Science tells us that the longest day of the year is the summer solstice.
But I say: it's the day before the baseball season starts.
Saturday, March 31, 2007
Science tells us that the longest day of the year is the summer solstice.
Thursday, March 29, 2007
There are three days remaining in spring training and the Twins camp has been whittled down to 27 players. Who's in, who's out, and who's going to get the cut?
With the assignment of Matt Garza to AAA, the starting rotation seems set. The order isn't official, but it will most probably end up like so:
The equally ludicrous ideas of Silva as #2 and Bonser as #5 appear to have fallen by the wayside, for which we can all be thankful. Garza and Glen Perkins will be waiting in Rochester, ready to pounce on any opening.
The big question: Will Twins management be willing to make changes early in the season, or will they play the waiting game again?
This is going to be a very tough division this year, probably tougher than last year. The guy who's throwing the ball for (hopefully) six or seven of your nine innings is a hugely important cog in the machine. The Twins won't have the luxury of a second half in a weak division to make up for the blunders of April and May.
Okay, what genius decided to assign Mike Venafro to AAA--an assignment he is free to decline, per his contract--after he pitched a scoreless spring? For chrissakes, he's lefthanded. Do they really think no other team will be calling him with a major-league contract in hand?
Your guaranteed six in the bullpen are:
The big question: Will the Twins carry a 12th pitcher just to keep JD "the Real Flop" Durbin in the organization?
Durbin's out of options, but let's face it--he's a lot more likely to clear waivers than Venafro is to wait by a silent phone.
Hitters/Fielders: the Starting Nine
The only question mark here coming into spring training was, who's in left field? Rondell White appears to have claimed that honor after proving that he doesn't adjust to DHing very well. That position will still be something of a revolving door as the Twins try to keep Rondell injury-free, but expect to see him out there two of every three games. Kubel and a backup outfielder will also see time in left.
Pencil in your scoresheets:
The big question: How healthy is this lineup?
Mauer, Castillo, White and Hunter all have missed significant time in the last two seasons from injuries, and all have struggled with aches and pains already this spring. Punto insists on flinging himself about with wild abandon. Morneau is a dangerous hitter and a big target for a certain breed of pitcher.
With all the young talent on the team, the organization's depth is not what it once was. They can only plumb the depths of Rochester so often before the sucking begins.
Hitters/Fielders: the Bench
Here's where things get interesting. Do we have a backup shortstop? How about a backup centerfielder, with Lew Ford on the DL? What about a third catcher? Who will cover Morneau on his days off?
The locks on the bench:
IF: Jeff Cirillo
C: Mike Redmond
There are two spots left if the Twins carry twelve pitchers, three if they don't. One of those MUST be a spare outfielder, either Josh Rabe or Jason Tyner. Luis Rodriguez should by all logic claim another, as he is a better backup shortstop than Cirillo.
The big question: The 25th man--twelfth pitcher, third catcher, or fifth outfielder?
The Twins can only have one of the three. Gardy really wants a third catcher, because he likes to DH Joe Mauer on his non-catching days (he is, after all, the AL batting champ). That puts Mike Redmond behind the plate, but what if Redmond got injured and had to come out of the game? If Mauer had to catch, there would be no DH! For the rest of the game! The horror! Gardy does not know how those NL managers sleep at night, what with the lack of the DH.
TBL thinks you have probably cottoned on to her opinion of the third catcher option by now.
("Cottoned on"? Apparently TBL is not quite as out of touch with her Southern roots as she had supposed.)
But if it were up to me...
...Silva would be in Rochester (no way is he going to risk his 4.whatever million by refusing the assignment), Garza would be the #5 starter, Durbin would be on the waiver wire en route to Rochester, Venafro would be in the bullpen, and there would be a glossy 8 x 10 of Glen Perkins inside Sidney Ponson's locker.
Tuesday, March 27, 2007
So, this morning TBL clicked her way on over to the official Minnesota Twins website, where her eyes immediately landed on a headline so bizarre, so hilarious, that she immediately burst into great whoops of laughter.
I shit you not, dear readers. And the article appears to be sincere in claiming that Gardy has some very difficult decisions to make in the next week, because there are just so darn many good starting pitchers in camp.
