It’s All Coming Together

I’m trying to restrain myself, but on days like this, it’s not easy. I think with good health and a little bit of luck, this Twins team could be something special.

As Joe Reardon, the fictional manager of the Durham Bulls so eloquently put it, “This is a simple game. You throw the ball, you hit the ball, you catch the ball.” On Saturday afternoon, the Twins did all of that and did it well.

This is what I came to Ft. Myers to see. Now I just hope everyone stays healthy and we see exactly this kind of performance all season long.

Nick Blackburn and Kevin Slowey both looked sharp. Blackburn gave up seven hits, but 2-3 of those were infield hits that I generally don’t mark against a pitcher’s performance. He did give up a 2-run home run, but since it was off the bat of a former Cedar Rapids Kernel (Casey Kotchman), I’m willing to let it slide. Slowey struck out three in his three innings and gave up only one hit.

Jim Hoey, who got one inning of work sandwiched in between Blackburn’s five and Slowey’s three, had another solid performance. That’s two appearances I’ve seen this week from Hoey and let me just say, this man can throw a baseball! He was in the upper 90s again today and he sure didn’t look like he was having any control issues to me.

Every starting position player except Jeff Bailey collected at least one hit. Delmon homered. Span and Nishioka doubled. Span, Casilla and Young all stole bases.

Speaking of Nishioka, I’ve been very impressed with his play at second base. He made three excellent defensive plays in today’s game, in addition to teaming with Casilla to turn a couple of double plays. Denard flashed some speed and leather, as well, tracking down a couple of gappers.

But my goal here today is to try to give you a bit of the flavor of a beautiful day at a ballpark. After all, you can read all you want to know about the performances on the field by checking out any of the great beat writers. Speaking of beat writers, mlb.com’s Kelly Thesier is moving on to greener pastures (quite literally, I suppose, since she’s going to work as communications director for the LPGA) and Sunday is her last day covering the Twins. I’ve enjoyed reading Kelly’s reports, her blog and her Tweets and I wish her all the success she deserves in her new job.

I worked up the nerve to introduce myself to both Kelly and the Strib’s LaVelle E. Neal III on Thursday over at the minor league complex when several Twins were getting some extra work in over there. They were both very gracious (meaning neither of them yelled at me for bothering them) and I appreciated that.

So let me tell you about my terrific day and share a few pictures (I took 257 of them today… I get carried away sometimes).

I slept in a bit after the late night on Friday. I didn’t get back to Ft. Myers from Sarasota until nearly midnight and by the time I uploaded pictures and posted on the blog, it was after 2:00 before I get to sleep. I’m too old to get by on very little sleep, so I decided that the three days I’ve spent over on the practice fields this trip will have to suffice.

I pulled in to the stadium parking lot about 11:00am and spent a little time dickering with some of the ticket brokers there, before finding one with a single seat available in the section I was hoping to sit in today… the area behind the Twins dugout. Around noon, I entered the stadium and wandered around, watching a few Twins wrap up their workouts. As I was enjoying a beverage, I looked out over the now-deserted Twins practice field and saw a solitary figure in workout clothes, wayyyyy down the far left field line, signing autographs for fans who handed him things to sign over the fence.

At first, I couldn’t tell who it was, but I suspected it might be one of today’s cut victims, getting every last moment he can out of his allotted time with the Big League club before moving over to the minor league complex. I thought he would probably sign for a few people, like the players generally do, and then go about his day.

I was wrong on both counts.

Joe Nathan accommodated every autograph request

The player turned out to be Twins closer Joe Nathan and he just kept signing… and signing… and signing. I watched him sign anything that people stuck over the fence to him for close to half an hour, until he had literally signed for everyone who asked. I don’t think I’ve ever seen a Major League player anywhere near Nathan’s level sign autographs until there’s nobody left to sign for.

In fact, he signed two more autographs when he finally did reach the fence that connects the practice field to the stadium. It takes a lot for professional athletes to impress me when it comes to interacting with fans, but I was impressed. That earned Joe my “good guy award” today.

All that signing may have tired Joe out...

... but it didn't stop him from signing more

 

 

 

 

 

 

Shortly before game time, I grabbed some food and another beverage and found my seat. Before I could even sit down, someone a few seats away recognized me as Jim Crikket from the  Knuckleballs blog. Seriously. I’ve never had that happen before. Thank God he didn’t ask for my autograph… I haven’t given any thought whatsoever to what I should charge for that kind of thing yet.

