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  • Tanaka Topples Twins and Correia

    Another day, another (meaningless) spring loss. After falling to Masahiro Tanaka and the Yankees 5-4 on Saturday, the Twins are now 0-5 since I arrived in Ft. Myers on Monday, but fortunately the games don't start counting for another week.

    Dig into the bullet points below for notes on the Asian import, Kevin Correia's second-to-last spring start, an emerging option for the second spot in the lineup, and more.

    * The stadium and press box were both packed on Saturday afternoon with Tanaka and the Yankees visiting Hammond. The Japanese phenom tossed 5 2/3 innings for New York, allowing three runs on five hits while fanning six and walking one.

    "Fun to watch," Gardenhire said of Tanaka. "The ball had a lot of movement."

    Gardy complimented Tanaka's famed splitter and commented that his changeup (or "whatever that thing is") was diving down hard.

    "Looks like he's going to be a good one."

    * We had a chance to see the review system in action when New York manager Joe Girardi challenged a call that had Aaron Hicks sliding safely into second by maneuvering around a tag. After another look, the call was reversed.

    Girardi spent about a minute in discussions with the second base umpire before requesting a replay, but once the review process went into effect it was very fast. Forty-four seconds was all it took to get the call right.

    * Kevin Correia had a decent outing, as he became the first Twins pitcher to complete six innings in a Grapefruit League start. He held a Yankees lineup that included no starters outside of Brett Gardner scoreless outside of a rocky fourth in which four runs crossed.

    Of note: Correia has faced 50 batters this spring and struck out two.

    * Kurt Suzuki batted in the two-hole Saturday, marking the second straight time Gardenhire has placed the catcher there with his 'A' lineup. Nothing is set in stone, but prepare yourself to see a guy with a .282 on-base percentage over the last two years near the top of the order when the season starts.

    "I've got no problem with it," the manager said of batting Suzuki second. "I'm not going to sit here and tell you my lineup right now but I'm taking looks at all kinds of things… I don't think it's a bad fit."

    On the plus side, Suzuki doesn't strike out much -- only 11 percent of the time last year, which might be a reason Gardenhire is trying him there -- but if he hits anything like he has over the past few seasons he's a brutal choice for one of the most important spots in the lineup.

    * Pedro Florimon had a tough game. He failed to secure a couple ground balls that hit his glove (though neither was ruled an error) and struck out in all three of his trips to the plate, dropping his average to .091.

    "He wasn't getting his front foot down which is a bad sign for him," said Gardenhire. "It looked like he was really late on all the pitches."

    Nevertheless, one thing I've come to realize down here is that Florimon has a tight grip on the shortstop job. There's no competition for the position despite his late start to the spring, and right now Gardenhire is simply focused on getting him as much playing time as possible before the season gets underway.

    "We're working on trying to get him going here."

    * Today was my last at the ballpark, as I'll be flying back to Minnesota tomorrow. I've had a blast down here. It's been fun to put the journalist hat back on and brush up on some skills I haven't used much since college.

    Everyone here has been first-rate. Huge thanks to Twins staffers and fellow media folks who have all been very friendly and helpful.

    I'll be putting together a final roster projection either tonight or tomorrow morning, and then on Monday Parker (who was dubbed by Rob Antony as our "closer") will be arriving to bring us down the home stretch.
    Comments 27 Comments
    1. JB_Iowa's Avatar
      JB_Iowa -
      Re: Correia

      He was very efficient the first 3 innings. Then we hit the 4th and I felt like it was Deja Vu -- second time through the order and all h*ll breaks out. But I was pleasantly surprised to see him settle back in for the 5th and 6th. It'll be interesting to see if he can get through the line-up 2 1/2 to 3 times without a meltdown.

      Also, saw this tweet:


      • Mike Berardino ‏@MikeBerardino 32m
        Gardy said #mntwins missed 3 signs today. Aaron Hicks "was part of the we" in "we missed three signs."


