What have we learned so far?

Posted on April 13th, 2009 – 9:55 AM
By Howard

Going 3-4 through the first week of the season isn’t as good as 6-1 or 5-2, but neither is it much cause for concern. There’s been good and bad in these first two series. Given the state of the division, I allowed myself the fleeting thought after Friday’s victory in Chicago that it would be great to get off to a really hot start because it looks like every team in the division has reason to stumble and bumble. So much for that. Conventional wisdom is that it takes a couple of months to figure out whether the alarms from training camp are real or false, and whether the good news is really that good. Think back to 2008 for a moment and how the notion of a slimmed-down Boof Bonser was prevalent, a modest hallelujah in a season that wasn’t expected to go much of anywhere. Instead, Boof underperformed again and the Twins took the season into an extra game. I’d make that trade again.

That being said, a few things are on my mind with 155 games remaining.

*I wish the Twins had been more aggressive about finding an eighth-inning reliever. I’m not oozing positives about the current crew and, in fact, the pitcher in that bunch who has looked best in the first week is Matt Guerrier, who showed nothing in spring training camp to make me think that would be the case. I’m not good with seeing Juan Cruz coming in for Kansas City or Brandon Lyon in the Detroit bullpen. My concern here could prove to be unfounded, but I’m not holding my breath.

*Philip Humber hung curveballs and left fast balls up all weekend. When the Twins have to make a move at midweek to activate Scott Baker, I don’t think management should worry that Humber is out of options. I’d rather have R.A. Dickey and the second lefty, Brian Duensing, in the bullpen for long relief — and remove one impediment from the minor-league pitchers in the system who are looking to advance.

*Not just anyone can play first base. In 290 major-league innings at first base, Michael Cuddyer has made five errors. In 1,363 innings at first base last season, Justin Morneau made four errors. If theTwins want to give Morneau a break from time to time — which is a good thing — I’d opt for Brendan Harris. At least he has the instincts of an infielder. Cuddyer made just about every mistake possible on Sunday’s double-error, including almost killing Nick Blackburn when he went to cover first.

*I’ll try not to worry in the future when Denard Span has bad numbers in spring training.

*Columnist Jim Souhan mentioned Sunday morning on the radio that he and Delmon Young don’t get along. Reporters and some players are always going to have conflicts, and Souhan said on KSTP that when he visited with Delmon during spring training, he got a bunch of one-word answers except for when Souhan asked if Delmon wanted to explain his new approach at the plate. Souhan reported that he got three words: “Not with you.” Delmon, I’d be glad to turn the blog over to you if you’d like to explain it here. In return, I’d only ask that you lay off sliders in the dirt and not have at-bats like those last two on Sunday — a strikeout called from the sofa and the game-ending double play.

*Did anyone else laugh when Nick Punto appeared to almost tweak a muscle when he didn’t dive into first base running out a ground ball Sunday?

*I thought Liriano really got squeezed by the home plate umpire during Saturday afternoon’s game. He had wicked moving stuff on a sun-to-shade field, which also made things difficult for Mike Redmond. Speaking of catchers, I was glad to see that Gardy didn’t start Redmond when Dickey pitched on Friday. Asking him to catch a knuckleball simply in his current state would not have been fair.

*Overall, the pitching has been good enough. The Twins have been shut out or scored one run in their four losses. That will change for the better, and Glen Perkins was the only starter who can’t be expected to improve on his work the first 1 1/2 times through the rotation.

*Starting next year, the Twins will have to figure out ways to own “cold ball” in April and September/October the way they are perceived to have such an advantage playing in the Dome.

*A lotta little things aren’t being done right.

*Housekeeping notes: We’ve added a cool comprehensive and sortable MLB stats package to the web site’s Twins page. You can find it here. Also, Joe C. will be doing a live chat at noon, which you can get to here. Someone asked last week if we were planning to do live chats during Twins games. I suspect that we won’t. Instead, I can see trying one after a day game that’s on TV.  Someone also asked a few weeks back if I was going to use my Twitter page to ‘tweet’ during games. After thinking it over, I’m not planning to. I’d rather react to the end result instead of playing along with the action on the field. And do you really need to know that “Section 220 is having a beer.”

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