First, Last, Always

Jacque Jones in the leadoff hole, for better and for worse



The Twins are going to be second-guessed for passing on Cubs pitcher Mark Prior in last year's draft--at least until Joe Mauer, the local kid they chose ahead of Prior with the first pick, makes an appearance in a Twins uniform. I'll admit that I was one of those people who felt the Twins had blundered in choosing Mauer, who is still playing for the Twins' Class A Quad City affiliate, where he is hitting .305 with two home runs and more walks than strikeouts. Nice enough numbers, but the other guy is already pitching in the big leagues and looks like he'll be around for a long time. The story, of course, was that the Twins felt they couldn't afford to sign Prior, who eventually agreed to a five-year, guaranteed $10.5 contract with a $4 million signing bonus. Those were unprecedented numbers for a number-one draft choice, but the Twins ended up giving Mauer a $5.15 million bonus. If Prior turns out to be as good as advertised (or even just a solid major-league starter), he's a bargain at that salary. The Cubs have him locked up for five years at LaTroy Hawkins money; over the course of those five years they won't be shelling out much more than the $8.75 million the Twins are paying Brad Radke this year alone.

Jason Simontacchi, the Cardinals righthander who has stepped into the rotation and gone 3-0 with a 2.73 ERA, was a member of the Twins AAA Edmonton club last year and was released after going 7-13 with a 5.35 ERA with the Trappers. Simontacchi spent the 2000 season pitching for Rimini in an Italian league.

J.C. Romero has attracted plenty of attention for his astonishing performance thus far this year (0.31 ERA, with only one run allowed in 29 and one-third innings), but the performance of bullpen mates Hawkins and Mike Jackson has been nearly as impressive and almost as surprising. Jackson has now appeared in 22 games and boasts a 0.89 ERA, while Hawkins has 24 strikeouts and only four walks in 27 and two-thirds innings, with a 1.95 ERA.

Contraction Watch: The Brewers are now 17-34, and have a team slugging percentage of .384 to go with a .242 batting average. As impressive as Shawn Green's four-home-run, seven-RBI performance was, it really should be marked with an asterisk in the record books, coming as it did against a beleaguered Brewers club that would have a hard time beating most Triple A teams right now.


Brad Zellar goes Yard every Tuesday morning--and perhaps more often--for as long as he (and the Twins) are up to it.

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