Monday, March 10, 2014

The first cuts are the deepest

Byron Buxton (70) is greeted at home plate after his
home run Saturday by Max Kepler. Both prospects were
sent to the minor league camp on Sunday.
The Twins on Sunday optioned out or reassigned 16 players in their first round of cuts. Last year the first set of cuts involved five players, four of whom were injured anyway, so those cuts were barely noticed.

Among the 16 moving down the street to the minor league setup are Byron Buxton and Alex Meyer. Miguel Sano too, although that's just a paper move; he's to have his Tommy John surgery Wednesday.

The Twins now have 48 players in major league camp, and presumably part of the purpose in cutting so many early on is to free up more at-bats and innings for the players who are going to be on the opening roster -- or who are competing for that roster. Ron Gardenhire was playing Buxton a lot this past week on the basis that "the clock is ticking" on the prospect. Now that playing time will go to the likes of Aaron Hicks and Alex Presley.

Neither Buxton or Meyer had a realistic chance at the Opening Day roster. Nor did any of the other 14. In that sense, their demotions were logical, even necessary.

Still, speaking as one who has tickets for three exhibition games in the next week, I have to say: I'd much rather see the just-demoted Buxton or Max Kepler or Jorge Polanco in those games than Presley, Jason Kubel or Jason Bartlett. One set represents the unknown but presumably bright future; the other set represents the fading past and present mediocrity.

The Monday print column discusses the issue of spring training lineups and touches on the ethics of charging nearly regular-season prices for games with lineups that are not of regular-season quality. In the case of the Twins, I don't think the customers are being ripped off when the lineup is heavy on prospects and light on regulars. The Twins' kids are more interesting.

Early March, and I'm already fully expecting another Twins team that's not only bad but boring. That tone has now been set.

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