February 25, 2008

A little of this, a little of that

Hello everyone. Hope your weekend went well.

The Twins are set for their first set of action today as they face the University of St. Paul Concordia. According to Phil Miller, the Twins will send out a lineup where Denard Span will lead-off, followed by Matt Tolbert, Brian Buscher and Garrett Jones, with Drew Butera rounding out the lineup while calling the game from behind the plate.

Miller also mentioned that Delmon Young will be moving from right field to left field, which means that Michael Cuddyer will man the other corner. I'm sure if Cuddyer needs a break, Young will be used if Monroe or Kubel play left.

Kevin Slowey may have a bit more velocity, after his great live-batter session on Sunday he had batters shaking their head and impressed batters such as Cuddyer, Young and Denard Span who said:

"I couldn't figure out his arm motion. I didn't even see that changeup."

Slowey was a bit modest of his performance and claimed that batters were just used to facing coaches and are not used to facing pitchers just yet.

I'm very excited about Slowey this season. I think that his success in the minors is not just based on his off-speed pitches and that he'll be a great major league pitcher. He locates his pitches as well as anyone his age and if his velocity truly is improving, then that's even better.

Joe Christensen reported what Ron Gardenhire had to say about the middle of the lineup this season:

“I would like to have him in that 4-spot,” Gardy said. “I think that’s where he belongs.”

“No, I wouldn’t assume that,” Gardy said. “I think that sounds really good, but don’t assume that. I like that. I think [Mauer’s] an on-base percentage guy, and I’d like to have a righthanded bat in between them. … So it makes sense, if we can find a leadoff guy, and if we can find a third hitter, all those things.”

“Anything’s possible,” Gardenhire said. “You better have somebody behind [Morneau] who can hit a little bit. Or they’ll pitch around him all day long, and then he expands, and that’s no good. So there’s all kinds of things we can think about with this lineup.”

This would make it fairly sensible to assume that he'd be penciling Joe Mauer in the #2 hole, while separating he and Morneau with either Delmon Young or Michael Cuddyer. It looks like Cuddyer would likely start the season after Mauer while Young bats #5 behind Morneau.

I like this lineup to a degree, and I guess that it probably is the most sensible as Mauer is probably the most logical option in the #2 hole, but I'm very intrigued to what Jason Kubel could do if he had 200-300 at bats batting before Mauer in the order. Last season, Kubel hit .328/.409/.586 with 3 home runs and 11 RBI's in 58 at bats while hitting in the 2-spot. If we could expand that to a full season of at bats, I think he could realistically hit .315/.390/.550 with 25 home runs and 75 RBI's. I truly believe that Kubel will explode this season, but I think a lot of it will have to do with where he's batting in the order.

If Kubel does not bat before Mauer, I just hope that Gardenhire doesn't bat him before Everett who is likely going to be hitting in the last spot of the lineup. Kubel's numbers were dreadful in the bottom of the order last season and his numbers weren't horrible while batting 6th. I think that batting him ahead of either Mike Lamb or Brendan Harris would be a good decision by the club, of course unless they choose to stick him in the #2 spot.

I personally think that out of all the batters on this team, both Kubel and Delmon Young are the two guys who I see as potential #3 hitters, with Mauer a #2, Morneau a #4, and Cuddyer a #5. Of course, I don't think that Gardenhire will allow 3 left-handers bat lead-off, which may mean that Kubel's spot in the lineup could depend on who wins the center field competition as both Denard Span and Jason Pridie are left-handers. Gomez on the other-hand is a right-hander.

Francisco Liriano is not expected to report to camp until Wednesday, but according to La Velle E. Neal III (via Twins officials) he recently threw 97 mph (twice) and consistently hit in the 92-95 mph range in a recent bullpen session down in the Dominican Republic.

The report makes me assume that 1 of his 5 points on his checklist can be crossed off right now in Liriano's progress to make it back to the rotation. The other 4?
  1. Is his velocity back?
  2. Is he mentally ready?
  3. Is his arm durable enough to start a game?
  4. Is his command there?
  5. And possibly the most important, is his arm 100% recovered?
We likely won't discover #5 until well into the season, but I do think that any reports of "no irritation" or "no soreness" will definitely be encouraging. It's going to be interesting to hear what Twins coaches have to say about Liriano after he reports. We should hopefully know where his command is sometime soon, after he throws in front of manager Ron Gardenhire and coach Rick Anderson.

And finally, for those of you who have been wondering what the Twins did to make room for Livan Hernandez, well Seth Stohs reported on Sunday that the Twins outrighted Darnell McDonald to Triple-A Rochester which opened up room on the 40-man roster. McDonald is still at camp.