Monday, March 6, 2006
TWINS THOUGHTS AND LINKS
GET WELL, KIRBY!
Good Monday morning to everyone! I went to church yesterday morning at 11:15 with every hope that I would be home by 12:00 to see the beginning of the Twins game against the Red Sox. Well, got home at 12:40. Not happy, but I guess that a little perspective should be taken. I know last week one day, I wrote a little article on perspective. But, if we are talking about perspective, the news I heard when I turned on the TV definitely put everything where it should be.
I heard the news that my boyhood hero, Kirby Puckett, had a stroke yesterday morning at his home in Arizona. He was rushed to the hospital and air lifted to another hospital where he was expected to have some surgery. Apparently Al Newman, long-time Puckett friend now scouting for the Diamondbacks, had informed the Twins of Puckett's stroke before the game. Torii Hunter was scheduled to start in yesterday's game, but chose not to play at all. Dan Gladden was supposed to be broadcasting the game for WCCO, but he took a flight to Arizona to be with Puckett.
The news of Puckett's stroke affected a lot of people with or around the Twins. It hit me hard. I just sat there staring at the TV for awhile after hearing the announcement. I was eight years old when Kirby Puckett made his big league debut in 1984 for the Twins. There were the World Series Championships. There were the ten consecutive All-Star appearances. There were the six Gold Glove Awards and six Silver Slugger Awards. Seven times he finished in the top ten in MVP voting in the American League. There were plenty of on-field reasons for Kirby Puckett to be a person's favorite player. You could even add his name, the leg kick in his batting stance, the way he tossed his bat after making contact. There was the way that Bob Casey introduced him with his Kirbbyyyyyyyyy Puckett every at bat.
But off the field, Kirby Puckett was legendary. He gave money to charities. He spent time with kids. He was so active in the community. Like basketball players wanted to where Number 23, young Minnesota baseball players wanted to be Number 34! I remember when he became a free agent in the fall of 1992. The Red Sox made a huge push to sign him. I was sure that he was going to leave the Twins and go to Boston. But, like Kent Hrbek a couple of years earlier, Puckett accepted less money to stay in Minnesota. (Granted, less money still made him the first player to sign a contract for $3 million a season) To me, as a fan, that meant as much to me as the World Championships and all the numbers.
I remember when he was hit by Denny Martinez by a pitch in the eye in 1995 which ended his season. We didn't know that it would be the end of his career. He went to training camp and we were all watching. He had three hits against Greg Maddux one day, and the next day, we all watched his press conference announcing that he had glaucoma and would have to retire from baseball. I remember tears in my eyes, as well as tears in the eyes of Chuck Knoblauch and Paul Molitor. Remember Molitor had come to Minnesota, in part, to get to play with Puckett. I remember also that Puckett was not crying. He was strong, and he was asking others not to feel sorry for him because he had a great career, and this was just a setback, and he would be just fine.
And then the debate began. Had he done enough in his 12 seasons to be in the Hall of Fame? He had recorded more hits than anyone in their first twelve years. He was one of the fastest to reach 2,000 hits. Five years later, there he was, a first-ballot Hall of Fame player. And I believe it was the right choice. Everything he stood for was Hall of Fame worthy. The day that Puckett was announced as being a Hall of Famer, we made arrangements for six of us to go to the Hall of Fame Induction of Puckett. In August of 2001, we were there. We were there with a multitude of Twins fans, a multitude of Kirby Puckett fans.
It was a month later that 9/11 happened. It was two months later that we found out that Kirby Puckett was not the perfect role model that we had always believed. We found out that he was, to our surprise, just as human as the rest of us. Now, some may choose to dwell on all that negativity, and based on what Puckett had done, some of that was deserved. For me though, I took only one lesson out of it all. Since that time, I have not looked at professional athletes as heroes or as role models. Now that I am an adult and realize my humanness on a daily basis, it is much easier to understand the humanness of the athletes. I still fully admire them for what they do on the athletic field, and I wish I was in their space. But because of the events surrounding my long-time role model, I determined not to put another athlete that high on a pedestal.
So, I chose to wear those blinders that we all hear or read about. I choose to look at Kirby Puckett, the baseball player. The guy that I enjoyed watching. I enjoyed watching him making those leaping catches over the baggy in centerfield. I enjoyed his mammoth home runs to left, but I also was amazed by all of those line drives to right field on up and in fastballs. I appreciated his rocket arm with its amazing accuracy. I loved seeing his smile on the field, understanding that it is still a game. I appreciate seeing that still on the faces of Torii Hunter and Jacque Jones. Those are the guys who still credit Puckett as guiding them through their early days with the Twins.
