March 20, 2016

Here’s what I’ve learned about the Twins after the third week of Spring Training

The Twins returned to winning form through Saturday (March 19), finishing the week with four wins and a loss to improve to 9-7-1 overall. Most notably, the offense stepped it up, getting blowout victories over the Orioles and Red Sox. Byung Ho Park, Miguel Sano, Brian Dozier and Trevor Plouffe continue to hit, as do free agents Ryan Sweeney and Carlos Quentin.

Here’s what I noticed:

-Starting pitching: Tyler Duffey, who got roughed up by the Toronto Blue Jays, bounced right back to give up only one earned run over four innings against the Red Sox. Tommy Milone continues to pitch well — four scoreless innings against the Cardinals in his last start — but it was Kyle Gibson who probably had the best start of the spring so far after he struck out seven in three-plus innings on Wednesday. Gibson appears to have the stuff to a be a big league success but a lack of consistency has dogged him so far in his career. In three seasons with the Twins, he has a record of 26-27. Maybe this is his year.

-The offense: All eyes have been on Byung Ho Park and Miguel Sano this spring, but free agents Ryan Sweeney and Carlos Quentin are quietly having decent days in Florida. Sweeney, who has a career batting average of .276, is hitting .346 with the Twins, while Quentin, a former two-time All Star with the White Sox, is hitting .364 and is among the team leaders in RBIs with seven.

-Pitchers Jose Berrios, Ervin Santana, Phil Hughes: Hot prospect Berrios and veteran pitchers, Santana and Hughes, all got roughed up in minor league starts, but it cost Berrios the most because he got sent back to the minors. Santana, though, had the quote of the week, describing what it feels like to pitch to a bunch of eager minor league ballplayers:

“Down there, they see anything white, they swing,” Santana said with a smile. “In the majors, they take more pitches. Down there they are swinging.”

-The bullpen: The relief corps had a better week, I guess. They recorded the blown save, win and save on Monday; gave up three earned runs on Wednesday; surrendered four earned runs on Thursday; and once again had the blown save, win and save on Friday. Michael Tonkin, a member of the bullpen the past three seasons, watched his spring ERA rise to 12.60. Aaron Thompson is right behind him at 11.81, followed by Casey Fien at 9.00.

-Byron Buxton, Eddie Rosario: Signs of life from two stars in the making. Rosario has raised his batting average to .276 while Buxton’s average finally is headed in the right direction, even if it’s only .200.

And then there was this…

COMMENTS

Hi, I’m Rolf Boone and I love the Twins.

I became a fan of the Minnesota Twins after a friendly wager in the early 1980s. I survived Ron Davis, the meltdown in Cleveland, Phil Bradley at the Kingdome and then marveled at a rising generation of stars and two World Series wins in 1987 and 1991. Brad Radke made the 1990s bearable, while Kirby Puckett’s eye injury, exit from the game and eventual death made it almost too much to bear. The new century ushered in more talent — Joe Mauer, Johan Santana, Joe Nathan, Torii Hunter, Justin Morneau — and consecutive seasons of playoff baseball, followed by consecutive seasons of losing baseball. A winning season returned in 2015. So here we are. Go Twins.