This was my last visit to Hammond Stadium this spring. I’m going to two more games before heading home Tuesday, but both games are on the road. Sunday is up in Dunedin against the Jays and Monday is in Bradenton against the Pirates. I’ve never been to the Jays’ ballpark, so I’m looking forward to seeing that. It’s been a couple of years since I was at the ballpark in Bradenton, but it’s one of my favorites, just because it’s an old-school neighborhood setting that reminds me of the ballparks you used to find in small and medium sized towns across Iowa and Minnesota back in the 1960s.

With that, here are a few more pictures from my day at Hammond Stadium:

Hammond Stadium brats are some of the best I've had... well worth the wait

Grab food and beer, then check the lineup board

Newbie Luke Hughes with Michael Cuddyer and Joe Nathan

Casey Kotchman and Joe Mauer, just prior to Kotchman's launch

Picture quality doesn't do justice to this Nishioka web gem

Coach Steve Liddle "communicating" with Nishioka

Coach Jerry White and Jason Kubel (for our Jerry White fan club)

It's all good fun when TC Bear breaks out the super-soaker...

... until he's looking straight at you!

So long, Hammond Stadium... see ya next year!

 

It’s All About the Pitching

A lot of the media folks that cover the Twins and a lot of the bloggers, as well, have been writing about the team’s pitching, lately. Everyone has an opinion about who should be in the rotation and who should be kept around to fill out the bullpen. I’ll probably get around to trying to sort out my own opinions on those issues eventually, too… but it won’t be at 1:30 in the morning after getting back to my Ft. Myers hotel from the Twins/Orioles game in Sarasota.

Let me just say this… for tonight anyway, the Twins pitching was really good.

Francisco Liriano was looking good against the O's

If tonight’s performance was any indication of things to come, we no longer have to be concerned with Francisco Liriano. Tonight, he demonstrated why you just don’t put a lot of stock in the first couple of Spring Training appearances. That said, in fairness, this one excellent performance doesn’t guarantee Liriano will look just as good when the regular season rolls around, either.

But Liriano did look really good. He struck out 7 Orioles in his five innings on the mound and gave up just one earned run on three hits (two by Vlad Guerrero).

And he wasn’t the only pitcher who looked good. In fact all five Twins who took the mound to face the Orioles had pretty good nights.

Joe Nathan is all smiles as he continues his successful return

Of the four relief pitchers who each threw one inning (Jose Mijares, Joe Nathan, Alex Burnett, and Glen Perkins), only Nathan gave up a run and that was unearned. In fact, Nathan’s the only one of the foursome who gave up a hit and he only gave up one.

Matt Tolbert had a big night against the Orioles

The offensive side of the ledger wasn’t quite as impressive, but the Twins did collect nine hits. Matt Tolbert may have decided not to just roll over and let Luke Hughes have his roster spot without a fight, as Tolbert was the only Twin with more than one hit… he collected three, including a line drive home run over the LCF wall in the third inning.

My seat for the game was in the first row, down the left field line, so I had a nice close-up view of our guys as they loosened up before the game. I have to admit, between seeing several Twins play up close and personal on the minor league complex Thursday and then having this vantage point on Friday, I’m getting a bit spoiled. Here are a few more pictures from Sarasota.

Sarasota gave Ed Smith Stadium a major facelift. They did it right!

Ben Revere shares a smile during warm ups before the Orioles game

 

Jose Mijares signed autographs for fans for several minutes before the game

Vlad Guerrero accounted for half of the O's four hits

Former Twin JJ Hardy went hitless in 3 at-bats against his old team mates Friday night

Saturday afternoon, the Rays visit Ft. Myers to play the Twins. We’re expecting Joe Mauer to catch a few innings for the first time in a Twins spring training game and Justin Morneau is supposed to DH, making it the first time he’s played in back-to-back games. The Twins don’t have another home game until Wednesday, so I suspect we’ll see the A-list lineup against the Rays.

This blogging thing is becoming exhausting… I need sleep!

- JC

Revisiting Not-so-old Friends

I’m about to hit the road for Sarasota for tonight’s Twins game against the Orioles, but I wanted to try to drop a quick post this afternoon because it will likely be late tonight or early tomorrow morning (at the earliest) before I get around to posting anything about that game.

I spent a little time today back at the minor league complex and had the opportunity to watch a few players that I’ve had the pleasure of seeing during recent seasons with the Beloit Snappers, when they’ve visited Cedar Rapids to face the Kernels. I didn’t have time to watch the whole game, but I was there long enough to see former Snappers James Beresford and Angel Morales get hits in the bottom of the first inning and eventually come around to score. In addition to Beresford and Morales, I recognized at least one other former Snapper on the field, Deibinson Romero. Romero was playing first base, though I seem to recall him being a third baseman when he was with Beloit a couple of years ago.

