Monday, March 16, 2009

Signs of Life

We're about halfway through spring training, a time when the sample sizes are beginning to get large enough that you'd like to start to see some signs that the players are going to be able to perform. So far, I've been very pleased with most of the Twins' returning players, particularly Carlos Gomez (.333/.400/.815, 3 HR, 5/3 K/BB in 27 AB), Delmon Young (.414/.452/.621, 3 2B, HR in 29 AB), Alexi Casilla (.387/.424/.484, 3 2B, 1/2 K/BB) and Jesse Crain (6 IP, 0 ER, 1 H, 1 BB, 6 K including the WBC). There are just a handful of guys on last year's roster who were beginning to worry me coming into today's game:

Joe Mauer - hasn't done anything on the field
Denard Span - 3 for 31 with no XBH
Joe Crede - 2 for 24 with no XBH
Nick Punto - 1 for 10 for the Twins and 1 for 12 with 2 BB in the WBC
Mike Redmond - 4 for 20 with 1 XBH
Matt Tolbert - 4 for 32 with no XBH

With the Crede signing likely relegating Brendan Harris to a bench IF role, and Mauer's balky back perhaps necessitating placing a 3rd catcher on the roster, Tolbert's spot is by no means guaranteed, so his struggles don't trouble me too much. However, that also means that Crede and Redmond had better be ready to do some hitting, or the Twins' lineup isn't going to be very deep.

So it was most encouraging to see Redmond, Crede and Span all drill XBH today, combining to go 6 for 8 with 2 R and 3 RBI. This was Redmond's second day in a row with a double, nearly matching his XBH total from all of 2008 (OK, he actually had 6 XBH in 2008, but you get the point). At this stage, it seems like the best case scenario that Mauer would get more frequent days off early in the season, so it's critical that Redmond delivers closer to his 2005-2007 performance, at least in April.

Span and Crede each managed to more than double their Grapefruit League total bases. Between them, they hit for the cycle (guess which one had the triple). Hopefully their numbers will continue to improve over the next week or so.

Philip Humber and Jason Jones both pitched well enough to keep themselves in the running for the last bullpen spot.

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