7/3-7/6 Series Preview: Minnesota Twins

Update: Yankees call up Wheeler, option Solarte, designate Anna
Update: Yankees are not strongly pursuing Chase Headley
(Presswire)
(Presswire)

The homestand from hell is finally over and the Yankees are heading to a place that has been very kind to them over the years. The Bombers are 73-24 against the Twins during the Ron Gardenhire era, including 13-3 all-time at Target Field, where they will play their next four games. The Twins did take two of three in Yankee Stadium about a month ago.

What Have They Done Lately?
Manager Ron Gardenhire’s team just lost two of three to the Royals and they’ve dropped seven of their last nine and 23 of their last 38 games overall. At 38-45 with a -30 run differential, they’ve settled into last place in the AL Central.

Offense
The Twins average 4.17 runs per game despite a team 94 wRC+, so they’re below-average at the plate but about average in scoring runs. Timing is everything, I guess. The Yankees will not see 1B Joe Mauer (94 wRC+) this weekend — he was placed on the disabled list with an oblique strain yesterday. He’s having a disappointing year anyway. UTIL Danny Santana (129 wRC+) is out with a knee injury and isn’t expected to return this series.

No Mauer this weekend. (Presswire)
No Mauer this weekend. (Presswire)

With Mauer hurt, Gardenhire’s lineup revolves around 2B Brian Dozier (116 wRC+), OF Josh Willingham (137 wRC+), and 1B/DH Kendrys Morales (55 wRC+ in limited time). Morales, like Stephen Drew, has not yet gotten it going at the plate after sitting out the first two and a half months of the season. 3B Trevor Plouffe (100 wRC+) has been fine and C Kurt Suzuki (113 wRC+) has been good overall but not as good since taking over as the everyday catcher when C Josmil Pinto was sent down.

UTIL Eduardo Nunez (124 wRC+ in limited time) has been leading off lately. Get ready for a lot of “shoulda kept him!” talk, because we all know everyone felt the Yankees should have kept him and given him another chance back in Spring Training. OF Oswaldo Arcia (83 wRC+) put on an outfield arm clinic in Yankee Stadium a few weeks ago. 1B/OF Chris Colabello (82 wRC+), IF Eduardo Escobar (99 wRC+), OF Sam Fuld (69 wRC+), 1B/OF Chris Parmelee (111 wRC+ in limited time), and former Yankees farmhand C Eric Fryer (-9 wRC+ in very limited time) round out the active roster.

Pitching Matchups

Thursday: RHP Masahiro Tanaka (vs. MIN) vs. RHP Phil Hughes (vs. NYY)
Hughes, 28, is going to be an All-Star in two weeks and not as the token Twin. He deserves to be there. Hughes has a 3.58 ERA (2.60 FIP) in 16 starts and 103 innings, mostly because he’s cut his homer rate all the way down to 0.61 HR/9 (5.5 HR/FB%). It’s not just the ballpark either — Hughes has actually allowed more dingers in Target Field (0.76 HR/9 and 6.3 HR/FB%) than on the road (0.49 HR/9 and 4.6 HR/FB%) this year. His strikeout (7.69 K/9 and 21.0 K%) and ground ball (36.9%) rates are a bit below-average, but he doesn’t walk anyone (0.87 BB/9 and 2.4 BB%). Hughes always threw a lot of strikes, but now he’s taken it to the extreme. Righties (.347 wOBA) have had more success against him than lefties (.245 wOBA) for whatever reason in 2014. Hughes brought back his upper-80s cutter this year, replacing that awful low-80s slider. He’ll throw a few mid-80s changeups and mid-70s curveballs per start, but for the most part it’s straight heat, low-90s fastballs in the zone. Phil held the Yankees to two runs in eight inning at Yankee Stadium a few weeks ago.

