Last year 99 losses and the AL’s worst record motivated the Twins to fire general manager Bill Smith a month after the season ended.
This year 96 losses and the AL’s worst record led to immediate and sweeping changes to the coaching staff, as the Twins announced that everyone on Ron Gardenhire’s staff except for pitching coach Rick Anderson has been let go or reassigned to a lesser role within the organization.
During the first 11 seasons with Gardenhire as manager the Twins fired a grand total of one coach, Al Newman. Yesterday alone they fired first base coach Jerry White, third base coach Steve Liddle, and bullpen coach Rick Stelmaszek while reassigning hitting coach Joe Vavra and bench coach Scott Ullger to roles described as infield and outfield instructors. Head trainer Rick McWane was also let go.
I’d love to offer some meaningful analysis, but beyond stating the obvious about the need for change after 195 losses in two years it’s difficult to say if specific firings were justified or what the shakeup’s impact will be. Good or bad, evaluating coaches is a lot of guesswork. What’s easier to see is that with a new coaching staff and Gardenhire’s contract up after 2013 the writing is seemingly on the wall for what another 90 losses would lead to this time next year.
Indians rookie outfielder Bradley Zimmer entered Thursday’s doubleheader against the Twins hitless in the month of August. Having appeared in 13 games, he failed to get a hit in 39 trips to the plate. He knocked in just one run, scored twice, and drew five walks with 16 strikeouts.
It looked like the streak might continue, as Zimmer struck out twice, bunted into an out, and reached on a fielder’s choice in his first four at-bats. Fortunately, he got to face Glen Perkins in the ninth inning. Perkins hadn’t pitched in a major league game since April 10, 2016. Zimmer grounded a single to right field, ending his 0-for-August skid which had reached 43 plate appearances and 36 at-bats.
On the season, Zimmer is batting .245/.316/.400 with eight home runs, 38 RBI, 33 runs scored, and 14 stolen bases in 275 PA.
The Twins announced, prior to the start of Thursday afternoon’s game against the Indians (the first game of a double-header), that reliever Glen Perkins was activated from the 60-day disabled list. Perkins had been sidelined since April 2016, recovering from left labrum surgery.
From 2013-15, Perkins served as the Twins’ closer, recording 102 saves with a 3.08 ERA. He appeared in only two games last season before going down with the injury.
Perkins appeared in the ninth inning of the first game Thursday with the Twins trailing 7-3. It did not go well. He gave up two runs on two hits, one walk, and two hit batsmen before being lifted. Alan Busenitz came in and induced an inning-ending double play from Francisco Lindor.
The Twins will likely ease Perkins back by continuing to use him in lower-leverage situations. Perkins has a club option worth $6.5 million for 2018 with a $700,000 buyout. The Twins picking up that option likely hinges on how Perkins fares down the stretch.