Wednesday, May 27, 2009

I Should Stop Making Predictions

Of course this did not occur. Instead, the Penguins marched to their second-consecutive Eastern Conference Championship. Man, I thought Carolina would have given them more of a series, but Sid the Kid and the gang were too much.

The Detroit Red Wings go for the clincher tonight in Chicago as well. It's looking like a rematch of last year's edition.

In other news:
  • Now, THIS is more like it! Also, read the rest of the article for more news on other potential Wild coaching candidates.
  • I guess the lure of rotten sugar beets is just too much to take!
  • Roman has three new posts to review: one says that the Gophers will have four freshmen on the roster next season, the second has more on Nebraska-Omaha's possible WCHA bid, and the third peeks at the upcoming schedule. I like Lucia's curtailing the freshman class somewhat. It also speaks for Budish's recovery from his knee injury. The Gophers have Taylor Matson coming back from a knee injury and Jacob Cepis eligible around Christmas. With only two early defections (Ryan Stoa and Drew Fisher) and two departing seniors (R.J. Anderson and Justin Bostrom), the Gophers' roster is in good shape. Of course, this could change in a heartbeat depending on where Jordan Schroeder goes in next month's NHL Draft and whether the Islanders look to sign Aaron Ness.
  • Speaking of the draft, here are two mock drafts from Adam Kimelman (teaser...the Wild end up with Schroeder at #12; Budish to Calgary at #20) and Brad Holland (Schroeder at #11 to Nashville; Budish to Philadelphia at #21).

Saturday, May 23, 2009

New Wild, Wolves GM Digest

Here's a collection of the reactions to Friday's press intoductory press conferences:

Wild - Chuck Fletcher
  • Chip Scoggins
  • Russo's Rants
  • Patrick Reusse
  • John Shipley
  •'s Scott Burnside
  • Minnesota Wild Examiner
  • My reaction - GREAT HIRE! I have opined here and to friends alike that the Wild need to get with the times and open things up if they are to compete in the Western Conference. Teams like Chicago, Detroit, and St. Louis are going to be perennial contenders because of the up-tempo styles they play, and Fletcher's hire is proof that Craig Leipold wants this to occur. Hiring a new coach, trying to sign Marian Gaborik before July 1, and conducting the NHL Draft will make for a busy next few weeks for Fletcher, but the Wild is on the right track.

Wolves - David Kahn

  • Jerry Zgoda
  • Jim Souhan
  • Don Seeholzer
  • Minnesota Timberwolves Examiner
  • My reaction: Wait and see. Kahn has good experience in the game of basketball, but has not worked in the league since 2004, has not managed a NBA operation since 2002, and is seen as more of a business guy or capologist than a personnel guy. This franchise is dangerously close to gaining apathy status in this town, and they really needed to hit a home run with this hire. In my opinion, they missed out. It's not Glen Taylor's fault (or David Kahn's fault, for that matter) that three others took their names out of consideration, but it's a testament to the Wolves' perception around the league - that Taylor wants to be involved in the control of the franchise.

Thursday, May 21, 2009

New T-Wolves Basketball Operations Chief..... not Donald T. Sterling, but David Kahn, former Indiana Pacers GM. Of course, that was as recently as 2002, and a few things have changed since. Of course, for a cursed franchise, it only seems right that three others had turned down the job before Kahn was hired.

Kahn may turn out to be wonderful, but it seems they should have been able to garner someone with a little more recent experience. At first blush, I would have rather the team hired Bill Simmons instead.

Totally un-related to David Kahn, but I just got done reading a great profile of LA Clippers' owner and total lout Donald T. Sterling (pictured above) in ESPN The Magazine. After reading this, decide for yourself if I should be the one who rescues this team from "The Donald!" Henry Abbott has a great follow-up to The Magazine story.

New Wild GM.....

This is a good hire. He's young (41), has past experience as a GM in Florida (albeit on an interim basis), and came from a good situation in Pittsburgh. He's the son of Hall of Fame GM Cliff Fletcher (Atlanta/Calgary, Toronto, and Phoenix), so he has genetics on his side.