And today, Kirby Puckett is going through yet another ordeal in his life. Of course, we know very little about Puckett's condition. I assume that we will be kept abreast as information is found, or information-share is even appropriate. I understand people even now wanting to judge Puckett on his physical condition and to some degree, it is timely. However, right now it is most important for him to get through this stage. Let's hope for his recovery and health. Once we can establish that he is alright, then we can hope that he will take better care of himself. But for now, please say a little prayer for Kirby and his family. If you aren't into the prayer thing, just think a good though, or wish him well. When you hear people at school or at work talking about Puckett's current situation, be sure to remind people of what Puckett meant to the Twins, and what he meant to children and adults throughout the Upper Midwest in the '80s and '90s. Remind them that as popular as current Twins Joe Mauer, Torii Hunter or Johan Santana are, they can not hold a candle the popularity of Kirby Puckett.
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.
Here are some other articles on Kirby Puckett that I have found. If you find others, please e-mail me the links. Thanks!
David Dorsey's blog article Praying for Puckett is short, but very heartfelt.
Speaking of touching articles, take a few minutes and read LaVelle E. Neal's article on Puckett today. When I was reading about all of the former teammates and friends that went to the hospital to be there, it is really remarkable. I think it is more proof about the kind of teammate and leader Puckett was.
Joe Christenson was able to talk to a number of baseball people outside of the organization and get their thoughts on Puckett.
I wrote the above, and then I read this article by Patrick Reusse that makes the stroke sound so much worse than I was really even anticipating. After reading this article, well I could write this for any article I read about Puckett today, it is much more obvious how bad this situation is, or could be.
The Strib's Terry Collins apparently went to the Gophers/Nebraska baseball game at the Dome yesterday to get quotes from fans about Kirby.
Timberwolves star Kevin Garnett said, "Kirbs was like my older brother."
Aaron Gleeman wasn't sure how to write about the Puckett situation, so he posted a paper he had written in 2003 about Puckett. It's long, but wonderful!
Kelly Thesier also wrote a nice article on Puckett that includes more great quotes.
Nick N. posted a few thoughts of his own on Puckett, but he also shared with us the Twins Geek's Thoughts as written in the Comments of the Batgirl site.
Spring Training games don't mean a whole lot in the first place, but with Kirby Puckett's news on Sunday, they really seem minor. But, in the thinking that the show must go on, I will try to post a few thoughts on the Twins games this weekend, with some notes on some of the players.
GABE WHITE - following his rough outing on Thursday night, the veteran lefty reliever decided to retire from baseball. Was he likely to make the Twins staff? Probably not. But, he has had a decent career, and he is just 34 years old. For the Twins, this decision is minor in the big, overall scope of things. Can you even imagine everything that went through his mind on Thursday night as he was sitting in his hotel room thinking about whether to keep playing or move to the next phase of his life. No matter how good a player is, it is a huge decision. Again, just a reminder of the more human side of the game.
FRIDAY - Twins 1, Reds 9
BRAD RADKE - started for the Twins and gave up three earned runs in two innings. The big blow was a two-run first inning homer by Edwin Encarnacion. If this was a regular season game, that point would be brought up around the Twins blogosphere. Because it is spring training, all I can say is "Who Cares?" It is known that Radke throws nothing but fastballs in his first spring start. He is not trying to make the team. He is a lock. He tries to find release point on the fastball and hit spots inside and outside. The only thing that matters in his outing is that he said he felt good when he was done. The Twins and their fans need Radke to be healthy. So again, don't make too much out of anything Radke does in the first couple of outings.
GLEN PERKINS - Likewise, it is important not to get too excited about the two shutout innings that Perkins through after Radke. The 23 year old Stillwater native, former Gophers pitcher and Twins 1st round pick in 2004 is a good story this spring. He is another local guy making good. However, reality tells us that no matter how many articles you read about how well he is pitching and that he might be considered for a spot in the Twins bullpen, there is about a 2% chance of him actually making the Twins Opening Day roster. No matter how well he pitches in spring. No matter how well he pitched in the Fall League in November, I just can't see a scenario in which Terry Ryan would allow him to be on the Twins roster. His 4-4 record with a 4.90 ERA in his 14 starts at New Britain last year tells us that he needs a little more seasoning. I think he should start back in AA and them move up when he is ready. Although Perkins has nowhere near the ceiling that Francisco Liriano does, Perkins needs innings too. He has a chance to be a quality starter in the big leagues so they will stick with that plan for now. Now, all that said, Perkins might as well hope to keep pitching well in front of the big league coaching staff! If they see him succeed and throw well, send him down to AA and he keeps pitching well, and their is an injury to someone on the pitching staff, Ron Gardenhire and Terry Ryan would not hesitate to call him up to the Twins from either AA or AAA.
