Saturday, April 17, 2004

For Starters

Largely as a result of my frustration with discovering I was unable to watch the Twins on Friday, I decided to attend my first game last night. It was an exiting game where the Twins were able to overcome Kyle Lohse's control problems and an early deficit to pull out the win. The new turf really adds to the experience and I sat right by the foul pole in left field, which offered an excellent view of both the field and the bullpen. The one part of the game I found troubling was the performance of Kyle Lohse.

Somehow the Twins need to get their starting pitching back on track. Radke set the tone earlier this week and by all reports Santana wasn't as bad as the stats indicate but Kyle Lohse has really struggled. If the Twins are going to repeat he needs to be one of their horses. Carlos Silva who has been borderline solid to this point never has been a starter before in the league and Rick Helling's career era is 4.77. Last night Lohse was wild all game and gave up a couple of long balls. He fought all night to barely throw more strikes then balls. The radar gun didn't show that he was over throwing but I wonder if he has been a little exited at the start of the season knowing that the team needs him more this year. At this point he has been rather inconsistent in his career and he needs to show that he has the mentality to be a good pitcher in the league. If he doesn't turn it around which I'm confident he will it's going to be a long year for the bullpen which is improved but will never show it if overworked.

My guess is this staff is going to struggle a little bit longer then settle down into their roles. The bullpen will come together and weed out the bad pitchers just in time for Crain and Durban to be ready for a call up. Radke needs to be the calming forces in the rotation something he has at times excelled at in his career and at others really struggled with.

For Santana it's one thing to know you’re a good pitcher and go out there and show everyone and another to have a bunch of expectations. It might take him awhile to adapt to these. He has shown in the past that not only is he a bit touchy physically but sometimes mentally. Still, he was the team’s best pitcher last year and they need him to come around. Friday night was an encouraging start but his success is going to hinge on his confidence in the changeup.

So far I've been impressed with Silva although I've yet to actually see him pitch. He has kept the team in the game, which if the bullpen comes together is all the Twins need from him. It's odd to have a starter with only 2 pitches but if the Erickson comparisons are accurate he should be just fine. Hopefully he'll continue to throw 5-6 innings an outing while allowing just a couple of runs. The bullpen is going to need to be rested enough to pick him up though.

The fifth starter is really a wild card spot in baseball. It's one of the few positions where anything good you get seems to be a real bonus. Rick Helling is capable of having a solid year. He's comfortable with a pitching coach that seems to understand him and playing at home. If nothing else he's going to give the team much needed innings and experience. He was the first injury for this team and having him back will settle things down.

I must confess I've never seen Greisinger pitch, at least that I remember. I assume like most ex-Detroit pitchers at one point I have seen the back of his jersey after watching another Twins hit go over the fence. The Twins can't expect much from him other than to bridge the gap first to Helling and then to Durbin. He has been hit hard to this point in the season and his career. Using him for one start allows the team to not mess up the rest of their bullpen rotation with anything they get out of him being a major bonus.

That's it for today; we'll attempt to get into the state of the most worked bullpen in the majors sometime in the next couple of days. A few other observations from Saturday night’s game;

Neither Luis Rivas nor my new favorite player Michael Cuddyer was in the lineup. This is my justification for not calling up Morneau quite yet as I think it would take away from Cuddyer's at bats. Now is the time for him to prove himself and he needs the chance although not at second where he would make 45 errors a year. The kid has produced at every level but has never really been given a shot to even work through a slump in the majors. At 25 he is at a crossroads with more potential than others such as Matt Lecroy. The team also needs to see if he is ready to take over third next year should they choose not to resign Koskie. The bottom line though is that he's the best option to split up the lefties in the lineup until Hunter or Lecroy comes back. Offerman could then be used in spots where he will be more successful.

“Sweet” Lew Ford can straight up play. He’s got a nice short swing and is capable of hitting the ball hard somewhere every time up. Somehow the Twins need to make room for him on this team. He plays a solid centerfield although he was a little deep on some balls last night. I’m not sure what the infatuation is with Tori Hunter. He is awesome in center but his hitting continues to frustrate. You would think that someday a light would click and he would realize that with 2 strikes he’s probably going to get an outside breaking ball that he should lay off of it, until then he is simply over-rated. When he returns Ford is hopefully destined for the bench and not triple A where his short swing can best be utilized as a pitch hitter. Ford has earned his way on this team and a level of excitement surrounded every play he was a part of last night.