A lack of consistency from their middle relievers has been a thorn in the side of the Minnesota Twins this season.Â In an effort to shake things up, they demoted veteran set-up man Jesse Crain to Triple-A on Tuesday.Â After four seasons as an integral part of the parent club, the move is best viewed as a wake-up call.Â Expect Crain back in the Minnesota pen shortly.Â First baseman Justin Morneauâ€™s .329 batting average ranks fourth among all qualified AL hitters, but the sizzling stick he displayed throughout May (.361 BA with nine home runs and 29 RBIs) has cooled in June (.283 with two homers and seven RBIs).Â Morneau is resilient and has matured sufficiently as a hitter to accept the inevitable dry spells that ensue during a long season.Â Starting pitcher Scott Baker allowed two runs in seven innings Sunday, marking the eighth time in 12 starts that heâ€™s pitched at least six innings. Although Baker is just 4-6 with a 5.30 ERA this season, he has given the Twins renewed hope based upon his 2-0 record with a 2.86 ERA in three June starts.
Vladdi is not the power threat he used to be.
The injury bug has been a constant companion of the Los Angeles Angels this season.Â On Monday, the club announced veteran set-up man Scot Shields would have season-ending knee surgery at roughly the same time it was ascertained that Kelvim Escobar would need additional time on the disabled list to allow inflammation in his ailing shoulder to subside and hopefully allow him to pitch.Â Simultaneously, Ervin Santana was scratched from his scheduled Tuesday start because of soreness near his elbow.Â This was the same elbow that landed him on the DL to start the season, leaving everyone holding their breath.Â Â In his second Angels season, Torii Hunter has ascended to the role of clubhouse leader, supplanting Vladimir Guerrero as the heart and soul of the team.Â Guerrero was never comfortable in the role, due largely to his limited proficiency in English.Â It hasnâ€™t hurt that the gregarious Hunter has been mashing the ball all season and represents the only consistent power source in the Angels lineup.Â Guerreroâ€™s power, meanwhile, is in steep decline.Â Dating back to last season, he has managed just 12 homers in his last 352 at bats as balls he once routinely whacked out of the yard are now dying on the warning track.Â Â Â
Where would the Chicago White Sox be without GM Kenny Williams?Â Williams hasÂ Â Â demonstrated the ability to pull off a blockbuster trade and sign high-priced free agents.Â Now he finally appears to finally be grasping the importance of focusing on the amateur draft and building the Sox minor-league system from within.Â There are currently no fewer than 10 first-round picks on the White Soxâ€™s 25-man roster, and four of them were Sox first-round picks.Â Williams is recognized by his ML counterparts as a keen judge of talent and has waded into the bog more than once to pluck reclamation projects other organizations avoided.Â Given his aggressive nature, rumors currently circulating that Williams is shopping Bobby Jenks and Jermaine Dye may have some substance to them.Â Paul Konerko is experiencing something of resurgence this season, having socked eight homers and driven in a team-high 41 while batting an impressive .294.Â Heâ€™s battling a sore thumb but has defied experts who maintained he had little left in the tank.Â With a stretch of six games against the Cubs beginning Wednesday, White Sox fans have a reason to gloat.Â Counting postseason, exhibition, spring training and regular season play, the Sox currently lead their cross-town rivals 165-118-8 in the all-time series.Â Â
Cody Ross will likely encourage Florida Marlins management to schedule additional interleague games in Toronto.Â During a weekend set with the Blue Jays, Ross was a scorching 6-for-13 with two home runs and six RBIs.Â His heroics helped the Marlins sweep the three-game series at Rogers Centre, their first since April 28-30.Â They retain third place in the NL East, entering Tuesdayâ€™s game six back of Philadelphia.Â Starter Josh Johnsonâ€™s durability is enabling him to vie with Torontoâ€™s Roy Halladay to see who will hurl the MLâ€™s most innings.Â Through Monday, Johnson had tossed 98 frames, trailing Halladayâ€™s 103.Â Jeremy Hermida is one Marlin who thrives in the interleague setting, hitting in 16 of his last 17.Â Â Hermida is batting .440 (11-for-25) in his last six games overall.Â A dinged up Jorge Cantu has permitted Russ Gload expanded playing time and he is capitalizing on it.Â Gload received his third straight start at first base last Saturday and notched his straight multi-hit game. He is now hitting .318 in 88 at-bats.Â Â Cantu may miss additional time and with the DH available this week due to interleague play, Gload could get further opportunities to shine.
Currently the hottest team in the majors, the Colorado Rockies, who ran their win streak to 11 straight Sunday, equaling the franchise record.Â Since replacing Clint Hurdle as manager May 29, ex-Dodger and ex-Pirates skipper Jim Tracy has reignited the moribund club.Â Colorado proceeded to capture 13 of their first 17 games under Tracy to improve to 31-32 overall.Â The starting rotation deserves a share of the credit for their current streak, as Rockiesâ€™ starters pitched at least six innings in the first 13 games in June, a string that finally ended Sunday when a rain delay interceded.Â Jason Marquis (8-4, 3.77 ERA) has emerged as the Rockies premier money pitcher.Â Six of his wins have followed a Colorado loss.Â Aaron Cook has begun to regain the form that made him the Rockies best hurler one year ago, winning his last two starts.Â Ian Stewart has made a strong case for permanently replacing Garrett Atkins at third.Â Stewart is hitting .327 with five homers in June and leads the club with 12 bombs.Â Atkins rapped out three hits Sunday to hoist his average above .200 for the first time in over a month, meaning heâ€™ll receive additional at bats while the hits keep falling.
Manny Acta couldnâ€™t have chosen a more demanding environment in which to manage a ML club than the chronically overmatched Washington Nationals.Â Now in his third season at the helm, Acta has earned praise for his game savvy and ability to relate to his players.Â Rumors are escalating, however, that he may be fired for the teamâ€™s abysmal performance, perhaps as early as this week.Â The Nationals offense is mediocre (middle of the pack in runs, homers and team batting average) and therefore canâ€™t begin to compensate for the worst pitching staff in the Western Hemisphere.Â Itâ€™s not Actaâ€™s fault his rotation is tottering with the highest combined ERA in the majors (an outlandish 5.34) nor can he control a leaky bullpen that has blown 15 of 24 save opportunities.Â Washington sat 16-46 after Tuesdayâ€™s action, putting them on a pace to easily eclipse last yearâ€™s 102 losses.Â As managers are prone to do, Acta is ignoring the rumblings and doing his best to hold together a franchise in complete disarray.Â The question is how much longer heâ€™ll be granted the opportunity.Â
The Weekender, Fatherâ€™s Day Edition: Here are some intriguing pairings this coming weekend (June 19-22).
Dodgers at Angels:Â Â Â Â Â Â Â The Freeway Series descends upon Orange County.Â Â
Brewers at Tigers :Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Two teams with playoff aspirations tussle.Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â
Cardinals at Royals:Â Â Â Â Â Battle for bragging rights in the Show Me State.Â Â Â Â Â Â
Yankees at Marlins:Â Â Â Â Â Â Friendly homecoming for favorite son A-Rod?