KEVIN CAMERON - Cameron threw the final two innings of this game and didn't give up a base runner. No, he is another guy who will not make the Twins roster, but success for him may mean that he starts the season at Rochester instead of New Britain. And, like Perkins, he is being seen by the Twins coaching staff which may be important later in the season. A side thought might tell us that he is also being seen by scouts and coaches from other big league clubs which may be important to his career in the future. Plus, I just think it is cool that he just happened to be working out at the Twins facility a couple of days before camp was set to begin and Terry Ryan came up to him and asked him if he wanted to join the team in workouts!
JD DURBIN - I guess not everything in a 9-1 loss can be positive or seen with a grain of salt. I think it is safe to say that Durbin's performance fits into a more negative tone. Again, we don't want to make too much of a player's first spring performance. With guys like Radke and Johan Santana, or even Perkins and Cameron, they kind of know where they stand with the organization. Radke and Santana will make the Twins Opening Day roster. Perkins and Cameron probably won't. Of course, it is most likely that Durbin will start the season at AAA, but in a perfect world, Durbin would come back from a nightmare 2005 season and have a strong spring to put his name in good graces with the team. Durbin's first outing resulted in one inning pitched, allowing five earned runs on six consecutive hits. On the positive, he didn't walk anyone though.
OTHERS - Reds young 3B Edwin Encarnacion had quite a day. He had two homers and a double. He will be a good one! Denard Span got his first two at bats of the spring and did have one hit. Ruben Sierra singled Span in for the lone run of the game. OF Andres Torres was another spring invite guy. He had a hit, but I have to wonder where he fits into the Twins plans. He played in the major leagues as recently as 2005, but I can't imagine that he would be a guy that the Twins would want taking up a roster spot at Rochester. I would expect that Jason Tyner, Josh Rabe, Alex Romero and Doug Deeds would be the top four OF at Rochester. Would Torres want to be a fifth outfielder option for a AAA team at this stage of his career?
SATURDAY - Twins 6, Devil Rays 1
SCOTT BAKER - It is probably not coincidence that the first person to talk about is the day's starting pitcher. Scott Baker is allegedly in a battle for the Twins fifth starter spot, but I think that it is really his to lose. In this game, he went 2 2/3 innings and didn't give up a run. Three hits, but no walks. A very solid first outing. He must have done very well because no other starter has been stretched into that third inning.
MATT GARZA - The Twins top pick in 2005, Garza was brought into big league camp early as insurance for all of their WBC pitchers. He has to be very happy with his 1.1 innings. He walked one, but he also struck out one and didn't give up a hit. Another guy with zero chance of making the Twins roster at this point, he is likely to start the season at Ft. Myers and possibly advance to New Britain by midseason.
TERRY TIFFEE - The switch-hitter went 3-4 in this game as the team's 3B. He will get plenty of chances this spring at both 1B and 3B. Because the Twins waste two roster spots instead of one with bad utility middle infielders, I can't imagine that Tiffee will make the Twins roster, especially with Ruben Sierra being a switch-hitter off the bench. However, if he keeps hitting well, he will make that decision more difficult!
OTHERS - Errol Simonitch picked up the Win (which means even less in spring training than in the regular season). He gave up a run in two innings of work. Ricky Barrett struck out two in two shutout innings. Most impressively for Barrett was that he walked just one. Julio DePaula is another guy that was brought in to give the team extra arms. He threw a shutout inning with a walk and a strikeout as well.
SATURDAY - Twins 3, Indians 7
BOOF BONSER - Bonser made his first start of the spring and threw two shutout innings. He gave up one hit and walked one, but he also struck out two. As I've said, his success may make Kyle Lohse more expendable. I think that Glen Perkins' spring success may also play a part in that decision as well.
