Monday, March 11, 2013

The Twins and the WBC

J.O. Berrios —
or is it Jose?
Today's print column was a general look at the World Baseball Classic, but it hardly exhausts the topic.

The Twins had 13 players — from former MVPs to teenagers — in the WBC. No organization provided more participants. Here's a few comments:

* How raw is J.O. Berrios? So raw there's no consensus on what he's to be called. The Star Tribune is going with Jose on first reference; Baseball America uses the initials; Baseball Reference at one point used the initials and now has gone with the first name. So far I've gone with the initials.

Berrios (and fellow Puerto Rican Eddie Rosario) was in the Twins major-league camp before the WBC only because of the event; both prospects took advantage of the opportunity to catch the attention, and imagination, of the big-leauge staff. 

Rosario got a lot of playing time in the early exhibitions, Berrios did not. But Berrios pitched Sunday in relief against the Dominican Republic in a game aired by ESPN. (The broadcast was in Spanish, which means I understood only occasional words of the commentary, such as beisbol; this was a vast improvement over the likes of Rick Sutcliffe and John Kruk.) 

Deolis Guerra pitches for
his homeland.
Berrios had a rough outing — two runs, both earned, in 1.2 innings, and he was charged with the loss — but it was still easy to be impressed. The kid (still only 18) blew a high fastball past Robinson Cano for strike three. He throws from a lower arm angle than I had expected to see, and the motion looks easy.

He needs, obviously, experience and good health. That's not an easy combination to achieve. But he can be a good one.  

* Deolis Guerra was pitching for Venezuela but left in mid-round with what was initially described as a pectoral injury. It turned out to be a blood clot in his shoulder. He's to have part of a rib removed to free up space.

This was a potentially serious development, but since it's been caught it's not a career-threatening one. There's no reason Guerra shouldn't be able to pitch again. Still, it's a blow; most of this season is lost for him.

It seems like we've been waiting for him forever; he was the high-ceiling piece of the Johan Santana trade, made just before spring training in 2008. He'll never be the stud starter envisioned at the time, but he's still only 23.

* It's easy to criticize the game strategy Team USA manager Joe Torre employed in the first round. 

Sam Deduno struck out five and walked
none in his start against Spain.
The Americans attempted four sacrifice bunts Sunday against Canada. Now, I love the bunting game, but I love it in its place. Torre has a lineup filled with legitimate All-Stars, and — no offense to the Team Canada pitchers — they're facing moundsmen of much lesser accomplishment. Giving away outs with guys like Adam Jones and Ben Zobrist is just silly.

But in another light, Torre is in a unique situation. He's got a roster of All-Stars, players who left their jobs to play for this team, and none of them came to park their butts on the bench. Torre made a point of getting everybody some playing time in the pool games. Ego massage comes with the territory, and perhaps all the bunting is a way of reminding them that the ego massage only goes so far. 

*Sam Deduno was a late addition to the Dominican roster, and when he opted to pitch in the WBC I saw some muttering from the metro media that he was hurting his chances of making the Twins rotation and wasn't likely to pitch for D.R. anyway.

He started the second game of pool play for the Dominican — four shutout innings against Spain for the win. Yeah, it was Spain, the weak sister of the San Juan pool (Dominican Republic, Puerto Rico, Venezuela and Spain), but Deduno did pitch. 

And, realistically, he wasn't making the Twins rotation out of camp even had he stayed. Do the math: There's Scott Diamond, Vance Worley, Mike Pelfrey and Kevin Correia, all of whom will either be in the rotation or on the DL. Then there's the contenders on the 40-man roster — Kyle Gibson, Cole DeVries, Liam Hendriks — all of whom rank ahead of Deduno. 

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