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  • Spring Training Report - 3/16/2014: Dueling Aces and MILB games

    Sunday was Minnesota Day at Hammond Stadium, which apparently means that a whole bunch of people get early at the ballpark to tailgate at the parking lot and is a pain to find parking spots. I arrived just in time for the two intrasquad games (AAA vs AA) and (A+ vs A) at Fields number 2 and 3. Aaron Hicks was hitting for the AA team and Pedro Florimon was playing for the AAA team, so that is where I exclusively spent my time before I was headed to the ballpark for the Twins and Marlins game.

    Alex Meyer was pitching and he was practically unhittable and a strike out machine, other than a long home run by Mike Gonzalez who looks in shape this season and will likely split the 1B/DH duties with Kennys Vargas in New Britain. I am not going to give a scouting report on Meyer, it is unnecessary, but he was on top of his game and hitting his spots with ease. I have not noticed before, but he does this weird thing with his mouth when he pitches:


    ~~~ Originally published at The Tenth Inning Stretch ~~~

    Aaron Hicks
    did not play at the field but was the second batter in every inning for the AA squad and did nothing in 3 innings against Alex Meyer. However, when he was replaced in the fourth, Hicks hit a long home run in dead center off Yohan Pino. Pino was not quite as good as I remember him to be, his control was just not there.


    Speaking of not good, BJ Hermsen started for the AA team and he was, well, not good. It was amazing that he has been the Twins' minor league pitcher of the year in the past as well as having a spot on the 40-man roster. I am not sure what has happened to him, but it is not pretty. He was hit hard by every Rochester player, allowing multiple home runs and extra base hits. Even Pedro Florimon hit a triple off him in one plate appearance and struck out (a feat by itself because Hermsen struck out 3.7 AA hitters per 9 innings last season) in another.


    And if you are a major leaguer, this is how you go from the back fields to Hammond Stadium:


    Some additional tidbits from the intrasquad game: Evan Bigley played CF for Rochester today. With Mastroianni back there tomorrow, I do not think that this will be a common sighting. Bigley was fine at the field and made a couple good catches and looked good at the plate as well. I think that this is a make or break season for him.

    This off-season the Twins picked up 28 year old CJ Ziegler, the Independent American Association MVP (.318/.408/.645 with 30 HRs and 99 RBI in 100 games,) hoping it will be Chris Colabello's second coming. Ziegler is listed at 6'5", 245 lbs, but he is a much bigger man. Think of a righty Jim Thome. It will be interesting to see how he does in Rochester


    Cole Johnson came to relieve BJ Hermsen and I think that he might be a sleeper. Very lanky righty with easy delivery, throwing almost side arm and good movement. Not a mph guy, but good solid stuff and looks like he got a good feel for pitching. He struck out 11 per 9 innings last season in AA, so he might be doing something right. The 44th round pick from Notre Dame in 2011 has been flying under the radar so far, but he might be someone to pay attention to this season.

    Back at the Hammond Stadium the Twins hosted the Marlins, which resulted in a pitching matchup between a former Twins Ace



    and the current Twins' Ace.


    It was a pitching duel through five with each of the starters giving one run a piece and each of the starters topping out at 92 mph (which is quite a feat for Slowey.) Ricky Nolasco was very impressive in that he has a repertoire of 5 (or so) pitches and he is throwing them any time in the count. His change up (79-81) was particularly impressive today. He will be the Twins' opening day starter and I predict a great season for him.

    Both Jasons (Kubel and Bartlett) reached base today (a rarity for these guys) on walks. Despite Twins' fans rooting for them to make the team, I think that their best days are well behind them and that they are not major league caliber players at this point.

    Aaron Hicks
    came in for Alex Presley and had a nice double. At this point, I think that it is not even close between these two. In addition to Presley having an anemic bat this Spring and misjudging balls at the outfield, at one point in a single at mid-depth, he bounced the throw to the cutoff man. An arm reminiscent of Ben Revere.

    Speaking of feats, at some point Josh Willingham hit a strong liner that hugged the right field line. I was thinking triple all the way as soon as it left his bat, but he managed to get thrown out at second base. Unacceptable at pro ball. Maybe the thing in his back pocket was weighing him down...


