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.

The mistakes of spring

Posted by: Howard Sinker under Ron Gardenhire, Twins pitching Updated: March 29, 2010 - 9:40 AM

The team is pretty much set and, with the ongoing and significant issue about who'll protect leads in the ninth inning, the Twins roster looks pretty good.

Some of us had hoped that Jacque Jones would sneak his way into the team as an extra outfielder with his .417 OBP in 37 plate appearances, but there's no room in the current roster alignment and, yes, that makes sense.

Any time you start trying to manage (or general manage) from afar, you're likely to be wrong about any number of things. Fortunately, the price of those mistakes is less than the price of those made by the guys really doing their jobs. My good-natured support of Tony Batista back in the days before this blog existed was harmless compared to the decision to put him at third base for a couple of months back in 2006, for example. And remember the Ruben Sierra era-ette? I never liked that idea.

Jones wasn't going to make the team because Gardy and Bill Smith are comfortable with a four-man outfield rotation (Young/Span/Cuddyer/Kubel) with Nick Punto, I suppose, as the emergency center fielder. Balancing a roster is about risks, and the Twins are trading defense for offense. Given the players involved, I can't disagree.

And furthermore...

*It also looks like Delmon Young will get the majority of starts in left field with Jason Kubel at DH and Jim Thome at the ready on the bench. So much for my off-season wager than Thome would start more games that Delmon. The nice thing is that the era of the singles-hitting DH seems to have disappeared entirely.

*After wondering whether both Alexi Casilla and Matt Tolbert had played their way off the roster in favor of Luke Hughes, the Twins immediately sent Hughes to the minor-league camp.

*Matt Guerrier as Joe Nathan's replacement doesn't look to be happening in Gardy's closer-by-committee (barring a trade) preference. My guess is that CBC will play out with Gardy staying with someone who gets the job done before trying another. I'm thinking now that Jon Rauch may get the first shot and that Gardy is hoping that Pat Neshek's recovery will make him nasty/funky/odd enough to close. Lefty Jose Mijares has managed to totally spit up his chances so far.

*The Jones-as-extra-outfielder theory was based on the Twins carrying 11 pitches. That probably wasn't going to happen under any circumstance and absolutely won't happen with the bullpen uncertainty. Not even worth arguing about.

So there.

The one thing I'm puzzled by right now is that Francisco Liriano situation. I understand that he looks like an attractive closer candidate, but he's had a pretty good spring taking his turn as a starter and if he's on his game, he's a fifth starter only in the sense that he'll probably start the fifth game of the season. If not, I'm just not seeing how putting him at the end of the game is any sort of answer. The Twins don't need a Joba Chamberlain-like situation, especially when there are other options.

Another reason not to mess with Liriano? You can be pretty sure that as the season goes on -- barring the emergence of a current reliever as a rock-solid committee buster -- the Twins will be in the market for an established closer.

You can be kind of sure, anyway.

 

 

 

 

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