Random Spring Training Thoughts from Fort Myers: 3/23/2013

Actually I spent the day at Port Charlotte, watching the Twins beat the Rays;  thus, no minor league report today other that the 5 guys (Jason Christian, Nate Hanson, Chris Colabello, Bruce Pugh and Dan Turpen - of Kevin Slowey trade fame) who made the half an hour trip up North to fill in as needed.   Here are my thoughts and observations from today:

  • I did not see it, but Scoot Diamond pitched for the AAA Twins' team against the Red Sox' AAA team down at Fort Myers and his line was: 3 IP, 5 H, 3 ER, 1 BB, 2 K.  Not too encouraging. 
  • A couple notes about the Charlotte Sports Park (the home of the FSL Charlotte Stone Crabs and the Spring Training home of the Rays.)  I think that the most parks I visit, the more and more I appreciate Hammond Stadium and the whole complex as a Spring Training venue.  Here is one example: The minor league fields in Port Charlotte have an entrance with a door and a guard behind it and they were locked.  Also, unlike Hammond stadium, there are cloth barriers on the chain link fences, which make following the action pretty awful.   One of the gems of Charlotte Sports Park (and a peak into Hammond Stadium 2014) is the wrap around deck from short left to short right field.  A great place to watch the game, esp. sitting on the tables by the Twins' bullpen at Right Center Field.  Really looking forward to Hammond Stadium having one of those next Spring Training.
  • I came down here for Spring Training with an open mind about Kevin Correia (yes, I know...) and I think that I know what the Twins saw in him.  When he hits the lower third of the strike zone he is actually a good pitcher; when he doesn't, he is bad.  Today he pitched against what was very close to the Rays' opening day lineup and did alright.  His fastball was at 89-91 (the radar there is probably alright, since Price was at 92-95, which is pretty true) and was good at the lower third, but flat and hittable at anything above that.  Change and breaking ball were both effective.  He pitched much better than Worley did yesterday.  I can start warming up to the idea that he will be serviceable for the Twins, but he will be walking a fine line if he needs to have pinpoint control to be serviceable (and he does need that.)   On another note, Correia is too slow and deliberate.  Not exactly a human rain delay, but pretty close...
  • The Twins' four relievers (Tim Wood, Glen Perkins, Alex Burnett and Casey Fien) did a fine job.   Wood is an interesting character and reminds me a bit of Jim Hoey physique-wise.  He has a bit deception on his movement and short-arms the ball.  He hit 94 with his fastball (Perkins did too) and he got swings and misses with his breaking ball.  Very energetic guy and one of the few players who still uses chewing tobacco.  Interesting to see whether he makes the team and how he will fit in.
  • Alex Burnett needed this very badly.  This was his only above average appearance in Spring Training (and it came in his seventh outing.)  Every thing was working for him, including his fastball that went up to 92.  A very good sign, but I am not sure at this point whether it is too late for him to make the team.
  • Dan Rohlfing and Wilkin Ramirez continued their great appearances this Spring.  Rohlfing started at first base and moved to left field later in the game.  I think that his versatility eventually will be valuable to the Twins, but he has to build up on what he achieved this Spring Training and translate it into a good season with the bat at AA.  As far as I am concerned, Dan Rohlfing is THE story for the Twins this Spring Training because he pretty much came from nowhere.  Nowhere as a career .249/.296/.313 in parts of 2 seasons in AA.  Now he has to take the leap.
  • At this point and with Darin Mastroianni having a fairly anemic day at the plate plus misplaying a fly ball, I wonder whether Wilkin Ramirez is actually battling Mastroianni for the 4th OF position and not only Drew Butera and Jeff Clement for the last spot on the 25-man roster.  He has been really good this Spring, he is a good defender at the corner OF spots, has some pop, has some speed, and has played some Centerfield (albeit last time in 2011.)
  • I think that all three starting infielders today (Brian Dozier, Pedro Florimon and Eduardo Escobar) make the team, with Dozier and Florimon the starters at second and short.  What you look in a double play combination is chemistry and these two seem to have it.  I just hope that the Twins decide that this is the case and have them play the rest of Spring Training together so they click even better.  As far as I am concerned, a cohesive middle infield is key to good defense and I hope that the Twins decide in one and let it be without taking guys in an out like they did the last few years.  That would be a recipe for defensive disaster.
  • Tomorrow the Twins are playing the Blue Jays in Hammond Stadium and will be interesting to see what a lot of people think is the team to beat in the American League in 2013.


