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Yes, I do know that it is a spring training game. Yes, I know that it really doesn’t mean anything. Yes, I realize everything is small sample sizes. Yes. Yes. Yes.
But I don’t care. It was the first spring training game of the year tonight, and it was awesome. The Twins could have lost 18-4 and I would have enjoyed it just as much. Sure, pitchers and catchers reported about 10 days ago. The hitters showed up earlier in the week and got a few practices in, but now there are actually games to talk about. The specifics of what happens in the game are not the big thing. It’s just that, for fans, there are box scores. And, like John Gordon and Dan Gladden or not, there are games to listen to. By next weekend, we’ll be able to actually watch games on TV. Early October was a long time ago. It is now late February and here we go again, the baseball season is upon us!
On Friday morning, the temperatures here in Northern Minnesota were at 22 degrees below zero. On Saturday morning, it was about 15 below. So, I officially booked my trip down to Ft. Myers. I will be on a very early morning flight next Tuesday, and I will be in Ft. Myers before noon! I have never been in Ft. Myers for the sole purpose of being at Twins spring training camp, so I am really looking forward to it.
So, let’s get back to last night’s game between the Twins and the Red Sox. Here are a few notes:
- Twins Starting Lineup was: Denard Span (CF), Tsuyoshi Nishioka (2B), Jason Kubel (RF), Jim Thome (DH), Danny Valencia (3B), Chris Parmelee (1B), Jason Repko (LF), Alexi Casilla (SS), Drew Butera (‘C).
- Carl Pavano got the start and went two shutout innings. Then there were scoreless innings by Pat Neshek, Dusty Hughes, Alex Burnett, Jeff Manship and Scott Diamond. Anthony Swarzak pitched the 8th inning and despite losing 30 pounds in the offseason, he gave up three runs (2 earned) on four hits in the inning. Chuck James came in for the 9th and gave up a leadoff home run and another hit, but struck out two.
- Even with Joe Mauer, Justin Morneau, Michael Cuddyer and Delmon Young out of the lineup, the team put together what would be a decent Sunday afternoon lineup.
- In a post-game tweet, Phil Mackey noted that Justin Morneau will be seeing a doctor in the next couple of days, and hopefully he will be cleared to play in spring games soon.
- Each of the starters got two at bats. In fact, the only starter with a third at bat was Tsuyoshi Nishioka. After two left-handed at bats (one against Josh Beckett, and one against Clay Buchholz), he was able to get one right-handed at bat in against fellow Japanese player, Hideki Okajima. Nishioka got his first hit against Okajima and was immediately replaced by Ray Chang.
- Chris Parmelee and Jason Repko each had two hits. In the 2nd inning, Parmelee doubled down the right field line off of Beckett. Repko followed with a triple high off the fence in left field. In the 5th inning, Parmelee grounded a single up the middle off of lefty Okajima. Repko followed with another single.
- Alexi Casilla added a bloop single that loaded the bases. One out later, Joe Benson made his first plate appearance of the spring. With two strikes, Benson launched a ball to deep centerfield, out of the reach of Mike Cameron. The triple drove in all three base runners, and Benson showed off his tremendous speed. Equally important, he showed his speed and instincts while playing centerfield. He made several catches in the gaps. Benson isn’t going to make the team out of spring training, but he can make a big impression, and he has already made a big first impression.
- I’m under the assumption that the utility infielder job is Matt Tolbert’s to lose. I do think that Trevor Plouffe and Luke Hughes should and will also get an opportunity. But a few Twins non-roster options got a chance to play tonight:
- Chase Lambin – The 31 year old has never stepped field in a big league game during the regular season. He was one of the first veteran minor leaguers that the Twins signed this offseason. Last year at Syracuse (Nationals AAA), he hit .252/.327/.414 with 28 doubles and 15 home runs. He was an International League All-Star. He has primarily played 1B, 2B and 3B throughout his career, and to give himself a real chance to be a utility player for the Twins, he will need to show he can play an adequate shortstop. That is the position he played on Sunday. He had a throwing error, but it was an unusual play. The Red Sox batter singled to the gap. Joe Benson made a nice diving play to keep the ball from getting to the wall. He relayed to Lambin who, seeing the runner had scampered too far past first base, threw errantly to the bag. On another play, a ground ball deep in the hole between third and short, he made the play, but Mike Cameron beat the throw to first base. (Again, one game.)
