By La Velle
The Twins are back in the Twin Cities after dropping two of three games to Kansas City. As I found out while cruising the clubhouse afterward, the players know they haven’t played their best baseball.
This is one month of six, so it’s unrealistic to expect the Twins, or any team, to play top ball all season long. The Dodge and the Mets look good, and the Red Sox just took it to the Yankees. That’s not enough of a reason to begin the playoffs now.
The Twins are 11-7. They were 7-11 at the same point last season. Which one would you rather have? And several players took the big picture view, pointing out that being 11-7 after the way they have played bodes well.
However, there are some concerns.
For the most part, the Twins are doing what they should do against lesser competition and with the home schedule they have in April. If this is horse racing, they will step up in class later this week when they play at Detroit.
And have you looked at their opponents in May? Boston, White Sox, Detroit, Cleveland, an improved Brewers team, Toronto. The baserunning must be tightened up. The offense needs a healthy Rondell White. Ramon Ortiz must prove the first four starts were for real. Sidney Ponson has to find his command. Playing the way they have will not yield a 11-7 record over 18 games against those teams.
Several people already have thrown out trade suggestions. Hold off on those. Most GM’s use the first 6-8 weeks to see what develops before making adjustments. Of the five Twins starters, Ponson would be the likely one on the hot seat. But he’s expected to get the ball a few more times. It helps when three-fifths of your rotation is giving you a chance to win.
Rondell White and Jeff Cirillo really could have helped this club against the lefties they faced last week. White could be ready in the next few days, but Cirillo won’t be back for several weeks, which is a blow. I think everyone expected White to be activated by now and Josh Rabe sent to the minors.
Gardy told me a couple of days ago that he feels that Jason Kubel can hit lefties and will get his shots. But Gardy has used the Tom Kelly approach to not letting the bench get stale and has given Rabe some at-bats against lefties. The letters, `DH,’ next to Mike Redmond’s name just doesn’t look right, but he was going good last week and Gardy decided to use him. I talked to Kubel about this over the weekend, and he’s not worried about getting more at-bats; he knows his time is coming.
Jason Bartlett’s errors have been puzzling. There have been a few times when he’s fallen down while going to his left and catching the ball when he usually stays on his feet. So maybe his groin muscle pull is affecting him some.
Alexi Casilla sure has a lot of talent. He can fly and has a rocket arm. It’s good that he’s around to fill in for Luis Castillo when he’s banged up and Bartlett when he needs a break. Don’t know about you, but I think Casilla should stay with the club the rest of the season.
As for Castillo, I think the club would consider putting him on the disabled list if they had someone ready to call up – or someone ready to be activated (White). Castillo will need his days off, but there’s nothing like a player in a contract season, and I expect Castillo to get into the lineup as soon as he can.
So White and Castillo need to get healthy. Ponson and Boof Bonser need to produce. Bartlett needs both. And the heart of the order needs to keep doing what it’s doing. That’s all.
I tried to cover a few areas here. Let’s see how the Twins respond this week and the schedule begins to get more challenging.