Monday, March 25, 2013

Notes from the weekend

Aaron Hicks had a minor leaguer's number this spring,
but he'll have a much lower one when the season opens.
Ron Gardenhire said/announced/conceded Sunday that Aaron Hicks had won the center field and leadoff hitter jobs.

It's tempting to declare that this made Gardy the last to know, but in truth it's been obvious all spring — even before camp opened — that Hicks was Gardenhire's first choice for the job.

Of the three center field candidates, Hicks was the only one who played strictly in center in exhibitions. Hicks, however, was the one with the jersey number (63) that suggested he was a longshot. Joe Benson wore No. 12 this spring, Darrin Mastroianni No. 19.

But Hicks will get a new number with his new status — No. 32, in an apparent tribute to Dave Winfield, who wore that number during his brief Twins tenure. Hicks generally wore 31 in the minors; that's the number his father Joe wore in his own minor league days, also in tribute to Winfield. I suspect that if and when 31 becomes available — it's currently worn by Alex Burnett — that Hicks will switch to that number.

Tim Wood, an out-of-options bullpen candidate, turned up Sunday with a shoulder issue. Initial reports indicated that the Twins didn't view it as serious enough to get an MRI on the rotator cuff but that he might wind up opening the season on the disabled list.

Usually by now I've run a few COPOP — Current Outsider Projected Opening 'Pen — posts, but I haven't done any this spring. Let's take a whirl:

Ryan Pressly has
impressed this
Closer: Glen Perkins
Set-up 1: Jared Burton
Set-up 2/LOOGY: Brian Duensing
Middle relief 1: Casey Fien
Middle relief 2: Alex Burnett
Middle relief 3: Ryan Pressly
Long man: Josh Roenicke

Disabled list (major league): Anthony Swarzak, Wood; disabled list (minor league): Rafael Perez, Rich Harden

That's based on the conventional wisdom that the Twins will employ a 12-man pitching staff. In today's print column I say that the Twins will be forced — again — to carry 13 pitchers because the starters will be too incompetent to go seven innings with any consistency.

Seven relievers or eight, there will be choices to make as people start coming off the disabled list. Swarzak, Wood and Roenicke are all out of options, and Pressly is a Rule 5 guy, which means he has to be on the major-league roster or be offered back to the Red Sox. I think the Twins would really like to have Perez as an extra weapon against lefties, and the Twins are said to like Roenicke more in short bursts than as a long man, a job that figures to revert to Swarzak when he's ready.

Burnett has had a rough spring, and his strikeout and walk rates have always been unimpressive. Plue he has an option left. I would think he's the one on the thinnest ice right now.

We'll wrap up with a bit of Mankato parochialism: I was going through the Associated Press photos from Sunday and found this from a series of shots of autograph seekers as Twins personnel left Hammond Stadium:

Catcher Dan Rohlfing behind the wheel and Britt McGill
of Mankato collecting autographs.
 Hey, Mankato!

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