Sorting through a Twins playoff roster

The Minnesota Twins may have lost Sunday, but the Chicago White Sox also fell in extra innings. The Twins’ magic number shrunk to 4 in the process, which means they will probably clinch the AL Central division title before the weekend. And they’ll likely be the first team to clinch a playoff spot this year (the Texas Rangers have the next lowest magic number at 6).

So it looks pretty good – barring an epic collapse that fans in the area would talk about for generations – that the Twins are going to the postseason for a second straight year.

The difference this time around is that the Twins don’t have to fight and claw their way back the way they did last season, when they forced and won a one-game playoff after rallying from three games behind Detroit with four games to play.

This time, the Twins can plan ahead. They can rest players. They can set their rotation the way they want to. In the last decade, many of the Twins playoff teams haven’t had that opportunity.

Twins manager Ron Gardenhire has said that he would like to go with 11 pitchers and 14 position players on a playoff roster this year. So here’s my best guess on how that will work out.

Position players

  • Catchers: Joe Mauer and Drew Butera
  • Infielders: Michael Cuddyer, Orlando Hudson, J.J. Hardy, Danny Valencia, Nick Punto, Alexi Casilla
  • Outfielders: Denard Span, Jason Kubel, Delmon Young, Jason Repko, Ben Revere
  • Designated hitter: Jim Thome

Pitchers

  • Starters: Carl Pavano, Francisco Liriano, Brian Duensing, Kevin Slowey
  • Relievers: Matt Capps, Brian Fuentes, Jesse Crain, Matt Guerrier, Jose Mijares, Jon Rauch, Nick Blackburn

There were some tough decisions. First off, in the link above, the Star Tribune’s Patrick Reusse wrote that there are hints that Blackburn will be the No. 4 guy in the playoff rotation.

Blackburn has pitched great in the second half, posting a 3.35 ERA in eight appearances (six starts). But that season ERA of 6.99 on the road scares me, especially since Blackburn’s start would likely be on the road.

Slowey has pitched worse on the road this season too (3.67 ERA at home, 4.91 on the road). Not as much of a disparity as with Blackburn. And Slowey has been on a similar role since the All-Star break, going 5-1 with a 3.38 ERA, allowing just 52 hits in 56 innings with a 47-to-10 K/BB ratio. He gets the nod in my make-believe playoff rotation.

The last couple of position players were tough to guess. I figured with all of the injuries to the Twins middle infielders that they might go with both Punto and Casilla, but I could see a guy like Jose Morales getting the nod too as a pinch-hitter/third catcher.

I think Revere makes it too. Gardenhire likened his potential impact to that of 1991 pinch-runner extraordinaire Jarvis Brown – I hope Revere’s ceiling is higher than Brown’s was – and this is a team that could use pinch-runners. Lot of power, but also a lot of slow-footed players.

Here’s a few Monday lunch-time links:

Too early for the panic button, Vikings fans?

Nobody can blame the Minnesota Vikings for losing their season opener. Facing the defending Super Bowl champion New Orleans Saints would make Week 1 tough for any team.

But losing to the Miami Dolphins in the home opener? That probably wasn’t a scenario Vikings fans envisioned.

So with Minnesota and 0-2, while Chicago and Green Bay are both 2-0, is it too early for Vikings fans to hit the panic button? I would say “yes” but that doesn’t mean fans should venture too far from that panic button.

This is the reality of the NFL, though. In Major League Baseball, you go get ‘em tomorrow. If Joe Nathan blows a save, he’s got a decent chance of being able to rebound from that with an appearance the next day.

In the NFL, fans and the media have a full seven days to wait. The anticipation – or the despair, in this case – builds and builds.

So while I don’t think the sky is falling for Vikings fans just yet, a loss to Detroit in Week 3 could change that.

I tried to keep one eye on the Vikings-Dolphins game on Sunday while watching the Bears-Cowboys matchup. I was left with a couple of thoughts:

  • Vikings defense has played pretty well in first two weeks. This unit kept the Saints in check, and other than Brandon Marshall‘s big catch in first quarter to set up the Dolphins’ first touchdown, Miami didn’t move the ball much at all.
  • Brett Favre is looking a tad old. Seems like he’s not moving around in the pocket nearly as well as he was last year. That bum ankle is affecting him.
  • As for the pocket, the offensive line is struggling right now. That hasn’t stopped Adrian Peterson too much, but there were a couple of short yardage situations that the Vikings just couldn’t pick up the big first down or touchdown.

Reviewing the Week 2 picks:

  • Went 3-2 for the week and am now 6-4 on the season picking the spread. This week, I missed on the Bills (by a lot!) and the Ravens, but got the Broncos, Chiefs and Colts right.