Tag Archive | "Luis Mendoza"

Chen making the most of move back to rotation

The Kansas City Royals continued their winning ways on Thursday night, getting a great performance from Bruce Chen. Chen shut down the best offense in baseball, the Red Sox, in 7.2 innings of dominant pitching.

BruceChen

Chen didn’t allow a run against first-place Boston. He only recorded two strikeouts, but he continually changed speeds and forced weak contact from Red Sox hitters.

Chen, a 15-year MLB veteran, has been a revelation for the Royals this year since moving back into the starting rotation. He replaced Luis Mendoza in the Kansas City rotation, with his first start coming July 12 against the Indians. Chen earned a no-decision, despite not allowing a run, and the Royals lost 3-0.

After that loss, Chen reeled off four great starts, culminating with the win over Boston. Through five starts with the Royals this year, Chen is 2-0, and the Royals are 4-1 in those games.

Chen also excelled in his role as the long-man in the bullpen earlier in the year. But he is more valuable in the rotation especially when he pitches as well as he has over the past five games.

This season, Chen is 5-0 overall, with a sparkling 1.79 ERA through 65.1 innings.

The Panamanian-born lefty does have experience as a starting pitcher in his career. He has 208 career starts, including 34 for Kansas City last year. He was 11-14 with a 5.07 ERA in 191.2 innings in 2012.

Chen has three seasons with the Royals of more than 10 wins. His best season was in 2011, when he was 12-7 with a 3.77 ERA. He also won 12 games in 2010.

The Royals are Chen’ s 10th Major League team, and his stint of five years with Kansas City is the longest stretch with one team in his career.

The Royals clearly value what Chen provides. He is a quality pitcher, whether used in the bullpen or as a starter. He is in the midst of the best season of his career and should give the Royals’ rotation a shot in the arm as they continue their quest for the postseason.

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Kansas City Royals: Still a ways to go

After May, it looked like another typical Royals season. But approaching the All-Star break, the Royals are around .500 and within striking distance of the A.L. Central. It’s a position the Royals haven’t been in since 2003, when they had marquee names like Darrel May, Ken Harvey and Desi Relaford (those were the days). The team is playing better baseball, but they’re not playing good enough baseball.

DaytonMoore

Things are getting better. Eric Hosmer is playing like he should. Jeff Francoeur is gone and signed with the San Francisco Giants. Fan favorite Johnny Giavotella has the chance to be the everyday second baseman. Greg Holland is one of the best closers in baseball. The outfield is solid with All-Star Alex Gordon, Lorenzo Cain, David Lough and Jarrod Dyson. All-Star catcher Salvador Perez is the cornerstone of the team and he’s only 23 years old. The offense is waking up. Yes, the Royals are the best they’ve been in years.

But there’s still a ways to go. Besides James Shields and Ervin Santana, the starting rotation is hit-or-miss. One start, Jeremy Guthrie is great, another start he’s lousy. Wade Davis is failing as a starter and Luis Mendoza is back in the bullpen, with Bruce Chen taking his place. The bullpen doesn’t have a go-to guy for the eight inning. Inconsistent reliever Kelvin Herrera spends too much time on I-29 shuffling between Kansas City and Omaha. Giavotella is the everyday second baseman, but after seven games he’s at .208/.269/.292. Mike Moustakas isn’t where he needs to be and Billy Butler is at .270/.374/.407, which is almost pedestrian for the Royals designated hitter.

So far, the Royals can’t get to .500. They had a chance against the Yankees Wednesday night, but lost 8-1, and now are two games under .500.

The trade deadline is at the end of the month and the team has to decide if they want to make a trade for a run for the A.L. Central or stay where they are and hope things get better. So far, there’s no real trade rumors, big or small. It depends how the Royals play the next couple of weeks.

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Are the Royals For Real This Year?

I believe the Royals will do well this year. I know, there’s been a few years when it seemed the Royals would do well and they fell flat (like 2004, 2009 and 2012). If there’s any team out there who crushes fan’s expectations and pulls the rug out from underneath their fans, it’s the Kansas City Royals.

