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  • Packed Friday Notebook From Ft. Myers

    First, the most important news: Twins GM Terry Ryan was in the building today, the first time he's been present at Hammond all spring after being diagnosed with cancer in the offseason. Ryan was in good spirits during a 15-minute session with reporters, stating that he's "feeling pretty damn good right now."

    Ryan, who is only in town for a day and a half, said that he's been going to radiation five days a week, and that he will continue to do so for the next five weeks. For at least the first part of April, he will only be attending Twins home games.

    He expressed confidence that once he's past the radiation period he'll be ready to return in a full capacity.

    "I'm optimistic that things are heading in the right direction, there's no doubt about that," Ryan said.

    It was an extremely eventful day at the ballpark, so let's dive in to some notes:

    * Ron Gardenhire was unhappy with what he considered premature reports that the team has settled on Kyle Gibson as the fifth starter, insisting that no final decision has been made.

    Gardenhire and assistant general manager Rob Antony emphasized that Scott Diamond -- who will piggyback on Gibson's next start on Tuesday -- is still in the mix to round out the rotation. Antony did acknowledge that Samuel Deduno is likely headed for the bullpen.

    * Gardy on Vance Worley, who cleared waivers Friday and was outrighted to Triple-A Rochester:

    "He had a decent angle going here. As I told him the other day when I saw him in the bullpen, every pitch looks the same. I can't tell the difference between his fastball, his slider and his curveball -- they're all hard. When you do that, guys are on that."

    * The Twins fell to the Mets 9-1 on Friday, the second lopsided loss this week here at Hammond. On Tuesday it was 2013 Opening Day starter Worley who put the Twins in an early hole, and Friday it was 2014 Opening Day starter Ricky Nolasco.

    Nolasco's first inning was about as bad as could be. The right-hander yielded seven runs on six hits -- three doubles, a triple, a homer and a single -- while also hitting a batter and uncorking a wild pitch.

    Despite the awful results, Nolasco was relatively upbeat following the outing.

    "First inning was pretty terrible. I think I could've done better if I told them what was coming," he joked. "It's just spring training, whatever. You just bounce back. I thought I finished pretty decent the next two innings."

    That he did. Nolasco didn't allow a run or a hit in the second and third, although he did issue a couple walks. By all accounts he looked solid in his first three outings, in which he allowed only four runs in 11 innings, so I'm inclined to not put a ton of stock into this one. Still, he'll probably want to get back on track in his final Grapefruit start next week to gain a little steam before he opens the season for the Twins on March 31st.

    * Nolasco worked with catcher Josmil Pinto for the first time on Friday. He insisted that working with the young backstop had nothing to do with his struggles.

    "He did fine," said Nolasco. "He has nothing to do with the way I throw the ball."

    "He did a good job of trying to motivate me and get me back in there."

    * Pinto had another nice game offensively. He went 1-for-3 but one of his outs was a laser beam hit directly at the first baseman. You like to see that from a right-handed hitter; Pinto continues to impress with his ability to go the other way.

    "Pinto's doing just fine, doing everything we're asking," Ron Gardenhire said. "He works very hard. He's paying attention and studying the game pretty damn hard. He's a strong kid."

    * One day after Aaron Hicks went 4-for-4 in Port Charlotte to raise his spring average to .375, Alex Presley started in center field and finished 0-for-3, dropping his average to .147. He did have a walk and a stolen base, but he's been unable to get his bat going.

    We all know that decisions shouldn't be made solely on the basis of spring training stats, but Hicks is plainly the superior talent and he's backing it up.

    * Michael Tonkin is the best relief prospect in the organization, and he was outstanding once again while handling the sixth and seventh innings. Flashing a fastball that registered at 94-95 MPH, Tonkin induced plenty of weak contact while holding the Mets off the board.

    In 8 1/3 innings this spring, Tonkin has allowed only three hits and no runs. He deserves a spot in the Minnesota bullpen but I suspect that, if indeed Gibson is tabbed as fifth starter, the Twins will try and stick both Deduno and Diamond in the bullpen, leaving no room.

    If Tonkin opens in Rochester, he'll almost surely be the first righty reliever called up when a need arises. And he might immediately become the best one on the club.

    * It's going to be a zoo here at Hammond Stadium tomorrow, when Masahiro Tanaka and the Yankees roll through.

    Terry Ryan will be in attendance and said he's excited to see Tanaka pitch for the first time.

    As has been the case all month, Twins Daily will have all the action covered.