DAVE GASSNER - I mentioned that Scott Baker went into the third inning on Saturday. Gassner actually completed three innings of work. That tells me that he must have been very efficient with his pitches. Of course, he did give up three hits and walked two batters, but he allowed just one run. Gassner is a starting pitcher type, with stuff comparable to Jamie Moyer. That doesn't fit well into a late-inning lefty specialist. However, Gassner could still be vying for a spot as the long man out of the bullpen.
ADAM HARBEN - After a very solid eighth inning, Harben was hit hard in the ninth. Of course, I heard that he wasn't hit too hard and didn't get much help defensively either. Harben had an excellent 2005 season at Ft. Myers and was added to the 40 man roster, the tall, lanky righty really only needs to work on his control before he might become a dominant starter. I expect he will spend all of 2006 at New Britain.
PAT NESHEK - Friend of SethSpeaks, Pat Neshek got into his first game of the year. He came in with two on and one out in the 9th inning of this game. He gave up a hit to the first batter he faced and then got the next two out to end the inning. Check out Pat's website to understand what was going through his mind before making that first appearance and much more.
OTHER - Michael Cuddyer made the start in RF and went 2-3 with a double and an RBI. Torii Hunter also had two hits.
SUNDAY - Twins 5, Red Sox 1
KYLE LOHSE - Lohse looked good in two innings. He allowed a hit and a walk, but he struck out two in two shutout innings. If, in fact, Lohse is really going to remain with the team for all of 2006, I hope that he has one of those monster breakout seasons. Either way, it is hard to imagine that he will be back in 2007, so might as well get one great season from Lohse.
GARRETT JONES - I think that the main story of the game was Garrett Jones. He started at 1B and went 2-3 with two doubles and two RBI. His two doubles were hit on ropes, line drive to the gap in right centerfield. As I saw him make contact on both doubles, he reminded me of someone else's swing. After a couple of replays, I realize who Jones' swing reminded me of... the swing of Justin Morneau.
DENARD SPAN - Span was on 1B after a walk (his second of the game) for one of Jones' doubles. As he approached second base, you could almost literally see him kick it into another speed. As he did that, the camera switched to the right fielder who picked up the ball and threw it into the infield. The cameras were only off of Span for about 1.5 seconds, but when they went back to him, he was already one-third of the way down the third base line. He must have gone about 120 feet in about 2.5 seconds. Also, in his next at bat, Span blooped a single between the shortstop, left fielder and centerfielder. When the throw back to the infield was a little high, Span was ready and flew to 2B, taking the extra base. I think that Span should start back in New Britain again, and if he is doing well, Rochester should be the next step. He may only get to the Twins in 2006 as a September call-up, although that may not happen either as he is not on the 40 man roster. The key for Span is to do what it takes to be ready to be the Twins CF in 2007. If Hunter is kept, then he should be ready to play some left field. My main point to this... Denard Span is a fast man!
JOSE MIJARES - Mijares kind of came out of nowhere in 2005 to have an excellent season. Numbers and "stuff" remind people of Johan Santana. He throws gas and I saw him throw a couple of nasty changeups in his two innings of work yesterday. When I hear Johan Santana mentioned, we remember that Francisco Liriano is also mentioned as comparable. So, my assumption was that Mijares would be slender and tall, like Liriano, or at least slender, like Santana. No, Mijares is a big man, but not all that tall. In two innings, he gave up one hit, but no runs, and he struck out two.
JUSTIN JONES - The Twins were just throwing lefty after lefty on the mound. This was the first time I had a chance to see Jones throw. He doesn't appear to be overpowering yet, although as spring goes along, I think he could throw harder. He seems to throw three pitches pretty well and with decent control. He threw two shutout innings. He gave up two hits and a walk, but no runs. He also struck out two. Like Harben, Jones spent all of 2005 at Ft. Myers. Injuries have really been his only negative. Last year, once he was healthy, he was very good. I would expect him to spend the season at AA New Britain.
LUIS CASTILLO - He had a nice day. In the box score, it just says 0-0. He didn't do much, huh? Well, he got on twice via the base on ball. He also laid down a very nice sacrifice bunt with runners on 1st and 2nd, another of his skills. I don't think that we yet appreciate how important it will be to have a guy at the top of the order who can get on base for the middle.
