigned along with many other first round picks. The young righty was kind enough to answer some questions for an interview.
Voice From Twins Territory: Growing up, who was your favorite baseball team, and who were some of your favorite players?

Kyle Gibson:Growing up my favorite team was the Reds. But I have a buddy, Jake Fox, who is now with the Cubs and ever since they drafted him they have been my favorite team.

VFTT: What current player would you say you’re most like and why?

KG: Other than the difference in velocity, I feel I’m most like Justin Verlander. A tall, skinny guy who just allows his body to work with his arm.

VFTT: You were ranked as the 4th best draft prospect by Baseball America. What is it like to get that type of recognition and what does it mean to you?

KG: To get that type of recognition is awesome! God has blessed me with the talents that I have and parents that really care about me, so that helps as well. Without them I would not have been able to get as far as I have.

VFTT: Where were you when you were drafted by the Minnesota Twins, how did you find out, and what was the feeling like?

KG: I was in my front yard watching it on TV with a bunch of friends and family, and it was a great feeling!

VFTT: Since being selected, what has the entire process been like?

KG: The process has been very protocol for a first round pick. There was a long time where nothing got done because we were waiting on my arm to heal. But now the negotiations are working and going pretty good.

VFTT: You suffered a fracture in your right forearm prior to the draft. Where are you in the recovery stage, how difficult has it been to handle, and what do you believe was the cause?

KG: My arm feels great. I have been throwing for about two and a half weeks and it feels awesome! It was a crazy five days once I found out, but everything worked out for a reason. We believe the cause of the stress fracture was just throwing while tired and not getting enough rest and recovery.

VFTT: The good news on the injury front is that it isn’t a long term thing. Do you expect to have the same velocity, movement, and repertoire as before? And, is it true that you were going to take this time off before pitching again anyways?

KG: It is true that I was going to take 6-8 weeks off anyways. I had thrown five or six complete games and heard somewhere that I averaged 110 pitches per start. That is including a start of 45 pitches at Oklahoma State and a start of 70 in the Big 12 tourney. So my arm had a long year and it needed some rest! As for my return, I should be as healthy and as strong as before. My forearm should actually be stronger than it was before because that is just the trend with stress fractures. My arm feels really fresh right now so I should have all the velocity, and the change up has felt as good as ever this early in my return so that is good as well.

VFTT: What do you feel is your biggest strength, and what is one thing you’re looking to most improve upon?

KG: My biggest strength is probably the fact that I can throw all three of my pitches for strikes in any count. I pride myself on that and not walking guys. My biggest thing I need to work on would probably be making sure my stuff is as good from the stretch as it is from the wind up. I got much better at that this year but still need to work on that.

VFTT: What is your goal for the rest of the year, and what are you looking to do in the off-season?

KG: My main goal for this fall is to get back into the swing of things on the mound and get my comfort level back after taking time off. I also want to make a good impression in my first couple months as a Twin.

VFTT: Through little league, high school, and college what is your greatest baseball moment?

KG: I think my favorite baseball moment is a three way tie. My senior year I was one strike away from back-to-back no hitters in the post season! Then two of them from this year are the fact that I was able to throw a complete game in five of my first six Big 12 games with all of them being against teams ranked in the top 25 at that time; that was a blast. The favorite being against number one Texas. Then the last one was this year as well. Being able to throw 15 innings to end the year without giving up a run, and doing it all with a stress fracture and not knowing it! That was fun and it was challenging at the same time.

VFTT: Who is one person or a few people who helped you along the path to get into professional baseball?

KG: I would say my dad is the biggest person who has helped through the years. He has been able to help me in every way I have needed and it has been great to have a family like mine who can back me all the way.

VFTT: What do you think it would be like to make a major league debut with the Twins?

KG: I get really excited to think about my major league debut and I think it will be an absolute blast to do it with the Twins! I hope that I can get up there as soon as possible and help contribute wherever I can.

VFTT: The Big Question – How confident are you that you’ll sign by the August 17th deadline?

KG: Right now I am not sure how confident I am. That is an issue that will be figured out on Monday.

Quick Five:

Favorite baseball movie? For Love of the Game
Superstitions? None
Pre-game meal? I love a good steak, but never have a chance for that pregame. Anything really, just as long as my stomach is nice and full!
Do you wear a particular number? #44 for college, and just because it was the number available to me. It has grown on me!
Weirdest thing someone has said to you at a game? In high school my junior year when I was about 6’3″ and 160 pounds someone yelled, “Hey daddy long legs, throw the ball!” That’s the funniest thing I’ve heard.
I’d again like to thank Kyle for taking some time to answer these questions and wish him the best of luck with his signing and hopefully his future with the Minnesota Twins organization.

Homestand Highlights: Royals and Indians

Homestand Highlights (8-11).png
After a week long trip that included stops in Cleveland and Detroit, the Minnesota Twins return home and continue their schedule against American League Central rivals. The week long homestand will include series with the Kansas City Royals and Cleveland Indians.
Aside from the on-field highlights ranging from Justin Morneau taking on the Royals, a team he has the most career homeruns against, and Carl Pavano taking on the team that traded him away a week ago, there will be many highlights at the ticket office and Metrodome gates.

