March 28, 2008

Liriano's final start, Blackburn impressive

Nick Blackburn turned in a great performance yesterday as the Twins fell short to the Reds, 5-1. Blackburn pitched 5 innings and allowed 1 run on 3 hits while walking 2. He also struck out 4 in the start that looks like is his ticket to the rotation. Of course, a lot will depend on the teams decision on Francisco Liriano and the health of Scott Baker. At least the Twins know they have one viable option for the rotation if one of them is not able to go when the season starts. Blackburn has thrown 16 innings this spring with a strong 2.25 ERA. His great command has not been shown, however all the reports are that he's having great movement on all of his pitches and looks much better than he did at the end of last year with the Twins.

Jesse Crain came in after Blackburn and gave up a two-run home run to Ken Griffey Jr, to let the Reds take a 3-0 lead. Joe Nathan had a solid inning in relief before Anthony Swarzak allowed 2 runs on 3 hits in the 8th inning.

Offensively, the bats were very quiet. Matt Tolbert hit in the lead off spot after Carlos Gomez was scratched from the lineup. Tolbert went 2-4 with an RBI and a double. Center field prospect, Brandon Roberts, took Gomez's place in center field and went 1-3 with a double and later scored on a Matt Tolbert single. Jason Kubel and Nick Punto also had a hit apiece. Kubel's was a triple to lead off the 5th inning, but Mike Redmond, Brendan Harris, and Roberts failed to drive him in.

Next, the Twins and Francisco Liriano will face the Pirates and Paul Maholm today. It will be Liriano's final start of the spring, and if he really impresses, it could earn him a ticket to Minnesota, if not he'll likely stay in Ft. Myers until the weather improves in Rochester.

As I mentioned before, Carlos Gomez was scratched from the lineup. He took batting practice and afterwards reluctantly told manager Ron Gardenhire that there was some lingering soreness in his left leg. The Twins held him out, but Gomez reiterated that he'd like to play either today or tomorrow.

La Velle E. Neal III said in his blog yesterday that Ben Revere - despite having an impressive spring - will start the season in extended spring training and later play for the Elizabethton Twins. The reason for this has nothing to really do with Revere's ability to play in the Midwest League or his talent, it is because the outfield in Beloit will already be packed with 2006 top draft picks Joe Benson and Chris Parmelee returning for a second go-around in Beloit.

I've proposed before that the Twins could consider moving him to second base, another position he was familiar with in high school, with the amount of outfield prospects in the lower level of the organization seeming to rise every season. The depth at middle infield prospects in the lower levels is very weak, and I think that Revere would be a solid infielder. However, I do understand that he's most valuable as a center fielder as he's one of the fastest players in the organization.

Revere will likely be joined with other 2007 draftees such as Reggie Williams, Danny Rams, and Angel Morales. All four have very high ceilings and will give Elizabethton another very good offense after their 2007 offense won them the Appalachian League Championship. Williams, Rams and Morales will all greatly benefit from a season in the Appalachian League as none of those three are nearly ready for Beloit. Revere on the other hand, is ready and I think that if one of Parmelee, Benson, Ozzie Lewis, or Rene Tosoni gets promoted, and as long as they can guarantee everyday at-bats, Revere may make his way to Beloit sometime mid-2008.