Thursday, April 12, 2007

New Faces

The Twins began this year by disappointing a large number of fans with some of their roster moves, like deciding to keep Silva in the starting rotation instead of giving Garza another chance. Also disappointing to people were that players like Kevin Slowey, Glen Perkins didn't get a chance with the club. The Twins explained that they had confidence in the veterans even as Silva's ERA ballooned too 11.00+. So far the Twins veterans have proved their mettle pitching well in every contest except Sir Sidney's contest against the Yankees (I'm not including Bonser in the 'veterans' category) which he could be forgiven for since the Yankees have shelled just about every pitcher thats been sent to face them this year except Ramon Ortiz. Even though Ponson was hit hard in that game, you'd be hard pressed to find a Twins writer who wouldn't say that his game could have been much better than it was. He had a number of balls find holes and his defense was shaky behind him.

That said, there have been a number of troublesome issues for the Twins early this season. And while many fans remember the debacle that was last years first two months, the Twins seem determined to do everything they can to avoid a similar slow start. One of the biggest problems has been at shortstop, a position I think few people expected to be a point of concern. Sure people we're worried about the team's depth but I don't believe many would have thought Jason Bartlett's bat or glove would have been as big of liabilities as they've been. At the dish Bartlett has just one hit in twenty at-bats and in the field he's committed four errors (and misplayed a handful of others). In response the Twins brought up 2nd base/shortstop prospect Alexi Casilla. In his first start Casilla went 1-3 with a single to center and was robber of a double or triple on a fantastic diving play by Doug Mientkiewscz at first in his final at bat. He was also solid in the field making all of the routine plays that Bartlett had been struggling with.

A little background on Casilla. He's 22 years old, born in the baseball player factory that is San Cristobal Dominican Republic, and was acquired in another good move by Terry Ryan (I never get tired of saying that) in the J.C. Romero trade with the Angels in 2005. He projects as a near Luis Castillo clone, and thankfully to say a much younger Luis Castillo with non-arthritic knees. He'll show a good, patient eye at the plate, play solid defense and slap the ball around the field. He also has league leading stolen base potential once he learns the art more. If he continues to develop the skills above he could be a major league player for a long time.

Another new face this year is Josh Rabe. Rabe isn't actually an entirely new face as he played with the big club last year hitting .286 with 3 homeruns in 49 at-bats over 24 games. A 29 year old left fielder who played his college ball at Division II Quincy University and was drafted in the 11th round of the 200 amateur draft, Rabe is replacing Rondell White who went on the disabled list. Rabe brings a solid bat against lefties, hitting .375 in 24 at-bats last year as well as playing solid left field. He'll likely split time with Jason Kubel in left field, with Kubel batting on days a right hander pitches, and Rabe when a southpaw makes the start.

The last new player the Twins have added to the major league roster is one of the aforementioned pitchers, though not the one I think most Twins fans would want. Glen Perkins will be coming up and will likely be a long reliever out of the bullpen assisting Matt Guerrier who's seen more action this year than I imagine Gardy would like. The reason for bringing Perkins up has to do with a few factors such as the Twins heavy reliance on the bullpen so far this season, as well as an injury to Jesse Crain, and the death of Juan Rincon's mother in law. Crain is expected to miss a couple games with shoulder soreness, "I think I just have a little tendinitis," Crain said. Since my girlfriend has, "just a little tendinitis," right now and is in constant pain, I'm curious how much tendinitis he'll need to be 'really hurt.' Rincon is expected to be gone anywhere from 1-3 days attending to his family.

As for Perkins he's a 5-11, 200LB southpaw who throws three pitches, a fastball from 90-94, a curve and a changeup. He's known as a fly ball pitcher with the ability to strike guys out. He pitched well in a limited role at the end of last season and hopefully will be a capable arm at the major league level as either a bottom half of the rotation starter or long reliever. I project him out as Eric Milton. Though hopefully we'll get at least a few years of the good Eric Milton vs the Eric Milton we gave the Reds.

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