Well, the first full week of Twins baseball has come and gone. I expected more than a dismal 3-6 start, notwithstanding that most of those games were against the Blue Jays and the Yankees. Luckily, the Twins have 153 games to turn the season around, and they head down to Tampa Bay to play a team that also is struggling. I have confidence that, in the next week, the Twins will turn things around. Here are a few quick thoughts on these first 9 games:
1. Jim Thome can still hit the ball really, really far. Those that were likening re-signing Thome to the Vikings' re-signing of Favre were, and continue to be, out to lunch. Gardy will use Thome appropriately, rest him sufficiently, and Thome will stick to his vigorous stretching and training program to ensure that his body can withstand another year of baseball. Between yesterday's home run (that was hit much farther than the purported 440 foot measurement), and his drive off the top of the center field fence at Yankee Stadium, I feel confident in stating that he'll hit #600 by the middle of July.
2. Aside from the unusually high number of walks issued, Twins pitchers haven't been all that bad. I'm not saying they have been good. But, they have kept the team in the game. All it would have taken Saturday or Sunday against Oakland is one small rally, and our pitchers would not have been in the loss column. The bullpen also has been decent. Twins pitchers will start exhibiting command over the strike zone (for pete's sake, it's taught from day 1 in Twins instructional league), and things will begin to fall into place.
3. How long does Alexi Casilla have before he loses his starting job? If this were New York, Gardy would be asked each day about Casilla's potential timeline and a list of replacements. Thankfully for Casilla, he probably has longer to wear out his welcome than he would if he were playing elsewhere. Between his failure to drive in the runner from third with no outs on Saturday, the error that scored the only run of the game, and generally pathetic plate appearances, Casilla needs to turn it around. I'm not expecting big things out of the 9-hole, but I am expecting major league level play, which we have yet to see from him with any consistency.
4. Morneau has been reaching base. Justin is making contact, and ripped a nice double down the first base line yesterday. Compared to last weekend at Toronto, he looks much more comfortable at the plate. I think by the end of the month, we're going to be seeing the Justin of old. A welcome sign; a remarkable recovery.
5. Joe Mauer needs to step up. Sure, it's early in the season; sure, he has hit several balls hard that happened to be grounders; sure, there's often no one on base in front of him; sure, he had relatively few at-bats in spring training. I don't care. We saw a great (see also: rare) display of Pauer (which is the word I use to describe when Joe hits the ball with authority in the air) yesterday when Mauer slugged a liner off the wall in right-center. It would have been a home run in some parks. We need more of that. I know, his swing naturally produces grounders and line drives. That's great and everything, but it is nice to know that Mauer can still pull the ball with authority. And, given the fact that many teams have been busting him inside, he's going to need to do that this season to be successful.
The boys have a day off today, then down to Tampa. Time to wake up and start hitting the ball hard.