You would have to imagine Fletcher will have carte blanche to remake this front office, which may not bode well for Assistant GM Tom Lynn (another reported finalist) or some of the other personnel heads brought in by former GM Doug Risebrough.
Of course, his biggest hire will be the next head coach. I still believe Peter Laviolette would be the best choice, but Fletcher also has ties with some other experienced NHL coaches (Michel Therrien?) who may be considered, along with former Gopher defenseman Todd Richards, who served as coach for Pittsburgh's AHL affiliate in Wilkes-Barre/Scranton - where Fletcher served as GM - before moving to the NHL as an assistant.
Kudos for this organization for hot hiring Pierre McGuire, who was also believed to have been a finalist.

Emptying the Notebook.....

  • Inside College Hockey has a preseason Men's Hockey poll for the 2009-10 season, and the Gophers are #4. Is it too early to think of next season as a Gopher fan? Absolutely not!
  • Roman has a good breakdown of the Gophers' schedule to start next season. It'll be tough, but hopefully will get the young team battle-tested early-on. Plus, it helps the PairWise!
  • In the same piece, he has a bit about the Siouxies having new uniforms next season. We'll see new new ones for the 2010-11 campaign as well. Can "Flickertails" fit diagonally across the front of the jersey, similar to the "New York Rangers" style teams copy so often?
  • One final shout-out to Roman here, but if Mike Hastings takes the Nebraska-Omaha job, does this mean Grant Potulny will be a full-time assistant next year? Hastings would be great for the UNO job, and having another Lucia assistant heading another WCHA program would be great (Bob Motzko at SCSU is the other; current Gopher assistant John Hill coached Alaska-Anchorage a few seasons ago). I'm fired up about UNO potentially joining the WCHA along with Bemidji State.
  • This is awesome! I grew up listening to Ray Christensen, and I do a completely horrible impression. You could always sense the joy or pain in Ray's voice depending on how the game was going at a particular time. His call when Chip Lohmiller hit is field goal against second-ranked Michigan at the Big House in 1986 will always be with me. I was playing football at a friend's house that day, and my friend's dad came out with a radio as Lohmiller lined up for the field goal. It was a big moment for the program, and Ray made it infamous. His call when Dan Nystrom hit his field goal to beat second-ranked Penn State in 1999 was just as good. Listening to him break down while interviewing Glen Mason after upsetting Ohio State in 2000 made him seem human. I'm sorry that I won't be able to listen to it live - because I'll be at the game.
  • New floor for the Barn next year. Pictures here.
  • Congrats to Gopher Baseball Coach John Anderson on his 1,000th victory. All victories have come with the Gophers. It's amazing the success this program has had over the years, despite playing in a dump of a stadium.
  • profile on Pierre McGuire, who is a finalist for the Wild GM spot. This hiring would be a disaster. He hasn't been part of a team for twelve years and his record before that was spotty - his tenure as Head Coach in Hartford resulted in a 23-37-7 record. Memo to owner Craig Leipold....make the safe pick and hire either Pittsburgh Assistant GM Chuck Fletcher or Anaheim Assistant GM David McNab.
  • NHL Playoffs continue Thursday night with Carolina at Pittsburgh. For some reason, I like the Canes tonight.
  • Amazing comeback by Orlando on Wednesday night to beat Cleveland in the NBA's Eastern Conference Finals. The loss was Cleveland's first in the 2009 playoffs. Dwight Howard (30 points, 13 rebounds) and LeBron James (49 points, 6 rebounds, 8 assists) have solid futures in the NBA, don't you think? It's nice to see them duking it out in the East while the West features Kobe and 'Melo. It's a lot easier to root for Howard and LBJ than those other two.