Of course, this wouldn’t be a Knuckleballs Spring Training report without a few pictures.

James Beresford gets a lead off of second base

Angel Morales coils at the plate

Deibinson Romero ready at first base

Morales at first base following a base hit

Coach Jake Mauer and Beresford share a smile at 3B in the first inning

With that, I’m headed up to Sarasota for the evening!

- JC

 

A “Minor” Change of Plans

When I set up my plans for this year’s trip to Ft. Myers, I knew the Twins would only have two home games during the six full days I would be here. That’s really not a big deal to me because I kind of enjoy seeing some of the other spring training sites around the state of Florida.

I planned to make the trip up to Lakeland today for my first look at the Tigers’ spring training home, not to mention seeing a bit of action from the only other member of the AL Central Division that trains in Florida. In fact, I was so certain I would be making the 2+ hour drive north that I did something I don’t normally do down here… I bought a ticket in advance.

That ticket is still waiting for me at the Will Call window, I suppose.

When the Twins announced yesterday that the batteries of Carl Pavano/Drew Butera and Matt Capps/Joe Mauer would be getting some work in during a pair of minor league games, I decided to skip the Tiger game and hang around the Lee County Complex today. I’m really glad I did.

Sure, I would have enjoyed seeing Luke Hughes hit home run number five this spring and it sounds like Dusty Hughes, Tsuyoshi Nishioka and Alexi Casilla provided some highlights. But I didn’t really need to see Brad Penny drill Casilla and Delmon Young with pitches and I certainly didn’t need to see Pat Neshek give up two home runs.

Instead, I got out to the Twins complex around 9:00 this morning and spent some time watching the minor leaguers working out before heading in to Hammond Stadium where some of the Twins who didn’t make the trip to Lakeland were taking batting practice.

The last grouping included Justin Morneau, Jim Thome, Joe Mauer and Michael Cuddyer (nattily attired in his WIN!/Don’t Be Denied! t-shirt) and sure enough, there next to the batting cage were none other than Tony Oliva and Harmon Killebrew. Oliva has been a fixture at the complex, but Killebrew just arrived Wednesday night.

Killebrew met with the media earlier in the morning and is expected to be on hand for three days. Usually, by the time I get down to Ft. Myers, Killebrew has been here and gone, but this year, his trip was delayed a bit due to his health issues. I hate that Harmon is going through the challenges related to fighting esophageal cancer, but for a child of the 60s like me, it was terrific just to get to see him on a ballfield again.

After the Twins’ BP finished up, I slipped back over to the minor league side of the facility again and struck up a nice conversation with a couple from the Quad Cities while we waited to find out which fields Pavano, Butera, Capps and Mauer would be playing at.

I’ve got to be honest… I’m not a huge Carl Pavano fan. Sure I want him to do well and since Bill Smith couldn’t/wouldn’t come up with a true top-of-the-rotation pitcher in the off-season, I was fine with bringing Pavano back as long as it wasn’t on a bank-breaking deal. But I’m going to let you in on a little secret… when media types write about what a great, fan-friendly group of guys the Twins players are, they aren’t referring to Carl Pavano. He may be a lovely human being among his friends and family and he may even love kittens, but… well… yeah I’d bet he hates kittens… almost as much as he seems to dislike baseball fans.

And in case you think this is just a JC thing… I’ll just mention that it’s an opinion I found to be shared rather widely among other fans I talked to today.

I even have to admit I found it just a little amusing when Pavano got knocked around a bit by a bunch of kids wearing Red Sox minor league uniforms. Some people just seem like they could use an occasional humility lesson. I suspect Pavano is one of those people (then again, some would say I am, too). I also could almost see him do a slow burn when one of those Red Sox punks laid down a bunt that died along the third base line for a hit.

Not to fear, however, the ‘Stache’s trusty sidekick, sweet Drew Butera, gunned down the little twerp when he tried to steal second base.

I was actually more interested in the game on an adjoining field where Matt Capps was pitching the first two innings and Joe Mauer was doing the catching.

Capps looked pretty good to me and I think the young hitters he was facing would probably agree. He didn’t give up any earned runs (a bit of miscommunication between his left and center fielders resulted in an unearned run) and it was good to see he can go more than one inning, when necessary.

