Friday, March 02, 2007

Spring Training Notes

The Twins have gotten through the first two games of their spring training schedule, and at this point sit with a record of 0-1-1. They played to a 4-4 tie with the Red Sox on Wednesday evening and were beaten by the Yankees 6-1 yesterday afternoon. Now, one can't base any real opinions off 19 innings of spring baseball, but I will say that these first two games have provided us with a few discouraging signs (as well as some positive ones).

Scott Baker and Carlos Silva are two pitchers making bids for comeback seasons after struggling mightily in 2006. On Wednesday, Baker was crushed for four runs on seven hits in 1 1/3 innings (the rest of the staff gave up no runs on two hits in the game). Yesterday, Silva got the start and gave up five runs on four hits while needing 42 pitches to get through two innings. The damage included a lead-off home run by Johnny Damon and a two-run shot by Jason Giambi. Baker struggled to keep the ball down in the zone, as he did last year, and Silva struggled to keep the ball in the park, as he did last year.

I'm more than willing to cut these guys some slack, since it was each pitcher's first time throwing against real competition this year and they still have plenty of time to get things turned around. Still, it's hard not to be discouraged by their brief performances.

Fortunately, some of the young guys did look good. Matt Garza started Wednesday's game and set down each of the six batters he faced. Kevin Slowey tossed two scoreless frames against the Yankees. Jason Kubel, who is just about everybody's pick for "Surprise Player of the Year," had a nice game yesterday, making a diving catch in the third inning and driving in the Twins' only run with a single in the fourth. Again, it wouldn't be wise to base much on these performances, but they're still nice to see from some young guys looking to make a name in the big leagues this year.

A few other notes on some developments we didn't really touch on earlier in the week:

* It seems that Lew Ford might need arthroscopic surgery on his right knee after having undergone the same procedure on his left knee just a couple months ago. Ford says he could have the surgery and be back in time for the regular season. I think that's pretty optimistic, but if he is indeed back at full speed by April I still think he'd have to start the season in the minors since he'd miss almost the entire exhibition schedule. Jason Tyner can now breath a little easier.

* In the same story linked above, it is mentioned that the Twins and reliever Jesse Crain agreed on a three-year deal worth $3.25 million. The contract takes care of Crain's first couple seasons of arbitration. Much like with the Joe Mauer deal, it's unlikely that the Twins are saving a ton of money here, but it does give them cost certainty for the next several years which will be important when it comes time to start making decisions about some other key players.

* Mr. Mosvick talked a little yesterday about Matt Garza's chances of fending off Sidney Ponson for the final spot in the Twins rotation. According to Jason Williams, Ponson's visa issues will work in Garza's favor. Said Williams on his blog yesterday:
Regardless of when Ponson pitches in an official exhibition game, the Twins will give Ponson a fair assessment. But I really think the Ponson camp's inability to take care of simple business before spring training started is going to lead to his preseason release. Tick, tick, tick.
* Outfielder Gary Matthews Jr. signed a gigantic contract with the Angels during the off-season, thanks to a career year at the plate in 2006. Baseball fans wondered where the 31-year-old Matthews' .313/.371/.495 line with the Rangers last year came from after a career of offensive mediocrity. Perhaps now they have their answer.

* UPDATE: If you're not subscribed to Jeff Straub's weekly Twins Podcast, I'd definitely recommend you do so. I did an interview with Jeff for his show this week, so you can check that out if you want to hear my nasal voice spewing worthless opinions.