Saturday, March 25, 2006

New Position Battle Updates

With injuries to Ruben Sierra and Michael Cuddyer, a lot of roster possibilities are opening up. The Twins are even discussing backup first basemen, with Tony Batista's name being mentioned. I can't imagine why that is. But the worst of these rumblings is the idea of keeping Terry Tiffee on, as a pinch hitter, DH, and defensive replacement while Sierra is out with injury.

This is a bad idea simply for the reason that Tiffee cannot hit major-league pitching. Yes, he hit a homer of Randy Johnson yesterday, but that just made it worse. That kind of thing gives a guy like Gardy the idea that Tiffee really can hit big-leaguers. Wrong. Sure, Tiffee is hitting .361 with a .553 slugging percentage through spring (he was hitless today), but its difficult to trust any of those numbers consider what he has done in the majors. In 2004, he did alright in a late-season call up, hitting .273 with 2 home runs and 8 RBI against the kind of pitching Cuddyer loves. But last year, given more at-bats, he was atrocious. He hit .207/.245/.293 with only one home run and 15 RBIs in 150 at-bats. True, that may not completely indicate his ability, but even if he improves, we don't need a .230 or .240 around when we already have Nick Punto and Juan Castro. These are exactly the kind of moves we pulled last year and they are the moves that killed the offense. Tiffee needs to be left in the minors. Maybe he'll be useful at some point, but for now, we need a better solution.

As for right-field, I'm happy to see the possibility of Cuddyer out and Kubel in. If Cuddyer is out, he can replace Tiffee in the role I just discussed, as more of a utility guy and a back-up for Morneau at first. Kubel, although he was hitless in his last 12 spring at-bats before going 2 for 4 today with a double, has the most potential by far of any of the candidates. Given the role, he couldn't do any worse than Cuddyer does in April and once he heats up, he would do a lot more as well. The other possibility, mentioned by Gardenhire, is a platoon of Ford and Kubel, with Kubel getting the starts against righties and Ford getting them against lefties. I would be okay with this too, if only because it would get Ford time in the field and give Kubel most of the starts. Either way, even if Ford isn't the greatest against lefties, it would be a big improvement over starting Cuddyer there.

Shortstop is also rumored to have plenty of battling going on too, but I'm not sure I completely understand it. Bartlett is hitting .387 this spring, over Punto (.310) and Castro, who has been injured. Bartlett had a few impressive at-bats against Johnson yesterday and did just fine in the field. Yes, he isn't a spectacular defensive player, or at least yet, but what does that matter if the backup (Castro) is and the rest of the options (Punto, Castro, Rodriguez) shouldn't even be considered? Its time the Twins just give this guy a chance. I've heard people like Seth at Seth Speaks suggest that we've been spoiled in our perception of what shortshops should produce and that may be true. Regardless, if Bartlett hits .270 with improved discipline and plays average defense, that would be a good improvement.

The last battles are for a left-handed reliever and a long reliever. By now, the Twins should know that Darrell May is just an awful choice for anything. Here is his line this spring: After another ugly outing today, 14 IP, 8 Ks, 13 runs, 12 earned runs, 7.71 ERA, 24 hits allowed. There is nothing positive I can see there. If the Twins really think they need another Terry Mulholland (or a lefty who doesn't strike anyone out, is a batting practice pitcher, and whose K/BB ratio is close to or under one), then they are just delusional. I'd rather have Willie Eyre or even Boof Bonser in this role, although Bonser is back in Triple-A already. May just doesn't deserve a shot. As for the lefty reliever, they'll pick Dennys Reyes anyway, so there isn't a point in debating. He'll do just fine if Rick Anderson teaches him some control (good chance) and if Gardy uses him properly (bad chance).

Needless to say, there is plenty going in Spring Training to pay attention to. Let's just hope that Tiffee isn't kept around, that Cuddyer finds the right role, that Kubel and Bartlett are given chances, and that May is permanently banished from MLB playing. Its a lot to hope for, but let's do it anyways.

4 comments:

SocialLiberalFiscalConservative said...

It's interesting now with Bartlett having a minor injury. All these last minute injuries must have the Twins officials nervous. TR talked about a trade after spring training as it is. Hopefully we'll make such a trade in the next 7-10 days.

Nick M. said...

Its a good point. However, I think Bartlett will recover. That being said, I'm all about a trade. We can still replace Batista at third if we move quick.

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