Wednesday, May 20, 2009

God Hates the Timberwolves

Despite having the fifth-best chance of scoring the top pick in Tuesday's NBA Draft Lottery, the Timberwolves actually dropped one spot and will draft sixth next month. The Los Angeles Clippers moved up two spots and won the lottery, which is now the "Blake Griffin Sweepstakes." The Wolves "won" the opportunity to get more ping-pong balls than Memphis, despite the two teams having the same record. However, Memphis moved up to #2 and the Wolves dropped down.

As badly as the Wolves feel, think of Sacramento and Washington. The Kings finished with the league's worst record last season and the Wizards the second-worst, and they dropped to fourth and fifth, respectively.

The Star Tribune's Jerry Zgoda has an interesting blog entry about what the T-Wolves should do with the pick.

Remember, the Wolves have three first-round picks this year - #6, 18, and 28.

I think they should find a way to trade up to draft Ricky Rubio, but that doesn't seem like a possibility, given that there are teams ahead of them who desperately need point guards (Memphis at #2, Oklahoma City at #3, and Sacramento #4 all could use him), and the Wolves have little to trade - except Al Jefferson, whom they should not trade.

Here's's Chad Ford's first mock draft with the new order. One word - Ouch! (Especially with B.J. Mullens with the 18th pick).

This is just one episode in the long-standing drama which is the Timberwolves' performance in the Draft Lottery. Tuesday's appearance was the team's 13th, and they've never moved up.

Final thought, this was the Clippers' 20th appearance in the Lottery. There have been 25 Draft Lotteries. How is that possible? Also, they've picked first-overall on two occasions, picking Danny Manning in 1998 and Michael Olowokandi in 1998. I've always secretly aspired to own the LA Clippers one day - seriously. Go Clips!

Friday, May 15, 2009

R.I.P., Wayman Tisdale

Wayman Tisdale died today at 44 after a bout with cancer. He was a great player at Oklahoma, a good player on bad teams in the NBA, and, most recently, a smooth jazz artist.


NHL Conference Finals Field Set

Kudos to Carolina and Detroit for their victories last night in game 7 of their second round match-ups. The 'Canes needed overtime before Scott Walker scored off a rebound to knock out top-seeded Boston in the East. In the West, Detroit's Dan Cleary scored with three minutes remaining to eliminate #8 seed Anaheim.

Carolina goes on to play Pittsburgh in the East. Sidney Crosby is on fire during the playoffs - a ridiculous 12 goals in 13 games, including scoring the first goal in each of the past five games. Cam Ward is playing extremely well for the Hurricanes, and he is extremely tough to beat. His victory last night nudged his career playoff OT mark to 4-0. This may be a tired team after two seven-game series this year (in fact, Carolina has had four consecutive seven-game series in the playoffs, spanning multiple seasons), but they are fast and exciting to watch. This one will go the distance, and Carolina wins, despite a huge series from Crosby.

In the West, Detroit vs. Chicago is highly-anticipated. This is the match-up everyone wanted to see when the playoffs began. The division rivals meet for the first time in the semis and it should provide plenty of end-to-end hockey action. Patrick Kane and Jonathan Toews have shown flashes of their brliilance these playoffs, but the solid play of Nikolai Khabibulin has backstopped the Hawks. On the Detroit side, the offensive weapons abound....Pavel Datsyuk, Henrik Zetterberg, Marian Hossa, Johan Franzen, etc. However, the Achilles heel of this team may be goaltending, and the Wings need Chris Osgood to step up. This one will also go this distance, but the Wings have too much fire-power and will win to set up a rematch of the 2002 Stanley Cup Finals with Carolina. Chicago will use it as a learning experience, much like Edmonton in the early 80's and New Jersey in 1994 before launching their respective dynasties.

What do you think?

Here's Your University of North Dakota FLICKERTAILS' Scoring!