Joe Mauer batted in both the first and second innings and while he was 0 for 2, he hit a couple of balls very, very hard. He hit a deep fly ball to CF and almost ended his day by hitting in to a triple play. He hit a shot at the third baseman who immediately doubled off a runner at second base. The second baseman didn’t make a throw to 1B to try to turn the triple play and probably wouldn’t have got that runner if he had made the throw… but it might have been close.

After Capps and Mauer finished up their two innings, I watched Pavano and Butera a bit more. Drew had a nice double to the gap and Pavano settled down after that nasty second inning. I watched Pavano throw five innings before heading out to a Sports Bar to watch some NCAA Tournament basketball. I don’t know if he threw another inning or not, but then again, I really didn’t care all that much.

If you’re wondering what it’s like to have Major League stars play in minor league spring training games, imagine having them show up at your local beer-league softball complex. It makes getting your picture album filled up pretty easy, that’s for sure. Here are just a few examples from the 150 or so I took today.

JIm Thome gets some BP, surrounded by Mauer, Morneau, Killebrew, and Cuddyer (Tony Oliva was behind the cage)

Michael Cuddyer's shirt says it all

From inside Hammond Stadium, looking out over the practice fields

Denard Span doing the autograph thing

Joe Mauer gets loose before his game on the minor league complex

The 'Stache delivers during his game on the minor league fields

Matt Capps was looking good against the RedSox kids

Of course, these were MINOR LEAGUE games, so we really should give a couple of those guys some love. A couple of the Twins top prospects were also playing in these games. Miguel Sano was a team mate of Joe Mauer for the day and Aaron Hicks provided some offense behind Carl Pavano.

Aaron Hicks

Miguel Sano

 

 

 

 

 

 

That’s it for today. Friday night, I’ll be making the trip up the highway to Sarasota to watch Francisco Liriano face off with the Orioles (again). Rumor has it that Justin Morneau may make the trip and Joe Mauer may get a few more swings in during another minor league game in the afternoon.

I hope all of you in the great upper midwest are staying warm! Excuse me while I put something on this little sunburn before I head back to the Sports Bar for some more basketball.

- JC

JC in Spring Training: Focus on Communication

Yes, I know the big news at the Twins Spring Training site on Wednesday was the long-awaited debut of Joe Mauer in their game with the Mets, but what is there really to say about that? He hit a line drive up the middle in his first plate appearance off of Mets starting pitcher Mike Pelfrey. In fact, Pelfrey himself might have said all that needs to be said about Mauer’s debut. “I threw a slider in, and he hit a rocker right up the middle,” he was quoted as saying after the game. “He’s obviously Joe Mauer for a reason…” Indeed.

But for those of you who don’t believe what you don’t see, here’s the evidence I captured at the game.

For me, though, I’m a bit of a people watcher and today, I was interested in watching people just talk… communicate.

Not the greatest picture, but it was entertaining to watch... and listen to

One of the more humorous bits of “communication” was the bantering between Manager Ron Gardenhire and the fans surrounding the backstop of the Twins’ practice field during batting practice. Just before the last player (Jim Thome) finished getting his cuts, Gardy himself picked up a bat and stepped in the cage. From that point on, the only “communication” coming from Gardy was the word “ouch!” after each swing.

Not long after I settled in to watch some batting practice on the field where the AA level minor leaguers were getting their swings in, a group of today’s cuts from the Major League camp showed up. Rene Tosoni, Joe Benson and Chris Parmalee were not going to be going north with the Twins and today was the day they got the official word and joined their minor league brethren… and the coaches working with those young players. Among the coaches and instructors on this particular field were former Twins outfielder Tom Brunansky, who’s now a coach in the Twins organization, and Hall of Famer Paul Molitor. I just hope all of these guys know enough to take advantage of the advice available from the guys who the Twins have around this camp.

Chris Parmelee and Paul Molitor have a chat around the cage

Before heading in to Hammond Stadium for the game, I stopped along the “autograph fence” that runs between the Twins practice field and the stadium. This is where players often pause on their way to the stadium after practice to interact with fans. I found two players doing exactly that, pitcher Scott Diamond and Mr. Incredible, Jim Thome. Diamond certainly seemed popular with the young ladies.

Scott Diamond poses for a picture

Jim Thome signing autographs

 

 

 

 

 

 

Once inside the stadium, I spotted a few people having conversations that I would have been interested to listen in on… like these:

I couldn't help but wonder what Morneau and Nishioka were talking about during warm ups

Morneau and Jason Bay chatted before the game. Bay, Like Morneau, missed the second half of the 2010 season with a concussion

I'm not sure if Nishioka understood anything 1B coach Jerry White was saying, but he nodded a lot.

