The Twins introduced Erick Aybar to the press today and he said all the right things. That was expected. The modus operandi of this front office is already well known when it comes to signing veterans: they need to be team leaders, they need to be competent, and they need to fill a need.It’s that last criteria that is the only question. In theory, moving Eduardo Escobar to full time duty at third base opens up a utility infielder spot that Aybar could fill and it sounds like that’s his focus. “I’ll be here for everything. Play second, third, short, outfield, whatever,” said Aybar. “I’m here to play baseball.” Depending on injuries and possible suspensions, that might make sense for him. If not, and he’s willing to spend a month in Rochester, injuries happen.
But the bigger story is that he signed a minor league deal, which means he does not need to be added to the 40-man roster, which means the Twins minted a newly open roster spot which was not for Aybar and for which there is no explanation.
That open spot is still the biggest story of the week, even if we don’t know what the story is yet.
Game Notes And Baseless Speculation
The Twins tied the Orioles last night 1-1. If you’re interested in who did what, here is a link to the box score and recap. I’m determined to ignore all individual results this early in spring training, my theory being that no data is better than noisy misleading data. We’ll see how long I can maintain that stance, because LORD but I miss talking about real baseball games. But it’s a fairly easy resolution to keep for this game due to the lineup the Twins provided.
This was a road game, and it was sandwiched by the season opener (which featured a lot of Opening Day starters) and tomorrow’s home opener (which will likely feature a lot of Opening Day starters). So the best known players in the lineup were Robbie Grossman, Ehire Adrianza, Kennys Vargas & Zach Granite. The only pitchers likely to make the club were starting pitcher Adalberto Mejia and reliever Taylor Rogers.
It did give manager Paul Molitor a chance to talk pregame about Mejia and his impressions of him last year. “I think we saw things at times that were able to get your attention, in terms of his ability to compete against some pretty good lineups,” replied Molitor when asked about Mejia. He also mentioned that Mejia needs to work on his consistency, command and pitch count issues.
Mejia certainly appears to have worked during the offseason. He looks considerably thinner, and says he lost 13 pounds training, including flipping tractor tires. He also lost a lot of weight back in 2016, which was his breakout year in the Giants’ minor league organization.
Mejia had a good outing, but perhaps more telling is that Mejia wasn’t “piggy-backing” with anyone in today’s start. Early in camp, since starting pitchers are only throwing a few innings, it’s not uncommon to have two starting pitchers pitch in the same game. This is especially true if a couple of guys are competing for a single spot in the rotation, since it makes it slightly easier to have them both slot into that same spot in the rotation. That’s piggy-backing.
Mejia wasn’t piggybacking with anyone Saturday night. By most objective observers, he was already fairly safe to win a spot, especially with Ervin Santana out for a few weeks (and provided that 40-man roster spot isn't used for a big name pitcher). This is yet another data point that suggests going into spring training, that it is his spot to lose.
The Rotation Sets Up
- Kyle Gibson will be pitching the home opener on Sunday afternoon.
- Phil Hughes will start Monday at home versus the Cardinals.
- Jose Berrios will be starting Tuesday night when the Red Sox drive across town to Hammond Stadium.
- Still no word on when we’ll first see Jake Odorizzi, but he would line up for one of the split squad games (probably the home game versus the Rays) on Wednesday afternoon.
- Anibal Sanchez will be piggy-backing with someone. Hughes would make sense, since they're seemingly competing for the same spot. But it might also be Jose Berrios, as Sanchez is viewed as mentor to younger pitchers.
Click here to view the article