preseason


Picks to Click, 2009. The polls are open.

Friday, April 3rd, 2009

In 2007, you selected Jason Kubel and Matt Garza – yes the Matt Garza who didn’t even break camp with the team.

In 2008, you selected Delmon Young and Scott Baker – perhaps a year early?

Well, 2009 is here – and another chance to get it right.

The rules are simple here. Give me a position player and a pitcher you think will have a big year this year. I have begged in past years for you to list just ONE of each but still receive multiple selections. So I’ve come to grips with the fact that the decision-making process for some of you is too terrifying for you to settle on one person. So if you pick two, the first one you list will be counted.

The polls will close once Francisco Liriano throws the first pitch of the season. Have fun. Debate.

Thoughts on Joe Crede

Friday, April 3rd, 2009

I wrote a piece about new Twins third baseman Joe Crede in today’s ink editions in which the Twins players I spoke with clearly feel like they are getting someone closer to the the 2006 version who hit .283 with 30 homers and 94 RBI and not the version who played in just 144 games because of back problems.

If Crede can stay on the field, I think he’ll be better than any Twins third baseman since Corey Koskie.

O.K. that’s not setting the bar high. But I do think we need to manage our expectations with Crede’s production.

First of all, will Crede hold up? Whenever someone has back surgery, you have too be concerned. But Randy Johnson overcame back surgery to have a pretty decent career.

But Crede has had his back invaded twice by surgical tools. He can say he’s healthy now, but we won’t know until the season is over if he it holds up. Crede told me earlier this week his back feels great. I have to believe him, especially when he was willing to nearly tumble over a railing earlier this week to catch a foul ball against Tampa Bay.

Ray righthander Matt Garza told me after the game that he thought Crede was nuts for laying out like that.

“I was like, `Dude, what are you doing?’ ” Garza said. “Doesn’t he want to play with his kids later in life?”

 Crede said his back has given him no trouble other than normal pre-season stiffness, and he’s got a pretty good maintenance program.

“Just stretching,” he said. “I ride a bike a lot. There’s a lot of back exercises I have gotten in my rehab program this year and I just stick with the same plan. We’ve got a plan for five days a week and just maintain it and build my strength up so I can last longer throughout the season.”

Crede’s career 162-game averages: .257 avg. 25 homers, 86 RBI, .306 OBP, .753 OPS.

With Brian Buscher around to give Crede a break, I think the season is a victory if Crede can play more than the 144 games he played over the past two seasons.

My threshold: .260 avg. 18 homers, 74 RBI. If he blows that out of the water, then the Twins made a great sign. But after two back surgeries, I think he expectations should be lower. And Buscher deserves to play a little.

I’ll leave you to consume Crede’s spring training history. I was curious to see if there was a correlation for him between spring numbers and regular season success (I just remember how he reported to camp and told Gardy that he needed A LOT of spring at-bats.).

Keep in mind that Crede’s productive years were from 2003-2006.

Year      G  AB  H HR RBI  .AVG

2009    16  48   8   1     5    .167
2008    12  37   5   1      1    .135
2007    19  60 22  2      9    .367
2006    22  64 20  1      6    .313
2005    23  66 18  2      9    .273
2004    19  56 20  2     11    .357
2003    22  72 22  4     11    .306
2002    23  50 19  0      7    .380

 Minor league cuts: The Twins have cut several minor leaguers this week:

Lefthander Kyle Aselton – an 11th round pick in 2004.

Third baseman Garrett Olson – FOURTH round pick in 2006  

Outfielder Edward Ovalle – watched him get two hits the day before being cut.

First baseman Johnny Woodard – THIRD round pick in 2003.

Second baseman Jenfred Brito - signed in 2005 out of Venezuela.

Shortstop Javier Brown -  39th round pick in 2008.

Catcher Andres Diaz – 43rd round pick in 2007.

Pitcher Danny Santiesteban – 39th round pick in 2005, drafted as an outfielder but switched to the mound last year.

Morneau scractched. Roster moves. Lineups are up. Henry Sanchez crushes one

Tuesday, March 31st, 2009

 Twins first baseman Justin Morneau was scratched today after this back tightened up during batting practice. “Not a big deal,” he said. The Twins decided not to risk any further injury. Brock Peterson replaced Morneau at first base.