Kauffman Stadium

But 2013 isn’t like the hopeful mirage of the 2012 season. Yes, there was optimism in 2012, but with the exception of the bullpen, the team wasn’t that good. Throw in the injuries, the dismal play of Eric Hosmer and Jeff Francoeur, the inconsistent play of Mike Moustakas and the 12-game losing streak in April, it’s a surprise the Royals finished as well as they did.

But this year, things are different. The Royals overhauled the starting rotation by getting James Shields, Ervin Santana and Wade Davis and resigning Jeremy Guthrie. Last year’s Opening Day starter, Bruce Chen, is in the bullpen. So is Luke Hochevar. The bullpen is strong and should be stronger with the improved starting rotation pitching more innings. Except for the question marks of right fielder Jeff Francoeur and second baseman Chris Getz, the Royals have a competitive lineup, a lineup not relying on washed-up veterans like Juan Gonzalez or Jose Guillen (the jury is still out on Francoeur). And unlike the Injury Bug Attack of Two Aught Twelve which decimated a part of the team, this spring has almost been injury-free. And the Royals are Cactus League Champions, which doesn’t mean anything, but at least they played well.

And the team did things that made sense. Like moving Hochevar to the bullpen instead of forcing him to be a starter. Choosing Luis Mendoza over Chen as the fifth starter. Making Getz the starting second baseman (Johnny Giavotella didn’t play well enough to earn a spot). The Royals didn’t do anything this spring that made you go, “what were they thinking?” Well, Sluggerrr getting a lap dance at a 2005 bachelor party notwithstanding (Google it if you must, But I warn you it’s NSFW and a little, well, awkward).

But we are talking about the Royals. The Royals starters got roughed up in a few Spring Training games. Lately, lefty reliever Tim Collins hasn’t been pitching well. Eric Hosmer might be playing right field and Billy Butler might be at first base in Interleague games. Key players may suffer injuries. The momentum and winning in Spring Training may not continue into the regular season. The Royals might have another 12-game losing streak early in the season. Sure, all this happening is unlikely, but if any team can do it, the Royals can.

But not this year. I believe the Royals will play much better this season. Winning the World Series? Not likely. Winning the American League Pennant? There’s a slim chance. Winning the American League Central? Only if the Detroit Tigers suffer a rash of injuries and their offense, defense and pitching falter. A Wild Card Berth? With good teams in the A.L. East and A.L. West, it’s unlikely. Finishing above .500? I believe an 87-75 record and a second place finish in the A.L. Central behind Detroit is a realistic possibility.

I hope so anyway. I am a Royals fan, after all.

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The Best Rotation Since…

I know I have been absent for a while, and you all know that I am prone to hyperbole, but the Royals recent revelation the Luis Mendoza has won the job of fifth starter has brought me out of the shadows…and my hyperbole with it. A month ago everyone considered it a lock that Luke Hochevar would win the fifth spot…and they sent him to the bullpen. A week ago we speculated that Bruce Chen would get the nod despite Mendoza’s outstanding offseason…and they sent him to the bullpen. What this leaves us with is quite possibly the best rotation for the Kansas City Royals in 20+ years. Let’s take a look at the contenders:

Luis_Mendoza

The Greinke Years

The signing of James Shields brought Kansas City a legitimate replacement for their last ace, Zach Greinke. What Shields possesses that Greinke did not is a legitimate rotation behind him. In 2010, Greinke’s last with the Royals, both Chen and Hochevar not only made the rotation but were arguably the team’s second and third best starters. In 08-09 the team had Gil Meche, a quality #2, but rounded the rotation out with Hochevar, Kyle Davies, and Brian Bannister. From 04-07 the Royals had only three pitchers post an ERA below 4, and less than half of the clubs’ starters were below 5. Clearly, no rotation from this era stacks up.

Best Rotation- 2009

Greinke, Meche, Hochevar, Bannister, Davies

Combined WAR: 12.6

The Allard Baird Era (pre-Greinke)

We don’t need to spend much time on this era at all. For every breakout performance from Paul Byrd or Darrell May, there were three Chad Durbins to mess up the rotation. Even in the club’s lone season above .500 their rotation was a mess. While May had a career year and posted a WAR of 5.7, the team had 25 starts (and an ERA well north of 7) from the trio of Chris George, Brad Voyles, and Kris Wilson.

