March 2008


Monroe gets nod over Kubel as DH

Monday, March 31st, 2008

Craig Monroe will start at designated hitter tonight, as the Twins face the Angels in their season opener at the Metrodome. Jason Kubel is on the bench.

“Tonight, I just wanted to see that guy [Monroe] out there,” Manager Ron Gardenhire said. “He’s been having a good spring, drives the ball and all those things. Put him out there tonight, and tomorrow might be a different story.”

Twins

1. Carlos Gomez, CF

2. Joe Mauer, C

3. Michael Cuddyer, RF

4. Justin Morneau, 1B

5. Delmon Young, LF

6. Craig Monroe, DH

7. Mike Lamb, 3B

8. Brendan Harris, 2B

9. Adam Everett, SS

Starting pitcher: RH Livan Hernandez

Angels

1. Chone Figgins, 3B

2. Gary Matthews Jr., DH

3. Vladimir Guerrero, RF

4. Garrett Anderson, LF

5. Torii Hunter, CF

6. Casey Kotchman, 1B

7. Howie Kendrick, 2B

8. Mike Napoli, C

9. Maicer Izturis, SS

Starting pitcher: RH Jered Weaver

Metrodome. First pitch: 6:05 p.m.

Will the Twins see ‘a completely different Livan?’

Monday, March 31st, 2008

When Livan Hernandez struggled early in spring training, he said the light would come on March 31. So here we are, on March 31, getting ready for his eighth career Opening Day start and his first season in the hitter-friendly American League.

Hernandez went 2-2 with a 6.38 ERA in six starts this spring, allowing 31 hits and five walks in 24 innings. On paper, the Angels would seem to have a tremendous advantage tonight, with righthander Jered Weaver on the mound. He went 5-0 with a 1.37 ERA this spring, allowing just 18 hits and three walks in 26 1/3 innings.

I have no idea what to expect, but I believe Hernandez when he talks about taking his game to a different level. Early this spring, I found an article in the Washington Post, previewing Livan’s Game 3 start for Arizona in last year’s NLCS.

It mentioned how Livan led the majors with 247 hits allowed and was second in opponent’s batting average (.308), on-base percentage (.371) and slugging percentage (.499). And it mentioned this quote by Diamondbacks first baseman Conor Jackson:

“It’s truly unbelievable because he comes into spring training, and he gets hit. He gets hit in spring training, and you’re like, ‘Oh my gosh.’ And then he gets in the regular season, and it’s a completely different Livan.”

For what it’s worth, Hernandez took the loss against the Cubs in Game 3. But the score was 1-1 entering the sixth inning. You can argue the Twins were wrong to pick Hernandez as their Opening Day starter. He might surprise and he might stumble. But whatever happens, I don’t think it’ll have anything to do with jitters.

Baker passes final test

Sunday, March 30th, 2008

Three quick items from today’s Twins workout at the Metrodome:

(*) Scott Baker tossed six innings for Class AAA Rochester today in Fort Myers, Fla., holding Class AA New Britain to one run on five hits, with no walks and three strikeouts. He threw 71 pitches. Twins manager Ron Gardenhire said Baker will start Friday against Kansas City.

(*) Kevin Slowey said he felt better, one day after pitching with flu symptoms against the Pirates.  So the rotation to open the season will be: Livan Hernandez, Boof Bonser, Nick Blackburn, Slowey and Baker.

(*) Gardenhire did not say whether Craig Monroe or Jason Kubel would be his DH for Monday’s season opener. Gardenhire said he wanted to look at the numbers again.

The Angels will start RHP Jered Weaver. The lefthanded hitting Kubel is 1-for-5 off him for his career compared to 0-for-3 for the righthanded hitting Monroe.

Twins set spring attendance mark … again

Friday, March 28th, 2008

FORT MYERS — The Twins broke their spring training attendance record again this year, drawing 7,808 fans per game, bettering the mark of 7,620 set last year.

They definitely have a good thing going here. They sold out 14 of 16 games at Hammond Stadium, and the place was mostly full for the other two games.

It’s a sign of baseball’s popularity, and this area is booming population-wise. But you can drive to Sarasota, Dunedin, Bradenton, Jupiter and Fort Lauderdale (to name a few) and find plenty of good seats available, so these folks must be doing something right.

(Only recommendation I have for next year is to lower the volume on the PA system a few notches, soften the tone and let the baseball sell itself. Also, a note to the commissioner’s office: Look at the lineups the visiting teams used here. They are supposed to bring four regulars, but several Twins opponents ignored that edict.)

Anyway, there’s nothing like baseball in the hot sun. I left the press box and watched a couple innings from stands today, just to soak it all in. I fly home tonight, and I can’t wait to see my wife, but I’ll miss this place, and I know my roommate La Velle will, too.

Gomez aims to return no later than Saturday

Thursday, March 27th, 2008

FORT MYERS — Twins center fielder Carlos Gomez said he’ll be back in the lineup no later than Saturday after being scratched from today’s game with soreness behind his left knee.

Gomez left Wednesday’s game with cramping in his left hamstring and talked his way into making Thursday’s trip to Sarasota to play the Reds. He took batting practice and Gardenhire had him in the lineup before Gomez reluctantly told him he had lingering soreness in the leg.

“Maybe play him tomorrow or the next day,” Manager Ron Gardenhire said. “He’s got soreness in there. Silly to run out there right now.”

SHORT HOPS

(*) Former Twins outfield prospect Alex Romero beat out Trot Nixon for the Arizona Diamondbacks’ final roster spot today. Romero hit .333 this spring after batting .310 last year for Class AAA Tucson. The Twins lost Romero on waivers in January 2007.

(*) Gardenhire confirmed that the team is considering letting Nick Blackburn start the third game of the season, which would push Kevin Slowey into the No. 4 slot, but Gardenhire said that was one of several ideas being tossed around. A lot hinges on Friday’s start for Francisco Liriano.

(*) After Livan Hernandez told us he successfully kicked a ball to first base for an out last year with Arizona, I went searching for details and found none on the Internet. Hernandez said it was a regular season game, and that he kicked the ball to Tony Clark.

Sure enough, Clark, now with the Padres, responded to an e-mail to East Valley (Ariz.) Tribune writer Jack Magruder with the following:

I think I remember him rolling it to me. I don’t recall whether he batted it with his glove or kicked it, but he did roll it to me!
Be well… TC

(*) Apparently, there is video of Livan’s kick. A Fort Myers TV station has it, I think, but it wasn’t zoomed enough apparently and doesn’t do it justice.

I typed the words “Livan Hernandez” into YouTube, and all I found were clips of the Twins’ Opening Night starter giving up home runs. There’s Hideki Matsui, Barry Bonds’ 750th, etc.

UPDATE: Hat tip to Jared for linking to footage of The Livan Kick at the end of this sportscast from Sioux Falls, S.D.