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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. crarko's Avatar
      crarko -
      Bat second, play catcher. It's what everybody screamed for with Mauer last year. Looks like it stuck.
    1. Halsey Hall's Avatar
      Halsey Hall -
      Quote Originally Posted by Willihammer View Post
      About 5 feet from a grand slam. But I agree Hammer needs to pick it up.
      Right, but as high as far. I still haven't seen any comments that Mauer shouldn't lead off. The best stick on the team doesn't need a ton of walks. I really think it's a no brainer for what we have for offense. This team needs runs and it looks like most of them will have to come from the top of the lineup, so let's do this.
    1. Sconnie's Avatar
      Sconnie -
      Quote Originally Posted by Halsey Hall View Post
      Right, but as high as far. I still haven't seen any comments that Mauer shouldn't lead off. The best stick on the team doesn't need a ton of walks. I really think it's a no brainer for what we have for offense. This team needs runs and it looks like most of them will have to come from the top of the lineup, so let's do this.
      The highest obp guy with the best speed should lead off...
      At least if you bat Mauer lead off, he will hit into fewer double plays.
      How would your lineup look with Mauer leading off?
      Mauer 1b
      Dozier 2b
      Kubel DH
      Willingham LF
      Plouffe 3b
      Arcia RF
      Suzuki/Pinto C
      Florimon SS
      Hicks CF
    1. USAFChief's Avatar
      USAFChief -
      Quote Originally Posted by Halsey Hall View Post
      Right, but as high as far. I still haven't seen any comments that Mauer shouldn't lead off. The best stick on the team doesn't need a ton of walks. I really think it's a no brainer for what we have for offense. This team needs runs and it looks like most of them will have to come from the top of the lineup, so let's do this.
      There are good arguments to be made to have Mauer in any of the first three spots in the lineup, IMO. I don't see a huge advantage to any of them over the others...the problem isn't where to put Mauer so much as finding better options for the other 8 spots. Given they don't have better options, I feel it's somewhat pointless to worry about which spot Gardy slots Mauer into, but then I've always felt who is in the lineup is way more important than how you arrange them.
    1. Shane Wahl's Avatar
      Shane Wahl -
      We know that batting Suzuki second is indefensible.

      Honestly, I probably would go Mauer-Dozier-Arcia-Willingham to start the season. Obviously that isn't going to happen though. Maybe the best we can hope for is Dozier-Mauer-Willingham-Arcia.
    1. PopRiveter's Avatar
      PopRiveter -
      Totally misread this headline as, "Tanaka, Topless Twins, and Correia."
      Turned out to be much more appropriate.
    1. ericchri's Avatar
      ericchri -
      Where Mauer bats is probably going to be the difference in about +/- 10 runs scored on the season overall. He's obviously the best choice on the team to bat 1st, 2nd, 3rd, or 4th. You'd never waste him lower than that in the order, but the problem is you need to fill in those other 3 spots in the order around him. I think most of us would probably grab Dozier, Willingham, and Arcia for those spots with the assumption they're the 3 next-best hitters on the team. Once you decide on those 4, in my mind you toss a coin between Mauer and Dozier for 1st or 2nd in the lineup, and likewise for Arcia and Willingham for 3rd and 4th. Hopefully Hicks forces his way into this situation, but for now he should really bat lower in the order until he proves he's figured it out.
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