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  • Three-Bagger: Collabello Crushing, Comeback Kubel & Ice-Cold Nolasco

    * The Twins' offense has been a very pleasant surprise in the first week of the season.

    Though it hasn't always been pretty, and sloppy play from opposing defenses in Chicago and Cleveland were undeniable contributors, the Twins have scored 38 runs through their first six games.

    The biggest story in the lineup is Chris Colabello. He has already piled up 11 RBI in five starts after hitting .349 in spring play. This guy is just sitting dead red.

    Colabello has struck out five times in 24 plate appearances (a promising early reduction from last year's sky-high 32 percent K-rate) and he's batting .500 on balls in play.

    Obviously that's not sustainable, but it speaks to how well he's driving the ball. He's been an unexpected anchor in the Twins' lineup, and right now he's appointment viewing for fans. Colabello feels like the biggest singular reason the Twins are at 3-3 after a season-opening road trip where the weather was crisp but the play often was not.

    Shaded by all the crazy elements of his journey, Collabello's immense success right off the bat has been energizing for a fan base that was notably subdued at the outset of the season.

    * Jason Kubel's fast start has been largely overshadowed by the heroics of Colabello, but it's no less encouraging. Kubel has been in the starting lineup for three games, and has delivered multiple hits in each. Sunday's 2-for-4 effort lifted his average to .412.

    While you can only put so much stock into these things, Kubel showed distinct improvement over the course of spring camp. He was whiffing constantly in the early games, but by the later weeks was connecting with frequency.

    I remember being struck by Ron Gardenhire's answer to a question about Kubel after a Grapefruit League game in Ft. Myers.

    "I worry about some things, I don't worry about Kube," he said. "Kube can hit. He's always been able to hit. If he just goes out and gets his swinging in and gets comfortable, the guy can light it up, I know that. He's healthy, I know he can hit."

    It was a particularly matter-of-fact response about a player who was designated for assignment by one team and benched by another during a challenging 2013, but Gardy echoes Kubel's assertion that a lingering quad injury was primarily responsible for those struggles.

    If that proves to be the case, he could turn out to be quite a find, because Kubel was an above-average hitter (by OPS+) for six straight seasons prior to last year.

    Gardenhire has done a good job of playing match-ups and deploying the righty-masher strategically so far, but that essentially goes out the window now that Josh Willingham and Oswaldo Arcia are both batting sore wrists. For the time being, it appears that Kubel will be a regular in the outfield.

    Hopefully the manager's confidence continues to be rewarded.

    Photo by David Banks, USA TODAY Sports

    * While these early games have been marked by a refreshing uptick in offense, it's been the same old story for the pitching staff. After leading the majors in hits allowed in 2013, the Twins have allowed double-digit knocks in each of their first six contests.

    The first turn through the rotation produced one quality start, from (who else?) Kevin Correia. On Sunday, Ricky Nolasco delivered his second straight clunky outing -- an inauspicious debut for the prized offseason acquisition.

    Nolasco throws a lot of breaking stuff, and in his first two starts we've seen too many flat pitches and floaters. But at the same time, this is a guy who's pitched in southern Florida for the last eight years, and is now trying to spin all kinds of pitches in the chill of the springtime Midwest.

    I suspect that as the weather heats up, so too will Nolasco. The rotation could use a stabilizing force.
    Comments 19 Comments
    1. Brandon's Avatar
      Brandon -
      Corriea seems to be a cold weather pitcher in that since I have been following him he has pitched better in April and I thnk he pitched well last September. I haven't checked the stats. Is there a correlation to pitching styles and weather?
    1. GSM's Avatar
      GSM -
      No word on the utter disaster that was/is Bartlett?

      Good move keeping him w/ the team.
    1. tjsyam921's Avatar
      tjsyam921 -
      I wonder how much the competition for playing time between Kubel and Colabello has pushed their focus? Its good to see not only them but some others starting off hot. I surely hope the cold weather is the issue with the pitching because last year's strength, the bullpen, hasn't been very good so far along with the starters.
    1. clutterheart's Avatar
      clutterheart -
      I hope Gardy keeps on platooning. Its really the only hope this offense has at being effective
    1. twinsfan34's Avatar
      twinsfan34 -
      Quote Originally Posted by clutterheart View Post
      I hope Gardy keeps on platooning. Its really the only hope this offense has at being effective
      Interesting thing...runs per game, Twins have the best offense in MLB.

      It´s only 6 games...but hey. NEVER thought we could say that, even for 1 game in.
    1. Ncgo4's Avatar
      Ncgo4 -
      I don't know that I have ever rooted for a player as hard as I am rooting for Colabello this year. This could just be the Cinderella story of the year. I find myself turning on MLB on my iPhone when I can best guess that Chris is due to bat. Kinda crazy.
    1. Dantes929's Avatar
      Dantes929 -
      Quote Originally Posted by GSM View Post
      No word on the utter disaster that was/is Bartlett?

