Phil Miller covered three seasons of Twins baseball, but that was at a different ballpark for a different newspaper. Now Miller returns to the baseball beat after joining the Star Tribune as the Gopher football writer in 2010, and he won't miss the dingy dome for a minute. In addition to the Twins and Gophers, Miller covered the Utah Jazz and the NBA for six years at The Salt Lake Tribune.
It's interesting to watch the little side effects that are becoming apparent in Major League Baseball's replay-challenge system. Some things we didn't expect are becoming the most noticeable aspects of the system, while the seamless, barely-notice-it's-there process that baseball hoped for hasn't happened yet. The Twins know all about that -- they've already had two lengthy replay delays in the season's first week, and both of them affected Kevin Correia's pitching.
The long delay to get a ruling on today's fair ball / foul ball call actually made sense to me, since it was extremely difficult to see on the replay. It was one of those plays where you have to determine whether the ball disappears behind the pole or remains visible, and I'm not surprised it took a few minutes of checking the various replays to make certain.
Those sort of replay delays shouldn't be too common; that's not the slow-down-the-game problem that is developing. No, the real way the game will be delayed, it turns out, is by the number of times managers come out of the dugout after a close play and stall while awaiting word from their clubhouse if the play is worth challenging, if there is evidence to overturn the call. The fact that one side or the other may dispute just about every close call, even if they ultimately don't challenge it, might turn out to be the bigger problem.
Then there's the slowness, the clunkiness of the process itself. Asking for a replay, walking over to the dugouts and putting the headsets on just seems too ceremonial, too formal. Why not equip one of the base umpires with a headset he wears the entire game, and let him simply get an answer ASAP when a play is challenged? This is a problem in the NFL, too; the process of running off the field delays the action on it.
Still, you don't hear anyone complaining about getting the calls right. The problem is with the time of games, and that's not just a replay problem. The firt three innings of today's game took more than 90 minutes, and that wasn't all because of the replay.
Looks like a spectacular day for the Twins' home opener at Target Field, sunny and warm. Maybe the Twins' weather luck will return this year.
Chris Herrmann has arrived and will be in uniform for today's opener against Oakland. But instead of replacing one of the Twins' sore-handed outfielders, he's assuming the roster spot of Jason Bartlett, who sprained his left ankle Sunday while sliding home to score from first base on Chris Colabello's double.
That's an interesting choice, but a logical one if Josh Willingham and Oswaldo Arcia aren't injured enough to warrent two weeks out of action. Basically, the Twins have three players who have injuries that will keep them out of the lineup for a few days, but who don't need two weeks off. But the Twins are too short-handed not to add another player, so they had to make a calculation: Which of the three can they most afford to do without for a couple weeks?
By placing Bartlett on the DL, they give Willingham and Arcia two more days (with the off day Tuesday) to get healthy enough to play. Arcia planned to test his sore right wrist today and Willingham's left wrist was bruised when he was hit by a pitch yesterday in Cleveland.
If one of them is not ready Wednesday, look for another roster move. In the meantime, Herrmann went 7-for-17 during spring training and in addition to playing the outfield, he can serve as a third catcher. Plus, he's been taking ground balls at first base; that's where he was stationed during yesterday's game in Rochester when word came that he was needed in Minneapolis. He caught a 5:45 a.m. flight this morning to get here.
With outfielders suddenly scarce, Gardenhire said Chris Colabello will play right field today, a position he's played before (though without distinction, let's say). He's not an outfielder, Gardenhire said, but he'll do for a day while the Twins straighten out their roster. Tomorrow is an off day, so they hope to be shorthanded only for one day.
Here are the lineups for today's opener, Kasmir vs. Correia:
CLEVELAND -- The weather has greatly improved here today, with bright sunshine and temperatures in the mid-40s, headed above 50. That's quite a change, after two days of players huddled around heaters for the first two games. It's so nice, the Indians plan to take batting practice, something most teams normally skip on Sunday. Not sure if the Twins plan to do the same.
The Twins fly home after today's game, and open their home season tomorrow at Target Field against the A's. But first, they'll try to finish off a split of the six-game road trip, which would be quite a feat after they lost the first two and trailed in the third.
They'll use a virtually identical lineup today to the one that earned Ron Gardenhire's 1,000th win yesterday, with only one substitution: Kurt Suzuki back behind the plate, instead of Josmil Pinto. Oswaldo Arcia remains out with a sore hand, though his trigger finger is OK; he was racking up a high score in one of those deer-hunting video games in the clubhouse.
