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Let the Games Begin

Baseball has mercifully returned. Granted, this only means one spring training game so far, but it is still wonderful to be able to read a Twins box score again.

There really isn’t any insight to be gleaned from one spring training game, especially the very first one, but it is nice to see Glen Perkins throw two scoreless innings. Or see young third base prospect Danny Valencia go 2 for 2.

Or, for that matter, see Brian Buscher go for 2 for 2. Who needs this Crede guy, huh?

I am, of course, kidding.

The important thing is just the Twins are back on the field. And, for those who get MLB Network or MLB.tv, I can only imagine how satisfying it was to see a Twins victory, no matter how meaningless it was – especially after how last season ended.

Now it is time, though, to start focusing on the things that matter over the next month leading up to opening day: Stretching out the young starters to pitch more innings, getting Joe Mauer – the team’s most valuable asset – healthy, and solidifying the final spot on the roster. And, realistically, there probably is only one open spot. Who the 25th man is likely depends simply on how many pitchers the team decides to carry.

I will work under the assumption, as well, that Jose Mijares will be on the major league roster. This basically leaves open the final spot for either another hitter (likely Matt Tolbert) or a 12th pitcher (likely Phil Humber). It is actually fairly comforting to know the team’s only question mark is who will fill out the least significant role as 25th man. Of course that is assuming everyone post Boof stays healthy (knock on wood).

The real key to the Twins success, however, lies in the hands of one man. Manager Ron Gardenhire. The most important aspect of this season will be how he juggles the lineup, and keeps all his players happy. Who out of Delmon Young, Michael Cuddyer, Carlos Gomez, and Denard Span will be willing to accept a lesser role?

The answer is probably none of them.

And therein lies the problem. If Gardy cannot find a way to keep everyone happy – which should be an interesting conundrum, as he tends to make some suspect lineup choices – there will be chaos. If Gardy, however, can find a way to correctly juggle the lineup, this will be one of the deepest teams in the central division, if not the American league. Having Buscher and Harris on the bench, as well as one of the outfielders, turns a team who had almost no formidable bench options pre-Crede, into one with several decent hitters. Coupling both Buscher and Harris with one of the outfielders provides at least two capable hitters at all times.

These issues will work themselves out over the course of spring training. For now we can just relish in the fact that actual games are being played again. There will be plenty of time to worry about final roster decisions, and potential lineup cards over the next couple of weeks. For now, we should all just enjoy some early spring baseball.


Written By: Eric Johnson
Look for his column every Thursday and check out his blog at www.juiceandthekicker.blogspot.com

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