March 24, 2008

Liriano Impressive, Players of the Week, Roster Predictions, Nathan Update

The Twins faced the Baltimore Orioles on Easter Sunday, and it was an encouraging game for many Twins fans as Francisco Liriano no-hit the Orioles through 4 innings of work. He did let up two walks, but he ended up striking out five batters. I am very excited about this outing for Liriano, however I am not convinced any more than I was before. Without watching the game, his line is very deceiving. 4 IP, 0 H, 0 R, 0 ER, 2 BB, 5 K. Not bad, not bad at all. However, as I watched the game, I couldn't help but see how irate his control was at some points. He left the ball up in the zone, far too much, and his 1-5 groundball/flyout ratio helps show that. He really had a hard time locating the strike zone against some batters, and no problems against others. I really am happy he had good results, but if we weren't playing against an atrocious team like the Orioles, I think he would've had a different result. For that, thank god it's still pre-season. I think he definitely punched his way into the starting rotation with this outing, and hopefully it's a sign of what's to come. His change up does look pretty impressive, his fastball was sitting around 92-93 comfortably, and he threw a couple nice sliders but they're nothing like before, yet. He threw 68 total pitches, which probably is the most encouraging outcome from this performance. And I'm sure that when he gets more comfortable out on the mound, and he gets more innings, he'll gain much better command on his pitches.

After Liriano left, Philip Humber and Joe Nathan came out and pitched 3 good innings of scoreless ball before Juan Rincon came on in the 8th and gave up the Orioles only run of the game. Pat Neshek pitched a quick 9th inning to secure the 3-1 win for the Twins.

Offensively, Jason Pridie had a good game. He played left field and went 2-4 with 2 runs and his 5th stolen base of Spring. Mike Lamb went 2-3 with a walk, but he also committed his 2nd error in the last 4 games. Brian Buscher went 0-3 to drop his average down to .143, and Nick Punto went 0-4 dropping his average to .139.

Next, the Twins have 6 more games before the season opener a week from today. They play the St. Louis Cardinals today at noon. Brian Bass will get his first look as a starter today while he faces off against Brad Thompson of the Cardinals. This is a big outing for him, I think that if he does well, he'll make the roster for sure, if he gets shelled, it could make it a hard decision for Ron Gardenhire.

Players of the Week

At the Plate
Carlos Gomez - Center Field/Left Field

Note: Carlos Gomez has really improved as we've gotten closer to the start of the season. After a week of neither Denard Span or Gomez "stepping up", both have vastly improved their games and both are making it a tough decision on the management. Gomez started the week with a .244 average, but after a 4-11 week in which he also hit 2 doubles, he managed to raise his overall average to .286 on the spring. He also scored 3 times and stole 4 more bases. He's definitely a run threat with his amazing speed and base-running ability.

Runner-Up: Adam Everett, Shortstop: 5-10, 1 R, 1 2B, 1 RBI, 1 BB

On the Mound
Kevin Slowey -Right Handed Starter

Note: For the second straight week, Kevin Slowey has won this "award." He has almost certainly locked his spot in for the rotation with another fantastic week. He went 5 innings, gave up 3 hits, and struck out 5 batters in his 3rd win of the spring. He has now won 3 consecutive starts and has allowed just 1 run in the last 13 innings while he's struck out 13 batters. He's definitely cruising after a slow start.

Runner-Up: Nick Blackburn, Right Handed Starter: 1 Hold, 4 innings, 2 hits, 3 strikeouts

Final Roster Predictions

As I mentioned yesterday, the Twins are expected to make a "bunch of cuts" today. So here's my predictions for the final roster.
Being Cut:
Carlos Gomez (probably not today)
Philip Humber (probably not today)
Jon Knott
Casey Daigle
Drew Butera
Eli Whiteside
Nick Blackburn (probably not today)
Brian Buscher
Nick Punto (probably not today)

C - Joe Mauer
1B - Justin Morneau
2B - Brendan Harris
3B - Mike Lamb
SS - Adam Everett
LF - Delmon Young
CF - Denard Span
RF - Michael Cuddyer
DH - Jason Kubel

C - Mike Redmond
UTIL - Matt Tolbert
OF - Craig Monroe
OF - Jason Pridie

1 - Livan Hernandez
2 - Scott Baker
3 - Boof Bonser
4 - Kevin Slowey
5 - Francisco Liriano

LR - Brian Bass
MR - Juan Rincon
MR - Jesse Crain
LOOGY - Dennys Reyes
SU - Matt Guerrier
SU - Pat Neshek
CL - Joe Nathan
I know you're going to say that Punto is an unlikely candidate to be cut, but he really has nothing to contribute to this team besides above average defense. On some teams, that might land you a spot on the bench, but for a team that is looking to get a hit any way possible, we can't have a player with a "hole" in his bat, not even on the bench. Seth Stohs has discussed this a little bit, and I agree with him on it. I know that it's probably a far shot, but I do think that it is the right thing to do.The Twins have a surplus of infielders at Rochester this season, so keeping Tolbert in the big leagues, would help alleviate some of the stress of finding playing time for all of them. Tolbert definitely has earned his spot this spring, which is something that neither Brian Buscher or Nick Punto could say for themselves. Another player who needs to be watched closely is Jason Pridie. Why he's not being considered for the starting spot in center, is still beyond me, but he's also earned a roster spot in my opinion. He's played well, and can play all 3 of the outfield positions well. Unfortunately, with 3 outfielders not in the lineup, he's the most likely to be cut.

As for Span vs. Gomez, I still think that Denard Span should be the opening day starter. As electrifying as Carlos Gomez is, I think that he still has to work on his bat more and I think he'd be best off by doing it in Triple-A. He has to make adjustments at the plate, and doing it against Major League pitching will be a lot harder on him than Triple-A. I think both deserve it, and I know that I'm in the minority on choosing Span, but I think he's the best choice right now.

Finally, a Joe Nathan contract extension looks imminent and it sounds as if they're just working out the final kinks on the deal. As soon as something comes along, I'll try to post my thoughts and give the lowdown.