Last week was up and down for our favorite team. It began with a string of disappointments against AL East foes where the Twins couldn’t seem to buy a run. But on the plus side, the pitching was mostly pretty good, and the week ended with a couple of victories over Pittsburgh and New York and a long-awaited power outburst. It always feels good when the Twins defeat the Yankees, even if it’s a meaningless spring contest.
The season feels closer with every day, and the week ahead will show some progress toward Opening Day. We can expect the starting pitchers to start going four innings or more soon, and the minor league squads will start playing games this week. With the opening of the minor league camps, we should also see some players get cut soon, though there probably won’t be any surprise names on that list. The Big League club will get three games against Pennsylvania teams: one with the Phillies on Wednesday and two with Pittsburgh on Thursday and Sunday. Tampa, Toronto, Boston, Baltimore, and the new-look Miami Marlins are also on the schedule.
Danny Valencia: The third baseman finished off the week with home runs in back-to-back games. He is not one of the Ferocious Five, but it sure would be nice to see a rebound year from Valencia. When was the last time the Twins got 20 homer power from a third baseman?
(that was meant to be a rhetorical question, but the answer is 2004, when Corey Koskie hit 25)
Nick Blackburn: He made his Grapefruit League debut, and all went as well as could be expected, as he tossed three scoreless against New York. He only whiffed one batter, but that’s okay. All we expect from Blackburn is quick innings and ground balls.
Jared Burton: Burton picked up a W against the Pirates, for what it’s worth. More importantly, he now has three hitless innings under his belt. If Puckett’s Pond got to choose who made the Twins roster, Burton might be an early favorite for a setup role.
Scott Baker: Baker’s week got off to a good start with a couple scoreless innings against Tampa, but he apparently did not pitch so well in Saturday’s B Game. He gave up six runs, thanks to a Duran Duran fastball (stuck in the mid-80s). Hopefully we can just ignore this, because B games are even more meaningless than other Spring Training games.
Tsuyoshi Nishioka: By all accounts, Nishioka came to camp with a new attitude and something to prove, but he may not have learned all his lessons in the field. He nearly got Swishered again on a weak double play ball Friday. Given his disappointing 2011, Nishioka has pretty much zero margin for error this spring if he wants to make the team.
*Note: I use the term “weaklings” because it sounds weak and week make a punny, alliterative name. I have not doubt that both Mr. Nishioka and Mr. Baker are professional athletes and thus nowhere near physically weak, and either one could probably crush me like a puny bug if they so chose. So if you’re reading this, please understand the title is a jest, and do not crush me like a puny bug!