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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Posts about Twins fans

Touching 'em all

Posted by: Jim Souhan Updated: April 1, 2013 - 1:33 PM

Yes, I stole that line from John Gordon. Saw Gordo in Fort Myers, and he's doing well.

To the new stuff:

-Good luck, Pedro Florimon. With Florimon started at shortstop today, the Twins haven't had the same starting shortstop in consecutive years on Opening day since Cristian Guzman had the job in 2003-2004.

The starters: 2005 Jason Bartlett; 2006 Juan Castro; 2007 Bartlett; 2008 Adam Everett; 2009 Nick Punto; 2010 J.J. Hardy; 2011 Alexi Casilla; 2012 Jamey Carroll; 2013 Florimon.

And somewhere in there someone named Nishioka played a few games, too.

-Justin Verlander has never won on Opening Day, although he had a lead that was blown last year. The Tiwns' hope today is that he's overly emotional after signing his new contract and a combination of emotions and cold keeps him from being himself.

Verlander is 0-1 with four no-decisions in five Opening Day starts. He's pitched more than six innings only once, when he went eight innings last year.

-Tigers manager Jim Leyland pregame on expectations: ``I've managed some teams people didn't expect to do very well at all, and we didn't let 'em down.''

-Spoke with Torii Hunter, who raved about the Tigers' ``first-class'' operation. He noted he's been as healthy the last two years as he's ever been, and said he undergoes ART therapy on his muscles, and that has kept him feeling loose and healthy. He's cut out heavy weight training.

``I haven't had an ache or pain the last two years,'' he said. ``Except when I ran into that wall.''

It's Active Release Therapy, and Hunter described it as chiropractic for muscles.

-Joe Mauer batting second is a good idea. It's also been a good idea for a long time. Mauer might be the big-league player most-suited to batting second. Having anything but a good on-base-percentage hitter in the 2 hole is a terrible idea.

-As listeners to Sunday Sports Talk and my noon hits with Judd&Dubay on 1500ESPN know, I'm glad Flip Saunders didn't take the Gophers' job, and I don't mind waiting another week or two for Norwood Teague to land a coach. What matters is the result, not the process.

Teague was hired because of his exhaustive knowledge of college basketball. To settle for a 58-year-old guy who is not a college basketball coach would strike me as giving in to public sentiment, which is usually a bad idea.

-Jim Leyland smokes in his office. That's got to be a violation of some kind. Then again, in baseball, you're grown men are allowed to spit in the faces of umpires.

-Leyland, looking typically grizzled, said that nobody who works in baseball - including writers and broadcasters - should look good the last day of the season. ``If you're not tired at the end,'' he said, ``you probably didn't do your job very well.''

-Yes, expectations are low for the Twins this season. My sure-to-be-wrong prediction is 73 victories. But at least the Twins have a better lineup than the Yankees for the first time I can remember.

-I'll be running Sunday Sports Talk this week by myself, with Tom Pelissero on vacation, so I'll take calls and do a little different show than usual. That's 10-noon Sunday, preceeded by the Ron Gardenhire Show at 9:30 on 1500ESPN.

I'll be doing noon appearances with Judd and Dubay on 1500ESPN all week, as well. Thanks for listening.

 

Saturday morning musings

Posted by: Jim Souhan Updated: March 16, 2013 - 11:08 AM

A few observations now that I've been in Twins' camp for about a week:

-Don't believe anybody who tells you Aaron Hicks won't be the Twins' centerfielder on opening day. He's taking excellent at-bats and playing centerfield better than Denard Span ever did. He's a lock, if healthy. Joe Benson remains raw and needs to prove himself for a long stretch in the minors before he'll be considered a big-leaguer, and Darin Mastroianni is, was and ever shall be an extra outfielder.

-The pitching staff is in big trouble. Mike Pelfrey is coming back from Tommy John surgery and may struggle with command, at least early in the season. Vance Worley should be a solid starter but isn't going to improve the rotation all by himself. Scott Diamond is a fine pitcher but might not be ready until mid-April. Liam Hendriks has not impressed. Sam Deduno is talented but inefficient. Cole De Vries will open the season as the team's fourth starter simply because he has guts and knows how to execute a game plan.

