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Updated: April 12th, 2014 5:10pm
Wetmore: 5 thoughts following the best start of the young season

Wetmore: 5 thoughts following the best start of the young season

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by Derek Wetmore
1500ESPN.com

MINNEAPOLIS - The Twins again handed it to the Royals behind Ricky Nolasco's strong start. The offense tacked seven runs on James Shields in the first two innings to win 7-1.

Before the game, the Twins recalled Michael Tonkin and placed Josh Willingham on the 15-day disabled list with a bruised left wrist.

Here are my 5 thoughts from Saturday's game:

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1. Ron Gardenhire missed Saturday's game to attend the funeral of Mike Herschbeck, son of veteran umpire John Hirschbeck. Gardenhire missed Friday's game to travel to Ohio for the service, and he's scheduled to return in time for Sunday's game.

Terry Steinbach managed both games in Gardenhire's stead, and the Twins routed the Royals both times. So the natural joke is that the Twins are telling Gardenhire to take as much time as he needs to return.

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2. Ricky Nolasco turned in the best performance to date by a Twins starting pitcher:

8 innings, 5 hits, 1 earned run, 4 strikeouts and a walk.

You'll take that each and every day if you're the Twins. His first two starts were worse than should have been expected and this start was better than should be expected.

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3. Chris Colabello is a work in progress in the outfield. With Josh Willingham and Oswaldo Arcia on the disabled list, it makes sense to try Colabello in the outfield. That allows for Suzuki to catch (which Gardenhire seems to prefer) and still saves the DH spot for Josmil Pinto.

In the second inning Sunday, Salvador Perez hit a double over Colabello's head. The way Colabello played the ball didn't change the outcome, but it provided a clue to his prowess in right field.

Colabello made three mistakes on the play: He initially chose to drop step with his right foot (and shoulder) before turning over his left shoulder to pursue the ball to the outfield wall. 

On Friday and Saturday the Twins lifted Colabello for Darin Mastroianni for defensive purposes, so it's pretty clear he's playing the outfield on an 'as needed' basis. Right now, the Twins need it.

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4. Not a bad day at the plate for Joe Mauer.

First plate appearance: Mauer drove the first pitch he saw deep to centerfield, but Lorenzo Cain made a running play to take away extra bases.

Second plate appearance: Mauer belted a 3-2 changeup over the wall in right-center for a three-run homerun.

Third plate appearance: Mauer got his second hit off Shields when he singled on a bouncer up the middle.

Fourth plate appearance: In his final plate appearance, Mauer lined out hard to left fielder Alex Gordon on a 95 mph fastball.

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5. The Oakland Athletics Designated For Assignment outfielder Sam Fuld on Saturday, according to Ken Rosenthal of Fox Sports. He batted leadoff against the Twins and poked a deep homerun out to right field off Mike Pelfrey, the seventh homer of his career.

For those unfamiliar, to DFA a player means to immediately remove him from the 40-man roster. It's essentially a way to buy time (10 days) with an extra roster spot, while jeopardizing a player who typically is not highly coveted.

The team has 10 days thereafter to decide on  a course of action. The A's have several choices with Fuld:            

A) They can place him on waivers

B) They can trade him

C) They can release him

Fuld is 32 and has a career batting line (841 plate appearances) of .233/.312/.334. He's a fourth outfielder at best. In more than 1,800 innings on defense, Fuld accumulated 16 Defensive Runs Saved, according to FanGraphs. His Ultimate Zone Rating per 150 games (FanGraphs) is 9.1. Defensive stats admittedly are not yet perfect but when taken over a large enough sample size, they can help paint a picture about a player.

So, why does any of this matter?

The Twins currently have a three-man bench because they're carrying a 13-man pitching staff. When Josh Willingham hit the DL, the Twins chose to recall Michael Tonkin instead of a position player. I don't know if it's because they feel they already need a 13-man staff or because of the dearth of options for outfielders. If it's the latter, they should be exploring upgrades in the outfield.

If he Oakland makes him available, Fuld could be a potential fit.

Minnesota probably would have to decide if Fuld is worth having over a guy like Darin Mastroianni. Even with the current roster limitations, it wouldn't make much sense to have two speedy fourth outfielder types on the bench. 

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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