Monday, March 24, 2008

An Eventful Day

I'll go through the news in the order it happened:

Roster Cuts
The Twins announced 5 cuts before the game today, settling all but one spot on the 25-man roster.

Casey Daigle - needed a flawless spring to make the club, but was merely solid. No surprise.

Philip Humber - pitched extremely well this spring. In 14 IP, he gave up just 2 ER on 9 H and 3 BB. Now he'll stretch out at Rochester. He was the PCL leader in WHIP last season - if he keeps it up in the IL, we'll see him again this summer.

Jason Pridie - held his own in the CF competition, but displayed neither the OBP of Span nor the SLG% of Gomez. He'll likely see a ton of playing time in one of the corner OF spots for the Red Wings, and will be a candidate for an OF bench spot next year.

Brian Buscher - great first week of spring, then the hits dried up. He showed great improvement defensively, and will likely work on both corner IF positions in AAA.

Denard Span - the odd man out, despite finishing the spring with an SfC adjusted hitting line of .310/.420/.429. I didn't observe or hear of him making any mistakes in the field or on the bases. If he keeps it up at Rochester, I think he'll make his major league debut before too long.

This makes the winners of the various competitions:

2B - Brendan Harris - he's starting to warm up on both sides of the ball. Though I'm still glad Punto/Tolbert will be around for defensive replacement in the late innings.

12th pitcher - Brian Bass - despite his outing today (more on that below), he's had a fine spring, and will be lost to the organization if he doesn't make the roster. All indications are that he'll be a fine long-reliever.

Bench - Matt Tolbert - better/more versatile defensively than Buscher, better speed as a pinch-runner, also hit better this spring.

CF - Carlos Gomez - won the job with his speed, the only piece of his game which is major-league ready. While he will undoubtedly use it to create some runs, he will also give a lot of them back with his mistakes. I doubt he'll stick for long.

Nick Blackburn will be the last man cut this weekend, depending on how Liriano and Baker do in their starts this week. I doubt Blackburn will have to wait very long for his chance with the Twins.

Joe Nathan's Contract
In the third inning of today's broadcast, the Twins announced that they'd agreed to terms with Joe Nathan on a 4-year deal, with a club option for the 5th year. The exact terms haven't been published as of this moment, but it appears to be in line with Cordero's $46 million deal earlier this off-season.

I'm very pleased about this. After the Santana trade, I felt that it was imperative to lock up Joe Nathan, not because Neshek isn't capable of doing as good a job (he is), but because, after this tumultuous off-season, the Twins needed to show the fans that they are willing and able to pay market rates for their All-Star talent. Nathan will likely begin to decline by the end of the contract, but, at this point, it ensures that the Twins will have one of the top 3 closers in the game through 2011.

Neshek is under the Twins' control for all that time as well, meaning that, provided they both stay healthy and continue to produce at the rate they've established over the past 2 seasons, the Twins are effectively playing 7-inning ball games for the next 4 years. That's a huge boost to a young lineup and rotation.

Cardinals 8, Twins 4
Brian Bass got the start today, though he pitched from the stretch the whole time. He is going to be in the bullpen, so I think the Twins just wanted to see how far they could stretch him out. Answer: 3 innings. He was already beginning to falter in the 3rd, when he allowed a hit and a walk, but escaped unscathed. They sent him out for the 4th, and he promptly hit the wall - walk, double, walk, and his afternoon was over. I doubt he'll frequently be called upon to go more than 3 innings as the long reliever, and he was as good as he's been all spring in the first 2 innings, so I don't think this should shake anyone's confidence in him.

Dennys Reyes was called upon to get the Twins out of the 4th inning jam that Bass created. He got a broken-bat liner to Harris, who was able to double Ankiel off 2nd base. 2 outs, runners at the corners. It was difficult to visualize the next two plays, but as Dan described them, they were weak infield choppers. The first went over second base, where Tolbert allowed himself to be called off by Harris (who was running full-speed toward left field). Harris' throw to first was just late, and a run scored. I have a feeling Everett would have made that play. The next batter hit his ball over third base, and I guess Lamb fielded it while running into foul territory, and tried to touch the base as he went by, and the ump ruled that he hadn't. Anyway, that loaded the bases, and the next guy hit a clean single to center to score two. In summary, the box score lies again - Reyes pitched well, and with slightly better luck/defense could have escaped that jam unscathed.

Carlos Gomez was credited with a bunt single in his first AB, though Dan & John Gordon were once again incredulous that it was not ruled an error (the pitcher's throw pulled the first baseman off the bag). Gomez was quickly caught stealing for the first time this spring. He lined out to center in next AB, then finished the game with three strikeouts, the last on 3 pitches. Oh, and his "outfield assist" was another off-line throw that Morneau had to cut off, catching a different base runner in a rundown. This is why I would have waited to make the roster decisions until after today's game. Span's 0-4 yesterday was much more impressive than the 0-4 Gomez produced in his last ABs today.

Delmon Young had a pretty rough day at the plate with 2 Ks, but delivered with the bases loaded in the 9th for a 2-RBI single. He also made a nice running catch in the gap.

Lamb and Cuddyer continue to play great. Keep it up, guys.

Nice preview of the New Britain Rock Cats in the second half of the game today. Say what you like about the Cardinals' chances in this rebuilding year, they're definitely better than the Twins' AA team.

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