TBL suspects this is just a really lame attempt at spin, but let's go over the candidates one more time, since the list has been shortened by some recent reassignments to the minor league camp.
1. Johan CyTana. 'Nuff said.
2. Ramon Ortiz, the surprise of the spring. His career stats, however, paint a different picture. His ERA has been well over 5.00 three of the last four seasons. Is this just an incredibly good spring, or the beginnings of another patented Rick Anderson miracle?
3. Sir Sidney Ponson, who has looked pretty good lately, BUT. This is another guy whose career stats tell you not to hang anything but your most modest hopes upon him, with an ERA well over 5.00 for the last three seasons. He did have that one really good year, but, folks? That was 2003. Since then, he's posted a cumulative 5.76 ERA and been arrested four times--once for assault on a judge, thrice for DUI. In between court appearances, he likes to keep busy by insulting the fans of his former teams, avoiding his training regimen, overeating and partying the night before his starts.
TBL has her doubts as to whether he's going to fit in real well in this clubhouse...
4. "You Can't Handle The Boof" Bonser, who showed both flashes of brilliance and moments of utter suckitude in limited major-league exposure last season. He's ready for the bigs, but look for him to go through a month or so (TBL's going to pencil it in around Memorial Day) of getting utterly shelled after the scouting reports make the rounds. How quickly he makes the adjustment will tell us a lot about his future potential.
5. Matt Garza, who has pitched very well in, let's see...twelve innings of work. This kid isn't going to be ready to pitch 6 innings by next week, more's the pity.
6. Carlos "Oh, God, Make It Stop" Silva, who is desperately (but with little success to date) trying to recapture his 2005 form.
The article talked about Glen Perkins in the same breath as Matt Garza, but Perkins has been reassigned to the minor league camp. He obviously won't be making the rotation to start the season. With four question marks and one exclamation point as candidates behind the godlike Santana, the Twins aren't exactly spoiled for choice.
Monday, March 26, 2007
...which I'm not (for a number of excellent reasons such as having gotten approximately two hits in my entire multi-season summer softball league career, and a number of not so excellent reasons, such as the lack of a Y chromosome), I would be prepared to be rather more decisive than Gardy right now.
Twins roster moves loom:
"With six games remaining in spring training, Gardenhire said he would like to make final roster decisions in the next two or three days.
He'll need to decide whether Carlos Silva or Matt Garza will make the rotation;
GARZA. For the love of Bart Giamatti, make it Garza. I still think Silva can regain his form, but it's now apparent that he most likely won't be doing it in the next week.
Dear readers, do any of you happen to know if we still have any options on Silva, or will we have to stuff him in the bullpen?
who the backup shortstop will be; whether the team needs to make a trade to fill that need;
More on that in a minute...
whether pitching prospect J.D. Durbin will make the team or be exposed to waivers;
I'm gonna go with waivers, on account of his ERA is higher than the GDP of some countries. And yet, still lower than Silva's...
and whether the team will carry 11 or 12 pitchers.
That depends on Silva's options situation. If he's got an option left, send him to Rochester to work things out, and carry the usual 11. If we have to put him in the bullpen, carry 12.
Luis Rodriguez and Jeff Cirillo, neither a natural shortstop, have started two of the Twins' last three games at shortstop. The closer the Twins get to the regular season, the more Gardenhire speaks of Rodriguez as a viable option as a backup shortstop, even though Rodriguez lacks ideal range.
'He can play shortstop,' Gardenhire said. 'He'll catch the ball and make the right plays.'
Cirillo, 37, never started a game at shortstop in the big leagues until the Brewers used him there last season."
My understanding is that Cirillo has made the team. If there's an extra bench spot open, by all means, keep L-Rod too. The kid's done pretty well for us the last couple of years. I'm not sure why management is so down on him. He hits fine for a backup infielder, and he's a good fielder. What more do they want?
As far as a trade goes, I wouldn't trade just for a backup shortstop. Unless...do you suppose we could get one for JD Durbin?