The bullpen has two guys you want to see with the ball in their hands: Glen Perkins and Jared Burton. Everyone else is either unproven or having a lousy spring.

-The middle of the order could be outstanding. Joe Mauer looks as locked in as I've ever seen him at this juncture of spring training. Justin Morneau is as healthy and optimistic as I've seen him since mid-2010. Josh Willingham is an excellent slugger in his prime. If Hicks and the to-be-determined No. 2 hitter can get on base, this team could score plenty of runs.

-The team's fielding has a chance to be better than last year. Pedro Florimon has excellent range and plenty of arm, and he looks more composed than he did last year, when he made some careless errors. Brian Dozier is playing second base like he has something to prove. Eduardo Escobar is a very good fielder at several positions. Hicks is better than Span in center. He may not quite have Ben Revere's range, but he has 10 times the arm.

Having Morneau's glove at first base should help, too.

-Great to see Doug Mientkiewicz on the back fields, managing Class A Fort Myers. One of the best people I ever covered. I'll have a feature on Doug in the Sunday paper.

-Miguel Sano could be the Twins' starting third baseman on Opening Day, 2014. His bat is already big-league ready. He just needs to work on his footwork at third so he can be serviceable there.

Sano seems like a very affable kid, and he knows how to hit. Mientkiewicz said he already has a big-leaguer's approach and mentality when he steps in the box.

-------

I'll be on Sunday Sports Talk on 1500ESPN from 10-noon on Sunday. My Twitter handle is @Souhanstrib

More Morneau

Posted by: Jim Souhan Updated: March 15, 2013 - 5:53 PM
Had a good talk with Justin Morneau this week for a column that ran in Friday's paper. While the headline mentioned the possibility that he'll be traded, I don't think that's the probability.
I think the Twins value him. He's been a leader, when healthy. He's been an MVP. He's played for reasonable salaries given his status in the game.
If he struggles statistically or physically, then they probably wouldn't be able to trade him for value. If he plays well, I think they'll either offer him a contract extension, or tender an offer that would allow them either to keep him for one more year, or set them up to get a draft pick as compensation if he leaves as a free agent.
Here are the topics of interest that didn't make it into the column:
-How different does he feel this year than last spring, when he was worried about the affects of his concussion? ``There were a lot more question marks last year coming into spring training. Everything this spring has been good. Keep it going for another 7 months and everything will be all right,'' he said with a smile.
-Has it been tougher overcoming the physical or mental hurdles associated with his concussion? ``It’s probably a combination of both. It's one thing to be prepared and feel like you've put the work in, and it's another thing to be confident and know that it's going to last. It's a combination of both, which has been good. Really, everything has been good.''
-How different were his workouts this winter? ``It was huge. I started swinging when I normally would have, just doing everything I needed to do. It was fun. I was actually able to work out during the day and able to function in the afternoon. Before I would do rehab in the morning and sleep three hours in the afternoon. I was able to have a normal winter working out and still able to spend time with the kids and do stuff. It was nice.
``If I wanted to go out on the field and take 100 extra swings, I could. I still have to force myself to limit myself, just because I know the long-term benefits. You want to do well for the first game and sometimes you try and rush that process. No matter how many swings you take there’s nothing that makes up for live pitching, seeing live pitching from other teams. I think I’ve learned that through the years. If it’s not there right away eventually, it will get there if you do the right amount of work.''
-When was the last time you and Joe Mauer both felt completely healthy in the same spring? ``I’ve thought about that. Where I’ve been the last few springs, I've been limited. Gardy hasn't been able to just write down my name in the lineup and go out and play without asking, `How does everything feel today?'
``I think it's the same for Joe. I think that's a good sign. I hope that’s a good sign for our team.''
-Can you believe Joe Mauer is going to have twins? ``It’s good. He’s excited. Both his brothers have kids and I think he enjoys being around families. He’ll find out real soon the difference between being an uncle and a father, especially with twins. He seems like he’s ready.''
Sunday Sports Talk will be quite the operation on Sunday. We're on 10-noon on 1500ESPN. I'm in Fort Myers, Tom Pelissero is in Arizona doing NFL work, and Joe Schmit will host from the studio. Terry Ryan will join from Sarasota.
Please follow me on Twitter at @Souhanstrib.
 

