Monday, April 4, 2011

Lessons Learned from Opening Weekend

 The Twins struggled through a rough Opening Weekend and found themselves losing two out of three games to the Toronto Blue Jays. The Twins did fight their way to a win in the finale of the series to avoid the sweep.

There were a few lessons learned from these rough games played north of the border.

Nishioka's Nerves- The first three games have definitely been an adventure for the Twins newest import from Japan. Nishioka has misplayed some balls on defense and struggled at the plate. After the first game he mentioned that he was battling with his nerves. He was able to pick up his first hit and first RBI in the opening series so that should be a weight off his mind. The nerves of playing at Yankee Stadium for the first time might be next in line for Nishioka.

Middle Infield Communication- Along with Nishioka's nerves, there were some problems with communication in the middle infield. Gardenhire discussed this after the games and a solution needs to be made sooner rather than later on how to handle this problem. The Twins inserted Matt Tolbert into the line-up for Casilla on Sunday but this isn't a long term solution to the infield communication issue. Who is going to make the play on the ball? Who is going to cover the bag? How far should Nishioka go out to receive a cut-off? All of these simple things can be tough to handle when the players don't speak the same language.

Use of the Bullpen- For most of the spring the Twins have taken a deep look at their bullpen situation. Sunday was the first game that the Twins had a lead and were allowed to use their set-up men in their normal roles. Mijares relieved Blackburn in the sixth inning with two outs. Capps was brought in during the seventh to get out of the jam that Mijares had created by walking back-to-back batters. In the surprise of the day, Perkins pitched a 1-2-3 inning in the eighth. It was a surprise for the fact that I don't think many fans saw Perkins as being a bridge between Capps and Nathan. Nathan pitched a rocky ninth but got his first save since returning from Tommy John surgery.

Middle of the Line-Up Rust- Many key players in the Twins line-up missed a large chunk of Spring Training. This might have produced a little rust to open the season. Morneau has been hitting the ball hard but struggled to get a hit in the first series. Mauer took Sunday off but only has one hit in eight at-bats to start the year. Young is also struggling to find his rhythm posting a .083 BA through the first three games.These good hitters are going to get their hits but Twins fans are hoping that they dust off the rust for the Yankees series.

Span's Hot Start- Span seems to be the one player that is ready to go and prove that his 2010 season was just a fluke. His HR in the 9th inning of Sunday's game provided a huge insurance run that turned out to be the difference in the game. He is also batting near .500, which is great to see from a player that the Twins need to be their table-setter.

After the first weekend of the year the Royals are in first place in the AL Central. And for the Twins, there is still a lot of the season left to play...


o'my-disc-roll said...

Concerning Nishioka and Communication

I agree that there were some noticeable barriers between the young Japanese Twin and the rest of the club. Maybe a spot on the bench could be offered to a translator...

It's just the start of the season and given the twins hellish opening road trip I don't think anyone should be expecting .500 or better coming into the home-opener. Now is the time they should be loose, getting to know each other, and most importantly, talking! What concerns me most was seeing blank expressions on their faces. Worrisomeness is not what this club needs right now.

TWINS TWINKLER! (so named as "TT" was title of player features in Minn. Twins game programs of 1960's) said...

Not sure I interpret blank expressions so much as focus, or perhaps the professional athlete's total disdain for getting an ass-whuppin in front of thousands/millions of people.

Cody is totally right, I feel, in asserting that there's a lot of "rust" in the equation. Not enough reps, innings together in the field, AB's, what have you. I'm confident the team will iron it out.