This year the Pick to Click ballot box was left open a little bit longer than in the past, allowing readers to draw from a larger sample of games before making their bold predictions.
And the voting reflected it. Fans complained during spring training about Tommy Milone winning the battle to be the Twins’ No. 5 starter. Funny, Milone received a lot of support to be the pitcher to click this year — that gem in Chicago must have done it — but he fell a little short of victory.
Votes were registered online at the Twins Insider blog, on Twitter and in person by two guys who ran into me near Target Center. Votes were cast for Byron Buxton, Miguel Sano, Josmil Pinto, Aaron Hicks, Eddie Rosario and Alex Meyer — players who aren’t in the majors. The Twins fans base is obviously frustrated with the current major league roster.
Remember that the Pick to Click exercise is to predict which pitcher and which position player will have big years for the Twins this season. And this season, we agreed on both.
Pitcher: Kyle Gibson
Fans selected Gibson last year, too, and 13-12 isn’t shabby for a pitcher in his first full season in the majors. But Phil Hughes (my pick last year) pitched better and could have made a run at 20 wins with better run support.
Gibson looks primed to bump up his victory total this season. Most pitchers know what they need to do to be successful — spot their fastball, mix their pitches, pitch inside. Somehow, many forget all that during the walk from the bullpen to the mound. Gibson has shown signs that he won’t be one of them.
After Gibson shut down a pretty decent Royals lineup on Wednesday, manager Paul Molitor said, “He threw some really nice sequences to a lot of different hitters.”
Now with a little experience, and more confidence in his changeup, Gibson could click this year.
Position player: Joe Mauer
And, yes, we both agreed on Mauer. I find this one interesting, considering the Mauer blowback we get around here, but No. 7 is coming off a good offseason of workouts and spent spring training working on hitting the ball to right field.
Instead of grounding out to second on inside pitches, he’s lining a few to right field now. Last year, Mauer was 15-for-26 when swinging at the first pitch. He swung at the first pitch more in spring training this year and is 1-for-3 in the regular season — evidence that he’s adjusting to how he’s being pitched.
“He’s getting his hits, he’s had a couple big hits to drive in runs,” Molitor said. “He’s kept innings extended, he’s taking his walks, making pitchers work. I think he’s doing fine and he’s feeling really good.”
Both Gibson and Mauer have gotten off to decent starts. Let’s see how they handle the enormous pressure of having Pick to Click status placed on them.
The Twins won’t face Cleveland righthander Trevor Bauer this weekend, and that might be a good thing. Bauer began the season with nine hitless innings — six in his first start against the Astros and three in his second start against the White Sox. He is the first Indians pitcher to do that since Bob Feller in 1940.
Until the ninth inning Friday night, Royals catcher Salvador Perez had played every inning this season. The 2014 Gold Glove winner entered Saturday batting .405, so his bat is required in Kansas City’s offense. Manager Ned Yost might rest him Sunday, but Perez played in 150 games last season.
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Jealous White Sox fans see that the Cubs have called up mega-prospect Kris Bryant and want the same done for lefthander Carlos Rodon, who has a 3.60 ERA over his first two Class AAA starts. John Danks and Hector Noesi have struggled as the fourth and fifth starters, adding fuel to the fire.
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Max Scherzer is gone. Rick Porcello is gone. Justin Verlander is injured. But somehow the Tigers were 9-1 before Saturday’s blowout loss to Chris Sale and the White Sox. It was the third time the Tigers have started a season 9-1. The other two times, they won the World Series.
Three observations …
• Who taught Lorenzo Cain how to hit? He has become one of the best players in the game. Just stay healthy.
• MLB is encouraged to fine anyone who violates the pace-of-play rules put in place this year. The shorter games are a delight. Great for families.
• Is it too early to wonder about the Yankees finishing in last place in the AL East?
... and two predictions
• Cubs third base prospect Kris Bryant will hit four home runs before April is over. He was called up on Friday.
• Miguel Sano will be called up by the Twins before Byron Buxton.