March 31, 2008

Your 2008 Minnesota Twins

The Twins open the 2008 season tonight against the Los Angeles Angels. There will be a familiar face in center field for the Angels, as former Twins center fielder Torii Hunter will be making his Angels debut tonight at the dome.

Los Angeles Angels vs. Minnesota Twins

Jered Weaver ..............Livan Hernandez
(0-0, 0.00 ERA) vs. (0-0, 0.00 ERA)

Meet your 2008 Minnesota Twins.


Starter 1. Livan Hernandez, 33,Right-Handed Pitcher

Outlook: I don't expect a ton from Hernandez. We brought him in to solely eat up innings, and if he can give us a sub 5.00 ERA with over 200 innings, I think I will be satisfied. It will really be up to our offense and defense to help Hernandez out while he's on the mound.

Starter 2. Boof Bonser, 26,Right-Handed Pitcher

Outlook: Bonser shed the pounds, and now it's time for him to show better results on the mound. I expect him to have a much better season than in 2007 and I think we could be seeing Bonser near the 15 win mark.

Starter 3. Nick Blackburn, 26, Right-Handed Pitcher

Outlook: Blackburn doesn't figure to be in the rotation for a long period of time as Francisco Liriano looks to be poised to join the team on their first road trip of the season. Blackburn certainly turned the corner in 2007 and if he can turn in a couple solid performances, perhaps the Twins have found their most attractive trading pieces that they can use at the deadline to upgrade at a different position.

Starter 4. Kevin Slowey, 23, Right-Handed Pitcher

Outlook: The Twins pitcher of the year should be poised for a strong first full season in 2008. He doesn't have overpowering stuff, but his command has drawn comparisons to pitchers such as Greg Maddux and former-twin Brad Radke. His precise control has allowed him to an 8.8 K/9 ratio in the minor leagues, but without great velocity, he needs to stay very good with his control to get near that ratio in the majors.

Starter 5. Scott Baker, 26, Right-Handed Pitcher

Outlook: Probably our best starting pitcher out of the gate, but after a battle with the flu, Baker will end up being the teams 5th starter to begin the season. He really established himself as a solid starting pitcher last season after being called up in May. If he can further establish himself this season, we should expect to see Baker in the Twins rotation well into the new ballpark.


Long Reliever. Brian Bass, 26, Right-Handed Pitcher

Outlook: Bass finally has made his way to the majors. After being drafted in the 6th round of the 2000 draft, Bass was picked up by the Twins prior to the 2007 season. Pitching mostly in relief, Bass had a strong 3.48 ERA through 103 innings in Triple-A. He reminds me a bit of Matt Guerrier, and hopefully he can produce like he has with the Twins. He could be used in Spot Start situations and hopefully can provide a steady arm in the bullpen this season.

Middle Reliever. Jesse Crain, 26, Right-Handed Pitcher

Outlook: After missing all but 18 games in 2007 after undergoing rotator cuff/labrum surgery on his right-shoulder, I don't expect a ton from Crain this year. He had a successful first 3 seasons prior to 2007, and 2008 will likely be focused on just staying healthy. If he can stay healthy all season, I think we can all label this season a success for Crain.

Middle Reliever. Juan Rincon, 29, Right-Handed Pitcher

Outlook: Rincon had a very bad season in 2007, especially after 3 sub 3.00 ERA seasons while working as the main setup man to Joe Nathan. He went 3-3 with a 5.13 ERA in 63 appearances last season, but it was known that he had multiple off-the-field issues that he had to pay attention to during the course of the season. Hopefully everything on the field can click again, but regardless I expect this to be his last season in Minnesota. The Twins love having steady arms in the bullpen, but if he has an amazing year, he'll likely want mega-bucks and a chance to closer or setup elsewhere. And if he has another down year, why keep him? We can really only hope that he has a fantastic year to help the Twins out. If we're out of the race, I can fully expect to see him traded, and if the rest of our bullpen is great, I can see them moving him to upgrade a different position. We'll see, but I expect this to be his final year with the Twins.

LOOGY. Dennys Reyes, 31, Left-Handed Pitcher

Outlook: As the sole left-hander on the Twins opening day roster, a lot will be riding on Reyes' shoulders this season. He had a rough 2007 after a completely dominant 2006. He still posted a reasonable 3.99 ERA in 50 appearances and a lot of his bad outings had to deal with injuries which he fought with for most of the season. He had a great spring and should have a better season this season. I don't expect him to have a sub .90 ERA like he did in '06, but a 2.50-3.00 ERA in nearly 70 appearances would be great.

Set-Up Man. Matt Guerrier, 29, Right-Handed Pitcher

Outlook: Guerrier had a breakout season in '07 in which he emerged as one of the games top setup men in baseball. Guerrier posted a 2.35 ERA through 73 appearances while making 14 holds. He should have another strong season, but I expect him to regress a little closer to his 3.65 career ERA pre-2007. But another solid season is expected.

Set-Up Man. Pat Neshek, 27, Right-Handed Pitcher

Outlook: Neshek has been amazing over the last year and a half with the Twins. He really tailed off at the end of 2007 due to arm fatigue, but he devoted his entire off-season to gaining strength so that doesn't happen again. He was down right dominant the first half of the season and I expect him to have another phenominal season in 2008.

Closer. Joe Nathan, 32, Right-Handed Pitcher

Outlook: With his long-term contract now behind him, hopefully Nathan can check in another All-Star caliber season in 2008. He's been one of the best closers in the game since the Twins acquired him from the Giants before the 2004 season, and he there's no reason to believe he won't continue his dominance this season.


1. Carlos Gomez, 22, Center Fielder

Outlook: Gomez is definitely one of the most exciting players the Twins have had in a while, and he has not even officially played for the Twins in a regular season game. He has the ability to lead the league in stolen bases, win a gold glove, and continue to improve at the plate to someday be an All-Star caliber player. The Twins are going to have a very exciting lineup this season, and it will start at the top.

