Notes and thoughts from Opening Day in Detroit…
-Great to see Hall of Fame baseball writer Tom Gage in the press box. Tom covered the Tigers a full-time beat writer for 36 years, and was elected the winner of the 2015 J.G. Spink Award, presented annually to a sportswriter for ``meritorious contributions to baseball writing’’ during the National Baseball Hall of Fame weekend in Cooperstown this summer.
The Detroit News took Gage off the beat this year, which is stupid for all of the obvious reasons, but also stupid because the paper could have gotten great PR out of Gage covering the Tigers during the summer of his induction. Tom hooked on with FSDetroit.com. He’s sitting right in front of me during batting practice. Tom is a wonderful guy and a wonderful writer, and it’s sad to think there was ever a chance he might have missed opening day.
-Now that Ervin Santana is suspended, here are my keys for Twins’ overachievement in 2015:
I expect Danny Santana, Brian Dozier, Kennys Vargas, Kurt Suzuki, Torii Hunter and Joe Mauer have to quality seasons. The swing players in the everyday lineup for me are Trevor Plouffe, Oswaldo Arcia and whoever plays in center.
Arcia put on a show during batting practice, and he is a great variable. He has the power to hit 30 home runs. He has the potential to strike out 150 times, compile a low on-base percentage and be well below average in left field. If he does the former, the Twins’ lineup could be remarkably productive. If he does the latter, there middle of the order could become easy to pitch to.
As for centerfield, let’s be honest: The Twins are waiting for Byron Buxton. Until he arrives, the position will be somewhere between a project and a mess.
-When the Twins return home next week, you’ve got to watch Eddie Guardado hitting grounders during fielding practice. Good thing he was a pitcher.
--Trevor Plouffe is 28. He has less than four years of service time.He is making $4.8 million this year. He has been slightly disappointing as a big-leaguer. If he can improve slightly in the field and produce more runs this year, he very soon could make himself a bargain.
He has hit 24 homers in a season. He has hit 40 doubles. He has driven in 80 runs. He’s capable of having a big season. If that’s ever going to happen, I would think it would be this year, under Paul Molitor.
-If it were up to me, I’d bat Joe Mauer second and Brian Dozier third. Mauer has a higher on-base percentage and better bat control. Dozier has more power.
-By August, here’s what I hope the lineup looks like: Santana ss, Byron Buxton cf, Mauer 1b, Dozier 2b, Vargas 1b, Miguel Sano 3b, Hunter rf, Plouffe/Arcia lf, Suzuki/Pinto c.
-I wasn’t too worried about the Twins’ bullpen until the Santana suspension. Now I think an inexperienced group of middle relievers could be overexposed. Molitor has talked about using Glen Perkins for a few extra outs. He may need to pitch three innings a day.
-Watch Ricky Nolasco on Wednesday. He has a tendency to fall off the mound to the left during his motion, which robs him of power and causes his fastball to rise in the zone. If he’s falling to the left in the early innings, things could get ugly.
-Schafer’s career on-base percentage is .311. His career slugging percentage is .310. He’ll have to hit a lot of singles and steal a lot of bases to be a worthwhile player. It is the worst in a series of bad signs that Aaron Hicks couldn’t beat out this guy.
-Phil Miller and I will be providing lots of coverage from Comerica Park today. Please check in to startribune.com for all of the stuff.
-The Twins should be allowed to sue Ervin Santana. He signed four-year contract for four years and $55 million. He will be unable to pitch the first half of this season. If his past success was due to performance-enhancing drugs, he may be unable to pitch to the standards that earned him this contract. At some point, teams have to start holding players more accountable for their actions.