Posted on: September 2, 2011 1:31 pm
Of hurricanes, Orioles and White Sox ... which really aren't all that different, when you think about it:
FROM: Nick D.
Re.: Last-place Orioles remain stuck in familiar late-season rut
I started to read this article and then I stopped. ... Stop writing articles giving me hope for my woefully bad O's. I read these every year and every year they're the foundation holding up the AL East. Stop. Please. You people keep opening the same wound.
Next time I'll bring the cotton balls and hydrogen peroxide.
Re.: Weekend Buzz: Rain postponements taking toll on 2011 - then comes Irene
The fact that fans who purchased tickets to Saturday's games at Fenway Park had to wait out those delays is absurd. The greed of the organization is the reason. They did not want to have to cancel the games and reschedule, or God forbid they would have to offer refunds or tickets to an alternate game. To try to play those games through the hurricane was absurd. It is frustrating to read your articles because none of this is mentioned and you show an unreasonable bias to the Yankees. If it was the Yankees organization that did this, you would be the first one criticizing them.
The Red Sox were so greedy they let fans into Fenway for free following the rain delay in Game 2 Saturday.Appalling, wasn't it? It's called trying to make sure the games get played when there is precious little time left in the season to reschedule them, mister.
There is no reason to have rainouts anymore. If a small-market team like Seattle can have a retractable roof stadium, why haven't the BIG GUNS protected game revenues with new Stadiums, including retracting covers. Hellloooo Yankees!
Put a retractable roof on Yankee Stadium, the ghost of Babe Ruth will rip his plaque out of Monument Park and install it somewhere in Montana.
FROM: J D
Hey, Miller ... More Yankee bashing, huh? Shocking. And you're not right. Like Joe Girardi said, a lot of other games in baseball and other sports changed their schedules to be amenable to Hurricane Irene. They still could have played an actual DH, not split, and honored Flanagan -- which the Yankees did the night before in very good form, btw, before their game with the A's. Or they could have played a game on Saturday in the early morning before the storm hit. It's all about the fact of the O's not wanting to lose a gate in one of the rare times they would actually make some money with the Yankees in town. Now, the Yankees will have to use up one of their rare September off days to play a game in Baltimore after finishing up a three-game series with the aforementioned O's the very next day, and with a long West Coast road trip looming. ... And way not to mention the Red Sox's unwavering interest in getting both games in no matter what the weather to improve their standings and keep a September off day.
You lost credibility with the sentence "And you're not right." Because, fact is, I'm almost always right. Including on this topic.
FROM: Jack L.
Re.: Up-and-down White Sox look to final month to save season
I'm a lifelong, die-hard White Sox fan who literally follows the team hour by hour, not just day by day. You did a very nice job of summing this season up. The only difference between being a gawker checking out a freeway wreck in the other direction and watching the White Sox play this year is that the freeway wreck is at least somewhat interesting, even if you can't really see much of it. IMHO, Kenny Williams is clearly the guy that needs to go. Trader Kenny completely lost his touch with the first stinker of a Nick Swisher trade and has just made one bad move after another ever since save for unloading Edwin Jackson prior to the trade deadline.
At least don't follow the White Sox minute by minute. Think how miserable you'd be then.
Fire Kenny Williams, he sucks as a GM. It's been his signings that brought the White Sox four of the worst contracts in White Sox history. Let's not forget the Manny Ramirez deal last year as well after letting Jim Thome slip away. The Sox paid Ramirez multiple times what Thome was paid all year for one month of services. If not for Zambrano's and Soriano's contracts on the North Side, Williams would really be exposed for the horrible GM he has been. I think the players enjoy playing for Ozzie Guillen, and he has gotten a lot out his players considering the start the Sox have had in the last two years.
According to my Love Letters readers' poll, Williams' approval rating drastically trail those of Guillen.
FROM: Mike M.
Love your work. Love it if you could do a story about the Angels owner (Arte Moreno) vs. Scott Boras and include why Boras has that ground level box behind home plate at Anaheim Stadium. Boras looks like an idiot standing in the TV background of most pitches while he talks on his cell or works his laptop. As a Mariner fan I laugh thinking what Angels fans think about seeing him all the time.