Here are the lineups for today's series ender:
CLEVELAND -- Today may be the coldest game the Twins play this season, and that's saying something for a team from Minneapolis. (And yeah, I probably just jinxed it.) It's 36 degrees at Progressive Field at the moment, but that's not the problem. The flags are standing straight out, whipped by a wind that's gusting up to 30-35 degrees.
The cold has already cost the Twins one of their players. Oswaldo Arcia has been batting with a sore right hand for the past few days, a condition he came down with in the batting cage in Chicago earlier this week. Ron Gardenhire noticed him grimacing at the plate last night, but Arcia insists he's OK. The manager, however, is taking no chances, not in the near-freezing temperatures. The Twins suspect he was bothered by a sore hand last year, too, and don't want this to linger.
The result: Jason Kubel is in right field today, for the first time this season. Along with Josh Willingham in left, it's safe to say speed isn't the strong suit of the outfield defense today.
Kyle Gibson will be on the mound for the first time this season, taking possession of that fifth-starters job he won in the spring. The game is on Fox Sports 1.
Here are today's lineups:
UPDATED UPDATE: After about 75 minutes of waiting, much of it in bright sunshine, the storm came and went in about 15 minutes. The tarp is being rolled out, and players have begun to troop into the dugout. The Indians intend to conduct their Opening Day ceremony as planned, and have announced that first pitch should occur around 4:15 CDT. That's about two hours, 10 minutes after its schedule start time.
UPDATE: The Indians just put the weather radar on their scoreboard to illustrate for fans why, though it's not raining at the moment, the game will not start as scheduled at 2 p.m. CDT. There's another line of storms moving into the area, but it looks relatively clear once it passes. So the tarp is on the field, and we're awaiting the rain, in hopes of playing the game without interruption afterward. The team has made no guess yet about when the game will begin.
CLEVELAND -- Greetings from Progressive Field, where the rain that soaked Chicago yesterday has followed the Twins for another day. The grounds crew pulled the tarp off the field about an hour ago, but the rain has returned and the infield is covered once more. The forecast says the rain will return intermittently all day, but we expect to get the game in. It's the Indians' home opener, after all.
Talk in the clubhouse before the game was about Ron Gardenhire and his pursuit of 1,000 victories, which has taken longer than anticipated, to say the least. The Twins' 3-16 finish to 2013 stalled the manager at 998 wins, and the Twins took just one of three in Chicago to open the season. Gardenhire's wife Carol is on the trip to witness the milestone, and the manager joked before the game that she had no intention of coming to Cleveland. But here she is.
And here are the Twins, arriving on the same day the Indians announce they've locked up one of their cornerstone players, second baseman Jason Kipnis, with a six-year, $52.5 million contract. He'll bat third today for Cleveland, in front of new third baseman Carlos Santana, their converted catcher. Interestingly, the Indians are using their previous third baseman, Lonnie Chisenhall, as the designated hitter, batting ninth.
The Twins' DH is Chris Colabello, getting his first start against a right-handed pitcher, Danny Salazar. Colabello's six-RBI performance on Thursday moved him into second place in the American League in RBIs.
Here are the lineups for today's game, a schedule 2:05 p.m. (CDT) first pitch:
CHICAGO -- Opinions are mixed here at U.S. Cellular Field about whether today's 1:10 p.m. game between the Twins and White Sox will be played. A steady, cold rain is falling, and the current temperature is 37 degrees.
But the White Sox employees I've encountered here at the ballpark believe we'll wait out the rain, which is supposed to slack off by 2 p.m. I'm skeptical -- the temperature isn't supposed to reach 40 degrees, the field is soaked, and both teams have flights to make day games tomorrow. Besides, I cannot imagine more than a couple hundred fans showing up in this awful weather; there were only 10,000 here (or so they say) in chilly but dry conditions tomorrow.
If they do play, Phil Hughes will make his Twins debut, facing White Sox lefthander Jose Quintana.
The Twins have arrived and are in the visiting clubhouse, with batting practice cancelled. Check back to see who's right about today's game.
UPDATE: So much for my weather-predicting skills. It's still raining lightly, but the grounds crew has removed the tarp and is preparing the infield. There still are a couple of puddles visible in the outfield, but we're told they will disappear soon. The Twins have broken out their cold-weather gear, and all signs point to the game going on as scheduled.
It's 36 degrees at the moment and overcast, so it'll be plenty cold and wet. That may have something to do with Ron Gardenhire's decision to make Joe Mauer the designated hitter today, and put Chris Colabello at first base. "He's a mudder," Gardenhire said of Colabello.
Here are today's lineups, including the 2014 debut for Hughes and Josmil Pinto:
A. Garcia RF
De Aza LF
L. Garcia 2B
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