        Do you know what the missed signs were?


        Have a safe flight home. Thanks for your updates.

    1. mumoo13's Avatar
      mumoo13 -
      I hope you're wrong about Suzuki. We should just have Mauer hit 2nd, until Hicks proves he's good enough.
    1. JB_Iowa's Avatar
      JB_Iowa -
      I think Nick is probably right about Suzuki ... at least to start the season.

      And somewhere the other day I thought I saw a stat that batting 2nd was Suzuki's 2nd highest OBP of anyplace he has batted in the line-up (for his career).
    1. Thrylos's Avatar
      Thrylos -
      Quote Originally Posted by JB_Iowa View Post
      And somewhere the other day I thought I saw a stat that batting 2nd was Suzuki's 2nd highest OBP of anyplace he has batted in the line-up (for his career).
      Close but not cigar. Here are his career OBPs (and PAs) in different positions:

      Batting 1st 124 PA, .258 OBP
      Batting 2nd 223 PA, .336 OBP
      Batting 3rd 412 PA, .291 OBP
      Batting 4th 262 PA, .336 OBP
      Batting 5th 450 PA, .300 OBP
      Batting 6th 333 PA, .294 OBP
      Batting 7th 410 PA, .317 OBP
      Batting 8th 759 PA, .308 OBP
      Batting 9th 294 PA, .337 OBP

      One can argue that he should bat 9th
      (other than the leadoff, none of the others are significant based on the amount of PAs.)

      The one interesting thing is that he has bat all over the order in his career.
    1. Nick Nelson's Avatar
      Nick Nelson -
      Quote Originally Posted by JB_Iowa View Post
      Do you know what the missed signs were?
      I'm afraid I don't. I was there for the interview but Gardy was quite vague about it. My assumption is that it had to do with him stealing second after singling in the third. I was kind of waiting for him to attempt a steal because Tanaka has a somewhat slow delivery and the Twins were at the bottom of lineup, but he didn't try running throughout Florimon's entire at-bat and was eventually thrown out when he tried to run during Dozier's following AB.

      Quote Originally Posted by JB_Iowa View Post
      And somewhere the other day I thought I saw a stat that batting 2nd was Suzuki's 2nd highest OBP of anyplace he has batted in the line-up (for his career).
      That's a little misleading. Almost all of his ABs batting second came early in his career, when he was a better hitter. He's been in the starting lineup as No. 2 hitter once in the last four years.
    1. JB_Iowa's Avatar
      JB_Iowa -
      Thanks, Nick.

      Well, batting second was tied for second on his career positional OBP so at least I'm not hallucinating about the tweet I saw.

      I'm not saying he should bat 2nd. But it doesn't surprise me that Gardenhire would bat him there to start the season given the rest of the likely regulars. I think he'd probably rather have Dozier in the 2 spot but there just don't seem to be any good candidates for leadoff. For now, I would guess they want to keep a little of the pressure off Hicks to try to give him a better chance to settle in. And given what happened last spring, its hard to argue with that.
    1. jokin's Avatar
      jokin -
      "He wasn't getting his front foot down which is a bad sign for him," said Gardenhire. "It looked like he was really late on all the pitches."

      Nevertheless, one thing I've come to realize down here is that Florimon has a tight grip on the shortstop job. There's no competition for the position despite his late start to the spring, and right now Gardenhire is simply focused on getting him as much playing time as possible before the season gets underway.

      "We're working on trying to get him going here."



      Thanks for your honest reporting about Florimon. Was his game in the field against the Braves just a mirage? He looked out of synch in the field on those 2 botched plays to his left and of course, just brutal at the plate. (And correct me if I'm wrong, but it looked like Trevor Plouffe had been instructed to cover more ground to Florimon's right, as well, I don't think I've ever seen him go that far to his left before at 3B).