2. Joe Mauer, 24, Catcher

Outlook: Mauer had a great spring training and is fully healthy coming into the season. If he can stay off the DL and maintain health all season, he should be poised for another All-Star caliber season and could very likely start in his second All-Star game of his career. I don't expect him to hit nearly .350 or even flirt with .400 for any extended period of time, but I do expect him to hit for slightly more power this season while he continues to keep his average well over .300.

3. Michael Cuddyer, 29, Right Fielder

Outlook: Cuddyer doesn't really seem like the most logical fit in the third spot of the lineup, however he provides a steady bat with the ability to drive in quite a few runners. He also had an injury plagued season in 2007 and should be ready for a season closer to his 2006 production in which he had over 100 RBI's and 70 extra-base hits.

4. Justin Morneau, 26, First Baseman

Outlook: After winning the A.L. MVP in 2006, he had a great first half in 2007 before really falling off in the second half. He had 24 of his 31 home runs before the All-Star game. His pre/post All-Star Break splits are incredibly different and hopefully he can regain his 2006 form. He struggled this spring, which could make fans begin to worry after the team just signed him to the biggest contract in franchise history.

5. Delmon Young, 22, Left Field

Outlook: Young seems to be the better fit between Mauer & Morneau, however I do agree with Ron Gardenhire's reasoning to leave Young behind Morneau, which is to protect his first baseman at the plate. Teams won't be able to pitch around Morneau anymore as long as Young is hitting behind him. He's the example of a "free swinger" however he has the potential to be one of the games best hitters and at just 22-years-old, he has the chance to lead a much improved Twins offense. He has made mistakes in his past, but truly seems to have left all of that in Tampa Bay and he should be counted on to provide a very strong bat with great power potential in the heart of the order for the next 10-15 years.

6. Jason Kubel, 25, Designated Hitter

Outlook: Kubel really turned the corner the second half of last season which gives many the thought that this season (instead of last) is when he'll finally break out. He was one of the best all-around hitting prospects to come through the Twins system in recent years (a list that includes both Mauer & Morneau) and he looked poised for stardom until he severely injured his knee before the 2005 season. After missing all of '05 and counting all of 2006 a wash and having the main purpose of staying healthy in '07, he should be ready to step up and provide yet another strong bat to the Twins lineup. Unfortunately, Kubel saw most of his success come while batting in front of Joe Mauer, and this season, he'll have to do it without the help of one of the games best hitters batting behind him. The only reason I don't see Kubel having a breakout season this season is if manager Ron Gardenhire takes away at bats from him by giving them to Craig Monroe, which I have to say is a strong possibility knowing Gardy's tendencies to give veterans their share of at bats.

7. Mike Lamb, 32, Third Base

Outlook: One of the reasons I feel so optimistic about our offense this season is the addition of Lamb at the hot corner. He won't impress anyone with his glove, and I expect the turf at the Dome to give him his fair share of problems, but as long as he can separate offense and defense in his mind, he should give the Twins a big upgrade at the plate. He should give the Twins a great bat at the bottom of the order, and will also provide great veteran presence in the clubhouse as well.

8. Brendan Harris, 27, Second Base

Outlook: Harris finally got a chance to play (almost) everyday with the Rays last year and he certainly delivered. Playing mostly shortstop, he hit 12 home runs and batted in 59 runs while a strong line of .286/.343/.434 in 521 at bats. He's now played in 5 different organizations in 5 years, so hopefully that doesn't take its toll while he's expected to give the Twins a strong bat at the bottom of the order.

9. Adam Everett, 31, Shortstop

Outlook: Everett really does not have to do all that much to make me impressed. As long as he plays steady defense and hits around his career average of .248, I'll be satisfied.

Mike Redmond, 36, Catcher

Outlook: Redmond has really been impressive from behind the plate after signing him prior to the 2005 season. He is a very steady backup to Joe Mauer and should continue to be just that. Redmond is the kind of player you'd hope would be with your team forever, however this sadly may be his last season as his contract expires at the end of the season.

Nick Punto, 30, Utility Infielder/Outfielder

Outlook: As long as Punto comes in and plays good defense when needed, I'll be fine. But when Ron Gardenhire starts giving Punto a spot in the lineup 2-3 times a week (which I think is expected), I'll be extremely pissed. Of course, that is unless he all of a sudden turns it around again and starts hitting the ball. But I think that's very unlikely.
Matt Tolbert, 25, Utility Infielder

Outlook: Tolbert really had a strong first-half last season, but really dropped off in the second half and when many thought he'd be the guy brought up to replace Nick Punto at third base, the coaches in Triple-A labeled him "not ready, mentally" that must have flipped a switch in Tolbert and he came to Spring Training ready to fight for a spot. He hit .289/.347/.356 in 45 at bats this spring. Unfortunately, he's just another light-hitting utility player which the team already has in Punto. But I think that Tolbert will have a great year and will take over as the primary utility player next year, with Punto (likely) out of the picture.
Craig Monroe, 31, Outfielder

Outlook: Craig Monroe was traded for a PTBNL in the off-season and is expected to split time at DH with Jason Kubel. Gardenhire has said that he won't just base his DH decision on a Lefty/Righty basis, but instead will look at the pitching match-up and see who's best suited to face that pitcher. That's a fine reason, but I think it's truly just a way for Gardenhire to give his veteran pickup a few extra at bats. I like Monroe, but I would really like to see him as a fourth outfielder, instead of a platoon mate with Kubel at DH.

And there you have it folks, your 2008 Minnesota Twins. I'm very excited to see what this season brings, and as long as we can stay healthy, I think we can really surprise many teams this season.

I'm going to be at the game tonight, but be sure to post any thoughts you have on the game (or the post) in the comment section. Have a great day!

March 29, 2008

Liriano not going North, yet.

After a very impressive outing yesterday, Francisco Liriano found out that he still won't go North with the Twins. Instead, the Twins have optioned him to Ft. Myers and according to La Velle E. Neal III, he will make a start next Thursday for the Miracle and if everything goes fine, he'll then go to Rochester and make a start for the Red Wings. The Twins are hoping to have him with the team when they go on an 8 game (9 day) road trip to Chicago, Kansas City and Detroit. In his place, the Twins will go with Nick Blackburn in the rotation. Blackburn is expected to start the third game of the season, following Livan Hernandez and Boof Bonser in the rotation. Kevin Slowey is expected to make the teams series finally against the Angels.

