Wetmore: 5 thoughts on Morales, Ryan, Pinto's glove, and a bronze bear
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MINNEAPOLIS -- A pair of grand slams punctuated the Astros offensive outburst Sunday against the Twins. Sam Deduno had shaky control in his short start, and the Twins couldn't climb out of an early deficit. The Twins lost the game, 14-5, and the series, two games to one.
This column presents 5 thoughts from Sunday'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. It was good to see Terry Ryan run the press conference introducing Kendrys Morales. Ryan has taken a back seat to assistant GM Rob Antony as Ryan receives treatment for cancer. He had surgery in February when it was revealed he had squamous cell carcinoma. Ryan has been around Target Field recently, sat in on draft meetings, and also drove down for a road trip to scout Cedar Rapids. Sunday was a symbolic step, in that Ryan will gradually take back some of the day-to-day responsibilities.
Ryan says he still has some health issues to address, like physical therapy. But he said that he feels about 80 percent, and he fielded additional questions at a post-press conference side session with reporters.
2. Signing Morales will upgrade the Twins lineup, but it's unfortunate for the team that he can't get up to speed with plate appearances in the minors. The unique set of circumstances surrounding his signing meant he had to be activated upon signing a contract with the Twins, and he'll have to acclimate to Major League pitching during batting practice before taking over as the team's DH. Ryan confirmed he'll primarily be a DH, with occasional duty as a first baseman. One would guess he'll be the team's primary DH, which would keep Josh Willingham and Oswaldo Arcia in the outfield corners.
For more on the Morales signing, check out these links: 3 reasons Morales is a good sign for Twins fans; With no minors stint, Morales will acclimate on the fly; Hopefully, Morales is just the start; Twins view themselves as contenders, 'Why not us?'
Here's a suggested lineup when the Twins have their full complement of players:
If Pinto is in the lineup, I'd insert him 5th and bump down everybody else.
3. Signing Morales likely will make it harder to find plate appearances to give Josmil Pinto. This seems to me to be an important development year for Pinto, whose bat has a lot of upside.
I've been a part of the #FreePinto movement, since he's played only sporadically. He catches Sam Deduno and Kevin Correia and serves as the DH every once in a while. With Morales in the DH slot and Pinto struggling so much behind the plate, it has become more difficult to advocate for more playing time. It's possible Pinto might even be a better DH option than Morales, but it's clear Morales was not signed to sit on the bench, and he certainly benefits from being a switch hitter.
Pinto has struggled blocking pitches in the dirt, and he's given up unnecessary bases to opponents when he can't prevent a pitch bouncing away from him with runners on base. Pinto also has struggled throwing to bases; the Twins and Pinto say he's gotten loose in his throwing mechanics--a long arm on throws and sloppy footwork have wiped out the advantage of having a strong arm.
In the second inning, Robbie Grossman attempted to steal second base and Pinto threw the ball into center field, which allowed Grossman to get to third base. Grossman later scored on a single. Problems like that are consistent with Pinto, and his subpar fielding this season has mostly offset any value he's added with his bat. (Yes, his .221 batting average is low, but he's suffered from an awful lot of bad luck and still has been an above-average hitter and power threat with the willingness and ability to draw walks.)
Terry Steinback has consistently worked at cleaning up Pinto's mechanics behind the plate. I'm not sure how to quantify it, but perhaps that time spent learning between starts is as valuable as playing everyday in the minors would be. Maybe it's more valuable.
I still think it's important to develop Pinto's bat, and if he can stay at catcher long-term and be adequate there's potentially enormous value in his bat. His ability to stick behind the plate, though, to me, seems questionable.
4. Joe Mauer was not in the lineup Sunday. The Twins said it's a routine day off. Presumably Mauer will continue to get the bulk of playing time at first base, and Morales can stand there for 9 innings if Mauer takes a day to DH. Morales is not a good fielder.
5. The Twins unveiled a T.C. Bear bronze statue on the 7th street side of the Target Plaza before Sunday's game. I understand some people were miffed by the idea of lionizing a mascot but I have a hard time getting worked up about it. It's a place where kids can get their picture taken when they come to Twins games.