Game: Twins 10, Red 4
Spring Training Record: 2-0
Though it is too early to say if he plans on making this a trend, Brian Buscher has opened spring training at a torrid pace. In the first two games, he has gone 4-for-5 with two extra base hits including a two-run home run. Unseeded third base candidate transplanted a Francisco Cordero offering in the top of the fourth to give the Twins an early lead (ESPN says it was in the fourth inning off of Cordero, PiPress's Phil Miller says it was in the second against Micah Owings, so, uh...yeah). Most analysts will tell you that there is very little to derive from these spring training contests. John Dewan found that there is a better than normal correlation better a player's spring performance and a potential step-forward in the coming season. Specifically, Dewan notes that if a player has a spring in which the ballplayer's slugging percentage is .200 points or more above his lifetime slugging percentage, that player is poised for a breakout season. Naturally, it is still premature, but keep an eye on Buscher's slugging percentage this spring.
Phil Humber was the first of the bullpen candidates as Boof Bonser's replacement to falter. Humber was roughed up for four hits and four earned runs while failing to record a strikeout in his first outing of the spring. "Humber couldn't finish anything off. He couldn't get the ball down. We'll work on that," commented Ron Gardenhire.
This column is almost past its expiration date but I caught a quick blurb in Jim Souhan's piece on the crowded Twins outfield situation. Souhan's line reads: "If only this were the biggest problem the 2009 Twins face -- too much talent in one outfield for a franchise that not so long ago was handing at-bats to the platoon of Dustan Mohr and Bobby Kielty, an ancient Otis Nixon, or the regrettable Alex Cole. [italics mine]" Regrettable? The only thing regrettable about Alex Cole is that his leg wasn't made out of titanium when he snapped his right leg in Milwaukee in 1995. Up until that point in the season, Cole was hitting .360/.422/.493 with six extra base hits in 75 at bats. With him and Chuck Knoblauch headlining the batting order, the Twins seemed to have constant baserunners. A cheap free agent signing the season prior, Cole had a solid 1994, hitting .296/.375/.403 with four home runs in 398 plate appearances. Please, Mr Souhan, use Baseball-Reference.com before you publish your column!
ESPN is reporting that the Dodgers are close to signing former Twin Doug Mientkiewicz to a minor league contract. The power is gone (if it ever was there) for Mientkiewicz, which playing in the spacious Dodger Stadium will work well. Mientkiewicz can still work a count for a walk and not strikeout making him a valuable pinch hitter/part-time first baseman -- batters that can walk more than they strikeout are good commedity to have. In 2008 while playing for a bad Pittsburgh team, Mientkiewicz was asked to vacate his comfort zone at first and man third and play the outfield yet he still managed to have a .374 on-base percentage in 334 plate appearances. The Dodgers should use him as a pinch hitting and a late-innings defensive replacement for James Loney at first.
- The Indians new closer Kerry Wood is spending the first few days of spring training held off the mound due to a sore back. Wood does not seemed concern about the back at this point. "We got a long spring," the 32-year-old Wood told reporters,"If there's a silver lining it's that we got the extra week to do what we have to do to get it ready." As I had wrote a few days ago, Wood has some of the best stuff of any closer in the game last year. Undoubtedly, when healthy, Wood could be a steal for the Indians at $10.25 average annual value but his injury potential is the wild card that could quickly turn that contract into an albatross.
- Unlike the Cleveland Indians manager Eric Wedge who made a progressive comment about not looking at batting averages when it come to evaluating players, Ozzie Guillen has decided that someone has to say something that completely negates years of baseball research. He told reporters in Arizona that he is looking for a leadoff hitter that can cause havoc on the bases. ''The Rickey Henderson era, the Vince Coleman era -- all those guys that can run are done, but I want to go back to that era,'' Guillen said. ''I want a guy that can get on base and make something happen. That's my style, but if you don't have a legit one, then you try finding a different way to do your lineup.'' Obviously, Guillen is associating the two with stolen bases rather than with on-base presence. Both swindlers had 80% steal rates which was above the breakeven threshold of 70% for making the base worthwhile as leadoff hitters, however, the pair were far from the same. Henderson was an on-base machine who had a career OBP of .401 while Coleman, on the other hand, was never as good as Rickey was at reaching base and possessed a career OBP of .321.
- The Royals attempts to move Mark Teahen to second base began poorly, Bob Dutton of the Kansas City Star reports. The Royals were given a six-run deficient in the first inning that was largely due to Teahen's fielding miscues. According to Dutton "Teahen threw away a potential double-play grounder that could have ended a scoreless inning. He was a slow to his right on a grounder up the middle that resulted in a two-run single. And he appeared awkward in trying to turn another potential double play that could have ended the inning at 4-0. Instead, a quickly tiring Ramirez had to keep throwing." This is a perfect example of shoehorning a player that no longer possesses the skillset to handle - like asking Cuddyer to shift to second. How did Teahen critique himself? "I would have liked for it to go better," Teahen said. "But at the same time, it's not that big of a deal. You might note that (former teammate Mark Grudzielanek), the year he won the Gold Glove, made two or three errors in his first game of spring." Yeah, and Grudzie had also been a former shortstop shifted to second base and not a third baseman-cum-outfielder before transitioning to second base.
- The Tigers have decided not to allow starter Jeremy Bonderman to pitch Saturday against the New York Mets, instead they are opting to have him throw a simulated game. In 91 starts from 2005 to 2007, Bonderman had thrown 577 innings with 492 strikeouts while going 39-30 with a 4.83 ERA. His season was cut short in 2008 after 12 starts in which he went 3-4 with a 4.29 in 71 innings due to a circulatory ailment that required season-ending surgery. Bonderman's velocity had been slipping since 2005 and his strikeout rate tanked from his career-high 8.50 K/9 in 2006. In spite of being brought up at the young age of 20 to the Majors, Bonderman did not accumulate that many Pitcher Abuse Points that would warrant indicating he was overworked.