Twins Spring Training Report from Fort Myers: 3/21/15: A Tale of Two Starters

The Twins has a couple split squad games today, against the Rays at Port Charlotte and at the Hammond Stadium against the Orioles.  Here are my notes from the home game:

After Alex Meyers' demotion yesterday, there are only 3 pitchers left in the battle for the 5th rotation spot:  Mike Pelfrey, Tommy Milone and Trevor May.  The last 2 started the respective games today, with Milone taking the node for the home game.  While May ended up pitching a no-hit 4 innings at Port Charlotte, Milone had an adventurous start in Fort Myers.   He is a pitcher who really needs to be spot on and if he is not, it is like a batting practice, and the Orioles showed that in the second inning, when they timed perfectly his 83-87 mph Fastballs, hitting them all over the park, and one (by former Twin Steve Pearce) off the staircase that leads to the RF berm, for a HR.  He complemented his fastball with a 79-81 mph change and a 73-75 mph curve that were hit and miss.  Totally unimpressed with Milone, maybe because I do not think much about LH junk ball pitchers, but I think that after today Milone took a step back from Pelfrey and May in that competition.

To be noted: in the Orioles 4-run second inning, Josmil Pinto was hit three times!  by Adam Jones' back swing on the head and left the game after the inning was over.  Mildly surprised that the Twins' pitchers did not retaliate for their catcher, but the next pitcher who faced Adam Jones, was Glen Perkins...   Perkins had a decent outing, other than hanging an 82 mph slider to Delmon Young for a HR in the 5th.  9 pitches, 6 FBs (90-92,) 3 SLs (81-82) all but one strikes, but a strike was a long one too.   He was pounding the zone, but he is at least 4-5 mph with both of his pitches from where he needs to be.

Brian Duensing pitched 2 scoreless innings and he seems in mid-season form with all 4 of his pitches working:  His Fastball was 89-91, threw 2 curves at 73, one for a looking strike,  got a ground out and a couple of  looking strikes with a mid 80s change and his slider was fairly lively at the low 80s, inducing a couple of jammed pop ups.   Watching JR Graham pitch was a treat and I think that the Twins have found a good one.  Will be very surprised if he does not make the team.  He pitched 2 scoreless innings, and here is the sequence of his pitches (fastball unless mentioned) :  First inning: 91-ball (B), 93 swinging strike (SS), 94 ground out (GO).  94 fly out (FO). 94 Foul (F), 84 (SLider) Looking Strike (LS), 86 (SL) SS.  Second inning:  92 Hit. 95 B, 91 B, 93 LS, 94 F, 95 F, 81 (CHange up) B, 93 LS - K. To Mr Parmelee: 91 B, 96 F, 85 (SL) B, 84 (SL) F,  85 (SL) SS - K. 95 SS, 92 B, 95 B, 96 GO.   Very good movement with the fastball, and, as you can see, he does very his speeds.  Changeup is not his stronger pitch and he threw only one, but his slider is above average.  Looking forward to seeing him this season with the Twins.

As far as position players, disappointed with Torii Hunter who killed a couple of Twins' rallies, the first by hitting into a double play with the bases loaded and one out on the first and the second by striking out with runners in scoring position and one out.  If you read the box score, you'd think that Danny Santana had a good day with two hits,  but what the box score does not show is a couple of awful swinging strike outs and a dropped ball when Rohlfing tried to throw the runner away that ended up moving the runner to third.  I think that the battle for the starting Shortstop position is neck to neck as far as Santana and Eduardo Escobar are concerned.  Hicks had a bad day at the plate and had a mishap (took a bad route and the ball dropped inches from his foot, but was too shallow) at the outfield that went for a double and a trapped ball that he could have caught.  Between the four centerfield contenders nobody has really pulled ahead at this point.  Eddie Rosario is hitting .242/.235/.515, Shane Robinson .269/.345/.385, Hicks .222/.313/.370 and Jordan Schafer .217/.357/.261.  Pick your poison.   Oswaldo Arcia had a good play with the glove on a shallow fly ball that he aggressively called Hicks away and fielded cleanly; that ball would had been an adventure for Willingham last season.

Really impressed with the improvements at Hammond Stadium, but there are a few things sorely missing:  A couple of (small) infield boards; one to indicate balls and strikes and outs and the other pitch velocity.  The main board is not visible from all outfield seats well.  But there is always next year.

Tomorrow and Monday, there are no home games for the Twins, so expect full coverage of the action at the minor league fields.

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