Twins Report from Fort Myers. March 30th edition: Punto and the Red Sox and Goodbye Fort Myers

Tonight is my last night at Fort Myers. It has been a super blast to be able to spend 8-10 hrs a day at the Twins' Spring Training Complex on a daily basis. This will be the last of my Daily Reports from Fort Myers and it is a bit super-sized: 21 photos in all.

Like every morning, I started the day at the minor league Fields. Today was one of the rare days that all 4 fields were occupied and Twins' minor leaguers were either doing drills (Fields 1 and 4) or taking Batting Practice (Fields 2 and 3). Happy to finally snap an action photo of this previously elusive Twins' prospect:

Pretty tight two-seamer grip.

And the Celebrity of the Day (he was watching AAA BP at Field 2 and chatting -maybe commiserating- with Joe Benson about haircuts and the Twins' policy) :

Back at Hammonds Stadium for the Twins' game. Here are the lineups (names correctly spelled) :

I took this one just for Parker. "Thome is my Homey" sighting at Hammond Stadium:

Lots of familiar faces with the Red Sox:

Four sentence tale of the game:

Blackburn was up and down

Bard did this all afternoon long

The young players did OK, but some plays made Jerry do this:

and this was the final score:

I always like to take action shots and especially of players who are new with the Twins. So here is a a bunch:

Brian Dozier:

Sean Burroughs:

Mike Hollimon:

Angel Morales:

Jeff Gray:

Andrson Hidalgo:

(Yes he does the one-handed thing in every swing)

Evan Bigley:

Sam Deduno:

Esterlin De Los Santos:

What is wrong with this picture?

All good things have to come to an end and I had a blast. It was a great way for me to get to warm up for the season (and to get a decent 3K of pictures of Twins to play around with all season long...) Until next season, so long from Fort Myers.


Twins Report from Fort Myers. March 29th edition: Gibson and Hicks and the minors

Double Bill today at Fort Myers: The Twins' AAA club played the Red Sox' equivalent at Field 2 and the Twins' AA club played the Red Sox' equivalent at Field 3. At the same time while the Twins were playing the Pirates at McKechnie Field. Fields 2 and 3 are back to back so it was easy staying in-between, peeking at the action on both fields and concentrating to the one that made the most sense depending on the action.

Earlier around 10 AM there were Pitcher Fielding drills on Field 1, with pitchers of all levels of the organization from Extended Spring Training to New Britain, mostly Rookie and A, conducted by Tom Kelly, Paul Molitor and Jake Mauer. Pretty good company for one of the Twins' top prospects, don't you think?

Seeing this guy participate in Pitching drills with the rest of the AAA pitchers (even though he was just tossing the ball softly) was a sight for sore eyes:

(this is Kyle Gibson, for the ones who do not know him)

Back to the games. Here is the AAA lineup:

And here is AA:

(and, YES, even the Twins' staff cannot spell Mastroianni's and Herrmann's names correctly)

The pitching roster for Rochester was Luke French, Brad Thompson and Jeff Manship and for New Britain it was Alex Wimmers, Deolis Guerra and Lester Oliveros. The pitching roster and the fact that Aaron Hicks was playing (right field) for New Britain, made my choice of main game easy. A bonus was that a Tampa Bay scout was there scouting the two Twins' relievers, which makes me think that something might be going on...

There were some interesting spectators, involving a big name Twins' writer (not sure if he is going to write anything about this, though) :

And a certain pitcher who pitched most of last season with the Twins:

BTW, since he was cut I have not seen him in a single workout since I have been at Fort Myers last Sunday, so either there is something with him or he will be packing his bags soon...

Back to the AA game.

Alex Wimmers pitched 4 strong innings. Good sinker with good movement sitting from 88-90 and touching 91 occasionally. His braking ball is decent and so is his change but they both need command work. The one thing that is amazing about Wimmers, if you have not seen him before, is how little he looks:

I think that this season would be very important for him, especially to establish that command of his secondary pitches and improve the control of his sinker. If he does not do so, he will not be ready next season (2013) for sure...

Deolis Guerra pitched 3 more innings and he really struggled on the first one, throwing mainly his sinker (89-92). The four first batters went: double, HR, single, single. Very flat sinker with not much of an action at that inning.

