Taylor's Twins Talk

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

Saturday, March 31, 2007

Ponson's Contract Purchased

It wasn't exactly the most surprising move of the spring, but the Twins have now officially purchased the contract of Sidney Ponson, which adds him to the 40-man roster. That puts the roster at 39 players (40 are listed, but Francisco Liriano is on the 60-day DL and so doesn't count against the roster limit). If the Twins find they need roster space anytime soon, they could also easily free up a space by placing Alejandro Machado on the 60-day DL since he's going to be out until mid- to late-August anyway (in the best case scenario).

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Big List of Released Players

The Twins cleared up some clutter in the minor league system by releasing a significant number of players, most of whom you've probably never heard of. First, I'll post the list (courtesy of Baseball America), and then I'll make a few comments on some of the more notable players who are no longer members of the Twins organization.

Patrick Bryant - RHP
Luis Carreras - RHP
Jose Cordero - RHP
Colby Miller - RHP
Justin Olson - RHP
Chris Schutt - RHP
Jon Staatz - RHP
Brad Voyles - RHP
Ryan Callahan - LHP
Randy Choate - LHP (old news, that)
Domingo Reyes - LHP
Brad King - C
Thomas Cowgill - 2B
J.R. Taylor - SS
Justin Arneson - OF
Courtney Billingslea - OF
Josh Land - OF
Tarrence Patterson - OF
Scott Whitrock - OF

First, the Brad King cut surprised me a little bit. There were indications that he was going to be given a chance to play at Rochester, but the Twins gave him a good long look in spring training and clearly decided that there was no reason to keep him around any longer.

Brad Voyles, Domingo Reyes, and Courtney Billingslea were all brought in as minor league free agents during the off-season, and obviously didn't demonstrate the qualities that the Twins were hoping to see from them.

Otherwise, most of these guys either had never played above the Rookie League level, or had languished in the lower full season teams for long enough that the Twins decided they weren't going to improve. Tarrence Patterson, for instance, played the last two years in Beloit and hit .254 and .257. The Twins needed the roster space, and especially with guys who just weren't ready to move up, there wasn't really a reason to keep them around.

Finally, let me say that I'm saddest about the cut of Justin Arneson. He may have only hit .199 and .232 over the past two seasons in Ft. Myers, but he went to High School in Fergus Falls, MN -- about 45 minutes away from my hometown. I would have liked to see the local boy make good, but it doesn't look like that's going to happen.

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Spring Training Report: Game Thirty-One

And we're done. The Twins finished up the Spring schedule this afternoon with a nice 6-4 victory of the Pittsburgh Pirates to finish up the Grapefruit League season with a 14-17-1 record. Here are the notes from today's final game:

1.) It would have been nice if Sidney Ponson had pitched like Carlos Silva and Ramon Ortiz had the last couple of games, but it wasn't to be. He wasn't horrible, he just wasn't very good -- his line: 5 innings, 4 runs (3 earned), 10 hits, a walk, and 3 K's. Honestly, he looked pretty good through his first couple of batters, but he had a lot of hits fall in and got knocked around a little bit. Honestly, this is what it's going to be like with Sidney -- he wants teams to put the ball in play, and sometimes they'll hit it into the teeth of the defense, while other times they'll find holes and get hits. At least he kept the ball in the ballpark, and it looked like he threw some pretty solid sinkers. The big question now is whether he'll stay in line as the fourth starter, or whether Carlos Silva's solid performance on Thursday, coupled with Ponson's mild struggles today, will result in Ponson being moved into the fifth starter spot. I'm guessing that Silva will win the 4th starter spot.

2.) Somewhat surprisingly to me, Juan Rincon was the only member of the Major League bullpen to get into today's game. He pitched a perfect inning, striking out 2.

3.) Most of the starters only stayed in for about 4 innings before turning the game over to a host of minor leaguers. Rondell White and Jason Bartlett both went 2-for-2 today, and Bartlett also picked up a run scored and an RBI. Nick Punto and Joe Mauer both were in today's game, indicating that both will start the season with the team. There were some concerns, especially with Punto, that it might be necessary for them to start the season on the DL, but thankfully both healed quickly enough to get into today's game. Joe Mauer, meanwhile, had the biggest hit of the day for the starters, knocking a 3-run double to left center in the third inning. That's the swing I remember from last year . . .

4.) Brock Peterson had the best day amongst the minor leaguers who got in today's game, going 2-for-2 with a homer. Luke Hughes, Erik Lis, Josh Rabe, Matt Tolbert, Dave Gassner, Tim Lahey, and Eduardo Morlan all got into the game as well.

5.) The last bit of intrigue this weekend is whether or not Mike Venafro will accept a minor league assignment to the Red Wings. Despite popular opinion to the contrary, I actually think he will. It all depends on who offers him a job, and I don't think there are going to be great offers out there. He has until tonight to make the decision, so by mid-day tomorrow at the latest we should know what he's decided.

6.) An interesting tidbit from the Pirates announcers today: according to them, the minor league season can't start until 4 days after the first Major League game of the year. I'd never heard this before, but I don't doubt that it's true. Check the schedules out for yourself. You never know what you're going to hear when you tune into a game.

Today's Big Winner: Brock Peterson (way to make an impression!)
Runner-Up: Joe Mauer (nice to see him back in the lineup)

Today's Big Loser: Michael Cuddyer (only 0-for-3 amongst the starters
Runner-Up: Sidney Ponson (wasn't horrid, but not a good way to end the spring)

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Rule 5 Update

The Twins lost two players in the Major League phase of the Rule 5 Draft, and both have passed the first hurdle by making their teams' respective 25-man opening day roster.

Levale Speigner, a right-handed pitcher who was drafted by the Twins in the 14th round of the 2003 draft, spent most of the last two years in AA New Britain, with a small amount of time spent in AAA Rochester. He put up some very solid numbers at the AA level and below, but in his limited time at AAA he hadn't yet put it all together. The Twins probably figured that they could sneak a solid but unremarkable righty like Speigner through the draft (especially since he made it through the previous season without difficulty). Instead, he was drafted by the Washington Nationals, and now has made the team as a long relief/spot starter. It's very likely that he'll stick in Washington unless he's absolutely atrocious -- it's not like there are scads of other players ready to take his roster spot.

Kevin Cameron, meanwhile, is another righty who was drafted by the Twins in the 13th round of the 2001 draft. Cameron has put up better numbers than Speigner, with a career minor league ERA of 2.92 and a 282-125 K-BB ratio. Last year in Rochester, he had a 2.98 ERA in 66.1 innings. The Twins are obviously dealing from a position of strength with relief pitchers, however, and so clearly didn't feel that placing Cameron on the 40-man roster was the best use of resources. The San Diego Padres drafted Cameron, and he has pitched well enough this spring to convince the Padres to give him a spot in the bullpen. Cameron is less likely than Speigner to stay with the team the whole year. The Padres are going to content in the NL West, and if he doesn't pitch well, they'll need to fill that roster spot with someone else.

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Friday, March 30, 2007

Spring Training Report: Game Thirty-One

Second to last game of the spring, and things were looking good until the bottom of the 8th. Pirates pick up the 5-3 win, and the same two teams will meet tomorrow in Ft. Myers to finish things up this spring. Here are today's notes:

1.) Ramon Ortiz had a short but effective final spring outing, going 4 innings and allowing just 1 hit while picking up a strikeout. He's on pace to start the third game of the season, against the Orioles, and by all accounts is ready to go for the season. Nice to see him recover from his last start, when he got knocked around a little.

2.) Matt Guerrier pitched two perfect innings and Juan Rincon contributed a perfect inning of his own, as the Major Leaguers in the bullpen continued solid performances. I'm guessing we'll see Dennys Reyes, Joe Nathan, and possibly Jesse Crain tomorrow for final tuneups.

3.) The only starters in the game today were Jason Bartlett at SS, and arguably Jason Kubel in LF (although he'll be a part-time starter at DH rather than in LF). As a result, it's probably not that surprising that the Twins only picked up 5 hits as a team -- although what may be surprising is that 3 of those 5 hits were contributed by minor leaguers.

4.) David Shinskie and Kyle Waldrop were the two minor league pitchers in today's game, and Shinskie didn't exactly have a great day -- he gave up 5 runs (3 earned) 5 hits in 1/3 of an innings. Ouch. Waldrop replaced Shinskie and pitched a perfect 2/3 of an inning.

5.) Matt Moses (possibly the starting third baseman for the Twins by the end of 2008) and David Winfree started today's game at 3B and 1B respectively. Winfree went 2-for-4 with an RBI, and Moses went 1-for-4 with an RBI. Brandon Roberts, Felix Molina, Josh Rabe, Jose Morales, Trent Oeltjen, Doug Deeds, and Trevor Plouffe all got into the game as replacements.

There were also some good notes from yesterday's Live from Ft. Myers section in yesterday's Strib that I wanted to cover, and this seemed like a good place to do it, so here goes:

6.) Alejandro Machado won't be able to get the necessary service time with the Twins this season in order to shed his Rule 5 status. While a player can stay on the roster all season by being on the disabled list and so not have to be offered back to his original team, that player still needs to be on an active roster for 90 days. The Twins are hoping that Machado recovers from his surgery in enough time to rehab in August and possibly contribute once rosters expand in September. He'll also get a shot next spring to make the team. Incidentally, with Machado out until at least late August, he could be transferred to the 60-day DL at any time if the Twins need to open up a roster spot.

7.) Here's a quote from Francisco Liriano that has to make any Twins fan's heart jump up into your throat: "It feels weird, like it's my first time playing baseball." Oh my . . . let's hope that feeling starts to go away as Liriano rehabs his elbow throughout the summer, and that by the time Spring Training 2008 rolls around, he'll be feeling like he did in, oh, let's say early June of 2006.

