A list I created of Twins pitchers and catchers headlines for Spring Training was in the sports section of Thursday's edition of the Star Tribune. It was small list in the paper so below you will see a better explanation of each of those headlines.
1. Joe Nathan's recovery
Reports from this week have Nathan close to being back at 100%. He is already throwing in the low 90's and he is able to throw a variety of his pitches. To some fans this is a scary proposition because the Twins need Nathan ready for the beginning of the season and not for Spring Training games. In some interviews this week Mauer has even said that he is trying to hold Nathan back a little bit. Earlier this week I looked at whether the Twins should baby Nathan this year or if he should be let loose. Nathan's recovery could go a long way to solving some of the issues in the bullpen.
2. 6 starters for 5 spots
The Twins have an influx of starting pitching and sorting out the end of the rotation is going to be a something to follow throughout Spring Training. Francisco Liriano and Carl Pavano are entrenched as the one, two punch at the top of the Twins rotation. The other three spots are being fought over by Scott Baker, Nick Blackburn, Kevin Slowey, and Brian Duensing. Scott Baker recently had an elbow flare up so it will be interesting to see if this impacts the race for the rotation. Blackburn and Slowey are looking to improve on sub-par seasons in 2010. Duensing has shown the Twins what he can do the last two seasons. Who is going to be the odd man out to start the season?
3. Pat Neshek's rebound
Besides Nathan, Pat Neshek could be the key to having a successful bullpen in the 2011 season. Neshek is on the same road to recovery that Nathan is on but he ran into a few road blocks last year. His velocity and movement was down on his pitches. For the style of pitcher that Neshek is, a side-arm pitcher that doesn't throw extremely hard, this can cause many issues. The Twins are going to need a player to step into the late inning roles that were filled by Matt Guerrier and Jesse Crain. Neshek can be that player.
4. Sorting out the bullpen
The Twins saw a mass exodus from their bullpen at the end of last season. Jesse Crain, Brian Fuentes, Matt Guerrier, and Jon Rauch all left the team for bigger contracts with other organizations. This means the Twins are going to need to find some sorting out to fill-in the bullpen. There are familiar names like Nathan, Capps, Neshek, Mijares, Perkins, and Burnett. But there are also some lesser known players that are going to have to find their niche with the team (Diamond, Slama, Gutierrez, Hughes, Hoey). This is one race that will be fun for fans to follow as the season approaches.
5. Kyle Gibson's emergence
Die hard Twins fans will be clamoring for Gibson to make his major league debut this season. With the excess of starting pitching that the Twins have, it will be interesting to see how long they can hold Gibson back. Fans are going to be checking the box scores of every start at Rochester that Gibson makes to see how he is progressing. He is the number one pitching prospect in the organization and this is only his first big league camp. Gibson Mania has already hit parts of the Twin Cities and here's hoping the pressure doesn't get to him.