Friday, March 3, 2006
TWINS THOUGHTS AND LINKS
AMERICAN IDOL THOUGHTS
(with American Idol Thoughts)
Good morning everyone! Actual baseball on TV last night! Seriously, I was so excited. I watched every single pitch of the game last night and just enjoyed it so much. For me, I enjoy spring training because it is really the first time we get to see our team in five months. It is our first chance to see our new players in the Twins uniform. However, for me, I enjoy those late innings when we get to see the prospects. As you know, I follow the Twins minor leagues quite extensively. To get to actually see game performance of guys that I have only known through box scores is really kind of neat. I have been touting Alex Romero for three years, since I first saw him hit well in the Venezuelan Winter League. He has done well the past two years including 2005 in New Britain. He was added to the Twins 40 man roster last December. But last night was the first time I had actually seen him play. The same can be said for others.
Today, I am going to walk you through the game. I know many of you probably watched it. I am sure some of you got game updates from other places, or that other bloggers will point out some things on the game as well. But, I figure that I will still do it. Why? Because we all watch the game a little differently. I see the game a little differently than Aaron Gleeman. Aaron sees it different than Batgirl. Batgirl sees it different than Stick and Ball Guy. I will point out things that I noticed from the game. Some you may find boring. Some you may find interesting. Hopefully more will be interesting!
Of course, following the Twins Game Notes, there will be more links to Twins articles and postings. Those will be followed by my thoughts on last night's elimination episode of American Idol.
By the way, if you check out spring training box scores as I do, you may have noticed that Chris Coste went 1-2 with a solo home run against Yankees reliever J. Brent Cox in yesterday's spring training game. Here is what Phillies manager Charley Manuel had to say after the game,
Quotable: "Coast to coast, trying to make the team. Keep going deep, it's hard to cut a man. I like long balls. That's the quickest way I know to get on the good side of a manager." -- Manuel, on Coste, who hit his first home run of the spring on Thursday -- his second if you count his blast in Monday's intrasquad game
If you have any thoughts on any of it, feel free to use the Comments, or if you'd rather, send me an e-mail.
Johan Santana on the mound. It can't get any better than that. Now, clearly Johan is in 'getting ready' mode. His fastball, for the most part, was only coming in between 83-87. He struggled with his control at time, but his change up was certainly in mid-season form. He didn't throw a lot of sliders.
The first batter was Coco Crisp. I got some grief when I said that within two years, Crisp will be better than Johnny Damon. I will stand behind that. On a 3-1 pitch, he knocked a single. Santana came back with a strikeout of Tony Graffanino. Kevin Youklis then grounded into an inning ending, tailor-made double play. The double play was started by Twins 3B Tony Batista. Now, the article the other day told us that he is at about 225 and wants to get to 215. There is absolutely no way that he is only 225 right now! That is a big man!
In the bottom of the inning, Shannon Stewart led off for the Twins. He really needs to get back to being the professional hitter he was in his first year and a half with the Twins. On an 0-1 pitch, he went well out of the strike zone and misses to fall to 0-2. But on 1-2, he had a good hold on a tough pitch. On 2-2, he drilled a liner that his Red Sox start Jonathon Papelbon in the right heel. Papelbon recovered and threw him out at first base. He stayed in the game.
Nick Punto was playing 2B which apparently again means that he has to hit second in a Gardenhire lineup. I was jotting down notes and wrote "any lineup with Punto batting second is not good, even in spring training." On the next pitch, Punto slapped a single to left field. Joe Mauer came to the plate and grounded into a 4-6-3 double play. He took a few pitches and when he hit the ball, I thought it would be a single up the middle. However, Graffanino went to his right and to a knee, he backhanded the ball to SS Alejandro Machado who barehanded it and threw to first base. It was really a very impressive play.
Twins 0, Red Sox 0.
Dustan Mohr led off the second frame for the Red Sox. On this day, he was the team's cleanup hitter and RF. Of course, you have to remember that Manny Ramirez only came to camp on Wednesday, and David Ortiz is playing for the Dominican Republic in the WBC. But I believe that Mohr has a good chance to take over the Gabe Kapler role for the Red Sox. The last few years, Kapler has been the right-handed platoon for lefty-hitting Trot Nixon. Of course, Mohr's competition for the Kapler role comes in the form of the actual Gabe Kapler. Both were signed to minor league contracts and probably just one would make the team.
