March 6, 2008

My Thoughts From Yesterday's Game

First, I want to acknowledge that this is the two-year anniversary of the death of Kirby Puckett. He suffered a stroke at his home in Scottsdale, Arizona and emergency surgery couldn't revive him and he passed away. Honestly, all that needs to be said about him, has been said. All we can really do is cherish the memories he gave so many fans and remember the true legend that he was.

R.I.P. Puck!

In case you didn't see it, I was blogging during the game yesterday and I tried to give enough information for those of you who couldn't watch the game, to get an understanding of what is going on.

Anyways, after the game, these are my thoughts on some of the players:

Delmon Young: Isn't he great? I was just thinking to myself on how much of an asset he's going to be in our lineup in the future. In his first at bat, he took ball one, and then watched as a strike went straight down the middle. After that pitch, he tilted his head in disgust and slapped his bat. He then took the next two pitches for balls before Ian Kennedy left a ball up in the zone and he took it to deep center field. And as soon as it was hit, everyone knew it was gone.

He later laced a single to right field in his last at bat. The entire game, he showed great patience at the plate and definitely shows that he's working on improving his OBP and average, despite the fact that Ron Gardenhire wants him to stay aggressive at the plate.

Kevin Slowey: He didn't pitch great, however the box score looks a lot more than what actually occurred. In my opinion, Slowey pitched great besides two balls left up in the zone to both Robinson Cano and Wilson Betemit back-to-back in the second inning, which both were hit for doubles to deep center field. Besides that, I liked the way he worked all four corners of the strike zone and the way he kept throwing strikes to guys like Alex Rodriguez and Jason Giambi. He didn't back down against anyone, and I liked the way he handled himself out on the mound.

In regards to his walks, both were to Derek Jeter and Rodriguez and both were on full counts. It really surprised me with how many people were jumping down Slowey's neck after the game. He pitched a good game against all of the Yankees starters (give or take Betemit) and he didn't pitch great, but it's too early in the Spring to pretend that the sky is falling with him. He'll probably pitch in another 6-7 games and still has a lot of time to solidify his spot in the rotation.

Carlos Gomez: Now, Gomez definitely did not excite anyone yesterday. He went 0-5 at the plate and made multiple mistakes on defense. First he misjudged a ball hit by Robinson Cano in the second inning. In first glance, I didn't think it mattered as the ball kept carrying, however after watching the play a few more times, you'll see that if he didn't take a step towards home plate and instead he took a step back, he would've caught the ball with no problem. But instead, the ball went about five feet over his head. Next, he made two bad throws towards home plate, one right after another. He first tried throwing out Johnny Damon out at home, and had the ball been about 10 feet to the right, he would've gotten him out by a good 5-10 feet. He then later tried to (what looked like) make a throw home to get Jason Giambi out, but Justin Morneau wisely cut it off and tossed it to second base to get Robinson Cano out.

However I did observe two positives. One, although his arm is inaccurate, he definitely has a cannon and he just needs to take his time making an accurate throw and that will come with experience. The other positive was that he can definitely fly. In his first at bat, he placed a soft bunt between the pitching mound and third base and nearly beat out the throw. The only reason he was out was because Wilson Betemit made a nice barehanded play.

Brian Buscher: He had a couple great at bats, and even looked good on defense. As silly as it may sound to some of you, he may challenge Mike Lamb for the starting third base job. However, he still has a lot to prove. He made great contact with the ball and showed great awareness at the plate. In his at bat where he laced a single to right field, he was behind 2-2 and took two balls very close to the strike zone. But in his first at bat, he hit a hard liner to first baseman Jason Giambi who made an impressive leaping grab to stun Buscher as he ran to first base.

I'm very excited to see how he does the rest of Spring. I've been on Buscher's bandwagon since he made his arrival in Minnesota last season, and I still think he could be a solid starter for us.

Brendan Harris: He looked stiff at the plate, as well as defense. If I had to guess right now, I'd say that Ron Gardenhire would likely start Nick Punto over Harris if the season opened tomorrow. Because at least we know that Punto offers good defense. But I think that Harris will become more and more comfortable on both aspects of his game, which could make him the favorite.

Garrett Jones: He's an interesting story. He's a 26-year-old prospect who is looking for a spot on the 25-man roster. If he doesn't make the club out of Spring Training, he'll have to clear waivers in order to go back to Rochester, and it's very unlikely that he does that. So in essence, this is Jones last shot in a Twins uniform. If he doesn't make it, he's gone. And yesterday, he definitely raised some eyebrows as he took a Joba Chamberlain fastball to the bleachers in deep right field. Chamberlain left the ball up in the zone and Jones capitalized.

It's going to be interesting to see what they choose to do with Jones. I think it's really a competition between Jones and Brian Buscher for the last spot on the bench. Matt Macri could be an option, however Buscher is outplaying him at the same position, so as of right now, it's Jones-Buscher. Buscher has options left, but he probably has more value to the Twins future than Jones does. Either way, he definitely moved up in my books after that home run. Yowza.

Randy Keisler: They were talking about his inability to throw strikes in his career, but he had no problem with that yesterday. He jammed a lot of hitters and forced them to swing at balls that they shouldn't have. He has a very small chance of making the roster, but he definitely impressed viewers yesterday.

Alexi Casilla: He made a few very nice plays yesterday. On defense, he made a great dig at shortstop and made an off-balance throw on one foot to get Jason Giambi out at first. He also later took part in the teams only double play of the afternoon. On offense, he 'goofed' by not swinging on a hit & run but Jason Pridie (for some reason) was called safe at second despite not sliding. But after that he hit a hard grounder up the middle for a single and later stole second base. He definitely looks like he improved over the winter and I'm excited to see what he'll do this season.

Alejandro Machado: I have to admit, I don't know a ton about this guy, but yesterday he was pretty impressive at the plate. With the bases loaded, he hit a 2-run double down the first baseline that put the Twins up 6-4. I didn't get to see him on defense, as he took over at DH, but from all the reports he plays great defense so he could also have a shot at making the roster.

Jason Pridie: If it weren't for Colin Curtis' diving catch in the 8th, he would've finished the game 2-2 with a double (possibly a triple) 2 RBI's and a stolen base. However, Curtis robbed him on a great play and allowed just one run to cross the plate. I hope that Pridie plays more in the next televised game, so we can all get a better glimpse of him then. But consider me impressed with what I saw from him in this game.

Ricky Barrett & Oswaldo Sosa: Barrett definitely had some control problems, however he has a very nice curveball that got a few batters to make awkward swings. Sosa has a lot of movement on his pitches, which is nice since I saw most of his fastballs sit in the 88-90 range. But he did serve Shelly Duncan a beach ball at the letters and Duncan completely crushed the ball to (possibly) the other side of Florida.

Overall: I don't want people to get the impression that I'm putting a lot of stock into this game, because I'm really not. I just wanted to share my thoughts on the game. I was throughly impressed for the most part and it got me even more excited for the season to start.