Nishioka didn't seem to have any trouble understanding what TC Bear was communicating

After coming out of the game, Alexi Casilla and Nishioka got some running... and talking... in, out along the LF wall

What’s that you say? Wasn’t there an actual game going on today?

Why yes, there was. In fact, the Twins won the game with a walk off hit in the bottom of the ninth inning. After Matt Brown opened the inning with a double to the RCF gap, Danny Lehmann followed up with a hit that drove in Brown and saved his team mates from having to endure the most hated thing among ballplayers… a spring training extra-inning ballgame. Here, below, are a few more of the 250 or so pictures I took today, beginning with a shot of Lehmann’s game winning hit.

Lehmann drives in the winning run in the 9th

Brain Duensing had another effective start

Jim Hoey hit 99 mph with a fastball on the Hammond speed gun while striking out two Mets

Finally, while Johan Santana is still on the shelf, the Twins did reunite for the day with a couple of former team mates. Jason Pridie started in centerfield and Luis Castillo started at second base for the mets.

Jason Pridie

Luis Castillo

 

 

 

 

 

 

That’s a wrap for today. I’m not sure whether I’m going to make the trip up to Lakeland for the Tigers game Thursday or stick around Ft. Myers. Media reports are that Carl Pavano, Drew Butera, Matt Capps, and Joe Mauer are going to be playing in a minor league game at the Twins’ complex and Hall of Famer Harmon Killebrew is reportedly going to be arriving at the complex Thursday as well.

If you want to read a bit more about my time at the Twins complex, check in periodically with Howard Sinker’s “A Fan’s View from Section 219” over at the StarTribune site. I’ll be sending periodic reports to Howard which he may be posting.

Of course, I’ll be trying to post something daily here at Knuckleballs, as well.

-JC

Gardy’s Bi-lingual!

Who’da thunk it?

We all wondered how long it would take for Twins manager Ron Gardenhire to learn to communicate with the Twins’ most recent import from the other side of the globe. Well, thanks to 1500ESPN radio’s Phil Mackey, we now know that Gardy has learned enough of his new infielder’s native language to communicate a bit… even if the player himself appears to be having a little trouble understanding exactly what his manager is saying.

Oh… you think I’m talking about Gardy knowing enough Japanese to chat with Tsuyoshi Nishioka? Heavens no… I think we’ll be seeing Gardy with his handy-dandy English/Japanese pocket dictionary all summer long.

Luke Hughes (Photo: Brian Henricksen)

But apparently he’s been much quicker to pick up enough Australian to communicate with red-hot rookie infielder Luke Hughes, as evidenced by this quote from Mackey’s post game notes:

“I asked him, ‘Mate, have you ever played shortstop.’ He went, ‘Are you serious?’ And I went, ‘Very serious.’ Then I went, ‘Nevermind the question, just go play short.’”

That’s our Twins manager… Crocodile Gardee!

One other item in Mackey’s post that I really liked to see was his quotes from Kevin Slowey.  You may have heard that Gardenhire has handed out four of the starting rotation spots already and, with one spot remaining, Slowey and Scott Baker are the last two men waiting for the music to stop in this rather bizarre cake walk game.

Slowey’s thrown 10 innings in his past three starts without giving up a run, so you could certainly understand if he was feeling a bit overlooked, and possibly even disrespected, by his manager stringing him along. But here’s Slowey’s response when asked how much he’s sweating out these last couple weeks of Spring Training:

“None, really,” he said. “It’s not really worth sweating it. I think you ask any one of the guys in this clubhouse, we’ll do anything it takes to help this team win. And I think we’ve seen that the last couple years.

“You’ve seen a guy like Jim Thome, a first-ballot Hall of Famer, and he doesn’t get 300 at-bats last year. He’s not complaining one bit. He’s talking about how excited he is to be a part of a championship team. I think if a guy like that can be satisfied with just being part of the team, certainly I can do the same.”

Is that a great response, or what? It also goes to show what kind of example Mr. Incredible, Jim Thome, is providing in that clubhouse.

I’m outta here!

This is it… the time has finally come… I head to Ft. Myers tomorrow (Tuesday) morning and while the weather outside isn’t TOO bad here, it’s nowhere near what I’m seeing in the forecast for Ft. Myers for the next seven days. (Wednesday through Tuesday… Highs ranging from 83-84, lows 58-62 and Sunny every day except Wednesday, when I’ll have to deal with partly cloudy skies. I’ll try to cope.)

I’m planning on spending Wednesday morning at both the Major League and minor league practice fields and then catching the Twins and Mets in the afternoon. Media reports are that Joe Mauer may very well making his Spring Training debut as a DH Wednesday and, since the following two games are on the road, I would expect to see pretty much all of the A-list position players in that game.