    Comments 17 Comments
    1. Thrylos's Avatar
      Thrylos -
      Great stuff! Just a nitpick:

      Michael Tonkin is the best relief prospect in the organization
      By no means, in any way. He might be the closest to the majors and better than pitchers like Pressly and Fien, but he is not the best relief prospect in the organization.
    1. DocBauer's Avatar
      DocBauer -
      Unlike a few others, I have been very impressed overall with Herrmann and what he has done in the minors as well as with the Twins. When I have watched him, I've seen a solid C. And at the plate, even though he hasn't done anything special at the ML level yet, he hasn't looked out of place either. I absolutely see him as an above or well above average athletic backstop who does a nice job behind the plate, can fill in decently at another 2 or 3 spots, and who will be a decent LH hitter with solid contact and OB, with some gapper and occasional HR power.

      But his time is next season, or later this year. Pinto has done nothing this ST, or last season, but prove he is anything but ML ready! His arm is quality, his defense is OK and improving, and there hasn't even been a whisper from coaches or pitchers to indicate he is poor behind the dish. Even Gibson, I believe it was, commented the other day he allowed a HR after shaking off Pinto's call. And his bat is definitely ready, with a ton of potential.

      Gardy has commented how he doesn't want to uncover his DH "potentially" by using him as a DH on occasion. But lest we forget, he DID "risk" that very, very rare option several times a few years ago when he had Mauer AND Redmond in the lineup to get his best bats n the lineup. Gardenhire has been generally effusive in his praise of Pinto, and is not dumb. He knows what he has in Pinto, and what he can do with him and Suzuki.
    1. jokin's Avatar
      jokin -
      Ron Gardenhire was unhappy with what he considered premature reports that the team has settled on Kyle Gibson as the fifth starter, insisting that no final decision has been made.
      What do you make of this? Is LEN3 now on the naughty list, or just his source for bad timing? I have long thought that Diamond ends up in the pen, it sounds like you're hearing the same type of thing down there, too?
    1. Halsey Hall's Avatar
      Halsey Hall -
      Thielbar pitched 2 innings in the minor league game and excelled. No hits, and 4 k's as I remember. Florimon had 3 ab's and no luck, 2 k's. Someone with the initials HH mentioned to Gardy he should put Mauer in the leadoff position or he'll never get pitched to with Willingham behind him. His response was "everybody's got a lineup for me".
    1. Dman's Avatar
      Dman -
      Quote Originally Posted by DocBauer View Post
      Unlike a few others, I have been very impressed overall with Herrmann and what he has done in the minors as well as with the Twins. When I have watched him, I've seen a solid C. And at the plate, even though he hasn't done anything special at the ML level yet, he hasn't looked out of place either. I absolutely see him as an above or well above average athletic backstop who does a nice job behind the plate, can fill in decently at another 2 or 3 spots, and who will be a decent LH hitter with solid contact and OB, with some gapper and occasional HR power.

      But his time is next season, or later this year. Pinto has done nothing this ST, or last season, but prove he is anything but ML ready! His arm is quality, his defense is OK and improving, and there hasn't even been a whisper from coaches or pitchers to indicate he is poor behind the dish. Even Gibson, I believe it was, commented the other day he allowed a HR after shaking off Pinto's call. And his bat is definitely ready, with a ton of potential.

      Gardy has commented how he doesn't want to uncover his DH "potentially" by using him as a DH on occasion. But lest we forget, he DID "risk" that very, very rare option several times a few years ago when he had Mauer AND Redmond in the lineup to get his best bats n the lineup. Gardenhire has been generally effusive in his praise of Pinto, and is not dumb. He knows what he has in Pinto, and what he can do with him and Suzuki.
      Doc I am with you on Herman. I watched him last year and thought he did OK as well. He might not be a superstar but he seems very solid to me. He certainly would be a good bench player and I wouldn't count him out as potential starter as he is a gamer.
    1. jokin's Avatar
      jokin -
      Quote Originally Posted by Halsey Hall View Post
      Thielbar pitched 2 innings in the minor league game and excelled. No hits, and 4 k's as I remember. Florimon had 3 ab's and no luck, 2 k's. Someone with the initials HH mentioned to Gardy he should put Mauer in the leadoff position or he'll never get pitched to with Willingham behind him. His response was "everybody's got a lineup for me".
      Good one, Halsey.
    1. ashburyjohn's Avatar
      ashburyjohn -
      Quote Originally Posted by Halsey Hall View Post
      "everybody's got a lineup for me".
      Said, every manager ever born.

