Wetmore: 5 thoughts, on a roster mess, and on Mauer playing with pain
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The Twins lost, 9-4, to the Indians on Thursday. Bad baseball teams like to think they have something like a 50 percent chance to win each game, and barring an unkind pitching matchup that's close to true based on math.
Thursday's game never felt like it was a 50-50 proposition, as the Twins sent Kevin Correia to the mound against Justin Masterson, and Minnesota played without four of its top-5 outfielders.
This column presents 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. Eduardo Escobar played center field and batted second Thursday. That shouldn't happen in the Major Leagues. Playing center field was mostly out of necessity because of injuries to Sam Fuld (concussion disabled list), Aaron Hicks, Josh Willingham, Oswaldo Arcia and the roster crunches that cost the organization Darin Mastroianni and Alex Presley.
That's a difficult collection of injuries to deal with simultaneously but the fact that Escobar was the best option speaks to a lack of preparedness. The Twins were ill-prepared to deal with a wave of injuries and a wave of injuries struck.
2. As I've mentioned in the three consecutive '5 thoughts' columns now, it's time to do away with No. 2 hitters who aren't any good at getting on base. Escobar's career on-base percentage is .293, which means he makes more outs than an average player and should not be given the second-most plate appearances on any given day.
There's not much the Twins could do Thursday about the short-handed roster. But it was their choice to bat Escobar second.
3. It seems unlucky how many outfielders on the 40-man roster are hurt simultaneously. Josh Willingham was hit by a pitch the last time the Twins faced Masterson and he still doesn't appear close to returning. Sam Fuld and Aaron Hicks each collided with the centerfield wall and hit the 7-day concussion DL. Oswaldo Arcia has been slow to recover from a wrist injury of his own. After the Twins acquired Eduardo Nunez, he dealt with an oblique injury. And of course there is Joe Mauer's bout with back spasms.
It's inexcusable to have had Jason Bartlett on the active roster after spring training. It might or might not have cost the Twins Alex Presley and Darin Mastroianni. I'll leave open the possibility that the organization simply decided it didn't have use for either of those players in separate decisions from Bartlett. Even if that's the case, each would look good in center for the Twins compared to their current alternatives.
4. The alternatives on the 40-man roster aren't particularly appealing. Here's an updated look at the 40-man roster after the mid-week roster shuffling.
Outfielders: Arcia (DL), Fuld (DL), Chris Herrmann (demoted Thursday), Hicks (DL, eligible to return Friday), Max Kepler (20-year-old playing at Class-A Advanced Fort Myers), Jason Kubel, Josh Willingham (DL) and Kenny Wilson (claimed off waivers from the Blue Jays). Chris Colabello has played outfield with the Twins shorthanded, but he's not much of fielder.
Infielders: Colabello, Brian Dozier, Eduardo Escobar, Pedro Florimon (demoted Thursday), Joe Mauer (out with back spasms), Eduardo Nunez (recalled Thursday), Trevor Plouffe, Jorge Polanco (20-year-old playing for Class-A Advanced Fort Myers), Danny Santana (getting his first taste of the big leagues), Kennys Vargas (23-year-old playing at Double-A New Britain).
Another 40-man roster note: to make room for Matt Guerrier to be recalled Thursday, the Twins put pitcher Brooks Raley through waivers and he was claimed by the L.A. Angels. The Twins originally had claimed the lefty off waivers from the Cubs.
5. I don't know what it's like to have back problems or how severely Mauer is hurt, but it sure is popular to pile on him for being soft. He's expensive, yes, and durability questions at this point in his career mostly are fair (concussion notwithstanding). I'm surprised, though, at the degree to which he's receiving heat.
That includes fans as well as my colleagues. I don't agree with the idea that athletes must tough it out and it's interesting to me that the prevailing opinion seems to be that this is Mauer's fault.
I guess that makes me a Mauer apologist. I just can't say for certain how much pain Mauer is in and how able he ought to be to play through his pain.