Monday, February 27, 2012

Minnesota Twins Home Opener

Countdown to Home Opener:

Target Field May Change Dimensions

It is no secret that the Twins play in a pitchers ballpark.

In the infancy of Target Field, the Twins have not been afraid to change up the dimensions of their beloved ballpark. After the inaugural 2010 season, the Twins removed the spruce trees from behind the center field fence (which I was extremely disappointed in because TC hid in those trees) and hung black mesh off the batter's eye to improve the hitting background.

As the club prepares for club year 3 at the best park in America, it has yet to address the issue that every hitter has grumbled about: the dimensions.

Target Field has been one of the more unfriendly ballparks when it comes to homers, with the park averaging 1.56 homers a game in 2011 and 1.43 in 2010. That places Target Field 12th of the 14 AL teams each season. In contrast, the Metrodome gave up 2.30 home runs a game in the final year of the Twins presence.

The Twins aren't the only ones looking to make a change. The New York Mets, who moved into Citi Field in 2009, are altering their dimensions for the 2012 season. An 8-foot wall will be built from foul pole to foul pole, which will take the 16-foot wall in left field, out of play. That wall is famously nicknamed "The Great Wall of Flushing". The power alley in left field will shrink from 371 feet to 358. According to studies conducted by the Mets, the team would have hit 81 more home runs and given up 70 more home runs over the past three seasons under the new dimensions.

Wednesday, February 22, 2012

Twins Catcher Position

The Twins are likely expected to carry three backstops to start the season, but Gardy is planning on keeping his options open.

Joe Mauer and Ryan Doumit are locks to make the club as primary catchers, but the Twins appear likely to carry another catcher on the roster. This comes as no surprise.

Drew Butera, who is on the 40-man roster, remains to be the favorite to win the job because of his defense and familiarity with the Twins pitchers. However, J.R. Towles, a former top prospect with the Astros, is expected to push Butera this spring.

Keep your eye out for other Twins news!

Morneau Requires Medical Clearance to Play

Per the MLB's new rules regarding concussions set in place last season, Justin Morneau will need the formal approval of Dr. Gary Green, MLB's medical director, before he can return to the field.

Terry Ryan confirmed this, but also said that Morneau is feeling fine and the club doesn't expect any clearance issues. Morneau is one of four players not in camp prior to Thursday's official report date.

Morneau played only 69 games last season after battling concussion symptoms, while also undergoing surgeries on his neck, left wrist, left knee and right foot.

I sure hope Morneau can get back to form and stay in that form. If not, I could seriously see him retiring.

Monday, February 13, 2012

Spring Training Almost Here!

If you don't have a fire in your belly for spring training and the greatest sport known to mankind, consider this: Rich Anderson, the pitching coach for the Minnesota Twins, has already set the starting pitching for the Twins' first three exhibition games. Carl Pavano, Francisco Liriano and Jason Marquis will start the exhibition games 1, 2, and 3, respectively.

The Minnesota Twins, who struggled with, among other things, starting pitching last year, have 33 pitchers coming in to spring training. A couple of those guys have to be able to pitch... At least enough to round out the starting rotation.

If Scott Baker and Nick Blackburn are healthy, they'll round out the rotation, at least for the beginning of the season. Essentially that would mean Brian Duensing would go back to the bullpen, where he will join Glen Perkins, Joel Zumaya and Matt Capps. This is assuming, of course, that all of the aforementioned pitchers remain healthy and on top of their game... Or that their game is at least better than the next person's game.

Anderson spoke out about Matt Capps and his relationship with the mound and Minnesota Twins fans, "It broke my heart every time people booed him before he even got to the mound." I believe that fans didn't completely grasp what Matt Capps was going through last season, meaning that we booed him in ignorance. Which... is brutal. I also think there is a point to be made that Twins fans were so frustrated and disappointed in the Twins that it was easy to boo Capps because he was often at the transition point that led the Twins from a win to a loss.

Basically, the Twins have to play better this year. And Twins fans need to remain some of the most loyal fans in the MLB.

Give Target Field this Valentine's Day

I would like to take a moment to express how EXCITED I am to spend at least 120 hours at Target Field this spring and summer as I utilize my 40-game season ticket plan... as well as go to Opening Day!

Opening Day is a holiday similar to that of Valentine's Day. Valentine's Day is essentially a holiday made up by retailers, but it has importance to a large portion of the country. Opening Day is a holiday made up by baseball fans, which make up a large portion of the country. In that sense, Valentine's Day and Opening Day are similar. While Valentine's Day favors the woman in your life, it seems as though Opening Day might favor the man - though I am an exception: give me Opening Day any day...

