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  1. I write this blog entry when I was expecting to do other things. I am in Fort Myers in 80 degree weather with just a hint of a breeze on a nice Thursday afternoon. What could be wrong? Well, actually, plenty. My significant other and I made plans for the rest of winter sometime in January. Because we had made an extended trip of the Christmas/New Year holidays and because we were planning a family gathering for the summer, we decided to stay in Minnesota for the rest of January and I decided I would stay in February until I could make it to spring training for my favorite baseball team. The plan was for me to drive to Florida by way of my daughter's residence in Indiana. I would be in Fort Myers by myself until she was on semester break and then we could enjoy a week together in Florida--baseball, beaches, warm weather--before driving back together so that she could be ready for college to start up again. Things often don't go as you plan them. The expensive ticket for her flight could now be purchased for pennies on the dollar. The Minnesota Twins and all of major league baseball have cancelled the remainder of spring training games. The Final Four won't happen, to quote a song "Broadway is dark tonight" and I would expect more cancellations going forward. This has brought me to think about what is important and what isn't. Having something like baseball to occupy my time is important. Filling that gap is essential. Having health is really crucial. I am thankful to be in good health at this time and I certainly don't want to get the coronavirus, even though it likely wouldn't effect me long term. Many people could die needlessly if measures aren't taken to diminish the acceleration of exposure. I'll do what I can to avoid getting the virus and spreading it to others. Oh yes. I did get to watch the future of the Minnesota Twins (IMHO). On Tuesday, in Clearwater, the starting lineup included Alex Kirilloff, Trevor Larnach, Brent Rooker and Royce Lewis. They all impressed me, particularly Lewis, who homered and made an outstanding defensive play at shortstop. If two or three of these prospects pan out, the pipeline will be intact and the Twins should be able to have a first-division lineup for most of the next decade. Today, before MLB's announcement suspending exhibition games, I watched Twins minor leaguers play. I saw Duran throwing absolute gas, Matt Wallner (big kid--6'5") looking good, but not making contact and I found out about a Twins prospect Seth Gray (4th round draft choice from Wright State) from his dad. I'll be a Gray fan now. Seems like a nice kid. Finally, as I was walking back to my car I saw a man walking over to a somewhat elderly guy wearing a Twins hat. Tony-O!. I waited until the conversation was over and asked Tony if I could take a picture. He said that we should make it a selfie, but that he couldn't sign autographs--bosses orders. I asked Tony how old he really was and he said something to the effect of "in America, I'm 81" with a chuckle. According to BB Reference, that is his correct age FWIW. I got back to my room excited about spending more days like today at the spring training complex, meeting icons and nice people from Twins Territory, and now it seems it is over almost before it started. Since I started writing this entry, Disneyland announced they were closing and March Madness was cancelled. This is serious stuff folks.
  2. Long time consumer of Twins Daily looking at a trip with my 12yo stathead to a few games in Fort Myers over spring break. I've been before and know about some of the good generic resources but curious about Twins Daily favorites. I'm not able to find much in the archives, am I just missing something?
  3. One of the draws are obvious: the players are back and on a stadium field. The other you have to visit to really appreciate: the concessions and beer in the stadium are all 50% off. We took it all in and you could have followed along in real time: just follow @TwinsDaily on twitter. https://twitter.com/twinsdaily/status/1229418223730397186 https://twitter.com/twinsdaily/status/1229450382792892417 https://twitter.com/twinsdaily/status/1229452717929771008 https://twitter.com/twinsdaily/status/1229455304871546880 https://twitter.com/twinsdaily/status/1229461475863007233 https://twitter.com/twinsdaily/status/1229464573297790977 https://twitter.com/twinsdaily/status/1229465260463140875 https://twitter.com/twinsdaily/status/1229477021484535808 https://twitter.com/twinsdaily/status/1229477723376168968 https://twitter.com/twinsdaily/status/1229478443932360705 https://twitter.com/twinsdaily/status/1229478875043946497 https://twitter.com/twinsdaily/status/1229479376934375426
  4. FORT MYERS - Spring has a number of defined milestones that build towards the Twins Home Opener. Twins Fest . "Pitchers and Catchers Report." The first spring training game of the season. MLB Opening Day. And there was also today, when position players take the field and the Twins hold an open house at Hammond Stadium. Needless to say, Twins Daily was there.One of the draws are obvious: the players are back and on a stadium field. The other you have to visit to really appreciate: the concessions and beer in the stadium are all 50% off. We took it all in and you could have followed along in real time: just follow @TwinsDaily on twitter. Click here to view the article
  5. I landed in sunny Fort Myers on Tuesday morning, and have now got in three full days of Twins action. I’ll be here for a couple more days, but rather than pile everything into one offering, I figured I’d break up the notes a bit. With minor league action having kicked off this week, there’ literally something going on from 9am until about 3:45 each day. I need to do a better job of sunscreen application, but here’s what I’ve gathered while taking it all in. Most of the tech is now in application phase, as opposed to being regularly implemented. Twins Daily’s Parker Hageman did a killer job breaking down all the ways Minnesota is looking to close the gap between the top innovator organizations. There’s no denying they’ve made extensive strides, but most of the evidence is gone with game action now taking place. This isn’t surprising as guys are working through at bats and bullpens. There’s still plenty of recording taking place from video monitoring and radar work, but Rapsodo devices, Edgertronic cameras, and Blast Motion sensors aren’t making their way into pre-game routines. Each spring I find myself noting one or two players that truly have transformed their bodies. Maybe I’m being lazy in my analysis, but there hasn’t been anyone that has stood out dramatically to me. If I had to tab someone, it would be first base prospect Lewin Diaz. He’s dropped more weight and looks to be going the route of cut as opposed to bulk. No longer a top Twins prospect, he has previously been a darling of the system. If the power bat breaks out though, he’ll find plenty of opportunity to rise through the system. Plenty has been made about the depth Minnesota has up the middle on the farm. Royce Lewis is a superstar but sleeping on Wander Javier or Yunior Severino isn’t a good practice. Javier started a big-league spring training game today against the Nationals and was beyond impressive in the field. He has great hands, a smooth feel to his defense, and a stellar arm. He wasn’t overmatched at the plate and drew two walks. It’s great to see him back healthy and in action. Severino has impressive size for his age and was a great get thanks to the Atlanta Braves transgressions. He’s played more second base but is still just settling into being such a good athlete. Miguel Sano was seen working out this morning near the batting cages. It doesn’t appear the boot on his foot is going to limit what the Twins expect from him conditioning wise, and that’s a great thing. He was focused on lower body exercises and will undoubtedly be itching for game action once given the green light. I’m not sure what happens to Addison Reed at this point. He’s got a couple of weeks left to get right, but the red flags are popping up everywhere. His velocity against the Nationals today was topping out at 92, and more regularly he sat 89-90. Across 18 pitches he generated just two swings and misses (with one being a check swing), and he served up an oppo taco to Juan Soto. Right now, he’s not one of the Twins seven best relief options, and a stint on the Injured List to start the year should certainly be under consideration. His two-year deal was signed under reasonable expectations, but things simply have not gone right for the veteran hurler. Yes, it’s just Spring Training, but Byron Buxton’s production has continued to be for real. His homer against the Red Sox at Jet Blue yesterday was a mammoth shot over the green monster, and he hit the ball hard this afternoon against Eric Fedde. It was nice to see him run on the Nationals some, and even his outs have been well struck. There’s no one in the organization with a higher ceiling than Buck and putting it together at some percentile of this level makes him a bonafide star. There’s been a handful of reserves that have played themselves into noteworthy situations for Minnesota. Ryne Harper has flipped straight filth across the plate, and Tim Collins looks revitalized in his post Tommy John career. Neither are going to make the roster, but as depth on the farm, Rocco Baldelli must be impressed. Infielder Adam Rosales has also been apart of this group, and his exploits may even lead them. Given the necessity for utility types in baseball, the 35-year-old journeyman may end up being trade bait in a couple of weeks. Putting a bow on all of this is 2018 first round pick Trevor Larnach. Getting into his first MLB Spring Training game as a reserve against the Nationals, he walloped a home run to left center in his first at bat. Opposite field power was a calling card for the former Oregon State star, and he wasted no time in showing that off. Taking a strong round of batting practice on the back fields this morning, it had to be fun seeing that translate to the big-league dish. The Twins are home against the Orioles on Friday, with the Double and Triple-A squads playing host for their minor league games for each of the next two days. Plenty more action to come. For more from Off The Baggy, click here. Follow @tlschwerz
  6. 
