Another day, another walk off home run for the Twins, as Jason Kubel hit a 12th inning, game winning grand slam home run off Red Sox reliever Julian Tavarez last evening, providing the Twins with a 6-2 margin of victory. Kubel's clout barely cleared the baggie in right field, but it was enough to get the job done and end a thrilling night of baseball at the Dome.
The season itself is shaping up as a transition year for the Twins, but there are some positive signs. Yesterday we talked about the rapid progress of Joe Mauer, who has quickly turned himself into the best overall catcher in the American League. But there's more going on. Kubel is a good story; he looked to be a top prospect in 2004, but tore up his knee at the beginning of that season, costing him nearly two years as he had to rehab from the injury. He finally is back to the parent club now, and has been slowly building his batting average. He has also been effective enough to displace Lew Ford from the everyday lineup. Kubel has a quick bat and has a chance to be a high average hitter with decent power, if he can stay healthy. That's a big if, but yesterday's result should continue to boost his confidence.
Meanwhile, Justin Morneau has been quietly building up his numbers as well. Morneau was the walk-off winner in last Friday's 12-inning win over the Orioles, blasting a Bruce Chen pitch off the facing of the football press box in right field. Morneau is now on a 30-35 home run pace, which is the level of production that Twins fans are expecting. Meanwhile, Michael Cuddyer continues to show marked improvement in his offensive game.
But as these younger players begin to step up, it means that some of the warhorses the Twins have stocked this season need to go. The first casaulty is Tony Batista, the slow-moving, itinerant third baseman, who has been designated for assignment. Batista has not been nearly as productive as the Twins would have hoped, and it's clear that he wasn't going to be part of the Twins' long-term plans. Better to cut ties now and give him a chance to catch on elsewhere. Meanwhile, it's highly likely that Rondell White will be given his walking papers once Shannon Stewart returns from the disabled list later this month. Both Batista and White are fine gentlemen, but they are fading quickly and the Twins can't afford to keep them around.