Thursday, March 24, 2005

The Middle Infield

The Twins situation at second and shortstop on April 4th may be drastically different from what we were expecting coming into spring training. While the initial favorites were Luis Rivas and Juan Castro, a couple of very weak offensive players who get the job done in the field, it could be the case that neither of them will be starting.

While Ron Gardenhire seems reluctant to confirm it, it is hard to believe that Jason Bartlett will not be the starting shortstop for this team. He is hitting .389 this spring, has been at least as good as any of the other SS candidates with his glove, and he has been consistent and showed good discipline at the plate. So much, in fact, that it is now starting to look like he might bat second in the order, behind Shannon Stewart and before Joe Mauer. Juan Castro has hit well this spring, but he has committed seven errors already, and when your lifetime batting average is .226, that is simply unacceptable.

More interesting is the developing situation at second base. Rivas has had a terrible spring, batting a paltry .125. Gardenhire hinted yesterday that Nick Punto is a serious candidate for the starting job at second. The Twins seem determined to see what Punto can do when playing regularly, and Rivas just can't seem to put it together, so this does indeed seem like a pretty realistic possibility.

The downside to an infield made up of Justin Morneau, Punto, Bartlett, and Michael Cuddyer would be the lack of Major League experience for any of these players at their respective positions, which could lead to a lot of errors. Also, in taking Rivas out of the equation, you lose one of the better second basemen in the league in terms of turning the double play. That could be bad news for a pitcher like Carlos Silva who lives by the twin killing. Nonetheless, it would almost certainly be the best offensive infield this team is capable of putting out there, so it would definitely be a fun group to watch.

4 comments:

roger said...

Agree with Punto playing at second. Scrappy player who will be a huge improvement over Rivas. As for Silva, expect Punto will be very solid defensively...maybe play Rivas when Silva is pitching early in the season.

Nick N. said...

Yeah that's a pretty good idea. I think that even if Punto takes the starting position at second we will still see Rivas filling in at 2B and SS frequently and as a late-game defensive replacement.

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