The Minnesota Twins signed Jonathan Schoop to a one year $7.5 million contract this offseason in a bridge deal to prepare for Royce Lewis among others. It seems like fans and people around the game have already written off seeing Schoop anywhere with the Twins past 2019, but the question has to be asked, what if Jonathan Schoop returns to his 2017 form? 
In 2017 Jonathan Schoop was one of the best second basemen in baseball. He ranked like this among them (min of 120 PA):
 2nd in home runs (32)
 1st in RBI (105)
 10th in AVG (.293)
 6th in SLG (.503)
 8th in wOBA (.355)
 8th in wRC+ (122)
 5th in WAR (3.6)
 Fielding wasn't as good but it was good enough to pass as long as you are hitting like he was.
 14th in UZR (-3.2)
 8th in DRS (0)
 12th In FLD% (.981)
 5th in 10-40% chance to make play (27.3)
 Overall the hitting alone puts him in the top 5-10 second basemen in baseball. He is on the Twins and is a great player to have a potential bounce back campaign.

The Twins were able to grab him as an under the radar pick up because he struggled so much in 2018. Obviously there is something with his swing that the front office was confident can be fixed. He was also dealing with a leg injury throughout all of 2018 that limited his abilities.
So hypothetically if Schoop were to repeat 2017 or even be better, what would his outlook be for remaining on the Twins in 2020 and beyond? I think there are three options.
 1.) Jonathan Schoop resigns on a multi-year contract and a middle infield prospect is traded.
 2.)The Twins let him walk in order to make room for Lewis, Javier, Gordon etc.
 3.)The Twins have a bad year and trade him at the deadline. 4.) 
Schoop resigns and moves to third, Polanco to 2B, Lewis/Gordon/Javier to SS and Sano to 1B 
I think al of these options except number three could really work in the Twins favor. Recent contracts for second basemen have been looking like this:
 D.J. LeMahieu 2 years $24 million
 Jed Lowrie 2 years $20 million 
Brian Dozier 1 year $9 million
 Jean Segura 5 years $70 million 
Dee Gordon 5 year $50 million 
Andrelton Simmons 7 years $58 million
 I would imagine that if Schoop can repeat 2017 or get even better that he would get somewhere around the Jean Segura deal of 5 years $70 million. Schoop will only be 26 or 27 so signing an impact second basemen into his early 30's couldn't hurt. I would imagine if he is resigned he will have to eventually have to move over to third base in order to make room for Royce Lewis and Jorge Polanco.
The second option the Twins have will be to let him just go to free agency so the Twins keep their money and can spend it elsewhere. This wouldn't be a crazy move even if Schoop has a great year, just based on the fact that Royce Lewis, Wander Javier, Nick Gordon and others are in the minors.
 Another possibility is one that would hurt the most but is still possible. The Twins could have another down year and swap Schoop for a few prospects. I would much rather see the Twins trading prospects for impact players at the deadline but we will just have to wait and see. 
If Schoop is resigned it's likely he would play one more year at second base while waiting for someone like Royce Lewis to emerge. The infield would eventually be shifted all around and look something like Schoop at third, Lewis at shortstop, Polanco at second and Sano at first. . Four offensive weapons with slight defensive liability at 3 positions, but with great outfielders it balances out, right? 
Overall I've never been so hyped or just excited about a one year contract for a player coming off a really bad year but Schoop could just be really good. If the Twins are right and they are able to pinpoint something he was messing up with his swing and get him back to his strengths, this $7.5 million contract could be a great deal.
 Thank you for reading my Jonathan Schoop post. Go check out my seperate blog @EverydayTwinsTalk.com I would love to do more interactive articles with fans, so go visit my Twitter. (@EverydayTwins). If you enjoyed please leave a like and share with your friends.

  7. I started out to explore Spring Training stories, but soon got caught up in a lot of the strange stories of baseball and had to share some of them. The stories are part of what makes baseball fun. Spring Training is about getting ready for the season, but that does not mean this collection of athletes can’t generate some stories that might cause you to scratch your head from Ryan Klesko straining his back picking up a lunch tray – what was he eating? To Wade Boggs getting hurt pulling up his boots. Nolan Ryan was bitten by a Coyote, and George Brett broke a toe watching baseball on TV! Baseball is filled with weird injuries and not all in the spring, but this is when is starts and we better hope for health both on and off the field. Former Twins have not been immune. Does anyone remember rookie of the year Marty Cordova who was traded after his Twins season and then was fried in a tanning bed in Baltimore in 2002! Strange accidents can happen anytime, yet spring is different. Jose Cardenal asked out of a game because crickets kept him awake all night. Steve Kent injured himself with falling off his motorcycle and then came up with the really goofy excuse that he got hurt washing his truck – that alone disqualifies him for the HOF. I know there have been some real tragedies – boating accidents, fans and players killed in vehicle accidents, but I would rather look at baseball’s lesser incidents – still accidents and injuries but not tragedies like the spring deaths in the 1800s when three died of consumption (TB). Somethings are just weird, like Phil Hughes keeping the rib removed for Thoracic Outlet Syndrome. Brian Flynn, then a Royals reliever was on the roof placing some roof panels on to protect his roof and then fell through – causing many injuries. And A J Burnett broke the orbital bone in his eye while bunting. Cecil Upshaw got stuck in an awning, after catching his ring in the fabric when he was dared to jump up and touch it. Former Texas Ranger Jeff Baker sprained his thumb in 2013 doing a High Five! Jerry Hairston got a good quote out of his goof up – "I wish I had a really good story," he told Ken Gurnick of MLB.com. "I got up in the middle of the night to go to the bathroom, tripped on a bag and hit my head on a desk. I was hoping I was dreaming; I found out I wasn't. A lot of guys gave me grief. I guess my face has character. In the past month I wanted to pick a fight [suspended one game for his part in a brawl] and a desk finally beat me up." Marc Rzepczynski was injured in a Golf game when a ball ricocheted and hit him in the eye and Elvis Andrus had to sit out because of reactions he got from a tattoo! Our old friend Francisco Liriano lost his $13 million contract when he “broke his right humerus slamming his arm into a door on Christmas Day in an attempt to scare his children, who were in the next room.” He got a one million dollar contract with lots of incentives instead. Another former Twin Pitcher – Carl Pavano suffered a ruptured spleen from shoveling snow in Vermont in 2013. Also in 2013, current Twin – Lucas Duda broke his wrist in the off season moving furniture. This spring the Mets Brandon Nimmo was sidelined after eating under-cooked chicken! Did you know our own Martin Perez when he was with the Texans had his non-throwing elbow fractured when he was startled by a bull in Venezuela? He later said he killed and ate the bull. But spring has many surprises like Kevin Millar straining his nose in a particularly strong sneezing fit and Sammy Sosa in 2004 injuring his back from sneezing? If that sounds bad what about Joel Peralta injuring himself getting out of his Camaro to pick up sandwiches? Pittsburgh’s Corey Hart needed stitches from cutting his toe in a hot tub in spring training. Another former Twin in the weird injury category, Brian Duensing underwent surgery for an injured elbow when he was moving a bullpen chair that he was sitting on. HOF Rickey Henderson suffered frostbite after falling asleep with an icepack. And