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Article: Report From The Fort: Home Run Derby

phil hughes byron buxton jorge polanco jose berrios
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#1 Nick Nelson

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Posted 12 March 2017 - 03:17 PM

The ball was flying out of Hammond Stadium on Sunday, as the Twins and Orioles combined for five long balls in an 8-6 loss that snapped Minnesota’s eight-game spring win streak.

We’ve got everything you need to know below the fold.* Home runs have been a problem for Phil Hughes frequently throughout his career, and certainly over the past couple of underwhelming seasons. He led the league with 29 allowed in 2015 and coughed up 11 in just 59 innings last year.

Today, Baltimore’s lineup took him deep three times en route to this final pitching line: 5 IP, 6 H, 4 ER, 1 BB, 4 K.

Outside of the homers, it was mostly an encouraging outing. And afterward he noted that two of the three came on changeups, a lesser pitch he’s been working on extensively this spring. His fastball showed some life, flashing 92 on the gun several times, and finally the righty started to generate some whiffs. He had struck out only one batter total in two previous Grapefruit League appearances.

“Obviously I have a tendency to (allow) home runs, so people are going to say what they’re going to say in spring training about it,” Hughes said, “but I did what I wanted to do. You’re going to make mistakes with a pitch you don’t throw very often.”

* Asked how his arm strength feels relative to this point last March, Hughes explained that this was the first start in which he really would have noticed a difference.

The symptoms of his thoracic outlet syndrome, which was surgically repaired last year, would typically set in over the course of a game when he would be sitting between innings and going back out. As his first two official spring starts were only two innings apiece, that didn’t really come into play.

So, how did he feel about today’s five-inning assignment?

“I felt good. I didn’t have any of the tingling and numbness in my fingers, which is obviously a good sign. I’d say I feel a lot better than I did."

* Byron Buxton led off the game with his first home run of the spring and it was a no doubter, sailing well beyond the wall in left-center and bouncing off the concourse. Buxton worked the count to 2-2 before turning on a 93 MPH fastball from Orioles righty Dylan Bundy and obliterating it. He later added a double.

“He continues to be in attack mode, seeing the ball good,” said bench coach Joe Vavra, serving as acting manager with Paul Molitor and the split squad facing the Pirates in Bradenton. “That’s encouraging."

* Jorge Polanco’s defense at shortstop has been the subject of much scrutiny, and that will continue to be the case, but there aren’t many questions surrounding his bat. He has been stinging the ball consistently this spring, and in the second inning today launched a grand slam from the left side, pushing his team-leading RBI total to 11.

Does Vavra, a former hitting coach, like the infielder’s swing better from either box?

“I don’t know,” he said pensively. “Pretty good from the right side, that’s his natural side. But from the left side, he handles that bat pretty well. Obviously the reps he’s had from the left side over the years are a lot more.”

* In Mexico, World Baseball Classic pool play rolled on with Puerto Rico taking on Italy. Jose Berrios got the start, his WBC debut, and worked five innings. The rotation contender gave up only two hits, but Italy made them hurt, putting up three runs with a pair of homers.

One of those came off the bat of old friend Drew Butera in the second inning. But all in all, the Twins are probably happy with what they saw. Berrios worked ahead and proceeded efficiently, needing only 62 pitches to get through five frames and placing 43 of them in the zone (69%). He stuck out six and walked only one.

Yesterday, I asked Chief Baseball Officer Derek Falvey about the challenge presented by evaluating players like Berrios and Kennys Vargas, who are heavily in the mix for roster spots, from afar. He said he feels that seeing players compete at a high level, at this point in the year, is a good thing.

“I like the idea that they’re going and playing in a really competitive environment,” Falvey stated. “It’s not that spring training isn’t competitive and guys don’t want to do well, but we all know that as the games wear on it’s a little bit more of a practice environment.”

“We have scouts at each of the WBC events, so we’re getting reports from them. We’re also really well involved with the leaders of those teams."