Today's Big Winner: Ramon Ortiz (Looks ready to go for April 4)
Runner-Up: David Winfree (Hit .400 in Grapefruit League games this spring)

Today's Big Loser: David Shinskie (Not a good way to make a first impression)
Runner-Up: Jason Kubel (only 0-for-4 on the day for the Twins)

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Thursday, March 29, 2007

Spring Training Report: Game Thirty

The Twins offense ignited tonight, and they picked up a nice 10-2 victory of the Cincinnati Reds. Here are tonight's notes:

1.) I doubt that it's going to hush many of the protesting voices, but Carlos Silva had a great outing today as he finished up his spring, going 5 scoreless innings and allowing just 2 hits while striking out 2. He also got 9 groundball outs to 4 fly ball outs, which indicates that his sinker was working pretty effectively. I'm most definitely NOT saying that this one performance should make everybody forget the rest of the spring, in which Silva was terrible. What I AM saying is that perhaps we should cut the Twins a little bit of slack and see if Rick Anderson (who has been saying that Silva looks great in bullpen sessions, and just isn't translating that into his performances in games) is actually right. The Twins deserve the benefit of the doubt on this, and can fix the problem quickly if/when Silva struggles during the season. I'm also just going to throw this out there -- is it possible that by sending down Garza before Silva made his last start, thus guaranteeing Silva a roster spot, calmed Silva down enough to perform effectively tonight? I have no idea, and I take no position on whether having a pitcher whose performance is so largely determined by mental state would be a good thing or a bad thing. Instead, I just leave it as something to ponder, or to discuss in the comments.

2.) Jesse Crain gave up a monster 2 run homerun tonight, but other than that the relievers looked solid and ready to go. That's especially welcome with Pat Neshek, who was great early in the spring before struggling a bit the last few times out. He walked a guy today, but didn't allow a hit and picked up a strikeout. In other words, he's fine. Joe Nathan was his usual sterling self, and if he doesn't pitch again this spring then he'll wrap up his spring with a 0.00 ERA.

3.) Luis Castillo must have gotten sick of seeing his batting average falling, so he put up a 2-for-3 night tonight to up his batting average to a sick .444. Michael Cuddyer (2-for-5; .364) and Rondell White (2-for-3; .312) also bumped up the averages in today's game.

4.) Chris Heintz made the team today, but didn't play. Josh Rabe got cut, and played anyway -- he went 1-for-1 with a run scored in a pinch hit appearance. Funny how spring training works. Incidentally, if you've been reading that Rabe was optioned to AAA, that's not the case; Rabe is not on the 40-man roster, and was in fact reassigned to minor league camp. He'll officially be joining the Red Wings after minor league camp ends. Had he in fact been optioned, he wouldn't have been eligible to play in any more Grapefruit League games this spring.

5.) A ton of minor leaguers got a chance to play in today's game, and some of them did very well. Jeff Manship pitched a perfect inning of relief, and my favorite sub-AAA player, Erik Lis, picked up a solid pinch hit 2 RBI single. Matt Tolbert (who pinch ran and walked in the game, and managed to score 2 runs), Matt Betsill, Eli Tintor, and Luke Hughes also got into the action. John Gordon and Dan Gladden suggested that the Twins will be taking NINE minor leaguers with them to tomorrow's game against the Pirates, and Matt Moses and David Winfree are expected to be included on the trip.

Today's Big Winner: Carlos Silva (Great boost for the old confidence level)
Runner-Up: Jeff Cirillo (2-for-3 with 2 RBI)

Today's Big Loser: Jesse Crain (Gave up the only 2 runs of the game on a mammoth HR)
Runner-Up: Justin Morneau (Only 0-for-3 on the team today)

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Minor League Transactions

The Twins have made three minor league moves since I last posted. Info is courtesy of Baseball America, as always. Also, I'm a little late with some of this info -- some of it has been out there since February. Nevertheless, I haven't had time to check this stuff out anywhere other than at Baseball America, which doesn't always post things in a timely fashion.

First, Daniel Matienzo (who I listed as #4 in the Twins 1B organizational rankings) was released by the team, clearing the way for Brock Peterson to get the majority of the playing time in New Britain this year. Matienzo, a 23rd round selection back in 2002, has played in New Britain for the last couple of seasons, and his numbers have been moving downwards each year. Last year, Matienzo hit just .252, and he didn't seem to be really solid with the glove, so this move doesn't surprise me that much.

The Twins also signed Liam Hendriks, an 18-year old right-handed pitcher out of Australia who will start his professional career in the Gulf Coast League this June. For a good article on Hendrik's, you can head over to the DTFC Forums, which has a solid write-up on Hendriks and his background.

Finally, the Twins also signed Aussie 1B Tim Atherton, who is currently 17 (unless he just had a birthday). Don't know a lot else about him at this point, but would presume that, like Hendriks, he's not likely to make his debut until June with the GCL Twins -- and if past history is any indication, there's no guarantee that he'll even play this year.

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That Was Quick!

Twins Territory has alerted me that shortly after I posted on Durbin, the Twins officially set their 25-man roster by cutting Josh Rabe, which means that Chris Heintz has indeed made the roster (Marty, you can be happy now -- just ignore the Silva thing). Honestly, this move makes a lot of sense -- Mauer's injury, which will probably result in him DH'ing a fair amount of games early this season, coupled with Heintz's excellent spring and ability to play some 3B if necessary, really made him the logical pick over Josh Rabe. Heintz will likely be with the team until Lew Ford is healthy, when it's likely that he'll be sent down. This could make the early catching situation in Rochester somewhat interesting.

For my thoughts on waiving Durbin, see the post immediately below. Spring training now enters the boring phase for me, as there are no more roster decisions to be made. Can't wait for the season to start on Monday!

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Farewell, Real Deal

The Twins have reportedly waived J.D. Durbin, and Arizona has claimed him. This marks the second time this off-season that the Twins lost a player to a Diamondbacks waiver claim (the last being OF Alex Romero in January). Durbin's departure indicates that the Twins will be carrying just 11 pitchers on the roster at the start of the season, and opens the door for either Chris Heintz (75%) or Josh Rabe (25%) to make the roster.

First things first: anyone who was screaming about Mike Venafro being cut to make room for Durbin should apologize to Twins management. Venafro was cut because the Twins didn't want to keep 12 pitchers around, not because the Twins were planning on taking Durbin north. As much as I wanted Durbin to make the team, the Twins were clearly looking to go in another direction after it was clear that Durbin was going to struggle this spring. I can't even recall how many screeds I read suggesting how stupid management was for cutting Venafro and keeping Durbin -- this is why it's a good idea to pause before you yell.

Next, let me say that I'm sad to see Durbin go. He had (and has) tremendous potential, and I think he still could turn into a serviceable major league ballplayer someday, either as a middle relief guy or a back of the rotation starter. If his arm strength comes back fully, I could even see him becoming a setup guy, and maybe getting a chance to close. I understand why the Twins didn't exactly bend over backwards to keep him, though; there's so much talent in the system that Durbin just wasn't needed anymore. Good bye, J.D.

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Wednesday, March 28, 2007

Spring Training Report: Game Twenty-Nine

Egad . . . the Twins have lost the Mayor's Cup. This is a truly tragic day in Twins fandom. Nevertheless, the show must go on, so here are today's notes:

1.) Santana wasn't too sharp today, giving up 4 ER's on 8 hits and 2 walks. At least he picked up 6 K's, and the change-up looked to be in midseason form. Really, this performance shouldn't worry anybody overly much -- he'll be fine once the season gets going.

2.) The bullpen was pretty solid tonight, with the only run allowed being given up by a minor leaguer (Zach Ward) who was up for the night. Dennys Reyes was spectacular, striking out the side in his inning of work, and Matt Guerrier and Joe Nathan were both solid as well. Of course, nobody should be worrying about the bullpen when there are perfectly legitimate concerns over the starting rotation.

3.) After getting hit in the head earlier this spring, Torii Hunter promised that he would never again start in a night game in Ft. Myers because the lighting is so horrible. He lived up to that promise tonight by staying out of the game.

4.) Felix Molina, Doug Deeds, Brock Peterson, Garrett Guzman, Trevor Plouffe, and Zach Ward all got into the game today while visiting from the minor league camp. Peterson went 2-for-2 with 2 RBI's and a run score (and a TRIPLE!) to have, without a doubt, the best performance of the night amongst the minor leaguers.

5.) Chris Heintz went 1-for-1 and is now hitting .333 this spring. Josh Rabe, his main competition for the 25th roster spot, went 0-for-2 with a K and 2 left on base. It makes more and more sense to keep Heintz on the roster when the Twins break camp, and that decision could come as early as tonight or tomorrow morning.

Today's Big Winner: Brock Peterson (Not bad for a one day call-up)
Runner-Up: Dennys Reyes (3 batters, 3 strikeouts)

Today's Big Loser: Josh Rabe (Didn't help his cause tonight)
Runner-Up: Johan Santana (Sorry guys, but it's true -- he struggled a bit tonight)

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Garza Goes Down

The Twins ended the suspense earlier than I expected them to, sending down Matt Garza this afternoon and anointing Carlos Silva as the fifth starter. I think it's likely that this move was made today rather than after Silva's start tomorrow as a pre-emptive show of faith in Silva's ability to nail it down tomorrow -- at this point, it's all about head games with Carlos. The howls of outrage from Twins Territory will undoubtedly be deafening every time Silva takes the mound, and there's not a lot of hope that his performance on the field is going to lessen the pain.

Nevertheless, I'm going to take one more stab at providing some perspective on this decision. Feel free to gripe in the comments if you don't by my justification. First, Silva is going to be on a short leash. If he is terrible, then the Twins won't keep him around; they don't want to simply cut a guy who is getting paid over $4 million, however, and they want to see him fail in games that count before they finally pull the plug. If Silva starts as the fifth starter, he'll likely make 4 starts in April. The Twins season is not going to be won or lost in four April games -- I realize that every game counts, and that the Twins needed absolutely every game last year to catch and pass the Tigers, but if Matt Garza were starting those games it's not like it would be a sure thing that they'd go 4-0. In other words, if you assume Garza is a better pitcher than Silva and would give the Twins a better chance to win, they'd still only be likely to win 2 or 3 of those games -- and they're likely to win at least 1 of Silva's games now. SO -- for all of you who consider this to be the end of the Twins season, think again. This decision is not going to kill the team. Now, if he's really bad and the Twins keep him beyond April . . . well, then there's more of a cause for complaint.

What's the practical result of today's move? I've become convinced that the Twins aren't going to keep J.D. Durbin around (contrary to my position for most of the spring), and think that this move should make Chris Heintz very happy -- he's now in the driver's seat to win the 25th spot on the roster.

