Jim Souhan analyzes the local sports scene and advises you to never take his betting advice. He likes old guitars and old music, never eats press box hot dogs, and can be heard on 1500ESPN at 2:05 p.m. weekdays, and Sundays from 10 a.m.-noon.
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I started covering the Twins as a beat writer in 1993. As a reporter covering spring training, you crave news.
When someone pressed Paul Molitor this spring over what his Week 1 rotation would be, he looked up, blinked and said, ``That's news?''
Well, it's spring training news. People are interested, and there isn't much else going on.
One thing I learned over the years was that most spring training ``news'' is aimed at what will happen on Opening Day. Who will be in the lineup? Who will be on the big-league roster? Who will be sent down? Who will take the mound?
It's all interesting stuff. A lot of it has little to do with what the roster will look like by April 15, or May 1, or June 1.
This week, the Twins sent Alex Meyer and Michael Tonkin to the minors. I think Meyer and Tonkin will be important players for the big-league team this season. They just won't be with the team on Opening Day (barring other injuries between now and then.)
Meyer. Tonkin. Miguel Sano. Eddie Rosario. Josmil Pinto. Maybe even Byron Buxton.
All could play key roles for the Twins this season, and all have been or probably will be optioned to the minors during camp.
The Opening Day roster is a function of the front office's hope. It hopes Aaron Hicks will prove he deserves to be an every day player. It hopes that Mike Pelfrey, or Tommy Millone, or Trevor May can hold down the fifth spot in the rotation. It hopes the team will stay relatively healthy.
By May 1, or June 1, you will have a much better idea of the best big-league roster the Twins can muster than you will on Opening Day.
Latest podcast (think radio on demand) at SouhanUnfiltered.com: Gophers senior associate athletic director Dan O'Brien, on Jerry Kill, what Kill thinks of me, his son's battle with cancer, and the future of Gophers athletics. Great stuff from a really good guy.
Other recent podcasts: Quincy Lewis and Michael Russo.
Next podcast: 5 p.m. Monday with old friend Tom Linnemann, the former St. John's quarteraback and world traveler.
Fort Myers, Fla.
Gophers baseball coach John Anderson said he got ``emotional'' on Wednesday afternoon, when talking with old Gopher teammate Paul Molitor about managing each other in the Twins' first game of spring training.
Molitor said, ``It was fun, especially once I got into the flow of the game.''
It was Molitor's first game as a manager. ``I was out there flashing signs the whole game, which is different,'' he said. ``Once I settled in, it was really enjoyable.''
The Twins used to open play against local Edison College. Then, because of the relationship between Ron Gardenhire and the Concordia staff, Concordia visited, even it for a scrimmage on the back fields.
Playing the Gophers is an upgrade in all sorts of ways. It gives more Minnesotans reason to visit Fort Myers. It pairs two famous Gophers - Molitor and Twins closer Glen Perkins - against their old school and their friend Anderson. It gives them a college opponent with high-end talent.
Some observations on the game, a 3-1 Twins victory:
-Perkins was fired up, saying he had more adrenaline than he's ever had in early March before. He pitched a 1-2-3 inning.
-MIguel Sano has tremendous bat speed. But we knew that. What was impressive was his foot speed. He stole a base and looked a little like a defensive end running a stunt when he steamed around second base.
-Byron Buxton hit doubles in his first two at-bats. The first was a hustle double on sinking liner to right-center. The left was a pulled shot down the leftfield line.
Molitor did address a mistake Buxton made, pulling Buxton aside after he scored on Kennys Vargas' two-out double in the first. Buxton coasted home, creating the possibility that if Vargas had been thrown out at second, Buxton may have crossed the plate too late for the run to count. ``He broke down a little early,'' Molitor said. ``You can't do that in that situation.''
-I felt sorry for the kids who had to face Michael Tonkin in the ninth. Tonkin has very good stuff, and it's time for him to be on the big-league staff.
-Watching Vargas take batting practice before the game, he responded well when asked to react to situations. Asked to foil an imaginary shift, he hit line drives the other way. Asked to advance runners, he produced ground balls to the right side.
-The Twins wil run something close to their ``A'' lineup out tomorrow in the true home opener against Boston at Hammond Stadium.
-My last 3 podcasts from spring training: Dave St. Peter, Eddie Guardado, Torii Hunter, all at SouhanUnfiltered.com.
Time for the too-early-to-possibly-be-right-but-predictions-are-silly-anyway Twins predictions for the near future:
I’m seeing so much young talent in Twins’ camp, and so much pitching depth, that I’m ready to be overly optimistic.
