Monday, March 19, 2012

A spring-training one-hitter

What does Jeff
Gray (above) have
that Sam Dudomo
(below) doesn't?
A spot on the 40-
man roster.
What, if anything, should we take away from Sunday's exhibition game, in which Francisco Liriano and four relievers combined to allow Pittsburgh just one hit?

Probably not a lot, other than that so far this spring Liriano has more closely resembled the 2010 model than 2011's. He did have a clunker start -- which was really just one clunker inning -- after which he talked of rushing "like I always do." This is the essential riddle of Francisco Lirano: Inconsistent mechanics, aware of what his problems are and somehow unable to correct the problems in mid-inning.

If Liriano is in 2012 what he was in 2010, the Twins have a borderline ace. The border is the self-command to make whatever adjustments he needs -- and he is too often on the wrong side of that border without an entry visa.

The other four innings were worked by little-known bullpen candidates. (Matt Capps, Glen Perkins and others worked in a morning "B" game; the "A" game innings were reserved for pitchers in need of evaluation.)

Order of use matters in this situation; the deeper into the game, the fewer legitimate major league hitters the pitcher will face. So it was significant that Jeff Gray, the one man among the four relievers who is on the 40-man roster, was the first man used.

He is also the one I have the least interest in seeing actually make the 25-man roster. He might anyway; he's on the 40 and out of options. The Twins obviously were interested enough to claim him last October when Seattle waived him, and he hasn't allowed an earned run this spring. But he has allowed a pair of unearned runs, he has yet to strike out anybody and he's walked a batter per inning. He has been less effective than the ERA suggests.

There is an expectation that there will be a fresh wave of cuts today; I wouldn't be too surprised if all four of Sunday's relievers get the ax. For Casey Fien, Sam Deduno and Luis Perdomo -- all of whom have outperformed Gray in Florida -- that will mean the short hike to the minor league side of the complex, for which they were signed this winter to begin with. For Gray, it means another exposure to the waiver wire and perhaps yet another new organization.


  1. Obviously the order relievers are used tells you something. But what?

    Right now, the coaches are making decisions about who won't be on the roster. They don't need to decide who will for at least another week.

    As you point out, deciding Gray is not on the roster means exposing him to waivers. Its plausible he pitched early because the coaches wanted to see him one more time against better competition before deciding to eliminate him from consideration.

  2. FORT MYERS, FLA. -- The Twins optioned infielder Tsuyoshi Nishioka to Class AAA Rochester this morning. Nishioka, who is on the second year of a three-year contract, was believed to be fighting for a utility infield spot on the Opening Day roster.

    Nishioka, 27, batted .240 (6-for-25) in nine Grapefruit League games this spring. He had several defensive miscues early in camp.

    "It's definitely tough to swallow, but it's not like I'm getting baseball taken away from me," Nishioka said, through translator Ryo Shinkawa.

    Asked what General Manager Terry Ryan and Manager Ron Gardenhire told Nishioka to work on in Rochester, the infielder said, "To slow the game down and to be able to be back to my old self, how I was playing in Japan."

    Besides Nishioka, the Twins also optioned reliever Carlos Gutierrez and outfielder Rene Tosoni to Rochester. The team re-assigned nine others to minor-league camp: pitchers Jason Bulger, Luis Perdomo, Daryl Thompson, Esmerling Vasquez and P.J. Walters; catchers Chris Herrmann and Dan Rohlfing; infielder Aaron Bates and outfielder Wilkin Ramirez.

    The Twins now have 45 players on their spring training roster.