Unfortunately, despite a great outing by Liriano in which he went 5 innings and gave up just 1 run while striking out 7, the Twins still lost to the Pirates.

La Velle also gives us a little bit of news that Liriano's wife will be induced next Friday. And I know that he will never read this, but congratulations.

Sorry not a lot to post on tonight. The Twins have their final game of Spring Training today against the Pirates. And yes, that's two consecutive games against the Pirates.

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.

March 27, 2008

Gomez Hurt, Baker getting stronger

Well although the Twins won behind an impressive Livan Hernandez, it was not exactly what the Twins wanted to see, center fielder Carlos Gomez go down with an injury.

Gomez started the game in center field and reached base twice before he came up lame while chasing a ball in left-center field. He grabbed his hamstring in pain and was taken out with what we now have found out was just a hamstring cramp. I italicized just, because although you don't want a speedy player having hamstring problems, it's good that it was indeed just a cramp, and nothing more serious. In fact, according to Joe Christensen, after the game Gomez "practically begged" manager Ron Gardenhire to let him take the trip to Sarasota today and be in the lineup. Gardenhire obliged but will be watching him very closely all game. So today will be a big test to see what the twins do with Gomez. They won't take any chances on his health, so if he shows lingering effects of it today, he might spend time on the Disabled List. But as of right now, he's considered day-to-day.

The Twins sent out a lineup that will likely be used this season against left-handed pitchers, with exception to just one player. Hitting in leadoff, Gomez went 1-2 with a double, a run, and also reached after being hit from a pitch by James Shields of the Rays. Next came Joe Mauer and he went 2-4 with his 5th double and 8th RBI of the spring. Michael Cuddyer, Justin Morneau, Delmon Young, and Craig Monroe followed and each had one hit apiece. Cuddyer's hit was a single and he also came around to score, Morneau's hit was a double and he also scored. Young and Monroe also hit singles, but Young drove in his 12th RBI of the spring yesterday as well. Mike Lamb batted 7th and went hitless to drop his spring average to .333. Brendan Harris played second base and continued to hit better with a 1-3 performance. And finally, the only guy unlikely to be a starter (at least initially), Matt Tolbert went 2-3 with his second double of the spring.

Nick Punto came into the game to replace Gomez in center field and Trevor Plouffe replaced Tolbert at shortstop and both went 0-1 at the plate. Eli Whiteside (catcher) and Jon Knott (first base) also came into the game as defensive replacements but neither had plate appearances.

As I said, Hernandez had an impressive outing in what looks to be his last start before opening day. He went 6 innings and gave up 1 run on 4 hits while walking 1 and fanning 5. Two of the hits he surrenderd came off the bat of ex-Twins shortstop Jason Bartlett. Pat Neshek continued his scoreless spring with another 1-2-3 seventh inning. The newly signed closer, Joe Nathan, gave up one run on two hits in the 8th inning. And Jeff Manship got his shot in big league camp with a 1-2-3 9th inning to get the save.

Next, the Twins will travel to Sarasota today to face the Cincinnati Reds. Boof Bonser will face off against Bronson Arroyo. Hopefully Bonser can show better accuracy with his pitches as he has a 6/5 BB/K ratio this spring.

Scott Baker threw 49 pitches for the Rochester Red Wings yesterday in a game against the New Britain Rock Cats. The Twins wanted to see that number closer to 65-70, but Ron Gardenhire was satisfied with the way he pitched and said that he will make another start on Sunday in which the team wants to see him add at least another 15 pitches to his performance. Baker is coming back from the flu in which he lost 12 lbs. With a solid start on Sunday, the Twins probably will use him as the fourth or fifth starter in the rotation and he should be able to avoid the disabled list.

Make sure to check out the new Twinkie Town. It's a completely new look from before and has many new features to check out. Make sure to stop by and take a look.

March 26, 2008


Hey everyone, I'm not in the mood to post tonight, but I will direct you to a few other blogs with interesting things to read.

Seth Speaks gave us his rundown on the American League including who he feels will be the MVP, Cy Young winner and Rookie of the Year. Make sure to check that out and compare his predictions with the A.L. Central with my own.

Aaron Gleeman shared his thoughts on the Joe Nathan extension.

Jim Mandelaro is excited about how strong the Red Wings look this season.

Granny Baseball is not impressed with the team right now, but offers solid arguments as to why. I personally feel that the offense is going to be much better and I don't think that we'll be much worse defensively than last year in which we were slightly below league average as a club. But I do understand that there's a lot of fans who feel the same way, so make sure to check it out.

For a good recap of yesterday's Twins-Pirates game, make sure to go over to Sense from Center.

Want some great analysis of all the news on Monday? Check out Taylor's Twins Talk.

The Bleacher Bums don't feel that Nathan's extension makes sense.

Will Young lets us know he's still alive.

And finally, Joe Christensen lets us know that Brendan Harris will be the teams opening day starter at second base.

March 24, 2008

Twins lock up Nathan

Update 2:05 PM: According to La Velle E. Neal III, sources say that the deal is 4-years $47 million which is$11.25 million per season. He also said that there's a $2 million buyout after 2011.

It's official, the Twins have agreed to a 3-year extension with Joe Nathan through 2011. They also have an option for a fourth year to possibly make him a Twin through 2012. The terms of the contract have not been made public, but it's expect to be between $11-12 million annually. If that's indeed the case, Nathan took a fairly substantial pay cut to stay in Minnesota. I'm curious to see whether or not the option for the fourth year will be a vested option.

The Twins' motto is "your bullpen is only as good as the guy at the end" and with that, the Twins have locked up the best closer in the game for the next 3-4 years.


Twins make the Cuts

As I described this morning, the Twins were set to make quite a few cuts today, and so it came. The Twins cut 5 of the remaining 34 players, making there to be just 4 more cuts. Brian Buscher, Denard Span, Philip Humber, Casey Daigle and Jason Pridie all missed the roster.