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Tuesday, March 27, 2007

The State of the Roster

With the glut of information regarding the roster that came out today, it seemed appropriate to offer a summary of where we stand regarding the roster at this point -- especially considering that my next post isn't likely to be until sometime after tomorrow night's game against the Red Sox. So here's how the roster situation pans out, as I see it (with some help from the Strib and the Twins website):

1.) The one decision that will impact everything else that happens with the final two roster spots (5th starter and 25th man) is the decision on Carlos Silva. If Silva wins the 5th starter job (ok, forget about winning it . . . if Silva is HANDED the 5th starter job), then things get very interesting, because Matt Garza would be sent down to start the season in AAA, and the Twins would have to decide between J.D. Durbin, Josh Rabe, and Chris Heintz for the last roster spot. If Silva DOESN'T get named the fifth starter, then things get really easy: the Twins will use Garza as the fifth starter, Silva as the 12th man out of the bullpen, waive J.D. Durbin, and send Heintz and Rabe down.

2.) Assuming that Silva wins the 5th starter job, the Twins will then have to decide between Durbin, Rabe, and Heintz. Heintz has had a very solid spring, Rabe a pretty good spring, and Durbin has been horrible. However, the Twins can send Rabe and Heintz down without exposing them to waivers, while Durbin would probably be gone if he doesn't make the team. That means the decision really comes down to: (1) are the Twins willing to carry 12 pitchers, and (2) is Durbin worth keeping around? While I had high hopes for Durbin, and still think there's a chance that he could win the job, I have to confess that I think it makes sense to let him go at this point. Nothing is going to change in the 3 weeks or so until Lew Ford comes back, and the team seems determined to give him another shot at the Major League level, so another crossroads with Durbin would be met at that time. The Twins can't afford to have an essentially dead roster spot if they plan on competing for the AL Central crown. Sadly, then, I have to give in and suggest that Durbin should (and probably will) be waived.

3.) That leaves a decision between Rabe and Heintz if Silva wins the 5th starter job, and the logic behind keeping Heintz seems pretty solid. With Joe Mauer's recent injury scare, the Twins are interested in starting him a bit at DH semi-regularly at the beginning of the season. That means even more games in which Mike Redmond would be the only available catcher, and Gardy doesn't like that. Heintz provides a nice fix, with the bonus of being able to play 3B if needed. Rabe provides a nice boost off the bench, but doesn't fill as much of a need as Heintz does. All things, then, point to Heintz winning a spot on the roster if the Twins keep Silva in the rotation to start the season (which seems fairly likely).

I expect final decisions on the roster to be made sometime on Thursday after Silva's last start of the spring, or on Friday morning after The Powers That Be have a chance to think it over.

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Spring Training Report: Game Twenty-Eight

A Gardenhire was responsible for the Twins win today, but it wasn't Ron -- read on for today's notes on the Twins 4-3 victory of the New York Yankees:

1.) Boof Bonser gave up a couple of solo homeruns today, but overall looked very solid and comfortable against the Yankees. There is still no word on when he's going to next start, but I suspect that the Twins are going to have him open on the second day of the season against the Orioles rather than having him wait until Game 4 against the White Sox. It's just much easier to move Bonser around than to have to move around 3 out of the 5 starters.

2.) Josh Rabe went 1-for-4 and left 4 guys on base today, but still has an excellent shot of making the roster after Mike Venafro and Matt LeCroy were cut this morning (see posts below). Frankly, I wouldn't mind seeing him on the roster -- I'll just be a little sad that J.D. Durbin couldn't pan out.

3.) Toby Gardenhire, Trent Oeltjen, Matt Tolbert, Jose Morales, David Winfree, and Brandon Roberts all got into today's game. Tolbert delivered a solid single to center that scored Jason Tyner to tie the game in the bottom of the ninth, and then scored on a ball up the middle off the bat of Toby Gardenhire that was bobbled by the Yankee 2nd baseman. Nice to see the minor leaguers contributing to a win. By the way, did anyone else think that Tolbert and Gardenhire looked like they were wearing helmets about 4 times too large? They looked like little leaguers, and I wouldn't be surprised if they had trouble seeing out from underneath the helmets . . .

4.) Johan pitches tomorrow in his last tuneup for the spring. I'm looking for him to go 6 solid innings. Carlos Silva is probably in line to start on Thursday so that nobody else has to move around, but he's unlikely to start again until April 8. Ramon Ortiz (Friday) and Sidney Ponson (Saturday) are then likely to start the last two games of the spring.

Today's Big Winner: Matt Tolbert (game tying hit, game winning run)
Runner-Up: Boof Bonser (ready to go)

Today's Big Loser: Justin Morneau (0-3 on a day when no one was that bad)
Runner-Up: Torii Hunter (0-2 with a walk)

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Unofficial Roster Talk

UPDATE: There's a reason this is listed as "Unofficial" roster talk -- turns out it wasn't true, and Buck Martinez is backtracking from the position taken by Gary Thorne during the game. Multiple sources heard Thorne say that Garza was being sent down, but whether he said that or not isn't really the point -- the point is that no decision has yet been made on whether Silva or Garza will get the 5th starter spot, and there is now talk that Garza might be starting on Friday. For the sake of posterity, here's the original post:

If you're watching the Twins on ESPN, you just heard Gary Thorne answer the question that we've been waiting all day to hear: Silva or Garza in the rotation, and in what slot. Thorne said that Ron Gardenhire told him this morning that the Twins want Garza starting everyday, and aren't yet ready to give up on Silva. As a result, Garza either has been or is about to be optioned to AAA, and Carlos Silva will make the team as the fifth starter.

I can't confirm this yet with anything even remotely official (I would consider an article on the Twins website or the Strib, or even a mention of this in La Velle Neal's or Joe Christensen's blogs to be official). Nevertheless, this matches the rumors that have been circulating throughout the morning, and is in line with what I thought would happen.

If this information is accurate, it leaves the 25th roster spot as the last question, with J.D. Durbin and Josh Rabe as the last two guys competing for that spot.

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Major Roster Moves

I slept in this morning (it's spring break around these parts) and woke up to the announcement that some major cuts had been made this morning. While some of them were routine (you mean Brad King wasn't in the running for a roster spot?), some of them were so surprising as to constitute a genuine shock.

First, here's the list courtesy of La Velle E. Neal at the Strib:

Mike Venafro - LHP
Matt LeCroy - DH/1B
Brad King - C
Tommy Watkins - IF
Glenn Williams - 1B/3B

The shocker is, of course, Venafro. With the self-destruction of J.D. Durbin over his last two appearances, and with Venafro's 0.00 ERA, it looked like a pretty sure bet that the Twins were going to go with Venafro as the 12th guy on the pitching staff. On the positive side, Venafro likes the organization and seems at least to be considering the possibility of accepting an assignment in Rochester rather than electing free agency as Randy Choate did. While he probably wouldn't have a hard time hooking on with another team, at this point in the spring it would probably be a pretty bad team. Venafro might prefer going to Rochester and staying in the Twins organization in hopes that a spot opens up later in the season, allowing him to pitch for a contender. We'll find out fairly soon.

Matt LeCroy looked terrible for most of the spring, and he really shouldn't have been in camp as long as he was. About 2 weeks in it was clear that he just doesn't have the bat speed to be an effective major league hitter any longer. I suggested when the Twins signed him that this might be the prelude to a retirement (and possibly a career coaching) -- it will be interesting to see whether the Twins offer him a minor league roster spot, or if LeCroy does indeed hang 'em up.

King, Watkins, and Williams were all pretty much just filling spots on the roster. None had a legitimate chance of making the team (although at one point fairly early in the spring I had suggested that Watkins might be a better choice than Luis Rodriguez for the backup middle infielder spot -- Tommy proved me very wrong on that one).

By my count, this leaves Matt Garza, Chris Heintz, and Josh Rabe in camp on the outside looking in, assuming that Carlos Silva gets the 5th starter slot and J.D. Durbin gets the 25th roster spot. Garza and Rabe could still easily end up slotting in. Incidentally, if anyone knows who the 29th guy in camp is, please let me know . . . my count has been one off from the major media count for most of the spring.

Who's going to get that last spot? Honestly, I still think it's J.D. Durbin. La Velle says there is no way that it's going to be J.D., and that because Durbin has pitched so poorly this spring he might even clear waivers. I have to respectfully disagree. Durbin is a notoriously slow starter, and I imagine there are still a fair number of executives who think he could be helpful down the road. You can't tell me the Washington Nationals or Kansas City Royals couldn't find a place for him somewhere. The Twins basically are down to choosing between Durbin or Rabe, and I think they'll take Durbin and give him until Lew Ford gets healthy to increase his value, and then try to spin him off in a trade.

The other alternative, which I think is very bad, would be to have both Matt Garza and Carlos Silva on the team, one as the 5th starter and one as the 12th pitcher. This makes no sense to me, even if Garza were the one starting. Garza needs to be starting, either at the Major or Minor league levels. Considering how the Twins handled the Alexi Casilla situation, I think they understand that . . . then again, they did keep Francisco Liriano around last year in a very similar situation to be used out of the bullpen. At the time, however, there were no other lefties in the 'pen, so the situation was a bit different.

The roster should be set soon, and it will be interesting to see which direction the Twins decide to go.

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Monday, March 26, 2007

The Starting Rotation

I'm writing this at 2 o'clock Mountain Time, just after the completion of the Twins loss to the Orioles and before anything has been posted on the Strib or the Twins website about who is going to start tomorrow. While Boof Bonser is in line to get that start, that might not happen. Here are my thoughts on the two most likely ways that the Twins could set up the rotation for the start of the season.

Option #1: Santana, Ortiz, Ponson, Bonser, Silva/Garza
This is a slightly convoluted option, but may end up being the one the Twins go with. Ramon Ortiz has (with one notable exception) been pretty this spring, and will be in either the second or third spot when the season starts. He's currently slotted into the 3rd spot, meaning that in order to get him into the #2 spot he would have to make a start on just 3 days rest. The best way to do that would be to have him start on Thursday, one day before his next scheduled start, so that he could pitch the second game of the season on full rest.

Ponson just pitched today, so in order to slot him into the third spot he, like Ortiz, would have to go on just 3 days rest for his last spring start, and would be asked to go on Friday. That would allow him to start against the Orioles in the third game of the year on full rest.

If Boof is asked to start in the fourth spot, he could start tomorrow and then either start in the last spring game on Saturday (on 3 days rest), or not get another start this spring after tomorrow. Having him in the fourth spot would allow him to start against the White Sox in the Twins road opener, and I would mind that much.

In this scenario, the Twins would probably bring a minor leaguer into camp to start tomorrow's game, and then rely on relievers to go about 5-6 innings.

