Friday, March 11, 2011

Spring training: Twins 3, Red Sox 2

A fearsome foursome of Twins bloggers:  (from left)
Nick Nelson, Topper Anton, Edward Thoma and Seth Stohs.
Justin Morneau and Delmon Young made their "official" spring training debuts on Friday -- that "B" game on Tuesday was an unofficial exhibition game -- and they were the first to leave. Young had a well-struck single to right in two at-bats; Morneau struck out his first time up and reached base his second time up with Carl Crawford dropped a fly ball.

So that's probably the headline of the day. A few other observations:

We got there early and watched some PFP (pitchers fielding practice), infield practice and batting practice for the guys who weren't starting. Nothing too remarkable there, although I did overhear Ron Gardenhire saying before it go started, Let's do it right. This is, apparently, something that strikes players from other organizations: Everybody does PFP in spring training; the Twins have a real focus not just on doing it, but doing it right, not sloppily, not in a let's-get-this-out-of-the-way manner.

Joe Mauer did some hitting in the batting cage under the stadium, which drew a crowd of onlookers several rows deep (the cages are visible from the outside). It felt a good bit like looking over the shoulder of somebody trying to type.

I was wondering if Tsuyoshi Nishioka was going to play, given the earthquake/tsunami in his homeland, but he did, saying that he would honor his countrymen by doing so. I paid more attention to him than to Morneau, to be honest about it; Morneau's play I'm familiar with. Nishioka is a novelty.

He had a well-struck single to left in his first at-bat, right-handed against Jon Lester. Later he faced a lefty and drew a walk. His stance right-handed appears conventional; left-handed he has that odd trait so many of the Japanese hitters have of starting the body forward while leaving the hands back.

On defense he made a very nice diving back-handed stab of a grounder on which he was leaning the wrong way initially. He appeared playful, even flamboyant (flipping the ball to Morneau behind his back during pregame warmups, for example). He's going to be fun to watch.

Ben Revere beat out a bunt and stole third base. He's  fast and, unlike Carlos Gomez, appears to have an idea of how to apply his speed. (Revere is wearing No. 11, which used to belong to Chuck Knoblauch and Jacque Jones.)

Dusty Hughes threw a wicked breaking ball for a strikeout to end his one inning of work. One pitch, but it really elevated his status in my eyes.

Carlos Gutierrez and Kyle Waldrop worked the last two innings. They're similar style pitchers, but Waldrop was the more effective. Gutierrez didn't get a groundball in his inning; Waldrop stuck out  two men the side.

And the infield substitutes had a very sloppy rundown behind Gutierrez. Matt Tolbert finally took control of it and got the out, but I expect that tomorrow's morning drills will involve a heavy dose of executing the rundown.

Which they will do without me dancing attendance. Tomorrow is our non-baseball day for the trip.

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