Spring training: Play ball!

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by Jean Gabler | February 28, 2009 • Spring training games began on Wednesday and the Twins are off to an impressive 4-0 start, including two wins against the Yankees and one against the Red Sox. Beating those two teams is always a little sweeter, isn’t it?

the knothole view is jean gabler’s blog about the minnesota twins and all things baseball.

The pitching has been generally good. The most noticeable pitcher struggling early was Phil Humber who pitched one inning, giving up four earned runs against the Reds. Humber, who is out of options, would seem to be the leading candidate to win a bullpen spot now that Bonser is out for the season. The question is whether Gardenhire will go with 11 or 12 pitchers to start the regular season. If he goes with 12 pitchers, Humber will have to do better than his first outing to have a chance to make the team.

The general feeling is that pitchers have the advantage at the beginning of spring training. The Twins, however, have had at least ten hits in each of their first four games so they are hitting well. As with the pitchers, there are a couple of position players who are trying to prove that they can be regular contributors. Brian Buscher has six hits in eight at bats. He would like to at least have a share of the starts at third base now that the Twins have signed Crede. Crede has only played once so far, playing as the designated hitter and going 0-2. Gardenhire has said that he plans to DH Crede the next time he plays again, wanting him to work on getting his swing back after two years of fighting back pain and back surgery. Delmon Young is also off to a very impressive start. He was 3-3 on Saturday and is 6-7 in his appearances this week. He certainly has to be feeling the pressure to improve from last year now that the Twins have four starting outfielders in Cuddyer, Young, Gomez and Span.

I don’t understand fans who dismiss spring training games as trivial. To me, it is an opportunity to turn the radio on and listen to baseball again. Certainly by the end of the game, I don’t recognize the names of any of the players on either team and, if I am not listening carefully, it is hard to know which team is at bat. But the excitement is still there for me. In Friday’s game against the Yankees, Scott Baker gave up three runs in his two innings of work. The Twins rallied and were leading 5-3 going into the 9th inning. The Yankees had the bases loaded and two outs. Danny Valencia, a non-roster invitee, was playing third base. He committed an error on a routine play, allowing one run to score. With the bases still loaded, he made a great fielding play on the next ball, threw the runner out at first, and the Twins won the game 5-4. To me, that play was as exciting as any regular season game—and for some of these players, this may be the best that they get to experience.

So, here’s to spring training. It’s great to have baseball back.

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