Sunday, February 28, 2010

OtB Twins Notes (03.01.10)

In response to reporting late to spring training, Justin Morneau said that he wanted some additional rest before hitting the regular season grind -- one in which he semi-jokingly said won't contain back-to-back days off until the All Star Break. After consecutive seasons in which his production went south in the second-half of the year (2009's injury notwithstanding), the Twins have to be considering how to handle Justin Morneau's playing time to ensure he's at full-strength in the latter portion of the schedule. Sitting him more frequently in the first-half may be a sound option in order to lengthen his effectiveness. However, that replacement probably won't be Jim Thome. Ron Gardenhire excused Thome from the defensive drills this spring in order to curtail the risk of injuring the big man's often injured back.

When the Twins signed baseball's last 20-game loser in Mike Maroth, the bar was set low for him. He would bide his time at Rochester and fill out the rotation in the International League while attempting to demonstrate he still could retire major league hitters. On the surface, his Puerto Rico winter league numbers look appealing (3-0, 2.60 ERA), his 15/13 K/BB ratio in his small sample of 34.2 innings does not project well. Topping out a 83-mph in 2007, his last foray in the majors, Maroth throws a mixture of breaking and off-speed stuff to keep his baby soft fastball from being obliterated. As such, he's a high contact pitcher that relies on his defense to convert the outs behind him. With Brian Duesning, Anthony Swarzak and Jeff Manship ahead of him on the depth chart, Maroth in a Twins uniform With a 16.2% strikeout percentage against lefties (versus 9.5%  strikeout percentage against righties) in his career, if he can retire left-handed batters at a decent clip in the first-half of the year, Maroth might be a candidate to assume the Ron Mahay role towards the end of the season. 

Kelsie Smith tweeted that Jose Mijares took a Jason Kubel line drive off of his throwing forearm during live batting practice on Sunday. (While Mijares's health is the focal point of this story, I'm impressed that Kubel, a lefty not known for his same-sided hitting abilities, lined a shot off a very overpowering left-handed pitcher). Although Mijares went down after the incited, he walked off the field on his own and is expected to being okay. In an article, an unnamed scout said "left-handed hitters have no chance against him." Last season, Mijares held lefties to a .193 batting average while striking out 27% of the total population faced. 

Danny Valenica has dedicated himself to improving his defense, talking extra infield practice before games while playing in Puerto Rico, but he is still fairly raw in his plate approach and fielding. In truth, he's a Nick Punto or Brendan Harris injury away from being called into service. In camp on Sunday, Valencia was tasked with facing an improved Francisco Liriano. Says Kelly Thesier, who was watching the match-up, Valencia just shook his head after a few fastballs and said "unhittable". 

SOOZE's query regarding Brian Duensing's probability of making the team in '10 prompted's Rob Neyer to comment. Neyer's take? Don't get too attached. Yes, at 27-years-old, Duensing's opportunities to latch on are thinning. Yes, it's hard to expect the sustained performance over the course of 30 starts like he did in his nine in '09. Liriano's re-emergence has made Duensing's climb that much more difficult but the lefty has a better track record than Neyer's citation of record and ERA (two of the worst statistics to use for future performance, by the way). Although his strikeout numbers are fairly muted, in the past three season, Duensing's FIP has been decent and is a groundball-oriented pitcher (50% GB in the minors, 45.5% in majors). 

According to Susan Slusser, the Oakland A's beat writer, pitcher Brett Tomko signed a minor league deal with the A's but received a comparable offer from the Minnesota Twins before ultimately deciding to remain in California. After being released by the Yankees in July following several bad stints out of the bullpen, the A's picked him up and used him as a starter. In six starts, Tomko was 4-1 with a 2.95 in 36.2 innings with a 22/6 K/BB rate. His success in Oakland coincided with a paring back of his changeup and an increased use of his split-finger. Even so, at 37-years-old in 2010, the chances of him repeating those numbers in a bigger sampling are slim.

Fellow TwinsCentric members John Bonnes and Nick Nelson were on the AM1500 with Darren Wolfson for an hour on Sunday discussing some of the pressing Twins topics. On the subject of the prodigal Jacque Jones, Wolfson provided some insight from last year's spring training when Wolfson was covering the sport for CBS and Jones was in camp with the Reds. Said Wolfson on the show: "He's done." It is hard to believe that Jones could bounce from being finished in the majors to making enough progress in the Mexican and Independent Leagues to return to form. 

Former Twins catcher Chad Moeller gives his reflections on catching two of the organization's top pitchers in the past two decades: Johan Santana and Brad Radke. Moeller caught the duo in 2000 and was really only their receiver for roughly 300 hitters between the pair, so his insights probably are not that particularly insightful. The life-long backup catcher caught in the Twins organization from 1996 (after he was drafted in the seventh round following an ACL tear in his last college game) until being traded to the Arizona Diamondbacks in March of 2001. You have to credit Moeller for carving out a decent niche as a backstop caddy and collecting a steady paycheck despite being unable to hit his weight (210) from 2004 to 2009 (.209). 

Speaking of former Twins, according to a New York Post article on baseball's code, back in a 2006 Twins-Red Sox match-up at the Metrodome, center fielder Torii Hunter took a hack at a 3-0 fastball in spite of a 8-1 Twins lead. In order to avoid an all-out beanball war, after the game Ron Gardenhire dragged Hunter to a laundry room to meet with Sox manager Terry Francona to explain that the unspoken infraction was due to Hunter's "inattentiveness" rather than attempting to run up the score (or pad his stats).

After playing host to a significant number of teams in the spring, Florida's numbers have begun to dwindle as government-financed complexes in the Arizona desert have lured away teams in recent years. With the Phoenix-area constructing new facilities on a seemingly annual basis, the numbers between teams in the Grapefruit League (Florida) and the Cactus League (Arizona) is now 15-15 between the two states when it was 22-8 in favor of Florida as recently as 1998. The likelihood that the Twins relocate any time soon is minimal. In addition to a strong presence of Minnesota residents that either vacation or retire in the Fort Myers area, the franchise has spent almost every winter conditioning in Florida since 1936 (with the exception of the World War II years). 

At the risk of reporting something that will potentially detract from the TwinsCentric Viewing Party at Major's in Apple Valley on March 13, the Twins and Target Corporation will also be opening Target Plaza outside of the new ballpark on the same date. 

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