Denard Span definitely gave Carlos Gomez a run for his money, and although I still personally feel the Twins would've been better off starting Span and having Gomez in Triple-A, this wasn't an unprecedented move. Both Gomez & Span played their best these last two weeks and it's sad because neither of them truly deserved to be sent down. La Velle E. Neal III describes an emotional Denard Span. What this means for Denard Span's future with the Twins, nobody really knows, except it will be surprising if he can make a splash on the team next year. The Twins have three outfielders they feel will be here for the long haul and it looks like they all have their feet cemented into the starting lineup for at least the next 3-4 years.

Brian Buscher is not a surprise to me at all. He came to camp and worked his tail off until the very end, unfortunately his hard work and dedication did not translate to better results. He will likely play 3 infield positions at Rochester this season, first, second, and third while he looks to be the likeliest candidate to be called up in case of injury. However that can all change if he doesn't have the numbers in Rochester. With his demotion, it most likely means that Matt Tolbert has won the infield utility bench spot. He definitely came out of nowhere.

Jason Pridie, it's unfortunate that he has Craig Monroe ahead of him, who has a large(r) contract, because he definitely had a good enough spring to make his way back to Minnesota. He probably will be the Twins 4th outfielder come next season, unless the team tries to re-sign Monroe. It's anyones guess at this point.

Philip Humber is not a big surprise. Both Brian Bass and Nick Blackburn had better springs, however Humber did have a good spring as well. He will more than likely make his Twins debut at some point this season, and could very likely be the first pitcher called up due to injury/bad performance.

Casey Daigle never really had a shot in my eyes. I believe the Twins held onto him in camp as long as they did because they wanted the extra arm. He did pitch better than most probably predicted, but he was destined for Rochester.

With that, 4 more players need to be cut at some point this week. Eli Whiteside, Jon Knott and Drew Butera don't figure to make the team, which leaves one more cut. The final cut has three candidates (in my opinion) and they are Francisco Liriano, Nick Blackburn, and Brian Bass. La Velle E. Neal III says that, "indications are that Fransisco Liriano will open the season in the minors" which would mean that Brian Bass and Nick Blackburn will occupy the final rotation spot and bullpen spot that remain.

Make sure to check out Seth Speaks as he gives us a list of 8 minor leaguers who have been released.

It also sounds as if the announcement of a Joe Nathan extension could come at any point today. So stay tuned.

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.


March 23, 2008

Twins cut Perkins, more to come

The Twins have announced that they've optioned Glen Perkins to Triple-A, after his outings this Spring have gotten increasingly worse. He finishes camp with a 7.50 ERA through 12 innings. He will likely be used as a starter in Triple-A, and I doubt it'll be long before we see him in Minnesota again.

La Velle E. Neal III also mentioned a couple interesting nuggets:

Brian Bass looks to have made the team. He'd likely be used in the bullpen, and not the rotation, but they do have the option of using him as a spot starter.
Matt Tolbert appears "close" to making the team.
The Twins are expected to make a "bunch" of cuts on Monday
The Twins have agreed to a deal with the Washington Nationals that would allow them to send Rule V Draft choice, Garrett Guzman, down to Triple-A. There's no word yet on who the Twins received, but I will say that I'm a little sad the Twins didn't try to retain him. Sure, we're packed in Triple-A, but he's better than the majority of the options we have there anyways.
The Joe Nathan's rumored contract is not official just yet.

Sorry if you're looking for a recap of yesterdays game, if that's what you're looking for then go check out the recap over at Twins-Territory.

March 22, 2008

Twins, Nathan agree on extension

According to Buster Olney, the Twins and Joe Nathan are finalizing an extension of 4-years and between $44-48 Million deal.

Twins lose in 9th

Livan Hernandez put together his best performance of the spring yesterday, but it was still far from great. He did manage to strike out 6 batters, but allowed 2 runs in the 5 innings that he worked. It's not bad, by any means, but I sure would like to see him put together a stellar outing his next time out to make me feel more comfortable with him on the mound this season. Brian Bass, Dennys Reyes and were great between the 6th and 8th innings, but things fell apart a bit in the 9th as Casey Daigle gave up 2 hits and a walk while allowing the game-winning run to score. The Twins lost the game 3-2, it was Daigle's first loss of the Spring.

Michael Cuddyer carried the team offensively with his 8th and 9th RBI's of the Spring. He also hit his 6th double of the Spring off of former Twins southpaw, J.C. Romero. The Twins carried two minor league position players yesterday, with Trevor Plouffe and Dustin Martin getting the opportunity to play with the "big boys." Plouffe went 1-1 at the plate and helped turn the only double play ball of the afternoon.

Next, the Twins will travel to Jupiter to play against the Cardinals. Ex-Twin Kyle Lohse is set to make his Spring Training debut against Boof Bonser.

Center field competition: Denard Span lead off the game yesterday with a hard single to right field, but he was thrown out trying to steal second base later in the inning. It was his first time he's been caught stealing all spring. He only had one hit, but raised his average to .293 on the spring. And to put it into more perspective, if the game against the Rays wasn't called because of rain a few weeks ago, he would be hitting well over .300 as he was 2-2 in that game. Unfortunately those stats don't count, as official stats, but I'm sure that Ron Gardenhire has made a mental note of it. I assume Carlos Gomez will start in center field today.

Something that I have not previously mentioned before, but I probably should have since it's lingered into my though process on several occasions, but Brian Bass has really impressed this season. He has a 1.59 ERA this spring, and has gained praise from management.
"That bodes well for a guy out of options,'' Gardenhire said. "That's always a good thing.''
That's Gardenhire's response to the aggression that Bass has shown on the mound this spring. The Twins likely won't be able to retain him if they try to send him through waivers, so there's a very good chance that he could make the club as the infamous "12th pitcher" that I've seem to talk about to no end.

Nathan Update: According to La Velle E. Neal III, Joe Nathan's agent left Ft. Myers on Friday to visit his other clients in Florida, but he's scheduled to arrive back in Ft. Myers sometime today. I think that we should know by Monday morning (when I'm sure he'll be gone), what the decision is. I think it's very unlikely that if a deal doesn't happen within the next 48 hours, that it won't happen at all. Nathan and his agent seem to have set a season opener "deadline" on a new deal, as they don't have any desire to work on a deal during the season.

