Cuddyer takes the mound in Twins' lopsided loss

The Twins' new ace?

The Twins' new ace?

As the Twins slip farther and farther down the AL Central ladder, Michael Cuddyer's name keeps popping up in trade talks.

There's a few contenders out there that could use the guy's bat, his glove, and his clubhouse leadership. But who woulda thought that Cuddyer might just fill the need for a middle reliever as well?

You read that right: in last night's outrageous 20-6 loss to the white-hot Texas Rangers, Cuddyer stepped to the mound in the 8th inning, relieving Alex Burnett. Along with Phil Dumatrait, he was the only Twin who didn't give up a run last night.


Cuddyer sits atop the Twins' pitching staff with a 0.00 ERA. He filled the bases on two hits and a walk (one of those hits was a silly blooper that should have been caught), but got out of the jam. If you can call being down by 14 runs and having the bases loaded a 'jam'. Let's just say he stopped the fire from spreading, the floodwaters from reaching the back forty.

Actually, it was a close game last night, if you don't count the first five innings. The Rangers scored 3, 3, 3, 5, and 4 runs in that first half. After that, the Twins outscored the reigning pennant winners 5-2!

The Twins had three errors last night (but the Rangers had four!); used six pitchers (Texas still had to use four of their own!); and gave up 20 runs and 27 hits (though they scored 6 on 11 hits!)

Woof. There's not much more you can add to that -- the pitching was bad, hitting mediocre, and fielding... yuk. Everyone contributed to that rotten evening.


Things are looking bad. The Twins had been playing well, but they're now 4-6 over their last ten games, nine under, seven out. What makes this so intriguing is that the Twins have started to dive before the July 31 trade deadline. Tongues are wagging that Kevin Slowey, Jose Mijares, and... Michael Cuddyer are on the chopping block.

Now, the Twins have been consistently denying that #5 is available for trade. But as ESPN's Jerry Crasnick suggests, that's sounding more and more like bad management:

[The Twins] seem strangely resistant to entertaining offers for free agent-to-be Michael Cuddyer, a solid righty bat, terrific clubhouse guy and crafty situational reliever in blowouts who might net them a decent prospect haul in return. It's nice to be loyal and cling to hope based on some recent fast finishes, but you have to wonder if Twins general manager Bill Smith is missing an opportunity to capitalize on a valuable asset here.

2006 and 2009 were exciting seasons, but I sometimes wonder if the pixie dust that flew during those two campaigns has blinded the team when things are really hitting the skids. Theoretically the Twins are not out of it yet, especially because, as Crasnick points out, the AL Central, along with their NL counterparts, is the weakest division in baseball. The Tigers have been known to choke, the Indians have played well over their heads all season, and the White Sox are old and beat up and I'm starting to believe they just plain stink.

But if we can get some young blood in here for Cuddyer and look to taking back the division in 2012 -- you know, when the creaky Tigers and Sox are a year older and the Indians and Royals fall out of contention by the May Day parade -- well, that might just be the wiser option.