February 26, 2018

It’s just spring training, it’s just spring training, it’s just…

Spring training is underway, which means it’s time to once again fight the urge to declare every Twins win a sign of invincibility and every loss a sign that the team is doomed. Why? Well, spring training is meaningless, right? You can’t glean anything from a handful of games played over the next month or so, or can you?

That certainly wasn’t the case in 2016. The Twins won 19 games in Grapefruit League action that year, then completely fell apart to start the regular season. They won seven games in April, eight games in May and 10 games in June. By the all-star break, the Twins had just 32 wins and were on their way to a franchise-worst 103 losses.

And yet… the tug of war with spring training continues.

Some observations:

The Twins picked up their first win on Sunday, a 5-4 victory over the Tampa Bay Rays. Starter Kyle Gibson pitched two scoreless innings, newcomer Addison Reed added a scoreless inning as well, but it was pitcher Zack Littell who attracted some social media buzz after he struck out three batters in two innings to close out the win. Littell came to the Twins after the team sent Jaime Garcia to the New York Yankees last season.

Meanwhile, center fielder Byron Buxton was hitless in three at bats on Friday versus the Boston Red Sox, then he did it again on Sunday with three more hitless appearances. The only thing that comes to mind is: When is Buxton going to get past this tendency to get off to a really slow start?

During the first half of 2017, he hit .216, followed by .300 the rest of the way. In 2016, he was ice-cold for most of the season until he hit .287 in September and October with nine home runs. I’m ready for a little more consistency. I’m sure he is, too.

Extra innings…

-Free agent slugger Logan Morrison has joined the Twins after he agreed to a one-year deal worth $6.5 million, although it  could be as much as $16.5 million over two years, according to various reports. Morrison hit 38 home runs for the Rays last season, but he also struck out nearly 150 times. And last season’s dingers were well above the norm for his career. Still, if Miguel Sano is suspended by major league baseball for his role in an incident with a female photographer, Morrison’s bat might come in handy.

-The Twins have also signed longtime Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim infielder Erick Aybar to a minor league deal. Aybar was a consistent presence for the Angels who regularly hit near .300 for 10 seasons. He has a career batting average of .271.

-All told the Twins had an excellent offseason, which was otherwise quiet for free agent pitchers Lance Lynn, Alex Cobb and Jake Arrieta. The Twins strengthened the bullpen with Fernando Rodney, Zach Duke and Addison Reed; they added starting pitching with Jake Odorizzi, Anibal Sanchez and Michael Pineda; and they picked up Morrison and Aybar. Twins Daily released a twitter poll on Sunday, asking what grade would you give the front office (Falvey & Co.) for the offeason so far? I took the poll and gave them an “A.”

-Old friend Francisco Liriano is pitching for Ron Gardenhire again after he joined the Detroit Tigers on a one-year deal. Liriano also will be working with former Twins pitching coach and Everett native Rick Anderson.

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.