BASEBALL’S OPENING DAY IS HERE!!

Congratulations baseball fans - the off-season is over and you have survived to begin again!

We Twins fans don’t see action until tomorrow but regardless, it’s a good day to be a baseball fan.

Here’s the schedule of games that will be played today:

All times Eastern. Subject to change.

 

 And in another piece of just general news, I received this notice from Tinger this morning:

“All these years we’ve been calling C.C. “Captain Cheeseburger”. They just said on ESPN that he dropped 25 pounds this winter by cutting Captain Crunch out of his diet. We’ve been going about this all wrong! I think that’s a solid reason for a name change.”

Given the long history many of us have with the Captain Cheeseburger moniker, and given the general distrust I have for C.C.’s ability to maintain this supposedly lower weight – afterall, who can actually tell? – I will accept BOTH names as appropriate nom de plume. I wonder if C.C. has an opinion on the cut mouth situation??

[EDIT]  Seth from SethSpeaks is offering a special discount on his Twins Prospect handbook in honor of Opening Day!  If you don’t have one already, you should check it out!

[UPDATE]  Two former Twins played today and had records I thought worth noting. 

A) Pat Neshek recorded his first National League Win for the San Diego Padres tonight. I couldn’t be happier for him.

B) Livan Hernandez pitched his 4th Season Opener for the Washington Nationals – and recorded his 4th Loss.  Ouch.

GameChat – EX – Twins @ Braves, 11:05 am, FSN & am1500

Still don’t know if there is actually going to be a rain delay on this game but here’s the post anyway!  We’ll just have ot wait and see.

Minnesota @ Atlanta
Span, CF   Prado, 3B
Nishioka, 2B   McLouth, CF
Morneau, 1B   Freeman, 1B
Thome, DH   Hinske, DH
Young, D, LF   Conrad, 2B
Cuddyer, RF   Young, LF
Valencia, 3B   Mather, RF
Butera, C   Hicks, SS
Casilla, A, SS   Boscan, C
  Baker, S, P     Beachy, P

 

  1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 R H E
Minnesota 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 2 0 2 8 0
Atlanta 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 5 2

 

Well, we won and according to various radio staff, that means that we had the best record in the Grapefruit League.  I guess that is a good thing although I still don’t think that spring training baseball is all that monumental a thing but it’s good to know we were winning games.

Today was … boring.  How can baseball ever be boring?  I don’t know but I was finding myself paying more attention to stripping paint off of crown molding than the game on more than one occasion so.. yeah, that’s unusual. (I hate paint-stripping.)  At any rate, Kubel kind of led us to victory today for hitting and all our pitching was pretty phenomenal so I think we’re ready to go…

Bring on Toronto.

EX GameChat – Twins @ Braves 6:05 am1500, MLB

It’s exhibition baseball (not to be confused with Spring Training baseball)!

Tonight the Twins visit the Braves in Hotlanta. Both teams appear to be using the DH, to that’s something the Braves fans don’t see a lot of!

The game is on the radio in the Twin Cities, but I don’t think it’s on FSN. I believe it may be on the MLB Network, but it’s also apparently going to be on MLB.tv online (I hope).

This one still doesn’t “count”, but we’re getting closer Twins fans!

TWINS @ BRAVES
Span, CF Prado, LF
Nishioka, 2B McLouth, CF
Mauer, C Jones, C, 3B
Morneau, 1B McCann, DH
Young, D, LF Uggla, 2B
Thome, DH Heyward, RF
Cuddyer, RF Gonzalez, Al, SS
Valencia, 3B Freeman, 1B
Casilla, A, SS Ross, D, C
Blackburn, P Martinez, Cr, P

Going to put up a GameChat for the game tonight, too, for anyone inclined to stop by.

Not a good way to end this game, but at least it doesn’t count. I wouldn’t mind seeing a bit more offense out of this lineup that’s supposed to be so good, too. Nice few innings by Blackie (4 IP, 1H, 1BB), facing the minimum number of hitters thanks to a couple of double plays.

Better luck Wednesday!

1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 R H E
Minnesota 0 1 1 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 2 5 1
Atlanta 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 2 2 4 9 1

Out On A Limb (Care to Join Me?)