- Ray Chang, who is a 27 year old from Kansas City, is another option. He played in 98 games at the Triple-A level between 2006 and 2008. Last year, he hit .298/.384/.436 with Portland, the Double-A affiliate of the Red Sox. In 116 games, he hit 30 doubles and nine home runs. He has played 173 games at shortstop, 108 at second base, and 65 at second base in his pro career. He is a terrific defender who has started hitting a lot better the last two years. He played for Team China in the World Baseball Classic.
- Matt Brown got to play a couple of innings at first base. In his career, he has played 567 games at 3B, 158 games at first base and 57 games at 2B. He has played 26 games in left field, all of them in 2010. In 2007, he went 0-5 in four games with the Angels. In 2008, he went 1-19 with the Angels. Last year, he played in 79 games in AAA for the Rangers, in Oklahoma City. He hit .249/.311/.442 with 18 doubles, five triples and ten home runs. That one was a strange signing.
- Jeff Bailey came in to play first base, and in his first Twins at bat, he launched a home run to left field. Bailey was drafted in 1997, but he went to the Red Sox in 2004. In 2007, he got into three games for the Sox and went 1-9 with his first big league homer. In 2008, he hit two more homers in 50 big league at bats. In 2009, he hit three home runs in 77 at bats for Boston. In 2010, he played in 129 games for Reno, the AAA affiliate of the Diamondbacks. He hit .289/.387/.462 with 33 doubles, seven triples and 12 home runs. Like Lambin, he was one of the first guys that the Twins signed. I think that Bailey is someone to watch in Triple A. He posted an .899 OPS against left-handed pitchers in 2010. In 64 Major League at bats against left-handed pitchers, he has hit .316/.391/.649 with five of his six home runs. We talk about the Twins needing a right-handed bench bat. Bailey may just be a perfect option for the role.
- Steve Liddle made his debut as the Twins third base coach. With Brian Dinkelman at 2B and two outs, Liddle sent him home on a single, and Dinkelman was thrown out at the plate. At least it was a very close play.
- The Twins and Red Sox will play again on Monday at noon (central time).
FORMER TWINS UPDATES
- Saturday Games
- Garrett Jones – RF – Pittsburgh – BB, Run
- Luis Ayala – RP – NY Yankees – 1 IP, 1 H, 0 R, 1 K
- Brad Thomas – RP – Detroit – 1 IP, 0 R, 1 K
- Jason Pridie – CF – NY Mets – 0-1
- David Winfree – RF – Arizona – 1-3
- Former Twins Player of the Day – Rob Delaney – RP – Tampa Bay Rays
- 2 Innings pitched, 0 H, 0 R, 0 BB, 3 K – Win
- Sunday Games
- Boof Bonser – RP – NY Mets – 2 IP, 1 H, 0 R, 0 BB, 0 K
- Sean Henn – RP – Toronto – 1 IP, 0 R
- Doug Deeds – RF – Texas – 1-2, HR, 2 RBI
- Gil Velazquez – 3B – LA Angels – 0-1
- Casey Blake – 3B – LA Dodgers – 1-2, 2B
- Juan Rincon – RP – LA Dodgers – 1 IP, 0 R, 0 H, 1 BB, 2 K
- Steve Tolleson – 2B – Oakland – 0-2, BB, R
- Matt Garza – SP – Chicago Cubs – 2 IP, 5 H, 5 ER, 1 BB, 1 K, 1-1
- Corky Miller – C – Cincinnati Reds – 1-1, 2B, 2 RBI
- Orlando Cabrera – 2B – Cleveland – 0-2
- Kevin Mulvey – RP – Arizona – 1 IP, 0 H, 0 R, 0 BB, 1 K, Save
- Former Twins Player of the Day – Garrett Jones – RF – Pittsburgh Pirates
- 3-3, 2-2B, 3 R, 2 RBI, SB
- Nick Nelson wrote a very interesting piece on the difference between success and failure, or more, the difference in perceptions of success and failure.
- Parker wrote a TwinsCentric blog asking Why You Should Take Notice of Kyle Gibson?
- Over the weekend, Howard Sinker wrote a great article on the Expectations and The Price of $23 Million.
- Aaron Gleeman posted his Twins System Overview.
- In his weekly Minor League Report, Roger looked at the players the Twins have signed from International Markets over the last two years.
- The Baseball Outsider looks at another Bullpen Candidate, David Bromberg.
Please feel free to comment in the comments section.