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Nick's Twins Blog

Rough Day for Gutierrez

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The Twins played their unofficial first game of the spring on Thursday -- a 'B' game against the Red Sox at Hammond Field. Obviously, you can't put much stock into what goes on during exhibition contests Ė particularly an informal affair such as this one Ė but one performance that stuck out to me was that of Carlos Gutierrez, who struggled through two-thirds of an inning and raised the ire of his manager.

Pitching in relief against a lineup filled with Boston backups, Gutierrez issued three walks and a two-run double, managing to record just two outs before the inning was cut short. Ron Gardenhire was none too pleased:

Gutierrez was misfiring, didnít make any adjustments. Velocityís good but youíve got to make adjustments; youíve got to step back and throw the ball over the plate. He stopped the game; I think we all saw that, and thatís what we donít want. We donít want people to stop the game.

First time out, maybe heís a little nervous, but heís better than that. Heís been pitching at the high levels here and heís got to do a little better than that. Heís got to pick up the pace of the game and throw the ball over. He throws the s*** out of the ball. That was really the only hard part of the day. The rest of the guys threw pretty good; they went at it.
Gardenhire doesn't call players out this candidly in the media very often, but I've noticed that oftentimes he'll do it when he's frustrated and disappointed because his expectations weren't met. I think this is one such instant.

Gutierrez is a guy the Twins are looking at to carry weight in their patchwork bullpen this season. I listed him as one of four key players to watch in my Spring Training Preview last month. Drafted out of college in the first round four years ago, now is the time for him to be stepping up.

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Yet, while he's got the stuff to profile as a solid reliever, his control continues to lag behind. Last year in Rochester, Gutierrez averaged a career-best 8.2 strikeouts per nine innings, but that came with 31 walks in 62 frames.

He's always given up a fair amount of hits, so it seems unlikely that Gutierrez will be a real asset in the bullpen unless he can significantly reduce the number of free passes. Thursday's outing doesn't provide a great deal of encouragement on that front, but it's still very early and hopefully Gardenhire was right when he said the erratic performance might have been attributable to nerves.
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