Tuesday, August 7, 2012

A different team from April

Ben Revere opened the season as a
backup outfielder; then he was demoted to
Triple A. Now he's the regular right fielder.
On May 15, the Twins were 10-26. They had played a brutal early schedule, one loaded with the power teams of the American League -- they had series against the Yankees, the Rangers, the Angels, the Red Sox and the Rays -- and they did not fare well.

Monday's thumping of Cleveland lifted the Twins to 48-61, giving them a record since May 15 of 38-35. That's not a pennant-winning percentage, but it's definitely not embarrassing.

Part of the improved record, without a doubt, is the softer schedule over those last 73 games. Part of it, also, is how different the Twins today are from the team that broke spring training.

The only survivor of the opening rotation is also the least effective of the current one (Nick Blackburn). Francisco Liriano, Carlo Pavano, Liam Hendriks and Jason Marquis have given way to the Four Ds -- Scott Diamond, Brian Duensing, Cole DeVries and Sam Deduno.

Six positions in the lineup have been changed; only Joe Mauer, Josh Willingham and Denard Span are playing the same positions and filling the same roles as they were in April. The entire infield is different.

April's infield: Chris Parmelee at first base (with Mauer getting considerable time); Alexi Casilla at second; Danny Valencia at third; Jamey Carroll at short.

The reshuffled infield, by and large: Justin Morneau at first, Carroll at second, Trevor Plouffe at third, Brian Dozier at short.

Right field has gone from a jumble of Ben Revere, Plouffe, Clete Thomas, Ryan Doumit and Eric Komatsu to a steady diet of Revere.

It is tempting to say the Twins made too many wrong calls in forming the initial roster. But that looks too simple.

In March, the Twins were concerned that the added exertion of playing the field might raise the risk of concussion symptoms for Morneau. That led to the decision to open with Parmelee on the roster and led to the downsized role for Revere.

Dozier impressed many during camp, but he probably benefited from a few weeks in the International League. Even so, he has not had a seamless transition to the American League. I doubt the Twins would have been noticeably better in April with Dozier in the lineup.

The Twins went with their veterans in the rotation, only one of whom was new (Marquis) and switched them out as they failed and/or got hurt. That wasn't a spring training decision; that was an off-season decision.

It's a different team now; it's a better team. That doesn't mean they messed up in the spring.

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