Leslie Monteiro. 28th August, 2006 - 3:11 am
Chicago White Sox manager Ozzie Guillen loves to speak his mind. Most of the time, his commentary is about ripping his own players, Chicago Sun-Times columnist Jay Mariotti, and others in major league baseball. He does have a soft spot for one team, which is the Minnesota Twins. He was raving about them prior to the White Sox/Twins game at the Metrodome on August 19th. He talked about how he respects Twins manager Ron Gardenhire and how he thinks Justin Morneau is worthy of being the American League?s Most Valuable Player. He dedicated most of his commentary on the Twins role players as he called them ?little piranhas." He was talking about how he fears guys like Nick Punto, Jason Tyner, Luis Castillo, and Jason Bartlett because they always finds ways to get base hits and drive in runs against his team. Who can blame him for appreciating them? He saw first-hand how his role players like Scott Podsednik, Ross Gload, Tadahito Iguchi, Timo Perez, and Aaron Rowand do those things last season. He knows that those types of players played a big role in leading the White Sox to a championship last year.
Joe Mauer, Justin Morneau, and the Twins pitching staff receive recognition from the fans and the Twin Cities media for their contributions to the team, but the Twins role players deserve much credit as those guys for the way they have played this season. Tyner has been great since he got called up from the minors after Shannon Stewart reaggravated his foot injury on July 15th. Punto has been a valuable run producer since he was named the everyday third baseman. Castillo has been on base a lot. Bartlett has performed since being promoted to the majors. Mike Redmond always produces when he spells Mauer few days a week. Those guys bring a lot to the table for the Twins.
There is so much to love about Tyner. He is a go-getter. He hustles to first to get a base hit and he always goes to the extra mile by extending a single into a double to be in scoring position. He has been very consistent with his hitting. That type of play has endeared himself to the fans, his teammates, and his manager, Ron Gardenhire. He has earned playing time everyday at left field because of what he has done since being called up. He has certainly made everyone forget about Lew Ford. Lew?s playing time has been taken away thanks to his injuries, his ineffectiveness and Tyner?s performance.
Punto has reinvented himself ever since Twins hitting instructor Rod Carew has changed his swinging stance. He now crouches more in the plate and lower his back elbow when he swings. Punto has felt comfortable at the plate ever since. He is hitting the ball much harder. He is always reliable in driving runners home when runners are in scoring position. Twins fans can make a case that he is the second best run producer for their team with Justin Morneau being the best. He has come a long way since his first three months of the season in which he was an easy out as he grounded into double plays or grounded out to an infielder.
Castillo has certainly been good as advertised when he was acquired from the Florida Marlins in what was Twins GM Terry Ryan?s best off-season acquisition. He has made great plays defensively. He always gets on base through his base hits or through him hustling to first. He has certainly earned his extension for next season as his option for next year was picked up few days ago.
Jason Bartlett has finally played to his potential after a rough rookie season last year. He has been great since he got called up from the minors on July 27th in an effort to get more production in the shortstop position. He always has a knack of getting doubles as his base hits, which is huge since it gives the next batter an opportunity to drive him home. He has done a great job in setting up double plays. He has been so good out there that some people have compared him to Rangers shortstop Michael Young.
The White Sox manager did not mention Redmond as part of the ?little piranhas?, but with that said, he has been another role player that has done well this season. He has been a huge blessing for the Twins. He has given Gardenhire an opportunity to rest Mauer several times a week because of the way he steps up when he is out there. He is like a hitting machine when he plays. He just produces by driving the runners home when he hits. He also calls a good game with his pitchers. Twins are lucky that Redmond has signed an extension for several years since there are not many good backup catchers. He could be an everyday catcher for any baseball team in the Major Leagues.
It is nice to see Guillen show respect to these guys. Most managers do not talk about role players when they talk about other teams to the media. The Twins role players deserve lot of appreciation from the fans for what they have done. They have been a huge part of the Twins success these last few months. It has been fun watching them do their thing out there. Twins have proven that they do not need household names to win games like the Yankees do.
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