Anyway, Johan walked Mohr on six pitches. Again, his fastball ranged from 84 to 88. His best pitch was a 3-1 changeup that made Mohr look silly. The next batter was John Flaherty. Dick Bremer, who turned 50 yesterday, commented that Flaherty was essentially trying out for the Red Sox backup catcher job. No, he's not. He signed as a free agent from the Yankees, and simply put, he will be Jason Varitek's backup. He grounded out to second base. Ron Calloway came up and Johan struck him out by gearing up wit ha 90 mph fastball up above the strike zone. Shockingly then, Santana walked Alejandro Machado on four pitches, but was able to strikeout lefty David Murphy on a changeup. Santana went two innings and didn't give up a run. He certainly is far from mid-season form, particularly with the fastball and some control, but it was a good start.
Rondell White led off the bottom of the 2nd for the Twins and grounded out to 2nd base. Torii Hunter made his first in-game appearance since he broke his ankle last year in Boston's Fenway Park. Papelbon did him a favor and hung a slider about belt high right over the middle of the plate. Hunter didn't miss it and drilled a homer deep over the wall in left centerfield. Lew Ford followed that with a six pitch walk. What I like about Ford is his willingness to work the count, to take pitches. He watched a 3-1 fastball right down the middle go by for strike two. He then walked on the following pitch. That is the quality that makes me continue to think that he would be an excellent leadoff hitter. Next up was Tony Batista. I always enjoyed watching his batting stance. He struck out in this at bat, but Ford stole second base and advanced to 3B on the throw that went into CF. Terry Tiffee came up next. It was a rough 2005 season for Tiffee and, although I don't think 2006 will be much better, I hope that he can be productive wherever he is. This was a nice at bat. He hit a ball up the middle that Graffanino made a nice play on but was unable to throw to first. It scored Ford for the RBI. Jason Bartlett had a good at bat. He worked the count to 2-1 and when Papelbon got a pitch up and over the plate, Bartlett went with it and lined it to right field for a single. Craig Breslow cam in for relief. He is a lefty that does not throw hard at all. Shannon Stewart had a nice at bat and worked a six pitch walk. With the bases loaded, Nick Punto flew out to right field to end the inning.
Twins 2, Red Sox 0.
Carlos Silva came in for the third inning. Was it just me or did Silva look a little bit trimmer? Like Santana, Silva will be leaving today to participate for Team Venezuela in the WBC where he will thankfully be used as a starter. The first batter he faced was Enrique Wilson who is looking for another big league chance. Silva got him to strikeout on an 88 mph fastball. Coco Crisp was the next batter, and he hit a liner to right center. Lew Ford, playing in right, got to the ball quickly and threw in to second base, but Crisp is so quick, he was already in there safely. Graffanino then hit a slow bounder down the 3B line. Batista charged slowly. It looked like he was moving slowly, but having played a lot of 3B, he really just played it very well, and made a nice throw to 1B for the out. Kevin Youklis then hit a one-hopper to Batista at third, and he gobbled it up and made a throw to first. When he threw it, it didn't look like he threw it hard, but the throw was strong and right to Tiffee's chest at 1B. So, at this point, I can't complain at all about Batista's defense, but we really haven't seen much yet. To me, I am interested in if he shows any range.
At one point, they showed Ron Gardenhire walk down to the bullpen. They showed him talking to three guys standing along the fence just watching the game. Both Blyleven and Bremer talked about how spring training was so great for the fans because of how friendly the players and coaches can be, and how much more accessible they are. Neither realized that the three guys standing there were all Twins minor leaguers. I noticed that Justin Arneson and Eli Tintor were both there, but I could not determine who the third guy was.
In the Bottom of the 3rd, they started the inning by showing Scott Ullger coaching 3B. I think a big story of the Twins offseason is the change to Joe Vavra as hitting coach. From what I understand, Vavra is big into video, but he also does a good job of letting the players do their thing without too much instruction. He seems to know the hitters well and can see little things. But he won't over-tinker (if that is a word). I will be very interested to see how the team approach, or more importantly success, changes this season.