Option #2: Santana, Bonser, Ortiz, Ponson, Silva/Garza
This option would also leave the Twins without a logical starter for tomorrow, because Boof Bonser would have his start pushed back two days to start on Thursday, which would slot him in to start the second game of the season. Ramon Ortiz would pitch on Friday, where he's already scheduled, and Sidney Ponson would start on Saturday, where he's already scheduled. As a result, this option really just means that the Twins would have to find a starter for tomorrow and then skip Silva's spot through the rest of Spring Training. It's probably the easiest to implement, and matches Ron Gardenhire's thoughts on where Bonser deserves to be. Under this scenario, Santana, Bonser, and Ortiz would pitch against the Orioles, and Ponson, Santana, and Bonser would go against the White Sox. Ortiz, Silva, and Ponson would then go against the Yankees (a rather scary thought).

If Bonser starts tomorrow, as he's currently scheduled to do, then things become more difficult, although the Twins could still have Bonser start in the second game of the season (albeit on about 7 days rest).

I'm not sure which option I prefer, but as I see it, we'll see one of these two setups when the Twins start the season. We should know which one the Twins choose in the next few hours.

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Spring Training Report: Game Twenty-Seven

There was a little bit of good and a little bit of bad in today's 5-3 loss to the Orioles. Here are today's notes:

1.) The most encouraging thing by far to come out of today's game was the performance of Sidney Ponson. Considering the horrid performances by Carlos Silva and Ramon Ortiz over the last couple of days, the Twins needed Ponson to pitch well in order to alleviate some concerns over the rotation. He responded by going 6 innings and allowing just 5 hits (and no walks) while striking out 3. There were a few troublesome things -- he gave up a couple of booming doubles deep in the outfield -- but the fact is he was mostly effective and looks to be in surprisingly good shape for the start of the season, considering that before today he had pitched just 10 innings this spring in Grapefruit League games. If there was any question about whether Ponson would make the rotation coming into today (and really, I don't think there was), it was settled today. The only question left is when he'll get his first start, and in my book that should come on Wednesday against the Orioles.

2.) The bad news today came from the performance of J.D. Durbin, who pitched an inning of relief and got absolutely hammered, giving up 4 ER's on 5 hits and a walk. That's two poor performances in a row, and his Spring ERA is now at 12.38. I still think he's in the running for a roster spot because the Twins don't want to lose him, but it's clear that he wouldn't be adding much to the team. I hate to say this, but it's looking more and more like this will be a repeat of the Michael Restovich situation of a couple of year's ago, where the Twins were forced to give up a promising young player because he was out of options. Just to rub some salt in the wound, Mike Venafro came in and had another solid inning of work today. The contrast couldn't have been more striking.

3.) Josh Rabe didn't help his argument that he deserves to win the 25th spot on the Twins roster today -- he went 0-for-4 as the starting left fielder. Matt LeCroy didn't play in the game.

4.) Luis Rodriguez has quietly turned his spring around a little bit, and with today's single (in his only at-bat) he's now hitting .275. He may not be fast, he may not be a natural shortstop, and he may not be a very good bunter -- but he's going to win a roster spot typically calling for all three of those skills by default.

5.) David Winfree and Doug Deeds were with the Twins today rather than in minor league camp, and both contributed to the cause, with Deeds hitting an RBI single and Winfree getting an RBI on a sac fly.

Today's Big Winner: Sidney Ponson (surprisingly, looks ready for the season to start)
Runner-Up: Mike Venafro (may have won a job today)

Today's Big Loser: J.D. Durbin (may have lost a job today)
Runner-Up: Josh Rabe (Did himself no favors with an 0-4 day)

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Sunday, March 25, 2007

Marty's Podcast

I'll be on Marty's podcast tonight at 7 pm Central time. The show will be live, and you can call in to talk to Marty and me (and the guys from Right Handed Heat, presumably). I'm not sure what specific topics he wants to cover, but I'm guessing the topics will include a rather angry Marty talking about Glen Perkins being sent down yesterday, and the mess that is Carlos Silva. Should be an interesting evening.


Spring Training Report: Game Twenty-Six

All of a sudden, the Twins can't buy a win . . . or a good performance by a starting pitcher. Here are the notes on today's 10-2 loss to the Phillies in Clearwater:

1.) Ramon Ortiz finally had the kind of outing that many Twins fans have been expecting him to have . . . in other words, not good. He went 4.1 innings, giving up 6 ER's on 9 hits. On the plus side, he didn't walk anybody and he struck out 5. This isn't what the Twins were hoping to see, however, with Carlos Silva self-destructing and Sidney Ponson yet to have a very good outing in a Grapefruit League game. Ortiz is safe, but let's hope his last start of the Spring is better than this one.

2.) Matt Garza knew coming into today's game that he was going to relieve Ramon Ortiz, and that a good outing could put him in the driver's seat for Carlos Silva's spot in the rotation. He was solid today, but probably not solid enough to win the job unless Silva is terrible in his last spring start on Thursday. Garza went 3 innings, giving up 1 ER on 4 hits and a walk. Three perfect innings might well have won him the job; today's performance just keeps him in line in case Carlos struggles.

3.) Rondell White hit a solo shot in the 2nd inning, and Luis Castillo (!) hit one in the 3rd. That was, sadly, the extent of the Twins runs, as hits in general were hard to come by today.

4.) Luis Rodriguez got a chance to start at short today with Jason Bartlett hurting. So far, I haven't heard any major complaints about his performance there, so that should make the Twins feel a little more comfortable about the idea of taking him north as the backup middle infielder.

5.) The Josh Rabe v. Matt LeCroy throwdown for position players who could make the roster out of camp continued today, with Rabe going 1-for-3 and LeCroy going 0-for-1 in a pinch hitting appearance. Rabe seems to have passed LeCroy in that regard, but I still expect Mike Venafro or J.D. Durbin to win the 25th roster spot.

6.) Steve Tolleson, Matt Tolbert, Brandon Roberts, Trent Oeltjen, Gil Velazquez, and Jose Morales all got a chance to travel with the big squad rather than spend the day in minor league camp. Trent Oeltjen went 1-for-2, the only minor leaguer to get a hit in today's game.

Today's Big Winner: Matt Garza (stayin' alive)
Runner-Up: Rondell White (1-for-2 with a nice homerun)

Today's Big Loser: Ramon Ortiz (maybe turning into a pumpkin?)
Runner-Up: Matt LeCroy (running out of time to impress)

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Spring Roster Update #6

We're down to the final week of spring training, so this is the penultimate roster update. Next Sunday I should be able to post a final version that has the complete 25-man roster, and I'll look back and see how I did with my projections from the earliest roster update at that time. As before, players listed in black are projected to make the opening day roster. Players who still have a chance to get on the roster will be listed in blue beneath the roster spot that they could win, and players who frankly shouldn't be in camp anymore because they have no shot of winning a spot will be listed in red. Movement from last week's roster update will be indicated with a "+" (for moving up), a "-" (for moving down), or an "=" (for staying put).

My standard disclaimer applies: these are not necessarily the 25 players who I would put on the roster to start the season, but are rather the guys who I think are most likely to make the roster. Comments on player movement are below the list of players.


Starting Pitcher - 1 - Johan Santana (=)
Starting Pitcher - 2 - Ramon Ortiz (=)
Starting Pitcher - 3 - Sidney Ponson (+)
Starting Pitcher - 4 - Boof Bonser (=)
Starting Pitcher - 5 - Carlos Silva (-)
Matt Garza (=)
Closer - 6 - Joe Nathan (=)
Setup - 7 - Juan Rincon (=)
Bullpen - 8 - Pat Neshek (=)
Bullpen - 9 - Dennys Reyes (=)
Bullpen - 10 - Jesse Crain (=)
Bullpen - 11 - Matt Guerrier (=)

Catcher - 12 - Joe Mauer (=)
First Base - 13 - Justin Morneau (=)
Second Base - 14 - Luis Castillo (=)
Third Base - 15 - Nick Punto (=)
Shortstop - 16 - Jason Bartlett (=)
Left Field - 17 - Rondell White (=)
Center Field - 18 - Torii Hunter (=)
Right Field - 19 - Michael Cuddyer (=)
Designated Hitter - 20 - Jason Kubel (=)
Backup Catcher - 21 - Mike Redmond (=)
Chris Heintz (=)
Brad King (=)
Corner Infielder - 22 - Jeff Cirillo (=)
Glenn Williams (=)
Middle Infielder - 23 - Luis Rodriguez (+)
Tommy Watkins (=)
Backup Outfielder - 24 - Jason Tyner (=)

Mis. Reserve - 25 - J.D. Durbin (=)
Mike Venafro (=)
Josh Rabe (+)
Matt LeCroy (-)

Lew Ford (Injury)
Ken Harvey (Injury)
Gil Velazquez (Minor League Camp)
Korey Feiner (Minor League Camp)
Jeff Christy (Minor League Camp)
Jose Morales (Minor League Camp)
Jose Mijares (Optioned to AA)
Tristan Crawford (Minor League Camp)
Julio DePaula (Optioned to AAA)
Ricky Barrett (Optioned to AAA)
Brad Voyles (Minor League Camp)
Errol Simonitsch (Optioned to AAA)
Alexander Smit (Optioned to High A)
Oswaldo Sosa (Optioned to AA)
Glen Perkins (Optioned to AAA)
Scott Baker (Optioned to AAA)
Jeremy Cummings (Minor League Camp)
Kevin Slowey (Optioned to AAA)
Alejandro Machado (Injured)
Alexi Casilla (Optioned to AAA)
Denard Span (Optioned to AAA)
Garrett Jones (Optioned to AAA)
Randy Choate (Elected Free Agency)
Carmen Cali (Minor League Camp)
Jason Miller (Minor League Camp)

The starting pitching situation is a mess, largely thanks to the complete egg laid by Carlos Silva yesterday against the Pirates. The Twins had been setting him up to be the #2 starter in the rotation, not because they thought he was the second best starter on the team but because they wanted to keep him separated from Sidney Ponson since both are sinkerballers. I still think he's going to make the rotation, but I think he's going to start out as the fifth starter, and the Twins are going to skip him whenever possible. It's very plausible that he won't be a Twin past mid-May if not before. Ron Gardenhire said yesterday that Boof Bonser deserved to be the Twins #2 starter, and I agree -- unfortunately, the "Boof is fifth" plan put into effect about a week ago will make it difficult to get him into line to start second. He can stay on perfect rest and be the #4 starter, and that would put him in position to start the first game of the White Sox series, which I'd be fine with. I think it makes too much sense not to do. That would mean Ramon Ortiz would slot in the #2 position, and Sidney Ponson in the #3. Matt Garza is the last man standing on the outside and looking in -- and if Carlos struggles again in the middle of this week, he could very well find himself on the opening day roster.