This cannot be good news for those who want to retain UND's Fighting Sioux nickname. The school has until October 1 to get two tribes to reach a 30-year agreement with UND to use the nickname, but that does not appear likely. The picture above is of a ground squirrel, otherwise known as a "flickertail." Kinda looks like a gopher, no?
Look, I'm all about tradition when it comes to these things, and the Sioux name has been a tradition since 1930. However, the reality today is that you need to have buy-in from the "community" concerning Native American logos. Florida State has this, and now UND will have to do the same or change. Passionate arguments will continue on both sides of the issue, but reality sets in now.

Gopher fans will be sad to see all those Sioux logos disappearing from Ralph Engelstad Arena. However, it will be nice to see the old "NORTH DAKOTA" wordmark on the Sioux jerseys this fall when then Gophs go up there to start the season.

Wednesday, May 13, 2009

G-Po Returns to U Hockey!

The man who scored the most significant goal in recent Golden Gopher Hockey history is returning to campus. The team announced that Grant Potulny will serve as a volunteer assistant coach for the team this fall, after retiring as an active player this past season.

Potulny suited up for 146 games for the Gophers between 2000-2004, accumulating 68 goals and 48 assists for 136 points. However, it is his overtime goal against Maine in April of 2002 for which he will be remembered fondly by fans of the M&G. The goal clinched the Gophers' first national title since 1979. The captain from Grand Forks, ND then led his squad to the 2003 national title, becoming the first repeat NCAA Champions since Boston University in 1971-1972.

Potulny turned pro after the 2003-04 season, signing with the Ottawa Senators. His pro career was spent entirely in the minors, and was wrecked by injuries.

Having Potulny on staff seems a no-brainer for the Gophers. His leadership abilities were present during his time at the U, where he was a three-year captain, and always led by example. Even then, he exhibited qualities which seemingly prepared him for coaching.

I love this move. At the NCAA West Regional this spring, a bunch of Gopher fans were sitting around a table and lamenting upon the past season. On a whim, I threw out the question of who would replace Don Lucia behind the bench some day. We all agreed - well, most of us - that Lucia will be around for a long time. I threw out the following scenario. The first call should be to George Gwozdecky. If he says "no," then the Gophers should hire Grant Potulny (assuming that Lucia would have him on staff already). This is no slight to current assistants John Hill or Mike Hastings or past assistants (Bob Motzko, Mike Guentzel, Dean Blais, among others). However, Potulny seemed to be an intriguing choice - similar to what North Dakota did in hiring Dave Hakstol after Blais went to the NHL. Bringing in a former captain and on-ice leader to relate to the players would seemingly be optimal for the Gophers, as it was when Hakstol was hired at UND. Bringing Potulny on board Wednesday could be the first step toward a succession plan for Lucia - hopefully 10 years and a few more national titles down the road.

NHL/NBA Playoffs Heating Up!

If you love all sports, April-May is probably among the best times of the year. Baseball is in full-swing, the NFL Draft has everyone salivating - thanks to incessant coverage by ESPN for about six weeks prior and post-draft, and the NBA and NHL playoffs are going on.

2009 has seen some great playoff match-ups and series through the first two rounds. The Chicago/Boston series in the NBA was legendary (although the series would have been totally different if Kevin Garnett had been healthy for Boston), and the much-hyped Ovechkin vs. Crosby (i.e. Washington vs. Pittsburgh) series in the NHL has actually held up to the drama through six games. Also, the Chicago Blackhawks' series win over the Vancouver Canucks was extremely entertaining. If one likes fast-paced, up-and-down, NHL action, then the Hawks are your team. If you reside in Minnesota and are forced (I mean, lucky) to watch the Wild play their plodding style night in and night out, then watching Patrick Kane and Jonathan Toews is beyond refreshing. If you love playoff action, this is the best time of the year.

In the NHL Tuesday night, both teams facing elimination survived Game 6's, with Anaheim and Boston both winning and forcing decisive games.

The Bruins took it to Carolina in Raleigh on Tuesday, streaking to a 2-0 lead just over 5 minutes in and held on to bring the series back to Boston. The Ducks out-lasted the Red Wings and things got ugly at the 20:00 mark of the 3rd period, which saw all on-ice combatants exchanging blows, including such pugilists as Scott Niedermayer, Marian Hossa, and Pavel Datsyuk. Game 7 is in Detroit on Thursday.

