Minnesota Twins Spring Training Report: Week Three

Dan WadeSenior Analyst IMarch 17, 2009

In keep with the patern set up previously, Monday's game will be rolled into next week's analysis. Sorry about the late column, finals week wrecks havoc with even the best laid plans.

The dominant story of the week, far bigger than anything that happened on the field, was Joe Mauer's back. The longer Mauer stays off the field, the more important Jose Morales and, to a lesser extent Drew Butera, becomes to the Twins.

Mike Redmond is one of the better backup catchers in the league, but age 38, Mike is no spring chicken and Ron Gardenhire knows it. When asked about the possibility that Mauer could miss significant time, Gardy noted that he would rather leave Redmond as the backup to someone else.

The Twins are failry deep at the catcher position, but since no word on Mauer's second opinion has been released yet, it seems premature to explore those options.

On the field, the Twins had an up and down week headlined by Carlos Gomez and Kevin Slowey.

Gomez got a hit in every game in which he appeared, going 4-11 with a single, double, triple and home run over the course of the week. Add in the homer he hit last sunday and that makes his week all the better.

The pitching this week ebbed and flowed as it tends to around this point in spring training. Starters are getting stretched out, relievers are seeing work less frequently as the coaches try to get a look at everyone before the first cuts are announced, and it really showed.

Kevin Slowey gave up his first runs of the spring, though just two in two starts totalling 7.1 innings, and notched nine strike outs. Nick Blackburn appeared twice in relief to make his way back into the rotation after getting a scope done on his knee; he too looked solid giving up zero runs in the three innings he pitched.

On the other side were Scott Baker and Jose Mijares.

Baker struggled with his control against the Pirates and watched as four home runs left the yard, two to Craig Monroe who hit four on the day. There is still little cause for concern about Baker, who will start opening day for the Twins.

If he looks this bad in a week or two, perhaps that's a bad omen for the season, but he has the track record to make this an insignificant bump in the road.

One player who doesn't have that luxury is Jose Mijares, who currently sports a 10.38 ERA. Mijares looked fantastic last September as he helped shore up a rundown Twins bullpen.

Since then, he has gotten kicked off of his winter league team, showed up to camp substantially overweight, and been less than compelling on the mound. Thankfully, Mijares has an option left, which the Twins will almost certainly utilize. 

For a bullpen that could really use another hard-throwing lefty, the loss of Mijares is truly unfortunate. More accurately, the loss of Mijares' potential is unfortunate, if he was going to pitch like he did against the Marlins on the 14th (.1 IP, 3H, 4ER, 2BB) the Twins are far better off without him.

A stint with Stu Cliburn in AAA should do wonders for Mijares' head, so expect to see him with the team at some point, but he will not head north with them and could be cut as early as Tuesday morning.

There are certainly still bullpen spots to be claimed, so people like Sean Henn, Jason Jones, Philip Humber, and R.A. Dickey will probably get a lot of the reps over the coming week. Each has gone back and forth, but as of right now, it would seem that Dickey and Humber have the inside track.