      In the meantime, Escobar hits a homer today and appears he's already got his hitting "going here" (.314 BA/.820 OPS). Why not just give Florimon a week of Extended ST if that's what it's going to take to "get him going here?"
    1. DuluthFan's Avatar
      DuluthFan -
      Another day, another (meaningless) spring loss. After falling to Masahiro Tanaka and the Yankees 5-4 on Saturday, the Twins are now 0-5 since I arrived in Ft. Myers on Monday, but fortunately the games don't start counting for another week.
      0-5 Coincidence? Or is the sample size large enough to suggest barring you from attending any Twins games this year?
    1. Willihammer's Avatar
      Willihammer -
      Gardy's always liked "bat handlers" batting second. Meaning, put the ball in play and not strikeout. Suzuki does do that.

      Get em on, get em over, get em in I guess.
    1. Halsey Hall's Avatar
      Halsey Hall -
      Quote Originally Posted by JB_Iowa View Post
      Thanks, Nick.

      I think he'd probably rather have Dozier in the 2 spot but there just don't seem to be any good candidates for leadoff. .
      There's one perfect candidate for leadoff, Joe Mauer. Like I told Gardy yesterday, Joe will walk 100 times this year with Willingham behind him. Look what happened today when Joe came up with 2 outs and men on 1st and 2nd. Tanaka didn't give him anything near the zone and a 4 pitch walk. Willingham flies out. Nuff said!
    1. jorgenswest's Avatar
      jorgenswest -
      I didn't imagine Suzuki being the starter or batting second at the time of the signing.

      At the time, he was the best of the leftovers at catcher. Seemed like a good idea to have a veteran working with a Pinto and starting a game a series.

      The Twins probably need to exercise more caution when handing a veteran to Gardenhire.

      How does he profile as a number 2 hitter? He doesn't get on base well. He sees a below average number of pitches per plate appearance. He has been more of a fly ball hitter with a high number of infield fly balls. Odd for a guy that doesn't hit home runs. I really don't think he will hit second very often.
    1. Dantes929's Avatar
      Dantes929 -
      Pinto would be a better choice for 2nd spot. .351 OBP in minors and .398 in majors last year. Not a big fan of Escobar but he sounds like leaps and bounds better than Florimon right now. A week to go so its not essential to make any decisions right now but if Florimon continues to look bad why put him in a position to fail. I will say again that people should get over Hicks bad year last year and also the idea that he can't bat leadoff. Hicks, Dozier, Mauer, Willingham, Plouffe, Arcia, Colabello, Pinto, and Escobar would be our best lineup, imo.
    1. Willihammer's Avatar
      Willihammer -
      Quote Originally Posted by Halsey Hall View Post
      There's one perfect candidate for leadoff, Joe Mauer. Like I told Gardy yesterday, Joe will walk 100 times this year with Willingham behind him. Look what happened today when Joe came up with 2 outs and men on 1st and 2nd. Tanaka didn't give him anything near the zone and a 4 pitch walk. Willingham flies out. Nuff said!
      About 5 feet from a grand slam. But I agree Hammer needs to pick it up.
    1. jokin's Avatar
      jokin -
      Quote Originally Posted by Dantes929 View Post
      Pinto would be a better choice for 2nd spot. .351 OBP in minors and .398 in majors last year. Not a big fan of Escobar but he sounds like leaps and bounds better than Florimon right now. A week to go so its not essential to make any decisions right now but if Florimon continues to look bad why put him in a position to fail. I will say again that people should get over Hicks bad year last year and also the idea that he can't bat leadoff. Hicks, Dozier, Mauer, Willingham, Plouffe, Arcia, Colabello, Pinto, and Escobar would be our best lineup, imo.
      That lineup sounds about the best they could field to start out the season (but would they risk batting a rookie like Pinto so high in the order after last year's experience?). And speaking of last year, Hicks is apparently back in the doghouse for missing a sign (meaning Presley by default), Suzuki is already the starting C (in which case, does Pinto make the team playing only 2 days a week?) and Florimon is the starting SS, while Kubel is the DH (at least aganst RHSP), so I'm guessing they won't use your lineup much starting out, until something, or someone, gives.
    1. tobi0040's Avatar
      tobi0040 -
      Quote Originally Posted by Willihammer View Post
      Gardy's always liked "bat handlers" batting second. Meaning, put the ball in play and not strikeout. Suzuki does do that.