Best Rotation- 2003

May, Jose Lima, Runelvys Hernandez, Kyle Snyder, Chris George

Combined WAR: 8.7

The Herk Robinson Era

As much time as I spent loathing Robinson, I can’t deny that he put together some of the best rotations in the last 30+ years. In 1999, all five starters in his rotation had a positive WAR, which doesn’t say much unless you’ve read the last two sections. In ‘96 Kevin Appier, Tim Belcher and Chris Haney all posted a WAR above 2 with 30+ starts. Jose Rosado posted a 3.3 in just 16 starts! Even veterans Mark Gubicza and Doug Linton were above replacement level. 1994 was even better. In a strike shortened season David Cone was incredible (16-5, 2.94 ERA, 6.6 WAR), Appier was his normal steady self (7-6, 3.83 ERA, 4.3 WAR) while Gubicza and Tom Gordon rounded out the top four nicely.  The only fault that can be found with this rotation is that the fifth spot was dreadful with Chris Haney and Bob Milacki combining for an ERA over 7.

Best Rotation- 1994

David Cone, Kevin Appier, Tom Gordon, Mark Gubicza, Bob Milacki

Combined WAR: 15.9

While the current rotation may be challenged to top that performance in ’94, they’ll have to go to a whole new level to match the staff from ’87. In that year Bret Saberhagen, Gubicza, Charlie Leibrandt, Danny Jackson and Bud Black combined for WAR of 23.5! For perspective, let’s look at the career year for each of the current starters:

James Shields (2007) 5.2 WAR

Ervin Santana (2008) 4.8 WAR

Jeremy Guthrie (2010) 4.3 WAR

Wade Davis (2012) 1.4 WAR

Luis Mendoza (2012) 1.4 WAR

That comes out to 17.1, and that’s the best year any of them have ever had. While it’s unlikely that any of the top three match their career year in 2013, I’d say it’s very possible that Davis and/or Mendoza improve upon their 2012 numbers. This will not be the greatest rotation in the history of the Kansas City Royals, but it’s very possibly the best in the past 20 years. If that happens you can expect to hear a lot more from me and my hyperbole.

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Royals Roster Breeds Little Suspense

It’s a so far, so good Spring Training for the Kansas City Royals. As of Wednesday, March 20, the Royals lead the Cactus League with a 18-6 record. There’s no major injuries. Mike Moustakas and Eric Hosmer are playing well. The team hasn’t done anything that makes you scratch your head, at least not yet. They even made a good decision moving Hochevar to the bullpen. In other words, it’s an abnormal Royals Spring training.

springtraining2013

There’s some roster spots up for grabs, but they’re more set than the Royals let on. For instance, the “battle” between Bruce Chen and Luis Mendoza for the fifth starting spot. If you go by stats alone, Mendoza is clearly having a better spring, with a 0.82 ERA in three games with 11 innings pitched, giving up an earned run and no home runs. Meanwhile, Chen has a 7.90 ERA in four games with 13.2 innings pitched, giving up 12 earned runs and seven (seven!) homers. So Mendoza should get the fifth starting spot, right?

Royals manager Ned Yost says he’ll decide the starting rotation this Friday and I’m betting Chen will get the fifth starting spot and Mendoza will be a long reliever. Why? Remember, Spring Training stats are meaningless and with Chen’s 14 years in the Majors, he’ll get the benefit of the doubt. Mendoza has six years of Major League experience, but except for 2008 and 2012, he’s had limited playing time. If anything, Yost is a traditionalist and he’ll go with the longtime Royals starter Chen over Mendoza. I’d be surprised if Yost chooses Mendoza over Chen.

This isn’t a battle for a roster spot, but with David Lough having a great spring (a .500/.513/.711 line, with 19 hits, six doubles, a triple and five RBI over 20 games and 38 at-bats), He’s making an argument to have a shot at right field. But it’s likely Lough will go to AAA Omaha.