March 21, 2008

Twins Cut 5 More

The Twins announced that they have cut Tommy Watkins, Garrett Jones, Randy Ruiz, Ricky Barrett and Randy Keisler.

No big surprises, except for Jones. He cleared waivers, which means that he will now report to Rochester this season. He's probably disappointed, but if Brian Buscher makes the roster, I think that unless Jones struggles a lot in Triple-A, that he'll be the first call-up this season.

Tommy Watkins continued to show his desire to make the roster by learning to play catcher, however as Seth Stohs points out, the Twins weren't thrilled about his physical shape when he arrived at camp.

Randy Ruiz has had a great spring, offensively, but he seriously lacks a position. If this were the National League, he'd probably be carried as a pinch hitter. But the Twins need versatility in their bench players. Mike Redmond will be the only bench player who can play just one position.

Randy Ruiz's lack of versatility made him an unlikely candidate for the bench

With Randy Keisler and Ricky Barrett now cut, if the Twins want to have two left-handers in the bullpen, it looks like it will be Glen Perkins. That's not a surprise at all. I didn't really look at either Barrett or Keisler as possibilities anyways. Now it will be interesting to see what the Twins plan on doing with Francisco Liriano. Will they start him in the bullpen like they did in 2006? Will they keep him in the rotation? Or will they start him in Rochester? Those questions likely won't be answered until we get closer to the end of camp.

The Twins now have 35 men remaining in camp. They have 9 more games (10 days) until the roster must be down to 25. But I'm sure all but maybe 2 or 3 of the remaining 10 will be cut before next weekends games.

The Twins are using another possible lineup for the season opener, today against the Phillies:

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

P Livan Hernandez

Twins shutout Reds, 4-0

The Twins released a lineup last night against the Cincinnati Reds, which many believe will be very close to the lineup the Twins use on opening night. With exception to center field, all the positions seem to be set for the start of the season. Last night, Carlos Gomez got his chance in center field and made the most of it. He went 2-4 with his 5th double of Spring Training. He also showed off his base running skills with another stolen base, making it 9 on the Spring. Drew Butera has been working on his offense this spring, and it looks like he's might be onto something with a strong 2-2 performance in which he drove in his first two RBI of the Spring. Here's a good article on Butera by Kelly Theiser.

Kevin Slowey looks to be closing in on the rotation with another strong performance. He went 5 innings and only allowed 3 hits while striking out 5. He lowered his ERA from 5.91 to 4.02 after holding the Reds scoreless. Juan Rincon, Jesse Crain, and Joe Nathan combined for 4 shutout innings while only giving up 2 hits and a walk. Nathan struck out 3 batters in his two innings of work, and Crain struck out 2 in his inning.

Next, the Twins will play host to the Phillies this afternoon. Livan Hernandez will start for the Twins while Adam Eaton will start for the Phillies. This will probably be Hernandez's second to last appearance this Spring.

Center Field Competition: Denard Span will need to continue his strong play the rest of Spring, with Carlos Gomez starting to improve. Span still seems like the most logical choice as he fits the lead-off spot better than Gomez does and he seems to play more fundamentally sound baseball. Gomez had a strong game yesterday going 2-4 to raise his average to .267.

Scott Baker is scheduled to make his return to the mound on Saturday in a minor league game. He's been out of action since March 8th as he's battled the flu. The Twins plan on using him every 4th day the rest of camp and they plan on skipping his first start of the season. He instead will pitch in another start after the end of camp before joining the Twins' rotation. At least, that's the plan. As for what the Twins will do with Baker's hole in the rotation, I don't think they've made a decision yet. I'd assume that they will bring either Nick Blackburn or Philip Humber to Minnesota after camp, and allow one of them to start in his place before demoting them to Rochester. It would allow them to get an extended look at either of the pitchers.

A more logical thing to do would be to prepare Glen Perkins to start in his place, as he'll likely be the 12th pitcher on the roster anyways. Either way, I think that whoever the 12 pitcher on the roster is, I think they should be the one to start in his place. Whether that be Blackburn, Perkins or Humber. I figure Perkins will be their choice, which is why I mention him.

March 20, 2008

Nathan, Twins closing in on a deal?

Twins' GM Bill Smith has spent the majority of the day in negotiation with closer Joe Nathan's agent, Dave Pepe. According to La Velle E. Neal III, Nathan feels optimistic about agreeing on a long-term deal soon. Neal said that Nathan feels that the "ice has been broken" on inching closer to a contract agreement.

(Nathan is the leader of the Twins' bullpen)

Nathan, 33, has spent the last 4 seasons as the Twins' closer and is known as one of the best in the league. He has 161 career saves, 160 of which have come in a Twins uniform. The Twins acquired Nathan before the 2004 season in the A.J. Pierzynski trade that also brought the Twins Boof Bonser and Francisco Liriano from the Giants. If Nathan hits the free agency market, he'll likely be the second most attractive closer, since the 26-year-old dominator named "K-Rod" is also set to hit free agency if he can't receive an extension.

Nathan will likely get between $10-15 million annually in this deal. He's expressed that he wants market value, but understands that if he wants more years then he'll likely have to lower his dollar demand.

Stay tuned, many feel that we should get a good feeling of Nathan's future as a Minnesota Twin by the end of the week.

A Look At The AL Central

The American League Central really is one of Baseball's most talented divisions. There are 4 legitimate playoff contending teams, two of which are arguably the best teams in the majors, and another team that looks like they are preparing to join the competition in another year or two. There's no doubt that the division is one of the best in the majors, and the Twins definitely have their work cut out for them if they plan on making any noise not only this year, but next few years as well.

Here's a look at the division, in order to my predictions of best to worst records.

