Series Preview: Tampa Bay Rays @ Minnesota Twins

Instead of our normal previews, Jesse from over at Twinkie Town was gracious enough to answer some questions for us about the Twins. In return, we answered some questions about the Rays for him, so feel free to check our answers if you'd like too. Thanks Jesse!

What can you tell me about Francisco Liriano? Is there any way to beat the guy?

Get to him early, and having an umpire with a tight strike zone doesn't hurt.  Like most good pitchers, if he gets into a groove you're asking for a miracle to upset him, or you're hoping for an equally strong performance from your own starter.  His fastball velocity is back to the mid-90s (and he can locate it again which might be even better), the slider is typically nasty, and he's been getting more ground balls again.  All of it has bred confidence, and he stalks the mound with that killer instinct we haven't seen in years.  It's good to finally have him back.

If he gets ahead, look out for the breaking ball.  If he gets behind, he'll rely on the fastball.

What's your opinion on Delmon Young this year? It seems to me like he's slowly putting his career on the right track, ever so slightly.

He's still incredibly aggressive and will chase a lot of pitches outside of the strike zone.  What's different is the quality of his swings and the situations he takes them in.  He's walking a bit more, which is great, but when he makes contact it seems he's constantly hitting the ball hard.  While he'll never be called a patient hitter and will always be an aggressive guy, he's more aware of game situations and appears to be much better at identifying pitch types.  It's great to see, because we've been waiting for him to turn the corner.

How's that new stadium feel? Any chance you could give us some hints on how to get one ourselves?

Without Mike Opat, I don't think we would have one.  He's the Chairman of the Hennepin County Board of Commissioners, and he personally took up the torch and fought non-stop on behalf of the plan that eventually became Target Field.  If I ever meet the guy, I will shake his hand and buy him a beer.

I'm not sure what the situation is in Tampa, so it's hard for me to lay into too many specifics.  But if it's anything like it was in Minnesota, you need a guy inside the city infrastructure who's willing to shoulder the load.  Make it personal to the community.

I definitely understand what it's like to play the game inside, and Tropicana doesn't strike me as a significantly better or worse place than the Dome.  Hopefully you can get something done without having to wait out that 25 or 30 year lease (if that's what it was, the details are a little hazy off the top of my head).

Justin Morneau - for realz or smoke and mirrors?

Fo' realz.  He's in his prime, has had these tools for a long time, and he's just having a season where all the pieces are falling into place.  Playing on the same team as Joe Mauer means you don't get the credit you deserve as a hitter sometimes, and so every once in a while Justin gets overlooked.  But he's a very good hitter, and I have no problem saying he's having a more MVP-worthy season than he had in 2006.

Who's the Twin we should watch for this series, the one we may not know about?

I'd love to say Danny Valencia, but I can't guarantee he'll see much playing time.  So I'm going to hate myself and say Nick Punto.  I know, right?  But in his last 23 games he's hitting .338 with a .417 on-base percentage, while playing decent defense at shortstop in lieu of the injured J.J. Hardy.  I'll take that from a number 9 hitter anytime.    
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