finally former Twins pitcher Joel Zumaya got an inflammation of the elbow in 2006 from playing the video game – Guitar Hero. We can add Sano to this list with his cut from celebrating his teams championship. And now he misses both the ST and the opening month. ""Yeah, it's a little frustrating, I would say," Sano said Thursday, via the Twins. "Because I worked really hard in the offseason to get to Spring Training in shape and ready to go, and now this happened. But it's just a setback and we'll get it going next week." Sano suffered a laceration on the back of his foot during a championship parade with his winter ball team in the Dominican Republic. One of his teammates slipped on a stage and bumped into Sano, who fell into metal stairs and suffered a cut that required 12 stitches." https://bringmethenews.com/minnesota-sports/miguel-sano-frustrated-by-injury-keeping-him-out-of-spring-training-action 2019 "Twins third baseman Miguel Sanó will undergo surgery on Nov. 13 after suffering a stress reaction in his left shin in mid-August that never fully healed. He is expected to have a permanent titanium rod inserted into his left shin, and the surgery generally carries a six-to-eight week recovery period before a return to baseball activities" https://www.mlb.com/twins/news/miguel-sano-to-have-surgery-on-injured-shin-c260512716 2017 2013 - "The Minnesota Twins and their fans got they some bad early news in spring training. They were looking forward to top prospect Miguel Sano as he prepared for what might have been his rookie season in the majors. Instead of becoming the team's top story for his performance, Sano became the top story of the spring because of an elbow injury that will require season-ending Tommy John surgery. On Feb. 27, Sano felt some pain in his right elbow after making a throw across his body in the Twins' intrasquad game. The following day, he had an MRI that showed damage to the elbow. The result is Tommy John surgery for Sano and one of the biggest attractions at spring training shelved for the season." https://www.chicagotribune.com/sports/ct-xpm-2014-03-07-sns-rt-bbo-news-20130630-story.html "Minnesota Twins slugging prospect Miguel Sano will have Tommy John surgery on his throwing arm and miss the 2014 season. The 20-year-old third baseman had been trying to rehabilitate a strained ulnar collateral ligament in his right elbow. He was hurt in October while playing winter ball in his native Dominican Republic." Why do we let him play winter ball? 2016 - ""Unless something happens where either we made a huge mistake in judgment, which I don't think is going to happen, or injuries hit us hard and we have to do some shuffling. But I would hope to avoid that," Molitor said. "Sometimes you've got to make changes according to how things go. Molitor said he's most concerned with Sano staying healthy, as there aren't many players with similar body types who have made the transition from infielder to outfielder." Of course not all spring training stories end up in the training room. Souhan recounts, “Paul Molitor arrived in the spring of 1996, listened to Puckett in the clubhouse for a day, then said: “I appreciated the quality of what Kirby has to say. I underestimated the quantity.” And finally you might enjoy Bill Becker’s memories of Tinker Field - https://www.orlandosentinel.com/sports/baseball/os-ghosts-of-spring-tinker-0307-20100306-story.html
  8. It’s nearly the middle of March, and the Minnesota Twins are just 17 days away from their 2019 Opening Day game against the Cleveland Indians. Roughly one month ago I made my first roster projection for the season, and a handful of things have transpired since then. Heading down to Fort Myers to see the club in action this week, I figured now was a good time to come out with a revised edition. Most notably, the club signed Marwin Gonzalez and Miguel Sano is destined to begin the season on the Injured List. That shuffles a few things for position players, but there’s a relative level of clarity there. It’s on the pitching side that things remain up in the air, and that will be worth monitoring down the stretch. Here’s how I see things looking on March 28 given the information we have today. Rotation (5): Jose Berrios, Kyle Gibson, Jake Odorizzi, Michael Pineda, Martin Perez Changes: None The rotation has all been locked in since the beginning of Spring Training. Martin Perez was inked as the 5th starter, and while the move has drawn plenty of ire (myself included), it appears the Twins are right thus far. Wes Johnson has the former Rangers prospect shoving near 97 mph, and he’s working with a different pitch mix that could unlock a new level of effectiveness. Minnesota targeted Anibal Sanchez as an outlier last year and witnessed him succeed in the Braves organization. Perez looks to be that guy in 2019, and everyone wants to see it come together here. Bullpen (7): Trevor May, Blake Parker, Taylor Rogers, Trevor Hildenberger, Adalberto Mejia, Fernando Romero, Matt Magill Changes: Addison Reed to IL Addison Reed was signed to a two-year contract last winter, and he was coming off a 2.84 ERA. He’s been very good out of the pen for most of his career, and he’d pitched in high-leverage situations tallying 125 saves to his credit. Unfortunately, with Minnesota, he turned in a 4.50 ERA, 5.11 FIP, and the strikeout numbers sagged dramatically. He also lost another mph of velocity for the third year in a row, and the swinging strikes fell off a cliff. Despite the small sample, spring training hasn’t been kind to him either. I’m not sure if he’s still hurt from 2018, but the club could make a case to stash him and let him find a bit more success on a rehab stint. Should the Twins decide that Reed is right, and he needs to come north, the decision then comes down to the trio of Matt Magill, Trevor Hildenberger, and Fernando Romero. Magill looks like he has plenty of supporters in the clubhouse and will make the roster. Hildenberger has options, but despite late season struggles, has been plenty reliable in the past. No matter how much talk there’s been about Romero, letting him have a couple weeks of working as a reliever in real game action at Triple-A could be good. If Minnesota needs to make a tough decision, I’d bet on it being a short trip to Rochester for Fernando. Catchers (3): Jason Castro, Mitch Garver Changes: Add Willians Astudillo There’s somewhat of a domino effect caused by Miguel Sano needing to start the year on the IL. Marwin Gonzalez goes from super utility to primary third basemen, and that opens a bench spot. Astudillo isn’t the most ideal catcher, but he provides defensive flexibility with the ability to play all over the diamond. La Tortuga probably isn’t going to live up to his September hype, but he’ll be given the opportunity early. Castro returns with a clean bill of health, and although he’ll be the presumed starter, a defensively revitalized Mitch Garver could challenge sooner rather than later. Castro is in the final year of his deal, and Garver assuming a more serious hold on the full-time role would be a great development for the Twins. Infielders (5): C.J. Cron, Jonathan Schoop, Jorge Polanco, Ehire Adrianza, Marwin Gonzalez Changes: Miguel Sano to IL, Lucas Duda released Miguel Sano had as impressive of a winter as the Twins could’ve hoped, but it ended on an unlucky note with a gash to the back of his heel halting the start of his 2019 season. He’ll be ready in May, but we could end up waiting to see him until June. That development makes the addition of Marwin Gonzalez even more imperative. The Astros used Marwin all over the place last year, and Minnesota will likely do the same as soon as they are able. Ehire Adrianza will be able to spell most of the infield positions, and Marwin will need to slot in primarily at third from the get-go. A platoon at first base doesn’t appear likely, meaning Tyler Austin needs to be dealt or passed through waivers (unlikely) before hitting Triple-A. Duda was a nice get for camp, but not making the team, he’ll look to latch on elsewhere. Outfielders (5): Eddie Rosario, Byron Buxton, Max Kepler, Nelson Cruz, Jake Cave Changes: None No changes to the outfield, and that’s a serious positive for this group. Byron Buxton has been en fuego this spring, while the starting trio has remained healthy. Jake Cave is due for some regression from his impressive rookie season, but he’s more than a serviceable fourth regardless. It took a while for Nelson Cruz to appear in game action this spring, but being the veteran he is, that was never cause for concern. He won’t play outfield aside from the remote possibility of appearing in interleague action. That said, the 38-year-old year old should launch plenty of longballs from the heart of Minnesota’s lineup this year. If there is something to monitor here, it’s Michael Reed. Like Jake Cave before him, the front office tabbed Reed as a player with a potential for more. He was hurt to start the spring and has just begun getting into game action. Zack Granite was jettisoned off the 40 man before him, and the hope would be that he could be shipped to Triple-A. Without options though, Reed will need to clear waivers before being able to be removed off the 40 man. For more from Off The Baggy, click here. Follow at @tlschwerz
  9. New Season and I need to warm up just a bit: Since it's early in Spring Training, not much is expected. But, as flowers and deer in the meadows of MN indicate that spring is near, so too, Spring Training games hold promise of the start of the season of the greatest sport ever invented, baseball. Play ball! Pitching for the Twins: Kohl Stewart. Pitching for the Nationals: Patrick Corbin. Lineups: Eh, Spring Training games. Maybe I'll get to it. Maybe someone will pick up the slack and get up some lineups posted.
  10. I'm not sure anyone has touched on this yet at TD, but mods should feel free to delete this if I'm wrong. Following an off-season that Miguel Sano finally seemed healthy and in better shape, he enters camp today with a lower right leg/heel laceration he received while in the Dominican Republic, per Do-Hyoung Park. [twitter] Sano's inability to stay healthy throughout the past two seasons has blurred this FO's visions for the future. The Twins just cannot afford something like this to happen, especially early in camp where he can easily fall behind. Here's hoping that the cut is relatively small, but heel lacerations and blisters can take awhile to heal and are usually tough to manage without pure rest. It's a very delicate location; the Twins should treat it as such to prevent long-term problems. What are your thoughts on this news? Could you see the Twins signing a 3rd basemen soon as insurance due to the fact that no one is pushing him in the pipeline?
  11. Quick update from Fort Myers... Stopped by the ballpark today around 9AM and watched a number of players taking batting practice under Hammond Stadium. If you've been here before you probably know the spot. You can stand right behind the chain link fence only a few feet away from the players while they hammer the ball in the batting cages. Stood directly behind Buxton for about 10 minutes. A couple of take aways: He does look stronger and bigger and he is not employing a leg kick...Also, Cuddyer walked up to Buxton and asked him how his hand was doing, Buxton replied just fine. I spoke a little bit with Dick Bremer too. I asked him why MLB insists on having the Twins start playing regular home games as soon as the end of March and he replied that no team wants to start the season on a two week road trip (regardless of crappy, cold weather). Watched Gibson throwing today as well. He looked more slimmed down than from previous seasons. Kepler went deep quite a few times today during BP and was really hitting the ball hard. The other guy that was just spraying the ball around the ENTIRE field was Austudillo. Really was fun watching him hit under the stadium and in the adjacent ball field. He has a lot of punch to his swing! Morneau was in the batting cages with a number of players working on their form along with Cuddyer. Spent some time with Tommy Watkins dad today as well. Asked him what his son thought about coaching under Rocco (Tommy is the 1st base coach). He said its been a lot of fun and really likes Rocco's approach to players and the game. They are really striving to create a close knit group and having some fun. His son thinks they have a much better team than is given credit for in the national media. That's my report from the Fort. Get down here if you can. Gotta fly back home to snowy Minneapolis tomorrow. Uggh.
  12. With the Minnesota Twins now involved in spring training action, and exhibition games well under way, it's a good time to take a look at the 25 that will head north with the club at the end of March. Having had significant turnover and uncertainty throughout seasons in recent memory, 2018 brings a breath of fresh air. This club should be relatively simple to project, and that's the mark of a strong team. Following up a Postseason berth and a strong showing over the course of the 2017 Major League Baseball season, the Twins had a few key areas to improve in order to take the next step. This offseason, Derek Falvey and Thad Levine have executed a near flawless blueprint, and they have the product on the field positioned to make a run for the AL Central division title. Although not set in stone, there's significant clarity when it comes to deciphering the Opening Day 25 man, and here's a good bet at what it could look like: Infielders (9) Jason Castro C Mitch Garver C Ehire Adrianza Util Brian Dozier 2B Eduardo Escobar Util Joe Mauer 1B Jorge Polanco SS Miguel Sano 3B Logan Morrison 1B Both catcher positions are all but locked in, and the starting combination up the middle should be set. Joe Mauer is inked at first, and Logan Morrison will back him up while serving as the full-time designated hitter. Although Adrianza could be pushed by Erick Aybar for a job, I think the former's best chance to get on the roster is a potential suspension to Miguel Sano. Sano is already set to play the field in spring training games, so his injury recovery should be all but over. Major League Baseball has yet to speak with Miguel in regards to allegations, and no matter what the outcome, I'd think a 30 game suspension is the max penalty. Outside of the third basemen, there really is no level of intrigue here. Outfielders (4) Byron Buxton CF Robbie Grossman LF/RF Max Kepler RF Eddie Rosario LF This group is virtually locked in as well. The trio of "Nothing falls but raindrops" is a given, and their rotational fourth should end up being Grossman. Zack Granite is a significantly better defender, and would provide a nice speed option on the bench, but he has options remaining and is available to Minnesota at any point in time. I could see Granite forcing his way onto the roster this spring, but the more likely scenario is that Grossman sticks until it no longer works. The Twins would need to DFA him, and doing that before necessary doesn't seem like a pressing matter. Pitchers (12) Jose Berrios SP Tyler Duffey RP Zach Duke RP Kyle Gibson SP Trevor Hildenberger RP Phil Hughes SP Adalberto Mejia SP Jake Odorizzi SP Ryan Pressly RP Addison Reed RP Fernando Rodney RP Taylor Rogers RP Despite not having Ervin Santana available to them out of the gate, I'd still imagine the Twins go with a full five-man starting rotation. That group would include Berrios, Odorizzi, Gibson, Mejia, and Hughes. The last two spots are somewhat up in the air, but Hughes' contract should afford him an opportunity, and Minnesota would need to see significant improvement from Anibal Sanchez this spring to pencil him in. The relief corps is vastly improved, and that group should be relatively set in stone. If Minnesota is serious about using Duffey as a starter, I suppose a trip to Triple-A could make some sense, in which case Alan Busenitz takes his spot in the bullpen. Again, in comparison to recent years, this Minnesota Twins squad has the least amount of question marks when looking at Opening Day. Obviously that's a great thing, and a testament to the talent available to Paul Molitor. Having defined roles and positions from the get go is a good place to be, and allows the club to work from depth as situations present themselves. For more from Off The Baggy, click here. Follow @tlschwerz
