Thursday, March 4, 2010

The Games Begin

At last, the Twins have a game in the books, and we can start talking about how people are performing against real competition. Well, as real as spring training games get. During the first half of March, I just want to see players showing signs that they're going to be ready to do their thing once the regular season starts. Are the pitchers hitting their spots? Are the hitters having good PA? Is everyone making the plays in the field? For the guys that have a legitimate shot at breaking camp with the Twins, the answers to those questions were almost uniformly positive.

Denard Span led off the game with a single off Josh Beckett, and scored what would be the Twins' only run of the game. Alexi Casilla went 0-2, but had a hit taken away by a diving Marco Scutaro leading off the 4th. Jason Kubel drove in Span with a single off Beckett, then drew a walk against tough LHP Hideki Okajima. Michael Cuddyer went 1-2. Jacque Jones struck out after a lengthy AB vs. Beckett, but he made a nice diving catch in LF. Only Brendan Harris failed to do something memorable - and he was only around for 4 innings.

The pitching side of things was just as encouraging. Nick Blackburn worked 2 scoreless IP, allowing just an IF single to Dustin Pedroia, and getting 4 of 6 outs on the ground. Kevin Slowey followed with his first appearance since July. He raised some doubts about his readiness in an interview earlier this week, suggesting that his wrist wasn't feeling right. However his wrist felt, it didn't seem to effect his pitching. He also allowed just 1 H in 2 IP, while striking out 2. And, of course, walking no one.

Perhaps the best story of the night was the return of Pat Neshek, absent from the Twins' bullpen since early May of 2008. In his first inning back, he set down Scutaro, Jeremy Hermida and prospect Josh Reddick in order, striking out Reddick. The 2 balls put in play were weakly hit. No signs of struggles with command, a typical side-effect for those trying to recover from TJS.

That the folks who will be filling out the Rochester and New Britain rosters failed to muster any hits (save one single by Luke Hughes) doesn't trouble me in the least. Nor does the fact that Mike Maroth couldn't handle the top of the Red Sox order, or that Jose Lugo lost the game in the bottom of the 8th. The minor leaguers will have plenty of chances to win or lose games late over the next couple of weeks. I'm just glad to see the big leaguers put their best foot forward in their brief appearances in this first game.

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