Long Strange Trip: Twins 1, Marlins 3
by, 03-05-2014 at 12:33 AM (431 Views)
Here's what you really need to know about this game: Jupiter, Florida, where the Marlins play, is a long three-plus hour bus trip from Fort Myers. The bus leaves at 7:30 in the morning. It gets back something like 8:00 that night. The Twins, like every other team, tries to protect their best (veteranish) players from this as best they can.
(And in the Twins case, they had a split squad game yesterday, meaning that nearly every veteran also played yesterday.)
There was even a question in the pregame press conference with manager Ron Gardenhire about whether it meant anything that a veteran (and a high-priced veteran, at that) like today's staring pitcher Phil Hughes, had to make this trip. Like whether the team was sending Phil Hughes a message by making him take that trip.
Gardenhire - who does every road trip, including the split squad days, by the way - said that the Twins expect their players to be pretty businesslike. "They didn't have a choice," Gardenhire replied bluntly. "We try not to send veterans on long bus rides, but when it comes up your turn, and you're lining them up to start the season, sometimes you've just got to suck it up."
Just so I'm clear, there is no indication that Hughes had any problem with this. He said after the game he came down the night before to prepare.
Failure to Detonate
The story of the game was supposed to be Byron Buxton's first start, but Buxton went 0 for 5. The only thing that he did to impress was almost beating out a routine grounder just because he's so crazy fast. But he was still out.
That didn't stop the Buxton frenzy. Gardenhire was asked about Buxton several times before the game and again after the game. Assistant GM Rob Antony was asked about Buxton in a pregame press conference. Phil Hughes was asked about Buxton after Hughes' start. And Buxton had a throng of reporters waiting for him after he dressed. One question: "Were you safe on the grounder?"
You know what this means? Nothing. Or at least not to Buxton and not to the Twins. All it means is that a lot of writers aren't going to get the compelling story they wanted to write and a of Twins fans aren't going to get the compelling story they wanted to read. I'm confident we'll all get through this rough spot.
Lineup Notes I
Sam Deduno pitched but not until the fifth inning. It was assumed that Deduno would be legitimately competing with Scott Diamond and Vance Worley for the last spot in the rotation. But Diamond started a game already, Worley started a game already - and Deduno didn't pitch until after Phil Hughes and Ryan Pressly? Really?
For what it's worth, when I asked Gardenhire before the game if everything in Deduno's shoulder was OK, Gardenhire replied "Everything's been good. No problems whatsover." After the game, when we asked for an evaluation of Deduno's performance, Gardenhire restated their goals. "We just want to make sure he's healthy, get him through his innings, and as we go, we'll stretch him out and see where we go from there. Right now, it's all about the health part and get through his innings."
In my mind, I don't think the Twins know if Deduno is healthy, or at least if he can get healthy. If that sounds Deduno is going to have trouble grabbing that fifth spot, I think you're right.
Lineup Notes II
Eduardo Escobar started at third base today. That is likely because of the long trip, but it's worth noting that everyone seems confident that Escobar can play third base. (In fact, according to Gardenhire, the Twins thought that was his best spot when he was with the White Sox.)
With a limited roster, an infield backup player is likely going to need to be able to play second base, shortstop and third base. Escobar can. Doug Bernier can. Today James Bereford showed that he can.
But it's not clear yet that Jason Bartlett can. If we don't see him at the hot corner within the next couple of days, I have to think the backup infielder spot is Escobar's to lose. Barlett's hopes hang on the Twins decision whether to carry a 13th position player or 13th pitcher.
A Bright Spot
Chris Colabello got on base three times today, including two walks. That's his fifth walk in five (shortened) games this season. Colabello has made some mechanical adjustment, but after the game, he wanted to talk about being more comfortable and less anxious than he was last year. "It's more about just approaching your at-bats with a little more calm."