Is that legal? (Tom Pennington/Getty)
Is that legal? (Tom Pennington/Getty)

Friday: RHP Chase Whitley (vs. MIN) vs. RHP Kyle Gibson (vs. NYY)
I can’t believe it’s been five years since the 26-year-old Gibson was drafted (22nd overall). I remember absolutely loving him at the time of the 2009 draft and hoping he’d fall to the Yankees, but alas. Gibson has a 3.77 ERA (3.77 FIP!) in 93 innings across 16 starts this season, though his strikeout rate (4.84 K/9 and 13.0 K%) is terrible. He does it by limiting walks (2.61 BB/9 and 7.0 BB%), getting grounders (55.5%), and keeping the ball in the park (0.58 HR/9 and 7.0 HR/FB%). Classic Twins pitcher, really. Lefties (.303 wOBA) have hit him harder than righties (.264 wOBA) and he’s been much better at home in Target Field (.240 wOBA) than on the road (.320 wOBA). Gibson works in the low-90s with his two and four-seam fastballs and in the mid-80s with his slider and changeup. He’ll throw one or two upper-70s curveballs per start. The slider is his go-to secondary pitch. The Yankees did not face Gibson in New York earlier this season.

Saturday: RHP David Phelps (vs. MIN) vs. RHP Yohan Pino (No vs. NYY)
Pino is a 30-year-old rookie who will be making his fourth career start this weekend. He has allowed eleven runs on 19 hits and three walks in 15.2 innings in his first three games, striking out a dozen with a 26.9% ground ball rate. That all works out to a 6.32 ERA and a 2.97 FIP. Hooray for small sample sizes. Lefties (.399 wOBA) have clobbered him in his very limited time as a big leaguer (.293 wOBA by righties). Pino has exactly the kind of repertoire you’d expect from a 30-year-old rookie: upper-80s fastball, mid-80s changeup, low-80s slider, mid-70s curveball. He knows how to pitch, he served his time in the minors, he’s been waiting his entire life for this this, blah blah blah, cliche cliche cliche. Obviously Pino has never faced the Yankees before.

Sunday: RHP Hiroki Kuroda (vs. MIN) vs. RHP Ricky Nolasco (vs. NYY)
A few weeks ago the 31-year-old Nolasco came into Yankee Stadium with the second highest ERA in baseball and held the Yankees to one run in six innings. His 5.49 ERA (4.40 FIP) is currently the highest in baseball among qualified pitchers, so he’ll probably throw a no-hitter this weekend. Nolasco’s strikeout (6.37 K/9 and 16.1 K%), walk (2.39 BB/9 and 6.1 BB%), and ground ball (42.0%) numbers aren’t all that different from the last few seasons, but he has become incredibly homer prone (1.33 HR/9 and 12.0 HR/FB%). Both lefties (.400 wOBA) and righties (.367 wOBA) have hit him hard, but lefties slightly harder. Nolasco has also been much better at Target Field (.321 wOBA) than on the road (.430 wOBA). He’s a kitchen sink guy, throwing upper-80s/low-90s two and four-seam fastballs, an upper-80s cutter, low-80s changeups and sliders, an upper-70s splitter, and a mid-70s curveball. Seven different pitches and he uses five of them regularly (the cutter and changeup are show-me pitches).

Perkins. (Hannah Foslien/Getty)
Perkins. (Hannah Foslien/Getty)

Bullpen Status
Gardenhire’s bullpen is relatively fresh coming into the series. No one has pitched in back-to-back days or three out of four, anything like that. Closer LHP Glen Perkins (1.88 FIP) is one of the five or six best relievers in baseball regardless of handedness. RHP Casey Fien (3.62 FIP) and LHP Caleb Thielbar (3.44 FIP) handle most of the setup work. Thielbar was pitching in an independent league not too long ago.

The rest of the Minnesota bullpen includes RHP Matt Guerrier (3.29 FIP), RHP Jared Burton (4.87 FIP), RHP Anthony Swarzak (3.59 FIP), and long man RHP Samuel Deduno (4.30 FIP). Not exactly the most intimidating group but they are generally effective. Check out the status of the Yankees bullpen with our Bullpen Workload page, then check out Twinkie Town for everything you need to know about the Bombers’ opponent through the end of the weekend.

email
Update: Yankees call up Wheeler, option Solarte, designate Anna
Update: Yankees are not strongly pursuing Chase Headley
  • Jorge Steinbrenner

    Note to self: Avoid Game Thread tonight if team is losing at any point.