Random Spring Training Thoughts from Fort Myers: 3/22/2013

I am officially at Fort Myers, where I will be through Monday, attending Twins' games and checking on the minor leaguers.    Unlike last season, when I pretty much presented a photo diary with 20+ images a day and some commentary, this season I will be doing something different:  I will be presenting some of my observations and thoughts during the day on both major and minor leaguers, as well as  other Spring Training-related items.   Of course, I will add a few pictures on each post.  I will probably make a couple of picture posts after next week, maybe as a Spring Training retrospect of sorts (since I am taking a ton of pictures this season.)

Today the Twins hosted the Yankees at Hammond Stadium and the AAA team hosted the Red Sox' AAA team on field number 1.   Here are my daily thoughts and observations:

  • Happy to be part of the biggest home Spring Training crowd ever for the Twins: a record 8366 people attended the game at Hammond Stadium and it showed it.  Standing room only and even that was sold out before the game.
  • Speaking of Hammond Stadium, some pretty interesting additions to the ballpark menu include deep fried cheese curds and calamari fingers (both of them at the "party deck" area at short right field.)
  • For what is worth: Alex Meyer, Evan Bigley and Oswaldo Arcia were practicing with the Rochester group this morning.
  • Speaking of Rochester,  I was not really impressed with 3 of the pitching newcomers: Elarton, Lane and Vasquez.
  • Got to see Miguel Sano take fielding drills with the New Britain squad.  BJ Hermsen was in that group as well, as were Josmil Pinto and Matt Koch.  Pinto is not a surprise to start at AA, but if Koch stays there. it will be a pretty big surprise.  Likely he is filling for Dan Rohlfing who is with the big boys still.
  • Over at the A and lower field, there were major pitching drills going on.  Kennys Vargas was on the field at first during those drills, and I would swear that he looks even bigger this season.
  • Speaking of pitching drills, back at the big league camp, there was a pretty large one going on this morning.  Good to see that Rich Harden was actually participating, but was the only pitcher who did not throw the ball.  Both Scott Diamond and Anthony Swarzak did throw the ball, btw.
  • Speaking of Swarzak, he later pitched batting practice to the infielders who were not playing today and he shattered Brian Dozier's bat to about 6 pieces (one of which went towards Swarzak and another popped in the back of the cage; nevertheless it was a large commotion)  Pretty good to see Swarzak back; he could be ready be the beginning of the season, but the Twins will put him on the DL.
  • Speaking of bats, Dan Rohlfing, it his plate appearance before his home run, sent his flying into the crowd about 6 rows over the Twins' dugout.  Large commotion but no injury and a nice souvenir.  Dan Rohlfing keeps being the surprise of the Spring as far as I am concerned, because there was a guy from whom nobody expected anything at the beginning of ST and now he is on the Twins' catching prospects map.
  • Thoughts about individual performances today:
  • The goodTrevor Plouffe was great at the field in several chances and he had solid plate appearances.  Good to see him back from his injury.  Wilkin Ramirez, who went 3-3 and was hit by a pitch, will make the back up outfielder/last spot on the bench race really interesting.  Solid on the plate against major leaguers.  I really liked Ryan Pressly.  He has an effortless delivery and can dial it up.  At this point, I will be surprised if he does not make the team.
  • The bad: Vance Worley was all over the place today.  I had a chance to watch him pitch both with the Phillies and with their AAA affiliate (IronPigs, which happens to be about 10 miles away from where I life) and he is not the same guy.  Not sure what's up, but it is worrisome at this point.  He had a bit of success lately when he tried to mix his offerings up, but the first few innings his two seamer was very flat.   He probably lost a few ticks as well, since the Hammond Stadium gun had him at 88-91 (got to subtract 2-3 for that gone.)  2 weeks left, he really needs to pick it up.  Ray Olmedo was fairly shaky on the field.  Bad jumps, miss-judgements and the such.  I thought that he had an outside chance at a utility role, but I just do not see it now.  Darin Mastroianni was not at his best either.  He let a couple balls drop right in front of him for singles during Tyler Robertson's breakdown, which brings us to
  • The ugly: Robertson was miss-matched at this game.  The ball was coming off his hand flat when he was throwing the sinker that topped at 88 (with that gun) and the Yankees' AAA squad hit it like it.  His breaking ball was good, but if the fastball is not there, he will not survive.  I will be surprised if he is not one of the next cuts.
  • Several scouts at the game (look at the following picture) and not sure who they were scouting.  Among them the Twins' First Scout who watched the game with a stopwatch on his left hand and a scouting book the size of Gutenberg's Bible on his lap.
  • Tomorrow I will be at Port Charlotte watching the Twins visit the Rays' home park.  First time at that ballpark for me and I look forward to it.