Wetmore: 5 thoughts on Aaron Hicks, Kenny Wilson and Alex Meyer
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If you missed my 5 thoughts column from late Wednesday night, here's a link. It touches on Sam Fuld's usage, Joe Mauer's funk, Josmil Pinto's advanced approach at the plate, sacrifice bunting and, of course, Chris Colabello's home run while his mom was being interviewed on her birthday.
Anyways, here are my 5 thoughts from Thursday'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).
1. I've dogged on Aaron Hicks for his left-handed swing and approach this season, and justifiably so. I'm not the only Twins observer to do this, but it's worth pointing out when he does something well, too.
Batting left-handed against the hefty Heath Bell, Hicks drove a three-run home run to right field. He fell behind 1-2, then laid off a pitch in the dirt, then fouled off a curve and took a fastball to run the count full. The next pitch was a curve ball he promptly deposited in the seats. That's his first home run since July 14.
It's perhaps interesting that Hicks got the start in center Thursday, while Sam Fuld started in left and Jason Kubel got the day off against a lefty. It is possible Hicks should be on high alert. With Fuld on the roster, Hicks might be staring at a little time in the minors. Hicks' development, however, is far more important to this team long-term than squeezing out an extra win or two in 2014. The Twins should prioritize long-term gains when making roster decisions this season.
2. The Twins filled out their 40-man roster Thursday. They had an open spot since Jason Bartlett retired and Darin Mastroianni was cleared to make room for Sam Fuld. Two players out and one in meant the Twins had a spot to give.
When the Toronto Blue Jays claimed Mastroianni off waivers Tuesday from the Twins, they designated for assignment light-hitting Kenny Wilson.
Turn about apparently is fair play, because the Twins claimed Wilson from Toronto on Thursday, put him on the 40-man roster and optioned him to Double-A New Britain.
Wilson hit .259/.333/.375 in 242 plate appearances for Double-A New Hampshire last season in the Jays organization. He had as many strikeouts (56) as hits compared to just 19 walks. He also stole 16 bases in 22 tries (73 percent).
In seven minor league seasons, he's hit .228/.326/.312 in more than 2,100 plate appearances. He hasn't played above Double-A, and his career batting line for the level is .248/.313/.360 in 310 plate appearances.
3. Ricky Nolasco didn't have a good start but shoddy defense hurt him in the seventh inning. Brian Dozier ran back to attempt to catch a Yunel Escobar popup hit over his head and in front of defensive replacement right fielder Chris Herrmann. Dozier called it too soon and Herrmann peeled off, but Dozier couldn't quite get under the ball to make the catch. It was ruled a single, but really that's a mental error on both Dozier and Herrmann. The outfielder coming in has the right of way, and if he can make the catch he should call off the infielder in all cases. From what I saw, Herrmann should have called off Dozier and made the play himself.
(There wasn't a runner on base, so it's not quite as critical that the outfielder take that ball; if there were men on base, it's even more important because the outfield is charging in towards the infield and has better vision of the play about to happen in front of him after making the catch. The infielder has his back to the infield in most cases and his momentum is taking him away from the play.)
The next batter, the portly Jose Molina, grounded to the shortstop and Pedro Florimon booted the ball into the outfield. It would have taken a slick play to get the ball over to second in time to force out Escobar. But if he could have done that, you have to wonder if the Twins would have had time to turn a double play on Molina. Instead, the ball kicked into left field and Nolasco got hooked for Caleb Thielbar.
Then Ben Zobrist placed a nice bunt down the third base line that Trevor Plouffe couldn't field cleanly, which loaded the bases with no outs. A pair of sac flies followed and Nolasco's line turned from four allowed to six allowed.
4. The Twins bullpen had entered Thursday's game on a roll. According to the Elias Sports Bureau, Minnesota's relief pitchers had not allowed a run in their previous 25 innings, their longest single-season streak of this type since August/September 1992 (30 2/3 innings).
That stat came out after the 'pen threw seven scoreless innings in the extra-inning win Wednesday against the Rays.
That streak came to end Thursday, when Logan Forsythe singled to center off Jared Burton with two outs.
Thielbar added two outs and only allowed (Nolasco's) inherited runners to score. Michael Tonkin got an out. Add Burton's two outs before the RBI knock, and that's a streak of 26 2/3 innings without allowing a run. Not quite to their 1992 stretch, but an impressive stretch for the Twins bullpen as a collective.
5. The reaction to Alex Meyer's latest outing has caused a bit of a stir. If you haven't read it, check out Phil Mackey's piece on Meyer, in which Red Sox third baseman Will Middlebrooks struck out three times Wednesday against Meyer and reportedly said, "I asked coach, 'Who'd he make mad? Why is he here? Are there five guys better than him in Minnesota?'"
That has some Twins fans excited, and reasonably so. Still, others are irked by the fact that it sounds like Meyer belongs and yet he's not in the rotation.
I'll say this to start: there's no level of performance Meyer could achieve to force the Twins to call him up before mid-June, in my opinion. It's wise of a team that doesn't view itself as in the playoff hunt to save service time on a player it thinks could be great. Some fans view this as cheap but that's a drastic oversimplification.
With that said, Wednesday's outing had to be encouraging for the Twins. Meyer struck out 11 batters across 6 2/3 innings. He walked three batters and gave up three hits.
Meyer throws mid-90s heat with a sharp breaking ball, but he's struggled in the past to command a changeup. The general belief is that even if you have two great pitches, you need at least an adequate third offering to be a starter in the Majors.
Meyer, according to MiLB.com's Jake Seiner, is working with a new changeup.
Here's an excerpt from that piece, which you can read in its entirety here:
"Deolis Guerra and Yohan Pino, those two guys pulled me aside and told me, 'Don't throw the circle change,'" Meyer said. "I'm way more confident with the new grip they showed me, going with more of a three-finger change."
Meyer said he threw about 15 three-finger changes for Rochester on Wednesday. The pitch helped him set up his knockout breaking ball, which he used for many of his 11 strikeouts in a 3-1 loss to Pawtucket in International League action.
The strikeouts tied a career high for Meyer.
That kind of outing has to have the Twins giddy about the future, which could include Meyer atop the rotation as early as 2015. They have high expectations for the 24-year-old righthander.
His performance included this nasty curve for his sixth punch out on a swing and a miss:
...and this hook for the 11th strikeout of the night: