Good morning and welcome to a new week. This will be the first full week of Spring Training games for the Twins. The week’s schedule is stuffed with games against from the East, which seems to be a constant in Spring Training (Western teams tend to hold Spring Training in Arizona, and the Twins rarely face Central Division opponents in the spring). The Twins face Boston in a rare Spring Training night game tonight, then they have two more against the same Rays team they played twice this weekend and one each against the Orioles, Pirates, Cardinals, and Yankees.
We don’t know what will happen in those games, so instead let’s look at the one that just ended.
The Ferocious Five – I’ll be following the exploits of Francisco Liriano, Scott Baker, Justin Morneau, Joe Mauer, and Denard Span all year because they are the key to the Twins’ fate. Things got off to a great start for all five last week. Liriano tossed two scoreless innings against the Red Sox on Sunday, allowing two baserunners and striking out two. Span notched a pair of hits on Saturday, and both times he was driven in with a single: once by Mauer and once by Morneau. Baker did not pitch in any of the official games, but he got some work in during the B game on Thursday. All in all, the Ferocious Five have played well in a limited sample size. Of course, we all know that Spring Training numbers are meaningless and that the real goal should be for them to stay healthy and get ready for the season. Still, it’s better to see them getting hits and striking out batters than to see them struggling.
J.R. Towles – the backup catching prospect showed a little life in his bat by hitting a two run homer on Sunday against the Rays. It turned out to be the game-winner. It came in the ninth inning, but it wasn’t a cheap Spring Training shot against a low-level minor leaguer; Towles hit the blast against Rays’ righty Josh Lueke, who pitched in 25 games for Seattle last year. Chris Parmelee also homered in the game, but Towles’ shot gets him on the list because a power display could help him in his battle to steal the backup catcher slot from Drew Butera.
Had a Bad Week:
Jason Bulger – You should not read too much into one bad Spring Training inning. That said, it’s hard to see how Bulger’s outing against Boston could have been any worse. He pitched a third of an inning and faced six batters. One batter was out on a sac bunt. Four others walked. The last one, prospect Lars Anderson, smashed a grand slam. Bulger was once a very good setup man for the Angels, which makes him one of the more intriguing non-roster invitees in the Twins bullpen. But such disastrous control problems are not a good sign!
Carlos Gutierrez – He missed the official games but got some work in during the B game. It did not go well. According to Star Tribune‘s Jim Souhan, Gutierrez could not make it through his assigned inning, and he “couldn’t command any of his pitches.” Gutierrez has a powerful fastball, but his minor league performances have never matched his “stuff.”