2016 Twins Spring Training Coverage from Fort Myers. 3/23: Nolasco cements a job in the rotation

Today was the last live game from Fort Myers.   Yesterday, I shared some thoughts about the Twins 25-man roster and based on what I have seen previously, Rickey Nolasco should be the Twins' fifth starter.    With another stellar performance today against the Rays, going for 6 innings allowing only 3 hits, no earned runs, walking 2 and striking out 7, he cemented that position, especially when in Field number 2 his only competition, Tyler Duffey, allowed two home runs among other hard hit balls this afternoon.   Pending a trade, I can see no way that Nolasco will not be in the Twins' rotation, and arguably has pitched pretty well this spring, earning a spot.

Glen Perkins' appearance today and the rest of the Spring has been worrisome.   His fastball barely reached 91 and his slider 81, and has been batter all over Hammond Stadium without finishing an inning.  In 2/3 of an inning he allowed 2 hits and a walk with no strikeouts, adding up to 3 runs.   I hope Terry Ryan has a plan B in his back pocket for a closer, because Perkins is continuing his decline from last season second half.

As far as position players go, Eduardo Nunez was horrible today:  Two errand throws to the first and a dropped ball on a base steal attempt did not help the Twins' cause.  Let's call it a hick up and hope that it will not continue to happen.

Byron Buxton has a lackluster performance a couple days ago,  but today, he made up for it.  He has a great running catch in the first innings and also got an infield hit in a ball hit deep in the shortstop, in the same situation he did not previously.  I think that he also might be cementing a spot in the 25 man roster.

So is Danny Santana, who got an infield hit in a drag bunt, then stole second, and in a play that featured 3 errant throws by Rays scored.  Great heads up play, plus his speed and versatility will help.

Oswaldo Arcia likely won the last 25 man spot over former hated White Sox player Carlos Quentin.  Arcia has been better on the field that Quentin, making some difficult plays, whereas Quentin has no position, and has been better with the stick and the basepaths, stealing a couple of bases so far.   I think that Quentin was brought in as a plan B if Byung Ho Park did not pan out right away as a 1B/DH, but this is not the case.   So it looks like the Twins' position player side in the 25 man roster is about set.  There are still some question-marks in the bullpen, as I indicated yesterday

Next: Catching an airplane up North tomorrow and either later this week or early next will will give my Spring Training Redux and my prediction for the Twins' 2016.  Still need to chew on this a bit... 


2016 Twins Spring Training Coverage from Fort Myers. 3/22: The Twins Opening Day Roster is as Clear as it was in February

There is about a week of Spring Training games (actually 9) left for the Twins, and the composition of the Opening Day 25 man roster is still very unclear, with exactly the same questionmarks as in the beginning of Spring Training:

1.  Who would be the last 2 Twins' Starting pitchers?  Tyler Duffey, Tommy Milone, or Ricky Nolasco?  Pick 2.

There was the feeling that it could be a 5 way battle with Jose Berrios and Trevor May also vying for a spot in the rotation, but it seems that the inclusion of Berrios & May was for PR reasons.  Milone seems to have earned a spot in the rotation, by arguably being the most consistent starter this Spring, so apparently it is up to Duffey and Nolasco, who both had pretty mediocre springs in official games to claim that last spot.  Nolasco had a great outing in the back fields the other day, and my take has been that it has always been his spot to loose, and he has not done that, or Duffey has not done anything to win it.  But still the Twins have not made it clear

2 (or rather 1b)  Who will be joining Perkins, Jepsen, May and Fien in the Twins' pen?

The only thing clearer than the beginning of the Spring Training here is that Ryan & Co do not want any of the young fireballers to start the season up North, and even though they pitched better than the rest, including the anointed closer whose fastball is about 6 mph south of its peak, Nick Burdi and JT Chargois, were reassigned and optioned to the minor league squads earlier.  Among the other cuts in the reliever group, Mason Melotakis did show flashes of greatness, but also did show rust from sitting for one year, which needs to be shaken, Pat Dean and Alex Meyer need to start games in AAA, Randy Rosario and Yorman Landa are a few years away, Mike Strong and his 40-man spot has proven the head scratcher that has been on paper and Aaron Thompson has proven than wearing a Civil War Beard in 80 degrees in Florida will not help your case if you do not have any talent.   Jake Reed was also disappointing and clearly did not pitch as well as the other young talent in the above list

