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Hey all, after a long, exhausting first day of vacation, it was a strange sleep night. I fell asleep typing a couple times, and then I woke up at about 2:35 to use the facilities. Suddenly, I remembered that my alarm was still set to go off at 2:45 a.m. My phone battery was too low to shut it off, so I struggled with it in the dark for almost ten minutes. About a minute before the alarm was to go off, I took the battery out of the phone for a couple of minutes and then re-started it. Took me a while to realize that charging the phone overnight might make sense for a couple of reasons. First, because then when I try to use it, it will work better. Second, because then it isn’t low on battery when I go to the ballpark, so I can take more pictures and spend more time on Twitter. Then, I was up again by 6:45. In the morning. While on vacation. That is so NOT RIGHT!
However, it was alright because Topper Anton and I were able to leave by 8:30 and after a quick Starbucks stop (Strawberry Banana Smoothie and a chocolate chip banana bread slice! YUM!), we arrived at Hammond Stadium by shortly after 9. Tom Kelly was with a group of pitchers doing PFP (Pitcher’s Fielding Practice). It’s the exercise of making a pitch off the mound, and then covering first base. It isn’t exciting, but it is very important and the Twins do it daily. Two pieces of watching that were interesting to me. The first was that not only were grounders hit to first base, where they caught the ball, touched first base and then looked toward home as if a runner was trying to score, but they also covered first base when the second baseman fields the ball. I found it interesting, but occasionally, a grounder will be just out of the reach of the first baseman, the second baseman fields it the pitcher still has to cover. That’s the old coach in me. The other thing that I found interesting, that those reading may find interesting, is that while the pitchers throw the ball to a catcher before covering first base, Anthony Slama did not throw a ball, just made the pitching motion. He looks OK but I have not heard any results yet on his MRI. (According to LaVelle, he has a ‘stress reaction’ in his arm. Remember that Joe Mauer had a stress reaction in his leg two years ago.)
After the pitchers were done, they started running in the outfield and shagging while the catchers were the first round of hitters (Butera, Holm, Lehmann and Huber – not a catcher, but used to be!). Topper sent me a text message from the Twins batting cage under the stadium where Delmon Young and Jim Thome were hitting with Tony Oliva and Ben Revere was working with Rod Carew. By the time I got there, I saw Oliva, Young and Thome talking. Let me restate… Thome was talking and Young and Oliva were taking it all in. It was really neat to watch. Soon after, I went back to the field to watch Thome, Young, Justin Morneau and Ben Revere taking batting practice in a group. It made me laugh when I heard Revere look back at Danny Valencia who was loosening up and say, “You sure you aren’t supposed to be in this group?” Revere hit a lot of line drives while the other three drove baseballs all over the field and many over the fence. But, the last round, they all bunted for hits. Revere’s bunt was perfect. Delmon Young’s was terrific. Morneau’s wasn’t so good. Jim Thome’s left the bat with a thud and would have taken a diving play by a third baseman to keep it from being an opposite field double. Tom Kelly saw it and said, “That’s a big-game player!”
At that point, the next four hitters were Tsuyoshi Nishioka, Alexi Casilla, Jason Repko and Danny Valencia. The Japanese were taking photos and videos of Nishioka the whole time, and Valencia would say funny things and make sure he was in the pictures too. It was funny to watch. At little while later, Valencia was talking to two Japanese media members. He asked them their names and introduced himself. He then said, “So do you guys ever do stories on anyone besides Nishi?” He must have been asked if he had any ideas for who else they should do stories on at which time he said, “Well, Me!” Asked what they should say about him, Valencia said, “It’d be awesome if you promoted my Twitter account. @DannyValencia19… Danny Valencia One-Nine. I want to get one-million Twitter followers in Japan.”
A few minutes later, he came over and said Hi and we chatted for a minute in between rounds of BP.
I then walked back over to the minor league facilities. Several pitchers were throwing bullpens. Tommy Watkins was throwing batting practice. When I got there, Aaron Hicks was stepping into the batting cage. He took all of his swings right-handed. I started thinking I was seeing something there. Had Hicks become just a right-handed batter? He was hitting the ball hard. Hitting some home runs, driving the ball into gaps, and hitting line drives all over the field. A bit later, newly acquired Twins reliever Brett Jacobson took the mound. The right-hander throws pretty hard. He has a good curveball. When Hicks stepped in, he batted left-handed, so I have no scoop. When Jacobson threw strikes, Hicks hit the ball well. In fact, Hicks hit one liner right back at Jacobson who did make the catch.
Quick note on Aaron Hicks, he is huge. Since last year, he has gotten bigger. His arms are huge. He looks really strong and his swing continues to be very smooth. Left-handed or right-handed, he hit a lot of line drives and also drove the ball.
Other notes from the minor league fields:
- Rory Rhodes is tall and young… and really talented. He isn’t real big, but obviously at 6-7, he has the frame to gain a lot more strength. He has a strong swing and can hit the ball a long ways. Hopefully he can stay healthy so that we can see if he can produce some big numbers at Elizabethton.
- Steve Singleton took ground balls at both second base and shortstop. Very smooth glove, very natural, and a terrific swing. I had an opportunity to chat with him a little bit before and then again after their on-field workout. He has been working out at the Twins complex since October.
- Wang-Wei Lin and Hyeong-rok Choi hit in the same group. Lin is a left-handed batter. Choi is right-handed. Both were impressive in BP and showed very good power.
- Max Kepler is a big kid. I didn’t see him hit, but he looked pretty natural out in centerfield. He also took some throws at 1B and was fine.
It was about 11:30. I went back to the stadium to meet up with Topper. I was on KFAN at about 11:00 with Paul Allen. Before then, I went into Hammond Stadium and sat down in the lower section, watching the grounds crew work on the field. It may sound corny, but it was actually very much enjoyable to watch. I conducted the PA interview from there. At that point, we left.
We went to a beach bar for lunch down in Naples. Had some fish and chips, and then walked along the beach for a bit. For dinner, we went to Michelbob’s and got ribs. The food was incredible. BBQ Ribs and chicken. Yum! Did you know that Michelbob’s ribs are available at Target Field in the State Fair Classic stand out in centerfield?
That, my friends, was Spring Training Day #2 in a nutshell. It is very possible that I will not be partaking in any baseball-related activities on Thursday. There are expected to be some rain showers in the morning and early afternoon in Ft. Myers, so we may find some other activities to do. No idea what that would be, but I’m on vacation, so I’m sure it’ll be fun. If you like, please feel free to comment, ask questions or give advice.