  13. It's back, baseball is finally back. On February 13 the Minnesota Twins pitchers and catchers officially report to Fort Myers for Spring Training, and the club will hold it's first workout on Valentine's Day. With position players largely following them, and expected to arrive en masse shortly, it's time to take a look at a few storylines worth monitoring over the exhibition slate. Coming off of a Postseason berth, and a Wild Card appearance, Paul Molito's squad is looking for an opportunity to take the next step. With the young core another year older, they should be expected to carry an even larger part of the load. While results can be scrutinized and picked apart in Grapefruit League action, it's what takes place beyond the box score that's generally the most telling. Those scenarios are what highlight the early slate, and that's what we'll take a look at below: Does Kennys Vargas survive the roster crunch? Currently slotted in as the backup first basemen and rotational bench bat, Vargas is out of options for the Minnesota Twins. The power stroke is very real for Vargas, but he's fallen a bit short when putting it all together. After an .833 OPS across 47 sporadic games in 2016, Vargas dipped back to a .758 OPS across 78 sporadic outings in 2017. In 2018, it's do or die time, but it may already be too late. You have to go back to 2015 to find what I think may be a turning point in Vargas' production. After making the roster out of the gate, Vargas slumped mightily through April. In 12 games from May 1-17 though, he put forth a .956 OPS and was among Minnesota's hottest hitters. With just two homers through that time period however, Terry Ryan set him back to Triple-A searching for power. Since that point, Vargas has seemed to settle in, and his opportunities have been limited at best. In a reserve role, his bat has to be consistently ready to go, and the glove needs work. Right now, the Twins probably don't have anyone ready to come in and take his job, but it's hardly a given that they don't find a suitor by the end of March. Grossman, Granite, or your best guess? Looking at how the 25 man is shaping up from a 1,000 foot view right now, it appears Minnesota will carry just four true outfielders. With Robbie Grossman being extended a new contract for 2018, he's the front runner for the designated hitter and rotational outfield role. While his performance wasn't abysmal in the grass a season ago, 2016 could rear it's head at any moment. There's no doubt that the position is Grossman's to lose, but the emergence of other names is a real possibility. On the 40 man roster, only Zack Granite is on the outside looking in among the outfield group. His .611 OPS in his first 40 MLB games leaves plenty to be desired, but should also be expected to rise. At the minor league level, Granite was an average hitter, and also an on-base asset. Postin a .347 OBP at Double-A, and a .392 OBP last season at Triple-A, his speed was allowed to be unleashed on the basepaths. Grossman has more pop than Granite does, but expecting Zack to contribute at a similar OBP level is hardly a reach. The dark horse in this competition is LaMonte Wade, and while he has yet to play above Double-A, he could make a big leap sooner rather than later. Rotation, staff, and the Alston advantage. At this moment, the Twins have yet to address their most glaring need of the offseason, a starting pitcher. By the time the team breaks from Fort Myers, I expect that scenario to have been handled. The Twins will be rolling with Jose Berrios, Kyle Gibson, Adalberto Mejia, an acquisition, and a question mark when the regular season opens. The 5th spot in the rotation is up for grabs, and while Phil Hughes' contract will afford him first crack, the emergence of Aaron Slegers, Stephen Gonsalves, Fernando Romero, or a host of other names would be welcomed competition. The bullpen has been shored up, and Addison Reed was one of the best gets of the offseason across the entire landscape of the league. New pitching coach Garvin Alston will begin to put his philosophies on display both in game and off the field of play. Watching the bullpen take shape, as well as its usage and construction will be worth monitoring. As the Twins seek more strikeouts, and a pitching staff that climbs the league ladder, it will be extremely important for Alston to make a more significant mark than his predecessor. Homegrown gems making their mark. Each year, there seems to be a few players that come in without a big league job, that end up leaving a lasting impression. Looking at the group of 13 non-roster invitees for 2018, there's a trio of homegrown prospects that have me intrigued. Starting on the mound, you have to look at reliever Jake Reed. The hard thrower was left unprotected and went undrafted in the Rule 5 draft. He has the makings of a strikeout reliever with strong velocity, and an ability to kick the door in to the highest level. He got just 4.0 IP during spring training last year allowing four runs on six hits with a 3/2 K/BB ratio. His season also started with an injury occurred during the last game in Fort Myers. A strong showing could put him right back on the radar for an early season promotion. In the infield, you look no further than former 1st round pick Nick Gordon. Heavily scrutinized as a shortstop, Gordon has yet to be pushed over to second base. He'll get his first real big league test in March this year, and should spend the majority of the season at Triple-A. After a hot start at Double-A, his season took a dive down the stretch and he posted a .749 OPS when things were said and done. How he handles big league pitching this spring, as well as what he shoes with the glove, could go a long ways to give us an idea of what and how he'll contribute for the Twins. Wrapping up the group is a guy behind the plate that deserves more attention, Brian Navarreto. While the bat has lagged significantly for the 2013 6th round pick, he's been great as a defender. Across 127 stolen base attempts in his 290 games behind the dish in the minors, he's thrown out a ridiculous 50% of runners. Regarded as a strong receiver and a trustworthy game manager, Navrreto will get a chance to showcase his worth as a potential big league backup down the road. For more from Off The Baggy, click here. Follow @tlschwerz
  14. Good morning, everyone! The weekend is upon us. And we all know what that means. Yes, it's time to not work at work and work around the house. While working on house maintenance may be the lesser of two evil, remember, the lesser of evils is still evil. The Twins will tussle with the Rays today. Mr. Hughes will start for the Twins while Mr. Ramirez will start for the Rays. The crack mod staff has put up the thread volunteer requests. Being the kind and generous person I am, I volunteered a lot of Twins regulars for game threads. Just trying to make life a bit easier for you. You'll soon know who you are and thank me for relieving you of the burden of trying to avoid, I mean, deciding which series to write for. Some things to think about: 1. I got nothing. 2. More nothing. 3. Ummm 4. Hmmm, well, umm 5. And yeah, then there's that thing. Play ball!!
  15. Anyone here interested in the inner workings of Mac computers? Unfortunately, since I'm trying to get some Mac's to behave, I'm having trouble thinking beyond ssh, scp and Linux. How any of that ties into baseball is anyone's guess. And it certainly bodes ill for a baseball thread. Baseball threads should be newly mowed grass, hot dogs, beverages, alcoholic or otherwise, with the occasional wisecrack thrown in. Maybe a musical interlude will liven things up: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=qpMvS1Q1sos Pitching for the Twins: Gibson Pitching for St. Louis: Rosenthal Play ball!!