* Tomorrow, the Twins will host the Tampa Bay Rays at Hammond Stadium. Starting for the Rays? None other than Jose De Leon, the young right-hander who was of course at the center of Brian Dozier trade talks between the Twins and Dodgers before Los Angeles dealt him to Tampa for Logan Forsythe.

De Leon has been limited by back tightness this spring and has made only one appearance, in which he gave up four runs while recording only two outs. He’ll look to get on track tomorrow. Wonder if Dozier will be in the lineup?

* If you’re subscribed to the Twins Daily “Write of Spring” newsletter, I’ll have a special report hitting your inboxes on Monday night, featuring exclusive insights, quotes and analysis you won’t find anywhere else.

If you’re not subscribed, what are you waiting for? It’s free! Click here to learn more.

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#2 nytwinsfan

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Posted 12 March 2017 - 03:29 PM

I really really think Hughes should start in the minors or in the bullpen. Let's not just send him out there when he's not ready yet, and he's not.  It isn't like Hughes never was a reliever before, and he was actually pretty good at it. His FB will play up there. My starting five:

 

(1) Santana

(2) Gibson

(3) Santiago (I criticized them keeping him, but now that decision looks a lot better)

(4) Berrios

(5) Mejia

 

Duffey, Rogers, Hughes, Chargois, Pressly, Kintzler and Haley in the pen.

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#3 jorgenswest

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Posted 12 March 2017 - 03:54 PM

If thoracic outlet syndrome symptoms set in over the course of the game, wouldn't Hughes be a better fit in a relief role?

#4 Nick Nelson

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Posted 12 March 2017 - 04:28 PM

 

If thoracic outlet syndrome symptoms set in over the course of the game, wouldn't Hughes be a better fit in a relief role?

Well, he had the surgery so theoretically that won't be an issue anymore. If it doesn't have the desired results, I'm sure that would be a consideration. 

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#5 Hosken Bombo Disco

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Posted 12 March 2017 - 04:40 PM

Which other starts was he experiencing tingling and numbness in his fingers between innings?

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#6 Nick Nelson

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Posted 12 March 2017 - 05:06 PM

 

Which other starts was he experiencing tingling and numbness in his fingers between innings?

I believe it was pretty pervasive for him last year. It's a standard symptom of TOS, also reported by Matt Harvey and others. 

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#7 gunnarthor

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Posted 12 March 2017 - 05:21 PM

Nice to hear about Berrios. 62 pitches for five innings is pretty good.

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#8 Hosken Bombo Disco

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Posted 12 March 2017 - 05:49 PM

 

I believe it was pretty pervasive for him last year. It's a standard symptom of TOS, also reported by Matt Harvey and others. 

Thanks. Short memory.

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#9 mikelink45

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Posted 12 March 2017 - 06:00 PM

"Outside of the homers, it was mostly an encouraging outing."  I am still trying to wrap my mind around this assessment.  Other than losing 103 games last year the Twins looked pretty good!?  5 innings, 4 runs - I do not see the silver lining other than the fact his arm did not fall off. 

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#10 Thrylos

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Posted 12 March 2017 - 06:06 PM

Based on the talk out of Fort Myers today, I will not be surprised to see a: Santana, Gibson, Hughes, Santiago, Vogelsong rotation.

 

Uffda, but...

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#11 beckmt

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Posted 12 March 2017 - 06:42 PM

Based on the talk out of Fort Myers today, I will not be surprised to see a: Santana, Gibson, Hughes, Santiago, Vogelsong rotation.
 
Uffda, but...

I hope not, We have better pitchers than some of these.
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#12 mikelink45

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Posted 12 March 2017 - 07:23 PM

 

Based on the talk out of Fort Myers today, I will not be surprised to see a: Santana, Gibson, Hughes, Santiago, Vogelsong rotation.

 

Uffda, but...

If this happens I will be finding another team to root for.


