Monday, April 02, 2007

Opening Day Notes

After a long winter of waiting, baseball will finally get underway tonight, as the Twins open their regular-season schedule at the Metrodome against Baltimore. Your pitching matchups for the opening series:

Tonight: LH Johan Santana vs. LH Erik Bedard
Tuesday: RH Boof Bonser vs. RH Daniel Cabrera
Wednesday: RH Ramon Ortiz vs. RH Jaret Wright

It's pretty much equally easy to envision the Twins sweeping this series as it is to envision them getting swept. I'm not at all high on the Orioles this year, but these pitching matchups are tough to predict. They Twins have been known to struggle against Bedard and Cabrera in the past, but overall neither one of those pitchers is spectacular. Who knows what to expect from Wright now that he has been reunited with pitching coach Leo Mazzone, who helped push the 31-year-old right-hander to a highly successful season in Atlanta back in 2004. For the Twins' part, Ortiz and Bonser pitched well this spring but both are far from sure things this season. Meanwhile, Santana always seems to struggle a bit in his first outing of the season.

Now, some notes to get you prepped for the meaningful baseball that is finally about to ensue:

* Herb Carneal, who has been a radio broadcaster for the Twins almost as long as the team has been in Minnesota, passed away at the age of 83 yesterday. I don't often listen to games on the radio, but there's no denying that Carneal is a significant figure in the franchise's history. Flipping on the radio to take in an untelevised afternoon game will not be quite the same without hearing his soft and deliberate voice. Our condolences go out to his friends and family. This will be the third consecutive season to open on a somber note shortly after the Twins' family lost an important member. Last year it was Hall-of-Famer Kirby Puckett, and the year before it was long-time PA announcer Bob Casey.

* Joe Christensen made a promising observation in his MLB notebook in yesterday's Star Tribune, noting that Bedard, who the Twins will face tonight, was able to make a successful comeback after undergoing Tommy John surgery back in 2002 and has now returned to form as the Orioles' ace. If Francisco Liriano follows a similar path, I think all Twins fans would be happy.

* In that same notebook, Christensen also has the following humorous piece about the latest installment of the Twins/Red Sox spring training rivalry:

Twins manager Ron Gardenhire sent the Mayor's Cup trophy to Boston's clubhouse immediately after the Red Sox won Wednesday's showdown, giving them a 3-1-1 edge in the annual battle of Fort Myers.

The Red Sox hadn't claimed the cup since 2004, the year they won the World Series. Boston's Eric Hinske made the catch for Wednesday's final out, and sure enough, the ball's whereabouts were unknown.

"[Doug] Mientkiewicz probably has it," Red Sox manager Terry Francona said.

* Left-handed reliever Mike Venafro, who did not allow a run over 10 spring innings, has accepted his assignment to Class-AAA Rochester. This means that if Dennys Reyes goes down or for some reason Ron Gardenhire feels he needs an additional lefty in the bullpen early in the season, there will be a reasonable option waiting in the wings.

* As you may or may not have heard elsewhere, there is going to be a get-together for Twins bloggers, readers and other miscellaneous fans at the Buffalo Wild Wings in Crystal this Saturday at 3 p.m., to watch the Twins take on the rival White Sox. Both myself and Mr. Mosvick are planning to attend, and we hope that everyone who is able to come out will do so. We'll be posting again later in the week with further details.

* For those of you heading out to the Dome for a game in this opening series, make sure you pick up a copy of GameDay Magazine, the team's unofficial program. Aside from the fact that it is a cheap and stellar mag brought to you by the Twins Geek himself, John Bonnes, the April issue will be featuring an article written by yours truly.

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With all that said, I've grown tired of talking about spring training, and offseason moves, and projections and predictions. I'm ready to get this season started. Game No. 1 of 162 takes place tonight at 6 o'clock, rain or shine.