And, on a lighter note, I'd just like to point out to everyone that the Whine Sox are 9-18 in spring training. Judging by the stats, they're hitting just fine but their pitching is execrable.
It might not count, but it sure does make me smile!
Tuesday, March 20, 2007
There are times when prescience is rather rewarding...
"Bartlett may or may not be a better option than Castro right now, today. But give him half a season, uninterrupted, in the majors as a starting shortstop and odds are ten to one he'll be the better option then. This team is going to need a good shortstop down the stretch if it wants to contend. The Twins can develop that shortstop now or wake up in August wondering why they don't have one."
...and there are times when it is not.
"...the Twins do have that unnatural love of veteran players with minor league contracts. We may yet have to suffer through some Ponson in the first half."
It seems Gardy's set up the schedule for the rest of spring training to allow five particular guys to pitch every five days. Sounds like a rotation, doesn't it?
"...the current pitching schedule appears to hint at a rotation that would look like this: Santana, Silva, Ortiz, Ponson and Bonser.
Gardenhire has been hesitant this spring to label any of his pitchers as locks, besides Santana. But despite his unwillingness to officially anoint any other starters, Gardenhire has pretty much grouped Silva and Ortiz into that staff, and Bonser's recent strong outings have made him look like a lock, as well.
The one real unknown comes in the final spot, where Ponson is now slotted. The Twins have given the veteran every opportunity to show he deserved the spot this spring. And after Ponson's recent solid outing against his former team, the Orioles, it now looks like he could have the edge for the final opening.
The decision to have Perkins stretch out in a start indicates that the Twins could be placing him next in line, should anything happen. Matt Garza only threw two innings in his last outing on Friday, and it appears he would need to stretch out more if he's going to be ready for a starting spot."
I mean honestly, people, are we going to do this every spring? Let me refresh your memories.
How to Play the Jason Bartlett Shuffle
1. Identify an excellent prospect at a position of weakness for the team. This prospect will hereinafter be referred to as the Bartlett.
2. Identify a marginal and/or washed up and/or irretrievably flawed veteran at the same position. This veteran will hereinafter be referred to as the Castro.
3. Bring the Bartlett and the Castro to spring training. (Bonus points for more than one Bartlett/Castro pair in the same spring.)
4. Watch the Bartlett wow the crowds and delight the kiddies with sparkling play. (Bonus points if the Bartlett hits over .300 / pitches under 2.50.)
5. Watch the Castro and try not to cringe. (Bonus points if the Castro hits .100 or more below/pitches 2.00 or more above the Bartlett.)
6. Bust the Bartlett back to the minor leagues and anoint the Castro as your starting [insert position here].
7. Paste a smile on your face and ignore the indignant howling of the fans as the Castro proceeds to stink up the joint. (Bonus points if the stinking is infectious and sends the whole team into a death spiral.)
8. Trade or release the Castro and bring up the Bartlett, declaring that he has now "proven himself". (Bonus points if you can hang on until the All-Star Break before making this move. Double bonus points if you make it that far without being hit by fan-thrown food or drink items.)
First, stretching out Perkins but not Garza? Huh? Perkins is good--no, he's better than good--and yes, he's lefthanded and a native Minnesotan, but Garza's really good, too. And to me, Garza just looks that little bit more ready. Not that I'd be unhappy if Perkins got the nod first, far from it, but it's spring training. There's games all over the place. There's no reason not to be stretching them both out, and getting them both on a five-day schedule. If nothing else, they're competing for the role of First Call-Up, so let them compete for it. Equally. How else are you going to know?
Second, can someone please explain to me why the question marks that are Silva and Ponson are being set up to take the #2 and #4 slots, respectively, while Bonser is being slotted in at #5? According to my schedule, the fifth starter should appear...let's see...five, maybe six times in the first two months (53 games) of the season. Whereas the other four will rack up 11-12 starts each. For heaven's sake, unless and until Bonser screws up on the order of, say, a Ponson or a Silva, put that boy in the #3 spot! Shove the other two in behind him, and let them try to pitch their way out of being skipped.