#13 D.C Twins

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Posted 12 March 2017 - 07:30 PM

 

"Outside of the homers, it was mostly an encouraging outing."  I am still trying to wrap my mind around this assessment.  Other than losing 103 games last year the Twins looked pretty good!?  5 innings, 4 runs - I do not see the silver lining other than the fact his arm did not fall off. 

 

This.....and......This......and....THIS!


#14 Jham

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Posted 12 March 2017 - 09:39 PM

 

"Outside of the homers, it was mostly an encouraging outing."  I am still trying to wrap my mind around this assessment.  Other than losing 103 games last year the Twins looked pretty good!?  5 innings, 4 runs - I do not see the silver lining other than the fact his arm did not fall off. 

The Twins won 8 spring training games in a row, signaling that we are truly post season contenders.  Let's stay positive.

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#15 USAFChief

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Posted 12 March 2017 - 09:41 PM

The Twins won 8 spring training games in a row, signaling that we are truly post season contenders.  Let's stay positive.


Peaked too early. I'm positive.
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#16 Nick Nelson

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Posted 12 March 2017 - 11:37 PM

 

"Outside of the homers, it was mostly an encouraging outing."  I am still trying to wrap my mind around this assessment.  Other than losing 103 games last year the Twins looked pretty good!?  5 innings, 4 runs - I do not see the silver lining other than the fact his arm did not fall off. 

You seem to have a dubious understanding of how spring training works, my friend. Hughes was intentionally going to perhaps his weakest pitch in bunches (Vavra said he believes it's the most changeups Hughes has ever thrown) in order work on it. The 103 games the Twins lost last year mattered and this one did not.

 

Yes, it was encouraging. He took a clear step forward in some meaningful ways. He was getting whiffs with his slider. It's not immaterial that he's working at 91 with the FB and hitting 92 when we're not halfway through March. That pitch averaged 90.7 and 90.5 the last two years. 

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#17 Dantes929

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Posted 12 March 2017 - 11:40 PM

 

"Outside of the homers, it was mostly an encouraging outing."  I am still trying to wrap my mind around this assessment.  Other than losing 103 games last year the Twins looked pretty good!?  5 innings, 4 runs - I do not see the silver lining other than the fact his arm did not fall off. 

He hit 92 mph, he had some strike outs and this is his third spring training start.  I was really hoping he would not be in the rotation especially at the expense of May and Berrios but with May out he looks like a lock and I am encouraged by the performance. Who cares about ST? We were 18-12 last year.  It means nothing.  92 in his 3rd outing is a good thing.  4 runs in 5 innings isn't a good thing but if he threw 5 shutout it would just be a moderately good sign rather than proving anything.  4 runs is a very moderate bad sign and means little. If he is encouraged by the same results in April then it will mean something.

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#18 HitInAPinch

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Posted 13 March 2017 - 02:14 AM

 

Based on the talk out of Fort Myers today, I will not be surprised to see a: Santana, Gibson, Hughes, Santiago, Vogelsong rotation.

 

Uffda, but...

logo-aarp-rp.png

 

Yeah, I was really hoping at least one young pitcher would be on the staff. 

Edited by HitInAPinch, 13 March 2017 - 02:22 AM.

It's not my fault !


#19 beckmt

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Posted 13 March 2017 - 04:25 AM

Based on the talk out of Fort Myers today, I will not be surprised to see a: Santana, Gibson, Hughes, Santiago, Vogelsong rotation.
 
Uffda, but...

If this the rotation, there is a good chance of a fire sale in May.

#20 gbg

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Posted 13 March 2017 - 06:46 AM

 

"Outside of the homers, it was mostly an encouraging outing."  I am still trying to wrap my mind around this assessment.  Other than losing 103 games last year the Twins looked pretty good!?  5 innings, 4 runs - I do not see the silver lining other than the fact his arm did not fall off. 

He threw more change ups in five innings than he did in pretty much his entire season last year. Do you think hitters don't figure that out and sit on a pitch a guy is working on? Spring training isn't about stat lines - not for the vets.

 

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