The Twins announced 3 cuts this morning: Alejandro Machado, Jose Mijares (finally), and Drew Butera. That anoints Jose Morales as Mike Redmond's backup (Mike Redmond's backup: I don't like the sound of that). Prior to spring training last year, I thought Morales would be a good choice for the 25th man, so I'm certainly pleased to see the Twins go with him now. With Mauer hurt, Joe Crede getting starts at 3rd, and Denard Span no sure thing to lead off every game with the spring he's put together, the Twins are suddenly pretty right-handed. The switch-hitting Morales gives Gardy an opportunity to add another left-handed bat on days the Twins face a RHP. Since he's a good hitter, Morales could also be a good choice to pinch-hit (if they're not too chicken to use up their last catcher). Morales has been at Rochester for 2 years, suffering some injury setbacks along the way. He deserved this opportunity, and I'm glad he's getting it.
Mijares' demotion apparently clears the way for Brian Duensing to fill the role of 12th pitcher (unnecessary on a team with a deep rotation). His advantage appears to be mainly that he is left-handed. I can think of a LHP the Twins could have signed rather cheaply who would likely have performed a lot better than Duensing will (hint: he has no neck). However, Duensing has done pretty well at Rochester over the past 2 seasons, and I suppose he also deserves a shot. I would be inclined to option him back down once Joe Mauer is ready to return, however, since I think we're going to find over the first 2 weeks of the season that the Twins aren't going to need enough innings from their bullpen to justify keeping 12 pitchers.
Twins 12, Pirates 8
This was most likely the worst all-around game the Twins have been involved in this spring. At least a quarter of the Twins' 19 hits were fly balls that the Pirates simply failed to catch. Bucs fans could not have been comforted to see their presumed #5 starter getting knocked around by the likes of Chris Parmelee and Matt Moses - whose effort today must, sadly, rank among the finest games of his disappointing pro career - and their closer getting lit up by a succession of AA or lower hitters.
Nick Blackburn was nowhere near as good as his line. Three times, Brendan Harris dove to his right to cut off balls that were labeled for CF, twice turning them into outs. Denard Span made a catch while crashing into the wall in CF. It would be fair to say that Blackburn kept his fielders on their toes.
The same could not be said of the pitching prospects who finished the game. With the temperature on the field about 90 degrees, the game almost 3 hours old, the Twins leading by 9 and both teams using almost exclusively low minor leaguers, it must have killed home plate umpire Tim Tschida to have to call ball after ball from reliever Joe Testa. The only out the Twins were able to make of the first 8 Pirates who came to the plate in the 9th was on an infield fly that wasn't caught. Ugh.
Brian Buscher hopefully earned himself a day off by playing all 9 innings at 3rd base. I hope I'm not jinxing him, but I want to point out that he hasn't made an error this spring at either 1B or 3B. In fact, the Twins' regulars have only committed a handful or errors all spring, an improvement which I expect to continue into the regular season.
Tomorrow, RA Dickey will start against Tampa while Scott Baker gets his work in vs. some minor leaguers. This start will be Dickey's last big chance to blow it on the field before the Twins are forced to admit to everyone that Philip Humber's option situation meant all along that Dickey had no chance to make the team. For what it's worth, Dickey has had a more impressive spring than Duensing. It might be more useful to have a knuckleballer in the 'pen than a lefty who isn't that good at getting lefties out. Here's hoping Dickey makes it hard on them.