      Get em on, get em over, get em in I guess.
      Bat handlers and speedy guys #2. That is the way he likes it, even if it makes no sense at all. Remember when Casilla batted #2 for 75% of the year when he was hitting .220 with about a .260 OBP?

      How someone in the organization doesn't pull Gardy aside and run him through scenarios. Okay, your #3 hitter gets a hit 33% of the time and he will have a runner on 6-7% more often with batters x, y, z batting second. How often does the moving over, hit and run, etc, come into play? You sure that is the best lineup?

      Not that they should have to pull him aside and teach him that....
    1. tobi0040's Avatar
      tobi0040 -
      Quote Originally Posted by Thrylos View Post
      Close but not cigar. Here are his career OBPs (and PAs) in different positions:

      Batting 1st 124 PA, .258 OBP
      Batting 2nd 223 PA, .336 OBP
      Batting 3rd 412 PA, .291 OBP
      Batting 4th 262 PA, .336 OBP
      Batting 5th 450 PA, .300 OBP
      Batting 6th 333 PA, .294 OBP
      Batting 7th 410 PA, .317 OBP
      Batting 8th 759 PA, .308 OBP
      Batting 9th 294 PA, .337 OBP

      One can argue that he should bat 9th
      (other than the leadoff, none of the others are significant based on the amount of PAs.)

      The one interesting thing is that he has bat all over the order in his career.
      Kind of a chicken and egg thing here. When he was having a good year, he gets reps at #2 or #4. He should not be sniffing the top of the lineup
    1. Thrylos's Avatar
      Thrylos -
      If you look at the lineup today, you will see the biggest issue with Suzuki batting second: Gardy will bat the catcher second, which means that Pinto will bat second as he is today.
    1. Willihammer's Avatar
      Willihammer -
      Quote Originally Posted by tobi0040 View Post
      Bat handlers and speedy guys #2. That is the way he likes it, even if it makes no sense at all. Remember when Casilla batted #2 for 75% of the year when he was hitting .220 with about a .260 OBP?

      How someone in the organization doesn't pull Gardy aside and run him through scenarios. Okay, your #3 hitter gets a hit 33% of the time and he will have a runner on 6-7% more often with batters x, y, z batting second. How often does the moving over, hit and run, etc, come into play? You sure that is the best lineup?

      Not that they should have to pull him aside and teach him that....
      In Gardy's defense, the strategy did work to a T in the first inning of this game.

      Dozier singled, stole second, took third on a Suzuki groundout, scored on a Mauer groundout. Against a possible ace like Tanaka, maybe its not such a bad strategy.

      Honestly, after all the strikeouts last year, a few more "productive outs" would be welcome IMO.
    1. Sconnie's Avatar
      Sconnie -
      At first I thought the title was "Tanaka Topless"... That would make for an odd TD story.

      I hope missing a sign doesn't put Hicks in the doghouse. Sure he should have caught the sign, but that shouldn't necessitate making the team worse and hurting Hicks' development.

      in regards to the number 2 hitter and productive outs, small ball can work if you have a lot of speed (and good defense as a byproduct) but this team doesn't have that. They aren't going to beat out many weak grounders to first.
    1. Dantes929's Avatar
      Dantes929 -
      Quote Originally Posted by Thrylos View Post
      If you look at the lineup today, you will see the biggest issue with Suzuki batting second: Gardy will bat the catcher second, which means that Pinto will bat second as he is today.
      But Pinto batting second makes a little sense. Suzuki batting 2nd does not. 1st two guys should be all about OBP.
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