Rudy Seanez entered the game for the Red Sox. Joe Mauer led off the inning ,and on a 1-1 fastball, he drilled a deep homer over the right centerfield fence. It was a nice, smooth, slightly uppercut swing. See, I'm with the group that doesn't care how many home runs Mauer hits. I completely agree that no one should try to make any adjustments to his swing. Let him hit .320 with 20 homers. That's good enough! The next batter was Rondell White and he grounded deep into the whole where Machado made another very nice play. Torii Hunter came up and got sawed off. His bat cracked near his hands and the ball slowly went to 1B. Lew Ford came to the plate. You see, when he are known for taking a lot of pitches, you will find that a pitcher is expecting a pitch to be taken. Then the hitter can do exactly what Ford did. He took his pitch, an inside fastball and hit a long home run down the left field line. If there was one thing that I noticed different about Ford last year compared to 2004 was that he didn't pull the ball as much. In 2004, do you remember how often he would foul off a lot of pitches because he was so quick with his wrists. I would like to see Ford continue to remember to pull the ball on the inside pitches. Tony Batista then flew out to centerfield to end the inning.
One other quick note - In the offseason, Lew Ford had Lasik eye surgery. He had always used contacts before, but his eyesight is now at 20/15 which is great. There have been a number of hitters who have had the surgery in the past who came back to have monster seasons. Given a chance, I believe that Ford could have a great season. It will just be interesting to see how he ends up being utilized during the season.
Twins 4, Red Sox 0.
Carlos Silva threw his second inning. Dustan Mohr led off by singling off of Silva's calf. (he was ok) John Flaherty then lined out to Bartlett at short. Silva struck out Ron Calloway. Alejandro Machado singled to right center where Jason Tyner cut it off. Silva then got David Murphy to strike out. Two strong innings by Silva. Two innings that included three strikeouts. If Silva can increase his strikeouts even to five per nine innings, he would become one of the best starters in the league. (of course, his strikeouts came against Enrique Wilson, Ron Calloway and David Murphy. Not exactly major league caliber hitters)
The Red Sox brought David Riske into the game. Riske came over to the Sox from the Indians along with Coco Crisp and Kelly Shoppach for Andy Marte and Guillermo Mota. As the announcers interviewed Rondell White, Terry Tiffee flew out to left. Jason Bartlett swung at the first pitch and lined a single into centerfield. Josh Rabe came into the game, in left field, to replace Shannon Stewart. Rabe has been with the Twins Rochester team the last three years. He did a nice job for the Aragua team in Venezuela this year as its centerfielder and leadoff hitter. On this bat bat, however, he jumped at a high fastball and popped to shortstop. As a hitter, it is very important to stay down to be able to drive the ball. Nick Punto took a lot of pitches before he finally walked. Joe Mauer came to the plate. He took the first two pitches, both for strikes, and both fastballs. It appeared to me in all of Mauer's at bats that part of his preparation would appear to be something as simple as just seeing a lot of pitches. On 0-2, Riske threw a nice slider down in the zone. Mauer stayed down and didn't over-swing and hit a single through the right side of the infield to drive in Bartlett from second. Denard Span pinch ran for Mauer, but he didn't really have to do much. It would be nice to see him get some playing time, and obviously he will. However, he is currently experiencing some arm problems. Jason Kubel got an at bat in White's DH spot. It was nice to see him hit again. I enjoy his slightly open stance. He still has his timing mechanism in which he starts from a slightly open stance and brings his front foot back a little ways and taps it. As he brings the legs forward, that's when his body and arms start forward. Yes, he only flew out to left, but it is encouraging to see that a year off did not change his stance or approach.
Twins 5, Red Sox 0.
Gabe White came into the game for the Twins. Of course, he was one of many lefties brought in by the team on a minor league contract to compete for a spot as a lefty in the Twins bullpen. It wasn't a good day for White, but again, it was his first outing too. Enrique Wilson led off with a triple down the right field line. Alex Romero was tracking the ball nicely down, but it hit a sot in a wall and bounced back toward the infield, allowing Wilson to reach 3B. Coco Crisp followed that with a triple to right centerfield. It was his third hit of the day. Tony Graffanino drove in Crisp with a groundout to short. Jason Bartlett made the play very smoothly. White then came back well. Kevin Youlkis grounded out weakly to first base and Dustan Mohr struck out looking to end the inning.