It doesn’t matter what Lough does, he’s not supplanting Jeff Francoeur in right field. Yes, over 22 games and 53 at-bats, Frenchy has a .208/.250/.396 line with 11 hits, three doubles, two triples, a home run and seven RBI. Remember when I said Spring Training stats are meaningless? They still are, even when some fans want them to apply to Francoeur.

Like Chen, Frenchy has several years of Major League experience over Lough, who debuted in the Majors last year. Francoeur provides “veteran leadership” managers like Yost want to see. Plus the Royals don’t want to have a $7.5MM a year player on the bench. Unless Francoeur suffers injury or the Royals trade him, Lough will be in Omaha. Or Yost might surprise us all and choose Lough over Jarrod Dyson as a fourth outfielder. But with Dyson’s experience and speed, it’s not likely the Royals choose Lough over Dyson. If Lough stays on fire in Omaha and Francoeur crashes and burns, Lough might get a long-term roster spot with the Royals this season.

In the battle for second base, I believe Chris Getz will start at second base and Johnny Giavotella will go to AAA Omaha. This spring, Getz has a .359/.419/.513 line and over 20 games and 39 at-bats, Getz has 14 hits, three doubles, a home run (yes, Getz hit a home run) and six RBI. Meanwhile, Giavotella has a .273/.289/.409 line over 20 games and 44 at-bats with 12 hits, three doubles, a home run and 11 RBI. Despite Getz’s higher line, they have similar offensive numbers.

But it all comes down to defense, and Getz still has the edge. Like Chen and Francoeur, Getz has more Major League experience than Giavotella and Yost will go with the “safe” bet. Now with Getz’s recent issues with injuries, there’s a good chance Giavotella will be with the team sometime this season. But his offense and defense will need to improve if he wants to stay at second.

Salvador Perez will be the starting catcher this season, but there’s competition between Brett Hays and George Kottaras for the backup catcher role. Both are veteran backup catchers and with similar spring offensive numbers (Hayes with a .241/.313/.483 line, seven hits, a double, two home runs and eight RBI, Kottaras with a .269/.424/.346 line, seven hits, two doubles, and three RBI), it’s honestly a coin flip between the two. Either player will be a good backup catcher and let’s hope Perez stays healthy so Hayes and Kottaras stay backup catchers.

Besides the starting rotation, Yost won’t make his final roster decisions until the end of Spring Training. Unlike previous years, there’s not a real bad choice for Yost to make. But whatever roster decisions the Royals make, everyone on the roster has to play to their potential for the Royals to have a good season.

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The Royals Send Luke Hochevar To The Bullpen

It’s been a bumpy and inconsistent ride for Luke Hochevar, the former 2006 No. 1 overall draft pick. Except for a few bullpen outings early in his career, Hochevar was a starter for the Royals since 2008. With the team’s upgrades to the starting rotation, Hochevar, Bruce Chen and Luis Mendoza were in competition for the fifth starting spot. But after two spring starts, the Royals made the decision to move Hochevar to the bullpen.

Luke  Hochevar

It wasn’t like Hochevar made a case for being the fifth starter. In two spring starts, Hochevar pitched eight innings and gave up six earned runs, six walks, two home runs and eight strikeouts with a 6.75 ERA. It’s only two starts, but it’s clear Hochevar’s spring struggles influenced the Royals to move him to the bullpen.

Royals Manager Ned Yost put a positive spin on the move, saying it gives Hochevar a chance to help the Royals win every day instead of every five days. But the last few years, Hochevar hasn’t given the Royals many chances to win every five days as a starter.

The Royals see Hochevar as a late-inning setup man, joining Kelvin Herrera, Tim Collins and Aaron Crow for closer Greg Holland. The team believes having Hochevar pitch one or two innings and getting acclimated to the bullpen during Spring Training will improve his consistency on the mound.

But will moving Hochevar to the bullpen make a difference? The frustrating thing about Hochevar’s meltdowns was they didn’t always happen after pitching a few innings. One start, he might melt down in the first inning. Another start, he might fall apart after three or four innings. Or in another start, he might pitch seven or eight masterful innings, getting the win. When Hochevar took the mound, you didn’t know which Hochevar would show up.

Hochevar has some advantages. He’s durable, and when he’s on, he’s almost unhittable. And having Hochevar face fewer batters and being “on call” to pitch every day might sharpen his mental focus and improve his consistency.

