The team made more cuts today, this group containing the biggest names. Phil Humber, Denard Span, Brian Buscher, and Jason Pridie will all go to AAA. That’s right, two of the three guys competing for the CF job are leaving. Using the process of elimination, something that Bert Blyleven‘s “California Math” doesn’t cover, that means Carlos Gomez is your starting CF for the 2008 Minnesota Twins. He was electric when he got on base during Spring Training, stealing 10 bases (in 10 tries), he scored from second base on a single once, and from what Ron Gardenhire has been saying, it seemed almost from the start that Gomez had won it. Whether it’s here, here, or here, you can see how in love Gardy was with Gomez’s raw talent (re: speed). Here’s a comparison between Gomez, Span, and Pridie for Spring Training ’08:

Name AB Runs RBI SB AVG OBP SLG OPS
Gomez 49 12 6 10 .286 .302 .510 .812
Span 39 6 2 3
(1CS)
.282 .404 .385 .789
Pridie 44 10 4 5
(2 CS)
.295 .304 .318 .622

 

All have good batting averages, but Span’s 7 walks (compared to Gomez’s 2 and Pridie’s 1) help him with that .404 OBP, hinting that he might be better to lead off the team than Gomez. I hate judging things from Spring Training because starters are generally on the bench more than bench players and starting pitchers usually don’t go beyond 3 or 4 innings. But it’s all we can base things off of right now. Span and Pridie have never played in the Majors, Gomez played in 58 games for the Mets last year. I expected one of Span/Pridie to stay up so the team could cut Craig Monroe and his $3.82 million salary, but his 2 homers this spring probably solidified him as the 5th OF/2nd DH/bench power threat.

 

So that is the CF position, and because of the onslaught of information regarding that battle, you may have forgotten two infielders competing for the last roster spot. Brian Buscher was sent down, meaning Matt Tolbert will probably be our 6th infielder. Tolbert’s never been above AAA. In fact, he’s only spent one season there (last year) and had a .293 batting average, .353 OBP, and .427 slugging. He isn’t a powerful guy (6 HR in 417 AB in AAA) but should steal 8-12 bases a year. He also walks a good amount with little strikeouts (81/116 ratio the past 2 years), helping his OBP hover between .340-.350. Buscher is 26 but has only played 40 games in AAA (and did well there) so it shouldn’t hurt him to go back there for a season. By signing Mike Lamb for 2 years, the team showed that Buscher probably won’t start much, and Tolbert can back up Lamb if necessary. Not to mention Tolbert can also play second and a little bit of short.

 

The rotation has a lot of question marks. Livan Hernandez starting our first game? Scott Baker has the flu? With Glen Perkins being sent to AAA, it left Livan, Kevin Slowey, Boof Bonser, Phil Humber, Nick Blackburn, and Francisco Liriano. Livan and Boof are in the rotation for sure. Humber gave up just 2 runs in 14 innings but got cut this morning, so he’s out. Slowey struck out 18 batters in 15 2/3 innings while posting a 4.02 ERA this spring. Add that onto last year and he will be in the rotation as well. Indications are that Liriano will start in AAA or even Ft. Myers, so he won’t pitch in the cold. Blackburn impressed a lot of coaches this spring, allowing 3 runs in 11 innings for a 2.45 ERA. A lot of people think he will be in the rotation, leaving us with one spot left. If Baker goes on the DL, expect Brian Bass, minor league extraordinaire, to make a start. He had a 3.48 ERA in Rochester last season and has given up just 2 earned runs in 11 1/3 innings this spring. He is out of options, meaning he would need to clear waivers if he doesn’t make the team. If Baker will be ready to go, Bass has definitely earned a spot in the bullpen.

 

Other encouraging signs: Pat Neshek allowed 2 hits and 0 runs in 10 innings this spring. Joe Nathan has an ERA of 1.00 with 12 strikeouts in 9 innings. Dennys Reyes has struck out 7 and walked 1 in 8 innings, with an ERA of 1.13. In Liriano’s key start yesterday, he threw 4 innings and gave up 0 runs. He struck out 5 and walked 2.

 

With 29 players left in Spring Training, we can eliminate catchers Drew Butera and Eli Whiteside from making the team, along with 1B Jon Knott. 13 pitchers and 13 position players, then. Joe Mauer and Mike Redmond will catch with Justin Morneau, Brendan Harris, Adam Everett, Lamb, Tolbert, and Nick Punto in the infield. Gomez, Monroe, Jason Kubel, Delmon Young, and Michael Cuddyer roaming on the turf in the outfield. Leaving room for 12 pitchers, I already said indications are that Liriano will start in the minors with Bass staying here.

 

 

So there you have it. Say hello to your 2008 Minnesota Twins.

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