The Red Sox brought in highly regarded reliever Manny Delcarmen. It is unusual that a relief pitcher is thought of very highly, but Delcarmen was a guy that teams looking to deal with the Red Sox always asked for, and they continued to say no. Jason Tyner led off with a ball the bounced over 3B. He tried to stretch it into a double, but he was thrown out by a good four steps. Next up was Alex Romero. As I mentioned above, I have followed Romero for a couple of years now, certainly since before his Ft. Myers Miracle days in 2004. In this at bat, he lined out to centerfield after a quality at bat where he fouled off some tough pitches. I have to be honest that I am not a big fan of Romero's stance. Hitting from the left side, his back shoulder (left) is really high and his body leans forward with his right shoulder well lower. Again, whatever is comfortable for the hitter works for me, but I can't imagine that it is comfortable. But again, we are talking about a guy with a career .305 batting average in his five minor league seasons. Glenn Williams came up and struck out. Williams will also leave and join several Twins minor leaguers (Trent Oeltjen, Paul Rutgers, Luke Hughes and Tristan Crawford) on Australia's WBC team.
Twins 5, Red Sox 2.
Another lefty veteran came in for the Twins. It was Darrell May's turn. Now, Twins fans may remember May as a guy who always pitched well against the Twins, especially in 2003 for the Royals. But since that year, he has really been very non-good at several stops including the Padres and Yankees. He is trying to make the team as a lefty reliever or a long-man. He had a nice first inning. He got a fly out to center, and then a routine grounder to first base and a looking strikeout, both against left-handed hitters.
Garrett Jones led off for the Twins in the bottom half. Jones is a big man. He has huge forearms and I do believe that he could become a power hitter in the big leagues. I think that he is just 24 years old and needs another year at AAA Rochester. He will need to find a way to cut down on his strikeout frequency. If he can do that, his batting average should come up some, and he will hit some home runs. Of course, his competition is Justin Morneau at 1B, so much depends on whether or not Morneau is able to meet his expectations. Last year in spring training, Jones seemed a little bit excited. In at bats that I saw, he lunged and jumped at pitches which again doesn't allow the hitter get get much behind his swing. In this at bat, he popped up to shortstop. However, he just looked more comfortable at the plate and stayed down well. That is a positive.
Luis Rodriguez then came up. He fouled off several pitches before he finally struck out looking on a nice Craig Hansen backdoor curveball. L-Rod also had a nice season down in Venezuela this winter. He decided to join Team Venezuela in the WBC as well. He had originally said that he wanted to stay with the Twins because he wanted to have a chance to make the team. I am glad that he will be playing in the WBC. (Note - found out later that L-Rod will NOT be playing in the WBC after all) The first reason is because it is an honor. The second, however, is that in reality, as long as Juan Castro is making a million dollars and Nick Punto is stealing about $700,000 , both of those players will make the Twins Opening Day roster, leaving L-Rod starting in Rochester. Unless the team can find a taker for Punto or Castro, L-Rod will likely need to wait until an injury to get back with the Twins. It really is too bad too because Rodriguez is a much better all-around player than either of the two veterans. Of course, I also believe that Luis Maza is too!
With two outs, Josh Rabe again showed a little too much excitement. He swung at a tailing inside fastball on the first pitched and was jammed really bad. He hit a weak groundball to shortstop for the inning's third out.
Twins 5, Red Sox 2.
Darrell May got a second inning of relief work. He started the inning by striking out David Murphy (who had a rough night!). He was using a very nice combination of a spotted fastball with a nice little slider. But inexplicably, he suddenly lost control. He walked the next batter, Nye, on four pitches. After falling behind to Luke Allen 2-0, he singled. But then May was able to coax a foul pop that Luis Maza caught. I have to point out that Bert Blyleven called him Luis Mazar (with the r at the end). Amazing! And May ended the inning by striking out Josh Pressley. It will be interesting to see how the lefties are worked in spring. Yes, Darrell May had more success than Gabe White did, but notice the hitters that each faced. It is hard to compare their performances when factoring in the competition level.
