Sunday, March 22, 2009

Twins Notes (03.23)

The Twins throttled a Blue Jays lineup that had left the majority of their starters at home 11-to-6.  First baseman Justin Morneau finished 2-for-2 with a home run and three RBIs while third baseman Joe Crede had one hit, a run-scoring double, and walked twice. On the mound, Scott Baker's spring struggles continued as he allowed four earned runs on nine hits while registering five strikeouts in 4.2 innings of work.  Kelly Thesier says Jose Mijares left after he gave up two earned runs in less than an inning of work following an incident in which he was spiked in the ankle while covering first base. 
With hopes of cracking the opening day roster slipping away with each outing this spring, Joe Christensen submits an interesting profile on reliever Jose Mijares, shedding more light on his winter league issues, family background and the Twins view of his preseason weight problems.   Mijares has worked seven innings this spring and has walked nine while striking out six with a gaudy 12.98 spring ERA.  If Mijares is indeed optioned to Rochester, the Twins will likely bring the left-handed Brian Duensing north with the club.  In 10 innings of work, Duensing has given up just one earned run leading to a 0.90 ERA (which is a slight misrepresentation of his actual performance in which he has allowed four runs total, resulting in a 3.60 RA).  Because he is a pitcher that throws to contact, Duensing might project better as a back-of-the-rotation starter rather than a reliever.   
Phil Miller informs us that manager Ron Gardenhire is having second baseman Alexi Casilla take additional fielding practice to reduce the "tiny stutter-steps" he takes when approaching the bag during a potential double-play.  In 833 innings at second base in 2008, Casilla turned 42 double plays -- approximately 0.45 double plays turned per nine innings.  For comparison's sake, Texas's Ian Kinsler led all second baseman with 0.60 double plays turned per nine innings, making 71 relays in 1,062 innings.  With his combination of speed and arm strength, Casilla has the necessary components to compile a solid defensive season.  Casilla's biggest flaw, according to John Dewan's Fielding Bible analysis, is his inability to make plays ranging to his right which shows he has made 11 fewer plays in that direction than the average second baseman.       
Seattle Time's Geoff Baker provides a nice career eulogy for former Twin Corey Koskie.  Baker covered Koskie in 2005 while playing for Toronto and noted that if players on the team he currently follows had played with as much "focus and drive on every pitch" as Koskie did that their "results and reputations would be a whole lot better".
When you finish last in your division after entering the 2008 season with unprecedented expectations and find that your aging talent is incapable of generating offense this spring, your local baseball coverage might attempt different angles to interject some positivity.  For example, John Lowe at the Detroit Free Press presents former Twin and new Tiger shortstop Adam Everett's take on Joe Mauer's injury. 
The latest member of the expanding list of Twins writers at Baseball Digest, Alex Halsted, submits his preposition for replacing Mauer.  As does Aaron Gleeman.  With Ivan Rodriguez mercifully in Houston, it is now a two-man race between Jose Morales and Drew Butera (although both may be carried north for different skillsets).  In my player write-ups in the 2009 Hardball Times Season Preview, one player comment that was omitted prior to publishing was that of Butera.  Because of his inexperience above AA and generally lethargic offense, I stated that Butera has about the same chances as his dad Sal does at seeing time playing time for the Twins in 2009.  Yes, it was a snarky comment and I could have filed that tidbit away and no one would have been any wiser but deep down I know that I should be eating crow. 

At Beyond the Boxscore, RJ Anderson profiles the 2002 Minnesota Twins through win value.  Somehow Denny Hocking was allowed to have 294 plate appearances that year.  Yikes.  
John Bonnes responds to Patrick Reusse's diatribe outlining the Twins roster situation.  Reusse predicts that the Twins will head north with infielders Brian Buscher and Matt Tolbert at the expense of Brendan Harris.  Bonnes refutes this by suggesting that the front office will recognize the fact that both Buscher and Tolbert can be optioned and Harris would have to encounter A) an injury or B) another organization interested in his services. 
Erin Kathleen lists Five Things that she believes will work in favor of the Twins in 2009.   For a good chance at winning the division, the Twins probably will need four of them to happen, especially having Jesse Crain to solidify the bullpen set-up role. 

For those that are unsatisfied with sports talk radio format being limited to talk radio shows, the Twins will begin fielding calls, emails and recorded questions from fans in the stands during the spring training broadcasts on KSTP (AM 1500) writes Judd Zulgad.  Long-time broadcasting trio of John GordonDan Gladden and Jack Morris will limit the play-by-play and focus more on interaction with the listeners and fans, a feature that the Twins are copying from the Chicago White Sox.