Game 7 of the Washington-Pittsburgh series is Wednesday night in Washington. Check it should be great. Me, I like the Pens in this one. The road teams have won the last two games in overtime, and I believe Game 7 will be no different.

In the NBA, Boston came back from 14 points down to beat Orlando thanks to a huge 4th quarter at home to take a 3-2 series lead. The Lakers killed Houston in LA to also take a 3-2 lead in that series behind my favorite NBA player, Kobe Bryant (I'm kidding, by the way....cannot stand the guy. Read this from Bill Simmons about the new Spike Lee "Joint," Kobe Doin' Work.). Denver can close out Dallas Wednesday.

Awaiting all this madness is the Cleveland Cavaliers, who have only won both of their series 4-0 behind sick play of LeBron James. It's fun for me to watch the greatest all-around player of the last 20 years (that includes Jordan) dominate night in and night out. Hopefully, the time off will not get the King too rusty.

Sprinkle in a little baseball action, and April and May is a sports' fans' delight!

Tuesday, May 12, 2009

Back Again!

I'm back in the DP studios after a week-long hiatus. Please check out my Examiner site for a lot of Twins coverage.

Otherwise, cleaning out the notebook on other topics:
  • Drew Fisher left the Gopher hockey team for Bemidji State. Fisher played in just 14 games in 2008-09 and added just one assist. The sophomore forward is the third player to leave the Gophers for another program, following freshman forward Michael Dorr (for MSU-Mankato), and freshman defenseman Grant Scott (Fargo Force of the USHL). Fisher must sit out a year, and perhaps the option of playing closer to home (he's from International Falls) intrigued him. Personally, I liked what I saw of Fisher last season. He's big and he always seemed to create some intensity when he was on the ice last year. Of course, the Gophers may have some numbers issues with new players next season, and Fisher probably saw the writing on the wall.
  • Roman Augustoviz has a good recap of the WCHA teams' post-season awards in his Star Tribune blog. Also, check out the entry where he addresses that North Dakota will not lose any players to the NHL (Chris VandeVelde is staying) for the first time in years.
  • Continuing on the WCHA front, no word has been given about Bemidji State joining the league. Speculation centers on who will be the 12th team. It looks like Nebraska-Omaha is the favorite, and this makes sense. Stay tuned for this developing story.
  • The Wild still don't have a GM, but Michael Russo talks about the "final" candidates here. Anyone but Pierre McGuire or Pat Quinn would be fine off that list. Russo's all over this, so check his site daily.
  • Over in Timberwolves land, no GM there either. Jerry Zgoda has a list of the most current candidates. My take - hire someone quickly and prepare for the draft. The new GM will not have a lot of time to re-structure things (assuming the new GM is not the current GM, Jim Stack) before the draft, so the summer will be spent doing this task. This is an important summer for this franchise.

I'll try to write more regularly this week as I try to get my bearings. Keep reading my Examiner site on Twins-related stuff and check out the other blogs on my blogroll for current news.

Tuesday, May 5, 2009

Change in Direction

I wrote about 2 weeks ago that I joined the site as a Minnesota Sports Examiner, which was basically a columnist for all things related to Minnesota sports. I'm pleased to report that I have moved within that organization to covering the Twins full-time and will continue to provide game stories at my Examiner site.

What that means for Donny Puck is that I will provide the bulk of my Twins content on Examiner - at least short-term - and will write primarily about Gopher football, basketball, and hockey on DP. I will still do some minor league, divisional, and miscellaneous Twins stuff here occasionally, but will defer to Aaron and Seth for much of the in-depth analysis.

Please do check back here often, as I plan to write 3-5 times a week during the Gophers' off-seasons about topics which sort of relate to them (the NBA Draft, NHL Draft, NHL free agency, etc.), as well as other off-season news from those programs. I'll also do some T-Wolves analysis periodically, as well as some more expository Twins stuff.

