Let’s face it: most of the good news for the Twins this year has come from the minors, as Byron Buxton and Miguel Sano have emerged as two of the game’s top five prospects. What’s happened with the major league club has been mostly bad.
That’s especially the case with Scott Diamond, the team’s best starter while going 12-9 with a 3.54 ERA as a rookie last year, and Aaron Hicks, the team’s former No. 1 prospect who won the center field job this spring. Both were demoted back to the minors on Thursday.
Diamond, whose season didn’t start until mid-April following December surgery to remove a bone chip from his elbow, was 5-10 with a 5.52 ERA and just 45 strikeouts in 107 2/3 innings. He had turned in just three quality starts in 2 1/2 months, and he gave up six earned runs in a loss to the Royals on Thursday. The Twins felt it was time to take a look at someone else, probably Andrew Albers, and now that the trade deadline passed without a Mike Pelfrey trade, that opportunity is coming at Diamond’s expense.
The 23-year-old Hicks showed improvement in June and the first half of July, but he had slumped again of late, leaving him at .192/.259/.338 in 281 at-bats for the season. The Twins took quite a risk this spring when they opted to have him skip Triple-A and go right to the majors, and it’s clear now that it didn’t pay off. Still, Hicks is young enough that no one is giving up on him yet. He’ll be back in September, and he’ll probably get another chance to play regularly then. In the meantime, the Twins will go with Clete Thomas in center and give Oswaldo Arcia another chance in a corner. The 21-year-old Arcia was recalled today after hitting .375/.490/.725 with four homers in 13 games for Triple-A Rochester last month.
After 18 years, 12 winning seasons, seven postseason runs and three World Championships, Dave Righetti is no longer a pitching coach for the Giants. He was removed from his post on Saturday, when the team announced a few reassignments as they shake up their coaching staff. Heading into the 2018 season, Righetti will serve as special assistant to general manager Bobby Evans, former bullpen coach Mark Gardner will step into a similar special assistant role to “assist in pitching evaluations,” and former assistant hitting coach Steve Decker will take a special assistant role in baseball operations.
According to MLB.com’s Chris Haft, Righetti was the longest-tenured pitching coach in the big leagues. He helped shape the careers of notable Giants’ aces like Madison Bumgarner, Tim Lincecum and Matt Cain — all Cy Young contenders (and, in Lincecum’s case, a two-time winner) at various points in their careers. He was there to assist Ryan Vogelsong during his stunning mid-career comeback in San Francisco. He helped newcomers like Chris Stratton and Ty Blach flourish even as the team stumbled to the bottom of the division. He was there to take the credit when a sterling rotation clinched the Giants’ 56-year, drought-snapping championship title in 2010 — and, when things went so horribly south in 2017, he took the blame as well.
Hardly anything went right for the Giants’ pitching staff in 2017. Madison Bumgarner was shelved after sustaining a serious shoulder injury in a dirt bike accident, Johnny Cueto couldn’t shake a cluster of blisters on his right hand and Mark Melancon found it difficult to justify a $62 million paycheck after pitching through an arm injury to four blown losses/saves and a 4.50 ERA. It would be a lot for any pitching coach to stay on top of, and given the team’s rapid descent from 2016 postseason contenders to last-place finishers in 2017, it’s not surprising that Evans felt the need to switch things up.
Successors have yet to be named for Righetti, Gardner or Decker, though Murray hears that the Giants could have interest in former major league pitching coach Jim Hickey. NBC Bay Area’s Alex Pavlovic adds that Evans is searching for someone to “put a new voice” on the pitching staff and will likely target someone who, like Righetti, brings considerable experience to the role.