Souhan: The bullpen is a mess

Posted by: Jim Souhan Updated: March 13, 2013 - 9:37 PM

The Twins have three relievers set to be in their bullpen this season: Closer Glen Perkins, setup man Jared Burton and lefty Brian Duensing.

Perkins and Burton are quite good. Duensing is at least a valuable lefty-on-lefty pitcher, and could be more if he can find a way to neutralize righthanded batters.

There are four jobs open, and there are no sure things among the other Twins' relievers in camp.

What else do the Twins have right now? Josh Roenicke got crushed by a mediocre Orioles lineup in the ninth on Wednesday night at Hammond Stadium, and he might still be a lock because he has a track record and is out of options. Tim Wood is also out of options, which might give him a leg up, and Ryan Pressly is a Rule 5 draftee.

Alex Burnett has been unimpressive this spring but may not have to do much to win a spot. Anthony Swarzak injured himself during horseplay at TwinsFest and is likely to start the season on the disabled list. Casey Fien was expected to be a lock but has struggled.

Pedro Hernandez is a lefty who could make the team because of others' failures. Tyler Roberson is another possibility.

The Twins' lineup figures to be productive if the health of Joe Mauer and Justin Morneau is an indication. The rotation should be at least somewhat better than it was a year ago with the additions of Mike Pelfrey and Vance Worley and the expectation that Kyle Gibson will contribute at some point this season. But the bullpen is a mess.

Roenicke figures to survive his meltdown. The staff likes him. And Fien pitched 1 1/3 innings without a blemish on Wednesday.

The team may be dependent on Alex Burnett becoming the pitcher they always thought he should be.

-Brian Dozier had a remarkable game at second base, making plays all over the field and especially ranging to his right.

-Kyle Gibson pitched two innings in relief. Indications are he'll be sent to the minors so he can begin slowly building up his arm strength to prepare him for starting later this season. While the Twins were open to the idea of him starting the season with the big league club, that would have happened only if he had been lights out this spring.

At this point, they'll probably ease him into duty and hope he can come up mid-summer and be at his best.

 

Mauer playing key role

Posted by: Jim Souhan Updated: March 12, 2013 - 11:10 PM
In so many recent springs, Joe Mauer has been concerned with his back, or his knees, or the wear and tear awaiting him during the regular season, that he has eased through camp.
Not this year. He's the top catcher on the USA team in the World Baseball Classic. He says he feels healthier than he has in years, and his at-bats are vintage Mauer.
Tuesday night, he hit cleanup for the US and went 1-for-2 with an RBI double and three walks.
Asked if he's ahead of schedule, Mauer said, ``Well, I just caught nine innings in mid-March, so I'm doing pretty good.''
Ever since TwinsFest, Mauer has seemed more relaxed and healthy than he has in years. At TwinsFest, I asked him when was the last time he felt this way. He couldn't remember.
Now he's not placing any restrictions on his workload.
``I felt pretty good tonight,'' he said. ``Last couple of days I’m feeling pretty good at the plate. I’m feeling good just getting into these games. There's a lot of excitement, It's a playoff-type atmosphere, and the body is feeling pretty good.''
Someone put a picture on Twitter of Mauer and Twins teammate Glen Perkins on a high-school All-Star team. Mauer looks remarkably similar now, while Perkins has grown a mountain-man beard.
Is it safe to say Mauer has aged more gracefully? ``I have no comment on that,'' Mauer said with a smile.
The US plays the Dominican Republic on Thursday night at Marlins Ballpark. Mauer will face fellow Twin Sam Deduno.
Perkins did not pitch on Tuesday night.
--------------------------
I'll be back in Twins camp on Wednesday after spending a day at the WBC. I'll check in on 1500ESPN at noon every weekday. Please follow me on Twitter at @Souhanstrib.
 

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