    • Derek Jeter

      Good Idea

    • http://www.flickr.com/photos/roadgeek Roadgeek Adam

      Took you a while to figure that out.

      • Jorge Steinbrenner

        Tanaka/Hughes? Oh, that would be an epic level of calamity.

  • MB923

    Sorry to start this with an off topic post, but 1 big story and 1 other story though not that big

    Selig has granted the A’s permission to leave Oakland, and Alfredo Aceves suspended 50 games for PEDs

    • Jorge Steinbrenner

      Well there’s proof positive PED’s don’t work. Bring back A-Rod.

    • JGYank

      Drugs not peds.

      • MB923

        You are right. I got my info from an article on Twitter which showed PED’s in the headline.

    • OldYanksFan

      “Yankees minor league pitcher Alfredo Aceves has been suspended for 50 games for a second violation of a drug of abuse under baseball’s minor league testing program.”

      Doesn’t a 2nd violation get you 100 games? Unless you’re Manny?

      And does the fact that MLB allowed ARod to do testosterone enter into the ‘lifetime ban’ thingy MLB tried to pull off? Does MLB get a black eye handing out testosterone?

    • Deep Thoughts

      That’s fine, I’m happy to have another open roster spot at SWB for someone climbing the ladder.

  • Derek Jeter

    Can’t wait to go 1-3 this series!

    • Deep Thoughts

      No, you literally couldn’t wait for the first pitch!

  • Derek Jeter

    People love to talk about bad contracts, with that said Joe Mauer’s is pretty awful so far!

    • Derek Jeter

      In 2010 he signed a 8yr 184 mil.

      Since then his yearly average is….
      .305 Avg, 7.77 HR’s 58 RBI’s

      This make’s McCann’s contract is look good!

      • JGYank

        Yeah I’d hate to being paying for a .300 hitter that gets on base and can put up 5 WAR…

        Not worth his contract and the back end will be awful but he’s been great prior to this year when healthy.

        • WhittakerWalt

          When he was doing it as a catcher, great. As a first baseman, that’s…. less than great.

          • JGYank

            If his 144 wRC+ from last year isn’t great I don’t know what is. I’ll take that from any position.

            • WhittakerWalt

              Except he’s not that good anymore and is signed for 4.5 more years.

        • http://www.staggeringbeauty.com/ ALZ

          He isn’t a 5 WAR player anymore now that they gave up with him as a catcher.

    • Deep Thoughts

      Annoying people, yeah.

  • Masahiro Tanaka

    Eduardo Nuney has a sparkling .305 BA and even has 3 HR, more than Jeter. I like how everyone was saying they were right in dumping this guy and keeping Dean Anna and Solarte, neither of which is with the big league club. Should have kept Nuney, like I’ve been saying all season.

    Should have kept Hughesy, too. He’s Minnesota’s ace and it’d be nice to have another guy like that in our rotation. I think we have a chance to take 3/4 but last time Hughes and Nuney combined to beat us.

    • willie w

      Eduardo is batting in 98 runs on a full season rate

      I believe the yankees are not a very good judge of talent overall as an organization.
      they mostly sign the wrong people
      and don’t sign the right people.

      • scott

        I bet your house Nunez will not drive in 98 runs this season. He has 90 RBIs in his major league career.

        Funny how the Yanks losing brings out the best in every player they let go (at least according to Yankees fans.

        • Old Man Time

          Had they kept Nunez, these very same commenters would be blasting Cashman for having him in the lineup.

      • Old Man Time

        Yeah, like it works that way.

    • mick taylor

      they gave nuney away for nothing. thanks idiot cashman

      • WhittakerWalt

        Nuney is worth nothing.