      Good move keeping him w/ the team.
      No doubt you were saying the same about Colabello and Kubel. Small sample size so of course the jury is out on both of those guys but same applies to Bartlett. For the record I thought they should send him down in order to earn his way to the Bigs, but I thought the same of Kubel. If they end up being right about Kubel and Colabello I can certainly give them a pass on Bartlett.
    1. MileHighTwinsFan's Avatar
      MileHighTwinsFan -
      Yes, small sample size for Bartlett, but he nearly cost us the game yesterday with the misplay of Kipnis' double. Likewise he couldn't put the ball in play with a runner at third. These are the reasons you have a veteran on the roster - to make the fundamental plays. I expect he has through April to establish himself.
    1. crarko's Avatar
      crarko -
      Quote Originally Posted by MileHighTwinsFan View Post
      Yes, small sample size for Bartlett, but he nearly cost us the game yesterday with the misplay of Kipnis' double. Likewise he couldn't put the ball in play with a runner at third. These are the reasons you have a veteran on the roster - to make the fundamental plays. I expect he has through April to establish himself.
      I agree. At least Kubel looks to be recovered from his injury woes last year.

      The thing I appreciate most about Colabello is his willingness to make adjustments, and that he seems to recognize it on his own. That will serve him well as pitchers start making adjustments for him.
    1. SweetOne69's Avatar
      SweetOne69 -
      Quote Originally Posted by MileHighTwinsFan View Post
      Yes, small sample size for Bartlett, but he nearly cost us the game yesterday with the misplay of Kipnis' double. Likewise he couldn't put the ball in play with a runner at third. These are the reasons you have a veteran on the roster - to make the fundamental plays. I expect he has through April to establish himself.
      While I agree that it is a small sample size, he has looked lost at the plate. He hasn't even be close to making contact with a pitch let alone get a hit.

      Also his defense in LF made Delmon Young look like an All-Star/Gold Glover in comparison.
    1. gocgo's Avatar
      gocgo -
      I've been pretty vocal about the Bartlett thing as soon as it was clear he would make the team. You really can't keep a guy on the team for being a "clubhouse guy". Hire him as a bench coach then. Hindsight is 20/20, but it sure would be nice to have an outfielder instead right now. Alex Pressley? He had the speed, his batting average couldn't be any worse, oh wait...he's on another team. They could have sent Bartlett to the minors with no risk of losing him. OK, down from the soapbox...go Twins!
    1. JB_Iowa's Avatar
      JB_Iowa -
      It's a small sample size for EVERYTHING.

      While there have been some pleasant surprises and some disappointments, all of it may look very different in a month or two.

      Enjoy the ride.
    1. gocgo's Avatar
      gocgo -
      Bartlett to the DL and Hermann up. Makes sense. I like. Guessing there will be a rehab assignment that follows.
    1. troyhobbs's Avatar
      troyhobbs -
      I've been down on the Twins all off season but have to say that they've actually been enjoyable to watch so far. Apparently ignoring your glaring lack of offensive talent isn't such a bad strategy after all. Maybe they should have tried that with the starting rotation too. Expectations remain low but intrigue is up slightly.
    1. TKGuy's Avatar
      TKGuy -
      It was just shocking to me the fall off in Kubel's numbers last year. If he was injured, that would certainly explain some things. So far, it doesn't look like he has lost it. As for Colabello, it is nice to see the guy rewarded for his hard work and refusing the Korea assignment, and the money that comes with it. He seems to be cutting down on his K rate and will certainly get at bats this year to see if he can be a long time bench/DH guy when the youngsters start appearing.

      As we all figured in ST, the pitching is alarmingly bad and the hitting has been just great, go figure....
    1. crarko's Avatar
      crarko -
      Quote Originally Posted by TKGuy View Post
      As we all figured in ST, the pitching is alarmingly bad and the hitting has been just great, go figure....
      Of course, in two months when the pitching has normalized to league average, and they can't buy a hit, we'll all be geniuses like Sid.
    1. COtwin's Avatar
      COtwin -
      "Nolasco throws a lot of breaking stuff, and in his first two starts we've seen too many flat pitches and floaters. But at the same time, this is a guy who's pitched in southern Florida for the last eight years, and is now trying to spin all kinds of pitches in the chill of the springtime Midwest."

      I hope this is not the case. It scares me to think that we signed a pitcher who will not be affective early and late in the season because of weather. It would be a shame especially if we start making the playoffs again. If it is the case it is an indictment on our scouting department.
    1. Brock Beauchamp's Avatar
      Brock Beauchamp -
      Quote Originally Posted by COtwin View Post
      I hope this is not the case. It scares me to think that we signed a pitcher who will not be affective early and late in the season because of weather. It would be a shame especially if we start making the playoffs again. If it is the case it is an indictment on our scouting department.
      That simply isn't the type of thing you can scout. A player doesn't get enough cold weather starts playing in Miami to make a definitive statement one way or the other.

      Plus, it's two starts playing for a new team. No need to get worried... yet.
    1. jokin's Avatar
      jokin -
      Quote Originally Posted by Brock Beauchamp View Post
      That simply isn't the type of thing you can scout. A player doesn't get enough cold weather starts playing in Miami to make a definitive statement one way or the other.

      Plus, it's two starts playing for a new team. No need to get worried... yet.
      "Yet" is the operative word here. And you can "scout" his historical month by month stats. Happily, Nolasco is historically a very slow starter, with bad April's and May's, but he gets progressively better, peripherally, all the way through September- his lowest wOBA, FIP and xFIP and 2nd highest K% are in September, so it's probably more a refine and adjust thing over a weather thing. Let's give this until June before we jump off the ledge.
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