Seeing as we are roughly at the midway point of Spring Training now seems like an appropriate time to update everyone on our favorite baseball squad. Here’s a look at what we know exactly three weeks before Opening Day about your Minnesota Twins.
The Twinks are a robust 8-4 in the Grapefruit League heading into today’s game against the Tampa Bay Rays (no longer Devilish). That record, of course, means absolutely nothing because the final outcome of Spring Training games in inconsequential.
What does matter is that the offense has looked solid thus far. The team seems to consistently be getting timely hitting with runners on base (and especially in scoring position). Considering the fact that for the first time in roughly 10 years the bats are going to have to carry the team this year, this is a very good sign.
The pitching has been up and down so far. The trend that is starting to take shape is our starter going 2-3 innings while giving up 2-3 runs (if not more). Then the bullpen comes in and completely shuts down the opposing bats while we mount a comeback and steal a victory.
We all know that this team possesses multiple shut down relievers, so that’s no surprise. The lack of quality innings from the starters is something that we may need to start worrying about though.
With such a young starting pitching staff, the early struggles in March are not uncommon and really shouldn’t be a major concern just yet. Kevin Slowey has shown signs of brilliance (3 innings of scoreless ball yesterday) and horror (giving up 6 runs in 3 innings of work his first time out).
The same can be said about the other starters penciled in to our rotation—Boof Bonser, Scott Baker, Livan Hernandez, and Fransisco Liriano. Livan is throwing today and will hopefully show a bit more promise than he provided in his last outing. The F Bomb has only been out once, and while throwing at roughly 80%, looked good. I’m cautiously optimistic at this point.
Speaking of optimism, Delmon Young appears to be the real deal. The kid is absolutely crushing the ball this spring to the tune of .474/.500/.632 numbers (I know they don’t mean a whole lot, but those are too nice to ignore). Even when he’s not punishing the ball to the gap or into the seats, he’s at least putting it into play. Only one K in 20 plate appearances so far is a very good sign.
Another guy who seems to have found his stroke early (stop giggling) is The American Dream—Joe Mauer. Every bit of news out of Fort Myers about this guy is pointing towards a huge season. He’s ripping the ball all over the field, he’s becoming the vocal leader of this team, and he’s told Gardy that he wants to be in the lineup every single day no matter what (no more days off because of “the wear and tear” or “demands” of the position). Sounds to me like another year of .350 hitting from our catcher.
As crunch time approaches for this team, there are still some major decisions left to be made. Slowly over the next week or two there will be many guys sent to the minors, ending their dream of breaking camp with the big club.
With that said, there are about four spots on this team that have yet to be decided. The first is the 5th spot in the starting rotation. With Baker, Bonser, Hernandez, and Liriano virtual locks to occupy the first four, it comes down to three guys for that final starting gig: Slowey, Glen Perkins, and Nick Blackburn. Thus far, Blackburn has looked the steadiest of the three. Slowey’s problems have already been mentioned, and Perkins simply hasn’t done anything to distinguish himself from the others.
Don’t be confused, there is no clear cut favorite at this time. But it’s definitely a big thing to keep an eye on through the rest of the month.
Another pitching spot that remains unclaimed is the last spot in the bullpen (assuming the team heads back to Minnesota with 12 pitchers as Gardy has said he wants to). Joe Nathan, Jesse Crain, Juan Rincon, Pat Neshek, Matt Guerrier, and Dennys Reyes are all in. That leaves guys like Carmen Cali, Julio DePaula, and Bobby Korecky all doing their best to impress Rick Anderson and company.
The best bet to fill out the ‘pen though? Perkins. Again, he hasn’t done much to prove his worth as a starter just yet, but the team seems to like what he brings to the table. He would also provide a second lefty arm in relief so that Reyes isn’t the only one. Seems like the logical move to me.
On the positional player side of things, the big race is still in centerfield. Jason Pridie hasn’t done much, and since he lacks the speed and upside of the other two candidates, he seems destined to become a Red Wing. Carlos Gomez and Denard Span have shown equal amounts of impressiveness and disappointment. There is no definitive leader at this point, which will make the next three weeks very intense for these two.
At this point, it looks like there is one bench spot available for the taking. This will be a heated battle between Brian Buscher (TKOT’s boy), Garrett Jones (who seemingly has fixed that giant hole that was in his swing last year), Alexi Casilla (still with an outside chance to win the 2B job), and Randy Ruiz.
I know what you’re thinking…who? Yeah, Randy Ruiz bitch, and remember you heard it here first. The kid can play all four infield positions and is currently has a hitting line of .450/.500/.835 that includes two dingers and a team leading 17 total bases. The kid is knocking the cover off the ball and would seem to be the perfect bench player for this team.
By the way, there are whispers of Nick Punto being cut/traded/sent down by the end of spring in favor of one of these younger players who bring a lot more to the plate and might actually be a valuable asset to a Major League Baseball team. Just whispers, but I thought you’d like a heads up on that potential roster move.
Before I end this, I thought I’d give everyone a quick update on the Big 3 that departed the Twins in the off season and how they’re doing so far. Torii Hunter is dominating for the Angels to the tune of a .611 average so far this spring. Johan Santana, after a less than stellar debut with the Mets, came back yesterday with a very Cytana-like performance against Boston, throwing 4 innings of scoreless ball on only 2 hits while striking out 4. Carlos Silva has gotten torched so far in Seattle--his two outings have resulted in an ERA over 10.
Fuck those fucking guys.