Tuesday, March 17, 2009

First Cuts

Red Sox 9, Twins 5
Sox lead Mayor's Cup 2-1

Happy St. Patrick's Day! It was fun to watch all the Sox fans in their green garb this afternoon.

I'm going to have to add Scott Baker and Matt Guerrier to the list of players I'm starting to worry about. Baker has now been blown to bits in consecutive starts, allowing 8 ER on 6 HR and 2 2B in 6 IP between the two games. Sure, he's a fly-ball pitcher, and those were hitter's parks with the wind blowing out. But none of the homers were particularly cheap. The worst was the shot by our old friend David Ortiz. Baker had just made him look silly half-swinging at a high and tight fastball, then followed it up with a hanging changeup over the heart of the plate. On 0-2. Eek. Bad pitch selection, bad execution. Hitters are very comfortable against Baker right now, and he's not locating his pitches, and the results aren't pretty. I really want to see 5 solid innings from him the next time out.

I was hoping to see Guerrier shake off his late-season meltdown and get back to business as usual this year, but what we've seen of him so far this spring (8.22 ERA, 1.96 WHIP, 2.35 HR/9, 4.7 BB/9, 4.7 K/9) looks awfully similar to the Guerrier of last August (10.13 ERA, 2.06 WHIP, 2.53 HR/9, 5.1 BB/9, 6.7 K/9) and September (10.00 ERA, 2.56 WHIP, 3 HR/9, 8 BB/9, 6 K/9). Never mind my confidence in him - his self-confidence probably depends upon him throwing up a couple of comfortable 0s over his next few outings.

Another inning, another run allowed for Jose Mijares. He was set up to escape with just 1 H allowed, with 2 K under his belt and ahead 0-2 on Jacoby Ellsbury's sub, but he lost him for a walk, then gave up an RBI single. Carlos Gomez bailed him out by cutting down the trailing runner trying to go first-to-third. As you'll see below, Mijares survived this round of cuts, but he still doesn't look like big-league material right now.

The bright spot in today's game for me was Denard Span. He put up his second straight multi-hit game, capped by an aggressive HR leading off the 5th against Jonathan Papelbon. Though it wasn't quite enough to bring his BA north of the Mendoza line, these 2 games have quadrupled his TB, bringing his OPS to a much more palatable .592. The way Casilla and Gomez are swinging, the Twins could have the exciting 9, 1 and 2 hitters they're hoping for in the lineup.

There were some great examples today of how the box score doesn't really tell you how people performed. Brian Buscher, though 0-3 with a K, was pitched exceedingly toughly by Josh Beckett on the strikeout, then was robbed of a base hit on a diving snare of a sharp liner in his last AB. Beckett had a tough 2nd inning, but without ever really being squared up: Michael Cuddyer led off with a hardish grounder right over 3rd for a double, Buscher struck out, Gomez walked on a very close 3-2 pitch, Jose Morales chipped a ball just out of the reach of SS Jed Lowrie, Brendan Harris reached on a swinging bunt down the 3B line, Denard Span got a bloop RBI single just out of the reach of a diving Jason Bay in LF, and Alexi Casilla reached on a swinging bunt down the 1B line. Though he'd needed about 45 pitches to record just 4 outs to that point, Beckett was able to get the next 8 outs on just 15 pitches. (A reporter asked him how it felt to see the offense doing so much to support him on a day when he didn't have his best stuff; a deadpan Beckett replied, "I don't understand the question.")

The Twins cut 20% of the players in camp this morning. Armando Gabino, Anthony Swarzak, Trevor Plouffe and Steve Tolleson were optioned to AAA Rochester, Deibinson Romero was optioned to A+ Fort Myers, and Rob Delaney, Ben Julianel, Danny Lehmann, Danny Valencia, Toby Gardenhire and Dustin Martin were reassigned to minor league camp. No surprises there. Many of those players made the most of their limited opportunities this spring, and will be watched with interest over the course of the coming season.

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