Saturday, March 12, 2005

Good Show: Twins 4, Jays 1

Twins fans had our first chance of the spring to see the team in action Saturday afternoon, and although Joe Mauer did not make the trip to Dunedin to take on the Blue Jays, for the most part it was a good show. Carlos Silva was on his game, throwing sinkers and cutters to effectively coerce the batters into shanking balls right to his fielders. The afternoon passed so easily for him, he even stayed out on the mound for a 4th inning of play. He gave up just 1 run, when Gregg Zaun doubled in the 3rd inning and later scored on an infield single chopped over the mound. In his 4 innings, he allowed 4 hits with no walks, and 1 strikeout.

Joe Nathan and Juan Rincon followed with an inning of scoreless relief by each, then came the pitching prospects to finish up. Scott Baker worked around 2 hits to complete a scoreless 7th inning, throwing fastballs in the 88-91 range and mixing in a slow curve that struck out a couple batters. Dave Gassner in the 8th worked with slow and slower stuff: the FSN gun had him topping at 84-85 mph, which I guess answers the question of why he got the short shrift from the powers that be last September. He looked like a lefthander of the Jamie Moyer type. Whether he's as smart or can locate pitches as well as Moyer, we'll see. Today he posted a neat 1-2-3 frame. In the 9th, out came the heat. Francisco Liriano, lefty pitcher brought over in the A.J. Pierzynski trade with the Giants, brought 96-97 mph fastballs to the dish and worked around a walk to wrap up another scoreless inning for the bullpen. He looked a little rough around the edges, but his stuff is for real, bearing down on the strike zone from a high, wickedly sharp angle. He pitches like somebody much taller than his 6'2" listed height. No doubt he will start the season in Rochester, but I can picture him easing into the Twins bullpen very nicely for the stretch drive. Who knows whether he'll develop the secondary pitches to make it as a starter someday; but as a reliever, that fastball is just about ready for prime time.

I also felt very impressed by what I saw of Jason Bartlett today. He showed range up the middle, an ability to handle a difficult hop, and a strong arm. Mark Sheldon at mlb.com picks on him for one high throw which Justin Morneau had to jump up to grab, as well as a high chopper deflected off Silva's glove which Bartlett couldn't pick up, and apparently "in the fourth inning, he held on to the ball for an extra couple of steps after fielding Greg Myers' grounder." Yeah, whatever. Sounds like Gardy fed him a few talking points. He did rush one high throw to 1st base, but not so high that Morneau couldn't get it for the out. And now we're busting on shortstops if they can't reach back to grab deflections off the pitcher's glove, behind the mound? Tough crowd. Of course the bit about holding onto the ball for an extra couple steps is just a variation of Gardy's "glove-patting" gripe. OK, the manager wants to push the kid hard and break him of any bad habits while he's still young. That's fine. But if defense was supposed to be the one thing keeping Bartlett from taking the SS job in Minnesota this spring, I'm no longer concerned about him. Today he looked about ready to me.

I'd also like to give a cheer to Michael Cuddyer for that sweet, compact home run swing that took Pete Walker out of the yard in the 2nd inning. However, Rod Carew's extra hitting instruction to Luis Rivas doesn't appear to be paying off so far. Rivas looked completely lost while striking out twice on pitches down in the dirt. Even Gardy commented on it after the game, indicating to Sheldon that he hopes to see Rivas click with getting more game action after the first round of cuts on Monday. "He needs to get a lot of at-bats. I have decided that." Yeah, well. I think I've seen enough over the past four years, already. I have decided that. Thanks.

2 Comments:

At 3/13/2005 9:15 AM, Blogger aging law student said...

Frightwig:

Congratulations on the new blog.

Well said about Bartlett. I promise they will find a way to demote him and go with Castro, a guy who has never been viewed as a legit major league starter. This "catch the ball" thing is like some kind of wierd fetish.

Good luck.

Eric in Madison, aka TwinsfanEric

 
At 3/14/2005 3:20 PM, Blogger frightwig said...

I suspect you are correct. Even if Bartlett plays great all month, the club may already be committed to keeping certain utilitymen on the roster to start the season. I'm prepared to hear Gardy and TR say that Bartlett's defense still needs a little more polishing at AAA--like the 2002 camp when Johan looked so sharp, but got sent to Edmonton anyway, and even had to take a back seat to Mike Trombley when a spot opened up in May. (Of course, we know the disastrous results of that move, one late night in New York....) But I am rooting for Bartlett to win the job, as soon as possible.

Thanks for the encouraging comment, Eric. I'm glad you came by.

 

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