TAMPA, FLA. - The Twins have been playing exhibition games for a week along the Gulf Coast of Florida. There has not been an overabundance of positives to come out of these three victories, three losses and one rainout.
Manager Ron Gardenhire and the on-field staff have offered numerous compliments to Brian Buscher, the third baseman who came to Florida as a longshot to make the club.
Among starting pitchers, there have been accolades for the trimmer version of Boof Bonser and good reviews after the first two glimpses at rookie Nick Blackburn.
General Manager Bill Smith, Gardenhire and the rest of the brain trust have gained even more confidence Delmon Young will be a tremendous force in the lineup in 2008 -- and then take off from there.
"He's very excited to be here; he's done everything we've asked," Gardenhire said before Wednesday's game against the Yankees. "He moved over to left field.
"... He has a chance to keep working and to be a really good ballplayer. He has a lot to learn -- he'll tell you that -- but he's growing as a hitter, getting better and better. He has a lot of talent."
Two hours later, Young came to the plate with one out in the second. The pitcher was righthander Ian Kennedy, a rookie projected to be the Yankees' fifth starter. He also was the pitcher the Twins wanted added to a deal that would have included phenom Philip Hughes and center fielder Melky Cabrera for a lefty named Johan Santana.
Young drove a Kennedy fastball to center field that looked as if might short-hop the fence. This ball stayed on its line and ricocheted off the batter's eye for Young's first home run of the spring.
Young and Kennedy came through the youth baseball ranks in Southern California. They played together on summer teams.
"We're good friends," Kennedy said. "I'll e-mail him tonight and say, 'You're welcome.' "
Prior to Kennedy making this postgame revelation, a reporter was talking to Young and made the comment that Kennedy "doesn't look like he throws very hard."
Young shook his head and said: "He's only had a couple of innings. He's just getting his stuff ready. He's going to be very good."
As it turns out, Delmon was defending a buddy.
Asked about the home run, Young said: "I'm looking to make solid contact and I knew I had done that. I had no clue off the bat if it had enough carry. It was my first home run since last season, so the feel wasn't there."
Young's final home run in 2007 came on Sept. 23 against Boston's Tim Wakefield. When you hit the last one off a Wakefield floater, it makes it tough to remember what a real bomb feels like.
Young singled to right field off Jonathan Albaladejo in the sixth, putting him at 5-for-10 in this early spring.
He also had an adventure on Jorge Posada's fly ball. Young lost it in the hazy sun and stumbled backwards as he made the catch. So far, he hasn't looked all that comfortable with this move from right field to left.
"It hasn't been bad so far," Young said of his new position. "I haven't had the play that worries me some. I'm waiting for A-Rod [Alex Rodriguez] or another strong hitter to hit a bullet right at me and see how I'm going to handle it. That might be tough."
Young's home run was the game's first for the Twins. Garrett Jones followed with a two-run bomb off the Yankees' Joba Chamberlain. Buscher also had another line-drive hit.
These are two lefthanded hitters the Twins would like on the bench -- but only one can make the club. Unless, Jason Kubel's first week of lifeless at-bats continues through March ... then what?
"Kubel proved he can hit the second half [of 2007]," Gardenhire said. "I've decided that with him what you see is what you're going to get. He's going to be that speed. And when he turns it up a notch, we don't notice.
"It's not that much of a notch."
Patrick Reusse can be heard weekdays on AM-1500 KSTP at 6:45 and 7:45 a.m. and 4:40 p.m. • email@example.com