Spring Training Roundup
1.) At the start of the spring, I felt that the Twins would start the season with a rotation of Francisco Liriano, Scott Baker, Livan Hernandez, Boof Bonser, and Kevin Slowey. Of those spots, Baker and Hernandez seemed like sure things (and still do, despite Hernandez's horrid performance today), while Bonser seemed close to a sure thing. Liriano's presence in the rotation was contingent on his health. That left Slowey as the guy who was most on the bubble. Where are we with that?
Well, we keep hearing that Liriano is believed to be healthy, and he'll get his first game action tomorrow. Ron Gardenhire seems to believe that his arm will be ready to go -- and even though I there's obviously no game information to base that on, I tend to buy into the hype. I think there's a very good chance that Liriano will be good right out of the gate, and as soon as we get some indication from game conditions that he's not hesitant to pitch to batters, it will go a long way towards writing his name into the rotation in pen rather than in pencil. Bonser, meanwhile, was very good in his first game and seems to be pretty confident now that he's lost some weight. He should make the rotation, unless he completely explodes down the stretch.
That leaves Slowey, and . . . well . . . it hasn't been good. So far, Slowey has allowed 6 runs in 3.2 innings -- an ERA of 14.73. He's also allowed 9 hits and walked 4 batters. Now, keep in mind that 3.2 innings is obscenely low to make any judgments on, but the fact that he's been bad during two separate outings is not a good sign. Glen Perkins, Nick Blackburn, Phil Humber, and Brian Bass would seem to be the 4 guys most likely to jump into Slowey's spot if he keeps struggling. Humber (2 innings, 0 ER) and Blackburn (1.2 innings, 0 ER) have both performed well so far this spring, while Bass (5.1 innings, 2 ER) has been reasonably solid and Perkins (3 innings, 4 ER) has been pretty bad. Just don't forget how early it is.
2.) Biggest surprise of the spring? Brian Buscher, hands down. He's looked good at the plate, picked up some work at both corners, and impressed the coaching staff with his work ethic. I'm actually starting to like the idea of taking him north as the second backup infielder.
3.) Too early to say much of anything about the CF and 2B battles -- there's far too much ground left to cover. At this point, if I were making the decision I might actually think about going with Span or Pridie in CF so that Gomez can work on cutting down his swing. Not that I think that's going to happen -- the Twins have too much to prove to the fans, and I think they're likely to go with Gomez unless he's terrible over the next few weeks.
4.) If last year is any indication, we're within a week of seeing the first round of cuts from camp. That first list of cuts should just be some obvious names -- the Allan de San Miguel and Oswaldo Sosa's of the world who were just in camp to help the team get through drills and the stretch where pitchers are only throwing 1 or 2 innings per game. Last year, eight players were cut in the first round, and I'd expect about the same this time. I'll give some predictions later this week (unless the Twins beat me to the punch by cutting some guys early). UPDATE: The Twins website goes on record as saying that the first cuts will come on Sunday, and that there should be a fairly significant number of players on the cut list.
5.) Starting with my recap of tomorrow's game, I'm reviving the "Today's Big Winner" and "Today's Big Loser" categories that I used at the end of each recap post last year. I just forgot about it this year, but I was reading back through some old posts (looking for when the first cuts came last year) and liked the idea enough to resurrect it.
6.) Remember those Organizational Rankings? Yeah, still not even close on the Relief Pitchers. Maybe this weekend -- more likely next weekend.