By Chris Parker
By Jesse Marx
By John Baichtal
By Olivia LaVecchia
By Jesse Marx
By Olivia LaVecchia
By Tatiana Craine
By Judy Keen
"I saw last night that they were a very aggressive team, and were prepared to jump all over the first pitch," Lohse said. "So I was really trying to make sure I didn't groove any pitches. I was definitely mixing up my pitches so they couldn't sit on anything, and A.J. and I were concentrating on keeping the ball on the inside and outside corners. I had a lot more deep counts as a result, but I was able to keep them guessing."
As for Morneau, the rookie got the full hotshot treatment in the clubhouse after the game, including a towel full of shaving cream courtesy of LaTroy Hawkins while he was addressing the media. It's a credit to the kid's maturity and confidence that he fielded all questions carefully and thoughtfully even as he was being mercilessly razzed from all corners of the clubhouse. His answers made it clear that Morneau has a pretty good idea what he's doing at the plate; he's a hitter who thinks from pitch-to-pitch in every at bat, and makes adjustments as he goes along. That quality, in and of itself, is in short supply on this current Twins' team. This is a club of increasingly frustrating bad ball hitters, or at least bad ball swingers.
The thing the Twins are still not learning is that it's possible to be both disciplined and aggressive. Almost to a man they consistently fail to swing at strikes, even as they continue to flail away at balls out of the strike zone. Even as he continues to make strides as a disciplined hitter, you can still see how anxious Torii Hunter is to swing. Even when he does manage to work a hitter's count --2-0, for instance, or 3-2-- you're almost guaranteed that he's going to swing at the next pitch, no matter where the hell it is. It's obvious that pitchers are figuring this out, and against most of the Twins' hitters they can waste pitches even in disadvantageous situations. The team's struggles with runners in scoring position are the best indication that the hitters are pressing, and getting themselves out. Consider that Doug Mientkiewicz and Dustan Mohr, the club's hottest hitters in May, are still batting just .200 and .171, respectively, with runners in scoring position. And the team as a whole is hitting .256 with RISP. They're obviously going to have to get a whole lot better in that area, and a whole lot more disciplined, if they're going to take another step as a team. Who knows? Maybe they can actually learn a few things from the new kid.
It'll certainly be interesting to see how many at bats Gardenhire can find for Morneau, and at whose expense. It still seems increasingly inevitable that the Twins are going to have to make a trade or two to shake things up somewhere down the road. They owe it to some of these guys who are languishing on the bench and at Rochester, guys like Michael Cuddyer --remember him? The guy who got the nod in right field during last year's playoffs?-- and Todd Sears and Michael Restovich and Lew Ford, The list goes on and on. It is, as they say, a good problem to have, but it's also becoming a problem they don't need to have, and a problem that could provide a few solutions in the coming months.