Spring Training: Day 4
To all, I want to apologize for not posting regular updates over the weekend. Those were the two days that I spent the most time at the ball park, in the sun, and frankly, was exhausted by the time we got back. That said, I still went out to enjoy some dinners. And then I flew back on Sunday, went to my sister’s, went out to eat with her and my brother, shopped at a couple of places, went back to my sister’s place, fell asleep on the couch and fell asleep for the next four hours. When I got up, I rushed to the hotel room, did some work that I meant to complete while on vacation and by then I was ready to fall asleep again. I don’t want to consolidate two blog entries into one, so I will post the Day 4 and Day 5 separately so it doesn’t get too long.
Before we get started on Day 4, here are a couple of topics for you to peruse throughout the day:
· First, according to LaVelle Neal, the Twins sent 14 players back to minor league camp this morning. Among those sent across the parking lot to the minor league complex were top prospects Kyle Gibson, Joe Benson, Chris Parmelee and David Bromberg. All made very strong impressions at big league camp and solidified themselves as prospects who will get time with the Twins. Gibson and Bromberg were not really in the mix for a big league starting spot, and so it is time to send them back so that they can get stretched out so they are prepared for the start of their seasons. The others sent back were Anthony Swarzak, Erik Hacker, and Rene Tosoni from the 40 man roster. Yorman Bazardo, Jair Fernandez, Chris Herrmann, Ray Chang, Brian Dozier and Justin Huber were non-roster invitees that were sent down.
· In Florida, I hung out primarily with Topper Anton and Nick Nelson, so be sure to check out their websites for any of their thoughts on the trip. But it was also great to meet so many of you. We met a few guys from North Dakota and chatted with them each day. We met some others who recognized us (and bought us a beverage) and then hung out with them at various times. It was great to meet Greg Lehmann and his wife. I met a lot of people. It was really terrific to be down there and even to be recognized by a few people.
· Parker Hageman from Over The Baggy was also in Ft. Myers last week. We saw him at the ballpark on Tuesday. Today, he posted some Twins Notes as well, including his observations on David Bromberg and Deolis Guerra.
Day 4 (Friday)
Day 4 began a little bit late. Nick, Topper and I got to the stadium around 10:15. Immediately, we were able to get some tickets to the day’s game, so that was a relief. When we got to the field, we immediately ran into Ed Thoma who writes the tremendous Baseball Outsider blog for the Mankato Free Press although that is only a very, very small part of his job for the newspaper. He has been doing a great job looking at the various bullpen candidates lately, but he is just a great baseball man. He is very knowledgeable. He was spending time down there with his wife, and it was just a great chance to meet him.
While there, we watched batting practice for awhile and ran into some others we had met. We went by the batting cage under Hammond Stadium and saw Denard Span hitting line drive after line drive and Delmon Young just destroying baseballs into the screen. Danny Lehmann was working by himself with a pitching machine, taking swings and hitting line drives back up the middle for what seemed like an hour.
Brian Dozier, Jose Mijares and Trevor Plouffe all signed for fans on there way between the batting practice field and the stadium. Paul Molitor was there, talking to an old friend from his time with the Brewers. Gardy was on the practice field, spending a good ten minutes just talking to a few of the fans and answering questions.
Of course, then I wanted to walk down to minor league camp. They reported Thursday. On Friday morning, they had their physicals, and then they had to do the one-mile run. It is an annual first day of minor league camp thing, just to see where the guys are. They were broken into four groups of pitchers and four groups of hitters based on minor league level or work group that they are starting in. First up was the Rochester pitchers, then the New Britain pitchers and so on. Coaches and teammates cheer them on and encourage. Or, sometimes they mock and ridicule. It was quite interesting to observe. I mean, I’m not one to watch people run. There is no way I’d ever watch a one-mile track meet event. But it was interesting to listen to the interaction and for me, to try to put names to faces that I’ve read about and written so much about. They were mainly in Twins shorts and shirts, no names, so it was much more difficult than you would think.
The general observation is that many of the players just look so young and so small, smaller than you assume based on what we see in the big leagues. Of course, it’s also important to remember that these players are primarily 17 to 21 year olds, and you can see just how young many of them are. It is also interesting to note that some of the players come in very much ready for the mile run, and others don’t do it at all throughout the offseason. While I was watching, I noticed a gentleman who was observing and looking at his watch from time to time. I asked him if he had a son playing or something. He said No, that he was an agent and just watching. His name was Rich Thompson and he had played 13 seasons of professional baseball in the ‘80s and early ‘90s. He made his big league debut and went 3-8 with a 6.30 ERA in 57 games for Cleveland in 1985. He then resurfaced as a 30 year old in 1989 with the Expos and posted a 2.18 ERA in 19 more games. He pitched a scoreless inning for the Expos in 1990, his last time in the big leagues.