Thanks for reading, and please check out my Examiner page daily.

Game #26 - Liriano Dominant in Victory

After starting the season 0-4, Francisco Liriano finally picked up win #1 with a dominant performance against the Detroit Tigers. The lefthander allowed just 4 hits in 7.1 innings of work and led the Twins to a 7-2 victory over Detroit at Comerica Park.

Liriano allowed just 2 runs in the performance, walking 3 and striking out 9 hitters. It was his second consecutive solid performance. Last week against Tampa Bay, he pitched well enough through 6.2 innings for the win, only to see the bullpen give the lead away.

As has been written previously, the Twins absolutely need its top two starters Liriano and Scott Baker to return to form quickly in order to compete in the Central. Liriano has shown signs of bouncing back his last two times out and Baker was spectacular through 6 innings Sunday before running out of gas, but he showed flashes of his normal self.

At the plate, Denard Span was 4-5 with an RBI; Michael Cuddyer was 2-3 with a walk and an RBI; and even Alexi Casilla and Carlos Gomez had RBI hits. The Twins used a 5-run 7th inning off Tigers' starter Edwin Jackson to break a 1-1 game open, and Liriano and Matt Guerrier closed it out.

Elsewhere in the AL Central:
  • Kansas City 3, Chicago White Sox 0 - Zack Greinke did it again, notching a complete game, 6-hit shutout, complete with 10 strikeouts. He is now 6-0 on the season, and his ERA of 0.50 actually dropped to 0.40. I've never seen such an amazing start to a season by a pitcher. Check out my column on for more on Greinke's 2009 start.
  • Cleveland 9, Toronto 7 (12 innings) - Despite being no-hit by Toronto starter Brian Tallet for the first 6 innings, the Tribe stormed back to win the game in extra frames. Hot-shot rookie Matt LaPorta's first MLB hit was a 2-run homer which broke up Tallet's no-hit bid. The game was see-saw after that point, with Toronto matching Cleveland's rallies run-for-run, until the Indians took control in the 12th inning to move to 10-16 on the year.

Around the minors:

  • AAA - Rochester 4, Louisville 2 - Kevin Mulvey's solid start paced the Red Wings over the Bats. Mulvey scattered 4 hits and overcame 4 walks in his 5 innings of work, allowing just 1 run to pick up the win. Mike Gosling and Sean Henn finished up for the Red Wings. Matt Tolbert was 4-6 with 2 RBI in the game; Luke Hughes was 3-4 with 2 walks and an RBI; Dustin Martin and Drew Butera each had 2 hits for the Wings, who improved to 10-12 on the season with the win.
  • AA - New Hampshire 8, New Britain 3 - Ryan Mullins struggled in the game, dropping to 0-5 on the season with 3.2 innings pitched and 11 hits and 5 runs allowed. Wilson Ramos and Whit Robbins each had 2 hits apiece for New Britain, which dropped to 10-13 with the loss.
  • High A - Ft. Myers 8, Sarasota 6 - The Miracle used an 11-hit attack to fuel a victory over Sarasota. Daniel Berg homered, Steve Singleton tripled, and Nick Romero doubled in the victory. Berg, Romero, Ben Revere, and Danny Lehmann had 2 hits apiece. Mike McCardell threw 6 solid innings (6 hits, 3 runs, 7 strikeouts) in the victory, and Ft. Myers improved to 15-9.
  • Low A - Beloit 5, Great Lakes 1 - Brad Tippett was good in his start, going 7 innings and allowing just 1 run and striking out 8 in the Snappers' victory. Evan Bigley had 2 hits for Beloit, which improved to 8-15 with the win.


  • New Britain starting pitcher Jeff Manship was named Eastern League Pitcher of the Week for last week. Manship threw 7 shutout innings in his start against Trenton last week, allowing just 1 hit and striking out 5.

