Taylor's Twins Talk

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

Thursday, February 28, 2008

And so it begins . . .

It's about this time every year that my jealously of guys like La Velle Neal and Joe Christensen reaches fever pitch. I wouldn't want their job for about 11 months of the year -- too much travel for my tastes, and too much chance of having games watered down by having to actually work before and after them. Spring training, though -- now that's an assignment I would happily take on. If you're anything more than a casual fan, you know already that the Twins play their first spring game today, in Sarasota against the Reds. You hopefully have also checked out the lineups for the game on La Velle's blog (here's the all important Twins version).

Since I'm not there, however, and since the game is not televised on MLB.tv, I'm stuck with looking at a box score after the fact. I'll almost certainly make some post game comments (short and sweet, I would guess, unless something particularly dramatic happens). All box scores are not created equally, however, and what follows is a list of things that I tend to look for in the spring.

1.) Obviously, spring games are most important for players who are battling for a spot on the roster. There are several of them in today's lineup -- Carlos Gomez (CF), Brendan Harris (2B), Garrett Jones (1B -- fighting for the 25th roster spot), and Alexi Casilla (SS -- fighting for 2B or a backup infielder spot). Pitchers Glen Perkins, Casey Daigle, Ricky Barrett, and Julio DePaula are also scheduled to get action today (I consider Scott Baker, who is also scheduled to pitch, a lock to get a roster spot). Without question, the spotlight will be on them. But . . .

2.) Early in the spring, good games are more influential than bad games, especially for hitters. If Carlos Gomez goes 0-2 today, the Twins will shrug it off and look at other aspects of his game -- even if he strikes out badly both times and looks overmatched in doing so. If he goes 2-for-2 with 2 doubles, however, the Twins will view it very favorably. As we progress through the spring, those 0-for-2 performances will start to look more important -- but early on, the good tends to outweigh the bad. Except . . .

3.) Pitchers are different. A humdrum performance can be chalked up to rust. Getting knocked around (I'm looking at you, Phil Humber), however, makes a pretty bad first impression. Hitters will generally have more opportunities to impress than pitchers do, so the pressure is higher on the hurlers. Additionally, hitters can't embarrass themselves too much in any given at-bat -- but an inning of work for a pitcher who doesn't have his stuff can be excruciatingly painful to watch. Another consideration is that there is so much competition for limited roster spots (1 spot -- maybe -- in the bullpen, and a couple of starter spots at best) that every mistake is magnified.

4.) How about the veterans and sure things? Honestly, at this point in the spring I'm not particularly interested. I'll notice, to be sure, if Joe Mauer hits two balls out of the park -- but I won't really start paying attention to the veterans until sometime in the middle of the third week of spring. By that point, of course, the ones that will be the most interesting are the guys with batting averages under .200 -- and there are bound to be one or two.

So those are my spring guidelines. If you get a chance, check back later to see my thoughts on the first game. Go Twins!



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