Storylines After 11 Spring Games: Injuries, Rumors and Luke Hughes

On the heels of a loss at the hands of a split-squad Baltimore Orioles team, the Minnesota Twins sit in the middle of the Grapefruit League pack at 6-5. Of course spring training records mean even less than spring training stats but nevertheless I still am encouraged by their record thus far.

If you were making a random pie chart of the storylines in Twins camp thus far, injuries and health have occupied a large chunk of the spring training discussion. After all they’ve been without four major cogs in their projected Opening Day lineup. The starting rotation and related trade rumors have managed to gobble up another significant piece of the pie. During the offseason and entering camp, the bullpen rebuild was the big question mark but that has largely been pushed to the back burner. Somewhat lost in all of this has been the performance of Luke Hughes this spring.

I have no way of really assigning values to these things but I’ll throw some random numbers at these headlines based on my perception of what other people are thinking about:

  • 40% Health and injuries
  • 40% Rotation and related trade rumors
  • 10% Nishi!!!
  • 5% Bullpen
  • 4% Other
  • 1% Luke Hughes

Not all six of these headlines merit discussion right now, but three of them do.

Heath and Injuries:

Yesterday Delmon Young and Justin Morneau saw their first action of the spring in a “B” game. It is anticipated that both will be in the lineup again in the coming days (Delmon on Thursday and Justin on Friday). The hole in Michael Cuddyer‘s foot is just about healed and Joe Mauer is taking it easy as a “precautionary measure.”

Outside of Alexi Casilla‘s tweaked ankle and the stress reaction in Anthony Slama‘s elbow, there haven’t been any injuries to get too worked up about. Casilla appears to be fine and has been practicing. Unfortunately Slama’s elbow injury is going to cause him to miss some time and basically eliminate his chance to make the Opening Day roster as a result but it doesn’t sound too serious at this point. It’s hard not to root for the guy since he was drafted in the 39th round of the 2006 draft and has put up eye-popping numbers at every level of the minors. Hopefully he recovers quickly and is ready to go when Rochester kicks off their regular season. As it goes with every team in baseball, someone is going to falter or get hurt in the Twins pen this year and Slama will get his chance. I don’t know if he will sink or swim against major league competition but I can’t wait to find out.

One other minor injury note before moving on courtesy of Kelly Theiser’s MLB.com article this evening:

First baseman Chris Parmelee is battling a sore left shoulder and having trouble throwing and swinging, Gardenhire said. Parmelee was supposed to be reevaluated on Wednesday, and the hope was that he might start getting back to activities in the next couple days.

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Trade Rumors:

The health of the Twins key players has been a running storyline so far in spring training, but it isn’t the only one. Trade rumors and the state of the Twins rotation have generated even more discussion and interest, especially in the national baseball circles beyond Twins Territory. Fransisco Liriano got the first turn in the rumor cycle and now apparently it’s Kevin Slowey‘s turn to be the topic of trade discussion and paranoia. I plan on having more on the Slowey rumors and my reaction in the next day or so, but I will say that the supposed mutual interest between the Toronto Blue Jays and Minnesota Twins makes absolutely zero sense to me for either side. I’m not sure I buy that the Twins have a burning desire to move a starter and if they do, I’m not so sure that it makes sense for Kevin Slowey to be the one dealt. I know I’m not alone in this assessment. Again, I’ll have a more in-depth reaction on this in the next day or so once I’ve had a chance to do some research and gather all of my thoughts into a coherent structure.

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Luke!

Your 2011 Minnesota Twins Spring Training MVP is … without a doubt Luke Hughes. He’s played in 9 games and has hit 0.375/.407/.792 with 3 HR, 8 RBI and 19 total bases. Everyone always throws out there that spring stats don’t matter, except they kind of do. Sure they are far from a predictor of success during the regular season, but if Luke Hughes keeps this up it’s going to be nearly impossible for the team to keep him off the Opening Day roster.

While management has their personal preferences (i.e. Matt Tolbert) the Twins infield bench options are doing Hughes a favor with their lackluster performance thus far (I’ve omitted the 1B from this list to keep it more apples to apples).

Statistically Lambin and Brown have been pretty good but both are non-roster invitees and Hughes has an implicit advantage over them since he’s on Minnesota’s 40-man roster.

If you’re 6′ tall in a room of guys 6’4″, it’s hard to get your head to stand above the crowd. If you’re 6′ tall in a room of guys 5’8″ you have to go out of your way to not get noticed. In Luke’s case he’s playing like he’s a 7 footer standing in a room of full of guys that are playing like their 5’2″ and he decided to wear a red tuxedo to the party.

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Tags: Alexi Casilla Anthony Slama Chris Parmelee Delmon Young Joe Mauer Justin Morneau Kevin Slowey Luke Hughes Michael Cuddyer Minnesota Twins

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