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Updated: May 31st, 2014 6:17pm
Wetmore: 5 thoughts, Pinto's catching, Escobar, and Mauer's struggles

Wetmore: 5 thoughts, Pinto's catching, Escobar, and Mauer's struggles

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by Derek Wetmore
1500ESPN.com

Kevin Correia appeared to struggle at times to hit the outside corner against lefties and yet still went toe-to-toe for six innings with Masahiro Tanaka, the Yankees' high-priced rookie from Japan.

The Twins bullpen couldn't finish what Correia started, however, and Tanaka went eight strong innings before handing the ball to closer David Roberston, and the Yankees won, 3-1.

This column presents 5 thoughts from Saturday's game.

As always, feel free to ask any questions or make any observations in the comments. If you have a unique baseball observation during a game, feel free to share it with me on Twitter (@DerekWetmore).

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1. Eduardo Escobar is putting together a nice season. He appears to have solidified himself as the starting shortstop and has responded by swatting doubles. He batted second on Saturday, which is probably higher than he should be in the lineup, but he's been much better this season than he was a year ago with the Twins.

When Escobar hits the ball, they're falling in for hits at a much higher rate than you could expect him to sustain for a full season. Still, Escobar went 2-for-4 on Saturday and is hitting .328/.362/.479 in 129 plate appearances this season. That's after hitting just .236/.282/.345 in 179 plate appearance for the Twins in 2013.

Hypothetical question to readers: Forget 2015 and beyond, which shortstop and No. 2 hitter from Saturday's game would you prefer to have for the rest of 2014, Escobar or Derek Jeter?

At the plate, it's probably a lot closer than most people think. And in the field I'd much prefer Escobar.  

(I agree with pretty much everything Joe Posnanski says here. Jeter was great for a long time with an immaculate public image, but we trip over ourselves to laud him with more superlatives than he probably deserves at this point.)

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2. Josmil Pinto is very much a work in progress behind the plate. He attempted a pickoff throw to first base with Brett Gardner running and a right-handed hitter (Jeter) at the plate. He got a changeup and did not leave his crouch to make the throw. Gardner was safe. It takes trust in oneself, in the receiver, and even requires a calculated risk to throw behind a runner at any base.

The Twins have worked with Pinto on his footwork to properly set himself for throws. They're attempting to improve his accuracy to all bases and cut down the time it takes to make the throw. He has a tendency to extend his arm and throw over the top of his head (his motion gets "long"), instead of taking the shortest arm route, like throwing from his right ear.

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2(b). Pinto tried to throw out one of the elite base stealers in the game, Jacoby Ellsbury, from his knees in the bottom of the eighth inning. That's not what the Twins are looking for when they work on footwork drills with Pinto behind the plate. His throw was strong, but it ended up in center field and Ellsbury took third.

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2(c). Pinto's bat definitely should be in the lineup every day. Sure, he needs to smooth out some issues behind the plate if he's to be the team's long-term catcher. He currently is the team's best option at designated hitter. I'm curious to see if he starts at DH in the series finale Sunday. If not, it's time to launch the #FreePinto campaign in earnest.

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3. I appreciate Roy Smalley's color commentary on the FSN broadcast. He does some homework and provides insightful analysis, drawing occasionally from his playing days. He watches the game closely and explains situations without insulting a viewer's intelligence.

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4. Saturday's game had a somewhat rare 9-2-6 put out. In the 6th inning with the score tied, 1-1, Yangervis Solarte singled to right with two outs and Brian McCann on second base. Strong-armed Oswaldo Arcia fielded the ball and came up firing, completely overthrowing the cut-off man, Kevin Correia.  

McCann was held at third, and when Solarte saw the ball was on its way to the plate, he went for second. Pinto, recognizing that the runner at third was not going home, caught the ball and fired it to second and Escobar tagged out Solarte sliding into second base. That's 9-2-6 for anyone scoring at home.

Arcia's throw was a little bit up the third-base line, so Pinto left his post at the plate to catch the ball and cut down the distance between him and second base. With that move and a strong throw, Pinto got the out and the Twins were out of the inning.

The play worked out for the Twins, but I think that's a mistake by Arcia, airmailing the cut-off man.

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5. What's going on with Joe Mauer? He went 0-for-4 with two swinging strikeouts Saturday as the DH. He also grounded into a double play and grounded out to first base. He was booed after failing in an RBI situation during the Twins latest homestand. At that time, he said that he was "probably a lot more frustrated than those people that are booing."

Mauer said this week he feels fine physically, but there's no denying it's been a rough season.

"It has. I'm feeling pretty good, actually, which is even more frustrating," Mauer said recently. "Hitting a lot of balls hard and just not having much to show for it. Hopefully that turns here soon."

Here's how Mauer stacks up offensively entering Saturday compared to other MLB first basemen.

Subject

AVG

OBP

SLG

wOBA

wRC+

RBI/PA

Mauer

.273

.349

.348

.308

94

0.07

MLB 1B

.259

.334

.446

.341

115

0.13

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How about the rest of the league as a whole (excluding pitchers hitting)?

Subject

AVG

OBP

SLG

wOBA

wRC+

RBI/PA

Mauer

.273

.349

.348

.308

94

0.07

All MLB

.255

.322

.399

.318

100

0.11

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This is not the Mauer we've seen the past 10 years.

Derek Wetmore is the senior editor for 1500ESPN.com. His previous stops include MLB.com and the Minnesota Daily.
Email Derek | @DerekWetmore
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