August 11th vs. Royals
The Game: The Royals will send righty Kyle Davies (3-8, 6.37) and the Twins will counter with second-year pro, Nick Blackburn (8-6, 3.79).
The Tickets: It’s a Pepsi Half-Price Tuesday presented by My29, and you can sit in the Homerun Porch (a $21 ticket) for just $10.50.
The Highlight: If you’re going to spend time at the concession stand, you might as well be full doing it. For a $34 ticket, you’ll get not only entry to the game, but you’ll also enjoy all the hot dogs, popcorn, nachos, peanuts, pretzels, fountain pop, and water you can handle.
August 12th vs. Royals
The Game: Brian Bannister (7-8, 3.78) will take on Francisco Liriano (4-11, 5.63).
The Tickets: All students with a valid student ID can purchase a Cheap Seats ticket for only $4.
The Highlight: It’s another Hormel Dollar-A-Dog Night and all fans (limit two) can buy hot dogs for just $1.
August 13th vs. Royals
The Game: In a daytime matchup, Gil Meche (4-9, 4.50) will return from the disabled list to take on either Anthony Swarzak or Brian Duensing.
The Tickets: Presented by KQRS FM, with the purchase of a Homerun Porch Ticket or $5 off a Lower Reserved Ticket, fans will receive a free Dome Dog and soft drink.
The Highlight: All kids 14 years under will receive a Library Day Poster presented by Lerner Publishing.
August 14th vs. Indians
The Game: The newly acquired Justin Masterson (3-3, 4.42) will throw between 75 and 80 pitches against Carl Pavano (10-8, 5.09) who will make his second start as a Twin against the team that recently traded him away.
The Promotion: It’s a Cub Foods Fantastic Friday, and with the purchase of a Homerun Porch ticket, fans will receive a coupon for a free half-gallon of milk or orange juice from Land O’ Lakes redeemable at a Cub Foods location.
The Giveaway: The first 10,000 fans receive a Commemorative Lanyard and Ticket Holder courtesy of MLB2K9.
August 15th vs. Indians
The Game: David Huff (6-6, 6.72) will take on a Twins team that has given him a 10.24 ERA this season. The Twins will likely counter with Scott Baker in the 3:10 CT game.
The Highlight: For $37, fans will get a pass to the Tailgate Party presented by Fox Sports North. The pass includes entry to the barbeque, a Twins cap, and autographs from Twins’ alumni.
The Giveaway: The first 5,000 fans 18 and older will receive a Twins Card Wallet courtesy of Spire.
August 16th vs. Indians
The Game: The Indians pitcher is to be determined, but in the 1:10 CT matchup, the Twins will likely send Nick Blackburn to the hill.
The Promotion: It’s Blue Bunny Kids Day, and two kids 14 and under will receive free admission with the purchase of an adult ticket in the Homerun Porch or Cheap Seats.
Ride a Bike: All fans who ride their bike to the game, will be able to park their bike for free in a secure bike corral and will receive $5 off a lower reserved or upper club ticket.

Finding Spans Position

While Minnesota Twins’ outfielder Denard Span has found his spot in the team’s lineup as the leadoff hitter, his true position in the team’s outfield has remained a question in his first full season as a major league player.

After making his debut last season as a replacement for then injured right fielder Michael Cuddyer, Span consistently took the field in right. In a total of 104 defensive games last season, Span was in right field for 85 of them and in centerfield for the other 19.
This season that consistency has been unfound. With four outfielders, including one whose primary position is centerfield, Span has found himself hitting leadoff everyday and playing musical chairs in the field.
So far this season, Span has been the starter in left field 39 times, centerfield 42 times, and right field only 12 times. For now, Span will play anywhere so long as it’s a starting role. In time however, even as soon as next season, Span will be looking to remain in onefull timelocation.
What position Span will field is still in question, but there is one of the three that Span fields best, and it just might work perfectly. According to the numbers, Span’s best defensive position is left field; with 23-year old Carlos Gomez the hopeful future in centerfield and Michael Cuddyer currently a mainstay in right, the question may answer itself.
Span Defense.png
The UZR takes into account several different factors including a fielder’s range. Each player has a positive or negative number which shows how many runs above or below average a fielder is at a given position.
This season Span has a UZR of 7.0 in left field, -3.5 in centerfield, and -1.2 in right field. With only 12 starts in right this season, his right field statistic may not beaccurate(he had a rating of 7.1 in right field last season), but his numbers in center and left have a much largersampling.
Span’s UZR/150 for left field, which shows how many runs a fielder saves or costs his team over 150 defensive games, is 17.6seventh best among players with at least 350 innings.
Span has been greatly valued this season as a leadoff hitter andtable-setterfor All-Stars Joe Mauer and Justin Morneau. He’s found his position in the lineup, and finally maybe, in the field as well.