The bullpen once again has no question marks.

The starting position players and backup catcher, corner infield and outfield spots have once again not changed.

The backup middle infield position has fallen to Luis Rodriguez virtually by default thanks to Alejandro Machado's injury. Machado has been placed on the 15-day DL, and the last man standing to challenge Rodriguez is Tommy Watkins -- who is hitting somewhere in the neighborhood of .087.

Finally, there's that mysterious 25th roster spot. Mike Venafro continues to put up solid numbers while J.D. Durbin struggled a bit this week. Nevertheless, I'm still predicting that Durbin will get the nod when the season starts as the Twins try to figure out what to do with him. Whether Durbin or Venafro makes the team, another decision will have to be made as soon as Lew Ford is recovered from his knee surgery, because the Twins seemingly want him on the roster. Josh Rabe has moved ahead of Matt LeCroy in my book in terms of position players who could get that spot, but both of the pitchers just mentioned are more likely to make the team than either Rabe or Matt LeCroy who is probably on his way to being released by the team.

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Saturday, March 24, 2007

Perkins Cut

In the first genuine surprise of the spring, the Twins this afternoon cut Glen Perkins, according to Joe Christensen. He doesn't mention this, but that should mean that he was optioned to AAA. While I expected this to be the eventual result of the spring battle, I'm surprised at the timing. Ron Gardenhire made it clear after today's game and Silva's horrible performance that Carlos' spot in the rotation is by no means secure. This move means that Matt Garza is now the last man standing in the battle for a young gun (excepting Boof Bonser) to make the rotation.

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Spring Training Report: Game Twenty-Five

Oh my. That wasn't very pretty at all. Twins lose, 13-7, and I imagine there are a few rather concerned coaches wondering about what the next move is. Here are today's notes:

1.) Well, what is there to say about Carlos Silva's performance? It started with a monster homerun given up to Brad Eldred (and what's with Dan Gladden's pushing for the Twins to trade for Eldred at every opportunity? It was strange), and just got worse from there. His line: 3.1 innings, 9 ER's, 11 hits, 2 K's. At least he didn't walk anyone. I was really hoping that Carlos would put it together in time for the start of the season, but it doesn't look like that's going to happen. He should have one more start this spring, on Thursday. If he struggles in that game as well, the Twins will at least have to consider not taking him north. I was in favor of picking up his option, I've been pulling for him all spring, but man is that position becoming harder and harder to support. I still think the Twins will give him a shot in April -- but the temptation to take Perkins or Garza north instead of Silva has to be tremendous.

2.) Speaking of Glen Perkins, he followed up his last, very poor, outing with a reasonable performance today. He gave up an early 2 run homer (although one of those runs was charged to Silva), and then buckled down to go 2.2 innings without allowing another hit and striking out three. It wasn't a definitive statement, but it was a pretty solid performance that should keep him in consideration in case the Twins decide they just can't go with Silva and/or Ponson.

3.) Mike Venafro had another shutout inning today, although he gave up a hit and walked two. It's going to be hard to deny him a spot on the roster should the Twins decide to go with 12 pitchers. But is there really an appetite amongst Twins execs to lose J.D. Durbin? Incidentally, if Venafro makes the team, he'll take Durbin's place on the 40-man roster, because Durbin would have been placed on waivers.

4.) Scary situation with Jason Bartlett being hit on the hand by a sharp line drive, but according to everyone involved in the situation, he should be fine and ready to play very quickly. This does mean, however, that 3 out of 8 starting position players are injured at the moment, and while all are expected to be ready by the start of the season, I bet the Twins would rather not be dealing with the injuries at all.

5.) Felix Molina, Trevor Plouffe, Doug Deeds, and Anthony Swarzak all got a chance to come over from the minor league camp and play in today's game. Swarzak's inning of work (in which he allowed only a walk) was the best performance by the minor leaguers.

6.) The last week of spring training begins tomorrow, and the Twins have 7 games left on the schedule this spring. That should mean the last starts go in the regular rotation order: Sun @ Philadelphia (Ramon Ortiz), Mon vs. Baltimore (Sidney Ponson), Tue vs. New York Yankees (Boof Bonser), Wed vs. Boston (Johan Santana), Thu @ Cincinnati (Carlos Silva), Fri @ Pittsburgh (Ramon Ortiz), Sat vs. Pittsburgh (Sidney Ponson).

Today's Big Winner: Torii Hunter (2-3, run scored)
Runner-Up: Michael Cuddyer (2-3, run scored)

Today's Big Loser: Carlos Silva (worst performance of the spring for anyone)
Runner-Up: Jesse Crain (1 inning, 2 runs, 4 hits and a walk)

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An Update on Organizational Rankings

Early this month, I completed my first set of organizational rankings. This post is to let you know how the organizational rankings will be used by me to track roster changes over the course of the season.

First, I have no intention of updating the actual ranking within each position, or of moving a player from one list to another in the middle of the season. So, for example, a player used primarily as a reliever last year who is primarily starting this season will remain on the reliever list until I update the rankings next February. I thought about doing a mid-season ranking update, and I might still change my mind on this, but for now I'm planning on leaving the rankings themselves in place until next season.

I will, however, be making some changes to the posts. For one thing, players who are released or otherwise removed from the organization will not be removed from the ranking, but their entry will be in red and the fact that they've been released will be indicated next to their name. Also, as players are assigned to minor league teams, I'll be updating the information next to their name to reflect that fact. Players who are signed or otherwise acquired by the Twins will be added to the appropriate ranking page at the bottom of the list.

The organizational rankings can be find at the bottom of the right sidebar. I encourage anyone to leave comments on the rankings themselves, and to let me know if I've left anyone off the list who should have been included, or if I've messed up biographical information on a player.


Bye Bye Randy & DL News

Randy Choate had a terrible spring for the Twins, but rather than accept an assignment in the minor leagues, he's elected for free agency (which as a veteran player he had a right to do), reports Joe Christensen this morning. This means that Choate becomes the first player acquired over the winter to say goodbye to the Twins for good, and I doubt he'll be the last over the next week as rosters shake out.

Normally, if a player struggles as badly as Choate did, it would make sense to take a minor league assignment rather than elect for free agency, simply because teams aren't likely to be knocking your door down to get to you if you didn't prove yourself in the spring. Choate's situation was a little different, however, and I think he made the right decision. First off, I'm not convinced that the Twins would have actually assigned Choate to a minor league team. They have a lot of lefty relievers who are already slated to pitch in Rochester, and Choate doesn't make sense anywhere else. I think he was being kept around for insurance purposes in case a spot opened up, but when push came to shove in a week, I think he would have been released. Second, it's no secret that the Twins have a pretty darned good bullpen. Choate wasn't going to find himself in a position where the Twins were restructuring the 'pen in a month. Instead, he would have needed to hope for an injury, and specifically an injury to Dennys Reyes. If Mike Venafro doesn't make the team, then Choate would have been even less likely to make it to the majors. It just didn't make sense for him to hang around.

I wish him luck at latching on with a team that's more likely to need his services -- I hear the Red Sox could use some help in the bullpen . . .

Finally, the Twins made three completely expected roster moves this morning, placing Lew Ford and Alejandro Machado on the 15-Day DL and Francisco Liriano on the 60-Day DL. Because you can place a player on the DL retroactive to the last time that player played in a game, Lew Ford is already eligible to come off of the DL -- as soon as he's healthy, in other words, the Twins would have the option of activating him. Machado also hasn't played in an official game this spring, so I suspect the same applies to him; however, Machado is more likely to be placed on the 60-Day DL after he undergoes surgery for his torn labrum and the Twins are more certain about how long he'll be out.

As a practical matter, today's moves mean that the Twins now have an opening on the 40-man roster, just waiting to be filled by either Sidney Ponson or Mike Venafro.

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Friday, March 23, 2007

Spring Training Report: Game Twenty-Four

Another day, another one-run loss. The Twins put up four runs in the first inning but couldn't make it stand. Here are today's notes:

1.) Johan Santana went 5 innings today, giving up 2 runs on 4 hits and 2 walks while striking out 5. It's not a great line, but it also isn't terrible, and Johan seems to be in very good shape as he prepares to start the season. He should have one start left, on Wednesday, and I would expect the Twins to try to get 6 innings out of him if possible. If they can, he'll be in great shape to start the season as far as his arm strength is concerned.

2.) J.D. Durbin didn't do himself any favors today, going 2 innings and giving up 3 runs on 5 hits while walking 2 and striking out 3. That leaves him with a spring ERA of 9.00, which looks particularly gaudy when compared to the 0.00 ERA put up by Mike Venafro. Spring numbers will be a part of the decision on who to keep on the roster, but only a part: as I've said all spring, the Twins are going to make this decision based on whether or not they feel J.D. Durbin has a future with the team. If they think he does, they are going to keep him on the roster over Venafro despite what he's done this spring. If not, Venafro will make the team. Honestly, it could go either way.

3.) Torii Hunter hit his 3rd Homerun of the spring today, but otherwise it wasn't a particularly memorable day for most of the hitters who got into the game. Luis Castillo's recent hot streak was snapped, as he went 0-for-3 to drop his average to .486 (how often do you get to say "drop your average to .486?). Brad King also got a couple of at-bats, and still couldn't come up with a hit. He gets on base a lot by getting hit or drawing walks, but it would be nice to see him start swinging the bat a little better in general. Matt LeCroy, meanwhile, followed up his good day yesterday with an 0-1 pinch hitting performance today. Josh Rabe also went 0-1 with a K.

4.) Matt Moses was given another chance to get into a Major League spring training game today, and he went 0-1 with a walk. Nice experience for him, and we should be seeing more of him next spring.

5.) Today's shortstops? How about Jeff Cirillo to start things off, and Luis Rodriguez following. Who would have thought at the start of the spring that those two names would show up in the box score at short? My, how things change . . .

