Twins Spring Training Report from Fort Myers: 3/16/2014: Dueling Aces and Minor League Intrasquad games

Today it was Minnesota Day at Hammond Stadium, which apparently means that a whole bunch of people get early at the ballpark to tailgate at the parking lot and is a pain to find parking spots.   I arrived just in time for the two intrasquad games (AAA vs AA) and (A+ vs A) at Fields number 2 and 3.  Aaron Hicks was hitting for the AA team and Pedro Florimon was playing for the AAA team, so that is where I exclusively spent my time before I was headed to the ballpark for the Twins and Marlins game.

Alex Meyer was pitching and he was practically unhittable and a strike out machine, other than a long home run by Mike Gonzalez who looks in shape this season and will likely split the 1B/DH duties with Kennys Vargas in New Britain.  I am not going to give a scouting report on Meyer, it is unnecessary, but he was on top of his game and hitting his spots with ease.    I have not noticed before, but he does this weird thing with his mouth when he pitches:

Aaron Hicks did not play at the field but was the second batter in every inning for the AA squad and did nothing in 3 innings against Alex Meyer.  However, when he was replaced in the fourth, Hicks hit a long home run in dead center off Yohan Pino.   Pino was not quite as good as I remember him to be, his control was just not there.

Speaking of not good, BJ Hermsen started for the AA team and he was, well, not good.   It was amazing that he has been the Twins' minor league pitcher of the year in the past as well as having a spot on the 40-man roster.   I am not sure what has happened to him, but it is not pretty.  He was hit hard by every Rochester player, allowing multiple home runs and extra base hits.   Even Pedro Florimon hit a triple off him in one plate appearance and struck out (a feat by itself because Hermsen struck out 3.7 AA hitters per 9 innings last season) in another.

And if you are a major leaguer, this is how you go from the back fields to Hammond Stadium:

Some additional tidbits from the intrasquad game:  Evan Bigley played CF for Rochester today.  With Mastroianni back there tomorrow, I do not think that this will be a common sighting.  Bigley was fine at the field and made a couple good catches and looked good at the plate as well.   I think that this is a make or break season for him. 

This off-season the Twins picked up 28 year old CJ Ziegler, the Independent American Association MVP (.318/.408/.645 with 30 HRs and 99 RBI in 100 games,)  hoping it will be Chris Colabello's second coming.   Ziegler is listed at 6'5", 245 lbs, but he is a much bigger man.  This of a righty Jim Thome.  It will be interesting to see how he does in Rochester

Cole Johnson came to relieve BJ Hermsen and I think that he might be a sleeper.  Very lanky righty with easy delivery, throwing almost side arm and good movement.   Not a mph guy, but good solid stuff and looks like he got a good feel for pitching.  He struck out 11 per 9 innings last season in AA, so he might be doing something right.  The 44th round pick from Notre Dame in 2011 has been flying under the radar so far, but he might be someone to pay attention to this season.

Back at the Hammond Stadium the Twins hosted the Marlins, which resulted in a pitching matchup between a former Twins Ace

and the current Twins' Ace.

It was a pitching duel through five with each of the starters giving one run a piece and each of the starters topping out at 92 mph (which is quite a feat for Slowey.)    Ricky Nolasco was very impressive in that he has a repertoire of 5 (or so) pitches and he is throwing them any time in the count.  His change up (79-81) was particularly impressive today.   He will be the Twins' opening day starter and I predict a great season for him.   Both Jasons (Kubel and Bartlett) reached base today (a rarity for these guys) on walks.  Despite Twins' fans rooting for them to make the team, I think that their best days are well behind them and that they are not major league caliber players at this point.   Aaron Hicks came in for Alex Presley and had a nice double.    At this point, I think that it is not even close between these two.  In addition to Presley having an anemic bat this Spring and misjudging balls at the outfield, at one point in a single at mid-depth, he bounced the throw to the cutoff man.  An arm reminiscent of Ben Revere.  Speaking of feats, at some point Josh Willingham hit a strong liner that hugged the right field line.  I was thinking triple all the way as soon as it left his bat, but he managed to get thrown out at second base.  Unacceptable at pro ball.  Maybe the thing in his back pocket was weighing him down...

Tomorrow the Twins are playing the Orioles in Sarasota and it will be a full day of minor league coverage from Fort Myers for me.  

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