Editor’s note: Veteran sportswriter Luther Dorr is on his annual visit to Florida where once again he’s following baseball’s spring training and the Minnesota Twins. This is his fourth report from the Sunshine State.
By Luther Dorr
Mille Lacs County Times
After four weeks of watching the Minnesota Twins in spring training, I’m struck by how many questions are still unanswered.
Some of those were answered on Sunday, though, when the Twins settled on their Opening Day roster.
Shortstop Brian Dozier looked good every time I saw him but it wasn’t a surprise that he was sent to Triple A. He’s never played beyond Double A.
Nor was I surprised that Brian Dinkelman, a .301 hitter for the Twins last year and a .341 hitter this spring, was sent back to Triple A.
And there will be only two catchers on the roster, a move that’s a year late, although Joe Mauer’s injury and illness problems in 2011 made that position a mess. It was so much of a mess that the combined average of .185 for last year’s catchers was the lowest for any position on any team in the past 50 years.
The surprises, if you can call them that, came in the pitching department where Matt Maloney, Jared Burton and Jeff Gray made the team.
If you are a casual fan you might ask, “Who?” And you might even ask that if you’re more than a casual fan.
I saw Maloney as a starter against the Pirates in Bradenton last week and he was passable. He’ll be a lefty in the bullpen. He’s a 27-year-old with only 80 innings pitched in the majors, along with a 5.40 ERA. He was with the Reds in 2011.
Burton, 30, was with the Reds in 2011 but pitched only 4 innings. He has a career ERA of 3..41 in 169 innings.
Gray, 30, was with the White Sox and Mariners last year and has a 4.57 ERA in 88 innings in the big leagues.
And then you have Liam Hendricks in the starting rotation because Scott Baker is on he DL and new acquisition Jason Marquis is on the bereavement list.
Hendricks, only 23, was 0-2 with a 6.17 ERA in 23 innings with the Twins last year. He’ll join Francisco Liriano, Nick Blackburn and Carl Pavano in the rotation.
That leaves Matt Capps (a terrible spring, including another 9th-inning homer Monday), Glenn Perkins, Brian Duensing, Alex Burnett and Anthony Swarzak (looked good this spring) as relievers with Gray, Burton and Maloney.
Think American League hitters are worried?
But maybe, with GM Terry Ryan’s magic, things will be better this year.
Ryan Doumit from the Pirates will be the other catcher and he might play first and the outfield also.
It looks as though Justin Morneau will open as the DH, with Chris Parmelee at first. Parmelee hit his fifth homer of the spring Sunday against the Red Sox and hit .355 and had 4 homers last September.
I’m always a bit leery of September stats but he’s been a decent hitter all the way through the minor league system.
A bit of a surprise on the roster is Sean Burroughs who hasn’t played in the majors since 2006 because of some substance abuse problems. Burroughs, 33, is a left-handed bat and can play third and first.
Jamey Carroll, 38 will be the shortstop, for better or worse, and Alexi Casilla the second baseman. Danny Valencia is back at third and Luke Hughes (a very good spring) can play a number of positions.
That leaves Denard Span in center, Josh Willingham in left and Ben Revere and Trevor Plouffe (along with Parmelee and maybe Doumit) in the outfield.
There will be pitching changes, for sure, when Baker and Marquis are back and I’m guessing there will also be some changes among position players, maybe as early as May.
Because of all the playeers who can play different positions, don’t expect to see the same lineup two days in a row very often.
The Twins didn’t play any of the other Central Division teams in Florida so, other than Detroit being the big favorite, I know little about them.
My heart, as a Twins fan since 1961, says one thing about this team and being realistic says another.
Each spring brings a new roster, and a new optimism, and then reality usually sets in.
But we can always hope, right?
A little trivia, mostly about familiar players
(No fair looking at the answers until you read the questions.)
1. Who hit the most home runs in the majors during the 1960s?
2. Who has the most career hits without winning a batting title?
3. Who led American League pitchers in wins in the 1960s?
4. Who has 283 wins (more than 40 Hall of Famers), won 16 Gold Gloves and is not in the Hall?
5. Who won an American League batting title without hitting a homer?
6. Who had the best career pitching record against the Yankees?
7. Who has appeared in more games (1,252) than any other pitcher?
8. Who hit his last three home runs in one game?
9. Before David Freese did it for the Cards last fall, who were the only two players to hit an extra-inning walk-off homer to keep his team alive?
10. This player said, “It beats rooming with Joe Page (a Yankee reliever).”
1. Harmon Killebrew.
2. Paul Molitor.
3. Jim Kaat.
5. Rod Carew.
6. Babe Ruth, with the Red Sox.
7. Jesse Orosco, who began his career in the Twins organization.
9. Kirby Puckett for the Twins in 1991 and Carlton Fisk for the Red Sox in 1975.
10. Joe DiMaggio, about being married to Marilyn Monroe.