      • scott

        The Yanks received Miguel Sulbaran for Nunez. He is 1-1 with a 2.86 ERA with 37Ks vs. 16 BBs. But yeah that’s nothing, idiot cashman

      • D23

        Not really true. We acquired a pretty decent 20 year lefty who has the making to be a prospect. Pitching decent in Tampa.

      • Old Man Time

        Hey, remember when you called Cashman an idiot for not signing Grady Sizemore?

        • MB923

          And Stephen Drew

    • http://www.staggeringbeauty.com/ ALZ

      Look back, I thought they should put him as the everyday 2B to limit his long throws. He is overplaying right now, but at the time I was bit annoyed they cut him for Solarte. Solarte had played pretty good though so it did make it not nearly as bad as I thought.

  • https://twitter.com/KramerIndustry Dr. Martin van Nostrand

    2010: 2-1 + 2-0 = 4-1
    2011: 3-1 (7-2)
    2012: 2-1 (9-3)
    2013: 4-0 (13-3)

    not sure where that 16-3 comes from, unless this was written three days from now, in which case WOO-FREAKING-HOO!

    • Bavarian Yankee

      Mike probably included postseason games.

    • http://www.riveraveblues.com Mike Axisa

      Includes the postseason.

      • https://twitter.com/KramerIndustry Dr. Martin van Nostrand

        Then what am I missing here? That 2-0 part in 2010 are the two playoff games at Target Field that season.

        I don’t mean to be an ass, and it’s probably past the point when you will read this anyway, but I have an unstoppable need to dig into numbers when something doesn’t seem right. As with most irrelevant things, this is the kind of crap I remember best.

        • http://www.riveraveblues.com Mike Axisa

          Hmmm. I must have miscounted somewhere.

  • JGYank

    This series should be pretty simple. Let tanaka do his thing, be aggressive since twins pitchers are whipped when they walk guys (or dare to get a K), don’t have a deficit in the ninth so they can’t bring in perkins, and hit every single ball at Nunez.

  • willie w

    so were the Yankees a toxic environment to Hughes ?

    why did he have to leave to become a great pitcher ?

    • Jorge Steinbrenner

      He looked that good in half a season in pinstripes as well.

    • Derek Jeter

      Because Homer Hughes he was a fly ball pitcher in Yankee Stadium …

      • Derek Jeter

        Even Pavano pitched better in Minnesota!

      • https://twitter.com/KramerIndustry Dr. Martin van Nostrand

        It’s like you don’t even bother to read the entry.

        Hughes has a 3.58 ERA (2.60 FIP) in 16 starts and 103 innings, mostly because he’s cut his homer rate all the way down to 0.61 HR/9 (5.5 HR/FB%). It’s not just the ballpark either — Hughes has actually allowed more dingers in Target Field (0.76 HR/9 and 6.3 HR/FB%) than on the road (0.49 HR/9 and 4.6 HR/FB%) this year.

        • Derek Jeter

          Then it’s his move from the AL East smart ass

          • Derek Jeter

            ….AND not the AL East this year, the AL East of last year

      • fred robbins

        I think he’s beaten Boston twice IN Boston– Boston heat the heck out of him in pinstripes in either location. And Hughes did pretty well here in NY against the Yankees– not so much for them- it is hard to figure.

        • Get Phelps Up

          Pitching a good game against the Red Sox this year isn’t nearly an impressive feat as it was in years past.

    • OldYanksFan

      Hughes has a 3.58 ERA.
      The AL average is 3.95.
      This makes him an All-Star?

    • Old Man Time

      Selective memory, willie?

  • willie w
  • hey now

    OK Twins, now it’s your turn to start feeling better about your season.

  • http://www.staggeringbeauty.com/ ALZ

    I thought we should have kept Nunez anyways. I thought he would be pretty good at 2b when his throws would be much shorter. Was mad they let him go for Solarte who was a career minor leaguer.

