Wednesday, March 22, 2006

Hope Springs Eternal

It is important to remember that Spring Training statistics cannot always be taken too seriously. After all, last spring Jason Bartlett hit .370 and Michael Cuddyer had a 1.037 OPS. We all know what happened to them in the regular season.

Still, it is difficult to look at what the Twins have done this spring and not be at least cautiously optimistic. After scoring fewer runs than any other team in the American League last year, the Twins have smacked the cover off the ball in their exhibition schedule this month. They have been posting big run totals in lop-sided victories. A 16-7 win over Tampa Bay. A 10-3 win over Cincinnati. A 12-5 split-squad victory over Cleveland. Several players have had prolific springs as well. Nick Punto, Luis Rodriguez, and Terry Tiffee are all performing very well and providing hope that the Twins can have solid depth in their infield this year. Rondell White and Tony Batista both have shown glimmers of the power Terry Ryan was hoping to receive when he signed them during the offseason, as each have hit three home runs in 35 at-bats. New arrival Luis Castillo is hitting .381. Torii Hunter is hitting .370 and has five extra-base hits in 27 at-bats. Shannon Stewart is hitting .348. Justin Morneau has homered twice in 16 at-bats since joining the team.

Beyond just seeing what guys are doing with the team in Spring Training, all the Twins players who participated in the World Baseball Classic looked very good in the tournament. Morneau had 4 hits and 2 RBI in 13 at-bats for Canada. Johan Santana pitched 8.1 innings for Venezuela, facing star-studded lineups, and allowed just 3 hits while striking out 10. Carlos Silva pitched 5.2 innings of shutout ball for the same squad. Francisco Liriano dominated for the Dominican Republic, striking out 8 hitters in 5.1 innings while allowing just one earned run.

None of this really means anything in the long run, because as I stated before, spring performances can be misleading. Nonetheless, I'm relieved to see that the Twins hitters have been swinging the bats well and that none of the major players have suffered any serious injuries to this point. There's plenty of reasons to be optimistic right now, so let's just hope that carries through to April.