Now that Spring Training is wrapping up, it’s time to turn our focus to the regular season.

I’m tired of debating who the last member of the bullpen should be and who the last reserve on the bench should be. In the grand scheme of things, it just doesn’t matter. The things that do matter start happening at the end of this week!

That means it’s time for all of us to consult our Zoltar machines.

I’m sure there will be no shortage of other Twins blogs who will be giving all of us opportunities to offer our predictions concerning how the Twins, collectively and individually, will perform in 2011. We will be able to proudly predict another AL Central Championship or share our thoughts concerning which Twins will lead the team in various statistical categories.

Here at Knuckleballs, we’re not going to let you off that easy.

We want to stretch those imaginations and predictive powers that lie deep within the grey matter that fills that lump three feet above your ass (I promise… that’s my last Tom Hanks movie reference in this post) and make everyone go out a bit on a limb with their prognostications.

We want to know what sort of crazy stuff you expect to happen this season. To that end, here are some questions we want you to give careful, considered thought to (or just throw out the first response that comes to mind… we really don’t care). The key is… tell us something you expect to happen that we aren’t going to hear from many (if any) others over the next week or two.

1. A prediction specifically related to the performance of a Twins player.

2. A prediction specifically related to the unexpected (in a positive or negative way) performance of a non-Twins player.

3. A prediction related to the unexpected (positive or negative) performance of a team other than the Twins.

Finally, let us know what you expect from the Twins this season.

4. Fill in the blanks: The Twins will win ___ games and finish in ___ place in the AL Central Division. They will (choose one):

___ not make the playoffs

___ be eliminated in the first round of the playoffs (again!)

___ be eliminated in the AL Championship Series

___ lose to the NL Champion in the World Series

___ WORLD SERIES CHAMPIONS BABY!

To get everyone started, here are my predictions:

Future ROY: Tsuyoshi Nishioka

1. Tsuyoshi Nishioka is going to win the AL Rookie of the Year award.

2. If he gets healthy enough to pitch this season, Johan Santana will finish the season in the NY Yankees’ rotation.

3. The Baltimore Orioles will finish 2nd in the AL East and challenge for the Wild Card playoff spot.

4. Twins will win 97 games, finishing 1st in the AL Central and get ready to hoist a new banner, boys and girls, because our guys are gonna win it all in 2011!

So… what about you? Use the comment section to dazzle us with your predictive powers!

- JC

GameChat – ST – Pirates @ Twins, 12:05 pm, FSN & am1500

So, I missed yesterday’s game because I went to the MN Swarm game with the SO and his entire family as part of his birthday celebrations…  I have to give him a lot of credit because when we spotted TC Bear was in attendance, it was HIS idea to have us wait in the hallway for an opportunity to grab a picture since he knows how excited I am for baseball to start!!!

CapitalBabs & TC @ MN Swarm

 

And Beloit is teasing us poor Minnesotans because they put in their homeplate today:

But back to the baseball game today!  Yes, it’s another Monday Lunch broadcast on FSN.. I really don’t get it.  Even the Red Sox announcers on Saturday night were commenting on the lack of MN broadcasts for important/watchable games.  I really wish one of the insiders somewhere would find out what’s going on with the schedules and tell us why it’s been so … inscrutable..  during this year’s spring training.

Pittsburgh @ Minnesota
Tabata, LF   Span, CF
Walker, N, 2B   Nishioka, 2B
McCutchen, A, CF   Mauer, C
Doumit, DH   Morneau, 1B
Pearce, 1B   Kubel, DH
Diaz, M, RF   Young, D, LF
Cedeno, SS   Cuddyer, RF
Rodriguez, Jo, 3B   Valencia, 3B
Jaramillo, J, C   Casilla, A, SS
  Karstens, P     Liriano, P

 

  1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 R H E
Pittsburgh 1 0 0 2 0 0 0 0 0 3 5 2
Minnesota 0 0 0 0 1 0 1 0 2 4 10 0

 

A) it’s GREAT that we got the win!!  Especially in the 9th inning after being down the whole game. 

B) it was fun that it was the young guys that won’t be with us at the start of the season that got to have the glory. (This was Danny Lehmann’s SECOND walk-off hit in the past two weeks!)

