Q & A


Part III — The Durbin factor, etc.

Saturday, February 24th, 2007

Here’s the last of this week’s 10 questions. Thanks to your help, I think we’re off to a good start with this. Let’s do it again every now and then throughout the season. 

8. Matty asks: With Garza, Perkins, and Slowey looking like the strongest options should Ponson and/or Ortiz falter early, is there any sentiment in camp to consider Scott Baker and/or JD Durbin as bullpen options? It looks like a long shot for either to crack into the rotation and they have too much potential to just let their options run out.

In Part I, I offered my thoughts on Baker, and as for Durbin, he’s a total X-factor for me. Watched him throw in the bullpen Thursday, and he has some eye-opening stuff. It’s a shame he got injured last season (nerve damage in his right biceps) because he had a 2.33 ERA at Rochester before getting shut down for the season in late June.

I bet you this: The Twins won’t just cut him and lose him to waivers. They’ll either put him on the roster or trade him. He could be part of a package deal, with one of their relievers and another minor-league pitching prospect for something pretty good, maybe a veteran starter to plug into the rotation if others are stumbling.

9. Tony asks: What are the chances that LeCroy actually gets a spot on the Twins roster and possibly being the DH? A few years ago he had so much potential everyone talked about and if he gets the chance to play everyday could have some serious power.

I think LeCroy will go to Rochester, where he’d be available as a right-handed bat if the Twins needed him. What a luxury for this organization to have him working with their prospects, a la Crash Davis, mentoring the likes of Perkins, Garza, Kevin Slowey, Denard Span and Alexi Casilla. Someday soon, LeCroy will be a minor-league manager, working his way back to the bigs.

10. Justin asks: Tyner or Ford? I believe one or both need to go. Sweet Lew seems to have taken several steps backward and I believe Tyner is cheaper.

I see the point you’re making, especially if Jason Kubel’s knees prove healthy enough this spring for him to start playing outfield again. For now, it looks like both Tyner and Ford will make the roster, which would give the Twins six outfielders, including Rondell White, Torii Hunter and Michael Cuddyer. With Tyner’s emergence, I was surprised the Twins kept Ford, who was arbitration eligible and wound up getting a raise from $425,000 to $975,000. The Twins are convinced they can get Ford turned around, closer to his 2004 form. I’m not as convinced, but if they’re right, he’d be another potential trade chip.

 

 

Answers to your questions, Part II

Saturday, February 24th, 2007

5. M.C. from Alaska asks: Joltin’ Joe, about Liriano, I keep wondering — what is the range of performance after an injury like this? How close to previous performance are pitchers after an injury and surgery? I mean there must be some chance Liriano is never coming back.

The Twins have history on their side with this one. Off the top of my hand, I can think of a few guys who had Tommy John surgery and continued to have arm problems: Darren Dreifort and Eric Gagne come to mind. But here’s a list of Tommy John survivors and thrivers: Chris Carpenter, John Smoltz, Mariano Rivera, Billy Wagner. Since this is Liriano we’re talking about, you want a lefthander who had the surgery, came back and continued to rely on a sharp breaking ball over a long career? How about David Wells?

6. TwinsTerritory asks: Will you be around the minor league camp?

I should make it there a couple times this spring. After all, it’s right across the parking lot from where I’m sitting at Hammond Stadium. I know there are a lot of good stories over there. I want to check in on Loek Van Mil, the 7-foot-1 pitcher from the Netherlands we wrote about last spring.

7. Trevor Born asks: To the nearest tenth of a pound, how much does Sidney Ponson weigh? … OK, really, when is Jeff Cirillo going to show up? What’s your opinion on his acquisition along with Ken Harvey’s?

It’s fine to take a flier on Harvey, but I don’t think he’ll make the team, barring someone else’s injury. As for Cirillo, who arrived mid-week, I thought it was a nice move for the Twins. A versatile veteran defender, who hit .413 against lefties last year.

Answers to your questions, Part I

Saturday, February 24th, 2007

OK, I promised some answers to your questions today and since my editors keep urging me to keep my posts short, I decided to send these out in waves. Please, check back later for some more, but here goes:

Hello Joe,

I am looking forward to another year of Twins baseball. However, I would have liked to see them go out and get a little bit more pitching help. What are your thoughts on Glen Perkins making the club this year? What is your take on the stadium fiasco? (Only in Minnesota) Finally, Where is a good place to eat down in Fort Myers? Thanks!