  16. Hello Everyone! I'm your game thread host for the day. Being as it is also Spring Training for our humble thread authors, I thought I'd toss out a few ideas and see where things go from there. 1. Kraft Mac & Cheese: Good idea or of the devil? 2. Take your base or 4 pitch walk: Good idea or of the devil? 3. Miller Clear: Good idea or of the devil? (that one should be obvious) 4. Velveeta: Good idea or of the devil? 5. Allowing me to write a game thread: Good idea or of the devil? Play Ball!! Lineups to follow.
  17. Okay, everyone, listen up: The Twins take on Miami today at Miami. Hopefully, the trip will not wear too much on the hometown 9. Pitching for the Twins: Tyler Duffey And someone named Chen for Miami And, with that stuff out of the way, we go on to the usual stream of consciousness known as a "game thread." 1. There have been both a Chief and Riverbrian sighting. I guess they're both coming out of hibernation and checking out the lay of Twins baseball this year. I'm not sure how to interpret the shadows Chief and Brian cast, other than, well, it's Twins baseball. 2. Anyone seen Twinsnorth? Or does Vanimal have him locked up producing SWAG for the "Whine Line?" 3. I'm going to be hopeful and think (expect) the Twins will produce a watchable product this year. Of course, I've not given up on the Tooth Fairy yet either. 4. Danny Santana. Why? 5. Bring back Nick Punto! That's all folks!! Play ball!!
  18. Today's tussle features May and Hellickson toeing the rubber. Lineups to follow. Some things to think about: 1. Where's Riverbrian? 2. Where's Chief? 3. Where's Waldo? 4. Did we win yet? 5. Are the concessions at Spring Training as expensive as the concessions at Target field? Play ball!!!
  19. One of my favorite shows of all-time is Family Guy. At least, the first five seasons of Family Guy are some of my favorite. There are so many quotes from those seasons that I still instill in my everyday conversations, even if those I'm having a conversation with don't know where the quote is hailing from. One of the staples of these shows are the flashbacks that show a time in life the character references. One of my favorite is when Stewie describes his time in Nebraska. Stewie is at a diner in the state and is trying to strike up a conversation with several of the other patrons. All the topics he bring up fall on deaf ears. Until, that is, he brings up corn. Corn, being the states calling card, brings out several reactions from those around him. The reactions, all positive, blend together, minus the last statement. That is when you hear a patron finish with, "Corn is always interesting." This is exactly how I feel about Minnesota Twins baseball. That feeling is never strong for a team than when pitchers and catchers report. The latter took place on February 13th for the Twin Cities nine. While those that make-up the pitchers and catchers are particularly exciting, unless you're a Jason Castro fan, it is still a great feeling whenever the group arrives in Fort Myers, Florida. Optimism will likely be hard to come by for the fan base. A record setting 103 losses will do that. That'll also happen when last seasons biggest off-season signing had a slash line of .191/.275/.409. What exactly could be interesting about the Twins this year? Especially something so interesting that I should start paying attention to the team in mid-February? For starters, the making of the roster. A large part of who will make up the 25-man roster on Opening Day is decided in February and March. We know that Brian Dozier and Miguel Sano have a spot. We're not entirely sure who will back-up catch Jason Castro. We also want to know if Kennys Vargas will beat out Byung Ho Park for the DH spot. There's the filling out of the starting rotation and the bullpen. For me, I want to see if Jose Berrios will show up as a mainstay of the rotation. (Twins Daily's Cody Christie breaks down the early headlines brilliantly.) That's the biggest Spring Training storyline I'll be watching as the Twins roster gets shaped and ready for April 3. Opening Day for the Twins. That would be 50 more days. Fifty more days that will be filled with intrigue for Twins fans. This team may not always be good but they are, at the very least, interesting.
  20. Spring stats can also be incredibly misleading. Seth discussed Luke Hughes yesterday, for instance, and his knack for impressive March performances that won him a spot on the Twins’ bench in 2011 and 2012. Seth implies that the regular playing time Hughes received those springs helped him, and that the inconsistent playing time he got as a Twin disrupted his rhythm and prevented him from being a success. With all due respect, I think that’s ridiculous because it ignores who Hughes was facing and the context in which he was facing them. As Seth himself points out, even the greatest pitchers of our generation use spring training to work out the kinks, and couldn’t give a damn if some replacement-level Aussie takes them deep on the fourth slider in a row. Moreover, Hughes was also getting plenty of plate appearances against the Double- and Triple-A pitchers in the same boat he was. When Hughes got to the majors, he performed exactly like you’d expect a hacktastic middle infielder would. Oh, spring training is important; don’t get me wrong. Guys need the time to get back in shape after the offseason. As Seth points out, guys who have not been healthy need an opportunity to show that they’re recovered. But it’s essentially a tune-up. A four week long Leap Day. Nothing anybody does really matters, unless they get hurt. And none of the decisions a good club makes in March is going to have a significant impact on their regular season. I’m not complaining, however. After all, bad organizations are the ones that are swayed by unexpectedly strong spring performances. Take Luke Hughes, for instance. Or three years ago, when the Twins talked themselves into Aaron Hicks as the Opening Day center fielder at least in part because of his spring training, in particular his three-homer game. The club lost 96 games. That same year, the Orioles got excited by Jake Fox’s 10 spring training home runs and brought him north for Opening Day. They lost 93 games, Fox was DFA’d in June, and hasn’t ever appeared in the majors again. So, sure. Try to read the tea leaves. Marvel at Byung-ho Park’s three homers. Ponder whether Fernando Abad’s four innings are more meaningful than Taylor Rogers’ four innings or Ryan O’Rourke’s four innings. Worry about Ricky Nolasco’s 7.36 ERA or Byron Buxton’s .200 batting average. I can’t do it. None of it means anything to me. And it shouldn’t to the Twins either. Good teams have a plan and stick to it, and the lack of drama in Fort Myers is the best lack of news I’ve had in a long time. It's a sign that, maybe, the Twins are a healthier organization than I've given them credit for.