I am wondering a bit, though, how both Mauer and Thome will be managing to get swings in during the week I’m down there. The Twins have only two home games during the next week, Wednesday’s game with the Mets and Saturday’s with the Rays. The other four games between now and a week from today are road games with the Tigers (Lakeland), Orioles (Sarasota), Blue Jays (Dunedin), and Pirates (Bradenton). It’s hard to imagine either Mauer or Thome rattling across Florida on a bus. With minor league games getting started, maybe they’ll get a few cuts in one or two of those games.

Check in here at Knuckleballs from time to time… I’ll try to post a bit while I’m gone. I’m also going to try to send Howard a report or two that he can post over at “A Fan’s View From Section 219″… something he’s been gracious enough to let me do for several years now.

Finally, let’s sign off by sharing the following excellent Public Service Announcement, shown during Monday’s Twins/Marlins broadcast, from Michael Cuddyer and Tsuyoshi Nishioka (video clip from the Star Tribune):

 

ST – Marlins @ Twins, 12:05, am1500, FSN, MLB.tv

We have the first of two consecutive Monday televised games today as the Marlins travel to Ft. Myers to take on the Twins this afternoon.

Reports coming out of Twins camp are that 14 roster cuts have been made today. As expected, a many of the cuts were for the purpose of thinning the starting pitching ranks to allow those starters who clearly would not be going north with the Twins to continuing getting significant innings on the minor league complex. Here’s the list of those cut:

David Bromberg RHP, Anthony Swarzak RHP, Eric Hacker RHP, Deolis Guerra RHP, Yorman Bazardo RHP, Kyle Gibson RHP, Rene Tosoni OF, Joe Benson OF, Chris Parmalee 1B, Justin Huber 1B, Ray Chang IF, Brian Dozier IF, Jair Fernandez C, Chris Hermann C.

No real surprises there, but it’s interesting to note that none of the lefty pitchers were cut.

I’m going to put up a GameChat window today for anyone who’s able to pop in. I probably won’t be there myself much (if at all) due to that pesky thing called “work”.

Finally… Happy 51st birthday to Kirby Puckett. We miss you, Puck.

Today’s lineups:

MARLINS @ TWINS
Bonifacio, CF   Revere, CF
Martinez, O, SS   Plouffe, 2B
Dobbs, 1B   Young, D, LF
Buck, J, C   Thome, DH
Dominguez, M, 3B   Kubel, RF
Baker, Jo, DH   Valencia, 3B
Thurston, 2B   Bailey, J, 1B
Cousins, RF   Lehmann, C
Lubanski, LF   Casilla, A, SS
  Sanabia, P     Slowey, P

Well, THAT was a nice way for the Twins to head in to their sole off-day of Spring Training! All the pitchers had good days, including two rotation memebers, Slowey and Blackburn.

Danny Valencia launched a blast to LF and Luke Hughes, after entering as a pinch runner for Jason Kubel, added his fourth HR of the spring! For those interested in following what little suspense there remains in the Twins camp (the battle for the utility infield position), Gardy also shifted Hughes over to shortstop for the last few innings of the game. “Conventional wisdom” has been that, even with Hughes hitting so well, Gardy would be reluctant to go north with a utility infielder that doesn’t play SS (something Tolbert does, but Hughes has not typically done). So… with Hughes getting some innings at SS, the plot thickens a bit.

Click here for the link to the box score

  1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 R H E
Florida 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 5 1
Minnesota 1 2 0 0 3 2 1 0 x 9 14 1

No game on Tuesday… the next game is Wednesday, when the Twins host the Mets!

- JC

ST – GameChat: Split Squad Games vs Phillies & @ Yankees

 

The Twins are playing two games today… one group making the trip to Tampa to face the Evil Empire and the other group defending the fort (Fort Myers, to be exact) against the visiting Phillies.

The Phillies/Twins game is on the radio in the Cities (1500). But guess what… you know how Twins games on TV have been tough to come by this spring? Well BOTH games… with identical 12:05 CT starting times (though the Phillie game has been delayed to 12:15 due to a late-arriving Phillie TV truck)… are being televised today on MLB.tv, but neither is on FSN.