It's a simple, economical issue: Boras' company purchases that ground-level suite with old-fashioned greenbacks. But while you may laugh, think of all the advertising that TV time translates into for hundreds of players who might be watching in other cities and contemplating what Boras could do for them.
Re.: Weekend Buzz: Yanks getting stronger down the stretch
Scott, while I respect your opinion, how has the Yankees pitching been woeful? Their ERA is better than Detroit, Boston, and Texas's, their bullpen ERA is the best in baseball, and outside of A.J. Burnett, no one on that staff has been woeful outside of Phil Hughes before his injury. Right now, Ivan Nova and Hughes are pitching as well as anyone, CC Sabathia is an ace, and between Freddy Garcia and Bartolo Colon, the Yankees have a respectable four starter for the playoffs. It just makes no sense why people are so quick to discredit the Yankees pitching without looking up the numbers.
If you read the column, and not just the headline and sub-head, you'd have your answer: I was EXAGGERATING, teasing Yankees' fans for being so quick to panic.
Likes: LA Marathon founder Bill Burke making a $1.2 billion bid for the Dodgers. It's funded in part by Chinese investors, and wow, think how much fun we all could have with THAT. Great take by Harold Meyerson in Friday's LA Times on the op-ed page: "There's no need to rehash the McCourts' destruction of one of American sports' most fabled and successful franchises. At this point, anyone who takes the team off their hands would be a better owner, right? Could there really be a more problematic proprietor? And then, along comes China." ... Absolutely loved Thursday's A-1 headline in the Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel: "Obama jobs speech up against Packers opener." ... Good job, Falcons of Monroe (Mich.) St. Mary Catholic Central High, getting on the board with a 12-6 win over New Boston Huron on Thursday after a tough opening week loss.
Dislikes: Sports Illustrated's rare regional covers. I know, business is business. But I'm old school and I don't like not having a particular cover.
Rock 'N' Roll Lyric of the Day:
"What's keeping you, keep pouring drinks
"For all these palookas, hey you know what I thinks
"That we toast to the old days and DiMaggio too
"And old Drysdale and Mantle, Whitey Ford and to you"
-- Tom Waits, A Sight For Sore Eyes
Posted on: August 25, 2011 9:17 pm
Edited on: August 25, 2011 10:00 pm
Jim Thome is going home: The slugger has accepted a trade to Cleveland in which the Indians will send a player to be named later to the Twins.
Thome accepted the deal late Thursday following the Twins' 6-1 loss to Baltimore.
Cleveland is struggling to hang on in the AL Central, where Detroit has opened up a 6 1/2-game lead over the Indians and a seven-game margin over the White Sox. Thome fills an immediate need for designated hitter in Cleveland, where the Indians this week lost Travis Hafner to a foot injury. There is a good chance Hafner will miss the rest of the season.
Thome, 40, had full no-trade powers in Minnesota, and his return to Cleveland undoubtedly will become one of the final month's most emotional storylines. Thome began his career in Cleveland in 1991 and played there until leaving as a free agent after the 2002 season.
He is not the player he once was, but he still has long-ball power every time he steps to the plate. He is hitting .243 this season with 12 home runs in 238 at-bats. He became only the eighth player to reach 600 home runs last week when the Twins were in Detroit.
Still, it's all hands on deck right now for the Indians, who are 33-49 since May 24 and have lost 13 games in the AL Central standings.
After the Indians put in a waiver claim on Thome on Wednesday, manager Manny Acta playfully tweeted midday Thursday as negotiations between the two clubs continued, "People, we all want Jim Thome. Some things you can buy, some things you can't. ... For everything else there is Mastercard."
Despite being gone for most of the past decade, Thome returns to Cleveland as the Indians' franchise leader in homers (334) and walks (997). He also ranks second all-time in club history in RBI (927), fifth in runs scored (917), fourth in total bases (2,633) and third in on-base percentage (.414) and extra-base hits (613). He is a five-time All-Star.
"Jim Thome is a Hall of Fame-caliber player and person," Indians general manager Chris Antonetti said in a statement. He has meant so much to this organization -- both on and off the field -- and it is an honor to bring him back in an Indians uniform where he created so many great memories. Having his bat and presence in the middle of the lineup certainly improves our team."
