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Updated: June 7th, 2014 8:12pm
Zulgad: Morales move just the start if Twins want to compete this year

Zulgad: Morales move just the start if Twins want to compete this year

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by Judd Zulgad
1500ESPN.com

The Twins delivered a message Saturday afternoon that was part surprising and part interesting.

The reports that the Twins had agreed to terms with veteran Kendrys Morales on a one-year contract worth roughly $7.6 million for the remainder of the season mean the Twins will be adding a career .280/.333/.480 hitter with 102 home runs and 165 runs batted in in 620 games.

Morales, whose signing will become official when he passes a physical, should provide some pop in the lineup as the Twins' regular designated hitter. Safe to say, no one saw this coming.

There were two reactions upon seeing the news: 1) The Twins, who entered Saturday five games back of Detroit in the AL Central, clearly feel they can make things interesting this summer after three atrocious seasons. 2) If this is really the case, then the Twins need to stop sending mixed messages and they need to do it now. Some of their decisions are downright confusing.

There was some thought Saturday that the Twins were trying to decide what to do in order to create a roster spot for the switch-hitting Morales. This is exactly what we're talking about when it comes to confusing messages.

There is no decision to be made here. Let me put this as kindly as possible. Jason Kubel is cooked as a big-league player. The Twins surprised some by keeping Kubel coming out of spring training and shocked all by making the decision to retain Jason Bartlett as well.

It was sad that Bartlett had to finally make the logical decision for the Twins when he announced he was retiring in mid-April after being sent to the minors on a rehab assignment.

Kubel is hitting .224/.313/.295 with one home run and 13 RBI. He hasn't had a hit since going 2-for-4 on May 18 against Seattle. That covers a span of nine games in which Kubel is 0-for-26 and has dropped his batting average from .269 to .224.

Morales has gone more than eight months without appearing in a meaningful game. Whenever he is ready to play, the move to make will be to jettison Kubel.

That's not the only transaction the Twins need to make if they really want to take a shot at solidifying their roster.

Kevin Correia , who is making $5.5 million in the second season of a two-year, $10 million contract, needs to be bounced from the starting rotation. His stats don't lie: The righthander is 2-7 with a 6.11 ERA and opponents are hitting .321 against him.

Correia has won only one of his past six starts and gave up five runs and 10 hits in an 8-5 loss to the Milwaukee Brewers on Thursday night. He was staked to a 4-0 lead in that game thanks to a third-inning grand slam from Oswaldo Arcia.

In his previous start, Correia surrendered only one run over six innings in a 3-1 loss to the Yankees in New York. That pitching line didn't begin to tell the story of his performance. Correia walked a constant tightrope in the game, loading the bases with no outs in the bottom of the first before escaping the jam.

The Twins appear to have some legitimate options to replace Correia in the rotation at Triple-A Rochester and should make such a move as soon as possible. Righthander Trevor May (5-4, 2.80 ERA, 63 strikeouts in 61 innings) is having a solid season and could provide an immediate upgrade.

The final decision that is long overdue is sending Aaron Hicks to Rochester to work on hitting exclusively from the right side of the plate. Hicks deserved to be demoted when he was still a switch hitter but the fact he's given up on that makes it necessary to let him work on his at-bats below the big leagues.

Shortstop Danny Santana has provided the Twins with another option in center field and once Sam Fuld (concussion) is ready to return from a rehab assignment the path will be cleared for Hicks to be sent out.

Release Kubel, replace Correia and send down Hicks. Make those three moves and then it will become clear the Morales signing was made by a team that wants to compete.

Judd Zulgad is a columnist for 1500ESPN.com. He co-hosts "Mackey & Judd" from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. weekdays and "Saturday Morning SportsTalk" from 10 a.m. to noon on 1500 ESPN Twin Cities.
Email Judd | @1500ESPNJudd | Mackey & Judd
In this story: Oswaldo Arcia, Jason Kubel
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