Monday, May 4, 2009

Game #25 - Tale of Two Games

Scott Baker was simply brilliant for the first 6 innings on Sunday, allowing the Kansas City Royals just one baserunner - a walk to Jose Guillen - and no hits, and the Twins staked him to a 4-0 lead. In the top of the 7th, Baker completely ran out of gas and surrendered 5 consecutive Royals' hits. The end result was a disappointing 7-5 loss to KC and a series loss in which the Twins should have swept the series.

Consecutive hits by Willie Bloomquist, Mark Teahen, Guillen (3-run homer), Mike Jacobs, and David DeJesus chased Baker from the game, and reliever Luis Ayala allowed a 2-run double to Albert Callaspo to give the Royals a 5-4 victory in a surprising turn of events. Single runs in the 8th and 9th innings gave KC some cushion, and the Twins could only get one run closer (RBI single by pinch-hitter Joe Mauer in the 9th).

Baker was not brilliant in his 6 innings of hitless ball, but had retired 15 consecutive Royals since the leadoff walk to Guillen in the 2nd inning. He needed 104 pitches to complete his outing and was struggling to get ahead of hitters all game long.12 of the 18 outs he recorded were via fly ball (5 were foul-outs) and the ball was getting a little closer to the sweet spot by the end of his outing. Still, his collapse was surprising, and the starter fell to 0-4 on the season. The top two starters, Baker and Francisco Liriano, are now a very disappointing 0-8 to start the season.

Justin Morneau was 3-5 in the game, and Michael Cuddyer went 2-3 with 2 RBI for the Twins. With his pinch hit, Mauer raised his average to .700 in his first three games back from the DL. He is 7-10 with 3 extra-base hits and 3 RBI.

After the game, the Twins activated pitcher Jesse Crain from the DL and optioned catcher Jose Morales to Rochester. Morales was solid in his first full month in the majors, hitting .340, but the Twins prefer to keep two catchers. Mike Redmond hasn't played for a while, so maybe Morales will be back.

The Twins now head to Detroit for a quick two-game set with the Tigers. Probables for the series:

  • Monday, 6:05pm - Francisco Liriano (0-4) vs. Edwin Jackson (1-1)
  • Tuesday, 6:05pm - Nick Blackburn (2-1) vs. Rick Porcello (1-3)

Elsewhere in the AL Central:

  • Detroit 3, Cleveland 1 - The Tigers took the series from the Indians behind strong pitching from Justin Verlander. The righty allowed just 2 hits and 1 run over 7 innings, striking out 11 in the process to improve to 2-2 on the year. Bobby Seay, Joel Zumaya, and Fernando Rodney finished up, with Rodney picking up his 6th save. Brandon Inge hit his 8th homer for the Tigers.
  • Texas 5, Chicago White Sox 1 - The Rangers picked up the series win from the Whities on the heels of a solid start by Matt Harrison. The youngster went 5 scoreless innings, and Ian Kinsler's 9th homer paced the Rangers. Kinsler's 2 RBI gave him an impressive 25 on the young season.

Around the minors:

  • AAA - Indianapolis 2, Rochester 1 - Despite a solid start by Jason Jones (6.1 innings, 6 hits, 2 runs), Rochester had no answer for the Indy Indians and lost again. Jones overcame 5 walks to keep the game close. Rochester had 7 hits - all singles except Luke Hughes's double. The Red Wings are now 9-12 on the season.
  • AA - Trenton 5, New Britain 3 - Brian Dinkelman and Erik Lis each had 2 hits for the Rock Cats in a losing effort. Jay Rainville was good in his start, going the first 5 innings and allowing just 1 run on 4 hits. Two errors cost the Cats and pitchers Jose Lugo and Rob Delaney 4 runs over the next 3 innings and provided the difference for Trenton. New Britain is now 10-12 with the loss.
  • High A - Ft. Myers 6, Charlotte 5 - Rene Leveret had 2 hits - both doubles - for the Miracle , and Steve Singleton and Nick Romero each had 2 RBI to key the victory. The Miracle scored all 6 runs over the final four frames. Tyler Robertson went the first 4, surrendering 7 hits and 5 runs. Santos Arias followed with 3 hitless and scoreless innings, and Alex Burnett went the last 2 scoreless frames to pick up the win. Ft. Myers is now 14-9 with the win.
  • Low A - Great Lakes 6, Beloit 5 - The Snappers lost despite some pretty good hitting performances. Jonathan Waltenbury homered and doubled for Beloit, and James Beresford had 3 hits in the game. Beloit is 7-15 with the loss.