Detroit Tigers

Projected Lineup:
CF - Curtis Granderson
2B - Placido Polanco
RF - Magglio Ordonez
3B - Miguel Cabrera
DH - Garry Sheffield
1B - Carlos Guillen
C - Ivan Rodriguez
SS - Edgar Renteria
LF - Jacque Jones/Marcus Thames
Projected Rotation:
1. Justin Verlander
2. Kenny Rogers
3. Jeremy Bonderman
4. Dontrelle Willis
5. Nate Robertson
Lineup: The Tigers made one of the biggest splashes of the off-season by acquiring Miguel Cabrera from the Florida Marlins in return for a number of highly regarded prospects. The Tigers already very strong offense got a whole lot stronger with the addition of Cabrera who's one of the best young hitters in the Major Leagues. They also acquired Edgar Renteria from the Atlanta Braves. The move allows the Tigers to move regular shortstop Carlos Guillen to first base to replace Sean Casey. The one downfall against the Tigers is their extremely right-handed favored lineup, but that didn't matter in 2007 when they hit .285/.342/.452 as a team with Casey being the only left-hander who played regularly. This season, Jacque Jones is the lone left-hander with Carlos Guillen being a switch hitter, which gives them 2 (out of 9) batters who can bat from the left side. It should be interesting to see how they produce.

Rotation: The Tigers pitching staff really disappointed last season. Jeremy Bonderman had a great start going 9-1 with a 3.48 ERA in his first 16 starts, but he took a U-turn after the All-Star break and went 2-8 with a 7.39 ERA in his final 12 starts. Kenny Rogers was also dreadful after the All-Star Break as an injury delayed his start to the season, but went 3-0 with a 1.04 ERA in his first 3 starts, but went 0-4 with a 5.72 in his final (and next) 4 starts. Rogers seems to be fully healthy which should improve their rotation this season. The team also acquired Dontrelle Willis in their trade with the Marlins which also brought them Miguel Cabrera. Willis also had a rough 2007 season as he went 10-15 with a 5.17 ERA. But there's plenty of optimism surrounding him to rebound this season as the 26-year-old has a career 3.78 ERA and is 68-54 in his 162 career starts. The rotation is likely what will hold them back this season, but I think that their offense is strong enough to easily take them far into the playoffs, and if their pitching shows up at least a little bit, I think we'll be seeing the Tigers in the World Series.

Cleveland Indians

Projected Lineup:
CF - Grady Sizemore
2B - Asdrubal Cabrera
DH - Travis Hafner
C - Victor Martinez
1B - Ryan Garko
SS - Jhonny Peralta
3B - Casey Blake
LF - David Delucci/Jason Michaels
RF - Franklin Guitierrez
Projected Rotation:
1. C.C. Sabathia
2. Fausto Carmona
3. Jake Westbrook
4. Paul Byrd
5. Cliff Lee
Lineup: Grady Sizemore is a real treat for the Indians at the top of the lineup. In case you haven't noticed, both the top two teams have great lead-off hitters who also play great defense in center field. Sizemore should continue to blossom into one of the games best young hitters and better defenders in center field. The Indians lineup is very young and although they don't look as "beefy" as the Tigers lineup, however in 2007 the Indians hit one more home run that the Tigers. I doubt it's the same story this season, but the Indians still have one of the better all-around lineups in the game. They will definitely benefit from a more productive year by Travis Hafner in 2008 after a disappointing 2007 where he hit 18 less home runs and saw his average dip .42 points from 2006, despite playing in 23 more games in 2007.

Rotation: The Indians had the best one-two punch in the American League last season, and they also had the American League Cy Young Winner. Both C.C. Sabathia and Fausto Carmona should come close to repeating their production in 2007. Paul Pyrd, Jake Westbrook and Cliff Lee all need to have better years if they want to win more games than the Tigers this season.

Minnesota Twins

Projected Lineup:
CF - Denard Span
C - Joe Mauer
RF - Michael Cuddyer
1B - Justin Morneau
LF - Delmon Young
DH - Jason Kubel/Craig Monroe
3B - Mike Lamb
2B - Brendan Harris
SS - Adam Everett
Projected Rotation:
1. Livan Hernandez
2. Scott Baker
3. Boof Bonser
4. Kevin Slowey
5. Francisco Liriano
Lineup: If you take a position by position analysis from a year ago, I think the Twins are going to be much better offensively. Obviously replacing both Torii Hunter and Jason Bartlett's production is going to be hard, but I think the Twins did a fine job by acquiring Delmon Young and Brendan Harris who could make people forget about the beloved center fielder and shortstop by years end. I know that many "experts" predict Young to hit close to 20 home runs this season, however I believe that he could easily hit 30 home runs this season. He's really improved his plate discipline this Spring and should get on base at a much higher clip than last year. Besides the additions of Harris and Young, the Twins also added Mike Lamb to replace Nick Punto as the starting third baseman and Craig Monroe will replace Jason Tyner as the platoon DH and 4th outfielder. I think the Twins will also benefit by having a healthy Joe Mauer and Justin Morneau should rebound after a dreadful second half.

Rotation: This is where things start to look dark for the Twins. What's been their strongest point for so long, now is their weakest. With the losses of Johan Santana, Carlos Silva and Matt Garza, the Twins don't seem to have a legitimate #1 starter, and even don't seem to have a true #2. Livan Hernandez was brought in to eat up innings, and looks to be Ron Gardenhire's choice as the opening day starter. Scott Baker had a successful season in 2007, but he's got to prove that it was not just a "hot streak" and he needs to continue to progress as a pitcher this season. Boof Bonser had a very disappointing 2007 season, but after losing nearly 30 lbs. this off-season, Bonser is determined to have a successful 2008. Kevin Slowey was one of the Minor League's best starting pitchers last season, but had a difficult time adjusting to Major League hitters. He has had a rocky time this spring, but he will likely earn his spot with a strong finish to Spring Training. Francisco Liriano, Nick Blackburn, and Philip Humber seem to be in a strong competition for the #5 spot in the rotation. I think it's Liriano's job, but it will depend on how the Twins want to handle him this season. They could let him work his troubles out in the rotation, they could start him in the bullpen like they did in his very successful rookie season, or they could have him start the season in the minor leagues where it will be easier for him to gain his confidence back. If the Twins choose either of the latter two options, I think Blackburn will get the spot, but Humber is also deserving as well.