Today's Big Winner: Torii Hunter (1-3, 2 RBI's, HR)
Runner-Up: Justin Morneau (1-3, 2 RBI's)

Today's Big Loser: J.D. Durbin (Gave Mike Venafro fans a better argument)
Runner-Up: Luis Castillo (no other options; only guy to go 0-for-3 today)

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Morning Cuts

Joe Christensen reports that the Twins cut Scott Baker, Alexi Casilla, and Garrett Jones this morning. All of them were optioned to AAA, where they will get a chance to develop further. Alexi Casilla will be with the Twins in some capacity this year, although it probably won't be until September when roster's expand. Jones and Baker are, in my opinion, unlikely to see action with the Twins this year.

The only move here that could be called even remotely surprising would be sending Casilla down, who some folks thought should make the team out of spring training as a backup. I think this was certainly the best move, because he needs to play every day.

Baker and Jones are both in an interesting position, as the Twins just used up their last options. That means that this is a year in which they need to establish themselves, or they'll likely end up somewhere else. I'll be watching intently this season to see how they perform, and whether they can put themselves into a position to make the team next season in some capacity.

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Jeff Straub's Podcast

For the first time in several months, I taped a segment for Jeff Straub's podcast yesterday. He got it up this morning, so meander on over and listen if you get the chance. Jeff and I discussed the Mauer injury, the stadium situation, and went around the horn a little bit with the players. Thanks to Jeff for having me on again.


Thursday, March 22, 2007

Spring Training Report: Game Twenty-Three

Twins almost swiped a win in St. Petersburg against the Devil Rays today, but couldn't quite pull it out, losing 6-5 in 10 innings. Here are tonight's notes:

1.) Boof Bonser was solid if unspectacular tonight, going 4 innings and and giving up 2 ER's on 5 hits and 2 walks while striking out 5. That's more than sufficient to keep him in line to make the rotation (and there never should have been any question about that). Scott Baker also got a chance to pitch tonight, but was only allowed to go 1 inning. While he did fine, giving up just 1 hit and 1 walk while striking out 2, the fact that he only went 1 inning makes it very clear that he is not going to make the Twins rotation. In fact, it might be tough for him to build up the arm strength necessary to pitch more than 4 or 5 innings in his starts for Rochester when the season starts.

2.) Mike Venafro got another solid inning of work in tonight, giving up just 1 hit. I've made it quite clear that my preference is for the Twins to keep J.D. Durbin on the roster, and I'm going to reiterate that position here shortly. However, the Twins appear to still be undecided; I can't think of any other reason to send Randy Choate to the minor league camp. I assume the Twins are thinking that if Venafro makes the team, there will be an opening for Choate in Rochester, so why not keep him around and see what happens? While the Twins might be hesitating on Durbin, I wouldn't be. First, he's worth more long term than Venafro is for the Twins. Durbin could still turn into a solid player down the road for the Twins, while Venafro seems like more of a one year rental. Further, with the Twins starting rotation, having a guy like Durbin who could go 3 or 4 innings as needed is an advantage. Matt Guerrier can do a bit of that, but it would be nice to have another option. We'll see what the Twins end up deciding, but I legitimately think this is up in the air at this point.

3.) I always report when he has a bad day, so equal time tonight for Matt LeCroy, who went 2-for-4 and didn't strike out. Maybe if it had been against a team other than Tampa, I'd be more impressed . . .

4.) Josh Rabe is doing his darndest to force his way into the 25th man competition, going 2-for-5 tonight. I was mystified when the Twins took Rabe off the 40-man roster, and think he has a future at the Major League level. However, as I mentioned above I prefer to keep Durbin on the roster to avoid losing him. There are no such concerns with Rabe. By the end of the year, though, I would be very surprised if he weren't back on the 40-man roster.

5.) Trent Oeltjen, Doug Deeds, Matt Tolbert, Yohan Pino, and Angel Garcia all got into the game today. At this point in the Spring, it's not unusual for traveling teams to be filled out with minor leaguers so that the big names don't have to take the bus trip. Pino did the best, pitching a perfect inning of relief. Garcia was the worst, taking the loss in the 10th inning after giving up 2 runs and not recording an out.

Today's Big Winner: Josh Rabe (2-for-5; making a case for being on the roster)
Runner-Up: Matt LeCroy (2-for-4; trying to show he can still play)

Today's Big Loser: Angel Garcia (this isn't really fair . . . he isn't even officially in camp)
Runner-Up: Mike Redmond (0-3 with a K; .167 for the spring)

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Joe Mauer

UPDATE: La Velle Neal is suggesting that the Twins believe that Mauer will be able to get back into the lineup by next week, and should be in the lineup for opening day. This is great news (so long as it holds up), and indicates that the injury was closer to a bone bruise or bone sprain than anything more serious. Good job by Mauer of alerting the training staff immediately. For posterity sake, I'll leave the original post up so you can see my initial thoughts on this injury.

Original Post

La Velle E. Neal of the Star Tribune is reporting that Joe Mauer has been diagnosed with a "stress reaction" in his left fibula. He is set to be re-evaluated on Sunday, and will be treated with a bone stimulator and physical therapy. So, what exactly is a stress reaction, and what is the significance of the injury? Keep in mind that I'm no doctor, and that any information I have is sheer speculation aided by some light google research.

For starters, stress reactions are a kind of bone injury that fall somewhere between bone strains (which are usually non-painful) and stress fractures (which are quite painful). Untreated, stress reactions will develop into stress fractures. The most important method of treatment for someone with a stress reaction of the fibula would be to keep that person off of his leg to allow it time to heal. The fact that this injury was caught fairly early, before it developed into a stress fracture, is significant.

Every bone injury is different, so there is no way to know how long Mauer will miss while this heals. However, because of the nature of the injury, the Twins will need to be very careful and be certain that the injury has healed before they allow him to return to his catching duties. Something he's been doing has been putting undue strain on the fibula, resulting in the stress reaction. Typically, these kinds of leg injuries are the result of running on hard ground with insufficient padding in the shoes. However, I imagine there are a number of people out there who are wondering if catching could be partly to blame. If so, the cries of people like my friend Marty Andrade, who has been calling for Mauer to move to third base for some time, may be more likely to be heard.

So how long will Mauer miss? It's impossible to tell, really, but there are some possible indications available. Actual stress fractures can take anywhere from 4-12 weeks to heal properly, so I think it's safe to say that 6 weeks is an absolute outside bound for Mauer's injury, since he has the less severe stress reaction. At the worst, then, we could probably expect to see Mauer miss all of April, and possibly be asked to rehab for a week or so to get back in the groove before returning sometime in early May.

But could he be back sooner? That depends on how bad the injury really is. Once again, these kinds of injuries lie on a continuum between mere bone bruises or bone sprains, which typically heal relatively quickly and probably wouldn't keep a player out for more than a week, to the very serious stress fractures, which take up to 12 weeks to heal. If Mauer's injury is closer to a bone bruise or bone sprain, then we could be talking just 2 or 3 weeks that he'd be out.

Bottom Line: I expect Mauer to miss the start of the season, being out for at least the first two weeks. And frankly, I want the Twins to be as cautious with him as possible. Take a month if you have to, just get him healthy before he returns. And if smart people in white coats tell you that this was caused by squatting down to catch (which may or may not even be possible, so let's not jump the gun here) . . . consider buying him a third baseman's glove. It also means that Mike Redmond will be getting the bulk of the catching duties at the start of the season, and that Chris Heintz is very likely to make the big league club as Redmond's early season backup.

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Wednesday, March 21, 2007

Randy Choate Cut

It's been coming for awhile, but the Twins today officially cut Randy Choate, sending him to minor league camp. To be frank, I'm somewhat surprised that Choate wasn't cut outright. There's already a bit of a crunch for roster space in Rochester's bullpen, and Choate hasn't shown enough in camp to justify keeping him around. I still would be surprised if the Red Wings started off the season with Choate on the roster, but maybe the Twins are thinking about this differently than I am.

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Spring Training Report: Game Twenty-Two

The Twins must have decided that losing yesterday wasn't fun. They won today's game against the Reds 5-3 to keep their recent hot streak alive and well. Here are today's notes:

1.) Sidney Ponson's final line wasn't that good - 3 runs, 7 hits, a walk and a strikeout in 4 innings. Objectively, that doesn't look like a very good outing -- but the Twins website suggests that Ponson is "rounding into early-season form," and pitched better than the stats would indicate. His sinker also is seemingly working well. Matt Garza relieved him with a 3 inning, 1 hit performance that probably puts him right back in line with Glen Perkins as the first alternate, and if Ponson struggles again in his next start there is at least a possibility that one of the young guns could still make the rotation.

2.) Luis Castillo: 3-4, .529 batting average this spring. Matt LeCroy: 0-1 with a K, .212 batting average this spring. One is ready for the season to start, and another is . . . well . . . not.

3.) I'm expecting the Twins to make some tough decisions in the next couple of days and cut some more players. Alexi Casilla should be sent down if the Twins honestly have no intention of keeping him at the Major League level. Give those at-bats to Luis Rodriguez, who seems poised to make the roster. Randy Choate should also be let go. And honestly, why is Scott Baker still in Major League camp? Who is that benefiting? Some of the most difficult decisions -- who to keep between J.D. Durbin, Mike Venafro, Josh Rabe, Matt LeCroy, et al -- likely won't be made until the final weekend; that doesn't mean that other players who have no shot should be kept around for little reason.

4.) In case you were wondering, there are no significant difficulties with the 40-man roster heading into the start of the season. The roster currently stands at 40 players, with the Twins needing to add Sidney Ponson, Mike Venafro, Matt LeCroy, or Josh Rabe if any of them make the team. The Twins will have one easy fix, however: Francisco Liriano will soon be placed on the 60-Day Disabled List, which means that he won't count against the limit of 40 players. Sidney Ponson is almost certain to be placed on the roster to fill the opening. If the Twins wanted to carry Venafro, LeCroy, or Rabe in addition to Ponson, however, they would have to clear space. Since J.D. Durbin would be left off the roster if any of those three were added, there would be another opening for one of these players to fill. Another opening might show up if the Twins decide not to rehab Alejandro Machado and return him to Washington, but it's hard to see any scenario in which the Twins would need to add 3 players to the roster before the start of the season.

