Tuesday, April 01, 2008

Opening Day Notes

It's late, I'm bushed and cold and wet, so we'll be doing the lighting round tonight, I think....

The Monroe Decision
I assume this one will be covered extensively by other sites, since I had friends showing me internet articles about it during the game. In case you missed it, Ron Gardenhire trumpeted his intention to bat Jason Kubel and Craig Monroe in the designated hitter spot, and to choose which one to bat day by day.

Some might have thought that would have meant a platoon, since Kubel is bats left-handed and struggled last year versus lefties and Monroe bats right-handed and hit .194 against right-handers. So just to make himself clear, Gardenhire started Monroe against right-handed Jered Weaver. And he stayed with that until the Angels brought in a right-handed reliever, so Gardy responded by batting Kubel.

Apparently it was a hunch, and it was seemingly a hunch that paid off, in that the Twins won, Kubel had early success (he got a gift double in that at-bat) and Monroe can feel like something more than a glorified bench player. This sounds an awful lot like Gardenhire outthinking himself. There are those that say that isn't too hard to do, but if we're going to beat him senseless for that, it's only fair that we give credit where credit is due, too. Like:

Pulling Livan
The top of the seventh ended with the Twins holding a one run lead, and their veteran was on the mound and had only thrown 84 pitches so far. What's more, the eighth inning was going to start with the Angels ninth hitter. There wasn't a doubt in my mind that Livan Hernandez would come out and start the eighth inning until he got into trouble.

And I expected he would have some trouble, too, because he's Livan Hernandez and these are the Angels. I'd expected he would have some trouble in the previous two innings too, and he hadn't. But I'd also expected that he would start those innings instead of turning things over to a lockdown bullpen, and he had. That's generally the way the Twins do things.

I was wrong, because Pat Neshek came out and threw those nasty pitches and made the Angels look pretty silly for the most part. The last battle he had, against Vladamir Guerrero, will be one of the more memorable late inning battles you'll see. Neshek kept throwing nasty pitches, the crowd was on it's feet, and Vlad kept swinging like he was trying to break the baseball like a pinata. On the 2-2 pitch, Neshek uncorked a high and tight fastball as a warning shot. And on the next pitch he blew a fastball past Vlad while Vlad, who had just seen a pitch barely miss his ear, swung as hard and as violently as DeNiro in The Untouchables. Classic.

All of which is a little off topic, because what surprise me was that Neshek was in that game. It's probably because Gardy wanted to get Livan his first American League win. But it could just as easily be explained by Gardy coaching with a sense of urgency, which is franly good to see. And it's also notable that this is a case where Gardy clearly didn't overthink things. Neshek owned that inning, despite it being filled with left-handed batters. It was a smart, strategic and confident move, devoid of a lot of clubhouse politics. I hope we see more of that.

Get to Know 'Em
One of the highlight of the opener is getting to know the new players. And, of course, the snapshots the most regret. My friend Kris practically squealed with glee when she saw Adam Everett's headshot. "Ooooh. Can we call him Baby New Year?"

Yes. Yes we can.

See you on GameDay

If you have some time, we just had a nice story done on GameDay by Finance & Commerce. GameDay has been a lot of work this spring, but I'm very excited about some of the things that are going on with it. Ultimately, I think our goal is to help the Twin Cities become an avid baseball city and I just believe an independent and financially sustainable program/newsleetter that focuses on baseball is a part of that. If you would like to be involved, as a writer, vendor, advertiser or other, please let us know. We would love to have you join the team. Thanks.


SBG said...

If I'm going to hand out kudos to Gardy for in game decision making (he said the Neshek decision was made before the game), it's for his decision to let Neshek pitch to Vlad. With Anderson on second and first base open, there was at least a possibility that he would have Neshek IBB he didn't and that was a very good decision as ubelmann points out here. So, kudos for that.

neckrolls said...

Unless it's a shutout, Neshek should start the 8th inning of every game the Twins are winning by 3 or fewer runs. Glad Gardy's already made up his mind about that.

Adam said...

I'm with Neckrolls "Neshek should start the 8th inning of every game".