The last pitcher for New Britain was Lester Oliveros, of Delmon Young trade fame. Something very interesting about Lester (and Bobby Cuellar was sitting by the radar table, where I was also, after the Twins' AAA game was done and chatting about this with the young Twins' pitchers who were charting pitches: ) When Oliveros throws his FB at 94-96 it flattens out, when it sits at 91-93 is has a nice sinking action and good movement and it is hard to hit. Same with the slider: 86-87 is all over the place; at 82-84 he can command it well. And control has been the biggest issue with Lester. I am very encouraged of the diagnosis of the issue and looks like he will start the season at New Britain trying to fix it. Another thing about Oliveros. If you have not seen him in real life, you will be surprised on how big he is. He looks small on the TV, but is really built. Almost Tyler Robertson big, other than the height.

How about Mr Hicks:

This picture is typical of Hicks at this game. He took a lot of pitches and he walk a couple of times before he was replaced by Derek Rodriguez (Pudge's son.) Could have been part of the game plan. I am not sure. He did play RF and if he will start at New Britain, with Derek Mastroianni there, he will have to mix and match outfield spots. He made a couple of nice catches and had a couple of good throws from RF. Before anyone is thinking about potential permanent move out of RF, this is just a game.

And, speaking of Derek Rodriguez... he looks a lot like dad, only taller, thinner and faster:

Back to the AAA game.

Really not impressed by Luke French. Typical LH junk-baller. Pitches from 80-86 mph, was hit hard. Brad Thompson who followed him is an interesting story. He is another new MiLB free agent (like French) and was out of baseball nursing an injury all last year. His FB sits at 86-87 but has crazy movement and induces lots of ground balls. He will be 31 this season. Interesting to watch how he will do in Rochester

Thompson pitched 2-3 good innings and the last pitcher for Rochester was Manship. Looks like they might use him as a reliever and not a starter this season down there. I have seen a lot of Manship so I was at the AA game when he pitched. This shot is from the bullpen warming up.

You'd probably heard by now that Trevor Plouffe had a couple of hits in that game. Here are his swings for those hits:

Tomorrow will be my last full day at Fort Myers and will coincide with my last report. I will be watching the Twins' game vs the Red Sox and will try to catch some action at the side fields earlier.


Twins Report from Fort Myers: March 28th edition

This afternoon was the Twins' game with the Phillies at Fort Myers. The Minor League games also started early today, so the side fields were pretty quiet. As usually before Twins' games at Fort Myers, a select group of players were taking batting practice at Field #5, while the non-playing Pitchers were at the OF to catch the balls. The players there were the backup infielder types and back up catchers: Doumit, Towles, Hollimon, Dozier, Burroughs (who was fine to take BP with a soft splint on his left wrist.) Interesting point number one: Drew Butera was absent from that group. Interesting point number two: Batting practice was under the eyes of these two gentlemen who actually had an animated discussion about some of the participants, but it would be rude to listen to a private conversation now, wouldn't it?

Back to the game. Liriano was starting (which was a treat) but there were a couple of interesting position choices: Ben Revere was the starting Right Fielder and Luke Hughes was the starting first baseman. Hughes later moved to Left Field, when Willingham was lifted for Hollimon who stayed at the game playing 1B. Revere later move to Center Field, when Brian Dinkelman came in.

You can read the box score and pretty much tell what happened in the game. Very encouraged by Liriano who was hitting 91-94 mph with his Fastball and was locating it properly. Also he induced a lot of ground outs, most with his slider and some with his FB, which is encouraging to see. As far as his mechanics go, he did stay tall (this delivery is on a slider) the whole outing

Mauer and Morneau made solid contact. Especially encouraging was to see a couple of hard and far hit balls by Morneau, including a Home Run. Here is his home run swing:

The people with "access" might have more information and they might have talked about it by now, but it appears that Willingham got something going on with his left forearm:

Alexi Casilla laid a perfect bunt and he is one of the best bunters in the majors, but his bunting form is somewhat unorthodox:

Speaking about Frankie staying tall, this was later in the game after he got into trouble. Truly, most of the Frankie's trouble was defensive issues. Valencia could have been easily given an error on that ball that passed through 3rd base and Span should have caught that soft pop in shallow center at the 3rd inning. So Frankie did not stay tall at least in that one pitch (and that was a Fastball) :

Brian Duensing had a very nice outing and surprisingly, he had the fastest pitch of the game. Most of his fastballs were from 90-92 but one hit 95 to stuck out looking the last batter he faced:

Did I say how nice is to see Mauer and Morneau getting on base?