C) Liriano had a great start!  He needed to go 6 innings like this for me to feel a little bit better.  He knows what to do to extend his starts deep into the game and I am glad to see him doing it. 

All in all, it was a great day for baseball.

ST GameChat – Yankees @ Twins, 12:05, am1500

There was a report in LaVelle E. Neal’s Strib blog that today’s game is being televised by FSN, but I haven’t seen that anywhere else, so I suspect it will just be radio today. Guess we’ll find out at game time. I’m going to go ahead and put up a GameChat anyway for anyone who’s interested.

Twins top prospect Aaron Hicks, who’s likely going to be starting the season at High Class A Ft. Myers this season, is getting a start in center field for the Twins. I saw Hicks play several games for Beloit last year and he’s definitely got a great deal of potential. Hope he does well. The Yankees have brought their top prospect, catcher Jesus Montero, to the game, as well.

In any event, here are the line ups:

YANKEES @ TWINS
Nunez, E, SS Hicks, CF
Cano, 2B Tolbert, 2B
Teixeira, 1B Cuddyer, RF
Rodriguez, A, DH Morneau, 1B
Chavez, Er, 3B Thome, DH
Jones, An, RF Young, D, LF
Pena, R, LF Valencia, 3B
Montero, J, C Butera, C
Krum, CF Casilla, A, SS
Carlyle, P Pavano, P

Always good to pick up a win over the Yankees, regardless of who’s wearing the uniforms. ‘Stache wasn’t real sharp, but it’s good to see Cuddyer and Thome both going yard. Matt Capps had another very good inning (note to Gardy…. are you absolutely POSITIVE about that Closer decision?).

Monday at noon, the Twins wrap up their Spring Training season by hosting the Pirates and yes, FSN will continue with their bizarre “let’s just televise Monday noon games” media strategy.

1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 R H E
NY Yankees 1 0 0 0 3 1 0 1 0 6 13 2
Minnesota 1 4 1 0 1 0 0 0 x 7 7 1

These Final Cuts Are Going To Hurt

Let’s be clear about one thing… the Twins’ ultimate success or failure is not going to be determined by who they leave Ft. Myers with as their last bench player or their last arm in the bullpen. That said, I think Ron Gardenhire’s decisions on those two spots were bad choices and he’s going to regret them at some point pretty soon.

This morning, reports from Ft. Myers are that Matt Tolbert has won the utility infield position and Luke Hughes has been optioned to Rochester. In addition, Jim Hoey has been sent down, so assuming Scott Diamond is either returned to Atlanta or kept via a trade of some sort, Glen Perkins, Jeff Manship and Dusty Hughes will fill out the bullpen.

Jim Hoey

I really don’t want to make too much of these final cuts because, as I said, the choices for the last cuts seldom play a major role in deciding a team’s ultimate fortunes. But I think not having Hoey and Luke Hughes around is going to cost a couple of ballgames.

Neither of those guys is destined for the Hall of Fame. There are reasons they were competing for the last roster spots and not headlining some team’s lineup. Hughes demonstrated he can hit big league fastballs very, very hard. He also demonstrated he can strike out a lot. Hoey showed he can throw a baseball harder than anyone in the Twins organization and maybe as hard as anyone in Major League Baseball. He also demonstrated he doesn’t always throw it exactly where it needs to be thrown. He’s not a prototypical Twins pitcher.

Luke Hughes

But think back to when everyone was assuming Jim Thome may be signing elsewhere and people thought the Twins should be looking for a right handed hitter with some pop in his bat. The guys people were writing about didn’t profile a whole lot differently than Luke Hughes. The first time a situation arises late in a game when a right handed pinch hitter with power would be nice to have and the best Gardy can do is send Matt Tolbert to the plate, people will be writing about how he could have had Luke Hughes available. I know they will, because I’ll be one of the people writing exactly that.

Same with Hoey. I know the Twins like to promote from within and there’s a lot of sentiment that it’s Jeff Manship’s “turn”. That’s fine. But there are going to be situations… probably many of them… when you want someone with high-90s velocity to take the mound. When you look to the bullpen and see a batch of middle relief arms that all throw the same low-mid 90s fastball, remember there WAS another option and he didn’t get the gig because he’s not the kind of pitcher Gardy and Rick Anderson “like”.