Thome's reception upon returning to Cleveland over the years has not always been pleasant, due largely to an unfortunate comment he made in 2002 to the effect of people would have to rip the uniform off of him before he left Cleveland.
That winter, however, after the Indians had fired manager Charlie Manuel -- who is as close with Thome as anybody in the game -- and with the landscape changing in Cleveland, Thome accepted Philadelphia's free agent offer of six years and $85 million. Some in Cleveland never forgave him for that. This homecoming, a fitting bookend to the first several chapters of Thome's career on the banks of Lake Erie, should, by all rights, make Thome an Indian once and for all.
On a side note, Twins president Dave St. Peter tweeted that Jim Thome Wind-Up Walker Night -- seriously, set for Friday night in Target Field as the Twins host Detroit -- will go on as scheduled.
"The Twins org wishes Jim Thome the best," St. Peter said Thursday evening in a separate tweet. "It's been an honor to have him wear a Twins [uniform]."
The player to be named the Twins will receive is not on the Indians' 40-man roster.
Posted on: August 24, 2011 12:35 am
ANAHEIM, Calif -- Highlights have been few and far between for the 2011 Chicago White Sox, but Paul Konerko put up one for the books when he cracked his 2,000th career hit in the eighth inning of Tuesday's series opener here.
The hit surely was especially meaningful to Konerko in that it was an RBI single against Ervin Santana that tied the game at 4-4 at a point in the season where the White Sox are desperate for every run, every win they can get. Konerko, a beloved figure on Chicago's South Side and widely respected throughout the game, becomes only the 13th player in club history to collect his 2,000th hit.
It's been a boom season for the 2,000-hit club: Konerko is the sixth man to join that club this summer. Previously this summer, Houston's Carlos Lee, San Francisco's Orlando Cabrera (then with the Indians), Cincinnati's Scott Rolen, St. Louis' Albert Pujols and Texas' Michael Young each collected his 2,000th hit.
The White Sox dugout immediately erupted in cheers, then most of the players began waving for the baseball as soon as the play concluded with Alejandro De Aza crossing the plate. With the game 4-4, White Sox manager removed Konerko, who was DHing, for pinch-runner Brent Lillibridge.
Konerko also is at 393 career homers and soon could become only the sixth active player with 400 homers and 2,000 hits, joining Pujols, the Yankees' Alex Rodriguez, Atlanta's Chipper Jones, Baltimore's Vladimir Guerrero and Minnesota's Jim Thome.
Tags: Albert Pujols, Alex Rodriguez, Atlanta Braves, Baltimore Orioles, Carlos Lee, Chicago White Sox, Chipper Jones, Cincinnati Reds, Cleveland Indians, Houston Astros, Jim Thome, Michael Young, Minnesota Twins, New York Yankees, Orlando Cabrera, Paul Konerko, San Francisco Giants, Scott Rolen, St. Louis Cardinals, Texas Rangers, Vladimir Guerrero
Posted on: August 23, 2011 9:15 pm
If the Twins do opt to deal Jim Thome, who reportedly is on waivers through Thursday, it's hard to imagine a better way for Thome's career to end than him taking one last victory lap in Cleveland.
Thome certainly would fit with the Indians, with Travis Hafner possibly out for the season with a foot injury.
But here's a thought: What if another of Thome's ex-teams is in position to claim him first?
Hello, disappointing Chicago White Sox.
Any interest there?
"I'd love to have Jim Thome back," Sox manager Ozzie Guillen said before Tuesday night's series opener against the Angels in Anaheim. "I've said day-in and day-out, he's one of my favorite guys in baseball.
"But that's up to Kenny [Williams, Sox general manager]."
The Sox are still hanging in there in a tepid AL Central in the midst of a disappointing, mediocre (63-63) season.
Free agent slugger Adam Dunn (.169, 11 homers, 40 RBI) has been one of the game's most disappointing players. Catcher A.J. Pierzynski currently is on the disabled list with a fractured wrist. Outfielder Carlos Quentin (.255, 24 homers, 77 RBI) was out of the starting lineup for a second consecutive game Tuesday with a sprained AC joint in his left shoulder suffered Saturday against Texas.
