The Twins' series against the Royals ended on a bad note yesterday, with the Twins' offense sputtering in a 3-1 loss. Yet, as a whole, the weekend provided fans with many encouraging signs, as the Twins took two of three from a Kansas City team that had come out of the gates very hot with a three-game sweep in Detroit. Here's a list of five things that I found satisfying in the KC series:
1) Morneau's awakening.
After a poor spring, Justin Morneau got his 2008 campaign off to a terrible start by going hitless during the Twins' four-game series against the Angels. Finally he busted out of his slump against the Royals this weekend, going 5-for-12 with two homers, a double and six RBI. Morneau's continued success will be important with Michael Cuddyer's finger injury Friday night landing him on the DL.
2) Bonser in control.
Last season, Boof Bonser consistently struggled once he got past the fourth or fifth inning, and often had a difficult time throwing the ball in the strike zone. After giving up a pair of runs in the second inning yesterday, he settled in to pitch through the seventh, allowing only one more run. He also has not issued a walk through two starts.
3) Starters going deep.
In addition to Bonser's solid seven-inning outing yesterday, Scott Baker and Livan Hernandez both delivered respectable outings, with Baker allowing three runs over 6 2/3 innings on Friday night and Hernandez tossing seven innings of four-run ball the following night. All three starters were efficient with their pitch counts.
4) Gardy's use of Tolbert.
When Brendan Harris came down with the flu last week, it seemed a perfect opportunity for Ron Gardenhire to work Nick Punto into the lineup. Surprisingly, Punto was not in the starting lineup once this weekend, and instead Matt Tolbert found himself penciled in for all three games. Tolbert responded by batting .500 (5-for-10) in the series while playing solid defense. His presence on the Opening Day roster was a little puzzling, but Tolbert -- at least so far -- seems to be proving that his outstanding 2007 campaign in Rochester was no fluke.
5) Bullpen flawless.
Thanks to the strong work from the starters, the Twins' relievers didn't have a heavy workload in this series. Yet, they took care of business, allowing no runs over 6 1/3 innings. So far, the Twins 'pen has looked excellent outside of that 9-1 loss to the Angels.
Here are a few other notes from the weekend:
* Johan Santana may have been having flashbacks in Atlanta yesterday. The former Twin pitched seven innings of one-run ball... and took the loss. The Mets eventually fell to the Braves 3-1.
* Speaking of Santana, the top pitching prospect the Twins received back for him made his debut in the Twins organization this weekend, and it was a good one. Deolis Guerra started for the Ft. Myers Miracle on Saturday night and pitched five innings, allowing just one run on two hits while striking out six and walking one.
* Denard Span, called up to fill Cuddyer's spot on the roster, made his major-league debut yesterday, getting the start in right field. Span went 0-for-2 but did draw a walk. Considering his lack of arm strength, it would have been much more logical for Span to start in left field with Delmon Young (a natural right fielder) sliding to right. But Gardenhire likes to do as little tweaking as possible to his lineup, as we've learned from seeing Mike Redmond hit No. 3 on many occasions when spelling Joe Mauer.