Minnestoa Twins' Spring Training Report: Week Five

Dan WadeSenior Analyst IMarch 31, 2009

ANAHEIM, CA - AUGUST 24:  Kevin Slowey #59 of the Minnesota Twins pitches against the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim at Angels Stadium on August 24, 2008 in Anaheim, California.  (Photo by Lisa Blumenfeld/Getty Images)

After a rough patch in the middle of the month, the Twins seem to have found their groove.

After losing seven of eight, the Twins went 5-2 last week, including an impressive 16-2 demolishing of the Tampa Bay Rays. Kevin Slowey and Francisco Liriano both got two starts on the week and went a combined 3-1, with the lone loss coming when Liriano melted down against the Red Sox.

Perhaps most disappointing thing that happened last week, besides Jose Mijares, was their loss to the Red Sox. The Twins are now 1-3 against their cross-town rivals this season with just one game left between the two teams.

Sadly, the Mayor's Cup will stay at City of Palms Park until next spring.

In the grand scheme of things, the Mayor's Cup is less important than Liriano's meltdown that sealed the deciding game for the Sox.

Despite looking strong through two innings, Liriano gave up seven runs, six of which came on three two-run home runs, all in the third frame.

Liriano gave up four home runs on the week and doubled the number of walks he issued this spring, which is worrisome, but he also struck out 10 hitters in eight innings, a dramatic and encouraging rise in K/9.

The chances are good for Liriano getting one more chance to pitch before the start of the regular season, as he used the outing against Boston to test out a few things before the games start to truly count.

If he gives up more than one home run in his next outing, it may cause some concern. He's likely to face the same Red Sox lineup that took him apart before, so it should be a fair comparison.

My hunch is that he'll pitch more to contact, strike out fewer, but walk fewer as well.

Kevin Slowey had a terrible week by his standards, giving up three runs after having relinquishing up two runs.

Never mind that his RBI and RA for the week were equal, and that he technically drove four in, but only got credit for three because of an error.

I know spring numbers have to be taken with a rather large grain of salt, but Slowey's bear mentioning. Witness:

In 20.1 innings: 20 Ks, 1 BB, 16 hits.

He's striking out nearly a batter per inning to match a 20-1 K/BB rate and a WHIP of 0.84.

Slowley will get one more tune-up in before the season begins, but from the looks of it, he is already in midseason form.

Offensively, the Twins had a good week, scoring 45 runs in their six games. Justin Morneau showed no ill-effects from his time in the WBC with Team Canada, belting two home runs and posting an overall line of 8-for-13 with four RBI.

Carlos Gomez and Denard Span both looked good this week, with Delmon Young playing the part of the goat.

Young went just 4-for-18, though he did hit third home run and fourth double. 

Drew Butera has all but sewn up the back-up catcher job, so look for Jose Morales to head down to AAA in the next round of cuts, the second to last before camp ends.

Joe Mauer's imminent relegation to the DL does free up an extra spot for either bench or bullpen. As I said during my analysis of the Twins' starting lineup, that spot will probably go to the 'pen.

So, if both Humber and Dickey have spots on the team, the most heated battle left to decide is the last bench spot.

Brendan Harris is safe in the clubhouse, but Brian Buscher and Matt Tolbert are going to go right up to the wire. Tolbert hit the cover off the ball this week: 6-for-12, 5 R, 5 RBI, 2 HR, 2 SB.

He did everything right, but conventional wisdom still has Buscher beating him out for the spot. If Tolbert does lose out, he'll certainly rue his 2-for-25 start to the spring.

The Twins still have 31 players in camp, 16 position players and 15 pitchers. Boof Bonser and Joe Mauer will move to the DL as soon as it becomes relevant for them to do so, leaving four players left to be cut in the last two rounds.

Jose Mijares hasn't come around like many hoped he would, meaning his spot will likely go to Brian Duensing, especially now that Jason Jones will stay with the Twins in Rochester.

Duensing's days as a starter are over, and he's shown himself to be capable as a big league reliever.

Besides Mijares, Jose Morales and the aforementioned Jason Jones will go down, leaving just one player left. Like Denard Span last season, whoever goes down won't deserve to, and likely won't spend long in AAA.

Because of Joe Crede's recent injury, and an overall stronger spring, Brian Buscher will win the job, making Matt Tolbert the last cut of the Spring.

Next week will be the full camp wrap-up and my picks to have a breakout season. Until then, enjoy the end of camp and back-to-back games against the Pirates!