Two Weeks Down, Minnesota Twins Look to Be in Fine Form

Minnesota Twins Firing on All Cylinders in Spring Training

The calendar says March 17th, but the Minnesota Twins look to be in good shape after just two weeks of Spring Training. The usual suspects are pitching and hitting the way we thought and hoped they would, leaving very little drama for manager Paul Molitor‘s selection of the final roster. Injuries may still creep up in the final two weeks, but it looks as though the Twins will just continue to fine tune everything leading up to Opening Day.

Last night’s demolition of the Boston Red Sox (winning 9-4), proved that Twins’ hitters have caught up to the pitchers, and Twins’ pitchers seem ready for a breakout year.  Starter Kyle Gibson (3.1 IP / 1 ER / 7 K’s) made a case, once again, why he should be the number one starter. He blew away the Red Sox after giving up a homer to Mookie Betts to lead off the game.

The big boppers continued to slug away. Dozier hit another homer and lifted his OPS to 1.350 for the Spring. Korean import Byung-ho Park is proving the naysayers wrong, driving in two more to up his team lead in spring training RBI to 9, while hitting 1.071 OPS. In fact, 5 of the 9 projected starting lineup has an OPS of  1.000 or better in Grapefruit League play.

On the downside, Byron Buxton has continued to struggle at the plate (.261 OBP), and seems destined to begin the season at the bottom of the batting order.

Credit: Jonathan Dyer-USA TODAY Sports

Twins brass began the Spring slotting Buxton in the lead-off spot, but after a few hitless, multi-strikeout games, he’s returned to the 9 hole. They have said, though, that Buxton is their center-fielder, and his stellar play in the field, plus his improvement on the bases, give reasons to let him find his hitting stroke with the big club.

Also struggling at the plate is probable starting shortstop, Eduardo Escobar (.200 OBP). He too, will be given time to find his swing in the starting lineup. If the Twins do need to sit him for a day or two, his replacement, Eduardo Nunez, has been stroking it (.458 OBP) all month. Danny Santana has not been able to get started at the plate (.125 OBP), and now has missed games due to a tender wrist. If it continues to bother him, he may find the disabled list, letting someone like Ryan Sweeney (.429 OBP) squeeze into one of the final four bench spots.

While March Madness starts today, the Twins would like to continue with boring normalcy. Molitor has all but settled on not only his starting nine, but also the batting order. The status of Santana creates some doubt as to who will join Nunez and John Ryan Murphy on the four-man bench. Carlos Quentin, Oswaldo Arcia, Ryan Sweeney, and Santana are prominent names of those in contention.

In the starting rotation it is Phil Hughes, Ervin Santana, Kyle Gibson, Tyler Duffey, and either Tommy Milone or Ricky Nolasco. The edge right now would be to carry one left-handed starter, Milone, and have Nolasco as long relief, and ready to step in to make a spot start if someone needed to skip a start.

In the bullpen, back end relievers Glen Perkins and Kevin Jepsen have yet to give up an earned run. Casey Fien has given up only 1 hit (a HR) in his 4 relief appearances. Trevor May was told this week that he will be in the ‘pen, not the rotation. With May being the 10th man on the staff, that leaves stiff competition left between righties Ryan Pressly, J.R. Graham (neither have allowed a run), and lefty Fernando Abad (1 HR, no BB in 4 appearances) competing for the final two pitching roster spots.

Two pitchers with designs on making the roster have pitched poorly so far. Aaron Thompson and Michael Tonkin both sport ERA’s over 11.00 and might not even be picked up if put on waivers at the end of camp. Phenom Jose Berrios should begin the year in the minors. A call-up after the first few weeks of the season will give them another year of contract control over the young man who could be the future Twins’ staff ace.