Catcher Jose Morales was told this morning that he will begin the season with the major league club. He began having flashbacks to events over  the past couple of years, debuting in Chicago, injuring his ankle, trying to play on a bad ankle last year before having season-ending surgery.

“Then I started crying,” he said.

Two weeks ago, Drew Butera looked to have the edge to be on the Opening Day roster, as he was stronger defensively (which goes a long way with the pitching staff). But Morales made up enough ground since then to get the nod. He’s a switch-hitter with a good bat, which is a plus.

“We had a very, very tough decision on this one,” Twins general manager Bill Smith said. “Both Drew Butera and Jose Morales have played very well this year. Ultimately, Morales is an offensive catcher. Butera is a very good defensive catcher. And I think Jose has had a little more experience. He’s played at triple-A. We wanted to give him this chance.

“He’s a good fit with Mike Redmond. And Morales has improved his catching a lot during this spring training. The coaching staff has talked to him about cleaning up his catching and he’s worked very hard at it.”

Lefthnader Jose Mijares was cut from camp this morning after showing up overweight and posting a 9.90 ERA. Mirares told the media that he would be back in June, but Smith said he told Mijares to get ready as soon as he can because the Twins have frequently made mid-April pitching call ups.

In addition to Mijares and Butera, infielder Alejandro Machado also has been cut. Catcher Jeff Christy has been told he wil stick around until Saturday.

Was told that the decision on the final bullpen spot will be made soon, but the decision on the final backup infield spot could come down to the last day.

Outfielder Michael Cuddyer is in the Twin Cities having his left index finger examined. I was told its just a routine checkup and that he’s expected back in time to play in tomorrow’s game.

Carlos Gomez is leaving after batting practice today to take his pregnant wife to a routine check up.

Joe Mauer, working his way back from a sore sacroiliac joint, was on the field with the rest of the team this morning to play catch. Mauer squatted as he caught throws of up to 100 feet from Jason Kubel. One Twins official I spoke with this morning emphasized that Mauer is expected to rejoin the team sometime in April – whether it’s two or three weeks -or a little longer into April remains to be seen.

Joe Crede told me he will probably sit out the next couple of games to left his swollen right hand heal. Crede was plunked by a Matt Garza pitch yesterday. “No sense in pushing it,” he said.

 Because Cuddyer and Gomez aren’t around. There’s a very interesting right fielder today.

Forgot to mention that Henry Sanchez, the Twins’ sandwich pick in 2005, hit a loooooong home run yesterday while playing for Class A Beloit. The oft-injured Sanchez, who is running out of time, recently had his knee drained. While the Twins initially wanted him to open the season at Class A Fort Myers, he’ll likely open the season as Beloit’s first baseman. 

Lineups

Pirates

1. Nyjer Morgan, LF
2. Freddy Sanchez, 2B.
3. Nate McLouth, CF
4. Eric Hinske, DH
5. Adam LaRoche, 1B
6. Brandon Moss, RF
7. Ramon Vazquez, 3B
8. Jack Wilson, SS
9. Jason Jaramillo, C

Pitching: Jeff Karstens

Twins

1. Denard Span, CF
2. Matt Tolbert, SS
3. Brendan Harris, 2B
4. Jason Kubel, LF
5. Brian Buscher, 3B
6. Mike Redmond, C
7. Matt Moses, 2003 first-round pick. DH
8. Brock Peterson, 1B
9. Chris Parmelee, 2006 first-round pick, RF

Pitching: Nick Blackburn, Luis Ayala, Joe Nathan – Nathan will pitch the first of back-to-back outings as he gets ready for prime time.

Twins-Cardinals: First pitch (hopefully) at 2:00 p.m. Twin Cities time. Lineup changes!

Sunday, March 29th, 2009

 The tarp is on the field. Rain is coming down.

Blame Joe Nathan.

Somehow, a set of bongos appeared in the clubhouse this morning. Nathan grabbed them and began to pound out a song.

“Is it raining yet?” he wondered.

Soon, Nick Punto and Matt Guerrier began their version of a rain dance.

