Second-half Lions


While his cameo appearance in the mid-summer classic was a brief one, Joe Mauer represented the Twins well by singling up the middle off LHP Wade Miley, then dutifully manning first for the AL squad’s final two innings. The optimism in me hopes that his perfect All-Star performance serves as a good omen for Minnesota’s second half of the season. I’m not about to predict nor pray for a division title, but there are certain things I hope to see from the team over the next 77 games, which I’ll list here categorically.

  • Rotation – Here is how I’d like to see the rotation shakeout over the next 3 months. July’s starts will be taken by Francisco Liriano, Scott Diamond, Cole DeVries, Samuel Deduno, and P.J. Walters, who should return from the DL soon barring any further setbacks. If Liriano continues to pitch well, he should be dealt by July 31, netting some young talent for the system. By then, let’s hope that Carl Pavano can slide into his rotation spot for the month of August. If he shows some value in a few starts when he returns from the DL, he could be dealt by August 31 for either salary relief, middling prospects, or both. While Liam Hendricks could take that spot for September and aim for his first victory of the season, I’d prefer the team to give 5 or 6 more starts to Nick Blackburn. He’s owed nearly $5 million this year and more than that next. If he can straighten things out at Rochester, these few starts could give management an idea of whether he is worth keeping around for 2013, or if they should just cut ties. Hendricks should get the chance to pitch out of the bullpen in September to restore his confidence in getting major league hitters out.
  • Bullpen – This bucket list is quite simple: Trade Matt Capps, make Jared Burton closer, keep Glen Perkins in the setup role he excels in, return Brian Duensing to his relief role (he’s always shown he’s better there), and call up Anthony Slama as soon as he’s healthy again. Alex Burnett, Jeff Gray, and Anthony Swarzak can round out the rest of the pen.
  • Offense – The upcoming trade deadline will set the rumor mills afire as baseball fans look for the Twins to sell. There is no doubt they should be sellers, but the question is will it be a fire sale or will we see just a few sparks? Let’s hope that the only key offensive contributor dealt is Denard Span. I love Span and what he brings to the table, but so do most of the other 29 MLB clubs. He appears over past concussion issues and now able to contribute as a table-setter. Trading him would bring a return of prospects who could positively impact the major league squad for years to come. Other than that, let’s just hope Justin Morneau solves his allergy of left-handed pitching; Trevor Plouffe power never fades; Chris Parmelee, Joe Benson, and Brian Dozier show they have futures as solid regulars; and Danny Valencia and Tsuyoshi Nishioka get September call-ups, giving them a chance to show they can contribute in Minnesota, in Valencia’s case, or, in Nishioka’s, any other place in the world that will pay his remaining contract.
  • Defense – The Twins need to play Ben Revere exclusively in center field following the trade deadline. Mauer has hit excellently this year, so I would hate to do anything that throws off his groove, but I still suggest this semi-radical idea: use September to test out his defensive versatility and prowess. Try Mauer at third, right, and left for a few games. Such experiments could speak volumes to Twins management as they plan for the future. My only hope is that none of this hypothetical toying and tinkering would affect Mauer’s quest for his fourth batting title.

The second halves of seasons have typically brought excitement and reasons to cheer to Twins fans over the past decade. While we may not be cheering over a playoff berth come October, hopefully fans will be cheering for a team that’s returned to respectability and contention. Too optimistic? Time will tell, but if Mauer performance turned out perfect last night, why can’t my plan turn out that way as well?