And lastly, unlike a lot of folks out there, I'm still rooting for Silva. The man gave us two good seasons and one bad one, the latter following a knee injury. I think there's a fair chance he can return to his 2005 form. That said, if he doesn't return to it soon, I'd rather see him working out the kinks in the bullpen or AAA.
But Ponson? Sidney-Freakin'-Attitude-In-One-Hand-Bourbon-In-the-Other Ponson?! He who has had two seasons with an ERA under 4.50, out of nine in the majors? We're taking this over Matt Garza or Glen Perkins?
For the love of Bart Giamatti, WHY?!?!?!
Some people say, "Ponson's relatively cheap, and a few weeks in the minors won't hurt Garza or Perkins any."
I concede the truth of that statement. And I reply, "You get what you pay for, and how exactly will a few extra weeks in the majors hurt them?"
Ah, well. At least we've got Jason Bartlett this April.
Saturday, March 17, 2007
In a rare offseason when they didn't lose what often seemed like half the team, the Twins came into spring training with very few question marks on the 25-man roster, and most of those involve the pitching staff. We lost Brad Radke to retirement and Francisco Liriano to Tommy John surgery. The spot vacated by Kyle Lohse at midseason was a revolving door in the second half, and Carlos Silva had what can kindly be termed a disappointing season.
And that's only the starting rotation.
In the bullpen, Willie Eyre was released early in the offseason. While this may not seem like a large hole to fill, the guy did pitch 59 innings last season. Also, much of Lohse's time during the first half (25 innings) was spent in the bullpen, and Silva (7 innings), potential 2007 starter Matt Garza (5 innings) and the absent Liriano (22 innings) also saw time in relief. Someone's going to have to cover those innings, and with the holes in the rotation and the question mark that is Silva, the bullpen is likely to eat more innings than usual--particularly in the first half.
So, let's see what we've got here, halfway through spring training. I'll assume that the Twins will break camp with 12 pitchers, on account of the rotation issues. (Please note that I am not projecting a rotation order, just listing players!)
1. Johan Santana
2. Ramon Ortiz
3. Boof Bonser
4. Carlos Silva
6. Juan Rincón
7. Joe Nathan
8. Jesse Crain
9. Matt Guerrier
10. Dennys Reyes
11. Pat Neshek
Going into the spring, Ramon Ortiz wasn't a lock for the team, much less the rotation, but he's pitched himself into a job very nicely. Silva, on the other hand, may yet pitch himself into the bullpen. The organization isn't making a commitment to Bonser yet, but TBL thinks he's in because he's an innings-eater, he's pitching well now and he did a pretty good job for the Twins last season.
Matt Guerrier is off to a slow start this spring, but he's a long reliever and needs more than five innings against live hitting to find his groove. Dennys Reyes is also having not such a great spring to date, but he's lefthanded, breathing, and was lights-out last season, so he's in.
Who are the fifth-starter candidates (and fourth starter, should Silva drop off the list)?
- Sidney Ponson, who is not impressing anyone.
- Matt Garza, who has been pitching very well, but one hears the organization would rather have him in Rochester.
- Glen Perkins, who is in the same boat as Garza, only even more likely to be held back to get AAA experience.
- Scott Baker, who is making Ponson look good.
Of course, the Twins do have that unnatural love of veteran players with minor league contracts. We may yet have to suffer through some Ponson in the first half.
As for the bullpen, our contestants are:
- JD Durbin, whose main selling point is that he's out of options.
- Glen Perkins, because you can never have too many lefthanded relievers. And he's good.
- Kevin Slowey, who is pitching like a madman but also suffers from the "let's bring him along gently" curse.
- Randy Choate, a lefty non-roster invitee who will be remaining non-roster.
- Carmen Cali, ditto.
- Mike Venafro, a lefty sidearmer who has pitched pretty well in limited action in spring training, but has not seen significant major league time since 2003.
One, Silva ends up in the bullpen and both Garza and Perkins land starting roles.
Two, Perkins makes it impossible to leave him behind when the team breaks camp and is awarded the final bullpen spot.
Three, Venafro gets the nod on the basis of lefthandedness and funky delivery, while Perkins racks up innings in AAA and waits for someone to get injured or stink up the joint.
