Sunday, March 02, 2008

Watching the Lineups

Spring training games, especially early spring training games, are sort of a mixed blessing. On the one hand, for those of us who just love to talk baseball or at least listen to baseball talk, we finally have a two hour outlet. On the other hand, much as we may wish differently, that’s almost all that listening to spring training games is good for. I’m not going to get a great sense of Carlos Gomez strike zone judgment or Brendan Harris’ range from the radio broadcast.

And, of course, performance counts for next to nothing, especially this early. If you REALLY want to track these guys, wait until early next week and then print off their statistics. Then, do it again the last week of March and subtract the first list from it. That’s closer to what coaches perceive as each player’s performance. One of the traps of spring training is to give any credence to these first two weeks of stats, when players are as likely to face a AA player as a major leaguer.

Right now, about the only thing that means anything are the lineups. Generally, the more serious a coaching staff is about a player, the more likely they are to play early in a game, for at least two reasons. First, because that way they can make sure they get their reps in, even if the game is rained out or game situations force a lineup adjustment. But mostly it’s because they are more likely to face major leaugers early in a game.

So, let’s look at some box scores, focusin on things that look a little different than I would have thought, and see if it gives us any hints about what the Twins are thinking.

Center Field
Jason Pridie has yet to start a game in center field this spring. In fact, he has yet to start a game at any position. He’s played in each game this spring, but it’s always been as a backup outfielder, twice for Carlos Gomez in center field and twice for Michael Cuddyer in right field.

I think most of us assumed that the battle for center field this spring would be between Pridie and Gomez, with Denard Span having only an outside chance. Instead, Span and Gomez have each had two starts, and Pridie has zero. For now, it looks like he’s pretty clearly the third choice, and may be thought of as a candidate for fifth outfielder instead of center fielder.

The problem, of course, is that if Gomez or Span makes the team, the Twins already have five outfielders without Pridie. To keep Pridie and a twelfth pitcher means the only other bench players are Mike Redmond and Nick Punto. That doesn’t sound very Gardenhirish.

Second Base
Four games, three candidates, so you know that one of them has two starts so far. And that person is…sigh.

It’s Punto, of course. Now, before we start getting all apocalyptic, understand that both Brendan Harris and Alexi Casilla have also received two starts, it’s just that their second was at shortstop. I still refuse to believe that Nick Punto is going to be the starting second baseman on this team, and again, I like him. I think he’s going to bounce back fairly strong. But I just can’t picture the coaching staff voluntarily subjecting themselves to that again.

The Rotation
I guess I wasn’t too surprised to see Randy Keisler penciled in for a start, since I suspect he's just keeping it warm for Francisco Liriano. But why isn’t Kevin Slowey starting games? His only appearance thus far has been after Boof Bonser on Friday.

The person starting in his place is today’s starter, Glen Perkins. Perkins has already made an appearance this year, and it wasn’t as a starter, and he got shelled, so this likely doesn’t mean anything. But I’m still puzzled by why Slowey wasn’t the default choice.

For now we’ll just file it away for future reference as we peruse those box scores. If you're like me and can't listen to the games live (thank god for archived games on GameDay Audio), that's about all you're likely to get. But at this point in the spring, that isn't bad.

Twins Round Table
In case you're interested, I found a little time (very little, unfortunately) to participate in a round table with Sky at and Nick from I come off sounding like Sid Hartman without the throat clearing, but it's still fun to read.


Jake said...

cool, round table. I always like those kinds of discussions between serious sports people. Just seems like some really interesting views are traded and opinions altered. Wish this one was a little longer seems like it was just getting rolling.

Patthew said...

I was wondering why Humber wasn't getting those Liriano starts. So far only late bullpen work for him.

Anonymous said...

Courtesy of NESN two of the Twins/ Sox games have been on tv. Other than the YES network most teams don't block their spring training games so if you have the Sports packsge on Direct TV just look up the MLB Baseball listings until you find what you want & TiVo it.

I have only seen those games so far and the most lasting impression was Gomez's put out of Pedroia by three steps!