The start of Sidney Ponson's career in Minnesota was unimpressive to say the least. He allowed five of the first six batters he faced to reach base en route to a three-run first inning, and then surrendered a two-run blast to Bobby Abreu in the second, putting his team in an early 5-0 hole. In the sixth inning, Ponson allowed an RBI single to Abreu and a two-run homer to Alex Rodriguez that singled the end of his night. The Twins would eventually lose their series opener against the Yankees by a score of 8-2.
Despite an ugly final line of 5.2 IP, 10 H, 8 ER, 3 BB, 2 K and 2 HR, there were some positives to be drawn from Ponson's outing. After that second inning, he settled in and starting getting some groundballs. After allowing the homer to Abreu, Ponson retired 12 of the next 15 Yankee batters he faced. There was some definite sinking action on his fastball and, in total, Ponson induced 14 groundballs in his 5 2/3 innings of work. Of course, the final results were extremely poor and by no means am I saying this was a good outing for Ponson, but I'm also not ready to stick a fork in him after a tough day against the best offense in all of baseball.
In truth, there are a couple things I find more distressing than a poor pitching performance against a great offense by a starter for whom I had low expectations to start with. One of those things is the way the Twins' offense performed. Carl Pavano, who is not a great pitcher by any stretch of the imagination, became the first Yankees' starter to pitch more than five innings in a game this season, as he delivered seven frames of two-run ball while allowing six hits and no walks. The most disturbing aspect of that performance is that he needed only 79 pitches in those seven innings, indicating that the Twins' hitters were utterly unable to make him work.
Another cause for alarm for the Twins is an increasingly serious injury situation. The Twins' heavily criticized decision to carry three catchers out of spring training has looked predictably stupid. Joe Mauer has started every game at catcher and has apparently been quite healthy, while Mike Redmond has appeared in just two games, both as a DH. This all means that Chris Heintz has not come anywhere close to being needed. Meanwhile, the bullpen has been a bit thin with Juan Rincon's recent unavailability due to a sore neck (are those things contagious?). As if that weren't bad enough, Rondell White's calf injury was apparently more serious than the club initially let on, as he was placed on the disabled list yesterday. Joining him on the DL will be utility man Jeff Cirillo, who informed the club yesterday that he will need surgery on his knee.
So now, this Twins team that flew out of the gates with an opening series sweep is sitting with a 4-2 record and a beat-up roster heading into Game 2 of a series against a team that looked far superior last night. A statement game from Boof Bonser and a re-awakening of the offense would be very helpful tonight.