Startribune.com digital sports editor Howard Sinker used to cover the Twins and now shares season tickets with friends in Section 219 of Target Field. He blogs about baseball from the perspective of a long-time fan who loves the game, doesn’t always believe the hype and likes hearing what others think. Howard sometimes talks about sports with Cathy Wurzer on MPR's Morning Edition.

Section 219: Quietly looking for bits of optimism

Posted by: Howard Sinker under Ron Gardenhire, Twins offense, Twins pitching Updated: March 29, 2012 - 9:16 AM

When you're 1,700 miles from the action, it's a good time to lay low and not react out loud to what's going on at spring training. Combined with March being the busiest month for running the sports web -- my "A job," you know -- it's been wiser to let Joe C. and La Velle and the others carry the action.

After all, responding from afar, I probably would have told you that I was waiting for Justin Morneau to come in one day and say, "Sorry guys, but I can't do this." I may have told you that my expectations for Francisco Liriano were close to zero and the Twins would be foolish to expect much from him. And maybe that Chris Parmelee was looking good enough that it would be hard to keep him out of the lineup -- in 2013. The workings of spring training are hard enough to figure even when you're on the scene.

Stuff changes out of unfortunate necessity. That would be the quick demise of Joel Zumaya and the uncertainty right now around Scott Baker's health and Jason Marquis' readiness for Opening Day. Other things change because of nice surprises. Chris Parmelee, headed for Rochester in almost everyone's mind at this time last month, now looks like he'll make the final 25. As a full-time DH, Morneau has recovered from a horrendous start with the verdict being that little good can come from having him in the field.

I hope that some things aren't illusions: Josh Willingham will pull home runs over the left-field wall and Alexi Casilla will finally be an adept second baseman for the entire season. I hope that some combination of Trevor Plouffe, Ryan Doumit and Parmelee can hold down right field. I hope the Twins will carry two catchers and that the bullpen won't again be a massive disappointment.

The bullpen scares me. Without trying to throw out too much buzzkill, if you look back at Spring Training 2011, there were all kinds of good numbers being put up. We were pumped that Dusty Hughes didn't allow an earned run in 12 exhibition innings and Matt Capps didn't allow one in 10 innings. Nick Blackburn and Jose Mijares had excellent springs and Kevin Slowey only yielded 12 baserunners in 16 innings, which meant that people still liked him.

So forgive me if I see some of the good numbers that are being put up and saying in bold letters that March performance is no guarantee of future results. Don't take that personally Matt Maloney, Jared Burton and others.

I'm bracing myself and trying not to lead anyone astray with long-distance optimism.

I'm thinking that the move away from Ben Revere in the outfield and defensive-minded extra infielders is based on the Twins seeing more 7-5 type games in their 2012 than they would care to admit. I'm thinking that Gardy and Rick Anderson are muttering prayers for their pitchers, and that Terry Ryan wishes he would have shopped more aggressively from the pool of available veteran relievers.

I'm happy that I only have to use the word "Nishioka" in the following sentence: I'm glad the Nishioka silliness is over.

Anyone want my Chibe Lotte Marines cap?

We're little more than a week from Opening Day and it feels so much different than seasons past. Could you have imagined that a team with Morneau and Joe Mauer in their supposed prime would be universally considered to be so far from contention. At FOXsports.com, Ken Rosenthal ranks the Twins 28th of the 30 teams, a column in Bleacher Report has them at 27th. I found them a few spots higher on another blog, but credibility was lost when it was written that the Twins collapsed last season after a "spectacular spring."

Anyone remember last spring as being spectacular? I remember a lot of guys not playing.

I also remember that it taught me to keep quiet, for the most part, and wait for the real games to begin.

One thing that needs to happen right away: There's a banner hanging from a light post at 4th St. and Hennepin Ave. of Jose Mijares. It's on the right as you're (I'm) driving toward the Metrodome.

Get that down NOW!

 

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