March 28, 2016

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

The Twins improved to 15-10-1 through Sunday (March 27), showing signs that this team is set to advance on the progress they made last year. The starting pitching has been solid, the offense has clicked — particularly from key players, such as Byung Ho Park, Miguel Sano and Trevor Plouffe — and the bullpen, while not great, had a better week.

Here’s what I noticed:

Starting pitching: Phil Hughes, Kyle Gibson, Ervin Santana and Tommy Milone are all assured roles in the rotation, which means it comes down to either Tyler Duffey or Ricky Nolasco for that fifth spot. Right now it’s advantage Nolasco after another good start on Wednesday in which he struck out seven over six innings. The rest of the staff had a good week, too. Hughes struck out nine in five-plus innings on Tuesday, Gibson struck out eight in six innings on Saturday, Santana did the same on Friday, and Milone limited the Marlins to two earned runs on Thursday.

The bullpen: The relief corps has had an average spring until Tuesday when manager Paul Molitor decided to go with five relief pitchers. They did the job, holding the Orioles to one run. Michael Tonkin and Aaron Thompson, who both made scoreless appearances in that game, lowered their stratospheric spring earned run averages to nine from around 11.

Offense: All eyes have been on Miguel Sano, Byung Ho Park and Byron Buxton this spring, and rightly so, but don’t look now because here comes third baseman Trevor Plouffe. Plouffe now leads the team in spring home runs and RBIs (four and 14) and apparently has won the cleanup hitter’s job.

Veterans: A few at bats without a hit and a batting average can fall pretty quickly. I guess that’s what happened to free agents Carlos Quentin and Ryan Sweeney because Sweeney was released by the team and they’ve asked Quentin to join the Triple-A team in Rochester. Both were competing for jobs in an already crowded Twins outfield. The Twins hope Quentin accepts the minor league assignment because he has a chance to make the team later in the year.

Sano, Park and Buxton: Miguel Sano and Byung Ho Park continue to hit around .300. Sano has only one home run this spring, but he also has five extra-base hits and 11 walks, which leads the team. Park has 13 hits, three home runs, 13 RBIs, but also 12 strikeouts. Buxton’s average continues to head north, although slowly. He’s now hitting .225 after hitting under .200 earlier in the month.

Life’s not fair: If anyone deserved to make the team, it would appear to be outfielder Darin Mastroianni who hit .414 this spring. Instead, he did not make the team and will start the year at Triple-A Rochester.

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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.