I’ll post lineups as they get published and will be putting up a GameChat before the actual game time. I mess it up, blame Babs… she’s the one who left town and left me to do this stuff! – JC

TWINS @ EVIL EMPIRE
Span, CF Jeter, SS
Nishioka, 2B Swisher, RF
Kubel, DH Teixeira, 1B
Bailey, J, 1B Rodriguez, A, 3B
Hughes, L, 3B Cano, 2B
Dinkelman, LF Posada, DH
Repko, RF Granderson, CF
Rivera, Re, C Jones, An, LF
Casilla, A, SS Martin, C
Baker, S, P Garcia, F, P
PHILLIES @ TWINS
Barfield, 3B Revere, CF
Valdez, W, CF Plouffe, SS
Francisco, B, RF Young, D, LF
Mayberry, 1B Morneau, 1B
Young, De, LF Thome, DH
Larish, DH Valencia, 3B
Kratz, C Lambin, RF
Martinez, M, 2B Butera, C
Galvis, SS Tolbert, 2B
Stutes, P Liriano, P

OK, I’ve still never been able to figure out how Babs does the links with the box scores so if you want to see that, click here for the Yankee game and here for the Phillie game. Here are the scoring lines:

1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 R H E
Minnesota 1 0 3 4 0 0 0 0 1 9 11 0
Yankees 0 1 0 0 0 0 0 1 0 2 6 2
1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 R H E
Philadelphia 0 0 0 0 6 0 0 0 0 6 11 1
Minnesota 0 0 0 0 0 0 3 0 0 3 5 1

Some impressive performances among the crew that went to Tampa to face the Yankees. NY put their A+ lineup on the field, but then let our old BitchSox friend, Freddy Garcia, do their pitching. The Twins beat up Garcia a bit, while Twins pitchers largely shut down that Yankee lineup. Scott Baker gave up a long HR to CF off of ARoid in the first inning, but otherwise had a good 4 innings, only giving up one other hit. Matt Capps and Glen Perkins threw good innings, as well. Denard Span had 3 hits and Luke Hughes kept up his torrid hitting with a couple more hits, too.

The Phillie lineup that visited Ft Myers didn’t have much firepower in it, but beat the Twins 6-3. More accurately, they beat Joe Nathan 6-3. All six runs came off of Joe. After Ben Revere lost a flyball in the sun to start Nathan’s inning, all hell broke loose. Nathan gave up 6 ERs, on 5 hits, including 1HR and a BB in just 1/3 of an inning pitched. Ouch. Virtually no offensive performances worth mentioning, but Ben Revere did make another nice diving catch, this time coming in hard from CF. Francisco Liriano got through 3 IP, without giving up a run, but he did give up 4 hits and 2 BB, to go with his 2 Ks. Better than his last outing but still needs to keep improving. Jose Mijares, Kyle Gibson, Eric Hacker and Yoman Bazardo all pitched well, however.

The first round of cuts will be made tomorrow. Look for a lot of the pitchers who threw today to be sent to the minor league camp. Bazardo, Hacker, Gibson, Guerra, Bromberg and Swarzak could all be among the first cuts as the Major League pitchers are getting more innings to stretch out their arms and these guys will need to get their innings on the minor league side if they’re going to be ready to be starting pitchers for Rochester and New Britain. Likewise, some of the younger catchers will be candidates to get sent down, though with Joe Mauer not catching games yet, one or two may stick around a while longer than they normally would.

Connecting Ourselves to History

As we’ve mentioned a few times lately, we launched Knuckleballs just over a year ago. It has not only been fun, but every once in a while I start to think I’m getting pretty good at this “writing about baseball” thing. Then I go and read something that someone else has written and I think, “Wow… I still really suck compared to him/her.”

There are a few writers that I’ve come to accept will always be way, way… way… better than I am. Joe Posnanski and Rob Neyer, are just a couple of examples of writers that I know I can rely on to give me a humility lesson on a regular basis. You might think I would stop reading them, but I can’t. They’re just too good not to read.

I’ve got Neyer to thank for my most recent humility lesson, but only in an indirect way. I was perusing the summaries of articles posted by Neyer over at SBNation.com’s MLB site and noticed a link Rob had posted to another site, Pitchers & Poets. Sure enough, that link led me to a post that, once again, reminds me just how not good I am at this whole writing thing.

Specifically, this lesson came at the hands of Paul Dubuque, who has his own Seattle Mariners blog, The Playful Utopia. Mr. Dubuque was invited by Pitchers & Poets to participate in their “Scorekeeping Week”. (Wow, a whole week devoted to articles about scorekeeping! What a great idea… going to have to file that one away and steal it here at Knuckleballs after enough time has passed that few are likely to remember it’s not really our idea.) The title of Dubuque’s entry is “The Poetics of Scorekeeping“.