  • mick taylor

    hey where are all the experts on this website who thought trading nuney and keeping anna and solarte was the right moves. anna has been dfa’d. solarte has been demoted to minors. cashman, you idiot, giving nuney away for nothing was asinine. first, he is a better hitter than any infielder they have except for tex. i could see trading him and getting some value, but cashmoan basically released him. he was costing then nothing in terms of his contract. cashman needs to go for this and countless other fuck ups.

    • scott

      see entry above as for your “Eduardo given away for nothing” At least visit google once in a while before you go off on rant.

    • http://www.staggeringbeauty.com/ ALZ

      anna was interesting, but is hard to know what he would be first. Every hitter in Las Vegas looks like an all star.

    • Old Man Time

      mick taylor says:
      November 21, 2012 at 3:09 pm
      sign grady sizemore to a cheap contract with a second year club option. if he miraculously heals you have grandeson’s replacement in 2014

  • trr

    Nunez will soon come crashing back down to earth.
    This team has many, many other issues.

  • scott

    It is funny (but very predictable) that people are saying the yanks should have kept Hughes and Nunez now because the Yanks are losing. Nunez looked great in his first stint with the Yanks and then tailed off, and then fell apart. Give him time with the Twins, he will turn back into his .260 hitting, 1 error per game self.

    As for Hughes, no one wanted this guy on the Yanks at the end of last season. Lets not pretend you weren’t all killing him everytime he pitched last year. He stunk, made no sense for the Yanks to keep him. He has pitched a half season in MINN. Lets see what happens by the end of the year. His last two starts (at home vs. WhiteSox and at TEX) he has given up 5 runs each game. Could be a fluke, could be Phil regressing back to his norms.

    Nunez and Solarte are interchangeable to me. Give Solarte time back in AAA and he will be hitting what Nunez hits, and playing defense just as poorly.

  • Frank

    Who cares?

  • http://www.penuel-law.com/ Cuso

    So the flavor of the week is “Shoulda-kept-Nunie,” I see.

  • Kenny

    Too soon to say about Nunez. However, re Hughes, what were the Yankees to do? The guy was a home-run-giving-machine. Now and then there would be a decent performance, but usually he was bad news. Who knows why? Maybe the pressure of New York–a real phenomenon, on which some players thrive (Reggie, Jeter, Mantle, Dimag, Martin, et al.) and some go under really fast.

    I guess we can’t rule out coaching failure or talent-recognition failure. But until there’s proof of such, I’m going on my reaction to tv watching him (and a couple of times in person): he always looked distinctly uncomfortable up there, none of that Yankee swagger that the great ones have. It wasn’t going to work in New York. Good luck to him in Minn.–except when he pitches against the Yankees.

  • D23

    Come one Mick. Gave away for nothing? We got a good lefty pitcher in return. We could have easily release him with Anna, Sizemore, Wheeler, Solarte, Roberts and Ryan in the fold. Nunez basically fell behind all of these guys…

    • Old Man Time

      Facts and mick taylor don’t mix.

  • willie w

    maybe someone can explain to me why mike A says Hughes deserves to be an all star, I don’t see that.

    he is #21 in ERA
    he is #12 in WHIP
    and so forth

    he’s doing fine this year but NOT all-star quality.

    in my opinion

    • MB923

      Yet somehow he has the 6th highest fWAR in ALL of Baseball, even ahead of Tanaka. (Hughes 3.1, Tanaka 3.0). Though for rWAR, it’s 4.4 for Tanaka and 2.3 for Hughes.

  • Yan Solo

    I don’t care what they are doing right now. They didn’t get it done in New York after YEARS (not months) of opportunities in New York. The FO made the right moves by letting Joba and Hughes walk and getting what they could for Nunez. Case closed IMO. Move on.

    • Deep Thoughts

      Seriously. No regrets. Those tires were kicked, prodded, poked, X-rayed, and CT scanned.

  • Zach

    HUghes had chance after chance to prove himself in NY and other then 09 (excluding the post season) he couldn’t do it.
    They were right in letting him go.