Posted on: August 28, 2011 12:27 pm
Edited on: August 28, 2011 12:31 pm

Amid criticism, Mauer to alter offseason training

By Matt Snyder

The 2011 season has been as forgettable as one can possibly imagine for Joe Mauer. The four-time All-Star and 2009 AL MVP is hitting just .287 with basically no power -- his .349 slugging percentage is worse than Alexi Casilla's, for example. Mauer has missed 62 games, and the worst part is this has caused questions about his toughness. He didn't break or pull anything, instead Mauer's been saddled with lingering injuries attached with terms like "soreness" and "weakness." It didn't help that this came on the heels of an offseason when Mauer signed an eight-year, $184 million contract that might cripple the franchise if he doesn't return to 2009 form.

Further, Mauer's dedication to his teammates is being questioned, which is the worst possible question that could be asked about a team leader.

Sunday, ESPN.com's Buster Olney wrote the following about Mauer: "He probably is aware, too, that some of that unhappiness with his dedication exists within his own clubhouse, where his peers would be happy to see fewer Mauer commercials and more Mauer at-bats."

Mauer believes this is unfair.

"I think when I say 'unfair' it's more like, you know, like the other day -- questioning toughness," he explained (TwinCities.com). "Really, I mean, I'm not trying to sound (self-righteous), but how can somebody that's maybe been in the clubhouse once this year question toughness, and an athlete in general?"

Mauer also told reporters that he understands that he's going to be the one who takes the heat, being a former MVP and having that huge contract. He also has set the goal of entering 2012 the strongest he's ever been in his career. In fact, he has already made arrangements to upgrade his offseason training regimen.

"The biggest thing is having a regular offseason," Mauer said (StarTribune.com). "This year has been pretty tough for me, probably the toughest season I've been through, physically. Last year wasn't easy either. I had that heel injury and things kind if trickled down from that.

"It will be nice," he continued (StarTribune.com). "Hopefully I'll have somewhat of a normal offseason. I've got things in place. I've learned a lot over the last couple of years. I think I have the right people and program in place to have a good offseason."

Manager Ron Gardenhire sounds supportive, but firm, in speaking on Mauer's plans to work harder in the offseason.

"He realizes you can't sit around and do nothing as you get older. He's going to stay after it. We've talked about it," the manager said (TwinCities.com). "He's going to do some different things this winter, and prepare a little bit more and a little bit longer and come into spring training ready to go. That's the plan he has, and it's a good plan."

It's certainly going to be interesting to see how Mauer fares in 2012. It very well may be the most important season in determining whether or not his colossal contract was a mistake.

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Category: MLB
Posted on: August 27, 2011 10:57 am
Edited on: August 27, 2011 11:55 am

On Deck: Verlander going for 20


By C. Trent Rosecrans

Follow all games live with CBSSports.com's GameTracker.

Justin VerlanderGoing for 20: Of all the things Justin Verlander has done in his career, he's never won 20 games in a season. He can reach that mark today with a victory over the Twins at Target Field. Since the 28-year-old's first full season in 2006, he's won at least 17 games in five of his six seasons, including 19 in 2009. In his lone season without 17 wins, he had 17 losses in 2008. In addition to a big-league leading 19 wins this season, he's also leading the majors in starts (28), innings pitched (209 2/3), strikeouts (212), WHIP (0.878) and hits per 9 innings (6) -- in short, he's pretty good. Tigers at Twins, 4:10 p.m. ET

Boom or bust: Remember last week when the Diamondbacks had lost six straight games? Since breaking that streak on Tuesday, Arizona hasn't lost, winning their next four games. The two streaks haven't really changed their place in the standings. After beating the Phillies on Aug. 16 (the last of a seven-game winning streak), the Diamondbacks led the NL West by 3 1/2 games. They then lost six in a row and now after winning four in a row, Arizona is still 3 games up on the Giants. Arizona starter Joe Saunders has lost his last three decisions and has a 7.00 ERA in his last three starts, but is 1-1 with a 3.00 ERA in two starts against the Padres this season. Aaron Harang starts for the Padres, going for his 13th win of the season. While conventional wisdom has been that Harang has benefitted from his new spacious home at Petco Park, he's 6-0 on the road (although, his ERA is more than a run higher away from Petco, where he's 6-3). Padres at Diamondbacks, 8:10 p.m.