The team made the logical decision and moved Hochevar to the bullpen. The Royals weren’t going to release Hochevar and it’s unlikely he would go to AAA Omaha. And he doesn’t have much trade value, at least for now. The team has nothing to lose by doing this and it could be a move that resurrects his career. Or it could be Hochevar’s last gasp in a so far inconsistent, disappointing Major League career. For the good of the team and Hochevar, I hope this works out.

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Eric Hosmer to join Team USA for the World Baseball Classic

Due to a strained right wrist and forearm from Team USA and Yankees first baseman Mark Teixeira, Eric Hosmer gets the opportunity to join Team USA for the World Baseball Classic.

World Baseball Classic

After getting permission from general manager Dayton Moore and manager Ned Yost, Hosmer joined team USA Wednesday night to play an exhibition game against the Colorado Rockies. Team USA begins WBC play against Mexico this Friday night at Chase Field in Phoenix, AZ.

Hosmer joins fellow Royal Tim Collins on the USA team and is the ninth Royals player to take part in the World Baseball Classic. Other Royals players are reliever Kelvin Herrera, infielder Miguel Tejada and reliever Atahualpa Severino playing for the Dominican Republic, catcher Salvador Perez with Venezuela, pitcher Luis Mendoza with Mexico, infielder Irving Falu with Puerto Rico and Minor League outfielder Paulo Orlando with Brazil.

Now there might be some concerns about Hosmer being away from the Royals to play in the WBC, but to put into perspective, the WBC is like Spring Training: the games really don’t matter. Of course it’s an honor to represent your country in the WBC, but the games are the same as Spring Training games. And Hosmer will be the Royals first baseman this season, so it’s not like he’s competing for a job. He’ll get to play with different players and be managed by Team USA manager Joe Torre, which is a good thing. There’s the risk of injury, but that can happen in Spring Training games too. Overall, it’s a good experience for Hosmer and the other Royals players participating in the WBC. Oh yeah, Go Team USA!

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Is Donnie Joseph for real, or a spring mirage?

You can’t take too much stock in Spring Training performances. For instance, there’s left-handed reliever Donnie Joseph. In two one-inning relief appearances, Joseph faced and struck out six batters, which is impressive. Of course the batters he faced were AAA level players and five of them were left-handed. But if a pitcher is going to make a good impression in Spring Training, Joseph is doing a good job of it.

John Sleezer/The Kansas City Star

Last July, the Royals got Joseph when they sent veteran reliever Jonathan Broxton to Cincinnati. In four Minor League seasons, Joseph pitched in 193 games over 225.1 innings with a 3.55 ERA and a 3.01 SO/BB ratio, all in relief.

Joseph struggled when he went to AAA Omaha. In 11 games over 17.1 innings, his ERA was 4.15. He struck out 19 batters and gave up 13 walks, ending up with a 1.46 SO/BB ratio.

Despite the two good outings striking out the side, Joseph is a long shot to make the team. His command of the strike zone is inconsistent, and he’s only pitched 29 games in AAA. And there’s the current makeup of the bullpen. The Royals plan to carry seven relievers and for now Greg Holland, Kelvin Herrera, Tim Collins and Aaron Crow are locks. And who doesn’t get the fifth starter job between Bruce Chen, Luke Hochevar and Luis Mendoza will join the bullpen as long relievers. That leaves one spot and 14 pitchers are vying for that spot, including Joseph.

As a lefty, Joseph could be the left-handed specialist if he makes the team. He’s on the on 40-man roster and has options remaining, so even with a great spring, Joseph might end up in Omaha, especially with the strength of the Royals bullpen. If he doesn’t make the Opening Day roster, it wouldn’t hurt Joseph to get more experience facing AAA batters and improving his command. Even if he starts the season in Omaha, it’s likely he’ll be with the Royals sometime this year.

Donnie Joseph isn’t for real yet, but he’s not a mirage either.

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Royals This and That

Royals news is slow this time of year, but a few things happened last week.