    Monday the Twins are scheduled to play the Orioles in Sarasota and it will be a full day of minor league coverage from Fort Myers for me.
    Comments 14 Comments
    1. drock2190's Avatar
      drock2190 -
      Nice report! Good to hear Hicks did well.
    1. Dman's Avatar
      Dman -
      Nice to hear Alex looks really good this spring. I wonder how long the Twins will be able to keep him in AAA before it becomes obvious they need to make a spot for him on the MLB team?
    1. birdwatcher's Avatar
      birdwatcher -
      Great report, thrylos, thanks. I agree, I do not want to watch Kubel and Bartlett play this summer, and I cringe at the thought of watching Presley on an every day basis.
    1. Halsey Hall's Avatar
      Halsey Hall -
      Quote Originally Posted by Dman View Post
      Nice to hear Alex looks really good this spring. I wonder how long the Twins will be able to keep him in AAA before it becomes obvious they need to make a spot for him on the MLB team?
      Meyer may start in NB this year. I mentioned to Gene Glynn the other day how his starting rotation will be better than last years Twins rotation.
    1. Halsey Hall's Avatar
      Halsey Hall -
      Quote Originally Posted by birdwatcher View Post
      Great report, thrylos, thanks. I agree, I do not want to watch Kubel and Bartlett play this summer, and I cringe at the thought of watching Presley on an every day basis.
      The wind was howling yesterday, probably a steady 35 mph with gusts over 40, but Kubel launched a bunch of balls clean out of the park in bp yesterday. Gardy threatened to put him on the bus tommorrow if he kept loosing balls. Kubel said he was trying to go to left!
    1. DAM DC Twins Fans's Avatar
      DAM DC Twins Fans -
      Good report Thrylos...I agree with you...why are the Jasons (Kubel and Bartlett) still around. Stick a fork in them, they are done.
    1. Dantes929's Avatar
      Dantes929 -
      " Kubel said he was trying to go to left! " I don't recommend trying to go to left any more than trying to pull the ball. Hitting a baseball can be as counterintuitive as golf. A right hander does not hit a golf ball to the left by opening up his stance , hips and shoulders. That is actually the recipe for a big slice. In baseball its a recipe for weak ground balls pulled and short pop ups the other way because of the bat lagging behind. Hitters should be thinking hit up the middle and let their natural power swing pull the ball by meeting it slightly in front on a middle/in pitch. When Cuddyer, Kubel, Young, and Valencia tried to pull the ball they had terrible results. Curve balls and sliders on the outside made them look silly. My two cent theory on hitting.
    1. birdwatcher's Avatar
      birdwatcher -
      Quote Originally Posted by Halsey Hall View Post
      The wind was howling yesterday, probably a steady 35 mph with gusts over 40, but Kubel launched a bunch of balls clean out of the park in bp yesterday. Gardy threatened to put him on the bus tommorrow if he kept loosing balls. Kubel said he was trying to go to left!
      Love your contributions, Halsey. Thanks for taking the time! Just wondering if Kubel avoided the strikeouts during bp.
    1. Seth Stohs's Avatar
      Seth Stohs -
      I assumed that Meyer would start at AA New Britain. I just think it makes sense.

      As for Kubel and Bartlett, and especially Kubel, there's too much track record to worry about 2-3 weeks of struggles at the beginning of March with irregular at bats. Don't want to just give up on them right away. Maybe they spend a month in Rochester and are ready in May. Wouldn't be a bad thing.
    1. Dave T's Avatar
      Dave T -
      A fine report, Thyrlos. Very interesting, and concise too! Seth, please take note! :-)
    1. twinsfan34's Avatar
      twinsfan34 -
      Again, fine reporting Thyrlos.

      Totally on board with you on Kubel and Bartlett. Time to let them go. Or at best...send them to AAA where maybe they get their swings on line and hit .330+ to earn a MLB call up.

      Hicks has looked great...only seen 4 games (on TV) but the Box Scores are pretty solid when I haven't been watching. Then the Defense...he's already a borderline GG defender.

      Presley sucks...

      I'm more hopeful from your report that Hicks will make the MLB roster and should be starting.

      Also more hopeful we'll see Alex Meyer sooner than later. My feeling is when Alex Meyer pitches, it will be Alex Meyer vs Alex Meyer, that is, he will more likely beat himself (through mistakes, control issues) than the other team beating him with his stuff being on.
    1. Seth Stohs's Avatar
      Seth Stohs -
      Quote Originally Posted by Dave T View Post
      A fine rreport, Thyrlos. Very interesting, and concise too! Seth, please take note! :-)
      Note taken.
    1. Lonestar's Avatar
      Lonestar -
      Quote Originally Posted by Seth Stohs View Post
      I assumed that Meyer would start at AA New Britain. I just think it makes sense.
      Why does this make sense?
    1. Ncgo4's Avatar
      Ncgo4 -
      Hicks, after yesterday's 4 for 4 performance, certainly has to have sewn up the CF starting position.

      As to Kubel and Bartlett, they were dropped by previous teams for lack of performance. Nothing, and I mean nothing, has left room to suspect anything else is forthcoming. I just do not understand Gardy's penchant for sticking with the familiar, even when they no longer produce. It's not like he's putting his sons-in-law out on the street. These guys have made fortunes. It's just, IMHO, time to begin the transition to the next generation.
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