Monday, April 1, 2019

Thoughts from the weekend

There was some grumbling on my Twitter feed about the quick hook for Michael Pineda, who worked just four innings, allowing one hit and throwing just 40 pitches, before giving way to Martin Perez.

The complainers generally recognized that the plan coming into the game was four innings from each, in a "piggyback" arrangement designed to keep Perez, destined for a starters role, stretched out, But with Pineda faring so well, their argument went, let Perez do his extra throwing in the bullpen to imaginary hitters and let Pineda go deeper.

Were that game being played in the defunct Metrodome, I might grant that argument. But it was outdoors on a chilly if sunny day, and Pineda is in his second full season after Tommy John surgery. A quick hook for him was justified.


Three games for the Twins under new skipper Rocco Baldelli, three different starting catchers -- and essentially one batting order, with whoever is catching hitting eighth.

I daresay the three previous Twins skippers, dating back more than two decades, would have made a point of getting everybody on the bench a start in the opening series. Baldelli did not. Ehire Adrianza, Tyler Austin and Jake Cave all got into Sunday's game late, after it was all but decided, and each got an at-bat, and Cave pinch-ran Saturday.

And that's all the action that trio got in the Cleveland series. Each, in my estimate, is on the active roster only because of injury and the rash of off-days. None has a real purpose on the roster.

Plenty of managers -- and Tom Kelly was emphatically of this mindset, Ron Gardenhire less so -- take the approach of: If he's on the roster, I need to find a use for him. Three games in, it appears Baldelli is not interested in crimping the playing time of his regulars to get this trio some at-bats.


Cleveland was, and doubtless remains, the consensus pick to win the AL Central. I've grown increasingly skeptical of that in recent weeks, partly on the basis of the Tribe's unwillingness/inability to rebuild its outfield.

Cleveland played this series without middle infielders Francisco Lindor and Jason Kipnis, and Lindor's absence in particular took a key piece out of their puzzle. But even when Lindor and Kipnis return, this is a shallow lineup.

Assume that Lindor and Kipnis return as legitimate top-half-of-the-order hitters, something Kipnis hasn't been the past two seasons. We'll assume it as a best-case scenario anyway. That will give Cleveland some order of Lindor, Jose Ramirez, Kipnis and Carlos Santana hitting leadoff through cleanup, and that's not bad at all (again, assuming Kipnis is the Kipnis of 2013-16). But the bottom half of that lineup ... ugh.

Add in the depletion of their bullpen, and it's not pretty. The Indians have genuine strengths -- that's probably the best rotation in the majors -- and there's a force of habit at work prompting people to forget that Terry Francona doesn't have the talent on hand that he's had in the past. But this weekend displayed the Indians' genuine flaws. The Twins are better balanced, and I think they not only can win this division, they should win it.

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