Spring Training Report #2

Today, I made a solo trip out to Hammond for the B game – which considering who stayed behind to play the Red Sox instead of going to Port Charlotte, you might call it the A game and the Orioles the B game but who’s being technical…

The hard part of a “B” game is that they don’t do anything on the board for scoring and of course you have all the young guys that you aren’t as familiar with. So this is the first time that I didn’t have my score book that I really wished I was scoring the game. I still didn’t track the hitting lineup too well because I was wandering around a lot trying to get pictures but the highlights are that the big boys were mostly in play.

I’m not going to walk you through the game or anything but I enjoyed seeing how people were doing. Blackburn started things off very well. Mauer played 1B with Casilla at 2B and Morneau was DH’ing I think. That was about the end of the REALLY familiar – I still recognized most of the young guys since we saw half of them up in the bigs at the end of last year – Trevor Plouffe, Joe Benson, Rene Rivera… A couple I had to actually go look up. Our 3B for the whole game was a kid named Michael Hollimon. Not too bad actually. I was a little less impressed with two outfield invitees – Wilkin Ramirez & Matt Carson. It was also fun to see Paul Moliter coaching 1B since Jerry was on the road.

The sight that shocked me the most was watching Morneau come up to bat. He walked once, hit a really fun stand up double but.. you know how people have been saying he’s thinner?? HOLY CRAP, HE’S SKINNY! He still has the big shoulders but his lower body muscle mass is just gone. The tree-trunk thighs are very normal looking now for a guy of his height. Do I think it’s a problem that he looks normal? Not precisely but when you lose that much of your leg muscle mass, he is going to have to do things differently. The sad part is that he’s still wearing his pants from last year and they are super huge on him – like Liriano oversized style.

What hasn’t changed at all is Mauer’s ability to stand in the batters box and watch a pitch go by… LOL I don’t even know if the ump called this a strike or a ball but it just made me laugh anyway. As it was, Mauer was 0-2 but Chris Parmelee came out and replaced him after his two AB’s so it was just a light day at the park for him. He seems pretty comfortable at 1B now though.  It gave Rene Rivera a chance to get a little more time at catcher. I was kind of hoping to see one of the invitee or younger guys, like Towles or Herrmann but I am never really going to complain when I am getting to watch baseball. Besides, I never even looked to see who was in the lineup for the “A” game.

Even Dick Bremer preferred the B game! For the record, he’s looking skinnier too. 😉

PS. Tomorrow, I’m bringing the hubby along & we’re hitting the Rays game at home.

Hump Day Humbug

I’ve written often lately about how Spring Training is the time for just enjoying the fact that baseball is being played by our guys in Florida and setting aside the disagreements we’ve had with Twins management over roster decisions the past few months. I still believe that.

Image: zazzle.com

But I’m sitting here this morning realizing that it’s only Wednesday AND that my original Spring Training plans, had they worked out, would have had me leaving for Ft. Myers a week from today. Instead, it will be two weeks later, so I’ve got a whole THREE WEEKS to wait. Humbug.

So, perhaps it’s just my mood, but I’m going to share my grouchiness with all of you this morning.

I’ve watched most of the three Twins games that have been available on the internet and let me just say this… if Ron Gardenhire thought starting camp three days earlier than usual to work more on fundamentals was going to return this team to the days of playing baseball the “Twins Way,” he must be wanting to throw up about now.

I know the wind has been crazy during a couple of the games and that some outfielders are playing out of position a bit (Ryan Doumit played LF the other night for the first time since HIGH SCHOOL), but so far the way guys are fielding, throwing and running bases, I’m not sure three extra WEEKS would have been enough to instill fundamentals in some of these players.

With so many pitchers in camp, there’s a ton of guys who have to know they’re going to have to really stand out every time they get even an inning of work in a game. That’s unfortunate, because ideally you want to use Spring Training games to simply work on location or release point for specific pitches, without being overly concerned about whether the hitter figures out you’re throwing the same pitch over and over until it feels good.

But most of these pitchers don’t have that luxury right now. Every time one of them goes out there and walks a couple of guys or gives up more than one hit in their inning of work, they know they’re one step across the parking lot to the minor league clubhouse (or one step toward outright release). I’m not going to name names, but if you’ve been watching, you know there’s a couple of guys feeling the heat right now.

The Twins are playing another “B” game as I write this Wednesday morning. I’m not sure I like the trend toward more “B” games. I understand that with so many pitchers in camp, they simply need to get more live innings in, but those games also start to become excuses to leave starting position players home, rather than making them bus an hour away to play in that day’s “real” game.

For example, Alexi Casilla, Jamey Carroll, Joe Mauer and Justin Morneau are all playing in the “B” game today, while Denard Span and Josh Willingham are the only certain starting position players making the trip to Sarasota to play the Orioles (unless you want to count Ben Revere as a starter). Teams already tend not to take a full group of starters to road games, but if it gets to the point where they never take their best players, it will mean two things: The games will be less interesting for fans and pitchers will face fewer legitimate Major Leaguers as they prepare for the season.

I understand there are pros and cons to this. For example, if Babs and Andrew got their butts out of bed early enough today, they had a chance to see Lexi and the M&M boys support Nick Blackburn up close and personal without paying a nickel to do so. Also, now that minor league camp has opened, there will be guys sent across the lot every few days, so the need for “B” games becomes less important. In other words, I’m probably concerned over nothing… but hey, I’m in one of those moods so I thought I’d mention it.

Here’s another thing that’s really a good thing, but I’m going to grouch about it anyway. All-Star Twins blogger Aaron Gleeman shared the news in his blog this morning that he’s had a very successful year on the weight-loss front. This is great for Aaron and I’m happy for him… but realizing that a year ago, he outweighed me by about 120 pounds and now he’s dropped at least 25 pounds below what I’m carrying just reminds me how unsuccessful I’ve been on that front.

Finally, tomorrow is the opening day of the Big Ten Conference mens’ basketball tournament. This is usually something I more or less celebrate. In fact, for the first several years it was held, I made the trip to Chicago to attend it in person (this was before I realized that instead of fighting blizzards to attend this event, I could go to Florida to watch baseball in 80 degree weather). But this year, my Hawkeyes not only are unlikely to advance far in the tournament (I’ve become accustomed to that lately), their first game is at 10:30 in the frigging morning on Thursday! And if they beat Illinois, they turn around and play early again on Friday!

So the bad news is that I have to essentially take the entire day off from work Thursday (and maybe Friday, too) to watch Big Ten basketball all day. Hey… wait a minute… that means that, from a work perspective, this kinda may be “Friday.”

Hmmmm… I think I feel my mood improving, after all.

– JC