Neyer’s own post was succinct. He quoted one paragraph from Dubuque’s post and simply opinied, “Not to get all literary or anything. But, yes.” After I read the Poetics of Scorekeeping for myself, I agreed with Neyer, but I didn’t think he even chose the best quote from the post to bring to his readers’ attention. Still… it’s pretty good:

By keeping score we have created our own language. Each person’s style varies, providing a unique dialect, but the narrative is one which other scorekeepers (and, it must be emphasized, only other scorekeepers) understand. The language of baseball creates its own citizenry. It has its own punctuation and pronunciation, its own trimeter rhythm. Scorekeeping converts baseball into poetry. Its minimalism represents Keats’ negative capacity, a freedom from resolving the unresolvable, and instead revel in the process itself, the telling.

If any of you have ever gone to a ballgame with any of the three of us who contribute to this blog, KL, CapitalBabs and myself, you know that there’s a very good chance each of us will be keeping a scorecard. I don’t do it at every game I go to and I don’t think Babs does either. KL is more religious about it, I believe. But the point is, scorekeeping is an integral part of enjoying the experience of attending a baseball game for all three of us and if you’ve ever glanced around your seating section at a baseball game, you know we are not alone.

You won’t see that at football games or basketball games. I probably haven’t attended a total of 10 hockey games, at any level, in my life, but I’d be willing to bet it’s not something you see there either. But scorekeeping is ingrained in the culture and history of baseball.

I literally learned the language of scorekeeping before I learned cursive writing. (Yes, that is no doubt a commentary on priorities learned growing up in a home as the son of a high school coach, though to be honest, I also learned to keep the scorebook for basketball before I learned cursive writing. I bet you can guess what sports my dad coached.)

I learned scorekeeping from my father. I taught it to my son. He taught it to his girlfriend long before she eventually became his wife (I’m not suggesting it would have been a deal killer if she had not learned… but you never know). What I do know is that every time I keep score at a ballgame, I feel my dad’s presence at the game with me, even two decades after he passed away.

So keeping score provides a very personal historic connection to me. But it also connects me to the games themselves. I kept score at some of the high school games my dad coached, just as I did at games he took me to at Met Stadium where we watched Harmon Killebrew. I’ve kept score at Twins games involving Joe Mauer… and Beloit Snappers games involving Aaron Hicks. And whether it was last month, last year or 1967, I’ll always feel connected to those games.

As Dubuque alluded to in his article, one interesting thing about scorekeeping is that, while we may not all do it exactly the same way, we can take one glance at someone else’s scorecard and decipher it. When we get asked by non-scorekeepers to explain what all the little lines, numbers, letters and squiggles mean, we have no trouble providing detailed explanations. But, it’s when people ask “Why do you do it?” that we struggle. At least I do. In my experience, it’s just something that you get or you don’t get.

Once again, here’s where someone who really knows something about writing, like Mr. Dubuque in this instance, comes through… putting in to words that which I’ve never been able to do.

Finally, scorekeeping isn’t merely transcription. A quick glance at a cell phone will confer a sheer quantity of information that no scorebook can replicate. It’s the writing itself that is the defining act; it is the commemoration that separates a given ballgame from any of the million before it. We write to connect ourselves to history, to name ourselves as part of it. Scorekeeping, like writing, allows us to describe for posterity our own fandom, our presence at that game and our understanding of it. It is how we take possession of our past.

I couldn’t have said it better myself.

Dammit.

- JC

 

 

ST – Twins @ Cardinals, 12:05 pm, MLB.tv only

Unbelievable that on a weekend when some people might actually be able to WATCH or at least participate in a spring training game, there is no TV OR radio broadcast.  I don’t understand how they make these broadcast decisions because FSN is showing the next two Monday games in a row on television for you – while most of you are at work.  I can’t put my finger on why this spring is frustrating me more than most but I think it’s not just the lack of availability but the scheduling of what they did decide on.  [/Venting]

I guess it’s all just building my anticipation for the regular season, right?

Minnesota @ St. Louis
Span, CF   Theriot, SS
Tolbert, 2B   Carpenter, M, 3B
Young, D, LF   Pujols, 1B
Valencia, 3B   Holliday, LF
Bailey, J, DH   Berkman, DH
Hughes, L, 1B   Rasmus, CF
Repko, RF   Molina, Y, C
Butera, C   Schumaker, 2B
Plouffe, SS   Jay, RF
  Pavano, P     Westbrook, P

 

  1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 R H E
Minnesota 0 1 0 0 0 0 1 0 0 2 10 2
St. Louis 0 0 0 0 1 1 0 0 1 3 11 1