Giants rookie takes the hill: Astros starter Brett Myers will be make the 244th start of his career today against the Giants, while San Francisco's Eric Surkamp will be making his first. The left-handed Surkamp, 24, is 10-4 with a 2.02 ERA for the Double-A Richmond Flying Squirrels. The North Carolina State product doesn't overpower anyone, but has a big, breaking curveball that is used as a strikeout pitch. In his last start, Surkamp allowed just two hits and struck out four in eight shutout innings. With Zack Wheeler traded to New York for Carlos Beltran, Surkamp is the team's top prospect and San Francisco hopes he can stabilize the fifth spot in the rotation, filling in for the injured Jonathan Sanchez, the ineffective Dan Runzler and the injured and ineffective Barry Zito. Astros at Giants, 9:05 p.m.

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Posted on: August 26, 2011 9:48 am
Edited on: August 26, 2011 9:56 am

Pepper: Penny the language enforcer

By Matt Snyder

In Thursday's Pepper, we passed along the story of Tigers pitcher Brad Penny yelling at Rays' infielder Sean Rodriguez while he ran hard after an infield popup. Rays manager Joe Maddon -- the most popular manager there is -- was furious after the game, believing Penny took issue with Rodriguez's hustle. I thought it was pretty ridiculous myself.

But Penny wanted to clarify things, obviously having heard the story spread a bit. He actually says he took issue with Rodriguez "screaming and cussing" in anger after having popped up.

"To me, that's a sign of disrespect if you're screaming that loud," Penny said (TampaBay.com). "All these kids can hear you, it's not too loud in here. So to me, that's not really professional."

Penny also noted he was disappointed anyone thought he didn't like hustle, saying he loves hustle and would be mad if players did not hustle.

It's hard to take issue with Penny trying to keep the ears of youngsters in Tampa Bay clean, but it's a bit odd to start yelling at an opposing player for it. As far as I could find via Google, this has never happened with Penny before. He's faced 7,819 batters in his career, so it's hard to believe an opposing batter has never cussed in frustration before. What about teammates of Penny over the years? Also, Penny currently plays for Jim Leyland -- have you ever read his lips when he's getting tossed from a game?

Again, I don't find fault with Penny wanting to prevent kids from hearing what is, frankly, going on in every single baseball game of the season. It just seems a bit odd that "watch your mouth" would ever be part of a major-league baseball game. As a parent, I'd like to express that it's my job to teach my children about inappropriate language and be their role model, not Penny's.

Berkman wants to come back: Cardinals outfielder Lance Berkman is enjoying a resurgent season for the Cardinals and he told reporters this week he wants to remain in St. Louis, if they'll have him. He said staying was his "first choice." (MLB.com)

#4TRUTH: That hashtag is what jailed ex-MLB player Lenny Dykstra uses on Twitter after most of his tweets. It's seemingly to help promote that he's innocent in the multiple crimes for which he's been charged. Add another to the list, because he's now being charged with indecent exposure (Associated Press). He would allegedly place ads online for housekeepers or personal assistants and would expose himself to responders.

So long, Jim Hendry Way: It's been a rough six weeks for Jim Hendry. Not only did he lose his job and have to act like he still had it for nearly a month, but now he's losing his street in Park Ridge -- where he lives. A portion of Northwest Highway was renamed Honorary Jim Hendry Way back in 2009, but now it's being changed back. Apparently, former Illinois governor Rod Blagojevich forced the name and the town never wanted it in the first place. Now that Blago is headed for the slammer, the sign is coming down. To rub salt in the wound, check out this quote: "Of course, if he had brought us a World Series, I would have built a monument to him at the intersection. But, alas, all he brought us was Alfonso Soriano and Carlos Zambrano," mayor Dave Schmidt joked in an email (ChicagoTribune.com). Zing!

Crafty lefties: In honor of the recently-deceased Mike Flanagan, Joe Posnanski came up with a Crafty Lefty Hall of Fame. Pretty cool stuff, as usual, from Joe.

25 things you didn't know: Yahoo's Jeff Passan compiled a really interesting list of 25 things we didn't know about baseball. For example, Michael Young and Howie Kendrick haven't popped out all season, Jonny Venters gets the highest percentage of grounders in a decade and Brett Gardner is the best defensive player in baseball.

Add another name to the list: Thursday, I presented several rumored names on the Cubs' wish list to be the next general manager. We can add Dan Evans to the list, as the Chicago Sun-Times makes a good case for him. Evans is a Chicago native who grew up near Wrigley Field. He was an assistant general manager for the White Sox and then the Dodgers GM before the McCourt family took over and got rid of him. Evans was at the helm when Matt Kemp, Russell Martin, Chad Billingsley and Jonathan Broxton were drafted.