  21. Yesterday, Seth wrote more than 1700 words about spring training (1735; I counted), God bless him. I’m glad he has the patience for that stuff, because I sure don’t. We focus on spring training because there’s nothing else to focus on that matters. But, really, when we pretend that the outcomes matter even a little, we’re generally kidding ourselves. Kidding ourselves like I was last week when I speculated that Ryan Sweeney might have a shot to make this team. In retrospect, of course he doesn’t. I was (and presumably remain) an idiot who was hoping that there was at least a little drama this spring. But, in reality, 24 of the 25 roster spots were essentially preordained coming into camp, with eleventy billion pitchers fighting it out for the last spot in the bullpen. A spot that probably won’t be worth more than a win above replacement over the course of 2016.Spring stats can also be incredibly misleading. Seth discussed Luke Hughes yesterday, for instance, and his knack for impressive March performances that won him a spot on the Twins’ bench in 2011 and 2012. Seth implies that the regular playing time Hughes received those springs helped him, and that the inconsistent playing time he got as a Twin disrupted his rhythm and prevented him from being a success. With all due respect, I think that’s ridiculous because it ignores who Hughes was facing and the context in which he was facing them. As Seth himself points out, even the greatest pitchers of our generation use spring training to work out the kinks, and couldn’t give a damn if some replacement-level Aussie takes them deep on the fourth slider in a row. Moreover, Hughes was also getting plenty of plate appearances against the Double- and Triple-A pitchers in the same boat he was. When Hughes got to the majors, he performed exactly like you’d expect a hacktastic middle infielder would. Oh, spring training is important; don’t get me wrong. Guys need the time to get back in shape after the offseason. As Seth points out, guys who have not been healthy need an opportunity to show that they’re recovered. But it’s essentially a tune-up. A four week long Leap Day. Nothing anybody does really matters, unless they get hurt. And none of the decisions a good club makes in March is going to have a significant impact on their regular season. I’m not complaining, however. After all, bad organizations are the ones that are swayed by unexpectedly strong spring performances. Take Luke Hughes, for instance. Or three years ago, when the Twins talked themselves into Aaron Hicks as the Opening Day center fielder at least in part because of his spring training, in particular his three-homer game. The club lost 96 games. That same year, the Orioles got excited by Jake Fox’s 10 spring training home runs and brought him north for Opening Day. They lost 93 games, Fox was DFA’d in June, and hasn’t ever appeared in the majors again. So, sure. Try to read the tea leaves. Marvel at Byung-ho Park’s three homers. Ponder whether Fernando Abad’s four innings are more meaningful than Taylor Rogers’ four innings or Ryan O’Rourke’s four innings. Worry about Ricky Nolasco’s 7.36 ERA or Byron Buxton’s .200 batting average. I can’t do it. None of it means anything to me. And it shouldn’t to the Twins either. Good teams have a plan and stick to it, and the lack of drama in Fort Myers is the best lack of news I’ve had in a long time. It's a sign that, maybe, the Twins are a healthier organization than I've given them credit for. Click here to view the article
  22. Some random, small sample thoughts on the Twins performance, based mostly on what the box scores are telling us, as we approach the halfway point of spring training. All the normal caveats about small sample, quality of opponents, and then some. I feel putting it in writing here will let me see how they hold up as spring training ends and we get going into the regular season. _______ The bullpen. The three back end guys are Perkins, Jepsen and May. Good on Molly to give May a start today, though. I’d like to see May be a starter again in future seasons, but for this year, he looks ticketed for the 'pen. Add to those three Fien and Abad. That makes five relievers who look to start the season, and of those five, only Fien has allowed an earned run in relief. That’s not bad. Spring training is not necessarily a meaning-making exercise, but you'd rather be doing good than bad. Additionally, Nick Burdi and J. T. Chargois, our future bullpen anchors, have each thrown 3 scoreless innings. The future might be here early, let's hope. A lot of people were critical of the inaction this winter (not me) but either way, we need guys who can get outs. Forcing the Twins hand is the fact that guys like Aaron Thompson and Michael Tonkin are struggling to pitch any scoreless innings. Disappointing. (Granted Thompson is no longer on the 40-man.) And throw Meyer in with them. Meyer has faced 8 batters, struck out 3, walked 3, and the other batters 2 had line drive base hits. No batter he has faced has been retired in the field. Two of those other batters were thrown out stealing. Go figure. Nor have other guys like Dean, Reed and Melotakis haven’t put their names in the headlines yet. It’s still early, however. Then shift to J. R. Graham and Ryan Pressly. Combined, they have pitched 7 scoreless innings. Both are guys that Ryan picked up in the Rule 5 draft and right now, from 35,000 feet, I’d give Pressly a strong chance to make the Opening Day roster. Zack Jones, who Ryan lost to the Brewers in the Rule 5 draft this winter, blew out his shoulder prior to training camp, hasn't resumed throwing yet. Longshots O’Rourke and Kintzler have also pitched 3 scoreless innings apiece. Of those two, give the edge to O’Rourke because he’s awesome on the 40 man. Prediction: either Burdi or Chargois forces the Twins hand on a promotion right away in April, or even breaking from camp. I’d prefer the latter. Now let me talk about our new designated hitter. I’m not exactly sure how his name is styled, if it should read Park Byung-ho, or Byung Ho Park, or even Byung-ho Pak, without the R. I’d like to get it right, because he’s going to be good. After a forgetful first game (three strikeouts), he has batted 8-19 with 3 homers. Let’s roll the dice; he is ready. Arcia, Vargas and Santana have not hit yet, but that could change. Arcia is playing out of position in left field, Santana is playing several positions that he will struggle at in the majors, and Vargas in my opinion plays first base at least as well as Mauer does, but I’d much rather have Mauer for another year than Vargas. Vargas just hasn’t hit consistently since his first call up. Despite Mauer’s struggles, I still usually feel confident when he comes to the plate. I can’t say that about Vargas. Fortunately Vargas still has an option year and can play in Rochester again until needed. As has also been pointed out, Carlos Quentin is receiving the most playing time of the non roster invitees, by far. He’s also playing all over the field. He hasn’t been a full time player in years—he was even retired last season. The Twins wouldn’t ask him to play full time, but with Park showing he’s ready to DH there’s just no spot for Quentin, unless the Twins want to cut Santana or Arcia, which in my mind would be shortsighted for the limited value Quentin might provide. No doubt Quentin has shown in the past that he can mash, and hopefully he will accept some time in AAA and let the Twins see how things play out. Buxton figures to make the team, but is striking out a lot. I’m not too worried so long as the Twins can keep him in good spirits and let the development happen as it's meant to for him. And finally, Miguel Sano. Have you ever seen him hit? When people in sports bars hold up their phones to film Sano at bats on the television, that’s pretty special. Most of us expect him to struggle some in right field, and he will. But he got an outfield assist recently; expect him to get even more outfield assists after the season starts, as opposing base runners test his instincts out there. Speaking of outfield assists, don’t try to run on Rosario out in left. Or rather, please do try to run on Rosario.
  23. I didn't really see any other threads anywhere so I just thought I'd start one to celebrate pitchers and catchers reporting day. Its time for us to put aside the question marks, second guessing, and pessimism and just appreciate that from here on out we will have real, actual Twins baseball to enjoy. I for one envision a season with Mauer hitting .330, Sano cracking 40 hr, Buxton winning ROY, and Santana winning 20 games as the Twins go on to win the World Series (at least for today I'm envisioning it). So lets all take a moment and celebrate new beginnings and the fact that as of today the Twins are undefeated. Cheers!
