As expected, the Twins returned to a 12-man pitching staff following Wednesday afternoon’s win over the White Sox, activating Jose Mijares from the disabled list and sending Wilson Ramos back to Triple-A. Ramos going 4-for-5 with a double in his debut and 3-for-4 with two doubles in his second game initially had many people clamoring for him to stick around all year, but the 1-for-18 stretch that followed seems to have muted most of that talk for now.
Ultimately collecting seven hits in his first two games didn’t mean Ramos was ready to thrive in the majors any more than going 1-for-18 in his next five games means that he’s not, but as a 22-year-old with little experience above Single-A and zero success at Triple-A, Ramos going back to Rochester for a while is the best move. Ramos needs to play every day, and with Joe Mauer healthy, that simply wasn’t going to happen in Minnesota.
p>You don’t stall a 22-year-old prospect’s development and burn through his service time just so he can start twice a week, and despite the immediate giddiness created by his historic debut, Ramos just isn’t good enough offensively yet to be a great fit as a part-time designated hitter. He’s a very good prospect, but a huge portion of his upside comes from being a catcher. Aas a hitter alone, he’s a promising work in progress who has yet to crack an .850 OPS at any level.
Drew Butera and Jose Morales are better current fits as a little-used understudy, and if Mauer is injured again, the Twins can have Ramos on the first plane from Rochester. In the meantime, he’ll start 4 to 5 times a week behind the plate and either show enough offensively to convince the Twins he has big value in a role that isn’t strictly catching or build trade value so they can swap him for someone who fits better on a team with MLB’s best catcher signed through 2018.
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J.J. Hardy had an amazing ninth inning a week ago Tuesday versus the Tigers, making a game-saving play on defense in the top of the inning and then scoring the game-winning run after tripling in the bottom of the frame. Unfortunately, he hasn’t played since then because of a wrist injury suffered sliding into third base on the triple, and the Twins finally placed Hardy on the disabled list Tuesday.
Hardy was diagnosed with a bone bruise after an MRI exam showed no structural damage and was told by a hand specialist that he should be ready to come off the DL when eligible May 20. Rather than replace Hardy with Luke Hughes or Trevor Plouffe or Danny Valencia the Twins called up Matt Tolbert, adding another light-hitting utility man to a roster that already included Nick Punto, Alexi Casilla, and Brendan Harris.
Tolbert is a Ron Gardenhire favorite because he’s essentially a poor man’s Punto, offering the same combination of false hustle, diminutive scappiness and offensive ineptitude without any of the great defense. Gardenhire loves players like that, and the Twins love to avoid making big changes in situations like this, which is why Tolbert got the call-up, despite being a marginal big-leaguer who was hitting just .232/.283/.348 (with six errors) in 27 games at Triple-A.
Bypassing a legitimate prospect in favor of the 28-year-old Tolbert means two of Punto, Harris, Casilla, and Tolbert will be in the lineup every day until Hardy comes off the shelf. Beyond that, the defense will also take a major hit because Hardy is an excellent defender and Gardenhire oddly refuses to shift Punto from third base to shortstop. For instance, Tuesday night Punto stayed at third base and Harris started at shortstop, despite lacking the basic range for the position.
Gardenhire constantly praises Punto as an elite defender at any position and has often shied away from playing Harris at third base because his glove is shaky even there, yet inexplicably won’t swap them because Punto is “spectacular at third base” and he’s more concerned with not “changing too many guys” than actually putting the best defense on the field. By calling up Tolbert, the front office took a similar approach to the roster and the combination is frustrating.