I knew that the payroll had been cresting uncharted levels with each acquisition and arbitration avoidance but when I read that the Twins could have a total payroll higher than that of the Los Angeles Dodgers, I got light-headed. Of course, this turned out to be somewhat misleading. As Joe Christensen noted in his blog following the Orlando Hudson signing, the Twins were projected to enter 2010 with a payroll near $96 million. However, Jon Weisman at Dodgers Thoughts has estimated the Dodgers’ payroll to be closer to $98 million but a substantial portion of that ($17.9 million) is to cover players that no longer play for Los Angeles. If you subtract that from their existing payroll, the Dodgers are paying their uniformed employees approximately $80.2 million – about $16 million dollars short of that of the Twins. Since USA Today started tracking organization’s payrolls in 1988, Minnesota has not outspent Los Angeles yet, and when those $17.9 million dollars worth of obligations are removed from the McCourt’s ledger, anticipate that the financial pendulum will swing back in favor of the Dodgers.
Star Tribune’s Jim Souhan tweeted that Twins pitching coach Rick Anderson told him that Scott Baker will be the team’s opening day starter this season. Baker very much deserves of this role and with the exception of a 2006 Liriano, the most qualified as well. As I noted in the pitching assessments last October, Baker was one of the game’s elite starting pitchers but whose 4.37 ERA distracts from his actual ability to dominate. In addition to possessing the second-best fastball in the American League by weighted runs standards (behind Cy Young winner Zack Grienke), Baker’s WHIP and K/BB were both seventh best in their respective categories while finishing the year 13-3 with a 3.67 ERA in his final 24 starts.
With a glove-slap to Joe Christensen, Pat Neshek checked in and provided an update to his rehab. While Christensen chose to focus on his reported velocity (which according to Neshek was around 88-90-mph, about his career average fastball velocity) one area that is more relevant to his Tommy John recovery is the location of his pitches. Neshek relayed that: “The hitters also said that my fastball was pretty straight when I left it up in the zone (duh) but when it was down it was very hard to see and was a great pitch for me. After hearing this I knew I had to concentrate now on hitting my spots and keeping the ball low.” What we don’t know is if Neshek was leaving a majority of his fastballs up in the zone as opposed to low, which if he has troubles keeping the ball down might result in some ugly (albeit meaningless) spring numbers. One thing that I keep repeating is that studies have found that control is the last thing to return for TJ pitchers so monitoring where his pitches wind up in spring training rather than how quickly they get there will be more vital to his recovery.
Fox Sports Net announced that they will be carrying four of the Twins’ spring training games, including the March 13th meeting with the defending National League champion Philadelphia Phillies. As baseball has been gone too long and winter seems to be unending in this state, TwinsCentric has scheduled a TwinsCentric Viewing Party at Major’s Sports Café in Apple Valley. This will give local Twins fans the opportunity to congregate under one roof to watch and discuss preseason baseball with some of the collaborators of the Maple Street Press Twins Annual 2010. In addition to watching the game and basking in the glow of fellow Twins fans, TwinsCentric patrons will receive $2 pints and two-for-one appetizers as well as the opportunity to win copies of the Maple Street Press Twins Annual, Sethspeaks.net 2010 Minnesota Twins Prospect Handbook, Major’s Sports Cafe gift cards and many more Twins-related products. For more information and updates on this event as we grow closer to that March 13th date, following TwinsCentric’s twitter feeds or friend us on Facebook.