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Gardy’s Dilemma: Is the Twin’s Bench Too Deep?

by Neil Witzig

I can hardly imagine what is going through Gardenhire’s head these days. The man must be thrilled out of his mind. It’s like all of his dreams have come true. He’s got a new park, a solid middle infield, and some consistent starting pitching (so it seems anyway). But still, I wonder if he was given too much. I think probably one of the biggest things on the old skipper’s mind right now is Delmon Young. Why can’t we figure him out?

Since Delmon Young was drafted as a first round pick in 2003, there has been all kinds of hype following his name. But when he didn’t develop into the .300 AVG, 30 HR, 20 SB stud people expected, the Paparazzi left him alone and he eventually moved up to Minnesota. And of course as we know, Minnesota loves to try their luck with the under-achieving. Remember Rondell White, Bret Boone, Ramon Ortiz, and Sidney Ponson? But Delmon shouldn’t be put in the same category as those players, at least he has maintained a .290 career average and has been a semi-decent left fielder.

So when the Twins signed Jim Thome, Gardenhire had a dilemma. Either bench Young and let Kubel fill LF, or keep Thome on the bench and use him wherever possible. My guess is that Gardenhire is probably expecting another “lower than expectations” year from Young even though he guaranteed Young will start in LF. I think that he was planning on giving Thome more and more at bats as the season wears on and Young proves to be inferior. But after the first few games, it seems Gardenhire is in more of a pickle than ever. Young looks ready for the break out season that people have been talking about since 2003. He already has two homers and 7 RBI’s. It seems like he is finally swinging the bat with confidence.

Personally, I have never really been a huge fan of Delmon. But this year I really think is the year to believe. Young struggled to produce during the first half of the season last year while his mother was struggling with pancreatic cancer. Young admits that playing baseball while his mother was suffering was extremely difficult for him. After Bonnie Young’s death on May 18th, Young’s play began to improve. This year, Young says he has greatly grown as a person and a player and wants to build on his strong finish last year, especially the month of September where he hit .340 with 4HR’s and 18 RBI’s. Young also dropped 30 pounds over the offseason, and hopefully can be more of a threat on the base paths. And people forget that Young is still young, just 24 years old. And of course Young, like any player, performs much better when he knows he will play every day.

So now what does Gardy do? In Thome’s first start for the Twin’s he hit a 3-run homer and also a double. And this guy sits on the bench most of the time? Does that really make sense? But what is Gardy to do, everyone is playing so well. To take at bats away from Kubel would almost be like trying to repeal women’s right to vote. Kubel worked for years to prove that he deserved an everyday spot, and finally last year he removed all doubt.

My guess is that Gardy will stick to his plan and put Young out there in LF almost every day. Thome is a great guy who can pinch hit for weaker hitters like Punto, Casilla, or Butera in later innings. I am sure Thome will find a way into a lot of games. The man should work on his 3B skills though. I know Gardenhire for whatever reason is in love with Punto, but the guy is a .248 career hitter with 12 career HR’s. Maybe Gardy should see if anyone else could play third base. I actually could see Morneau at the hot corner. The Twin’s love their Canadian third baseman; remember Corey Koskie? Or possibly Michael Cuddyer could hold his own at third, he already showed some pretty good infield abilities at first base last September.

But I don’t really think Gardy would consider trying other players at third base. The signing of Thome is worth it even if he stays on the bench because Thome has consistently killed Twin’s pitching when with opposing teams. He has 57 home runs against the Twins, more than any other player. Thome has also been described as one of the best clubhouse guys in all of baseball. Thome is just a great veteran guy to have around even if he is taking a serious cut in at bats.

You know it is going to be a good season when one of Gardy’s biggest problems is getting a future hall of famer some at bats. Gardy’s dilemma is the best problem to have as a manager, so long as no serious clubhouse issues develop out of it.

My next post will be next Sunday, April 18

1 comment:

  1. I agree that it's definitely a good problem to have...but you do have to wonder how Gardy's going to handle it. I would rather see Delmon be the regular left fielder and use Thome sporadically as a pinch-hitter. It would be nice if Thome could be more of an everyday guy, but it's not realistic on this team because Kubel is an excellent hitter and Delmon seems like he might become one this season.