  24. There's been a lot of cyber ink spilled over the ejection, tirade and now suspension of Torii Hunter for arguing balls and strikes on Wednesday. Rather than debate the justifications for it, or weigh in on the great "inspiration"/"childishness" debate, we'd like to imagine how this little event will affect future Twins franchises. We take you now to a tape room in the Twins' Fort Myers training compound, some March day in the not-so-distant future. A crew of young prospects, chatter anxiously awaiting the appearance of the franchise legend who will address them today. A hush falls as he enters the room, but the nerves are set at ease when he flashes his trademark mega-watt smile: "Hey guys! What's happenin'" "Good morning, Mr. Hunter," they squeak in unison. Unphased, Hunter sits backwards on a chair, "listen y'all, you can relax. This isn't a big talking too. I'm not gonna lecture you, we just want to go over some of the finer points of your game. "You've been coming along nicely for a little while now. I know one of you led the Midwest league in homers, and I saw another one hit 97 on the gun yesterday. Real good, man, real good. But to make it to the bigs you've got to know how to lose your cool properly.... "I mean, I've seen the tapes of you guys when you're upset, groanin' and shakin' your heads. That doesn't do anything man! You gotta get wild! You gotta make a point! So let's look at the tape here. http://stream1.gifsoup.com/view8/20150611/5218708/baseball-tantrum-o.gif "First, ya gotta start with the little things, light weight stuff, elbow guards, wrist guards, you know, easy stuff. Warm yourself up! You there, McGillacuddy, you're a big fella, but if you start chuckin' the bat and the helmet and everything right away you could strain a forearm, a muscle, how's the manager gonna feel if you have to rest a day because you couldn't be bothered to warm up first?" "Uhh...not very good..." "Your damn right not very good! "Now secondly, don't lose track of your point in this, everything you throw you have to punctuate with another yell, turn back to the ump, the crew chief especially, because that's the umps boss, let him know that it's a protest, it's not a performance, it's a political statement. Yes Diaz?" "What should we say to them? Should we reemphasize the rule with references to the section and subsect--" "Nah, they can't think logically about it at that point, just say what's in your heart...let the coaches and the lawyers talk specifics, you do you man, you do you. "Alright, finally gentlemen, the climax: the jersey toss. Now some might say it's over the top, some might say it's foolish, but this is a special move. It's the point of no return, and think about it, if you want to continue to emphasize your protest what else could you throw?" "Your shoe?" "No, Moskowitz, that's a protest common to Iraq and the Arab Peninsula. Do we play on the Arab Peninsula?" "No, sir" "That's right, the Bagdad expansion franchise isn't coming in for another three years. Who else?" "Your belt?" "Your belt? Stop for a second a think there, Henderson, how exactly is a little ol' Minnesotan lady in the stands gonna feel if you start strippin' down out there?" "Oh yeah..." "What about equipment from the dug out?" "Not a bad idea, Van Nostren! But that's a little played out, and remember you've got teammates and fellow pros out there, don't want to risk anybody's safety. That's why I recommend the shirt toss, it's soft, it's light, it flutters down beautifully after a long throw, its arc and trajectory gives you more time to shout at the umps, it's perfect." A tentative hand rises from the front row, "But Mr. Hunter--" "Yeah?" "Sir, I was just wondering, wouldn't it be safer not to say anything at all and just file an appeal after the game..." Torii blinks, and stares back at the player. "What's your name, son?" "Uhhh...Middlecamp" "Uh-huh, Middlecamp....well you're not on my sheet here, son, I think you might be looking for Joe Mauer's Seminar on Increasing your Midwestern-ness, that's room 203 not 302..." "Oh, I'm sorry, sir," says Middlecamp, gathering his belongings and heading for the door. "Its okay, man, its okay, it may be helpful some day. Now the rest of you, let's talk about how much to tip the batboy after he picks up the stuff..." *AND SCENE*
  25. If one were to highlight the utter banality of baseball’s month of February, a simple action in a spring training complex back field -- featuring grown men who mime a throw to the plate, speed-jog fifty feet from the middle of the diamond to step on first base and receive an underhand toss -- might suffice. The act is then repeated without end until the pitchers are dreaming of breaking towards first in their sleep. That’s the goal anyway.It may appear boring to both the participants and onlookers alike, but drilling in spring training is likely favored over some of the original methods for ensuring pitchers take responsibility for covering first base. In the late 1880s, the first baseman began to position themselves away from the base and closer to where they are today. This new positioning caused issues due to the fact that first basemen were now playing back to cover more ground and were beat when racing to the bag. This then became the pitchers’ responsibility to get to the base. Instinctively, pitchers shied away from the added cardio and stayed at the mound. According to the book A Game Of Inches, at that time the Cardinals’ owner and first baseman Charles Comiskey admitted he would field the ball from his position and, if his pitcher failed to man the base, Comiskey would throw the ball to the unattended base regardless. “[T]he crowd saw who was to blame, and pretty soon pitchers got into the habit of running over rapidly rather than be roasted,” Comiskey said. Even after several years it still had not sunk in with pitchers to beeline it to first base if the ball was hit to their left. In 1905, following a Washington Post article that described the acts of the the team’s pitchers not covering the base the previous season as acts of “stupidity or indifference”, the Washington Senators became one of the earliest recorded team to implement fielding practice for pitchers in spring training so they would be confident the first baseman could “play a deep field and feel certain that the pitcher will go over and take his throws.” In many ways, the residuals of the old Senators practices carried over when the franchise moved to Minnesota. When Jack Morris arrived at the newly minted Lee County Sports Complex in the spring of 1991, the veteran pitcher encountered Twins manager Tom Kelly’s brand of tirelessly drilling on the fundamentals. According to Season of Dreams, after camp ended Morris told reporters that he covered first base more times in his first spring with the Twins in Florida than he had in 14 years with the Detroit Tigers. A hundred years later the tradition continues in Fort Myers with the new generation of pitchers pantomiming their delivery to the plate and trotting off towards first. You would think that over the course of a century modern pitchers would have realized that first basemen are no longer tethered to the base. In fact, some believe that the time spent on drilling this is a waste. As Angels pitcher CJ Wilson told MLB.com’s Jesse Sanchez, “I'd rather spend the time going over strategies and pitching techniques than do PFP,” Wilson said in 2011. “It's just boring."(1) Boring or not, the Twins value pounding the fundamentals into their players -- even if it is based on a practice that originated 100 years ago. It can pay dividends; take Twins’ pitcher Kyle Gibson for instance. In 2015, Gibson led all major league pitchers with 30 putouts. In many ways the pitcher putouts at first are much like RBI totals -- they are all about opportunity. A right-handed ground ball pitcher is likely going to induce more opportunities than a fly ball pitcher or a left-handed pitcher. Likewise, a pitcher needs a first baseman who will not finish the job himself. Two reasons that Gibson’s totals led baseball was: 1) he had one of the highest number of grounders in a first baseman’s zone and 2) his first baseman was unfamiliar with the position. That being said, Gibson’s reaction time on those plays is impressive. Beating a path from the mound to the bag presents challenges. First is taking the right route, the second is finding the base and the third is receiving the throw. And sometimes that does not go as smoothly as rehearsed: http://cdn0.vox-cdn.com/assets/4386775/dozier.gif Though second baseman Brian Dozier rightfully receives credit for making a fine play, Gibson’s ability adjust to the throw should be acknowledged. It may seem mundane but the repetition may help avoid disastrous situations like the one Tim Hudson experienced in Atlanta where improper footwork and terrible timing led to ankle surgery for the veteran pitcher: Sorry if you were eating lunch. It is hard to say what exactly makes a pitcher “good” at covering first base. Is it the muscle memory established in camp? Is it natural athleticism? Or is it handedness that provides the right-handed pitchers who fall off towards first base the advantage? The answer is all of the above but with emphasis on the latter. Yes, the seed is planted in Florida or Arizona which helps trigger the pitcher’s reaction at the crack of the bat. Beyond that, being born right-handed provides the benefits of both facing more left-handed batters who are more likely to hit the ball to first base as well as having a step or two edge over their southpaw’d counterparts. In another hundred years we will all be dead and gone but the PFP is bound to live on. According to ESPN/TruMedia data, the average left-handed starting pitcher saw 28 ground ball plays in the first baseman’s zone. Maybe Wilson is on to something. In the grand scheme it does seem silly to concentrate so much time towards an act that occurs less than one time per start. Why not invest more of the left-handed staff’s time in other areas? Click here to view the article
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