Check out my Examiner column on the Twins' first month of the season!

Saturday, May 2, 2009

Game #23 - He's Back!

AP Photo/Jim Mone
Joe Mauer returned to the Twins' lineup on Friday night, and boy, are we happy to see him! After treading water for the first 22 games of the season, the catcher returned with a bang, smashing a home run in his first at-bat and a double in his second to lead the Twins to a 7-5 win over the Kansas City Royals.

The team activated Mauer from the DL Friday and send pitcher Juan Morillo outright to Rochester. Morillo cleared waivers and will join the team. In three appearances with the Twins, Morillo did not record a decision and had a 22.50 ERA. The Twins have 3 catchers on the roster for now, as Jesse Crain is expected to be activated from the DL by Monday, and Jose Morales could be sent to AAA or Mike Redmond could head to the DL.

Mauer and Justin Morneau each went 2-3 in the game and each smashed a home run. Morneau had 3 RBI in the game.

Kevin Slowey was shaky, but picked up his 4th win of the season. In 5 innings, Slowey allowed 5 runs on 8 hits. Matt Guerrier threw two solid scoreless innings, and Jose Mijares struck out the side in the 8th. Joe Nathan finished up for his 4th save.

The Twins batter Mauer 3rd in the lineup Friday, and look for that to continue. Manager Ron Gardenhire has shown a preference toward hitting Mauer #3. With Alexi Casilla struggling mightily at the plate, one thought would be to have Mauer hit 2nd and drop Casilla down. That does not appear to be the case. Anyway, it's good to have Mauer, and his career .317/.399/.457 line back in the order every day.

In other Twins' news, Joe Crede was away from the team Friday following the birth of his son a bit premature. He'll be away from the team for a few days. Congratulations to the Crede family!

Elsewhere in the AL Central:

  • Cleveland 6, Detroit 5 - The Tribe sent the Tigers to their third-straight loss. David Dellucci went 4-5 in his first action of the season, and Jhonny Peralta hit his first homer of the year. Carl Pavano picked up the win with 7.1 innings of solid work. Kerry Wood finished up for his 5th save.
  • Chicago White Sox 4, Texas 3 - Jim Thome's 3 RBI paced the Whities. Mark Buehrle moved to 4-0 on the season with 6 solid innings. Bobby Jenks worked the 9th for his 6th save.

Around the Minors:

  • AAA - Rochester was rained-out at Indianapolis's beautiful Victory Field.
  • AA - New Britain 9, Trenton 7 - It was a good day all around for New Britain's offense, as Whit Robbins had 4 hits, Wilson Ramos and Brian Dinkelman each had 3 hits, and Brandon Roberts and Danny Valencia had 2 apiece. Dinkelman had 4 RBI in the contest. Matt Fox went the first 5.1 innings, giving up 7 hits and 3 runs. The Rock Cats improve to 9-11 with the win.
  • High A - Charlotte 5, Ft. Myers 2 - Chris Parmelee and Rene Leveret had 2 hits apiece in a losing cause. Delois Guerra started and walked the tightrope for 5.1 innings, allowing 3 hits, 3 walks, and 2 runs. Blair Erickson and Alex Burnett could not hold the lead in relief, however, and the Miracle dropped to 12-9.
  • Low A - Beloit is 7-12 on the season, and was tied 3-3 with Dayton in the 12th.

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