Twins manager Ron Gardenhire walked out of his office and said, “there’s no need for a rain dance. Perry (Castellano, the strength and conditioning coordinator) said we’re going to play. So we’re going to get our work in!”

But now it’s raining.

The game is sold out and is being televised in the Twin Cities. And the Cardinals have ALL their regulars here. One media member who attended Michigan State (it shouldn’t be hard to figure who that is) is rooting for a washout because the Spartans are on at 2:20 pm EST.

My guess is that we will wait the rain out.

Update: The plan is to pull the tarp up at 1:00-1:10 CST. It should take 30 minutes to prepare the field. So first pitch could be 1:35ish, Central. Plans can always change….

Update: The tarp is coming off!!! But this crew needs an hour to get the field ready, Estimated first pitch: 2: 00.

Update III: Joe Crede and Justin Morneau have been scratched. Brendan Harris and Brian Buscher have taken their places in the lineup. No reason was given for the changes – but they usually announce injuries. 

Update IV: The Cardinals have moved Skip Shumaker to the leadoff spot and Joe Mather to the No. 9 hole. I have no idea why. It’s LaRussa….

Not much news this morning. Joe Mauer spoke with the media briefly and said he feels the best he has all spring. He’s still only up to playing catch – they want to slowly build him up to more activities. Expect him to miss a month of the regular season – then be pleasantly surprised if he comes back before that.

Lineups

Cards

1. Joe Mather, DH
2. Rick Ankiel, CF
3. Albert Pujols,. 1B
4. Ryan Ludwick, RF
5. Khalil Green, SS
6. Chris Duncan, LF
7. Yadier Molina, C
8. David Freese, 3B
9. Skip Shumaker, 2B
Pitching: Chris Carpenter

Twins

1. Carlos Gomez, CF
2. Alexi Casilla, 2B
3. Joe Crede Brendan Harris, 3B
4. Justin Morneau Brian Buscher, 1B
5. Jason Kubel, DH
6. Michael Cuddyer, RF
7. Delmon Young, LF
8. Mike Redmond, C
9. Nick Punto, SS
Pitching: Kevin Slowey. R.A, Dickey and Jose Mijares also in line to pitch.

Twins Cut Five Players

Friday, March 27th, 2009

Outfielder Jason Pridie was optioned to Class AAA Rochester on Friday.

Lefthander, Sean Henn, righthander Bobby Keppel, infielder Brock Peterson and outfielder David Winfree, all who aren’t on the 40-man roster, have been reassigned to the minor league camp.

That leaves the Twins with 34 active players – but that includes the soon-to-be-placed-on-the-disabled list Boof Bonser and Joe Mauer. So the Twins need to cut eight players before breaking camp.

Jose Mijares survived the cut. I wouldn’t have been surprised if he had been optioned but, this way, he can keep working with Rick Anderson.

Mauer update: Heard that Joe Mauer might have caught in the bullpen yesterday. Still looking into that. He did appear in the clubhouse this morning to grab a glove to go play a little catch.

It just so happened that Joe C. and I were scheming while standing in front of Mauer’s stall when he came out of nowhere.

“What, are you guys staking me out?” he asked.

“No,” I replied, “but I could say that Joe and I usually stand in the areas of the clubhouse where there’s never anyone around.”

Mauer (laughing): “That’s means I’m somewhere working.”

Then off Mauer went. To work.

Lineups

Rays

1. Akinori Iwamura, 2B
2. Carl Crawford, LF
3. Evan Longoria, 3B
4. Pat Burrell, RF
5. Matt Joyce, DH
6. Gabe Kapler, CF
7. Shawn Riggans, C
8. Morgan Ensberg, 1B
9. Jason Bartlett, SS

Pitching: James Shields

Twins

1. Denard Span, LF
2. Alexi Casilla, 2B
3. Joe Crede, 3B
4. Justin Morneau, 1B
5. Jason Kubel, DH
6. Michael Cuddyer, RF
7. Carlos Gomez, CF
8. Jose Morales, C
9. Nick Punto, SS

Pitching: Scott Baker

Others scheduled: Craig Breslow, Brian Duensing, Matt Guerrier

Extra pitchers: Anthony Slama, Zach Ward