Chicago White Sox

Projected Lineup:
CF - Nick Swisher
SS - Orlando Cabrera
1B - Paul Konerko
DH - Jim Thome
RF - Jermaine Dye
C - A.J. Pierzynski
3B - Joe Crede/Josh Fields
LF - Carlos Quentin
2B - Danny Richar
Projected Rotation:
1. Mark Buehrle
2. Javier Vazquez
3. Jose Contreras
4. John Danks
5. Gavin Floyd
Lineup: The White Sox's lineup looked drastically different from 2006 to 2007. Once thought of as one of the most potent lineups in Baseball, the White Sox looked very poor offensively last season. What played a large part to this was the drastically down years of '06 MVP candidate Jermaine Dye and Jim Thome. They should be good bets to rebound this season, and if they do, the rest of the league will have to watch out. The additions of Nick Swisher and Orlando Cabrera will be immediate impact bats for their lineup, and Carlos Quentin still has the potential to be a very solid hitter someday. They need to get Josh Fields into the lineup, and that'd likely mean trading Joe Crede. They have holes at second base and in the rotation, I think they should be able to find someone who could fit.

Rotation: But like the Twins, the White Sox's Achilles Heal will be it's rotation. The White Sox have a good 1-2 punch in Mark Buehrle and Javier Vazquez, but Contreras had a dreadful '07 season. John Danks looked promising at some points, and disappointing in others. Gavin Floyd doesn't look like anything special, but the Sox don't want to lose him by passing him through waivers.

Kansas City Royals

Projected Lineup:
CF - David DeJesus
2B - Mark Grudzielanek
RF - Mark Teahen
LF - Jose Guillen
3B - Alex Gordon
DH - Billly Butler
1B - Ross Gload
C - John Buck
SS - Tony Pena
Projected Rotation:
1. Gil Meche
2. Brian Bannister
3. Zack Greinke
4. Kyle Davies
5. Luke Hochevar
Lineup: The lineup continues to improve, and soon enough they will be able to be considered as one of the better lineups in the league. How you might ask? Well they have 2 batters who could be top 20 hitters in the next decade. Alex Gordon, 24, has the potential to be one of the best hitting third baseman in the league. I think of him as being a left-handed David Wright. Billy Butler, 22, could be one of the best DH's in the American League by this time next year. He has the potential to hit 35+ home runs with well over 100 RBI, all while keeping a good average and on-base percentage. The team needs for Mark Teahen to progress this season, otherwise it might be his last in a Royal blue uniform.

Rotation: Gil Meche was a pleasant surprise for an improving rotation. Meche, along with Zack Greinke, Brian Bannister, and Luke Hochevar have the potential to be one of the best 1-4 groups in the Major Leagues. If Greinke can progress from a solid '07 campaign and if Hochevar can live up to his potential, I think this rotation will be a very feared group, even for teams with lineups like the Tigers and Indians.

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.

March 18, 2008

Who might the PTBNL be?

If Craig Monroe ends up making the Twins roster, which looks very likely at this point, the Twins will have to send a player to the Cubs to finalize the trade. There's been a bit of speculation on who that might be, but the general consensus is that it will be a low-level prospect, without much of a future in the pro's.

Bleed Cubbie Blue believes that the PTBNL in that trade could be Tim Lahey, in which it would allow the Cubs to demote Lahey to Triple-A at the end of Spring, instead of giving him back to the Twins. Lahey, 26, is a right-handed relief pitcher who was taken with the first pick of the Rule V Draft. The only thing is that Lahey has really held his own this spring. Here are his results:
  1. 3/1 - vs. Angels - 1 IP
  2. 3/3 - vs. Mariners - 1 IP, 1 H, 1 K
  3. 3/5 - vs. Diamondbacks - 0.2 IP, 2 H, 1 R, 1 BB
  4. 3/7 - vs. Mariners - 1 IP, 2 BB
  5. 3/10 - vs. Brewers - 1.1 IP, 1 K
  6. 3/13 - vs. Padres - 1 IP
  7. 3/15 - vs. White Sox - 1.1 IP, 1 BB, 1 K
Obviously, nothing spectacular. His K/BB ratio is not great, but I doubt he'd carry that over to the season (at least letting it stay that low). He would definitely benefit from some seasoning in Triple-A, but if not, I think he'd post decent numbers for the Cubs this season.

He has a low-90's fastball, a hard sinker and a solid slider. He's a former catcher who's still new to pitching, but he could be a solid reliever when all is said and done.

The Twins don't have a lot of room in Rochester, which may make it an easy decision to make that kind of trade, but I'm sure the Twins would love to have him back in the organization.

Nonetheless, I think it was an interesting scenario.

Here's a good article on Lahey from the Worcester Telegram & Gazette (Lahey is from Worcester, Massachusetts).

Liriano Struggles

Francisco Liriano struggled in his start yesterday. He breezed through the first two innings before allowing a run in the third. He went into the fourth, but allowed two more runners on base before being taken out. He was later tagged with the runs as Brian Bass let them in. Both Dennys Reyes and Pat Neshek continued their stellar springs with a shutout inning for each of them.

Offensively, Jason Pridie doubled to lead off the game, but it was his only hit of the game. Delmon Young later drove him in with an RBI single to center field. Adam Everett had a good day, going 2-3 with an RBI double.

Unfortunately, the Twins loss to the Marlins, 5-3, despite both teams recording 10 hits each. Despite Liriano's poor results, it's a great thing to see that he's able to at least go into the fourth inning. He threw nearly 60 pitches, in just his third start since arriving to Ft. Myers. He's making progress, and although he seems confident that he'll be ready to start the season in the bullpen with the Twins, I just hope that he stays healthy and can work on all the rest of the glitches later. His health is (to me) the biggest concern, as it generally takes (at least) a year to start regaining form. As long as Liriano can stay healthy, I don't think I can be upset.

On a side note: Steven Tolleson got to suit up with the big league club yesterday and went 1-1 at the plate while replacing Adam Everett at shortstop.