Luis Maza led off the bottom of the 7th by swinging at the first pitch. He drilled a liner over the centerfielder's head for a leadoff double. Now, Maza is another guy that I have been following for the last couple of years. He really busted out (along with Jones and Kevin West) at New Britain in 2004, and last year, he really played well after his promotion to Rochester. Shawn Wooten came up to bat after catching a couple of innings previously. Wooten has quite a bit of major league experience, but not for a couple of years. To me, Wooten could be the new Matthew LeCroy. He can catch, but he can also play some 1B and 3B and pinch hit if needed. I think that he will start the season at Rochester. He gives the Twins more insurance for when they likely loose Rob Bowen later in spring training. Wooten struck out. Jason Kubel then struck out against lefty Mike Bumatay who went Curveball, fastball, curveball against him. Jason Tyner then put together a very nice at bat and managed a soft single up the middle on a two strike pitch to score Maza from 2B. Alex Romero then flew out to left field on an easy fly ball.
Twins 6, Red Sox 2.
Hey, Jason Miller came in for the Twins to pitch an inning. Remember Miller was a late addition to the Twins list of non-roster invitees to spring training. I was actually shocked that Miller wasn't just initially invited in. Of course, I was very surprised when the team did not add him to their 40 man roster and no one took him in the Rule V draft. He was a AA All-Star last year and moved up to AAA Rochester midway through the season and did well. I never understood why the Twins sent another lefty reliever, Ricky Barrett, to the Arizona Fall League instead of Miller since Miller is younger and did better. But anyway, I digress. I was just happy for Miller. He struck out the first batter he faced, a lefty. The next hitter was right handed, and he hit a double to left center for a double. Lefty Ron Calloway took a slider that stayed up in the zone and drilled another double to drive in a run. The next batter for the Sox was Luis Jimenez. Those who read this site a year ago saw his name a lot. He and Danny Matienzo were the power portion of the AA New Britain lineup a year ago. The Twins released him immediately after the season, and he signed on with the Red Sox. He is a big man. Jason Miller just threw 84 mph fastballs right by him and struck him out with a nice one on the outside corner. He also struck out the next batter. So, one inning, three strikeouts... but I guess we also need to remember those two doubles in the middle, huh?
As the inning finished, the TV crew showed the Twins bullpen was full with four pitchers warming up, including Pat Neshek. Yesterday, we read that Pat Neshek had mentioned that he was penciled in to pitch an inning, so I was excited, hoping he would get the ninth. I figured with a three run lead, it would be a save situation for him.
Against lefty Mike Holtz, Glenn Williams again struck out. Garrett Jones hit a hard grounder to 1B that Jimenez fielded well. And finally Luis Rodriguez popped up to the catcher to end the inning.
Twins 6, Red Sox 3.
How disappointed was I when we came back from commercial for the top of the 9th and it was Matt Guerrier and not Pat Neshek on the mound for the Twins. But, it is spring training and Guerrier obviously needs his innings too. I thought Guerrier was great last year in his rookie season, very underrated. I think that he will get some more high leverage innings in 2006 on days when Juan Rincon and Jesse Crain are not available. With his good control on his fastball and his sharp curveball, I do believe that he can be successful. Last night, he was certainly on. He struck out the first batter, got an easy groundout to 2B, and ended the game with a fly ball to right. A nice inning.
Yes, it is just one game, and the team's first exhibition game of the spring at that. It was so much fun to be able to watch the team again. It was fun to see Santana and Silva do well. It was nice to see Torii Hunter back and getting a nice homer. It was good to see Lew Ford at his best, and to see Mauer hit a home run and then in his next at bat put a nice controlled swing on an 0-2 pitch for an RBI single. It was fun to watch Alex Romero and Luis Maza. It was fun to see Tony Batista play again and see how he looks. Several players impressed me. Of course, it was the first game, and there is still a month until it all matters, but it was a good start. I am now anxious to watch Sunday's game on FSN. I want to see Michael Cuddyer play. I want to also see Tommy Watkins get some playing time, and for Luis Maza to play more and other positions. I want to see Denard Span gets some plate appearances and see how he does on the base paths and in the field.
To me, it is just fun to be talking about baseball, the game. I love the Hot Stove league as much as anyone. I enjoy keeping up with the free agents and all the trades, but in the end, it all comes down to the actual games. We're still talking about Exhibition games, but they are real games nonetheless.