– Brian

1. Watching Glen Perkins pitch at Fenway Park last year was about all I needed to know this kid can handle big-time pressure. That said, he pretty much skipped Triple-A, other than his impressive performance in the International League playoffs. I feel the same way about Perkins as I do about Matt Garza. I think he’s going to be a terrific major league pitcher. But another stint at Rochester (1-3 months) will help guarantee that he gets that last bit of polish pitchers need before reaching the big time.

People are blasting the Twins for inviting Ramon Ortiz and Sidney Ponson into camp. But if you want to see real mistakes, watch teams that rush promising but unpolished pitchers by placing them on an opening day roster. The pressure is extraordinary because the expectations immediately are set so high. Most young pitchers are going to be up-and-down as rookies, and those downs can do major damage to their psyches.

2. As for the stadium fiasco, that’s a good word. I wish I had a crystal ball to tell how this thing’s going to end. We have other reporters covering the stadium issue. All I can tell you is this impasse over the land isn’t sitting well with Twins officials.

3. A good place to eat in Fort Myers? The waits are so long just to get seated, I shouldn’t give any secrets here. But there’s a nice little Italian place called Nino’s in a strip mall near Hammond Stadium. I highly recommend it to you on any night I’m not waiting for a table.

4. Qualler asks: What about Scott Baker? How is he fitting into the rotation?

I came to Fort Myers picking Baker as the sleeper to make the Opening Day roster. He made it last year, but proceeded to have a season (5-8, 6.37) that left everyone skeptical about his big league future. But here’s the thing: He’s only 25, and if you scroll through his minor-league numbers, you’ll see success at every level. I can tell the Twins are down on him. They have probably missed their best window to trade him for optimum value (last offseason). But he came to camp in great shape, and I’m letting him have this year (not just this spring) as a make-or-break season. Even if he begins the year at Rochester, I think he could eventually help this year’s team like Garza and Perkins.

Q & A time. But first, some ground rules…

Wednesday, February 21st, 2007

Saturday is shaping up as a good day for me to answer some reader questions. I’ve had some good ones e-mailed to me this week, and a couple have popped up in the comments section.

I’m still getting the hang of this, trying to keep these entries short. And sometimes it’s hard answering good questions without a long answer. The problem is time. If you’re keeping up with all the Star Tribune baseball content this spring — La Velle’s blog, Howard’s blog, our daily features, notebooks and rails — you might realize how frenzied the pace has been down here. I’m not much of a golfer, I don’t expect to spend much time on the beach, but for sanity’s sake, we need to pace ourselves.

So, I’ll probably answer about 5-10 of the most relevant questions you have. Don’t be offended if I skip yours, but feel free to fire away about all things baseball, near and far. There’s almost no chance I’ll answer your fantasy baseball questions here (ie: Alex Rios or Matt Cain? No offense Corey D. – just don’t think the rest of the rest of the readers care).

But let’s cut to the heart of some important issues. This time of year, many of you might see more baseball stories on the Internet than I do, so drop me a link if you think it’ll help. OK, I’ll get this party started:

“Hey Joe, you were the genius who said ‘Tigers in four’ to win the World Series. Now that they have Sheffield, are you ready to predict an AL Central title for Detroit?

– J.C., Fort Myers, Fla.

(Check back Saturday for some answers…)

Q & A time. But first, some ground rules…

Wednesday, February 21st, 2007

Saturday is shaping up as a good day for me to answer some reader questions. I’ve had some good ones e-mailed to me this week, and a couple have popped up in the comments section.

I’m still getting the hang of this, trying to keep these entries short. And sometimes it’s hard answering good questions without a long answer. The problem is time. If you’re keeping up with all the Star Tribune baseball content this spring — La Velle’s blog, Howard’s blog, our daily features, notebooks and rails — you might realize how frenzied the pace has been down here. I’m not much of a golfer, I don’t expect to spend much time on the beach, but for sanity’s sake, we need to pace ourselves.

So, I’ll probably answer about 5-10 of the most relevant questions you have. Don’t be offended if I skip yours, but feel free to fire away about all things baseball, near and far. There’s almost no chance I’ll answer your fantasy baseball questions here (ie: Alex Rios or Matt Cain? No offense Corey D. – just don’t think the rest of the rest of the readers care).

But let’s cut to the heart of some important issues. This time of year, many of you might see more baseball stories on the Internet than I do, so drop me a link if you think it’ll help. OK, I’ll get this party started:

“Hey Joe, you were the genius who said ‘Tigers in four’ to win the World Series. Now that they have Sheffield, are you ready to predict an AL Central title for Detroit?

– J.C., Fort Myers, Fla.

(Check back Saturday for some answers…)