I hope both Hughes and Hoey take their demotions in stride, work their butts off and show the organization they made a couple of mistakes. Then when someone, hopefully, realizes they made those mistakes and brings those guys up, they take advantage the way Denard Span did when he was among the last cuts a couple of years ago. Hughes and Hoey could both still prove to be important cogs in the Twins machine if they go to work to improve their games… and the Twins braintrust wakes the hell up.

- JC

GameChat – ST – Twins @ Red Sox, 6:05 pm, MLBN & am1500

A) I just love that the regular season is less than a week away!!!  I’m very excited about that.

B) Tonight’s game has the Mayor’s Cup riding on it – once again we’re down to a final game series decision.  Since the Red Sox have won the last 4 years in a row, I really do think the Twins are due – I hope they play like it!

Minnesota @ Boston
Span, CF   Pedroia, 2B
Nishioka, 2B   Crawford, LF
Mauer, C   Youkilis, 3B
Morneau, DH   Gonzalez, A, 1B
Young, D, LF   Ortiz, D, DH
Kubel, RF   Cameron, M, RF
Cuddyer, 1B   Saltalamacchia, C
Valencia, 3B   Lowrie, SS
Casilla, A, SS   McDonald, Da, CF
Duensing, P   Matsuzaka, P

The TWINS WIN THE MAYOR’S CUP!!!!!

The Mayor's Cup (Photo Rhett Bollinger, mlb.com)

OK, maybe it doesn’t warrant THAT much enthusiasm, but since it’s the last Mayor’s Cup, it means the Twins take permanent possession right?

The Red Sox move to their new Lee County complex next season and apparently since it’s outside of Ft. Myers, itself, there will be a new trophy involved in the annual spring training series between the Twins and Red Sox.

I’m not sure if the late come from behind win for the Twins gives us much confidence when facing the Red Sox this season, but at the very least you have to like Rochester’s chances against Pawtucket! It also was pretty funny to see the young kids knock around old BitchSox closer Bobby Jenks, too.

Here’s the linescore:

  1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 R H E
Minnesota 1 0 0 0 0 0 0 2 6 9 14 1
Boston 0 3 1 0 2 1 1 0 0 8 13 3

Sunday afternoon, the Evil Empire takes on the Twins in Ft. Myers.

Spring Training Photos

I’ve already posted several photos taken during my trip to Ft. Myers, but I thought the weekend would be a good time to put up a couple of slideshows.

So here they are… old friends like Tom Kelly, Harmon Killebrew, Tony Oliva, Paul Molitor, and Tom Brunansky… future Twins like Aaron Hicks, Joe Benson, Max Kepler and James Beresford… along with all of the current Twins we’re going to be watching at Target Field all summer long. Most you will recognize instantly… others you’ll have to learn to get to know.

ST – Orioles @ Twins, 12:05, am1500

I would really like to see Baker have a good outing today as he’s been announced to close out our starting rotation.  And I would also like to hear a little bit better baserunning than yesterday.

Baltimore @ Minnesota
Andino, 2B   Span, CF
Pie, LF   Nishioka, 2B
Jones, A, CF   Mauer, C
Wieters, DH   Morneau, 1B
Fox, J, C   Young, D, LF
Reimold, N, RF   Kubel, DH
Harris, B, 1B   Cuddyer, RF
Green, N, 3B   Valencia, 3B
Izturis, C, SS   Tolbert, SS
  Bergesen, P     Baker, S, P

 

  1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 R H E
Baltimore 0 0 2 1 0 0 2 0 0 5 8 0
Minnesota 0 6 0 0 0 0 0 0 x 6 8 0

 

Well it’s fun to win, I wish we could have scored some more runs after that 2nd inning spectacular but knowing baseball, you take what you can get.  It’s fun to see these guys just about ready. Baker still had the weakness for the long ball but the rest of his pitching was pretty good.  I think Cuddyer and Morneau are still getting their rhythmn down on swinging the bat but it’s pretty obvious that the rest of the lineup is falling into tempo.  So excited for the regular season!!!!