Today the Twins had their first (and only) preseason test against a division rival. They played the reigning division champion Detroit Tigers, and it was an interesting game because it might give us some clues to how well the Twins stack up against the competition.
It turns out they stack up pretty well. The Twins put on an early hitting display and won 7-3.
The Tigers had their regulars in the lineup (aside from the injured Miguel Cabrera). Former Twin Delmon Young continued to hit well against his old team. He homered in his first at bat against the Twins last year, and he hit a home run off Liam Hendriks in his second at bat today. Young entered the game hitting .485, which is in line with how he usually hits in the spring. Last year, he hit .396 with three homers – then went on to bat an unimpressive .266 with just four homers in the regular season before his trade to Detroit.
The Twins, on the other hand, left Joe Mauer and Justin Morneau in Fort Myers. A lot of last year’s late-season fill-ins played today: Joe Benson, Luke Hughes, Chris Parmelee, and starting pitcher Hendriks. They enjoyed some success, which is encouraging, since these four are among the closest to Major-League-ready of any prospects in the organization, and we’ll likely see them in Twins uniforms again this year. Parmelee singled to start a rally in the second, and Hughes ended that rally with a three run homer to left field. Parmelee didn’t rest on his laurels with that single. He added an RBI triple in the fifth and scored on Ryan Doumit’s sac fly. Benson socked a two run homer of his own in the fifth.
Nice to see Hughes hit one out. Hughes, by virtue of being out of options, is likely to win a bench slot for the Twins. Unlike most utility infielders, he is not a defensive specialist, and he cannot steal bases with much proficiency, so that leaves power as his biggest asset. On the other hand, the Tigers were trotting out some marginal Major League pitchers (starter Andrew Oliver has a total of 31.2 MLB innings under his belt), so it would have been disappointing if Hughes and the Twins hadn’t scored a bunch of runs.
Hendriks had a mixed outing. He allowed two runs in four innings. Aside from Young, the only player who did any significant damage was Austin Jackson, who singled and scored in the first, then added a double in his next at bat. It would be nice to see Hendriks be able to shut down a potent lineup like Detroit’s, though, because with Scott Baker’s health uncertain, the Twins may need to turn to a guy like Hendriks to make some early season starts.
Of course we cannot infer too much from single Spring Training game, but since this is the only division contest of the spring, we might as well take the result for what it’s worth and be encouraged. Now let’s see what happens when the Twins have to face Cabrera and Justin Verlander!