Taylor's Twins Talk

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

Wednesday, March 07, 2007

Spring Training Report: Game Eight

Here are the extended remarks from today's game. I haven't had a chance to see as much as I had hoped of the game, but I have revised and extended my remarks from earlier.

1.) Bonser's strong start means that the Twins have now made it once through the rotation consecutively with no bad starts, and really a lot of good starts. (In other words, Silva, Ortiz, Ponson, and Bonser have all been very solid in their most recent starts, and Johan Santana was so-so). Hopefully that continues.

2.) J.D. Durbin struggled, but it was great just to see him on the mound. The Twins knew what they'd be getting out of Durbin today, and now they'll wait to see how his arm feels and then continue to build up his strength and let him work on his control. Ideally, in another couple of appearances he'll start to look better. I honestly believe that Durbin is going to get a little bit of a bump when he's being considered for a roster spot - the Twins simply don't want to lose him, and they will if he doesn't make the team. As a result, I think that if he's even reasonably alright over the remainder of the spring, he'll start the season as the 7th member of the bullpen. In that scenario, Mike Venafro would be given the option of starting the season in Rochester or becoming a free agent. If Venafro left, then Randy Choate would quite possibly get the same offer. The Twins would then take the first month of the season to evaluate Durbin's performance at the Major League level - and if he wasn't cutting it at that point, they would presumably more open to letting him go. Frankly, this is what I'm hoping happens.

3.) Nick Punto went 0-3 again today, and is now hitting .059. Matthew LeCroy went 0-1 with another K and is hitting .167. Jason Tyner is at .143. Rondell White finds himself at .182. Time to panic? Not yet . . .

4.) Tommy Watkins hit a homer today, but he also isn't exactly tearing it up at the plate this spring, hitting just .167. Nevertheless, if he plays solid defense this spring, and if Alejandro Machado never gets healthy enough to fight for the backup middle infielder job, is it out of the question for Watkins to sneak in and steal a roster spot? I'm starting to think that it's at least a possibility, although at this point still a long shot. In case you aren't familiar with Watkins, he's been in the Twins system forever, having been drafted by the Twins in the 38th round of the 1998 draft. In the subsequent 9 years, he's played at every level of the Twins system, and slowly made his way up to AAA, where he finished off last season. Watkins numbers don't scream out "Major Leaguer" - he has a career .247 batting average over 2,136 career at-bats - but a lot of backup middle infielder types make the big club because of defense, with any offense they give to the team a complete bonus. Watkins could fit that profile - and he could serve as a Denny Hocking like super-sub, capable of playing virtually anywhere in the infield (although 1B is a bit of a stretch), and also being used this spring in the outfield. I still think that the Twins first choice for the backup middle infielder position is Alejandro Machado, but they simply may not get a chance to evaluate him. If that turns out to be the case, then it would come down to Luis Rodriguez (who can't play SS and won't get any playing time at 3B) or Tommy Watkins - and frankly, I'm starting to think that Watkins would get my vote. This is definitely something to watch, in my mind. (Now, watch Watkins get cut in the next week . . . ).

5.) Split-squad action tomorrow. Sometime shortly after that game (as in, within a couple of days), there should be some players sent to the minor league camp. With pitchers going longer and position players going longer into games, there won't long be much need to carry so many players.

Today's Big Winner: Boof Bonser (as the Twins continue to breath easier)
Runner-Up: J.D. Durbin (how, you say? Simple - he's back on the mound)

Today's Big Loser: Nick Punto (Get a hit, Nick! Please!)
Runner-Up: Ricky Barrett (He wasn't going to make the team anyway, but a quick cut is coming)

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