Twins opt not to add pitching reinforcements on September 1 and pay the price

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Last night’s Twins-Tigers game was one of the worst I’ve ever seen, as the two teams combined for 13 innings of sloppy, mistake-filled play that included a seemingly endless array of botched double plays and blown leads.
As a Twins fan there are approximately 100 different things I could complain about from the agonizing evening, but the one that stands out is Minnesota’s refusal to call up pitching reinforcements from Triple-A when rosters expanded Wednesday.
Third-string catcher Jose Morales and infielder Trevor Plouffe were the only two players added to the roster by the Twins and they paid the price last night. Scott Baker left his start after two innings with elbow soreness and the Twins had several relievers unavailable because of minor maladies, so when both Matt Guerrier and Jesse Crain blew leads in regulation the pitching choices got very strange.
Crain pitched for the 21st time in 34 games–which is an arm-wrecking 101-appearance pace–and was allowed to throw a season-high 40 pitches after never being used for even 30 pitches before. After running him into the ground the Twins then turned to Brian Duensing for two innings despite the fact that he just threw 103 pitches in a start Tuesday. And then they brought in Nick Blackburn, who was scheduled to start tonight.
Obviously teams don’t plan for 13-inning games in which their starter departs after two innings, but if the Twins had simply called up a few pitchers from Triple-A when rosters expanded Wednesday none of that would have been an issue and they wouldn’t have overworked Crain and Duensing while screwing up the rotation for the next week. Alex Burnett, Anthony Slama, Pat Neshek, Rob Delaney, and Anthony Swarzak are all on the 40-man roster and could have been added to the bullpen two days earlier.
Instead the Twins added zero pitching reinforcements, blew out the entire pitching staff in a 13-inning loss, and are now planning to call up various fresh arms for tonight’s game. In fact, the rotation is so screwed up now that they’re adding 27-year-old Matt Fox to the 40-man roster just so he can make his big-league debut starting tonight against the first-place Rangers. Without last night’s disaster there’s a decent chance Fox never pitches in the majors. Good for him, bad for the Twins.
And it all could have been avoided by simply expanding the roster on September 1.

Joey Votto thinks he can win the Home Run Derby, but hasn’t been invited yet

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Despite having hit at least 20 home runs in eight of his 11 seasons in the majors, Reds first baseman Joey Votto has never participated in a Home Run Derby. Currently, he’s tied for the National League lead in home runs with 20, and he hasn’t been invited to this year’s festivities at Marlins Park.

In the event he is invited, Votto said he thinks he can win it, C. Trent Rosecrans of the Cincinnati Enquirer reports. Votto likened himself to Ichiro Suzuki, a player known more for his contact abilities and mastery of the strike zone than power. “Just think of me as the Canadian Ichiro — Japan has theirs and Canada has theirs,” Votto said. “I could pull homers into the seats at will.”

Along with the 20 homers, Votto is currently hitting .306/.419/.601 with 53 RBI, and 52 runs scored in 313 plate appearances.

Teammate Scott Schebler also has 20 home runs at the moment and Adam Duvall, who made it to the semifinals of the Derby last year, has 16. Neither of them have been approached about participating in the Derby, either. Per Rosecrans, in the event each was invited, Duvall said he would consider participating if he wasn’t an All-Star and Schebler would participate regardless. Votto said he would only participate if he made the All-Star team.

There was apparently some miscommunication between Pete Mackanin and Pat Neshek

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The Phillies won their first game since last Thursday, beating the Cardinals 5-1 on Thursday afternoon. Starter Aaron Nola pitched into the eighth inning, but left with one out. Pat Neshek took the mound with a runner on first base and induced an inning-ending double play on a 3-1 count to Tommy Pham.

Given that Neshek only threw five pitches and the Phillies were staked to a four-run lead, it wouldn’t have seemed unreasonable if the sidewinding right-hander came back out to finish the ninth inning as well. But Luis Garcia had that honor, tossing a scoreless final frame to nail down the win in a non-save situation.

After the game, manager Pete Mackanin said he asked Neshek to go back out for the ninth, but Neshek didn’t want to, per Stephen Gross of the Morning Call. Neshek told the media that Mackanin never asked him. There was also a miscommunication on Wednesday. The combination of Joaquin Benoit, Hector Neris, and Edubray Ramos combined to allow four runs in 2 1/3 innings, helping the Phillies lose 7-6. Neshek never appeared. According to Mackanin, Neshek told him that he wasn’t available to pitch. Neshek said he was told he’d have the day off.

The disconnect between Mackanin and Neshek could speak to a larger divide between the manager and his failing team. The Phillies have underwhelmed across the board due to players like Odubel Herrera (whose head was down and did not see Juan Samuel’s stop sign last night in what became a base running blunder), Maikel Franco, Jerad Eickhoff, Vince Velasquez, Aaron Nola (today’s start notwithstanding), and Hector Neris not living up to expectations. The Phillies signed Mackanin to a contract extension last month, but the team has completely fallen apart since then and the latest communications issues certainly don’t reflect well on him. Neither does last night’s travesty of a game.

As for Neshek, he said that going to the Phillies was “the best thing that happened to me in a few years” but also realized, given the state of the team, that it remains very likely he winds up in a new uniform by the July 31 non-waiver trade deadline. After Thursday’s performance, Neshek is carrying a 0.63 ERA with a 25/4 K/BB ratio in 28 2/3 innings. He very well could be the Phillies’ lone representative at the All-Star Game in Miami next month. That is, if he’s still wearing their uniform. Ken Rosenthal of FOX Sports reports that the Nationals have shown interest in Neshek.