Taylor's Twins Talk

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

Thursday, March 01, 2007

Spring Training Report: Game Two

For the second day in a row, the Twins game was available on MLB.tv, so I have a few things to say about the goings-on in Tampa, where the Twins just lost to the Yankees 6-1:

1.) Carlos Silva looked horrible. It's early in camp, so his fastball probably doesn't have a lot of giddy-up just yet, and his sinker probably wasn't sinking much, but Silva looked a lot like he did last year - in other words, BAD. Making things worse today was the fact that he was missing the strike zone with a lot of his pitches (14 balls in 26 first inning pitches, 6 balls in 16 second inning pitches), and that magnified his mistakes. The Yankees make pitchers throw strikes, and they were in mid-season form in that respect today. The two homeruns that Silva allowed today (one to Johnny Damon to lead off the festivities, and one by Jason Giambi in the second) were both tagged pretty well, and both appeared to be off of sinkers that didn't sink nearly enough. It's not time to declare that Silva's spot in the rotation is in jeopardy - YET - but another outing like this and the Twins will have to seriously consider their options regarding Silva.

2.) The battle for the 2nd lefty in the bullpen role got under way in earnest today, with Randy Choate, Mike Venafro, and Carmen Cali all pitching. Choate looked the best, buzzing through the 6th inning in just 13 pitches (although he got some help from an inning-ending double play). He threw just 3 balls and generally looked pretty tough to hit. Venafro was a little wild, walking two hitters and just generally throwing a lot of balls. Both of these guys are side-armers, but Venafro comes over the top once in awhile and fooled a couple of hitters that way (including a nice strikeout). Cali gave up three hits to start the inning, but two of them were infield hits that were just bad luck. The third hit, however, and the inning-ending lineout that he induced later on, were both tagged pretty well. I'd say Choate and Venafro are about even in this competition, with Cali lagging behind. Remember, though, that the Twins would probably need to carry a 12th pitcher for any of these guys to make the team, and J.D. Durbin will also likely be competing for that spot.

3.) Kevin Slowey made his spring debut and looked pretty good overall. He's mentioned often as a Brad Radke-type control pitcher, and he threw 15 balls in 28 pitches, so he didn't quite have his control down just yet. Still, he looked alright, picked up a strikeout, showed a solid curve, and did nothing to damage his reputation. I look forward to seeing more of him this spring, and to following his performance in AAA once the regular season starts. To finish up with pitchers, Jeremy Cummings (picked up as a minor league free agent) got a chance to pitch the 5th inning, and looked reasonably solid as well. He gave up a couple of hits and a walk, but he didn't let anybody score and also picked up a couple of K's. Like Slowey, he looks like he has some solid breaking pitches in his arsenal.

4.) The five players that I suggested would start today (Cuddyer, Kubel, Punto, Morneau, and Redmond) all did, although Kubel was in left instead of at DH. Cuddyer and Morneau both put a couple of nice swings on tough pitches, with Cuddyer picking up the Twins first hit of the game (a booming double off of a hanging outside curveball thrown by Yankees uber-prospect Phil Hughes) and Morneau picking up a single (a blooper, but a single nonetheless). Morneau struck out in the 4th on a pitch that just hit the inside part of the plate at the knees, and had to walk back to the dugout to a variety of "M-V-P my A**" catcalls.

5.) Kubel's start in left opened the door for Matt LeCroy to get another start as the DH, and once again he didn't do much with it, going 0-2 with a walk. Worst of all, he completely forgot how many outs there were in the 4th inning, and got doubled off of second base when Mike Redmond's drive to right field was caught by Melky Cabrera. In two games, things haven't gone well for LeCroy.

6.) Gil Velazquez gets a dishonorable mention for the second day in a row. He replaced Alexi Casilla at SS around the 6th inning (Casilla moved over to 2B to finish out the game), and was eaten alive by a grounder that looked fairly routine. His glove looked completely out of position to catch a ball that was hopping into his chest. The play before, Chris Heintz botched a ball at 3B (although calling it an error may have been a stretch by the scorekeeper).

7.) Jason Kubel looked solid today, getting a hit (and driving in the Twins lone run of the game), and more impressively making a fine diving catch in left field that saved Kevin Slowey and seemed to calm the young pitcher down. Kubel will get most of his playing time this year as a DH, but his play in left today was solid enough that it should put to rest some of the questions about his knees. How great would it be if he could actually be healthy enough this year to develop into a potent offensive threat?

8.) Joining the previously mentioned starters today were Luis Rodriguez at 2B, Alexi Casilla at SS, and Denard Span in CF. Span played the whole game in front of his hometown crowd, going 0-4 (but making solid contact a couple of times). Rodriguez made a nice play ranging to his left on a grounder before being replaced by Casilla, who shifted over to make room for Velazquez. Garrett Jones and Tommy Watkins once again came into the game in right and left, respectively. Jose Morales replaced Mike Redmond around the 6th inning and got a solid single to right in his first at bat, and also made a couple of nice blocks behind the plate - although he sailed a throw to second base trying to nail a base-stealer and sent the ball into center. Finally, Brad King pinch-hit for LeCroy in the 9th and grounded out to short.

Today's Big Winner: Jason Kubel (not a lot of choices, and his solid outfield play and RBI single get him the nod)
Runner-Up: Randy Choate (came into camp slighty behind Mike Venafro in the pecking order - probably moved himself into a tie with today's nice inning)

Today's Big Loser: Carlos Silva (hard to make that performance look good)
Runner-Up: Matt LeCroy (for the second day in a row - failed to impress and made a bad mental error, which won't make Gardy happy)

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