He told me that when he played, they ran the mile and if they didn’t finish under 6 minutes, they had to do it again the next day until they did achieve that mark. While watching the Twins minor leaguers run the mile, they were encouraged and the goal was 6:30.Most finished within about 10-15 seconds of that mark, but probably less than a handful achieved the six minute mark. Three guys really stood out. Matt Tone and Tony Davis both finished at about 5:30 seconds. Brad Tippett and Shooter Hunt ran it very quickly. Adrian Salcedo finished at about 5:15 and he was pretty much sprinting around the field. While Tone and Davis are not tall, Salcedo is long and lanky, with very long arms and legs.
It was fun just to be there and try to recognize faces. As someone told me later, “Tomorrow (Saturday), we’ll wear uniforms with our names on the back just for you.” I appreciate that!
At that point, it was time to get to Hammond Stadium as the Twins-Red Sox game was about to get started. I got inside just as Brian Duensing was throwing his first pitches to Jacoby Ellsbury. I met Nick and Topper at our seats which were nearly behind home plate, and in the second level, but a great view. Duensing looked very good through two innings at which time I tweeted, “DuensingForCY.” I went to go find a high school friend who was at the game, so I missed most of the third inning when he got hit around a little bit.
Being there for Justin Morneau’s first at bat in a semi-official game since last July was pretty neat. When his name was announced, he got a very nice standing ovation which was great to see. Sure, he struck out against Jon Lester, but that really didn’t matter. Other notes from that game:
· The Twins had a long inning against Jonathan Papelbon in the middle innings. In fact, Papelbon got just one out before being replaced. Jeff Manship was warming up the whole time. Manship came in and after a leadoff single, he got a quick double play and a strikeout. Despite a lack of pitches, I assumed he would be done because of all of the time in the bullpen. Instead, he came out for a second inning and had another very quick inning. It was great to see him pitch well after struggling on Tuesday. In fact, after the game, I was walking out of the stadium and he was out there in street clothes chatting with some friends or family. He saw me approaching and called me over. He said, “I’m glad you got to see that outing and not just Tuesday’s game!” I laughed and asked if he was surprised to go out there for the second inning after warming up for a week and a half. We chatted for just a few minutes, but it was good to talk to him again on such a positive note.
· The single off of Manship was for David Ortiz. When he got to 1st base, he started chopping Jeff Bailey’s back, like a massage. Of course, the two spent a lot of time together as teammates in the Red Sox system. Bailey was up three times, and they certainly spent spring trainings together.
· Carlos Gutierrez got to pitch an inning. I don’t trust the Hammond Stadium radar gun. For most of this day, fastballs were not touching 90, so when Gutierrez’s fastball was saying 92 mph, we took notice.
· He was helped by a tremendous play by catcher Danny Lehmann. With a runner on first and two outs, Gutierrez threw one in the dirt. When it bounced, the runner took off for 2nd base, but Lehmann had backhanded it, and it popped right into his right hand. He made a strong throw to second base, and after way too many throws, he was tagged out.
· Kyle Waldrop came in for the 9th inning of the 3-2 lead, and he struck out the side. He has never been a big strikeout pitcher, but he dominated in that inning.
· Ben Revere showed his speed. In this game, he bunted down the third base line, and although the third baseman was playing in, he got a single when the 3B didn’t field the ball. His game-changing kind of speed is noticeable in that it forces the defense to make plays. Later, he was on second base and easily stole third. Finally, when he was on 3B, he scored easily on a medium deep fly ball to left field. Coupled with the play he made on Tuesday, diving in the left centerfield gap, he is very close. I still think he needs to continue his development, but it’s good to know that if there is an injury in LF or CF, he can come up and contribute.
Friday night ended by going to Fernandez the Bull for supper. It is a Cuban restaurant in Naples. Although Nick Nelson finds it to be the greatest restaurant in the history of the world, I found it to be just OK. After dinner, we went to a place and listened to some karaoke for awhile. Then headed back to get a little bit of sleep before another long day on Saturday.
Later, I will post my thoughts and experiences from Saturday which was a very long, but very great day. I was at minor league camp from about 10:30 until 3 and tried to see everyone do everything (which was impossible with almost 150 players, but I tried). If you like, please feel free to comment, ask questions.