      Love it.
    1. Dantes929's Avatar
      Dantes929 -
      The ONLY reason not to bat leadoff is his speed. Who wouldn't want a .406 OBP guy with gap power leading off? Who wouldn't want their best hitter getting the most at bats?
    1. jokin's Avatar
      jokin -
      Quote Originally Posted by Dantes929 View Post
      The ONLY reason not to bat leadoff is his speed. Who wouldn't want a .406 OBP guy with gap power leading off? Who wouldn't want their best hitter getting the most at bats?
      I'm with you and Halsey on this one, and have been since Hicks flopped in the leadoff role last April. In answer to your second question, see the response to Halsey's inquiry for further guidance.

      At this point in time of Spring Training, who offers better protection behind Mauer- Dozier or Willingham? Close to a Hobson's Choice- but I'd lean towards Dozier. And who hasn't had a demo yet this spring for the spot in front of Mauer? They've even given some recent reps to Kurt Suzuki, Jason Kubel, and today, Jason Bartlett in the 2-spot. Kind of a cluster any which way you look at it. And as much as one would be tempted to give Hicks another shot at leading off, it would seem prudent to slow-play that thought, given what happened a year ago. The "safe" choice (prediction, not my personal choice) for opening day is the likely order of Presley, Dozier, Mauer, Willingham, Kubel/Arcia, Plouffe, Kubel/Arcia, Suzuki, Florimon. If Hicks makes it, I think everyone moves up one spot in the order and they insert Hicks in the 8-spot.
    1. zchrz's Avatar
      zchrz -
      Quote Originally Posted by Dantes929 View Post
      The ONLY reason not to bat leadoff is his speed. Who wouldn't want a .406 OBP guy with gap power leading off? Who wouldn't want their best hitter getting the most at bats?
      I think its more about who would be hitting in front of him, I would much rather have two decent batters in front of him than Suzuki and Florimon.
    1. tjsyam921's Avatar
      tjsyam921 -
      Quote Originally Posted by jokin View Post
      What do you make of this? Is LEN3 now on the naughty list, or just his source for bad timing? I have long thought that Diamond ends up in the pen, it sounds like you're hearing the same type of thing down there, too?
      My guess would be that they don't want other teams to think they're down on Diamond. Therefore reducing any trade value.
    1. Dantes929's Avatar
      Dantes929 -
      Quote Originally Posted by zchrz View Post
      I think its more about who would be hitting in front of him, I would much rather have two decent batters in front of him than Suzuki and Florimon.
      Its not more about who would be hitting in front of him. Its COMPLETELY about who hits in front of him. Span and Hudson hits in front of him then fine. Just Span hits in front of him. Fine. I am actually suggesting that Suzuki and Florimon bat in front of him. Just in the 8 and 9 spot. There is no reason to give .290 OBP guys more at bats. There is every reason to give .400 OBP guys more at bats.
    1. Dantes929's Avatar
      Dantes929 -
      Prior posts notwithstanding I am ok with Hicks batting leadoff. Part of his problem last year was facing two of the top guys in the major leagues to start the season and losing some confidence. If he faces Sale this season at least he can do it right handed.
    1. Jim H's Avatar
      Jim H -
      There are arguments that make sense, to bat Mauer in any of the first 3 spots in the order. I like him in the 3rd spot(over the 1st spot) because over the course of the season he will get many more opportunites(quite possibly around a 100, but at least 50) to hit with men or man on base. Since he is the best hitter on the team with runners in scoring position, it makes sense to me to give him those opportunities.

      Batting him first would mean slightly more AB's for Mauer and more chances for the people behind him to drive him in. That would make more sense to me if there were a true #3 hitter on the team.
    1. ashburyjohn's Avatar
      ashburyjohn -
      Quote Originally Posted by zchrz View Post
      I think its more about who would be hitting in front of him, I would much rather have two decent batters in front of him than Suzuki and Florimon.
      Yeah, but just think of the fat pitches Suzuki and Florimon will get, with Mauer coming up behind them to protect them.
    1. jokin's Avatar
      jokin -
      Quote Originally Posted by zchrz View Post
      I think its more about who would be hitting in front of him, I would much rather have two decent batters in front of him than Suzuki and Florimon.
      A certain manager is still experimenting and has Suzuki hitting #2 just in front of Mauer in the lineup today against the Yankees, again.

      I actually wouldn't mind seeing a lineup with Mauer leading off, with Hicks and Santana (when they're finally deemed "ready') hitting just in front of him at 8 and 9.
    1. jimbo92107's Avatar
      jimbo92107 -
      I like the photo...tending to the temple.

      Aaron Hicks, y'all! This is the year, when he steps up and starts bangin. I can just feel it!
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