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.
When the Twins get healthy, they will have depth.
When Justin Morneau returns to the lineup, the question will reemerge about getting Young, Kubel, Span, Cuddyer and Thome into the same lineup.
But if Danny Valencia keeps hitting well and playing a better-than-decent at third base, the answer will likely be that Jim Thome spends more time pinch hitting than at DH.
And Nick Punto would become the fifth infielder.
And Alexi Casilla would become the speedy three-position reserve.
And Jason Repko would become the defensive-replacement outfielder who won't be an embarrassment if he has to swing the bat.
And we'll all have a wonderful time second-guessing the day's lineup before, during and after -- and looking ahead to the next day -- because there will be several options that don't stink. (As in Mike Redmond batting third, Punto batting second, Jason Tyner batting leadoff or Brendan Harris batting at all.)
Even before he pummeled Kansas City on Monday night, Valencia was earning his roster presence. At age 25, the Twins apparently decided that Valencia wouldn't benefit any longer from playing regularly in the minors, so they were comfortable with the idea of him sitting on the major league bench until being needed. With Michael Cuddyer moved to first base, the Twins have needed Valencia's presence -- and he's made the best of it.
Strip away the killer performances -- the consecutive 3-for-5s against the Royals and Baltimore -- and Valencia has still hit safely in 18 of the 24 games he's started.
The Repko find should get someone in the organization a case of beer. His all-around game looks to be an upgrade over those who have held that role -- Jason Pridie, Darnell McDonald, Mike Ryan, Jason Tyner -- in recent seasons, with the bonus that center field seems to be his best position (and the position he played most during his time with the Dodgers).
Here's a question: If Repko becomes a late-game replacement and you buy that Denard Span is a better corner outfielder than a center fielder, do you put Repko in center and move Span to a corner outfield spot to protect a lead in the late innings?
In Casilla's case, injury and disrespect can be powerful motivators. It has become incredibly easy for us to forget how well Casilla played in 2008, when his performance seemed to settle the issue over who would play second base for the Twins into the future. He gave away that chance last season and hasn't been healthy for most of this one. Casilla's poor play in 2009 forced the Twins to look for an established second baseman over the winter. Enter Orlando Hudson.
Again, a handful of games against weak teams proves little, but it's good to know the Twins won't have to go fishing for guys like Mark Grudzielanek (as they did last August) to fill some basic needs, even if Hudson's injury keeps him out for longer than we'd like.
That energy can be used in finding a pitcher or two.
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