Monday, April 7, 2014

Adventures with a misshapen roster

Jason Bartlett: Not
an outfielder.
Strictly speaking, the Minnesota Twins didn't need a legitimate bench outfielder Sunday.

It only looked that way.

The Twins were without Oswaldo Arcia from the get-go. Arcia missed Saturday's game with his sore wrist, which was checked by a doctor in Cleveland and pronounced nothing serious. He sat out Sunday and supposedly is to test it with some swings today but not play then either. (I groaned when I read Ron Gardenhire's statement that if Arcia can't play by Wednesday he'll go on the disabled list because "we're not going to play shorthanded this year." Listen, Gardy: You already are.)

Then Josh Willingham took a Justin Masterson pitch off his wrist and came out of the game an inning later.

Cue the Jason Bartlett experiment. Cue the Jason Bartlett embarrassment: Two badly overmatched at-bats with men on base (both strikeouts) and a third plate appearance for which Cleveland walked Joe Mauer in order to get to Bartlett only to plunk him. And a horrid inning in which he kept diving for balls he couldn't catch and risking further damage.

To be fair, I don't know that he's a worse defensive outfielder than Willingham, who is essentially immobile. Bartlett can run. But he's a career shortstop almost completely lacking in outfield experience, and he clearly doesn't know where his capabilities end and the risk begins. Willingham wouldn't have gotten close to either of the balls Bartlett dove for, but he also wouldn't have left his feet.

Bartlett didn't finish the game; Eduardo Escobar pinch-hit for him (and struck out) and stood in left field for a couple of innings without incident.

The word Sunday evening was that Chris Herrmann, catcher-outfielder, was on his way to the Twin Cities for the home opener. Presumably he'll be activated today for one of the Arcia-Willingham duo. Which would still leave the bench shorthanded, but not as shorthanded as it would have been. And there'll be a reserve who has played a full professional game in the outfield.

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