"If you ask anybody wearing this uniform if they would want Jim Thome back, they would say, 'Yes'," Guillen said.
Posted on: August 18, 2011 3:14 pm
Jim Thome. Carlos Zambrano. Discuss. ...
FROM: Jack M.
Re.: Thome's 600th HR, like his career, comes with class, style
I attended a charity auction in the Peoria area in the winter following the 2002 season. The organizers reached out to Thome, asking if he could attend. He said he couldn't, due to a prior commitment, but donated various autographed items to the auction. Then, on the night of the auction, he showed up unannounced about a half-hour before it began, donated a sizable check, and gave a short speech. After this, he went to the airport and flew back to his prior commitment -- being introduced as a member of the Phillies. The guy's whole life was changing, and he made time for a small auction back home. Ever since then, I root for Jim Thome -- even against my favorite teams.
I know there are those who say, bottom line, it's about what they do on the field. And that's true. But watching a class act like Thome join the 600 club sure is more fun than watching a miscreant who can barely squeeze his enlarged head through the front entrance to 600.
Greetings! The difference between the Big Zero and Jim Thome, there is a reason why I cannot support certain players. And for the Union to file a grievance? The Big Zero CLEANED OUT HIS LOCKER. One may say that was done in the Heat of the Moment but, having played COLLEGIATE baseball, do you realize just how long it takes to do that ? The Big Zero has earned his nickname, and I wish the spoiled little child well with whatever he does in life.
You must be hell on wheels at the dart board, your points are so accurate. And very magnanimous to wish Zambrano well, by the way.
FROM: Wayne A.
Scott: If you check the background of Jim Thome, I believe you will find he went through high school at Limestone H.S. in Bartonville, Ill., which is across I-474 from Peoria. Almost everyone says he is from Peoria. If I am incorrect on this matter please correct me.
I checked, and you're right. Apologies to good ol' Limestone/Bartonville. I expect to see a Paul Bunyan-like statue of Thome there one day.
Re.: After yet another Zambrano meltdown, will Cubs learn lesson?
ZOOM-brano -- the Jim Piersall of this decade. Haven't we all seen enough of this emotional infant? A bowel movement with teeth is what he is.
Oh, man ... hold on ... I'm still doubled over in laughter ... I'll get to an answer in a moment. ... hahahahahaha.
FROM: Terry F.
I don't think that Z should be on the DQ List. This isn't really about Zambrano. He is what he is. This is about the Cubs. I agree with you in that they need to pay him whatever they owe him and move on. They supported him in his first fight, which was a mistake. When the second fight occurred, or perhaps before as there were plenty of other incidents like throwing the umpire out, they should have traded him or released him. Zambrano is responsible for his own actions, but the Cubs deserve far more blame than Zambrano this time, because they knew what they were dealing with and they let it happen.
Really hard to argue against those well-reasoned points. Cubs, your move.
Well done. Great article. However, it's not so easy cutting loose a guy making that much cabbage knowing you're NOT going to get ANYTHING in return. Are you forgetting the Cubs had two extensive injuries in their starting rotation this year? They even tried trading Carlos before the deadline. They even put him on waivers. NOBODY claimed him. Nobody wants him. The Cubs best hope is Carlos really does retire so it voids the contract. The very last thing the Cubs will do is let him go via release and by suggesting that, you don't know as much as you think you do.
Yeah, the Cubs never should have extended him in the first place. But if you remember, at the time of his extension, MANY teams would have paid top dollar for him based on his numbers. He was one of the top pitching free agents out there that year. The Cubs best solution is to do what they did. Let him sit for a month and NOT pay him. Let things cool off. See what he says in a month. If he retires? Awesome. If not? Move him to the Restricted list so he doesn't pitch again this year and try once again to move him in the offseason. If by Spring Training he's still hanging around like a snot, THEN you release him.
Cabbage. Love the term. And you're right, Zambrano is making so much cabbage even Peter Rabbit would be exquisitely jealous -- and better behaved.
FROM: Dorothy B.
He should be fired. I didn't watch all the game, but figured with that many home runs against him, he'd throw a fit and he did.
See? If you can see these things coming, why can't the Cubs?
I know he's a f------ nut, but why was he still in the game after giving up five homers?
