Thursday, March 20, 2014

What did they expect?

Jason Bartlett has had a horrendous spring at the plate,
but Ron Gardenhire apparently really wants him on the roster.
Before the Twins' game Wednesday, assistant general manager Rob Antony sounded off on the poor springs of several players:

“I wish somebody would step up and earn a job. Nobody’s really doing that, all these guys that are in competition. (Aaron) Hicks hasn’t been anything special this spring. Neither has (Alex) Presley. There’s your centerfield battle. ... Nobody’s really stepped up to try to earn the spots. That’s a bad feeling when you’re looking at giving spots away."

It wasn't just the center fielders Antony was griping about. It was the guys going for the fifth starters job (although, frankly, he really has no reason to complain about Sam Deduno or Kyle Gibson). It was the guys seeking the utility infielder job (Eduardo Escobar, Jason Bartlett and Doug Bernier). It was Jason Kubel, brought in for the DH job.

I am not alone, I know, in responding: What did you expect?

The Twins put their resources this winter into adding pitchers. The only certain change they made to their lineup was replacing Justin Morneau with Kurt Suzuki. Even the low wattage Morneau we've seen since his concussions figures to be a better hitter than Suzuki.

And that's it. The rest of the "upgrades" amount to recycling Jasons (Bartlett and Kubel). The rest of the projected roster is the same bunch that finished near the bottom of the American League in runs scored.

This lineup is going to struggle to score 600 runs, and that struggle was eminently predicable all winter.

Bartlett is one for 27 in Grapefruit League play after finally getting a single Wednesday. Well, the man hasn't hit since 2009. He hadn't played since April 2012. Was Antony really expecting him to hit like vintage Derek Jeter this month?

Hicks hit under .200 last season before the Twins sent him to Triple A, and he hit under .200 there. Then he sat out winter ball. On what basis did Anthony expect him to turn into Pete Rose this spring? (And considering that Hicks had a sensational spring training last year, would it really matter if he did hit like Rose?)

Presley's limitations as a player were manifest last September, when he played pretty much everyday after coming over in the Morneau trade. He's 28. He is what he is. Jason Kubel is 31, he hit .216 last season, and nobody has accused him of overdoing his conditioning work. He's hitting .080 this spring. Josh Willingham is 35, he hit .208 last year, and his skill set seldom ages well.

And now, as March is dwindling, Antony and Ron Gardenhire find themselves with a roster featuring Joe Mauer, Oswaldo Arcia and a bunch of guys who should hit eighth or ninth if they belong in a major league lineup at all.

And somehow they manage to sound surprised about that. What the devil did they expect?

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