Restoring the rosters: No. 12 – Minnesota

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This is part of a series of articles examining what every team’s roster would look like if given only the players it originally signed. I’m compiling the rosters, ranking them and presenting them in a countdown from Nos. 30 to 1.
No. 30 – Cincinnati
No. 29 – Kansas City
No. 28 – San Diego
No. 27 – Milwaukee
No. 26 – Baltimore
No. 25 – Chicago (AL)
No. 24 – Chicago (NL)
No. 23 – Pittsburgh
No. 22 – Detroit
No. 21 – Tampa Bay
No. 20 – New York (NL)
No. 19 – Houston
No. 18 – Oakland
No. 17 – St. Louis
No. 16 – Florida
No. 15 – San Francisco
No. 14 – Texas
No. 13 – Cleveland
12th place certainly isn’t bad, but the Twins would be far higher if, instead of coming up with teams based on players drafted and originally signed, these rankings went strictly by major league debuts. Johan Santana, David Ortiz, Francisco Liriano, Jason Bartlett and Cristian Guzman came up with the Twins, but all began their minor league careers elsewhere.
Matt Garza
Scott Baker
Kevin Slowey
Nick Blackburn
Glen Perkins
Pat Neshek
LaTroy Hawkins
J.C. Romero
Grant Balfour
Jose Mijares
Peter Moylan
Jesse Crain
Moylan is the only one of the 25 players on the roster the Twins would lose if going to the “major league debut” standard. He was signed by the Twins in 1996, spent two years pitching in Rookie ball and then disappeared for eight years before impressing the Braves with his performance for Australia in the 2006 WBC and debuting later that season.
The rotation options are essentially the Twins’ current group, with Garza subbing in for Liriano/Carl Pavano. That looks like a net win for this group. Anthony Swarzak is the primary alternative to Perkins in the fifth spot. Kevin Mulvey wouldn’t be, since he was part of the Santana trade with the Mets.
The bullpen would be pretty strong with a healthy Neshek (he’s currently working his way back from Tommy John surgery). I’m throwing him into the closer’s role, given Hawkins’ lack of success in his most recent American League stints. Failing to make the cut was Eddie Guardado.
LF Denard Span
C Joe Mauer
CF Torii Hunter
1B Justin Morneau
RF Michael Cuddyer
DH Jason Kubel
3B Danny Valencia
2B Matt Tolbert
SS Luis Rodriguez
C A.J. Pierzynski
INF Doug Mientkiewicz
INF Terry Tiffee
OF Jacque Jones
There’s hope for Valencia as the future at third base, but realistically, the lineup is only six players deep. Without credit for Bartlett, Guzman or even Alexi Casilla, the Twins just don’t have any adequate middle-infield options. Rodriguez and the disappointing Trevor Plouffe were the shortstop candidates, and second base came down to Tolbert and prospect Steven Tolleson. Mientkiewicz might actually be the superior choice there.
At least the top six is really nice. Mauer is about as valuable as anyone in the game, and Hunter and Morneau have also been among the AL’s best this year.
Of course, the Twins do deserve credit for finding and developing Santana and Ortiz, even if they may have actually held Ortiz back. The Twins under former general manager Terry Ryan were probably in the top five in baseball at scouting out and developing talent. Whether that’s going to hold true under Bill Smith remains to be seen, but the early returns aren’t especially encouraging. Whereas Ryan was a scout before becoming a GM, Smith is much more of an administrator. He’ll maintain the bottom line, but he may not pull off the coups that helped get the Twins to the playoffs four times in five years from 2002-06. He certainly hasn’t so far.

Astros stave off AL West elimination, beat the Diamondbacks

Colby Rasmus, Gary Pettis
AP Photo

Facing an elimination number of one, the Astros staved off elimination in the AL West by beating the Diamondbacks on Friday night by a 6-1 margin. The Rangers suffered a heartbreaking loss to the Angels on Saturday afternoon, which temporarily put the Astros’ fate in their own hands.

Colby Rasmus hit a pair of solo homers and Jose Altuve added a solo shot of his own. Starter Collin McHugh tossed seven innings of one-run ball, limiting the Diamondbacks to six hits and a walk with six strikeouts. Reliever Will Harris allowed a solo home run to Paul Goldschmidt in the eighth, but Luke Gregerson closed out the game with a scoreless ninth.

The Astros trail the Rangers by one game in the AL West and lead the Angels by one game for the second AL Wild Card slot. The Rangers can clinch the AL West on Sunday afternoon with a win or an Astros loss. The Astros can clinch the second AL Wild Card on Sunday afternoon with a win or an Angels loss.

The Yankees lost both ends of Saturday’s doubleheader against the Orioles and lead the Astros by only one game for the first AL Wild Card slot.

If the Astros win and the Rangers lose on Sunday, they will play an AL West tiebreaker in Texas. The winner will win the second AL Wild Card if the Yankees win on Sunday, or the first AL Wild Card if the Yankees lose on Sunday.

If the Astros lose and the Angels win on Sunday, the two teams will be tied for the second AL Wild Card. They would play a tiebreaker in Houston, and the winner would play the Yankees in New York in the Wild Card game.

Video: Kelby Tomlinson slides in for an inside-the-park home run

Kelby Tomlinson
AP Photo
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Giants second baseman Kelby Tomlinson looked more like Ladainian Tomlinson the way he was running during Saturday afternoon’s game against the Rockies. In the first inning with one out against starter Chris Rusin, Tomlinson hit a fly ball into the right-center field gap at AT&T Park, a great place to go if you’re in the mood for an inside-the-park home run.

Neither Carlos Gonzalez nor Chris Dickerson could corral the ball before it rolled all the way to the 421-foot marker at the fence. Tomlinson motored around the bases, but Gonzalez made a strong throw into cut-off man D.J. LeMahieu, and LeMahieu made a great throw in to catcher Tom Murphy, but Tomlinson slid in safely just ahead of the tag.

It was an exciting play and the hit proved important as the Giants eked out a 3-2 win against the Rockies.