Thursday, March 1, 2018

One trip through

Trying to discern anything out of one baseball game is foolish. Trying to discern anything out of the first week of spring training games is just as foolish.

So I'm a fool, and what else is new?

Aaron Slegers and Stephen Gonsalves -- who are both more likely to open 2018 in the rotation of Triple A Rochester than in the Minnesota rotation -- on Wednesday became the first Twins hurlers to start twice this exhibition season.

Three observations from the first trip through the "rotation":

* Only Jose Berrios struggled. The Twins' most talented starter threw a scoreless inning but exhausted his 30-pitch allotment and didn't come out for a second frame.

* Anibal Sanchez didn't start, but he did work a pair of innings, throwing mostly offspeed stuff. The usual spring training pattern, especially for a veteran, is to spend the first outing testing fastball command. But the idea behind the Sanchez signing is to break his conventional pattern of pitching. He's on a non-guaranteed deal, and he needs to impress.

* Phil Hughes was not only effective in his start, he showed a bit more velocity than he did last season. Question: is there another velo uptick ahead as the spring moves on? Hughes is in a slightly different situation than Sanchez; his contract is guaranteed. But his role is not. If he's going to be in the rotation, he too needs to impress.

We are told that Paul Molitor plans to go with four starters to open the season, with the expectation/hope that Ervin Santana will be ready to roll when he needs to go deeper. We expect that the first three starters will be, in some order, Berrios, Jake Odorizzi and Kyle Gibson.

That leaves one slot, and a lot of candidates. "Tier One" candidates, as I see it, are Hughes, Sanchez and Aldaberto Mejia. "Tier Two" would include Slegers, Gonsalves and, apparently, Tyler Duffey, although I would prefer Duffey in a multi-inning bullpen role.

Nothing that happened the first time through hurt any of the Tier One candidates. The Tier Two guys haven't hurt themselves either, but they need not only to impress themselves but have the Tier One guys stumble.

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