Who is left:

from the RH side:

JR Graham
Brandon Kintzler
Ryan Pressly
Michael Tonkin

from the LH side:

Fernardo Abad
Buddy Boshers
Logan Darnell
Ryan O' Rourke
Taylor Rogers
Dan Runzler

The interesting thing is that none of those pitchers has pitched themselves out of competition.  If someone asked me yesterday, I'd say that Tonkin and Graham do not belong, but today they both redeemed themselves and maybe bought themselves a few more days, esp. Graham.  Tonkin, who is out of options, pitched two very clean innings throwing his fastball up to 95 and his slider up to 85, but those came against Baltimore's minor leaguers.  I like what Brandon Kintzler did today and most of the Spring, but from that group, Ryan Pressly deserves the first right hand spot, if there is only going to be one.  As far as the lefties go, Abad, O'Rourke, and Runzler, pitched equally well, so it could be one or 2 of them getting jobs.  Only O'Rourke has a 40-man spot, which is a consideration, but with Strong's primarily and Tonkin's, secondarily, spots in jeopardy, there is still a lot of work to be done.

And there is a wild card, who might make the Twins' pen better in 2016:  Tyler Duffey.  The former closer has not proven that he pitch more than 6 effective innings in the majors, and would likely be a force if the Twins' brass decide to move him to the pen, in a similar way that they did with Trevor May.

(Tommorow:  The position players)


2016 Twins Spring Training Coverage from Fort Myers. 3/21: Zen and the Art of Situational Hitting

.351/.387/.524 - The Twins' team slash line with less than two outs and men on third in 2015.
.489/.460/.766 - The Twins' team slash line with one out and men on third in 2015.
.000/.100/.100 - The Twins team slash line under the above circumstances today.

They simply have to do better than this to compete in the upcoming season.  And if that means trying to get the ball in play softly, instead of trying to hit home runs (Brian Dozier, Carlos Quentin, Oswaldo Arcia) or take a worthless base on balls (Kurt Suzuki,) let it be it.   And the problem here is that at least 3 of the aforementioned 4 will make the 2016 Twins, but still have not understood those fundamentals.

Today's Twins' game was closer that the box score would suggest.  Also based on today's play, I am about to make a prognostication:

Prognostication:  Danny Santana won a job in the 25-man roster for 2016.

Santana was one of the few Twins who played like they wanted to get a job today.  Two good hits in his first plate appearances and good follow ups on the bases, negate loosing the ball in the sun at RF in the later innings.  He played like he wanted that job, and I think that it is his to lose.

Albeit, Carlos Quentin did not do so.  Struck out twice with a man on third and less than two outs, and was a disaster about to be made in first with the globe (but thankfully did not happen.)

Byron Buxton was pretty awful today.  Yes, he took first on bases on balls by avoiding slapping at balls in the dirt in the first inning and moved to second on a mistake, but failed to score from second on a smoking single to RF corner by Santana in the same inning.   Hard time in the rest of his plate appearances and the cherry on top was the 3 pitch strikeout in his last inning.  Pretty sure that Buxton does not get it, and I don't know what he needs to get it.  The one thing that he does not need is pampering and false hopes and  major league roster sports.  He has to start at AAA, until he can prove that he is the hitter people hoped he will be.  Also, he looks at least one step slower, since he was called out on a ball that he hit to deep short, a ball that he would have beaten last season easily for an infield single.  Unless he did not get slower, but got lazier.  Regardless, the big leagues are way above his head right now and I hope that the Twins brass do not make the mistake to bring him up North soon.

Kyle Gibson made another brilliant appearance, allowing mainly ground balls.  His outing was very much like the one I described a few days ago.    Likely will be the Twins second or third starter this season. 

Taylor Rogers who relieved Gibson had a good outing with a fastball between 86 and 91 mph and a curve between 75 and 77.  Nothing spectacular, and had a lot of us on an edge, but it was effective.

So was Glen Perkins'.  He threw fastballs at 91, 91, 91, 89, 89, 94, 89, and 89 mph and two sliders at 78 and 81 mph in an 1-2-3 inning.  About 3-4 mph below where he should be, but...