TBL is making a call here: Perkins will be with the Twins by June, and Slowey will make his major league debut this season.
Wednesday, March 14, 2007
There has been a pattern request for the organic cotton slipper-socks. Since I used a "gaugeless pattern" which isn't so much a pattern as a set of guidelines plus some math, I'll explain how I made them, and you folks can call it a pattern if you want to! This will give a women's medium in the gauge I used.
I worked with Pakucho worsted weight organic cotton yarn on size 6 needles, which gave me a gauge of 5 stitches/inch in stockinette. I also used two circular needles. I do not use DPNs, and cannot even attempt to explain how to use them to make socks.
Arrowhead Lace Stitch in the round
Round 1: Knit
Round 2: K1, (YO, ssk) twice, K1, (K2tog, YO) twice [repeat]
Round 3: Knit
Round 4: K2, YO, ssk, YO, sl2k-K1-p2sso, YO, K2tog, K1 [repeat]
Note: sl2k-K1-p2sso = slip 2 stitches knitwise to right needle, knit next stitch, pass slipped stitches one by one over knit stitch
Experienced sock knitters can read this paragraph and skip the rest of the post. Using your favorite gaugeless sock pattern, build a 40-stitch round, using the Arrowhead Lace pattern for leg and top of foot, stockinette for the sole. Ta-da!
What I did, in more detail:
First, I opened my trusty copy of Sensational Knitted Socks by Charlene Schurch. After gnashing my teeth through two pairs of ill-fitting, gusset-gapping socks using patterns that came with the yarn, this book turned me into a sock-knittin' fiend. Go get a copy. It's fabulous.
I turned to page 42 and worked the Easy Toe, starting on 8 stitches. I continued through the end of page 42, at which point I had 40 stitches in my round.
Through the instep, I worked the first 20 stitches in the Arrowhead Lace pattern, and the last 20 in stockinette. The stockinette half will be the sole of the slipper.
When it was long enough to come up to my ankle on the top of my foot (one advantage of knitting on two circulars is that you can try your sock on while you're knitting it. Whee! If you're size-guessing-impaired like me, it's the only way to go) I let the first half of the round rest, and turned the heel on the stockinette half, following the Short Row Heel directions on page 41.
The first short-row heel you ever do will make your eyes cross and your head pound, but when the lightbulb goes off you will run around your local Stitch and Bitch declaiming, "As God is my witness, I shall never pick up gusset stitches again!!"
Of course, if you've never turned a traditional (gusseted) heel, that joke just fell flatter than the Hindenburg.
Anyway...after that, it's smooth sailing. Rejoin with the top-of-foot stitches, and work the Arrowhead lace all the way around until you're about half an inch shy of the length you want. Three or four rounds of K1, P1 rib and a nice loose bind off (the tubular bind off is good for a smooth finish, I used the yarn-over bind off from the Knitting Answer Book for a more ruffled look).
The lace is so open it doesn't stand up well on it's own, so I threaded some ribbon through it and called it a design feature. On further reflection, I think it turned out charmingly.
And that's the pattern. Or the closest thing I've got. Happy knitting!
Tuesday, March 13, 2007
Ever since the Twins let Corey Koskie go (TBL still believes that one day she will be able to utter that name without weeping) the state of affairs at the hot corner has been, shall we say, less than ideal. I'm not talking about the hitting, although that hasn't been inspired, but about the actual play at the base. Or the lack thereof.
Sure, five years of the superlative fielding of everyone's favorite goofy Canuck spoiled us. How could it not? But even allowing for that, we've been subjected to some truly appalling glovework since he left us. If the words "Tony Batista fielding third" don't make you flinch, you haven't been paying attention. And even after the passage of more than a year, TBL still runs shrieking into the night at the memory of the season Michael Cuddyer* spent there.
After shedding the Batista burden last season, utility infielder Nick Punto was inserted into the position as a fill-in. He had some trouble adjusting in the beginning, but toward the end of the season he settled in and flashed enough leather to make some of us wonder if the Twins had blindly stumbled upon a competent third baseman.