Today, the Twins will face the Baltimore Orioles and Philip Humber is set to make his first start of the Spring. He's been pitching great all Spring and can hopefully improve his chances of landing a possible rotation spot. Unfortunately, he'll probably need to be lights out for the rest of Spring in order to claim a spot as both Francisco Liriano and Kevin Slowey continue to improve.

Toby Gardenhire is scheduled to suit up as a backup infielder, and it's likely he'll get at least one at bat and will probably play the field just a little bit. When asked about it, father (and manager) Ron Gardenhire said:
"He gets meal money. That's good. That's less I have to spend."
Center Field Watch: Craig Monroe got his first start in center field yesterday, and went 0-3 at the plate. He was replaced by Denard Span later in the game, but did not do anything to suggest that the Twins would be better off with him in center, over either Span or Carlos Gomez. It didn't help when his biggest task was to catch a routine fly ball. He's likely not in the running anyway for a starting spot, but he will probably spend time there when either Span or Gomez need a day off. Either way, here's a funny article on Gardenhire's "irrational love" for Monroe.

Scott Baker skipped his bullpen session yesterday as he's still recovering from a strained lat muscle, but instead of his back causing him to skip the session, it is a flu bug that's gotten to Randy Ruiz, Carmen Cali, Rick Anderson and others as well. He has not pitched in a game in 10 days. With this setback in his return, he may be forced to start the season on the disabled list if he can't get back to action soon.

Here's a good video of Michael Cuddyer doing a card trick with Denard Span.

March 17, 2008

Spring Training Rumblings

It was not exactly what the Twins had in mind when they signed Livan Hernandez earlier in the off-season. He attacked the hitters nicely throughout the first 2 innings, but after that, he left the ball up in the zone and gave up what seemed to be hit, after hit, after hit while giving up 6 runs in his 4 innings of work. He gave up 2 runs in the fifth round before leaving, and Randy Keisler let in another of Hernandez's runs before getting out of the fifth inning. Joe Nathan later came in and struck out 2 while lowering his ERA to 1.50 on the spring in another scoreless inning.

Offensively, the Twins got 8 hits off of the Blue Jays, and four of them came off the bats of Justin Morneau and Joe Mauer. The two combined to go 4-6 with 2 runs and 2 RBI's. Carlos Gomez got a bunt single and, to no surprise, ran the bases very well and he's living up to the nickname "Go-Go" as he stole his 6th base of the spring. Craig Monroe hit a nice RBI double into the gap between the baseline and the outfielder in left field. And Denard Span also collected a hit to raise his average to .287 on the Spring.

A Scary moment happened in the fifth inning. Matt Watson of the Blue Jays hit a ball to the wall in center field. Going all out, Gomez caught the ball over his shoulder and went into the wall face first. It knocked the wind out of him, and as he laid on the ground, I'm sure many Twins fans' hearts stopped for just a moment before he walked off the field under hi own power.

And despite getting off to an early 1-0 lead in the first inning, the Twins lost to the Blue Jays, 8-3.

The Twins will play host to the Marlins tomorrow, when Francisco Liriano makes his third start of the Spring. Hopefully this outing will be better than his last start against the Red Sox, in which he gave up 3 runs in just 2 innings of work. But really, as long as he continues to be pain free and continues to work on his arm strength, results are not really a big deal to me right now.

After Alexi Casilla was sent down in the second round of cuts, Ron Gardenhire mentioned that he may be moved back to shortstop as he's been "sloppy" at second. Gardenhire also went as far as to say that Casilla may very well be our future shortstop.

This comes as a little of a surprise as Gardenhire has been pretty adamant on leaving him at second base, despite the fact that he has one of the best arms of any of our infielders and has more range than any of them as well. The move would be a logical thing to do, as the other infielder viewed as the "future shorstop", Trevo
r Plouffe's defense has been sporadic throughout his career. Casilla will start the season in Rochester, where he'll be joined with Alejandro Machado, Tommy Watkins (probably), Matt Tolbert (probably) and Matt Macri who could all be looking for spots in the middle of the infield. As of right now, Casilla is viewed as the likely starter at shortstop with Macri at third and Tolbert at second in Rochester.

• Players of the Week (3/10-3/16)

At the Plate
Joe Mauer - Catcher
Note: Joe Mauer had an exceptional week and has really impressed so far this spring. There seems to be no lingering effects from his quad injury that put him on the disabled list last season, which definitely means that with all injuries aside, we should expect numbers to be back up this season, like they were in 2006 when he won the American League Batting Title. Mauer improved his Spring average to .409 while going 5-10 with 7 runs, 3 RBI, a double and a home run last week.

Runner-Up: Carlos Gomez, Right/Center Field: 6-17, 5 Runs, 3 RBI's, 2B, 3B, HR and 2 SB's.

On the Mound
Kevin Slowey - Right Handed Starter

Note: After having a rough first couple of starts, Kevin Slowey seems to have found his groove. He had an impressive week winning both of his decisions to go 2-1 on the spring. He allowed 6 hits in this first start, but proceeded to shutout the Marlins through 3 innings of work. He finished the week going 2-0 in two starts. He pitched 7 innings, allowed 1 run on 8 hits, walked just one batter while striking out 8.

Runner-Up: Phil Humber, Right Handed Starter: 1 Hold, 1 Save, 5 innings, 1 hit, 2 walks, 1 strikeout.

The Twins announced on Sunday that two more players were cut, to lower the number to 40 players who remain in Major League Camp. Pitchers Carmen Cali and Kevin Mulvey were sent to Minor League camp, despite both having impressed while in camp. Cali cleared waivers, which he needed to do as he is out of options, so he'll start the season in Rochester, where Mulvey will be joining him.

Cali was viewed as one of the likely options for the Twins' 12th pitching spot. Ron Gardenhire has expressed his desire to carry two left-handed pitchers in the bullpen, and Cali would've given him that. This could open the door to Glen Perkins, who has spent both of his trips to the majors in the bullpen, and has had success in limited action. The team views him as a starter, but with Cali cut, he is definitely a guy to keep an eye on.