And all Luke knows how to do, is to knock runners in

Hard to figure what's been going on with Perk (and Capps for that matter). Maybe because it was their first back to back appearance this Spring. But I really think that the issue of the matter is deeper: He is trying to re-grow that Amish looking beard he had a couple seasons ago and we all know where that led him. So about time to make changes...

On the other hand there has been word of Capps' split finger fastball. Did not see that one today, but Capps really labored and his regular fastball was sitting at 91-92 which is a bit slower that where it should be this season. (And do not blame the gun. Liriano hit 94 and Duensing 95 on the same game earlier)

Burnett finished the game and he looked underwhelming... I think that he will be on the round of the next casualties along with Drew Butera. At some point the Twins had Casey Fien warming up at the 9th inning... with a 5 run lead, when Burnett was pitching. I think that this speaks tons about the confidence the Twins' have on him at this point.

Tomorrow the Twins are playing the Pirates away in Bradenton. I will be staying at Fort Myers and covering action at the Minor League fields.


Twins Report from Fort Myers: March 27th edition

Today the big boys were playing the Orioles in Sarasota. So were the AAA, AA and A+ squads and the only action at the Lee County Sports Complex was the Beloit Snappers hosting the Orioles A league squad at field number 3 and several other players, most of them rookies, practicing and scrimmaging in field 1.

The Beloit game was a treat in many respects. First and foremost was that TK was the manager and it was interesting to watch TK manage a game from a dugout, even though this game was an A level Spring Training Game.

A lot of interesting names in this game, and if one assumes that they all will start in Beloit, the Snappers' fans will be in for a treat. Here is the lineup:

2B AJ Petersen
3B Nick Lockwood
RF Max Kepler
1B DJ Romero (a surprise to play at that level)
CF Romy Jimenez (another surprise to see at the level, the other way from Romero)
SS Tyler Grimes
DH Drew Leachman
C Matt Koch
LF Wang-Wei Lee

JD Williams, Nate Roberts and Miquel Sano were around and did not play and Micheal Quesada entered later as a Catcher.

Interesting to see Tom Kelly around young players at that level, especially for the ones of us who knew how he was with rookies as a major league manager later in his career. Lots of yelling encouraging stuff from the dugout, lots of playing and teasing with them (esp. Sano, more on that later) and in general good good feeling. I am certain that these players had a blast.

BJ Hermsen was the starter and he lasted about 3 innings. Hermsen is 22, played last season in Beloit and a little bit at Fort Myers, and he seems to be repeating Beloit. He was somewhat disappointing, having issues with his control and walking a lot of baby Orioles. I was really expecting a somewhat more polished pitcher than what I saw today. Maybe it is just a matter of time.

Second pitcher in was Steve Gruver (LHP) the 2011 7th Round pick who actually pitched 3 innings (and looks like he is stressed to be a starter in 2012.) He was very effective, a quick worker and he missed a few bats. I think that he has the potential to surprise in 2012.

Another pitcher I haven't seen play (other than that awful video from Vandy where he broke his kneecap on the mount and made the play) is Corey Williams, the Twins' 3rd round pick in 2011. This guy can be really special for the organization. He has a heavy singing FB with a lot of movement, that sits around 91-92 (had to move and go to the scouting table to look his velocity, because his staff is THAT good) a good curve in the low mid 70s and he is playing with a change. His sinker/cutter is his bread and butter and he both missed bats and induced ground balls. And he is a leftie. He will probably be the closer for Beloit but I can see him make it all the way up to New Britain this season, he is just this good. Alternatively, he might be stressed to be a starter in 2013 or so, if he has the endurance. But this kid is special.

Speaking of Special Kids. Sano did not play today for some reason. I overheard that he might be DHing tomorrow, so he might be fighting something or another. But he sat there absorbed in the game, very talkative with TK and his teammates and even brought water to the umpires at some point.

How about some swings from the game?

Max Kepler:

Drew Leachman:

AJ Pettersen:

Romy Jimenez:

And if you are keeping score at home:

Here are a couple of action shots from the other field of 2011 high draft picks. Some of their first action shots in Twins' uniforms:
Hudson Boyd 55th overall:

Looks a lot like Joba Chamberlain, both in statute, looks and the way he pitches.

Travis Harrison 50th overall:

Both were selected from high school so they have some ways to go.

Tomorrow I will be watching the Twins-Phillies game at Fort Myers as well as other action before the game on the fields of the Lee County Complex.