I see the 2015 Twins winning 84 games.
I see the 2016 Twins winning 90.
I see the 2017 Twins winning 93 and having a chance to make a postseason run.
Look at it this way: When the Twins traded Denard Span for Alex Meyer, they did so because they desperately needed to rebuilding their farm system and organizational pitching depth.
This spring, Meyer might have the best stuff in camp (with the possible exception of Jose Berrios). And he might not even win the fifth starter’s job. He may wind up in the bullpen.
Throughout history, the Twins have won when their starting staff has given them nothing more than quality starts. The team finished seventh in the big leagues in run scored last year even with Joe Mauer having one of his worst seasons. Danny Santana is already a polished big-leaguer. Miguel Sano and Byron Buxton should debut later this season.
I never blamed the Twins’ losing on Ron Gardenhire or his coaches, but I do believe the clubhouse atmosphere had grown stale and unproductive.
It’s unpopular to say this given the Twins’ horrific four-year stretch, but this is a team on the rise. While so many people focus on payroll, farm systems are usually what win championships. Within the next five years, I believe you’ll see the Twins, Astros and Cubs vying for places in the World Series.
So, I had Torii Hunter on my podcast at SouhanUnfiltered.com.
He told me about the time Corey Koskie hid in his car after a game, and Hunter almost stabbed him.
And what Eddie Guardado used to wear while pitching. (Think Victoria’s Secret.)
And how he became friends with Magic Johnson.
That and more available at SouhanUnfiltered.com (or subscribe for free on Itunes ,or listen at Souhan-Unfiltered through IHeartRadio).
I’ll have Eddie Guardado on later today to let him fire back at Hunter.
Between the Wolves' shootaround and their opener in Memphis, I spoke with a handful of people connected to the Twins' managerial search. No hard news to report, but here's a summary of what I learned...
-Paul Molitor definitely wants the job. This is not a situation where he's being passive aggressive, or saying, ``I'll do it if you want me to.'' He knows this might be his last, and best, chance to be a manager, and perhaps his only chance to manage his hometown team. He's all-in as a candidate.
-If Terry Ryan has made a final decision. he hasn't told many people, even in the Twins' inner circles. His search, or at least his decision-making process, appears to be ongoing.
-Even if Ryan came to a decision soon, the Twins would not likely hold a press conference on Thursday, when the Wolves will be holding their home opener. Friday is Halloween. Unless news leaks and the Twins feel they have to rush to throw together a press conference, next week makes more sense in terms of timing an announcement.
-Ryan is known in scouting circles for his due diligence. This is the first time he has displayed it during a managerial search. The last time he chose a manager, Ron Gardenhire and Molitor were the front-runners, and Gardenhire became the choice in part because of his long tenure as a coach, and in part because key people outside of baseball operations believed that Gardenhire would be ideal as a friendly face of the franchise ,and someone willing to do all of the media relations and marketing outings the Twins value. That is one question about Molitor: Will he be willing to submit to the media and marketing grind? Managers have brutal schedules even without all of the extras.
-Ryan is in Arizona, where he watched top prospect Byron Buxton break his finger. Ryan could certainly fly home quickly to hold a press conference, but there were no indications as of Wednesday afternoon that he planned to do so.
-I've thought all along that Molitor should and will get the job, but the longer it goes, the more I have reason to doubt that he will be the hire.
One thing a few key people said to me today: A lot of the national speculation has been off-base, because few know what's going through Ryan's head right now.
Jerry Zgoda and I are in Memphis covering the Wolves' opener tonight. Just spoke with coach Flip Saunders, who said that Kevin Martin has a sore ankle, and that he might be replaced in the starting lineup.
Saunders is in good spirits. He said this is an unusual situation because this is his first team that won't be judged by wins and losses, but by gradual improvement of younger players.
I'll be on WJON in St. Cloud at 7:15 and on 1500ESPN at a different time tomorrow - 9:45, while I'm on a layover heading back to the Twin Cities.
The Twins reached the All-Star break at 44-50 after beating Colorado on Sunday.
Here's how that compares to their record at the three previous All-Star breaks:
Slightly better starting pitching, due mostly to Phil Hughes and Kyle Gibson, has made the Twins a little better this season despite vital injuries to key hitters, like Joe Mauer and Josh Willingham, and the failure of Aaron Hicks to become a useful big-league hitter.
But the Twins' chances to finish strong could be handicapped by the innings limit on AAA pitcher Alex Meyer, and the expectation that the Twins will trade away a few valuable players as the trade deadline approaches.
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