Take a moment to consider, then, whether or not you should be buying Opening Day tickets for the man in your life. If you answered 'yes', then you should buy those right now, wrap them up and gift them this Valentine's Day. Did I just kill two birds with one baseball? Yes. People need to think more like me, honestly.

If you answered 'no', you need to reevaluate your position.

Monday, February 6, 2012

Is Joe Mauer Back?

This time last year, Joe Mauer was doing nothing but rehab on his left knee. This year, Mauer has started baseball activity in preparation for spring training. That, Twins fans, is something we should place our hope in.

Mauer has been hitting off a tee and throwing as he prepares for the day pitchers and catchers report to Fort Myers, FL - February 18th. Mauer reports that he feels good, even saying that he feels night and day in reference to last year's rehab period.

Well thank goodness for that because, not only are fans counting on Mauer, but the Twins are counting on him to regain the form that made him the AL MVP in 2009. That year Mauer reached career highs in batting average (.365), home runs (28) and RBIs (96). He won his third AL batting title that year and soon after signed an eight-year, $184 million contract extension with the Twins.

Mauer even plans on catching in spring training, something he certainly did not do much of last year.

Minnesota Twins Season Ticket Holder

I almost forgot to tell you all - I was finally chosen to be a Minnesota Twins season ticket holder! Yes, that is right... I will be sitting in section 105, row 22 for 40 games this 2012 season!

While getting tickets is a bitter sweet feeling because it means that enough Twins fans have given up on our boys to allow me a turn at the table, I still selfishly am glad to have the tickets.

Now I just can't wait until that box shows up at my door! Twins Territory, baby!!

Friday, February 3, 2012

Justin Morneau and the Twins' Unanswered Questions

In two weeks, catchers and pitchers report to Spring Training for the Minnesota Twins.

This time two years ago, we were talking about Jim Thome coming to Minnesota, Orlando Hudson was about to be signed and the state was in a panic about Joe Mauer's contract.

Last year we were out of payroll space and speculating about potential contract extensions.

This year, well this year has been about the most uneventful off season in at least three years. Is that a bad thing?

Justin Morneau. We know he will play this year (when I say 'know' I am using a loose definition consistent with crossing my fingers and hoping), but we don't know where. The Twins will try to play him at first base to see if he can handle it and, if he can, how often he can handle the 3 spot. Morneau will be the fuse for a chain events should he be able/not be able to man first. The futures and positions of Joe Mauer, Ryan Doumit, Trevor Plouffe and Luke Hughes will be determined by Morneau's abilities. Sounds like a lot of pressure for the Canadian.

If Morneau can't play first base at all, the question will then become 'how often can Morny DH?'

It would be ideal if Morneau could play the position we contracted him for, because that would obviously mean he is healthy and that his concussion symptoms are manageable. It shouldn't take long to see what Morneau we will be getting this year, but the anticipation is killing me!

Tsuyoshi Nishioka. Alexi Casilla is technically not under contract for 2012 yet, but he will be at some point. When that contract is executed, Casilla will likely be the starting second baseman. Jamey Carroll is going to be the everyday shortstop. That means the Twins will be paying our foreign friend $3 million no matter what the Twins decide to do with him. I would like to see how much Nishi has improved. After all, he came over to the Twins in a highly publicized manner, broke his leg and then struggled the remainder of the season. We need to give him a shot and see if he has settled into the league in a positive and effective manner yet.

While the Twins have many other questions to answer, like who will round out the bullpen, who will be an unlikely contributor and will the Twins be sellers or buyers come July, it seems as though most of these questions will have answers in due time. Stay tuned.

Prince Fielder is a Worry for Twins

A shiver fell over Twins Territory as the Detroit Tigers signed Prince Fielder. While Fielder will bring the recognition to the AL Central that it deserves, the Twins do need to be worried.

Though I think the Tigers overpaid for Fielder, I am concerned about him hitting the ball all over our pretty Target Field. We will have to face Fielder 20 times this season and we need to be scared, in a respectful way.

Prince Fielder hits a ton, but isn't the most fleet a foot, which benefits us if we can get a strong outfield in the game, every game. The Twins have played in 38 games against Fielder. In those games, Fielder is hitting .261 and has 8 home runs and 14 extra base hits.

Fielder will be a decent addition for the Tigers, but it helps that they paid so much for him. He may or may not be a difference maker in the Motor City, but either way the Twins should keep him in their radar. Just to be safe.