Taylor's Twins Talk

Focusing on the Twins, with a few ramblings on other things that catch my attention

Wednesday, February 28, 2007

Spring Training Report: Game One

One spring game is in the books as we turn the calendar to March, and what an interesting game it was . . . Here are a few of the things I found notable while watching the game on the NESN feed through MLB.tv:

1.) The big news is of course that Matt Garza pitched exceedingly well and Scott Baker . . . didn't. Baker actually struck out the four batters that he retired - but that was interspersed with a lot of hits, walks, and four runs. Matt Garza threw fewer pitches in his 2 innings of work (22 - 11 each inning) than Baker did in his first inning (24). Baker ended up making 41 pitches, 29 for strikes. Somehow I think the Twins would prefer that a guy get through 1.1 innings in less than 41 pitches. Even more depressing: Baker was actually removed from the game in the middle of an inning, being replaced by lefty Jason Miller. How often do you see that in the first week of spring training? Obviously, the competition for 5th starter isn't over - but Garza put himself in a great position after the first game, and Baker dug himself into a big hole.

2.) The Twins used 7 pitchers in this game, and most of them looked pretty good. After Garza and Baker came Jason Miller, who picked up a strikeout and looked reasonably in control. He was followed by righty Julio DePaula who went 2 innings and also picked up a K. Brad Voyles had perhaps the second-most impressive outing of the night, needing just 8 pitches to get through the 7th inning. Ricky Barrett (another lefty) needed 23 pitches to get through the 8th inning, and gave up a gap double to Alberto Castillo. Finally, Errol Simonitsch pitched the 9th and 10th, needing 32 pitches. I had never seen Simonitsch's motion before tonight - he has a great lefty delivery, with a release point that's very high and outside - the ball has a long way to go to get into the zone, and it seems to be hard to pick up for the batters. He also was able to drop a couple of decent breaking pitches into the zone on unsuspecting hitters. It was a nice performance.

3.) Matthew LeCroy and Ken Harvey were both in the game, and Harvey had the better of the night (although he came up injured and is likely to miss a few days of action). Harvey is a big man, but he made a nice catch down the foul line and looked fairly comfortable in the field. He also picked up a hit to center field off of Curt Schilling. LeCroy blooped a single to center later in the game, but he didn't look that settled at the plate.

4.) Garrett Jones and Tommy Watkins both came into the game as outfielders during the 5th-6th inning change-up of players that the Red Sox announcers referred to as the "fog of Spring Training." Watkins had to make a play, but I don't recall Jones being tested. Neither did much at the plate (in fact, Jones struck out twice), but Jones did take a couple of great big hacks that looked kinda powerful.

5.) Alejandro Machado isn't the only Twin in camp who needs to work on his bunting skills. Gil Velazquez had a shot in the 9th inning to bunt Luis Rodriguez (who had doubled to start off the inning) over to third base. He fouled off two bunt attempts, was redeemed by a wild pitch that got Rodriguez to third anyway, and then struck out looking. Velazquez isn't in the running for a roster spot anyway, but c'mon - if you're a middle infielder, you have to be able to bunt.

6.) Rondell White looked very good early - he picked up a couple of singles to center field and picked up an RBI - but it's hard to tell just how meaningful that is. Remember, even early in the year, Rondell could hit fastballs - it was the slow stuff that was bothering him. Pitchers were dishing up a lot of straight stuff today, and Rondell hit it pretty hard. We'll need to wait for later in the spring to determine if the Rondell who hit .321 in the second-half of the season is the Rondell that's returned to the Twins for the year. Certainly a nice, promising start though.

7.) I'm anxious for the remaining starters to debut tomorrow - Justin Morneau, Michael Cuddyer, and Nick Punto should all be in the starting lineup. I'm guessing that Jason Kubel will be DH'ing, and Mike Redmond should be behind the plate. The other positions are a little harder to figure, although Carlos Silva will be starting and Juan Rincon is supposed to get an inning or two as well.

Today's Big Winner: Matt Garza
Runner-Up: Brad Voyles (Joe Mauer's HR was nice, but he's not exactly fighting for a job)

Today's Big Loser: Scott Baker
Runner-Up: Matt LeCroy (not many other candidates, and he struck out looking twice)

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