So that title might not make sense, but give me a chance to explain it. Since my last post, a few players have been told they will start Opening Day. Actually, we already knew Livan Hernandez was our pitcher for the first game (it makes me sick to type that), but beyond that, Ron Gardenhire has confirmed who pitchers #2 and #3 are: Boof Bonser and Kevin Slowey, respectively. We all know how much Gardy loves veterans, and with Scott Baker currently sidelined with the flu and a sore back, it shouldn’t be surprising to see Livan get the OD nod. But in my eyes he is Sir Sidney Ponson‘s twin brother, with a lesser fastball. And probably heavier. I could look it up to see for sure who weighs more, but frankly I would be upset with myself for checking. I would rather not care about which washed-up veteran starting pitcher for the Twins throws the needle farther on a scale.

 

Beyond pitching woes, Brendan Harris will start at second base, instead of Nick Punto. In Harris’ first full year last year (137 games, 521 at bats) he hit .286 with a .343 OBP and an OPS of .777. He played 86 games at SS versus his 45 at 2B, making his statistics comparable to other shortstops. His OPS was 10th-best in the Majors, but would’ve tied for 16th-best had he played more at second. On the bright side, in 404 innings at second last year he made just 1 error. A lot of people criticize his defense, but if he can replicate his 2007 performance at the plate he can make up for any lack of defense. His range seems to be his biggest problem. However, if he’s used to playing SS he should have a good amount of range. I stay away from defensive statistics that add multitudes of factors other than “did the player get to the ball?” so I can’t tell you how good his range really is (according to those stats, anyway). I don’t think there’s any chance Adam Everett will get the boot with Harris starting at short and Punto taking over at second.

 

Finally, Joe Nathan got a contract extension with the team. It’s a 4-year extension, worth $47 million, but some things were changed around. Nathan was originally to be paid $6 million this year from his previous option that the team picked up. With the new contract, it wipes out the $6 mil. and starts fresh with Joe making $11.25 million this season, along with 2009-2011 and an option for $12.5 million in 2012. I still don’t really like the team committing roughly 15% of their entire payroll to a guy who’ll pitch, if he’s lucky, 75 innings a year. Closers are incredibly in demand, almost 24/7, but especially around the trading deadline. Teams who thought they were set are suddenly scrambling to find a shutdown 9th inning guy because their original closer got hurt and is out for the season. I still believe that if Nathan were traded to the right team, at the right time, he could net us players with more of an impact than the guys we got for Johan Santana. And I’m also of the belief that there’s still a chance he will get traded. Really, if the team is flat-out horrible come July, it would be fairly easy to trade Nathan for one of these: a legitimate 3B for the future, a legitimate SS for the future, plus minor league pitchers that have good numbers throughout their career so far. If we’re out of contention, what does it matter if Juan Rincon blows 20 saves in the second half of the season? Granted, Rincon would probably not be the one who stepped into that role (I’m thinking Pat Neshek), but what would it matter?

 

And don’t think I’m all negative about this upcoming season because of that. If the whole offense doesn’t slump all at the same time, I think we can surprise a lot of people. With rookie pitchers everywhere, the team will need all the runs they can get.

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