Plenty Of Former Twins In 2013 MLB Playoffs
By my count, there are 11 former members of the Minnesota Twins in the 2013 MLB Playoffs. If you are keeping score at home, there are exactly zero current Twins in the MLB Playoffs.
On Thursday, we will look at the American League (Hunter, Kubel, Crain, Young, Balfour, Neshek and Ortiz).
LOS ANGELES DODGERS:
Nick Punto, 3B:
Punto played 747 games for the Twins from 2004-2010, producing some eye-popping defensive gems while also producing plenty of asprin-popping head first slides into first base.
Since leaving the Twins Punto has spent time with the Cardinals and Red Sox before being traded to LA in the blockbuster deal that also shipped Josh Beckett, Carl Crawford and Adrian Gonzalez to Chavez Ravine in 2012.
Punto hit .255 this season in 335 plate appearances and split time at second base, third base and shortstop.
(Catcher Drew Butera also plays for the Dodgers, but was left off the playoff roster)
Francisco Liriano, Starting Pitcher
Liriano burst onto the scene as a rookie in 2006 with the Twins, going 12-3 with a crazy 144/33 K:BB ratio. Unfortunately the ride turned out to be too good to be true, as Liriano’s elbow discomfort in August turned into Tommy John surgery that cost him the entire 2007 season.
From there, Liriano became a bit of an enigma (especially to eternally befuddled Twins pitching coach Rick Anderson). Returning in 2008, Liriano started 14 games and appeared to be heading back on track with a 3.91 ERA in 14 starts.
However, Liriano would struggle in 2009 posting a 5-13 record with a 5.90 ERA. “Frankie” bounced back with a 14-10 season in 2010, the Twins’ first at Target Field. Minnesota gave Liriano away to division rival Chicago after a down year in 2011 and a disastrous start to the 2012 season.
The White Sox dropped Liriano after the season and the Pirates swooped in to offer a two year, $12.75 million contract. However, the lefty broke his right arm playing with his kids in the offseason, leading the Pirates to void the contract. He eventually agreed to an incentive-laden one year deal worth only (comparatively) one million dollars guaranteed.
Liriano went on to star with Pittsburgh in 2013, posting a 16-8 record in 26 starts. He also earned the win over the Reds in Tuesday’s National League Wild Card game, the Pirates’ first postseason win in 21 years.
Justin Morneau, First Baseman
Justin Morneau got off to a slow start with the Twins after building high expectations from fans in the minor leagues. After a pair of seasons platooning with Doug Mientkiewicz, Morneau hit just .239 in 2005.
Whether it was a result of being hit in the head with a Ron Villone fastball early in 2005, or after being punched by Torii Hunter later that season, Morneau stepped up his game in a big way in 2006. The Canadian slugger won the MVP award with a .321 average to go with 130 RBI and 34 home runs.
After stellar ’07 (.271-31-111), ’08 (.300-23-129) and ’09 (.274-30-100) seasons, Morneau was on his way to a monster year in 2010 (.345-18-56 in 81 games) before an inadvertent knee to the head from Toronto’s John McDonald gave him a concussion he has never seemed to fully recover from.
After missing half of 2010 and nearly 100 games in 2011 (.227-4-30 in 69 games), Morneau put up a decent season in 2012 (.267-19-77) but a far cry from his days as a perennial MVP candidate.
Morneau was unceremoniously placed on waivers late in 2013 and was shipped to the Pirates in exchange for 28-year old journeyman outfielder Alex Presley. Morneau hit just .260 with no home runs and three RBI in 25 games with the Pirates.
Garrett Jones, First Baseman
Jones is the least egregious “one that got away” because he had his position blocked in Minnesota by Mientkiewicz and Morneau.
By the time Jones made his MLB debut in 2007 he was already a 26-year old with little ability to hit for contact. However, Jones clearly had power potential, smacking 31 home runs in the minor leagues in 2004 and 24 in 2005.
With Morneau coming off of a MVP season and Jason Kubel taking up at bats at DH, the Twins let Jones walk after the 2008 season. He immediately signed with the Pittsburgh Pirates.
Jones has been steady if not spectacular for the Pirates, hitting 100 home runs in 677 games. In 2012 Jones hit 27 home runs with 86 RBI.