I enjoy reading spring training box scores. The last couple of years, I have also been watching how former Twins are doing in spring training games. Remember that many of us really enjoyed the Twins winning again, and most of those guys from those 1999-2003 teams are now elsewhere, but I still wish them well and like keeping tabs on them. It is fun to see who is where and how they do. So, here are how some of these guys did in Thursday's spring training games. If I'm missing people, let me know.
Pat Borders, PH, LA Dodgers, 0-1
Casey Blake, RF, Indians, 0-2, R
Cristian Guzman, SS, Nationals, 1-2
Corey Koskie, 3B, Brewers, 0-1
Damien Miller, C, Brewers, 2-2, 2B, RBI
Chad Moeller, C, Brewers, 0-1
Todd Walker, 2B, Cubs, 0-2
Jacque Jones, RF, Cubs, 0-1, BB
Michael Restovich, RF, Cubs, 0-2, 2 K
Bobby Kielty, RF, A's, 3-3, 2B, HR
Doug Mientkiewicz, 1B, Royals, 0-1
Mark Redman, SP, Royals, 2 IP, 1 H, 1 ER, HR (to Nevin)
AJ Pierzynski, C, White Sox, 0-3
Twins Thoughts & Articles
Here are some links to some great Twins, and baseball, related articles from yesterday and today. Again, feel free to leave some comments, or e-mail me if anything strikes your attention or causes an opinion.
David Dorsey blogs 10 Reasons why Spring Training fans should choose Twins over Red Sox. I like #1: "The Twins are better than the Red Sox." But I will let you read the other nine!
He also wrote a very nice article on Joe Mauer.
Yesterday, Patrick Reusse discussed why Ron Gardenhire is no fan of the WBC.
LaVelle tells us that Luis Rodriguez is indeed going to be staying with the Twins instead of playing in the WBC after talking to Venezuelan manager Luis Sojo who told him that he would not play every day.
In Kelly Thesier's Notes Column, she writes that Johan Santana is ready for the WBC. She also gives us the Twins starting lineup for today's game against the Reds. "...left fielder Shannon Stewart, second baseman Luis Castillo, center fielder Hunter, designated hitter Rondell White, third baseman Glenn Williams, right fielder Michael Cuddyer, first baseman Terry Tiffee, catcher Mike Redmond and shortstop Nick Punto." Brad Radke will be pitching against Mike Gosling.
Jonathan Mayo is down in Arizona for Spring Training. He spent yesterday with the Angels and saw many of their prospects. He blogged about them. Be sure to listen to his radio show Around the Minors (with Mayo) at mlb.com radio today at 1:00 central.
Do you have any thoughts on the Twins, spring training or anything else? If so, send me an e-mail, or post some Comments below.
American Idol Thoughts
Last night was the second elimination night on American Idol. If you look back at my thoughts on the girls performance and the guy's performances, you will see according to how I thought that the performances went, my ninth and tenth finishers were Heather Cox and Brenna Gethers for the girls and Ace Young and Kevin Covais for the guys. However, when you look at who I predicted would actually be eliminated, you will see that I predicted that Heather Cox and Brenna Gethers would be the girls ousted and that David Radford and Sway Penala would be the guys who sang for the final time.
So, who was actually eliminated? Well, the woman with the fewest votes this week was indeed Brenna Gethers. The second fewest votes went to Heather Cox. Then it was time for the male eliminations. The male with the fewest votes was David Radford. The second fewest votes were received by Sway Penala. A perfect four for four for Seth!
I thought Brenna had potential, but she was arguably the worst female performances both weeks and the word "potential" can only be used so many times before she had to show some talent. Heather was not bad, but just wasn't up to the level of the rest of the competition. Kinnik Sky lives to see another week, and although I think she will be eliminated next week, she has the voice that if she picks the right song, she could stick around. For the men, how people actually vote for Kevin Covais is crazy to me. As someone wrote in the Comments yesterday, he is a little creepy! I thought Sway was good, and I enjoyed his music and his voice, but knew he was likely gone.
Carrie Underwood, last year's Idol Winner, came back and sang a song of hers "Jesus Take the Wheel" that spent six weeks at #1. It was good to see her again, although that was a really bad dress!
Tell me what you thought of the show and the vote. Were you at all surprised?? Send me an e-mail, or let's talk about it in the Comments here. That is it for today!
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