Today's Big Winner: Michael Cuddyer (3-for-3; 2 R, 3 RBI, HR - .378 this spring)
Runner-Up: Matt Garza (Could still win a spot in the rotation)

Today's Big Loser: Sidney Ponson (Not a good outing, and not on solid ground)
Runner-Up: Matt LeCroy (three straight strikeouts over 2 games - the bat looks really slow)

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Tuesday, March 20, 2007

Spring Training Report: Game Twenty-One

I hope you all had a chance to watch the game tonight. It wasn't great early, but there was so much good information and so many interesting things going on that it was a great introduction to where the Twins are at right now, and perfectly set up the last week and a half of Spring. Here are tonight's notes:

1.) I'm going to crow a little bit about the Twins stadium situation, which I've been saying for the last month or more wasn't going to be a problem. There was simply too much at stake for the impasse not to be resolved, and Jerry Bell suggested tonight that it has been taken care of and the Twins are moving forward. Honestly, I considered this a non-story from the moment I read it (which explains why I've barely mentioned it on the blog) - bumps in the road happen all the time with major projects, and they rarely cause the project to collapse. This was that kind of situation, and thankfully we shouldn't have to hear much more about it.

2.) Glen Perkins presumably had one last shot tonight to demonstrate to the Twins that he didn't just deserve a spot in the rotation, but simply could not be left off the roster. To do that, he would have needed to blow away the Red Sox, and THEN he would have had to hope that Sidney Ponson struggled tomorrow. That's now a moot point, however, as Perkins just never got it together and gave up 4 runs on 4 hits and 4 walks (with no strikeouts) in 2 innings. Perkins is likely still the first alternate in case somebody gets hurt or struggles mightily over the last week and a half of camp, but his hopes of winning a job outright likely just disappeared.

3.) J.D. Durbin looked fantastic tonight. His fastball was popping tonight, he got a couple of people to screw themselves into the ground trying to go after fastballs up and in, and I liked his curve. For me, Durbin has to be kept around, and I'm glad to hear that the Twins seem to be thinking along the same lines. I like Mike Venafro a lot, but keeping him on the roster and giving up on Durbin would be a shame.

4.) Luis Castillo went 2-for-3 and is now hitting .500 for the Spring. Seriously, .500. Good lord!

5.) Great commentary by Dick & Bert tonight discussing how Rondell White got some help from Harmon Killebrew this spring, and is working on keeping both hands on the bat when he swings. Right after they mentioned this, White put a great swing on a ball and doubled down the line, setting up the Twins comeback attempt. Hopefully, that's the swing we'll see a lot of this spring.

6.) Matt LeCroy: 0-for-2, 2 strikeouts. Enough said.

7.) Brad King got in the game today, and officially went 0-for-1. But this being Brad King, it was unthinkable that he wouldn't get on base -- which he did by drawing a walk in his first plate appearance. On. Base. Machine.

8.) I can't believe this didn't make it on the list until eighth. Alejandro Machado is out indefinitely with a torn labrum. He's reportedly seeking a second opinion, but the news is likely not going to change. This means he should end up on the disabled list at the start of the season, but it also means the Twins are going to give a couple guys a chance at SS. Luis Rodriguez, who the Twins have said all spring is NOT a shortstop, nonetheless played there tonight and looked alright. They're also mentioning using Jeff Cirillo there. And, in perhaps the best news, there are signs that Ron Gardenhire's insistence that Nick Punto would be exclusively a third-baseman seems to have thawed, and Punto is now likely to get some at-bats at SS this spring as well. Bottom Line: Luis Rodriguez is now a virtual lock to make the team out of Spring Training.

Today's Big Winner: Luis Rodriguez (Got a hit, but more importantly won a roster spot)
Runner-Up: Luis Castillo (Hitting .500 this late in the spring . . . priceless)

Today's Big Loser: Glen Perkins (Here comes Rochester . . . )
Runner-Up: Matt LeCroy (0-2; 2 strikeouts)

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Monday, March 19, 2007

My Take on the Starting Rotation

By this time, most of you will have read La Velle E. Neal's post on the Twins rotation, or the Twins.com article covering the same topic. For those of you who haven't, here's the quick summary:

Johan Santana (the obvious ace)
Carlos Silva (#2 to keep him apart from the other sinkerballer)
Ramon Ortiz
Sidney Ponson (inside shot to make the rotation, sinkerballer #2)
Boof Bonser

This has left numerous Twins fans up in arms over the shoddy treatment that has seemingly been given to prospects like Matt Garza, Glen Perkins, and Kevin Slowey (all of whom have had solid springs). It's about time that I registered my thoughts on the subject.

First, let me say that I actually come down in favor of getting the veterans a chance before the youngsters. Boof Bonser absolutely HAD to make the roster, because he proved himself down the stretch last year. Beyond that, I'm fully supportive of giving Silva and Ponson about 6 weeks at the start of the season to see if there's anything there. A couple of starters aren't going to result in the Twins being out of the race in May - they may be a bit behind, but they proved last year that that isn't the end of the world. And if one of them sticks, it would mean that the Twins would have received value for their money.

Before you shout at me, consider the alternatives again for a minute. Let's start with Glen Perkins, who seems to be the "first alternate" in case Silva or Ponson really blows up in the last 12 days of camp or at the start of the season. I'm a big fan of Perkins. I think he's going to be a great 2 or 3 starter in the bigs, and soon. But I also look at the fact that he has a total of just TEN regular season innings above the AA level (yes, just 10), and recognize that some seasoning at AAA is probably a good idea.

How about Matt Garza, hailed by many as a savior just waiting to be anointed before he came up last year, only to struggle? Again, I have every confidence that he's going to be a great Major League starter. Garza's 34 innings at AAA, and his 5.76 ERA in 50 innings at the Major League level last year, however, suggest that there are a few things he could still gain from a few months at AAA. The same goes for Kevin Slowey, who has never pitched a regular season game above AA.

There is another practical side to the decision to try to get some service time out of Silva and Ponson before turning one of the youngsters loose in the Majors - service time. Simply put, the Twins need to be careful about throwing youngsters into the rotation (or into the field, for that matter) because they need to maximize what they get out of affordable young talent. Consider this - Matt Garza's struggles last year likely weren't a fluke. He wasn't quite ready yet, as most pitchers aren't ready to come up and immediately be solid contributors. It would certainly be possible to give those players a chance to develop into Major League players at the Major League level - and that often is necessary, as last year's Garza and Perkins call-ups demonstrated. However, if you believe as I do that there would be growing pains amongst the youngsters, it makes more sense to start them off in AAA and develop as much as possible there without watching that arbitration clock tick away.

One more thought - it would be criminal if Boof Bonser was treated as the #5 starter. What I mean by that is that he should absolutely NOT be skipped in the rotation, ever. He earned that much last year. If he doesn't start the fourth game of the season, in Chicago, and instead gets skipped over until the Twins eighth game (when the fifth starter would make his first start assuming the Twins keep the first three starters on regular rest after the first off day of the season, falling game 3), it would be criminal. Give Boof the credit he deserves, and keep Sir Sidney off the mound as much as possible!

So what do I expect to see happen? I think Carlos Silva will pitch just well enough to hold onto his starting spot all season, but he will be a source of constant frustration for Twins fans throughout the summer. Sidney Ponson will be gone by the middle of May, to be replaced by either Glen Perkins or Matt Garza, whoever does better at AAA to start the season getting the nod. And in 2008, a Twins rotation of Johan Santana, Francisco Liriano, Boof Bonser, Matt Garza, and Glen Perkins -- with Kevin Slowey hanging around and waiting for a chance to do his thing.

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Sunday, March 18, 2007

More Cuts

Thanks again to La Velle for announcing additional cuts after today's game. This makes just as much sense as waiting until after the break tomorrow, I guess, so I should have seen it coming. The four players cut this afternoon were:

Kevin Slowey
Carmen Cali
Jason Miller
Jeremy Cummings

Really, no surprises here. Slowey was never going to make the rotation this season (hence my keeping him in red all spring on my roster updates). Jeremy Cummings had a solid spring but had no chance against the group of guys who were in front of him. Jason Miller and Carmen Cali were at the back end of the bloc of lefties who were competing for a spot in the bullpen, and neither did enough to move ahead of Mike Venafro at the head of that list. I'll be most interested in seeing where Carmen Cali is assigned at the end of the spring, or if the Twins let him go. Everybody else should end up in AAA to start the season.

I'll have more later tonight on the other part of Neal's post, which discussed the way that Twins roster is setting up. Now, though, it's time for Martin's podcast.

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Spring Training Report: Game Twenty

Another day, another win. Ho-hum. Here are today's notes:

1.) Johan Santana became the first Twins starter to go five innings today, and looked fantastic. Other than with his arm strength, I'd say he's close to midseason form already, and that should be a scary thought for AL hitters. He looks poised to have another amazing season, and I can't wait until April 2 to see him kick things off against the Orioles. Santana has just two starts to go this spring, and I'd guess he'll go 5 innings again later this week, maybe pushing up to 6 in his last start of the spring.

2.) Kevin Slowey got into the game today and finally showed he's human, by giving up 3 runs on 4 hits and a walk while striking out 2. To be fair to Slowey, most of the hits were bloopers that fell in, but he did give up a couple of legitimate shots. This was probably Slowey's last start of the Spring, and I would guess that he'll be sent to the minor league camp tomorrow or Tuesday.

3.) Mike Venafro and Randy Choate pitched an inning each today, and both were pretty solid. I've suggested before that Choate was probably going to be cut soon, and despite today's performance I still expect that to happen tomorrow or Tuesday. I think that Mike Venafro will stick around camp for awhile, but J.D. Durbin has emerged as the favorite to get the 25th roster spot because he's out of options.

4.) Luis Castillo has quietly put up a great spring when he's been healthy, as his 3-for-3 day put his batting average up to .481. Michael Cuddyer went 0-for-3 but is still hitting .350. Justin Morneau has hit homeruns in back-to-back games, and is now hitting .343 for the spring. Torii Hunter is hitting .333, Rondell White is hitting .300, Jason Bartlett is hitting .303 . . . honestly, the only regular starters who aren't doing a lot with the stick are Joe Mauer (.226) and Nick Punto (.216) - but I think they'll be fine once the season starts. Mauer had a particularly rough day today, leaving eight runners on base.

5.) Off day tomorrow - and if I remember right, these are usually legitimate off days, with the players told to stay away from camp and relax. I would expect Ron Gardenhire, Terry Ryan, and the coaches to huddle tomorrow and make some decisions on cuts, with announcements coming either tomorrow or Tuesday.

Today's Big Winner: Johan Santana (5 innings, 1 hit - he's ready for Opening Day)
Runner-Up: Justin Morneau (2 homers in 2 days)

Today's Big Loser: Kevin Slowey (First bad outing of the spring is probably his last)
Runner-Up: Joe Mauer (8 men left on base - yikes!)

