Plenty Of Former Twins In ’13 MLB Playoffs (AL Edition)
There are 13 former Twins in this year’s MLB playoffs. We looked at the NL teams on Wednesday, here are the former Twins on AL teams.
*Note- In our NL story yesterday, we neglected to mention Luis Ayala, a reliever for the Atlanta Braves. Ayala spent half a season with the Twins in 2009 before being dumped to the Marlins. The Braves are the fourth team he has played for since his shortened stint in Minnesota.
Pat Neshek, RP–
Neshek emerged with the Twins in 2006 sporting a funky, sidearm delivery and a penchant for interacting with fans via social media. Neshek had an unbelievable rookie season, posting 53 strikeouts in just 37 innings pitched while allowing only five walks–FIVE!
Neshek pitched well again in 2007 (2.94 ERA, 74:24 K/BB ratio) but fell on hard times in 2008, eventually needing Tommy John surgery that cost him the season after just 13 innings pitched. He also missed the entire 2008 season while rehabbing the injury.
Neshek resurfaced in 2010 but only pitched a handful of innings for the Twins before being placed on waivers and subsequently was claimed by the San Diego Padres. He pitched 24.2 innings for the Padres in 2011 before being allowed to explore free agency.
The Brooklyn Park native has regained his early-career form in two seasons with the A’s, posting a 3.00 ERA in 60 IP.
Grant Balfour, RP:
The Australian right handed reliever made his Major League debut for the Twins back in 2001 and lasted until he was released in 2005. In three seasons with Minnesota Balfour was 5-1 with a 4.63 ERA.
Balfour signed with the Milwaukee Brewers and reached the majors in 2007, but only pitched two innings at Miller Park before being picked up by the Tampa Bay Rays.
Balfour re-energized his career with the Rays, going 14-7 with 8 saves and a 3.33 ERA in 203 appearances. He signed with the Oakland Athletics before the 2011 season and was named the closer in 2012.
He posted a 2.53 ERA and 24 saves in ’12, then had an All Star season in 2013 with 38 saves and 2.59 ERA.
BOSTON RED SOX
David Ortiz, DH:
Probably the most egregious “one that got away,” Ortiz was allowed to leave as a free agent following six seasons with Minnesota from 1997-2002. As a Twin, Ortiz hit .266 with 58 home runs and 238 RBI in 455 games. His best season in pinstripes was 2002, when he hit 20 home runs and knocked in 75 runs while batting .272.
As we all know, Ortiz became a folk hero in Boston almost immediately. In 11 seasons with the Sox, “Big Papi” has put up Hall of Fame-level numbers (.292-431-1429). He also led Boston to two World Series titles (’04 and ’07).
Craig Breslow, RP:
Breslow bounced from Milwaukee to San Diego to Boston and finally Cleveland before being selected off waivers by the Twins in May of 2008.
Breslow had a great 2008 campaign with Minnesota, posting a 1.63 ERA in 38.2 IP, but struggled mightily in 2009 with the Twins (6.28 ERA) before being released and signed by Oakland. Since leaving Minnesota (and pitching coach Rick Anderson), Breslow has not posted an ERA over 3.79 and has had five seasons with an ERA under three.
Jason Kubel, OF/DH:
The South Dakota native rocketed up the Twins’ prospect rankings as a minor leaguer before a devastating knee injury in 2004 forced him to miss the entire 2005 season. Kubel took a bit to find his groove when he returned in 2006 (.241-8 HR- 26 RBI) but added a walk-off grand slam against Boston during the team’s epic turnaround late in the season.
Kubel played in nearly twice as many games in ’07 (128) and had a solid, if underwhelming, season (.273-13-65). He played in 141 games in ’08 with average results (.272-20-78) before breaking out in 2009 with a .300-28-103 line.
Inexplicably, the Twins decided to sign Jim Thome before the 2010 season, forcing Kubel into a platoon at the DH position. Kubel also struggled to adjust to the deeper dimensions at Target Field and saw his stats drop to .249-21-92. After another disappointing 2011 season (.273-12-58), the Twins allowed Kubel to sign with Arizona.
Kubel had a strong season for the DBacks in ’12, hitting just .253 but blasting 30 home runs and 90 RBI while also leading the NL in outfield assists. The lefthander struggled in 2013, however, and was released by Arizona late in the season.
Tampa Bay Rays
Delmon Young, OF:
In a trade many consider among the worst of Bill Smith’s tenure as general manager, Young was acquired from Tampa Bay in 2007 in exchange for pitcher Matt Garza and shortstop Jason Bartlett.
Young played well during his four years with the Twins (.287-47-273) but never blossomed into the power hitting outfielder they envisioned when they made the trade. Young appeared on the verge of that breakout in 2010 when he hit .298-21-112, but he regressed greatly in 2011 (.266-4-32) while also appearing to be out of shape for a majority of the season.
After being traded unceremoniously in 2011 to division rival Detroit, Young hit .274 with eight home runs. He was released from the Tigers in 2012, and resurfaced with Philadelphia , where he lasted only half a season despite being projected as the full time right fielder.
Jesse Crain, RP:
Crain was a steady presence for the Twins out of the bullpen from 2004-2010. His best season was 2005 when he posted a 2.71 ERA in 79.2 IP. In his Twins career, Crain posted a 3.42 ERA in 376 appearances.
Crain was allowed to sign with division rival Chicago and he has dominated the competition with the Sox. In three seasons on the South Side, Crain had a 2.10 ERA in 150 IP. Crain was an All-Star in 2013 with a ridiculous 0.74 ERA in 36.2 IP before being traded to Tampa late in the season.
Torii Hunter, OF:
What could have been. Hunter was the heir apparent to Twins legend Kirby Puckett, and he mostly lived up to the billing. Hunter was a spectacular center fielder defensively, robbing countless home runs at the Metrodome from 1997-2007.
He was respectable in the batter’s box as well, launching 192 home runs and 711 RBI with a .271 batting average while making two All Star teams and winning seven gold gloves. The Twins low-balled Hunter with a 3 year, $45 million offer before watching him sign with the LA Angels for 5 years and $90 million dollars.
Since leaving the Twins, Hunter has won two gold gloves and made four All Star teams.