Legitimate characterization of the Big Z(ero), and legitimate point regarding the Cubs.
FROM: Dan S.
Re.: Weekend Buzz: Giants need to fix their puny offense
Understand your column about Giants offense, but on the other hand they have three people in the ERA leaders and one at 3.5. Their game is low scoring, if they keep the opposing team in the game then they have a chance. If they had an offense like Cincy, for example, and score seven to eight runs but the pitchers give up eight or nine, what good is the high scoring offense? Sure it would take pressure off their pitchers to get four runs early.
Valid points, and we see the troubles the Reds are having. But isn't there a middle ground somewhere the Giants could find? The best argument right now is how banged up they are.
You're right on target. As a longtime Giants fan, it's really frustrating to see such futility at the plate. Outside of maybe Sandoval and Schierholtz, all the rest are hitting well below their career avg's. Belt could be a spark...two dingers [the other day] in Florida was a good start.
The Giants need a few new Belt loops.
Likes: The season Michael Young is having for the Rangers. ... Merle Haggard's take on Texas manager Ron Washington's lovely phrase, "That's the way baseball go." It's now a Haggard song, and you can download it on iTunes. The money goes to Rangers charities. ... Modern Family. Terrific characters and snappy writing. ... Steve Earle's book I'll Never Get Out of This World Alive. Very entertaining read, with lots of colorful, skid-row characters. Let's just say one of the main characters is a junkie doctor who helped country legend Hank Williams score dope and may have been the last person to see Williams alive (fiction, this book is fiction). Earle's CD of the same name is terrific, too -- especially the track Waiting For the Sky to Fall.
Dislikes: Being a captive audience to merchants on the other side of the airport security screening and paying something like $12 for a small "breakfast" to go at Starbucks. Highway robbery is what it is. In this crappy economy and in these days in which airplanes have scrapped food, that's got to be a great business to go into: Running a food shop between the security screening and the flight gates. I imagine those people all live in mansions, with servants, eating prime rib and lobster every evening.
Rock 'N' Roll Lyric of the Day:
"Kiss a little baby
"Give the world a smile
"And if you take an inch
"Give them back a mile
"'Cause if you lie like a rug
"And you don't give a damn
"You're never going to be
"As happy as a clam"
-- John Prine, It's a Big Old Goofy World
Posted on: February 27, 2011 1:09 pm
-- Yes, Michael Cuddyer says, getting bounced from the playoffs by the Yankees (again) last October still hurts. But things might not have worked out well for him regardless last October even had the Twins played in the World Series.
Not only did he undergo arthroscopic surgery on his knee in mid-October, but he was stricken with appendicitis two days after that. All the time, he was going to push the knee surgery back until the offseason. The appendicitis? That might not have cooperated.
"If we had been in the World Series ... I was in the hospital watching Game 2," Cuddyer says. "I was thinking, 'That could be us.' And I was thinking, 'That could be me in San Francisco, laying in a hospital.
"It would have been good if we were in the World Series. But it would have sucked if I was in a hospital bed while it was going on."
Weird thing is, as Cuddyer watched from his hospital bed, Joe Buck and Tim McCarver were talking about Giants center fielder Andres Torres -- and how he was felled by appendicitis in early September but made it back in time for the postseason.
-- One more piece of inside dope on Renaissance man Cuddyer:
"He's a gadget guy," Twins designated hitter Jim Thome says. "He's got all the music, all the information. He's a big trivia guy. He knows all about baseball. Somebody asks who scored 155 runs in whatever year, he knows.
"We go to him. He's the leader of our clubhouse."
-- Keep an eye on young minor-league right-hander Kyle Gibson, 23, tabbed No. 34 on <em>Baseball America's</em> list of top 100 prospects. Gibson could be the next great Twins homegrown starter. At the very least, the man who moved from Class A to Triple A last summer likely will pitch for the Twins at some point this summer.
"He's what you want," Twins pitching coach Rick Anderson says. "His makeup, his attitude, everything about him."
Gibson throws four pitches well -- fastball, change-up, curve and a sinker/slider that is his best pitch.
"He's not your typical kid coming up," Anderson says. "He talks about pitching, changing speeds, pitching to the side to get away from a hitter. He's going to be one you'll hear about."