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Marty's Podcast

Marty's biweekly podcast is today at 6 CT. I'll be appearing again, although Marty's hoping for some participation from some other bloggers who have been MIA most of the spring, so I might not be talking as much as in weeks past. We shall see. To listen to the podcast, go here.


Denard Span Cut

I didn't expect any more cuts until tomorrow or Tuesday, but the Twins jumped the gun this morning and optioned Denard Span to AAA, according to La Velle E. Neal. Expect to see Span at the Major League level this year; if the Twins have fallen out of contention at the trade deadline, Torii will likely be traded and Span will inherit center field. If not, then Span will be a September callup (his speed makes that a virtual certainty - he's the perfect kind of player to have on the bench as a pinch runner in close and late situations down the stretch). Barring something unforeseen, he'll be the starting center fielder in 2008.

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Rodney Gessmann Article

I've been getting a fair amount of traffic from people doing google searches for Rodney Gessmann, the German/Japanese pitcher who was signed by the Twins in the off-season and who will be beginning the long trip up the organizational ladder this season. This morning, an e-mailer linked me to Will Young's site, where he's translated an article from a German newspaper on Gessmann. It's an interesting read, and provides more information on Gessmann than I've seen so far, so if you have an interest in Rodney I'd highly recommend checking it out.

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Saturday, March 17, 2007

Spring Roster Update #5

Can you believe a full month has already passed since I posted my first Spring Roster Update? The season is a short two weeks away, and I can't wait. As before, players listed in black are players who I am projecting will earn a roster spot (or, at least, players who are in the best position, either through their own play or team philosophy, to get a spot). Players listed in blue have a chance to move onto the 25-man roster by the end of the spring, and will be listed beneath the player that they are most likely to displace. Players listed in red are pretty much just in camp to give the Twins bodies (although the number in this category has dropped significantly). Additionally, movement week-to-week on the roster updates is being tracked with a "+" (for moving up), a "-" (for moving down), or an "=" (for staying in place).

My standard disclaimer applies: these are not necessarily the 25 guys who I would put on the roster if I were lucky enough to have any say in these matters. Rather, they are the 25 players who I think the Twins are most likely to give a spot to on the roster.

Finally, please note that comments on the roster follow the list of players, so if you want to know why I've moved a player up or down the chart, that's the place to look.


Starting Pitcher - 1 - Johan Santana (=)
Starting Pitcher - 2 - Ramon Ortiz (+)
Starting Pitcher - 3 - Carlos Silva (+)
Starting Pitcher - 4 - Boof Bonser (-) see below
Starting Pitcher - 5 - Sidney Ponson (=)
Matt Garza (=)
Glen Perkins (=)
Scott Baker (=)
Jeremy Cummings (+)
Kevin Slowey (+)
Closer - 6 - Joe Nathan (=)
Setup - 7 - Juan Rincon (=)
Bullpen - 8 - Pat Neshek (=)
Bullpen - 9 - Dennys Reyes (=)
Bullpen - 10 - Jesse Crain (=)
Bullpen - 11 - Matt Guerrier (=)

Catcher - 12 - Joe Mauer (=)
First Base - 13 - Justin Morneau (=)
Second Base - 14 - Luis Castillo (=)
Third Base - 15 - Nick Punto (=)
Shortstop - 16 - Jason Bartlett (=)
Left Field - 17 - Rondell White (=)
Center Field - 18 - Torii Hunter (=)
Right Field - 19 - Michael Cuddyer (=)
Designated Hitter - 20 - Jason Kubel (=)
Backup Catcher - 21 - Mike Redmond (=)
Chris Heintz (=)
Brad King (+)
Corner Infielder - 22 - Jeff Cirillo (=)
Glenn Williams (=)
Middle Infielder - 23 - Alejandro Machado (+)
Luis Rodriguez (-)
Tommy Watkins (=)
Alexi Casilla (=)
Backup Outfielder - 24 - Jason Tyner (=)
Josh Rabe (+)
Denard Span (-)
Garrett Jones (=)

Misc. Reserve - 25 - J.D. Durbin (+)
Mike Venafro (-)
Matt LeCroy (=)
Randy Choate (=)
Carmen Cali (=)
Jason Miller (=)

Lew Ford (Injury)
Ken Harvey (Injury)
Gil Velazquez (Minor League Camp)
Korey Feiner (Minor League Camp)
Jeff Christy (Minor League Camp)
Jose Morales (Minor League Camp)
Jose Mijares (Optioned to AA)
Tristan Crawford (Minor League Camp)
Julio DePaula (Optioned to AAA)
Ricky Barrett (Optioned to AAA)
Brad Voyles (Minor League Camp)
Errol Simonitsch (Optioned to AAA)
Alexander Smit (Optioned to High A)
Oswaldo Sosa (Optioned to AA)

We'll start again with the starters. I've listed Boof Bonser as fourth in the rotation, and that's largely because of where he sets up to pitch if he isn't moved around between now and the start of the season. The fourth game of the season is the start of a series in Chicago, so this wouldn't be a surprising place to put Boof. Ramon Ortiz has certainly made his case to move up to the #2 spot in the rotation, and putting Carlos in the #3 spot separates him from the #5 pitcher. This is probably a good thing because Silva and the #5 will probably be the weakest two starters in the rotation, so not having them go back to back isn't a bad idea. I'm still listing Ponson as the #5 because I think the Twins want him to win this job, but the incredible performances of a number of the youngsters has undoubtedly made this a more difficult decision. Finally, I've conceded that Jeremy Cummings doesn't have a chance to make the team what with all of the young guns ahead of him, and so have turned him red along with Kevin Slowey.

The relievers once again have not changed, although all of those red named listed behind them are now gone.

There are no changes amongst the starting 9 position players, the backup catcher, the backup corner infielder, or the backup outfielder.

Alejandro Machado is once again being listed in the lead for the backup middle infielder position. This is based on the reports that he's likely to get into games sometime next week (possibly as early as Tuesday). If he performs even reasonably well, he'll make the team. Luis Rodriguez is still a possibility, but with the Twins wanting a backup shortstop, his chances are really not that good unless he's kept as an additional bat (but, really, aren't there better bats?).

Finally, J.D. Durbin is now the most likely guy to win the 25th roster spot. The Twins would like to keep a 14th position player, but Matt LeCroy hasn't exactly made an overwhelming case for himself, and Durbin is ahead of Mike Venafro because he's out of options. Unless Durbin pitches terribly in the last two weeks, or says something really stupid to Ron Gardenhire, he should make the team. Hopefully Venafro accepts an assignment to Rochester, because he'd be a great insurance policy in case one of the regular relievers goes down.

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Spring Training Report: Game Nineteen

Alright, Twins fans. We're starting to get spoiled with all these wins. A week ago people were still complaining about the spring record and wondering what it meant. I say it means about as much as the current win streak means -- absolutely nothing. A week is simply too small a sample size to draw any conclusions from, and you should know by now what I think of drawing conclusions from spring generally. Anyway, the wins are still nice. Here are today's notes:

1.) Boof had to work out of some jams today, as he gave up 7 hits in 4 innings of work. Still, he struck out 5, and worked out of every jam that he worked into, so no harm, no foul. Ron Gardenhire has said that Bonser is, in fact, a lock for the rotation, and there's no reason to think that Terry Ryan thinks differently. A couple of days ago I read a story suggesting that Bonser was on track to be the fifth starter (I think it was on the Twins website, but I'm too lazy to look up the link right now). Such a thought is absurd - Bonser should be 2 or 3, hands down. There's still time for the Twins to adjust his starting day to get him in line for another position, and I fully expect them to do so. Besides, I think whoever wrote the article miscounted anyway - if you figure four days rest from here on out for Bonser, he'd logically be in line to pitch on April 6 in Chicago - the Twins fourth game of the year. While I think he should get a start earlier against the Orioles, I'm fine with saving him up for that White Sox game.

2.) Scott Baker decided to keep things interesting in the battle for the fifth starter by going 2 scoreless innings and giving up 2 hits and a walk while striking out one. Baker is far behind Garza, Perkins, and Ponson in this fight, but it's still nice to see him continue his recent streak of solid performances. Jeremy Cummings, who is about as likely as Kevin Slowey to win the fifth starter job (in other words . . . NOT), finally stumbled a little bit, giving up a run on 1 hit and a hit batter. Still, one run isn't going to hurt that badly, and Cummings has still had a great spring.

3.) Kelly Thesier at the Twins website has suggested two things about the Twins roster situation that I've suspected all spring, but that I hadn't seen anybody actually say in print just yet: (1) Ron Gardenhire would prefer 11 pitchers rather than 12, and (2) J.D. Durbin is at the top of the list of options should the Twins carry 12 pitchers because he's out of options and the Twins don't want to lose him. Considering that Matt LeCroy is the last standing likely possibility to be a 14th position player, and considering that the Twins really don't want to lose Durbin, it's looking extremely likely that I'll get my wish of having Durbin make the roster, at least to start the season.

4.) The regulars are all starting or continuing to hit this spring. I'd say they're getting close to ready, with just over 2 weeks to go. Justin Morneau and Torii Hunter both hit big blasts today, and Michael Cuddyer came awfully close (darned wind). There's no reason to think that the Twins offense is going to be a problem; I'm very excited to see them when the season starts.

5.) I expect the next round of cuts to come on Monday (the Twins only off-day of the Spring) or Tuesday morning. Unlike the previous cuts, which mostly involved players who had no chance of making the roster, I expect the next round of cuts to include players like Randy Choate and Carmen Cali, who came into the spring with at least a chance to win a job.

6.) It's not baseball related, but if you're into the NCAA tourney, hasn't it been nice to see some great games today after what seemed an awfully boring first round? The Ohio State - Xavier game was absolutely fantastic (although I was pulling for the upset), and Texas A&M - Louisville was a lot of fun as well. Now, as long as my Pitt Panthers avoid pulling a Duke against VCU, I should be able to look forward to a Sweet Sixteen grudge match against UCLA and former Pitt head coach Ben Howland.

Today's Big Winner: Justin Morneau (3-3, 2 runs, 2 RBI, HR)
Runner-Up: Boof Bonser (cemented his spot in the rotation, if it wasn't already)

Today's Big Loser: Carmen Cali (1 inning, 3 hits, 2 ER in possibly his last appearance)
Runner-Up: Mike Redmond (0-3, hitting .190 this spring)

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