Casey Fien threw his fastball between 88 and 91 mph, a single slider at 83 and a single changeup at 79 mph, retiring everyone he faced.

Trevor May had a fastball of 91-94, changeup in the low 80s, and a curveball about 75-76, but was not effective and did not have even a decent defense behind him

I expect more than a few cuts today.  Tomorrow the Twins are playing the Orioles in the Hammond Stadium at 1:05 PM local time.


2016 Twins Spring Training Coverage from Fort Myers. 3/20: Santana, Sano and the Yankees

The Minnesota Twins played the New York Yankees this afternoon at Hammond Stadium, featuring a lineup that could very well be their opening day lineup. 

The starter, Ervin Santana, pitched better than what you will see when you see his line score.  He threw 69 pitches, mostly fastballs (91-94 mph; at some point right after the balk, he hit a 95, a 96 and a 97 mph in a row), sliders 82-84 mph and changeups 84-86 mph.  All of his pitches were working well and he was getting both looking and swinging strikes.   In the second inning, that he needed 21 pitches, he was squeezed badly by the home plate umpire who did not call the low strike he called in the previous evening and for Ivan Nova all night long.  Santana is in mid-season form and will be the Twins' opening day starter, as discussed here about 40 days ago.

Fernando Abad relieved Santana in the 6th inning and threw four kinds of pitches: a 90-92 mph Fastball, which did not fare well since it either was a ball or was contacted, and a couple times for hits, a 76-78 mph Curveball that was much better, a single 74 mph changeup that was taken for a strike and a single 87 mph cutter was was a ball.  Not a clean inning by any means, but it was workable.  Would Abad be better than any of the other LHRP possibilities in the Twins' pen?  I am not sure and he has not really pulled away from the competition.

Speaking of, JR Graham at this point is not a major league caliber pitcher.  In addition to 20 lbs, he lost at least 2 mph in his (straight) fastball that now tops at 94 mph.  Not a pretty picture today by any means.

On the other hand, the Rule 5 draft pick two seasons before the Twins selected Graham, Ryan Pressly, looks like he belongs to the Twins pen.  He threw a 94-96 mph fastball that had too much movement for the opposing batters to turn, a pretty nasty cutter/slider at 86-89 mph, and a solid 81-83 mph curve.  He will definitely be an upgrade to the Twins pen, but will he be enough if he is the only one?

On errors:  Miguel Sano "booted" a ball in the Right Field when he moved to his left to get in the right trajectory of a line drive, he did, but it hit the base of his glove.  E9.   On the other hand, Brain Dozier "booted" a ball earlier in that evening, when he decided to dive for a ball that was totally catchable without a dive.  Botched dive,  scored as a hit.

Carlos Quentin might be the stiffest baseball player I have seen play, and this includes such notables as Brian Buscher and Joshua Willingham.  He came in to play first relieving Joe Mauer in the late innings and made a fairly comical play.  When the ball touches a bat, Quentin puts his head down without looking at the ball and heads to first base to receive the ball potentially.   In one of those instances the ball hit less than a foot in front of him, without him being either away or interested.  Tailor made 3-6-3 double play, it just did not happen, and it is a shame.   I just cannot see how the Twins can bring this guy up North, because what he brings is close to what Park brings to the table but will less glove and bat.  Sorry Carlos, nice knowing you.

Speaking of Byung Ho Park:  Great adjustment in his first plate appearance:  Ivan Nova definitely schooled not to throw anything but stuff outside the zone, started with 2 curveballs in the dirt, that Park took for balls.  Then he threw a couple of chin low fastballs that Park missed swinging, but however adjusted and took the next 2 fastballs in the same location for balls and a walk.   Great to see this from Park. 

Good double for Byron Buxton in the base of the wall and over the outfielders' head in the 5th.  However there was a problem:  JR Murphy who was on first, did not even attempt to score, a thing that he would have done easily and Buxton was robbed by a triple, a thing he would have done easily.  There were zero outs, but the Twins have to be more aggressive in the bases this season, and really there is nothing much to lose, esp. in the Spring Training, being so...

Tomorrow the Twins are hosting the Pirates at Hammond Stadium, with Kyle Gibson getting the starting node.