We attended our final Twins spring training game yesterday as we watched the Twins lose 2-1 to the Pittsburgh Pirates. It was a sunny day albeit only 60 degrees at game time with a stiff wind blowing to left field. Ricky Nolasco started for the home town nine and pitched a strong 4 innings giving up just one hit while striking out three in his tune-up for opening day against the White Sox in Chicago. It was a fast paced (2 hours and 24 minutes) game with little hitting but it still had some interest when a mini bean-ball war broke out. Pirates starter Brandon Cumpton threw a pitch that catcher Kurt Suzuki was just able to get his face out of the way of and that started the ball rolling. Not too longer after that Anthony Swarzak nailed Tony Sanchez and then Oswaldo Arcia took one in the back and both benches ended up with a warning.
Swarzak’s pitching line came to an end after two innings when a line drive off the bat of Travis Snider struck him in the forearm, but Swarzak grabbed the ricochet and threw the batter out. As he walked off the field, the Pirates were yelling something at Swarzak and he stopped to yell back. Things got a bit testy before Swarzak was pulled away. The Pirates who had brought a lot of players to Hammond Stadium were all on the top step of their dugout ready to mix it up with the Twins but it never came to that.
The old saying is that if you give the team a freebie like the Pirates did when catcher Tony Sanchez dropped Arcia’s easy pop up behind the plate it will come back to bite you and it certainly held true here when Arcia hit a rocket out to right-center field that just cleared the fence for a home run and gave the Twins a short-lived 1-0 lead. The lead did not last long however, as the Pirates loaded the bases with two-out and a ground ball was hit to first baseman Joe Mauer who knocked it down and then panicked trying to pick up the ball and by the time he had it under control the Pirates runner from second base was racing home with the winning run and Mauer’s throw to the plate was too late.
Shortstop Pedro Florimon who is just coming back from an appendectomy was his normal self, he made an error on an easy play and then made a very nice play later in the game. With the bat, Florimon seemed lost but that is really nothing new for Pedro. Manager Gardenhire said after the game that maybe Florimon’s bat is not ready yet and he may not be in the opening day line-up. On the plus side the Twins did turn two nice double plays.
There were 6,585 fans at the game but we had very little to cheer about and it was so quiet for most of the game that you could hear a pin drop. There is not a lot of excitement with this Twins team this spring and with an 8-14 record which is second worst in the AL there seems to be little hope for the up-coming season.
The Twins pitching is not that bad but their hitting this spring is a whole different story. Let’s take a quick look at the batting averages for the Twins starters –C – Suzuki – .200 1B – Mauer – .300 2B – Dozier – .255 SS – Florimon – .150 3B – Plouffe – .239 LF – Willingham – .056 CF – Hicks – .318 RF – Arcia – .256 DH – Kubel – .195
Between them the leading home run hitter has 2 (Arcia) and the RBI leader has 6 (Arcia again). Both Eduardo Escobar (9) and Chris Colabello (8) have more RBI then any of the starters and they are not assured of even making this team. I just can’t see this current line-up staying intact for very deep into the season. If this team gets off to a bad start there will be changes galore in no time. Before spring training started I thought this team had a chance to finish at .500 with the improved pitching, now I am thinking they will still be better than last year but will fall short of the .500 mark. The hitting on this team this spring is just plain appalling, where is that great hitting coach Brunansky now when they need him. I have not heard Brunansky’s name mentioned in weeks, is he still part of the coaching staff? Then again the case could certainly be made that you can’t make a silk purse out of a sow’s ear….
But in the end it is still spring training and no one but the Diamondbacks has lost a game yet so there is still hope that the hit fairy will bless the Twins bats and that they will come to life in Chicago. Come on Twins, give me a reason to watch you play ball every day this summer. Please!