Wednesday, April 17, 2013

Notes, quotes and comments

Joe Mauer now has 21 hits this season, 15 of them with
two strikes on him.
Joe Mauer. What more to say? Consecutive four-for-five days for the Twins catcher, and a batting average on the young season of .386.

What a hitter.

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Outfielders everywhere, and scarcely a center fielder in sight: Darin Mastroianni went from the starting lineup to the bench to the disabled list Tuesday. Oswaldo Arcia went from Monday's starting lineup back to Triple A back to the Twins.

Mastroianni played all nine innings Monday, so his disabled list stint will last at least two weeks. It's pretty rare that the Twins don't get to postdate a DL stint, so it must have been pretty obvious Tuesday that Mastroianni couldn't/shouldn't play. (This does follow two weeks-plus of very limited availablity, so it hardly indicates a more aggressive roster-management response to injuries.)

Now comes an interesting challenge for Ron Gardenhire. Mastroianni has a specific role on this team — speed, defense, right-handed reserve outfielder. Arcia has a different tool set. So does Wilkin Ramirez, the other bench outfielder.

There's little to be gained from parking Arcia on the bench, and there's no obvious spot in the lineup for him. 

Center field? Well, maybe, but I'd still be wary.

The Cuddyer Principle holds that you can put a (right-handed) major league player anywhere in the infield or outfield and it won't necessarily be immediately obvious that he doesn't belong there. We saw a bit of that Tuesday, when Eduardo Escobar was pressed into service as a left fielder and immediately made a nice play handling a ball off the wall in foul territory, holding the batter to a single.

So yeah, Gardy might try playing Arcia there a bit, but it's hardly optimal.

Meanwhile, Aaron Hicks seems to be having better at-bats, with three walks the past two days. Dick Bremer grumped that Hicks needs a three-for-four day, but at least the rookie isn't getting himself out.

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Tangled in the outfield issues is the leadoff spot. Hicks had held that slot all season until Monday, when Mastroianni hit leadoff. After he was scratched Tuesday, Brian Dozier was moved to leadoff, and he promptly went two-for-four with a walk.

Dozier entered the game with worse numbers this young season than last — Tuesday raised his slash line to .189/.279/.243 — so he's hardly made a case that he belongs at the top of the order. Still, somebody has to hit leadoff, and one can hardly blame Gardenhire for looking for alternatives to Hicks for the job.

Meanwhile, Pedro Florimon sports an unlikely .484 on-base percentage. Nobody's THAT good, of course, and especially not Florimon. It's only 23 official at-bats. I'm not calling for him to move up to the leadoff slot.

Interesting, though, that people are taking Hicks' bad numbers so seriously and shrugging off Florimon's good ones. One significant difference, of course, is that Hicks has looked so overmatched from the moment the club came north. It hasn't been bad luck for him.

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Another good long-relief job Tuesday from Anthony Swarzak, who probably came a Trevor Plouffe error short of a four-inning save. Certainly we've never seen Gardenhire give so many long outings to his relievers as he has in the first 13 games or so.

Starting to wonder when Bert Blyleven will start obsessing about Mike Pelfrey's dawdling pace the way he used to about Scott Baker's. Baker was a speed demon compared to Pelfrey.

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