OTHER - Darrell May threw two more innings to pick up the Win. It was an interesting half-inning for Tommy Watkins in the 7th. The first batter hit a hard grounder into the hole. Watkins dove and grabbed the ball. He got up and bobbled the ball for a split second, just enough for the batter to beat out the strong throw to 1B. The next batter his a tailor-made double play at Watkins. He caught it nicely, transferred the ball from his glove to his hand nicely, and then smoothly threw the ball... into right field. Later in the inning, no runs scoring and a runner on 1B, Watkins got a two hopper up the middle, he stepped on 2B himself and threw to first for the inning-ending double play.
MONDAY - The Twins will play the Pittsburgh Pirates.
Any thoughts on the Twins spring games, or any of the comments I posted? E-mail me, or be sure to leave some Comments below.
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. If you're like me, you will find it interesting that Todd Sears is in a big league camp. So, here are how some of these guys did in their weekend spring training games. If I'm missing people, let me know.
Brandon Marsters, BAL, C, 1-1, R, RBI, 2B
Travis Bowyer, FLA, RP, 2/3 IP, 1 H, 1 ER, 1 BB, 1 WP
Pat Borders, LAD, C, 0-1
Michael Ryan, ATL, CF, 0-1
Matthew LeCroy, WASH, C, 1-3
Michael Restovich, CHC, 1B, 1-2, R, K
Jacque Jones, CHC, RF, 3-3, R, 2B
Todd Walker, CHC, DH, 1-1, R, 3 RBI, 2B, SF
Todd Sears, SEA, 1B, 2-3, 2 RBI
Matt Lawton, SEA, RF, 0-2, BB
Corky Miller, SEA, C, 0-2
Corey Koskie, MIL, 3B, 1-3, R, RBI, HR, K
Brent Abernathy, MIL, 2B, 3-3, R, RBI, 2B
Rick Helling, MIL, SP, 2 IP, 1 H, 0 R, 1 BB, 1 K
Damien Miller, MIL, C, 1-2, R, RBI, HR
Casey Blake, CLE, DH, 1-4, R, RBI
Chris Gomez, BAL, SS, 1-3
LaTroy Hawkins, BAL, RP (S,1) 1 IP, 1 H, 1 BB, 1 K
Michael Ryan, ATL, CF, 1-1, RBI
Matthew LeCroy, WASH, 1B, 1-2, K
Cristian Guzman, WASH, SS, 1-3, RBI
Quinton McCracken, CIN, LF, 1-2, BB
AJ Pierzynski, CHW, C, 1-2
Bobby Kielty, OAK, LF, 1-4, R, 2 RBI, E, 2B, BB
Brent Abernathy, MIL, 2B, 0-1
Corey Koskie, MIL, 3B, 1-3, R, RBI, 2B
Damien Miller, MIL, C, 1-3, 2B
Matt Lawton, SEA, LF, 0-3, 2 K
Doug Mientkiewicz, KCR, DH, 2-3, 2B, 3 RBI
Joe Mays, KCR, SP, 1.2 IP, 4 H, 2 ER, 0 BB, 2 K
Danny Ardoin, COL, C, 1-2, R, RBI, SB
Hector Carrasco, LAA, SP, 2 IP, 3 H, 1 ER, 1 BB, 1 K
Todd Walker, CHC, 2B, 0-2
Jacque Jones, CHC, RF, 0-2
Matthew LeCroy, WASH, C, 1-3, HR (off Kris Benson), R, RBI
Quinton McCracken, CIN, RF, 1-1, R, RBI
Casey Blake, CLE, RF, 1-3, 2 RBI
Michael Restovich, CHC, DH, 1-2, R, 2B
Augie Ojeda, CHC, SS, 1-2
Doug Mientkiewicz, KCR, 1B, 1-2, R, RBI
Corey Koskie, MIL, 3B, 0-3
Chad Moeller, MIL, C, 0-1, RBI
Todd Sears, SEA, 1B, 1-1, RBI
Matt Lawton, SEA, RF, 2-3, R
Twins Thoughts & Articles
David Dorsey blogs about his Favorite Twin, Dominic Jamella, an 86 year old "Security Guard."
Dorsey also wrote a very nice article on Luis Castillo.
Patrick Reusse did write a very nice article on Glen Perkins though. He compares his 'confidence' to that of AJ Pierzynski. I have a sneaky feeling that he is the kind of guy that teammates may not even like, but they still probably respect his ability to pitch and help the team win.
Jason Williams wrote a good article on Jason Bartlett and how he plans to be the Twins Opening Day shortstop, but this time for good.
Do you have any thoughts on the Twins, spring training, Kirby Puckett or anything else? If so, send me an e-mail, or post some Comments below.
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