Futility: Twins catcher Drew Butera has a chance to do something pretty remarkably bad. He's hitting .160 with 200 plate appearances. Since 1975, no player in the majors has hit .160 or worse with at least 250 plate appearances. (Hardball Talk)

88's the goal: Blue Jays manager John Farrell wants to reach 88 wins this season. The significance is that it would tie the 1998 mark for the most wins since the Jays won the World Series in 1993 (MLB.com). That won't get them anywhere near the playoffs, but would an 88-74 record be enough for the haters to stop saying Jose Bautista plays for a "loser?" (See comments)

Happy Day-versary: 10,000 days ago, Jack Morris threw a no-hitter and Dwight Gooden made his major-league debut. (Hardball Times)

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Posted on: August 25, 2011 4:37 pm
Edited on: August 25, 2011 4:43 pm

Twins injury bug won't go away, Liriano to DL

By Matt Snyder

Twins starting pitcher Francisco Liriano left his start against the Orioles Thursday (an eventual 6-1 loss) after just two innings with an apparent injury. After the game, the Twins announced that he will be placed on the 15-day disabled list with a strained left shoulder. Scott Diamond will be recalled as a corresponding move, which should tell you all you need to know about the Twins' fortunes this season. Diamond is 4-14 with a 5.56 ERA and 1.58 WHIP in Triple-A this season.

If choosing the most disappointing team in Major League Baseball this season, it would be hard to go wrong with the Minnesota Twins. The kicker is that it's not really even their fault, in terms of performance on the field. We have no idea where a completely healthy Twins team would be with relatively complete health. They might have still disappointed, they might be in first place or somewhere in between.

To get specific, the Twins had played 129 games prior to Thursday. Here are the number of games played from some of their position players:

Joe Mauer: 70
Justin Morneau: 65
Denard Span: 65
Jason Kubel: 81
Alexi Casilla: 97
Tsuyoshi Nishioka: 61

There are more, too, but that's 2/3 of the starting lineup. It's been a vertiable injury ward in Minnesota this season.

On Liriano specifically, shoulder injuries are always a concern for pitchers and he has some injury history. He has loads of talent, as evidenced by his no-hitter earlier this season and his lights-out rookie year. But since that Tommy John surgery back in 2006, he's been pretty inconsistent. There were trade rumors with Liriano before this season after he had a pretty good 2010 season, but nothing happened and now his value might be shot.

Prior to Thursday, Liriano was 9-9 with a 4.85 ERA and 1.45 WHIP in 23 starts this season.

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Posted on: August 25, 2011 1:08 pm
Edited on: August 25, 2011 5:56 pm

Indians place claim on Thome

By Matt Snyder and Evan Brunell

The Cleveland Indians were been awarded a waiver claim for Twins designated hitter Jim Thome, CBSSports.com's Danny Knobler learned, and the Elyira Chronicle-Telegram says Thome will indeed become an Indian as early as Friday.

Heading back to Cleveland would be a full circle move for Thome. The man who became the eighth in baseball history to hit 600 career home runs earlier this season began his career with the Indians.

It's unclear if this is a trade or Minnesota will let Thome go to the team on waivers. If Minnesota or Thome changes its mind on the deal, the Twins could decide to pull Thome back and not let the Indians have him. The most likely avenue seems like a trade, but Thome has a no-trade clause and Ken Rosenthal of Fox Sports reports Thome wanted to go to the Phillies, although the Indians would be a reasonable alternative. The window in which Thome can be traded closes 48 hours after the claim is awarded.

The Indians do have an obvious need at DH, with Travis Hafner sitting on the disabled list and no guarantee he can stay healthy upon return. The Indians are six games out, though, so you could make an argument they are falling out of contention. And that matters.

At age 40, Thome has been to four League Championship Series and two World Series, but he's never won it all. Thus, his desire to not only return to a place he's beloved -- Philadelphia -- but to the team with the best record in baseball makes sense. If Thome wants a ring bad enough, he could make an interesting play to get to the Phillies. If he rejects a trade to the Indians and the Twins let him walk, Thome could then invoke his no-trade with every other team but the Phillies. Doing so would make him forfeit about $500,000 in remaining salary for this season and possibly tarnish his "good guy" image, but it might get him to Philly and ultimately grab him a ring. That seems like an awful lot of star aligning, though, doesn't it?

It was previously reported by a Chicago outlet that the White Sox would claim Thome -- blocking him from the Indians, who have a better record -- but instead the White Sox were awarded a claim on Jason Kubel.