Now, the noises coming out of the Twins clubhouse seem to indicate that Nick Punto will be our 2007 third baseman. While there will be those who gripe that third base is supposed to be a power hitter's position, TBL says "hallelujah!". We've got enough power at first to cover both corners, and with a starting rotation in flux and under fire, the Twins pitchers need every possible inch of the field covered behind them. Punto can drive in some runs, too, he just won't often do it with homers. He'll also score some runs a typical power hitter couldn't leg out.
Now, if we can just decide on a left fielder and the fourth and fifth starters...
*Allow TBL to give credit where credit is due, however: Cuddyer has since turned into a perfectly acceptable outfielder.
Monday, March 12, 2007
There's something truly satisfying about using a luxurious yarn to make something for your feet. Organic cotton slipper-socks, worked in Pakucho yarn on size 6 needles. The pattern is arrowhead lace worked around a "gaugeless" toe-up pattern.
Wednesday, March 07, 2007
And this week on Adding Insult to Injury, today's spring training game is televised and I, of course, work on weekdays. Sigh.
Not that spring training has been a barrel of laughs for our boys thus far, mind you. Early in spring training you expect the pitchers to be rustier than the hitters, and our pitching staff is certainly following tradition there. But the hitting's not so great either, though in all fairness we here in Twins Territory have come to expect that at any time of the year.
After seven games, the Twins are hitting .223 as a team and pitching 6.39. Have you been wondering why they're 1-5-1? There's your answer.
It's just spring training. It doesn't count.
It's just spring training. It doesn't count.
It's just spring training. It doesn't count.
I repeat this to myself often. But while it's true that the win-loss records and even the stats don't matter much, there's a very real season starting in a very few weeks, and right now is when we build our team for and try to get a sense of our team's prospects in that season.
Not looking good so far, folks.
On the "pleasant surprise" front, however, we have Ramon Ortiz. Yes, it's early days, but who expected this reliable but rarely inspiring workhorse-type to come out and give up two measly hits and one earned run with no walks in his first five innings of work? Raise your hand. Anyone? I didn't think so. I expect he'll revert to form sooner rather than later, but at the moment he's a treat.
(You Can't Handle The) Boof takes the mound in half an hour. I have to miss the visuals, but this one's on the radio, too.
I guess they couldn't handle the Boof. Bonser goes 3 innings with 2 hits, no runs or walks, and three strikeouts. If anyone out there saw it, do post a comment with details! Was he sharp? Did he fool the hitters, or get some lucky breaks? Do tell!
For some reason, the radio commentators are talking about trading Juan Rincón. This would NOT make me happy. Here's an idea: let's trade the wildly expensive centerfielder who insists upon making at least one rookie baserunning mistake every game (assuming he gets on base at all) instead, and keep baseball's best bullpen intact?
I had just heard "Juan Rincón coming in to pitch" when Gameday Audio lost its feed. Stupid technology. (Feel free to leave me a comment on his performance if you were lucky enough to see or hear it...)
Gameday Audio roars back to life just in time for "and that puts the go-ahead runner on third for the Pirates". And mere seconds later, the runner scores.
Bring me the head of JD Durbin.
Speaking of tradition, in the top of the ninth Michael Ryan gives a two-RBI nod to the time-honored custom which dictates that former Twins must stomp the crap out of current Twins pitching at every available opportunity.
Let's hear it for the immutability of baseball.
Thursday, March 01, 2007
Yes, I know that it was only a spring training game. I'm perfectly aware that it doesn't "count". But it was against the ****ing Yankees, and I do NOT care to discuss it.
That's right, after a year and a half of gathering dust and a recent burst of renewed activity, I admitted to myself that I'd probably never finish the sweater, and even if I did I'm not sure I'd wear it. My personal style has changed quite a bit since I first cast on for this project. So, I reclaimed the yarn.
There was a time when ripping back a project, especially a largish one like this, would have nearly (or perhaps actually) reduced me to tears. More often than not I'd just soldier ahead and finish something I didn't like and didn't enjoy working on. But more recently I've gotten pretty good at doing what needs to be done without undue sentimentality.
Sometimes things just suck. You can either live with it, or you can ball up your slightly mangled yarn and set off in search of a better pattern.
Besides, casting on is half the fun!