Sunblock Day? Not one day that you haven't needed sunblock since camps opened. Consistently in the 80s with warm sunshine.
Likes: Unquestionably, one of the best sights of spring: Twins minor-league hitting coach Riccado Ingram in camp and feeling great after being diagnosed with a cancerous brain tumor two years ago. He's been through chemotherapy, radiation and, praise be, it looks like he's out of the woods. What a great, great thing. ... Former infielder Jeff Reboulet visiting Twins camp. Reb, one of the good guys, is home in Dayton, Ohio, and working as a financial advisor (yes, he has some pro baseball clients), while teaming with his brother to run a sports academy in his spare time. ... Former Twins manager Tom Kelly, Hall of Famer Paul Molitor and former catcher Terry Steinbach in uniform instructing and running drills. ... Longtime radio man John Gordon retiring at 70 after 25 years with the Twins -- but still planning to broadcast 89 games this year. Team president Dave St. Peter and broadcast partner Dan Gladden talked him into it. ... Perfect tonic to re-charge the spring training batteries: An hour by the pool and dinner at Five Guys Burgers and Fries. Mmmm.
Dislikes: Minnesota bullpen coach Rick Stelmaszek, the longest tenured coach in the majors (this will be his 31st season), missing the first several days of spring camp following surgery to repair a detached retina in his right eye. He may wind up missing all of spring camp as the eye heals. Get well soon, Stelly. Spring camp with the Twins just isn't the same.
Rock 'N' Roll Lyric of the Day:
"Now you're lookin' at a man that's gettin' kind of mad
-- Hank Williams Jr., I'll Never Get Out of This World Alive
Posted on: October 7, 2010 2:44 am
Just as you imagine the Metropolitan Stadium crowd did on Oct. 5, 1970, when pinch-hitter Rick Renick grounded to short to force Rich Reese at second in the ninth, allowing the Baltimore Orioles to sweep the Twins out of the ALCS.
The last time they played an outdoor playoff game in the Twin Cities.
The to-be-continued part following Renick's grounder, when the October outdoor baseball chapter of Twins' history resumed, picked back up with Twins starter Francisco Liriano fanning Derek Jeter to start Game 1 of the Twins-Yankees latest Divisional Series tussle here.
It was a gorgeous fall night, 63 degrees at game-time, shirt-sleeves weather for much of the evening.
But much like that old Metropolitan Stadium crowd from 1970, these Twins fans went home disappointed, too.
Of course, they've seen it before against the relentless Yankee machine.
"We play nine innings," New York shortstop Derek Jeter said of another comeback, this one after the Yanks trailed 3-0 in the sixth inning. "It's what you have to do. Whether you're ahead of behind, it's what you have to do."
Likes: Watching Roy Halladay was electric even from several hundred miles away. ... Perfect autumn day in the Twin Cities on Wednesday. Temperature around 70, gold leaves, textbook fall weather. ... Great noon-time run on a path along the Mississippi River. ... Former pitcher Jack Morris on the field before the game telling stories. ... Derek Jeter eating at Murray's home of the "Silver Butter Knife Steak" on Tuesday night, the eve of Game 1.
Dislikes: No expanded instant replay for these playoffs. Delmon Young's two-out single in the ninth should have been an out -- television replays showed that Greg Golson, inserted by Yankees manager Joe Girardi as a defensive sub for Nick Swisher in the ninth inning, made a diving catch on Young's sinking liner. Umpires wrongly awarded Young a single which, in a 6-4 game, could have been problematical. But Jim Thome popped up the next pitch to third and the game was over. Had Thome deposited a game-tying, two-run homer against the Yankees, you wouldn't have heard the end of this debate for weeks. And being that it came against the Yankees, I guarantee expanded instant replay would have been put in place well ahead of next season's playoffs.
Rock 'N' Roll Lyric of the Day:
"From Mankato up to Brainerd
-- The Baseball Project with Craig Finn, Don't Call Them Twinkies
Posted on: April 15, 2010 5:56 pm
MINNEAPOLIS -- Ten games into their season, the Twins are on a high after taking series' from three contenders (Angels, White Sox and Red Sox) and winning their first three series for the first time in a season since 1987.
