Roster Construction and Injuries

When the Twins called up 3B Danny Valencia from Triple-A Rochester to replace Michael Cuddyer, it brought some satisfaction to many Twins fans. Here was the guy that may become the third baseman of the future, and he’s finally in the major leagues. It may not be for long, but at least the Twins front office finally showed that they are not ignoring him, a la Anthony Slama (though his lack of being on the 40-man roster is an issue Valencia didn’t have). So far, Valencia’s defense has appeared to be just fine, and although he has 2 hits in 8 AB so far, those 2 hits have been infield singles that didn’t contribute much to the team.

With Orlando Hudson still out  and J.J. Hardy being a little banged up, perhaps the addition of an infielder was necessary. When Cuddyer was still with the team, the Twins would be trotting out both Nick Punto and Matt Tolbert in their starting infield. Throw in a DH day for Joe Mauer (as in yesterday’s game) and you suddenly have a very weak bottom third of the lineup with Punto, Tolbert, and Drew Butera.

If he’s not in the starting lineup, today will be the 6th day without Orlando Hudson. This is becoming a very frustrating trend with the Twins…not the fact that Hudson is taking personal days, but because the Twins seem reluctant to put players on the 15-day disabled list. This happened last year with Joe Crede and earlier this year with J.J. Hardy, and it was maddening to see them sit on the bench for days in a row, rather than the Twins just putting them on the DL and calling up someone from Triple-A who could actually contribute to the team.

Since he hasn’t played since May 30th, Hudson could be retroactively placed on the DL, meaning that he would be eligible to come off June 14th (9 days from now) rather than June 20th. Then, someone like Luke Hughes or Trevor Plouffe (though he’s more of a shortstop) could be recalled. They wouldn’t provide as much as Hudson, but they would certainly be upgrades over Matt Tolbert and Brendan Harris. This day-to-day thing with injuries has become so common that Dick Bremer even refers to it as “the dreaded day-to-day,” because honestly, “day-to-day” is more like “half a week or longer, or maybe even the disabled list” when it comes to the Twins.

Because his father-in-law died just a few days ago, Michael Cuddyer has briefly left the team. As I mentioned at the beginning, Twins fans were pleased to see that Danny Valencia was the guy chosen to replace Cuddy, even if it’s only through this weekend series against the Athletics. I would have preferred to see an outfielder replace Cuddyer, but the 40-man roster wouldn’t allow that to happen.

The Twins currently have three true outfielders on both their 25- and 40-man rosters: Denard Span, Delmon Young, and Jason Kubel. Young and Kubel probably don’t need days off since Young hasn’t played regularly and Kubel has usually been a DH, but then there’s Denard Span. Have you noticed how he’s been slumping lately, especially since he collided with Orlando Hudson?* Did you know that he has played in every single game this season? Eric Olson from Call To The ‘Pen suggested this last night on Twitter, and I agree. Span needs a day off.

* Since he ran into Hudson, Span is 1 for 20 (.050) with 1 walk and 6 strikeouts.

Unfortunately, due to the lack of available outfielders, here are the options the Twins have:

1. Let Nick Punto or Matt Tolbert play center field for a game.

Ew. I’d prefer to not have both guys in the lineup again…plus with Hudson out, this just gives Gardy another excuse to have Tolbert bat second, though J.J. Hardy isn’t much better.

2. Wait until Cuddyer returns before giving Span his day off.

Cuddyer should be back for the Royals series in a couple days, which then the Twins could go with a Young/Cuddyer/Kubel outfield. Big offense without the defense. But if Hudson is still out, then the Twins will be employing the Dusty Baker offense of having speedy, no-hit guys at the top of the order. Well, unless J.J. Hardy stays at #2, which then he’s just a no-hit guy.

3. The Twins have an off day on Monday. That’s all Span needs.

Like I said in #2, Tuesday is likely the first day Cuddyer would return to the lineup, but the Twins don’t play a game on Monday. Gardy might think that will be adequate for Span, and that returning to Target Field (where Span has excelled this season) will help get him back on track. Maybe Span will hit well once the Twins return to Minnesota, but if his slump continues into the Atlanta series, then he MUST be given a day off. I’m even willing to have Delmon and The Slowpokes amble their way around the outfield for a game if it means Span can get some rest.

Either later in the season or next year, I hope the front office addresses this issue of having a lack of outfielders on the roster. The outfield has remained healthy all year, but that has been a run of good luck so far. If one of these guys suffers a significant injury, I hope the Twins don’t think that going with only three outfielders will also be sufficient. Even if it means bringing up Ben Revere a little sooner than necessary, I want some insurance added to the 40-man roster.

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