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Updated: June 26th, 2014 7:03pm
Wetmore: 5 thoughts on Polanco, leadoff hitters, and Ricky Nolasco

Wetmore: 5 thoughts on Polanco, leadoff hitters, and Ricky Nolasco

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by Derek Wetmore
1500ESPN.com

Joe Mauer hit a bases-clearing double in the 9th inning, but it wasn't enough to overcome a big deficit, and the Twins lost to the Angels, 6-4. Ricky Nolasco gave up six runs in 6+ innings of work, and the Angels finished their sweep of the Twins.

This column presents 5 thoughts from Thursday's game.

As always, feel free to ask questions or make 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. The Twins recalled 20-year-old infielder Jorge Polanco before Thursday's game. I was stunned by the move, because Polanco will be the youngest Twins player since Joe Mauer made his debut in 2004. With Danny Santana getting hurt Wednesday, the Twins were in need of an infielder, and Polanco was the only middle infielder who was on the 40-man roster, besides first baseman/DH Kennys Vargas.

Still, it's a surprising move to see a player who turns 21 next Saturday aggressively promoted from Class-A Advanced Fort Myers all the way to the Majors. Polanco was in uniform (no. 11) Thursday after making the flight from Florida.

For more reaction to surprising promotion, here's my story from when the news first broke.

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2. Sam Fuld batted leadoff Thursday, which doesn't really make any sense. I know the Twins are dealing with injuries and I try not to make a big deal out of minor lineup construction points.

But we've passed the point in time where baseball teams should rely on the old idea of what a leadoff hitter should be -- a speed guy, and the heck with on-base skills. Let's agree on one basic tenet: the most important thing at the top of the lineup is to get on base, or, put another way, to avoid outs. On-base percentage measures just that, and it should be used in favor of the old way of thinking-that a speedy guy must hit atop the lineup to steal bases and advance on sacrifice bunts. (The leadoff guy is only guaranteed to "lead off" an inning once in a game, and after that he's simply the player that receives more plate appearances than any of his teammates.)

Fuld has a .301 OBP this season, slightly lower than his career .311 mark. Both numbers are lower than the .313 OBP that got Jason Kubel released.

I don't like pointing out problems without offering a solution, so here's...

One basic suggestion: If the Twins don't feel they have a great leadoff hitter candidate, just go without a leadoff hitter. Move everybody up one spot and just pretend the batting order starts with the No. 2 hitter, whether that's Brian Dozier or Joe Mauer.

There's no point in wasting the most plate appearances on a player who is not very good at avoiding outs just for the purpose of having speed at the top.

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3. Ricky Nolasco left in the 6th inning with runners on first and third, and those runs were charged to him when Mike Trout hit a two-RBI double down the left field line off reliever Matt Guerrier. Nolasco's line looks ugly (6+ innings, 11 hits, 4 earned runs) and he didn't pitch particularly well Thursday.

He had a scoreless 2nd inning (2 hits, caught stealing); a scoreless 4th inning (struck out the side); 5th (one walk pitching to the heart of the Angels order); and 6th inning. The two first-inning runs would not have scored if Pedro Florimon hadn't dropped a popup.

But any way it's sliced that's not a pretty pitching line and the Twins probably expect better than what they've seen thus far out of Nolasco after signing him this offseason to the richest free-agent contract in franchise history.

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4. The Twins missed a strong chance to score in the seventh inning against a daring Jered Weaver. The Twins had runners on first and third with two outs and Brian Dozier at the plate. Weaver fell behind Dozier, 3-0. I wondered if Dozier would have a green light to swing if he got a fastball to his liking, but it's worth noting that Josh Willingham had a 3-0 green light Wednesday night and popped out in the infield.

In any case, Weaver threw a 77-mph changeup over the middle for a called strike, which probably wasn't the pitch Dozier was looking for, even if he was willing to swing. Then Weaver slowed it down even more and threw a 70-mph curveball for a called strike. With Joe Mauer on deck, those were two gutsy pitches, in my opinion. But Weaver hit the strike zone and then got Dozier to pop up the 3-2 fastball to the shortstop to end the inning.

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5. Oswaldo Arcia is a good fastball hitter but looks off-balance at times if he gets a breaking pitch in the dirt or an effective changeup. Here's how the Angels attacked him Thursday:

Pitches

For a ball

For a strike

Fastball

5

3

Curve

2

6

Changeup

1

4

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I expect he'll be an important cog in Twins lineups for years, but he entered Thursday hitting just .202/.269/.404 in 119 plate appearances.

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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