Updated May 7, 2012 - 9:33 am
First of all, a big thank you to everyone who participated in the comments section of the blog this weekend. I had a couple of days off and didn't check the comment section until midday Sunday and while I don't agree with everything that was written I was happy to find that there was good, respectful discussion. More please.
I do want to set one thing straight.
If Shawn Kelley gets sent down for hanging a slider to Cespedes, and Ryan gets benched for lollipopping throws to first, then forgetting you walked TWO batters and not ONE, and that the bases are now LOADED, not runners on first and second, is a major mental error. If anything "changed the momentum of the game," as Wedge said when he benched Ryan, it was that boner.
This "accountability" stuff is going to bite the coaching staff in the hindquarters pretty soon.
I have written and talked about this on the radio. Ryan did not get benched for that one play. Eric Wedge was very clear that there were multiple factors that contributed to his benching. Shawn Kelley did not get sent down for hanging a slider to Cespedes. That night (or early morning U.S. time) I told Matt Pitman on the postgame show that I wouldn't be surprised if he got sent down. Kelley had been inconsistent in Arizona and they clearly were looking for more from him. The slider may have sealed the deal but he wasn't sent down just because of that pitch.
After the Ryan benching from the looks of the comments and calls we got many apparently decided to ignore the fact that Wedge said there were multiple factors contributing to his day off. This is the same group that screamed "accountability" every time someone made a mistake. That was the fans, not Wedge. Wedge doesn't manage that way. He rarely, if ever, reacts to single plays. You don't do that in a sport that has a 162 game season. You look big picture. Accountability within the team and how he will hold them accountable is very clear. The fans' perception may be a very different thing but the team gets it. It will not, as you said, "bite the coaching staff in the hindquarters pretty soon."
Now, with all that said there has been a level of, and I don't know if I want to say sloppiness but I will say there have been times when this team has not exactly played clean baseball, as Pilate pointed out. I believe a lot of this is due to youth and can be cleaned up relatively easily. Something I have kind of struggled to get my head around is the fact that this team got swept in four games against a good Rays team by a total of five runs while they were playing far from their best baseball. Will more experience turn some of those games into wins down the road? We shall see. Moving on.
Shawn Kelley is back and Erasmo Ramirez has been sent down to start. Good move all around. Ramirez wasn't getting the work he needed and the back end of the bullpen looked like it could use a hand. Kelley has the experience and gives a different look from Steve Delabar and Tom Wilhelmsen. Wilhelmsen is still the eighth inning guy but he can't pitch every day. He has been used a lot and been gotten up in a good amount of games he never got in to. Kelley can help here.
Brendan Ryan has been moved up to two. I like this move. Late last year when Wedge first told me he was considering moving Ichiro out of the leadoff spot I asked if Ryan could possibly take over there. He said he could but that he had something else in mind. I think it very well may have been hitting him second. Back then the thought would have been that he could help out in the two spot but now it seems like hitting second could help Ryan. On Sunday Ryan went 1 for 3 with a hit and a sac fly. In those two at-bats he had a runner on. In his two outs the bases were empty. Small sample size but I think perhaps focusing on the job to do at the plate rather than the potential to not get a hit could help. Ryan is all for productive outs if he cannot get a hit and with Dustin Ackley ahead of him he will have plenty of opportunities to do that.
Of course Ryan's success the last two days could be due to something else. Ryan told me before the team left on the last road trip that it might be time to mix things up a little. Do something to break up the bad luck. I was thinking mustache, but we obviously haven't seen that. No, Ryan has found another way to mix things up as he told me in the on-field interview after Sunday's game. Just listen.
Looks like Kawasaki needs a new glove. Earlier this week I brought you pictures of Munenori Kawasaki getting comfortable behind the plate as he has been named the emergency catcher by Wedge. On Sunday he caught his first bullpen, a side session thrown by Kevin Millwood. His extra work doesn't stop there, however. While I was off Friday and Saturday I still had to come to the park to be interviewed and photographed for an upcoming article in a Japanese women's magazine (oh yes, I am quite big in Japan). I noticed that afternoon Alex Liddi and Mike Carp getting early work in the outfield and Kawasaki was out there as well. I asked Wedge if he had gone out there on his own and he said no, they wanted him to get some reps out there. What next, pitching?
Felix. I was on no-hitter alert Saturday. I thought I might have to come back to the park that night as the Twins seemed ripe for no-hitter number two this year with Felix Hernandez on the hill. I spoke with him Sunday morning and he just shook his head over giving up the one hit. He then perked up and said, "But how about our offense!" The morning after he was still genuinely pleased that his team got the hits and the win. A great thing to see.
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