Thome is hitting .248/.357/.485 with 12 home runs and 40 RBI in 238 plate appearances this season.

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Posted on: August 23, 2011 1:49 am

Twins' Revere makes catch of the year

Ben Revere

By C. Trent Rosecrans

Fans in Minnesota have seen their fair share of great plays by Twins center fielders over the years -- Torii Hunter is one of the best defensive outfielders to ever play the game and Kirby Puckett made plenty of highlight catches -- but Monday night may have seen the best catch ever by a Minnesota center fielder when Ben Revere robbed Baltimore's Vladimir Guerrero to end the seventh inning of Minnesota's 4-1 loss to the Orioles.

You can watch the play here.

Revere had to run back on a full sprint to try to track down Guerrero's shot to the deepest part of Target Field, he then lept with his back facing home plate, looking back straight over his head and caught the ball just before it hit the wall. 

"That might be one of the best catches I've ever seen considering he ran 50, 60 yards to catch the ball," manager Ron Gardenhire told reporters, including the Associated Press after the game. "And then all the way over his tead and jumping into the wall. That's probably one of the yes you're going to see."

Revere surprised even himself, having to look into his glove when he got up to make sure he caught the ball.

"I saw the way my glove ran into the wall and I bounced off," Revere told the AP. "When I saw (Michael) Cuddyer and (Jason) Kubel, their jaws just dropped. … I looked in to make sure it don't come out. I was sort of like, 'I did! It didn't come out! Wow!'"

Wow indeed.

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Posted on: August 22, 2011 3:31 pm
Edited on: August 22, 2011 5:09 pm

Thome hits waivers, could be traded

By Matt Snyder

Twins designated hitter Jim Thome -- who recently joined an elite group of sluggers by hitting his 600th career home run -- has been placed on waivers (Ken Rosenthal via Twitter). So it's possible he could be traded within the next week.

Yes, there was a trade deadline back on July 31, but it's a non-waiver deadline. In the month of August, players who clear waivers can be traded. Also, players could be claimed via the waivers process and then traded to the team that claimed them.

Rosenthal reports that the Phillies want Thome, but seeing as how they have the best record in baseball -- and, thus, the last shot at him in the waivers process -- it's very doubtful he makes it to them. What about a return to Cleveland for Thome? With Travis Hafner going on the disabled list Monday, it's possible the Tribe ends up with an opening at DH. Going back to Cleveland, where Thome spent the first 12 years of his career, would be a nice story and give the Indians an obvious offensive upgrade. Thome has an .868 OPS with 12 home runs this season in just 230 plate appearances.

The Yankees could also be interested in an upgrade at DH, while the Giants and Braves would certainly benefit from some punch off the bench.

Rosenthal also reports Carlos Pena, Jason Kubel and Heath Bell hit waivers Monday.

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Posted on: August 22, 2011 10:50 am
Edited on: August 22, 2011 10:52 am

Young looks rejuvenated after trade

By Matt Snyder

Delmon Young is a corner outfielder who was the top overall draft pick in the 2003 MLB Draft. And when the Twins traded him to the Tigers last week, he had just four home runs and a .357 slugging percentage in 2011. Juan Pierre's slugging percentage is .339. Ryan Theriot's is .340. David Eckstein's career slugging percentage was .355. This isn't the type of power production teams look for in a top overall draft pick, someone who should be hitting in the middle of a batting order for a contender.

Well, as it turns out, that's exactly what Young is doing now. In just six games for Detroit, Young looks like the player he was last season -- when he finished 10th in MVP voting with 21 home runs, 46 doubles, 112 RBI and an .826 OPS. In six games for the Tigers -- alert the small sample police -- Young is hitting .308 with two home runs, six RBI and a .538 slugging percentage.

What changed? Did Young simply flip a switch since he's now playing for the first-place team? That's probably not fair. Young is still only 25 and has a ton of talent, so mountains and valleys in production are to be expected. Plus, his new manager, Jim Leyland, has batted Young third every game since joining the Tigers. That means the might Miguel Cabrera is his protection. For the Twins, Young was hitting sixth, seventh and even eighth at times for much of the past three months. And it probably is a ton easier to show up to the ballpark with a great attitude everyday when your team is in first place.

Whatever the reason, Young appears to be back, and he's giving the Tigers a shot in the arm -- likely en route to the AL Central title.

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The views expressed in this blog are solely those of the author and do not reflect the views of CBS Sports or CBSSports.com