The Timberwolves will start four rookies or second-year players tonight against Knicks at Target Center. Nikola Pekovic said he will visit a doctor againsoon and is hopeful he'll be cleared to resume practicing.
With Adrian Peterson suspended for the season and fellow running back Matt Asiata recovering from a concussion, the Vikings have claimed former Browns back Ben Tate off waivers.
Tate, who started his career with the Texans, signed a two-year, $7 million contract with the Browns this spring and was expected to be their lead running back.
He rushed for 41 yards on six carries in his Cleveland debut, but he suffered a knee injury that sidelined him for nearly a month. That injury gave an opportunity to rookie backs Terrance West and Isaiah Crowell, who showed promise.
Last week, Tate complained about his role. He then had just two carries for minus-9 yards in Sunday’s loss to the Texans. He was waived yesterday.
His Browns career lasted eight games. He rushed for just 333 yards on 106 carries with four TDs.
We will talk to head coach Mike Zimmer tomorrow to see exactly how Tate will fit in. But Zimmer has maintained after losing Peterson that he prefers a committee approach in the backfield. We can assume rookie Jerick McKinnon will have a prominent role, but we’ll see how much, if at all, Tate cuts into his work load.
Tate, 26, has a history of injury issues throughout his career. But he does not have much wear and tear, having backed up Texans back Arian Foster for his first few seasons, and he has experience in a zone scheme. At 5-foot-10 and 200 pounds, he packs a little more punch than McKinnon.
The Vikings, who have just under $9 million in salary cap space, will take on his contract for the rest of the season. If he is active for each of the final six games, he will earn $656,250 from the Vikings.
To make room for Tate, the Vikings waived tight end and former Gophers quarterback MarQueis Gray.
Eleven players are on the Vikings’ first injury report of the week. The biggest surprise was running back Matt Asiata, who didn’t participate in practice because of a concussion. He would have to pass the league concussion protocol in order to return. If he doesn’t, the Vikings would lean even more on Ben Tate, the former Browns and Texans running back who was claimed off waivers and awarded to the Vikings today.
Tate might even garner a prominent role on Sunday because running back Jerick McKinnon also didn’t practice because of a lower back issue that has bothered him since last week.
Also missing practice entirely were: WR Jarius Wright (hamstring), WR Greg Jennings (rib) and OT Mike Harris (ankle).
Limited in practice were LB Anthony Barr (knee), DT Sharrif Floyd (knee), CB Xavier Rhodes (ankle) and DE Everson Griffen (neck).
On the injury report with full practice participation were TE Kyle Rudolph, who is heading into his second game back after hernia surgery, and DE Scott Crichton (hip).
Aaron Hicks has 538 plate appearances over the past two seasons with the Twins, and in that time he has shown very little in terms of production. In 2013, as a rookie, he hit eight homers, but more than one of every four trips to the plate ended in a strikeout. Last year, he boosted his walks, cut down a little on the strikeouts, but any semblance of power basically vanished as he fluctuated between switch-hitting and going from just the right side.
It adds up to a .606 career OPS. He’s a gifted centerfielder, but many Twins fans question whether he will ever be a quality everyday player, let alone a very good one.
The answer they might not want to hear is this: patience, still, is key. That notion was hammered home by a very good recent piece in the Providence Journal about MLB prospects these days. While some arrive and have quick success (like Danny Santana), others require more time than ever to make the leap from the minors to the majors. There are multiple reasons for this, per the article:
“The gap between Triple-A and the big leagues has never been larger,” Pittsburgh general manager Neal Huntington said. “You hear it from scouts. You hear it from major-league guys. You hear it from minor-league guys. That’s our biggest challenge — that gap becomes readily apparent when you see guys who have been dominant in Triple-A come up and struggle in the big leagues.”
More information than ever is available about prospects and their performance at various minor-league levels, boosting to unrealistic levels the expectations for their performance once they reach the major leagues — at which point more information than ever is available about their tendencies and weaknesses.
That’s not to say Hicks, or any other Twins prospect, will turn some magic corner in 2015 or beyond. It’s easier to believe in this happening with someone like Oswaldo Arcia, who has shown more flashes of competency and even downright brilliance at the plate than Hicks.
But it’s also a reminder that these things take time, perhaps now more than ever. Remember: Torii Hunter had about the same number of plate appearances in his career when he got to Aug. 1, 2000. He had just turned 25 — just like Hicks — and was hitting .190 with a .503 OPS in that season at the end of that day. For the rest of the year, he hit .355 with a .912 OPS. And from 2001-07, he was a lineup mainstay.
The Twins are said to be courting Hunter aggressively for a late career return to Minnesota. Our guess is that he would be brought in not only because he can still hit but because he can tell Hicks, Arcia and co. first-hand stories of turning a corner. It doesn’t always happen, but patience rewarded is a beautiful thing.