March 13, 2016

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

After the Twins started Spring Training with a record of 3-1-1, the team slipped to 5-6-1 through Saturday (March 12). Despite the losing record — it’s Spring Training, right? — there still have been encouraging signs for the upcoming regular season.

Here’s what I noticed:

-Byung Ho Park: Park’s signing is beginning to look like the screaming deal of the offseason — $12 million over four seasons — because he continues to hit and hit with power. He had two more hits on Saturday to raise his average to .364. Park also leads the team in runs, home runs and RBIs with five, three and seven, respectively. Not only are you allowed to exhale, Twins fans, but you can also inhale and believe that the best is yet to come.

-Miguel Sano: Park has never played in the Major Leagues, but Sano has, hitting 18 homers in 80 games last season. But pitchers have caught on, apparently, because Sano is not seeing the same pitches. He leads the team with six walks, but has only one home run. Still, he has five hits, including three extra-base hits to raise his average to .357.

-Byron Buxton: Buxton, the fastest man in baseball (for my money, anyway) and the Twins’ No. 1 rated prospect, is off to a slow start with a .167 average, but so is Eddie Rosario, who hit .267 last year and led the team in triples with 15. The Twins will no doubt be patient with Rosario, and I hope they do the same with Buxton. He deserves it.

-Infield: Eduardo Escobar saw the most action at shortstop last season, but Eduardo Nunez is sure playing like he wants the job. Nunez is hitting .400 with eight hits in 20 at bats.

-Starting pitching: Starting pitching continues to hum along for the most part. Phil Hughes, the highly touted Jose Berrios and Ervin Santana have yet to give up earned runs this spring, while Trevor May of Longview, Wash., and Tommy Milone lead the staff in strikeouts. Kyle Gibson has one win this spring, but also is beginning to show the win-one, lose-one pattern that has defined his pitching career. May, too, wasn’t real sharp on Saturday, giving up four runs (three earned) in two-and-two-thirds of an inning.

-Tyler Duffey: Starting pitcher Duffey, a breath of fresh air last year when he carried the Twins down the stretch with five wins and a 3.10 ERA, once again got roughed up by the Toronto Blue Jays. Duffey made his Major League debut last season against the Blue Jays and lasted all of two innings, surrendering six earned runs. He made his spring debut against the Jays on Tuesday and it went just as well, with Duffey giving up five earned runs and one home run in three innings. Here’s to never having to face the Jays again, Tyler.

-Ricky Nolasco: If you lose that number, Ricky, don’t worry about it. Nolasco, who got roughed up in his first spring start, bounced right back the second time with three scoreless innings and four strikeouts. That performance came against the St. Louis Cardinals, which might explain Nolasco’s improved effort. Nolasco has 100 career wins, 89 of them in the National League.

-The bullpen: If there’s any cause for alarm this season, it just might be the bullpen. Relievers had the blown save and loss on Tuesday; the loss on Wednesday; surrendered two earned runs on Thursday; the blown save and loss on Friday; and gave up four earned runs on Saturday. Logan Darnell, Mason Melotakis, Alex Meyer, Michael Tonkin and Aaron Thompson all have earned run averages north of 10.

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.