March 19, 2008

Mauer, Tolbert Lead Twins To Victory

Philip Humber's first start was a successful one as he picked up his first win of the season in a 4-2 victory over the Baltimore Orioles. He went 3 innings and gave up 2 runs on 5 hits while striking out 2 batters without walking anyone. Obviously, it wasn't great as he gave up a 2-run single with the bases loaded to Nick Markakis in the third inning. The relief pitchers pitched 6 scoreless innings while giving up just 3 hits and a walk the rest of the way.

Joe Mauer continued to have a great spring with a 2-2 performance which included his 2nd home run and his 5th, 6th and 7th RBI's of the Spring. He raised his average to .458 and looks to be ready to have a rebound year after a disappointing 2007. Matt Tolbert started the game at shortstop and played all 9 innings. He went 3-4 at the plate and came around to score once. He improved his average from .248 to .308 with the performance and he continues to impress the coaches with his fundamentally sound play at second base, shortstop and third base. He would look to be a possible utility player for the Twins out of Spring Training, but Ron Gardenhire has already expressed his desire to see Tolbert play everyday. If Tolbert isn't with the Twins on opening night, he should make his debut with the Twins sometime soon after.

Brian Buscher got some action at second base, however he continues to struggle at the plate with an 0-4 performance which lowered his average to .148 on the spring. However, he continues to work hard and is trying to increase his versatility by learning both first and second base to try and improve his chances of earning a roster spot.

Next, the Twins get a much-needed off-day today before a late game against the Cincinnati Reds on Thursday in Ft. Myers. Kevin Slowey will start for the Twins against Homer Bailey of the Reds. It should be a good game with two young, very talented pitchers facing off.

Center field competition: Denard Span started in center field, and continued to stay impressive at the plate with a 1-2 performance which included his 4th double of the Spring. He also walked in the game, as he continues to work on his plate discipline. Span is now batting .290 while playing solid defense and has been fairly mistake free on the base paths.

Carlos Gomez started in left field and went 0-3, but did reach on a fielders choice and proceeded to steal both second and third base. There's no doubt that he's incredibly dangerous on the basepaths, he can potentially be the most dangerous base stealer in the majors, however without speed and defense, he doesn't really have a lot of value to the Twins right now. I think Span offers more offensively right now, but there's no doubt that Gomez's potential is much greater than Span's.

If I had to make a decision right now, I'd have to choose Span over Gomez. Gomez would probably benefit more (than Span) with another half-season in Triple-A. I do see Gomez starting at some point in the season, but I think Span is the right decision in the beginning. But I do want to stress that there's still 10 games in the next 11 days and I doubt that the Twins have made a decision. There's still a lot that can happen between now and opening day that could influence the managements decision.

Glen Perkins looks to be the favorite as the 12th man of the bullpen after the team cut Carmen Cali this weekend. Ron Gardenhire has expressed his desire to carry two left-handed relievers, one being Dennys Reyes. The Twins seem to already have 6 members they view as "locks" for the bullpen which include Reyes, Joe Nathan, Matt Guerrier, Pat Neshek, Juan Rincon, and Jesse Crain. Since neither Ricky Barrett or Randy Keisler look to be likely options for the spot, Perkins looks to be the favorite.

Perkins has spent both of his first two seasons with the Twins in the bullpen, although has been limited to action. In 2006, after a late-season call-up, Perkins threw 5.2 innings in relief and gave up just one run while striking out 6. In 2007, Perkins threw 28.2 innings out of the bullpen and sported a 3.14 ERA. He had some control problems, but for the most part was very effective as the opposition hit just .232 against him. The Twins know he has been successful in the bullpen, which gives them some much needed comfort as the bullpen has its fair share of question marks.