Today the Twins beat the Toronto Blue Jays 14-5 at Hammond Stadium with about a week remaining at Spring Training; meanwhile there were AAA vs AA and A+ vs A scrimmages at fields number 2 and 3 on the minor league side. Here are my thoughts and observations of the day
- A lot of great performances today, including Joe Mauer's 6 RBI day that included a HR at dead center and Aaron Hick's 4 for 4 day, but the performance of the day happened at field number three and was witnessed by about 50 people, including Twins' General Manager Terry Ryan. During the high A vs. A matchup that included stars in the making like Miguel Sano, Byron Braxton, Travis Harrison, Jorge Polanco, Kennys Vargas etc, a little known 10th round draft pick stole the show. DJ Baxendale, who was the Twins' 10th round pick from the University of Arkansas last summer and has been stretched to be a starter this season retired all 9 A players he faced, striking out 8. Only second baseman Aderlin Mejia was retired on a 3-1 ground out. Not a small feat, because the Cedar Rapids' lineup started with Buxton, Polanco and Harrison. Baxendale's stuff was absolutely filthy and his control was perfect (he had only one called ball the whole game). Two seam sinker with a lot of motion, a sharp breaking ball and a change up that had a life of its own. I will be very surprised if he does not move fast in the organization. This was one of the single most dominating pitching performances I have ever seen at any level of play. It was as if a major leaguer was pitching against Rookie league kids. Definitely someone to follow this season in Fort Myers (even though I suspect that he might end the season in New Britain.)
- Speaking of, this Fort Myers squad will score some runs and will be a serious contender in the Florida State League. Sandwiched between Miguel Sano and Kennys Vargas, at the clean up spot today was Mike Gonzales, the Twins' 9th Round pick in 2008. For the ones not familiar with Gonzales, he has had his up and downs (mostly downs) mainly resulting from lack of discipline and hard time controlling his weight. Last season he played with the Miracle and was mediocre. This would be his make or break season and looks like he will repeat the high A tour to start the season. The 25 year old is in probably the best shape of his career and actually is dwarfing Vargas, if that is possible. I expect a break through season from Gonzales this year.
- Alex Meyer pitched for the AA team against the AAA and the little I got to see him (the A vs high A matchup was the center piece of the day) he looked pretty good with a great fastball and impressive command. Luke Bard who pitched for the Cedar Rapids team also pitched pretty well, but he was eclipsed by Baxendale.
- At the Stadium it was an overcast and very windy day and lots of home runs resulted. PJ Walters got the node for the Twins and he just did not have it today. Plus he ran out of gas pretty quickly. I don't think that the threw anything harder than 80 mph in his last inning. His fastball was clocked at 88-91 in the first innings and this was about 2-3 mph less in actuality because of the Fort Myers radar. He is not ready to start the season in the majors at least as a starter. Just not there yet.
- Brian Duensing was solid other than the home runs and Jared Burton was impressive. I am not sure that Josh Roenicke will make the team; I feel that it is a battle of 2 spots between him, Tim Wood and Jim Pressly and the other two have been better, even though Roenicke had a good appearance today. Since he can pitch multiple innings, maybe will slide in the Swarzak role while he is on the DL. His fastball touched 94 mph and his breaking ball was effective today.
- I have the feeling that Pedro Florimon and Brian Dozier are pretty much enshrined as the starting middle infielders and from now until the opening day it is a matter of them to get to know each other. Second day in a row that started in their respective positions.
- Chris Parmelee had another lackadaisical performance. I don't know if he feels that there is no way that he will not make the team, but the level of effort is just not what it should be at this point. Hasty plate appearances and swinging at bad pitches is not the way to make people feel that you deserve a position among the best 13 position players of the Twins.
- More cuts will be coming soon and I think that Ray Olmedo, Brandon Boggs, Jeff Clement, Dan Rohlfing, PJ Walters, Tyler Robertson and maybe one of Casey Fien and Alex Burnett will be it. One week until opening day and the slate should clear pretty quickly.