Monday, March 17, 2014

Spring training trip, Day 4: The position battles

Aaron Hicks prepares to hit during
a minor league game Sunday morning.
The Twins cut eight more players Sunday morning, most prominently shortstop prospect Danny Santana. Santana muffed another throw Saturday in the game against the Mets; his inconsistency on the routine play is probably THE issue for him.

Later Sunday morning, incumbent shortstop Pedro Florimon played most of a game between the Triple A and Double A squads. I showed up at that field just in time to see Florimon rip a triple down the right field line off B.J. Hermsen. I also saw Florimon strike out the next time up against Hermsen. I didn't see him called upon to make a play in the field.

Word later Sunday had Florimon scheduled to play in tonight's major league exhibition.

Florimon was one reason Ron Gardenhire was up in the tower watching the action. Another was Aaron Hicks, who was hitting (but not playing in the field) for the Double A team.

I saw Hicks homer off Yohan Pino -- left-handed, Hicks' weaker side -- at which point major league hitting coach Tom Brunansky stuck his head in the dugout and called him out of the game. A few minutes later, both Hicks and Florimon were riding a golf cart to the main stadium.

With non-roster guys Darin Mastroianni and Jermaine Mitchell sent down  in the morning cuts, the center field job is down to Hicks and Alex Presley. Presley started Sunday's game against the Miami Marlins. He singled in his first at-bat and laer reached on an error. After the error, he tried to steal second. And, for the second time this spring, Presley beat the throw but overslid the base. He's 0-for-3 as a base stealer this spring.

Hicks later replaced Presley in the game and doubled (right-handed, and with help from the Miami left fielder) in his only at-bat.

If I had to guess right now, I'd say Hicks is the likely center fielder to open the season.

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Just to update my obsession with the notion of Jason Bartlett making the roster: He entered the game late at second base. He came up after Hicks' double in the bottom of the eighth. The lefty pitching for Miami fell behind 2-0.

Ahead in the count. With the platoon advantage. Against a minor leaguer with 18 MLB innings to his credit. This was a prime shot for Bartlett to break his Grapefruit League 0-fer, right? Uh, no. He swung at the 0-2 and hit a weak foul to the first base side. He did, ultimately, draw a walk; he is now 0-for-23 with two walks, which works out to an on-base percentage of .080.

Things figure to come to a head pretty quickly. Bartlett is said to have a March 25 opt-out; if he's not on the roster by then, he can declare free agency. The Twins should call that bluff; this is getting ridiculous.




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