Saturday, April 09, 2005

The Return of A.J.

White Sox 5, Twins 1

Deja vu, all over again. If the Twins were to play another team's home opener next week, would that club also roll out an old junkball pitcher who would flummox our hitters and take the game by a 5-1 score?

Orlando Hernanedez did look very sharp, but tell me about it when he's made 30 starts and still looks sharp down the stretch. I'm sure he can be an asset to Chicago for about half the season, but I wouldn't count on him past July. We're talking about a pitcher of indeterminate age who sat out the first half of last season after missing all of 2003, made 15 starts down the stretch for the Yankees, then broke down again just before the postseason. In the last 4 seasons, he's pitched more than 100 innings just once, when he worked 146 innings in 2002. Like last year, he missed about half the season in 2001, as well. Would you sign that guy to a 2-year deal? (Also remember that half of Carlos Lee's money went to this guy; the other half went to Lee's older, less productive replacement in the batting lineup, Jermaine Dye.) I think the ChiSox could be better off if they used El Duque as an occasional longman out of the pen for the first half of the season to keep him fresh for the stretch drive, but fine by me if they want to burn out his arm by the All-Star break.

Kyle Lohse also looked sharp for 5 innings, but then Paul Konerko and Dye got into his head in the 6th. After Lohse had retired the first batter of the inning and seemed to be cruising, Konerko worked 9 pitches out of him after starting behind in the count, 1-2, and smacking the last pitch into the LF seats. After that, Lohse started Dye off at 0-2, but Dye fouled off a couple pitches before hitting a single. I think the combination of those two at-bats just rattled Kyle. He started Aaron Rowand with 2 balls, then left the fourth pitch out to get hammered. Presto, the Twins are down 3 runs and Lohse is run out of the game. It was like an inverse of Radke and Santana's starts this week. Mostly strong, but the lapses at the end tarnished the rest of his good work. Keep ya head up, Kyle. You can't let them rattle you so easily.

I hate to see the Twins lose the home opener to Chicago; but, so it was a loss in a Kyle Lohse start, and our hitters again had trouble with a wily junkballer. OK. I'm not all that upset. Let's go get the series with Rad and Johan on the mound, boys.

I feel more disappointed in the Metrodome fans who booed A.J. Pierzynski when he was introduced before the first at-bat in his return to Minnesota. Why were you booing, people? As a Twin, he was one of the best players on the team that revitalized this franchise; he made the All-Star team, he helped lead the Twins to two division titles and hit the home run off Billy Koch that won Game 5 of the 2002 ALDS. He was accessible to fans and media; I can't recall him ever saying a bad word about the fans here. He didn't leave for a money grab or because he felt "disrespected"; he was traded away. After he was traded to San Francisco, he was about the only departing player who didn't seem bitter towards the Twins. All the guy ever did in Minnesota was play hard, and practically every day. He was solid on the field, and good to fans off it, and he had a a master gamesman's knack for getting into an opponent's head. I don't care if he did sign with the Whine Sox. At least for his first at-bat in his first game back at the Metrodome, he deserved to hear a loud ovation from every last Twins fan in the building.

Thank you for all you did for us in Minnesota, A.J. Pierzynski. You have my best wishes, just as long as you're not hitting any game-winning homers off Joe Nathan or bowling over the Chairman. May Chicago be your springboard to bigger and better things. Cheers.

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