Good morning, Twins fans. A new week is upon us. This week will take us almost to the end of Spring Training, and by the time it’s over, we should know what the Twins’ 2012 Opening Day roster will look like. The highlight looks to be a pair of matchups with Boston on Friday and Sunday that will determine the fate of the Mayor’s Cup. Currently the Twins and Red Sox are tied 2-2 in their Grapefruit League series, so if one either team wants to win outright, they’ll have to sweep both contests. If the two teams split, there will be a tie. Puckett’s Pond doesn’t know if there has ever been a tie in this series, but we assume the Twins (who won last year) would keep the Cup in that event.
Other matchups this week include a game against the Rays today, a pair against the Pirates, and a game apiece versus the Phillies and Jays. The Jays game is a split squad affair happening at the same time as the first game against Boston. We’ll know how much the Twins care about the Mayor’s Cup when we see which players they send to each of those games.
Puckett’s Pond has made the Twins’ non-roster invitees into a cause célèbre, so the past week was doubly disappointing for this site. First, pitcher Brendan Wise got the axe, bringing the Twins’ roster down to 38 players. Even worse, non-roster invitee Aaron Thompson, who was previously cut, failed a drug test and must serve a suspension. Thompson, a lefty, pitched 7.2 innings for the Pirates last season. MLB did not disclose the name of the drug he tested positive for, but it is said to be a “drug of abuse,” and not a PED like steroids or HGH.
For weeks, Morneau has been struggling with the bat. His average fell below the .100 mark earlier this week, but we kept saying “at least he’s healthy” as a consolation. We’re still glad he’s healthy, of course, but the better news is that he is starting to hit. After booming a long double against the Yankees on Friday, Morneau smacked a pair of homers in the 19-4 rout over the Rays Saturday. Keep it up, Mr. Morneau!
The Twins’ sinkerballing right-handed starter is pitching quite well this spring. On Sunday he held the Cardinals’ A lineup to just two runs in five innings, bringing his spring ERA to 1.50 in 12 innings. The Twins do not need much from Blackburn – they just need a quality start guy. Looking back at the last few years, Blackburn tends to pitch very well before the All Star Break and then encounter troubles in the summer. Hopefully, the Twins will get more than a couple decent months out of him this year.
Manager Ron Gardenhire announced that Josh Willingham will be the Twins’ starting left fielder, which pretty much destroys the conventional wisdom that Ben Revere and Trevor Plouffe would be battling for that spot. One beneficiary of this news is Parmelee, who is suddenly looking like a good bet to win a starting job in right field or at first base if Morneau plays DH and Ryan Doumit moves to right. After several ho-hum seasons in the minors, Parmelee caught fire as a September call-up last year, and he has carried it over into the spring.
Through little fault of his own, Revere may find himself out of a job next week. Willingham stole his spot in left, and most people believe that Revere lacks the arm strength to play right. Thus, he could find himself stealing bases and making highlight-reel grabs in Rochester to start the year. It’s too bad, because Revere hit a respectable .325 this spring with three steals. And the team will certainly miss the defensive skills he could have offered in left.