Kauffman Cover Photo

The World Baseball Classic announced provisional rosters and nine Royals will be a part of the Classic. Players include left-handed pitchers Bruce Chen (China) and Tim Collins (USA), right-handed pitchers Kelvin Herrera (Dominican Republic), Luis Mendoza (Mexico), J.C. Sulbaran (The Netherlands), catcher Salvador Perez (Venezuela), infielders Irving Falu (Puerto Rico) and Miguel Tejada (Dominican Republic) and outfielder Paulo Orlando (Brazil). The Classic will be held March 2-19, during Major League Spring Training.

While the WBC is a way to promote baseball internationally, I’m sure it makes some Major League managers and teams nervous. There’s a chance of injury during the WBC and fringe players like Mendoza, Falu and Tejada have less time with the Royals to make the roster. Players from eliminated teams will come back to Spring Training, but it could affect a player’s performance this spring and their role on the team.

The Royals and Luke Hochevar avoid arbitration and Hochevar gets a raise: A lot of fans wanted the Royals to release Hochevar and move on. Instead, he receives a one-year, $4.56 million contract, a raise from the $3.51 million he received last year. Arbitration all but guarantees a player gets a raise, even for a dismal performance like Hochevar had last year.

It’s easy to get worked up over this, giving the maddening inconsistency over his career. But Hochevar isn’t The Man anymore. He’s a guy fighting for a fifth starter spot with Bruce Chen. There’s a chance he might not make the rotation and end up in the bullpen or even AAA Omaha. I think Hochevar knows this is his last chance with the Royals. If he improves his consistency and becomes the pitcher the Royals hoped for, good. If not, he’ll be gone soon enough. Let’s hope the rest of the rotation stays healthy so Hochevar doesn’t win a roster spot by default.

Last weekend, the Royals Fan Fest and Royals Caravan gave fans the opportunity to meet players, get autographs and talk about Royals baseball. From the amount of fans who attended the events there’s a lot of enthusiasm for the 2013 season.

Finally, the Royals announced their promotions and giveaways for 2013, featuring a Billy Butler bobblehead, a retro powder blue jersey and Ketchup, Mustard and Relish bobbleheads. Sadly, there isn’t a Eric Hosmer Amish Warrior bobblehead like I proposed last year. Oh well, there’s always 2014.

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I-70 Teams Combine For 13 WBC Roster Spots

The i70baseball teams, the Kansas City Royals and the St. Louis Cardinals, will combine to send 13 players to the World Baseball Classic in 2013.  Among those 13, nine of them will come from the Kansas City organization.

WBCHats

In addition to the large amount of players being sent to the WBC, the Royals will also achieve a historic moment for one team.  Bruce Chen will pitch for the team from China, becoming the first major league ball player to do so in the history of the event.

The Royals press release states:

The selections are as follows:  Left-handed pitchers Bruce Chen (China) and Tim Collins (United States), right-handed pitchers Kelvin Herrera (Dominican Republic), Luis Mendoza (Mexico) and J.C. Sulbaran (The Netherlands), catcher Salvador Perez (Venezuela), infielders Irving Falu (Puerto Rico) and Miguel Tejada (Dominican Republic), and outfielder Paulo Orlando (Brazil).

You will notice three of those players have yet to play in Kansas City as a member of the Royals: Tejada is a non-roster invitee to spring training and Orlando and Sulbaran spent last season in Double-A.

According to the Cardinals press release:

Carlos Beltran and Yadier Molina were among four Cardinals named to participate in the 2013 World Baseball Classic (WBC). Both will be on Team Puerto Rico and this marks the third WBC appearance for each.

Relievers Mitchell Boggs and Fernando Salas were also selected for this year’s WBC. Boggs will play for Team USA while Salas will be on the roster for Mexico.

The major concern for the Cardinals was an earlier rumor about Jaime Garcia being invited to pitch for the team from Mexico.  The bullet may have been dodged as it appears he was left off the roster while teammate Salas gets the nod. Editor’s note: more on this subject tomorrow as i70 writer Jacob Mayer takes an in depth look at Garcia not pitching in the WBC.

The WBC will commence in March as these 13 players take the field for their respective countries in an exciting and competitive environment.

Bill Ivie is the editor here at I-70 Baseball
Follow him on Twitter here.

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