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Roughed Up: Rays 6, Twins 3

In today's 6-3 loss to the Tampa Rays, the Twins pitchers didn't have a great day. Starting was Ricky Nolasco, whose prefix is already slowly turning from "Mr." into "Most Expensive Free Agent the Twins Ever Signed." (MEFATES?) Anyway, Mr. Nolasco threw two scoreless innings, but five of the seven opposing batters hit the ball hard. Fortunately, the last of those hard hits was right at first baseman Chris Colabello who turned a nifty double-play.

I'm not saying there should be any concern. It's March 2nd. I'm just saying there is clearly work to do.

The blast that hurt the most was given up by Anthony Swarzak to Evan Longoria. Longoria does stuff like that against all kinds of pitchers and nobody expects Swarzak to be immune. But Swarzak also gave up three other hits to guys not named Longoria, albeit all of them pretty good hitters.

Swarzak isn't on anyone's list of concerns this year, due to some very effective pitching last year. But it's not like his strikeout rate spiked or a walk rate plummeted last year. He just gave up a lot fewer home runs and hits. Today, that formula didn't seem as comforting as yesterday.

We also got to see the recently acquired left-hander Brooks Raley, who induced three efficient ground balls in his first inning and then watched several pitches get tattooed to left field in his second inning. Finally, we got to see top pitching prospect Alex Meyer's 95+ mph fastball up close. Unfortunately, the Rays batters were seeing it too. He gave up a run in each inning and four hits total, though he wasn't helped by his defense in the eighth inning.

One could draw a comparison from this game to last year's pitching woes and a slew of other memorable six-run games, but that would be a little silly. This was just an early spring training game featuring a couple of big leaguers and a lot of minor leaguers and nobody should feel too bad about losing to the Rays in any case.

So instead, let's call it a reminder that the Twins this year are likely going to go as far as their pitching will take them. To their credit, they showed they understood this with their offseason moves. But those moves still need to work.

Twins Takes

There was an interesting subplot in today's game. Versus Tampa Bay's young right-handed phenom Alex Cobb, manager Ron Gardenhire started Jason Kubel, Oswaldo Arcia and Chris Parmelee. The three of them are all left-handed corner outfield/designated hitters, and there is a decent chance that only two of them come north with the team.

Kubel, who most assume will be the team's primary designated hitter, started in left field. He went 0-3, though he had some hard hits.

Batting as the designated hitter was Chris Parmelee, who homered yesterday. He also hit fifth, one spot in front of Oswaldo Arcia, which struck me as a little odd, seeing as I've assumed Arcia would make the team over Parmelee. Parmelee singled again today. Arcia, who played right field, hit a home run in the fifth inning.

We've talked a lot about how "options" may make forecasting a bullpen a little tricky, but I wonder if they might not have an impact here, too. Parmelee is out of options. Arcia is not. And Kubel was awfully fragile last year.

If the Twins believe Parmelee is ready to turn the corner, it might make the most sense long-term to go north with Kubel and Parmelee. They could keep Arcia in reserve at Rochester for a couple months in case Kubel goes down or Parmelee flails. Keep an eye on how each is used.


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