But if Thursday's 8-0 win was a potential glimpse of lefty Francisco Liriano's 2010 season, the best might be yet to come.
Liriano, coming off of a 5-13 season while returning from Tommy John ligament transfer surgery, shut out Boston for seven innings in an 8-0 Twins romp and showed a repertoire that could become one of the Twins' most lethal weapons.
"If he can get back to the Liriano everyone keeps saying he was, he's going to be real big for us," Twins center fielder Denard Span said.
In holding Boston to four hits and striking out eight over his seven innings, Liriano threw 96 pitches. What the Twins liked best was that he relied on catcher Joe Mauer and threw his fastball often early, saving his slider for later. Last year, he often didn't trust his fastball and relied too heavily on his slider.
"We've talked all along," Twins pitching coach Rick Anderson said. "I've told him, 'That slider is your out pitch, but if you overuse it early, it's not going to be an out pitch. If you keep it in your back pocket, they'll swing at it later in the game.'"
Liriano threw a filthy slider to Kevin Youkilis for a called strike three in the first inning -- plate umpire Tim Tschida might have been a bit generous -- but saved many of the 26 sliders he wound up throwing until later in his outing.
The key with Liriano using his fastball is that it can open up the other side of the plate for him. His hard-biting slider sinks quickly down-and-in to right-handed hitters. By throwing his fastball to the other side of the plate, it keeps hitters from guarding one side of the plate.
When Liriano went 12-3 with a 2.16 ERA as a rookie in '06 before his elbow injury, his slider was one of the nastiest pitches in the game.
"I can always remember facing him and going, wow," says Twins designated hitter Jim Thome, who was with the White Sox in '06. "For me, he was one of the toughest left-handers I've seen. Randy Johnson, in his prime. ... Liriano, with his slider, was the same feeling. You'd have to bear down."
Anderson thinks Liriano's slider is "close" to what it was in '06.
"It's pretty good," the pitching coach said. "It's got that late bite back. Last year, you didn't see as many swings and misses."
This year, if Liriano continues to gain confidence, look out.
One last thought on the Twins' beautiful new Target Field: While there are several gorgeous parks around that are still fairly new -- the parks in San Francisco and Pittsburgh come to mind -- nobody has done as an impressive a job of incorporating club history into the park as the Twins.
From naming the gates after players whose jerseys are retired (Rod Carew and Kirby Puckett, to name two) to the countless photos and memorabilia stations throughout the park to the dozens of old Sports Illustrated covers, media guide covers and yearbook covers decorating the press box, lunch room and concourses, the Twins set the standard.
It extends down to the clubhouse, where Puckett and two-time World Series-winning manager Tom Kelly are represented with class -- in quotes.
On one end of the clubhouse, above a door leading to the trainer's room, an eerie and poignant Puckett quote is spelled out in silver letters on a blue wall: "Live for today. Tomorrow isn't promised to anyone."
At the other end of the clubhouse, above a door leading toward the tunnel that takes the Twins to the field, there's this Kelly quote: "We're all in this boat together. Everybody grab an oar."
Funny, the most-heard phrase around Target Field and Minneapolis this week as everyone has been talking/worrying about/fretting over the weather has been this: "Don't worry, when Joe Mauer comes to bat, the sun will come out."
Likes: Denard Span's mother was not at the Target Field opening, but it's not because she's feeling ill effects from when she was hit by a foul ball lined by her son in Tampa the final week of the exhibition season. She's good," Span says. "She was mad I came out of the game. I brought 20 family members to that game. It was an eventful week. She was sore for a couple of days." The reason Denard's mother wasn't here? She didn't trust the Twin Cities weather. "She's coming in May," Span says. Good plan for a Florida native, though the weather here this week is tremendous. ... The Mary Tyler Moore statue on Nicollet Mall in downtown Minneapolis. She could always turn the world on with her smile. ... Café Latte on Grand Ave. in St. Paul. The Tres Leche cake is phenomenal. ... Adele's Frozen Custard in Excelsior. Might even be better than the Tres Leche cake.
Dislikes: Early morning flights.
Rock 'N' Roll Lyric of the Day:
"Who can turn the world on with her smile?
-- Paul Williams, Love is All Around