I arrived at the Lee County Sports Complex a couple hours early for Tuesday's game between the Twins and Pirates, so I wandered over to the minor-league field, where a relatively sizable crowd had assembled to take in the "B-game" between the two clubs.
Just as I walked up, Trevor Plouffe was at the plate, and on one of the first pitches I saw he drove a base hit to the outfield. The runner who'd been on second charged around third and slid across home plate to score on a close play. This wasn't particularly noteworthy until the runner popped up and I realized it was Justin Morneau.
I soon learned that Morneau, who had started without advance notice and was seeing his first live game action since last July, had put himself on second just moments earlier with a three-run double down the right field line. Music to my ears.
There was plenty to like in that B-game, played on a side field away from the eyes of most fans who were making their way out to Hammond Stadium for the day's main exhibition match-up. Delmon Young also made his spring debut in the game, though he was finished before I arrived. Kevin Slowey started and pitched well; I spied a few scouts in the stands who apparently were checking in on him on behalf of the Blue Jays. I got my first look at Kyle Gibson, who had hitters consistently beating the ball into the ground with a tailing fastball delivered from a 6'6" frame (though he did give up a well struck home run to Andy Marte).
The main feature didn't end up being quite so noteworthy, as the Twins delivered a rather punchless offensive performance (as one would expect in a game where Matt Tolbert was the team's first baseman and No. 5 hitter) on the way to a 5-2 loss. The contest was highlighted by four very sharp innings from Carl Pavano, and I had the privilege of spectating from some pretty amazing seats.
With Michael Cuddyer on track to return after having a nasty wart removed from his foot and Joe Mauer being cautiously eased back into duty, the Twins seem to be on their way to fielding all their star sluggers, which hopefully will prevent us from ever being subjected to Tolbert at first base again.