There are those who rejoice at the end of a dismal baseball season. I’m not one of them. September provides some of the nicest weather Minnesota can dish out, a last hurrah before we face a six month frigid baseball vacuum. So grab a seat while you still can. We’ll help out by getting you close to some possible September callups who are looking to make a last good impression, while the weather is warm and the grass is still green.
Frontier Field (in Rochester, NY)
The Twins AAA affiliate had an exciting year. After starting the season 2-12, the Rochester Red Wings charged back, gaining the inside track on the Wild Card by mid August. But they lost six in a row, leaving them to chase the Tigers’ AAA affiliate, the Norfolk Tides. But the Red Wings won their last three games of the year and when Norfolk stumbled in extra-innings on the last day, the Red Wings were celebrating a return to the International League postseason. They’re facing the Pawtucket Red Sox this week in the playoffs.
What this means is that most of the Twins’ September callups have been delayed. The Twins (justifiably) feel that the kids will get a good experience in the IL playoffs, and it wouldn’t be fair to the rest of the team to pull a half dozen of their best players.
So what you’re seeing below are still guesses, even though we’re nearly a week into September. It could be days or even as long as two more weeks before you get to see them at Target Field.
Section 5, 12, 109, 119 (Scott Diamond & Cole De Vries)
Last year was a dream season for these two. When the Twins badly needed starting pitching, Diamond (3.54 ERA) and De Vries (4.11 ERA) stepped forward to help stabilize the rotation. Alternately, this year has been a nightmare. De Vries has spent the whole year in the minors and been plagued with arm injuries; first it was his forearm and then his elbow. He recently returned to the Rochester rotation and threw seven scoreless innings, so there is hope that he’s finally recovered.
If you’ve watched the Twins this year, you’ve seen Diamond. In fact, maybe you think you’ve seen too much of Diamond and his 5.52 ERA. But he’s sparkled like his namesake since being demoted to Rochester with a 2.41 ERA and five quality starts in six outings. Perhaps he’s found his way out of his sophomore slump.
Section 8 and 9 (Josmil Pinto)
Here’s a name you won’t have to wait for as he was called up a day before September, when Justin Morneau was traded to Pittsburgh. With seven hits in his first 10 at-bats, most fans have figured out what Pinto’s minor league track record shows – this guy can hit. In limited time (19 games) at AAA he hit .314 with a 819 OPS. In AA, he hit .307. In High A, .282.
The question that has dogged him is just how good he is defensively. You’ll want to pony up for those seats behind the plate to see how he’s framing pitches and get a sense from the pitcher just how much he likes throwing to him. Pinto has already taken a couple steps forward this year. This is his chance to show he can take the last one.
Section 114, 110 or 129 (Eduardo Escobar)
Escobar made an immediate impression in April, hitting .378 with power as a reserve. Then came May, where he had four hits in 47 at-bats. By the time he was sent down in July, his batting average had slumped to .214.
But in case you haven’t been paying attention, that’s not bad for a Twins infielder. Pedro Florimon’s batting average has slipped all year and currently sits at just .225. And at third base, Trevor Plouffe is only hitting .243, though he seems to have found a bit of a groove lately.
Meanwhile, Escobar looks like a different guy in AAA-Rochester. His overall batting average - .307 - is impressive enough. But maybe even more encouraging is that he’s walking a lot more, almost twice as much as in previous AAA stints. Add them up and he has a .380 on-base percentage over 43 games for the Red Wings.
So take your pick – get a seat close to home plate so you can see if hit batting eye has improved, or sit further away and check out his range at shortstop. Hopefully, you’ll see a different guy than you did in May.
Section 236 (Michael Tonkin)
Tonkin has lately rocketed through the Twins minor league system. He started 2012 at Low A, so he’s progressed four levels in two years. He’s been up with the Twins for a couple of cups of coffee, but most of his year has been spent in Rochester. He’s been dominant, but since the middle of August, he’s been much more hittable, giving up 11 hits and 8 runs in just five innings. Is he tiring? You’ll want to look him over in the bullpen to judge for yourself.
For some of these guys, September feels like a chance at redemption and for some of them, it represents the last step towards a dream. For seventeen more games, you can get a front row seat for that drama. In fact, just like for some of these players, this could be your last chance.