Report From The Fort: Returns And Concerns
Image courtesy of © Orlando Ramirez-USA TODAY SportsVargas “Hobbled”
In Friday night’s game, recently returned designated hitter candidate Kennys Vargas fouled a pitch off his foot or shin. He stayed in the game, but when he hit a fly ball to the outfield, he pulled up limping halfway to first base and left the game. After the game, we were told that x-rays had turned up nothing and that he was day-to-day.
Today the Twins were not as optimistic. Manager Paul Molitor described Vargas as “hobbled” and said the Twins might potentially have another look at the injury. Vargas isn’t in a cast, or even an air cast, but he was on crutches, said Molitor.
After playing sparingly in the WBC competition, Vargas was already going to need to accumulate at-bats to secure the designated hitter role for which he was the leading candidate entering camp. With only five Grapefruit League games remaining after tonight’s tilt, his prospects look grim. Especially given that ByungHo Park has had such a strong camp.
The Fifth Starter Competition
Molitor addressed the media prior to the game about Berrios’ demotion and the starts by Adalberto Mejia and Tyler Duffey at the minor league complex this morning. While it was possible that Berrios might have been able to get his pitch count high enough in time for his first start, the Twins were worried about rushing that process. “I was of the opinion, and I think everyone was, that the lack of work and consistency of work ... to try and rush the buildup here in the last ten days to try and get him ready to try and be in that spot didn’t make a lot of sense to me,” said Molitor.
It should be noted that according to Twins pitcher and Puerto Rico WBC teammate Hector Santiago, Berrios did work while playing with the Puerto Rican WBC team to try to build up his pitch count, including throwing a 55-pitch live batting practice session. “But I know it’s tough for [the Twins] on their side. They want to make sure he’s healthy and they don’t want to force him out there, run him out there and have something happen,” said Santiago, while lamenting the difficult decision.
Meanwhile, Molitor said that he thought both Duffey and Mejia had good but not outstanding mornings. “It wasn’t a seperator day for me,” said Molitor. “We just kind of need to look at the whole thing and see how it fits.”
It sounds like this was the last chance for both to make their case. Molitor said he’ll talk with pitching coaches Neil Allen and Eddie Guardado and they’ll make their decision before their next bullpen, which would be Monday.
Hector Santiago made his first start since returning from the WBC and threw 77 pitches over four innings. If his next start is in five days, it would be Thursday, the last Grapefruit League game and he would be up to a pitch count of 90. It sounds like he’ll line up to pitch the second game of the season at Target Field on April 5th.
Others at Twins Daily have analyzed Santiago, but this was my first time charting pitches for the left-hander, and he’s an interesting case. Pitch F/X says he throws a fastball over 60% of the time, and then a changeup 20% of the time and a mix of other stuff. But that’s not what he says, or at least not what he threw tonight.
He didn’t mention a changeup today at all. He says he threw a lot of fastballs away but concentrated on three offspeed offerings: a slider (which would usually be used against lefties), a curveball (which he usually uses primarily against right-handers, and a screwball (which officially puts me out of my depth).
He concentrated on the offspeed pitches tonight because he says he threw them so rarely in the WBC. According to Santiago, in his last outing he threw 68 pitches, and only four were not fastballs. That was his focus and probably explains why he only had 49 strikes in the 77 pitches he threw.
His line was solid enough: three strikeouts in four innings pitched with a walk and four hits. Unfortunately, two of those hits went over the wall, but they were solo shots.
Kohl Stewart Appearance
Twins pitching prospect (and #4 overall draft choice from 2013 draft) Kohl Stewart was called over from the minor league complex and brought on the road game to make an appearance in relief. The good news is that he can say he struck out JJ Hardy and Hyun Soo Kim. He can also say he gave up a home run to Chris Davis, which is probably an even better story to tell his grandkids.
It wasn’t a great outing; he had a lot of trouble throwing strikes, he walked a few guys and he gave up four runs in his two innings. And I hope he doesn’t care one bit.
Tomorrow is a home game and it would not be surprising if there were some roster moves. Stay tuned….
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