Ah, much better.
Logically it makes zero sense, but the Twins sitting at 1-1 right now rather than 0-2 seems like a huge difference. Or maybe it's just the part about coming back from a 4-0 deficit while the middle relief does a solid job, Ron Gardenhire pulls all the right strings late, and the other team's closer implodes. Either way, it was a pleasant follow up to a forgettable opener. The new NBCSports.com blog has temporarily thrown off my normal AG.com-writing schedule, but here are some notes on the first two games ...
I've basically shifted 180 degrees on Denard Span since the beginning of 2008, going from doubting that he'd ever be more than a decent fourth outfielder to thinking that he's pretty clearly the second-best position player on the team with Joe Mauer out. I'm still skeptical about his ability to hit .294/.387/.432 again, but Span's range in the outfield corners is so spectacular that he'd be a big-time asset even at something like .275/.350/.400. And so far he's 3-for-6 with a pair of walks.
Not only does watching Span track down fly balls in the gaps make me giddy, Joe Crede has looked as good as advertised at third base. His offense is still overrated, but if healthy Crede is going to make a ton of plays defensively and as last night showed having Brian Buscher available off the bench is a nice bonus. I'd be fine with Delmon Young never putting on a glove again, but aside from that the Twins' defense has a chance to be legitimately excellent after undeservedly keeping that reputation recently.
I'm already sick of listening to Dick Bremer and Bert Blyleven, who apparently can't be bothered to even come up with a new set of cliches to repeat ad nauseum this year. My favorite moment last night was Blyleven explaining that Luis Ayala "left the ball up" to Franklin Gutierrez right as a replay showed the pitch at his knees. I'd complain more, but my mute button was forced into duty shortly after the new FSN sideline reporter spent one of those boring crowd interviews basically hitting on a 20-year-old girl.
Jose Morales had a rough night subbing for the banged-up Mike Redmond, allowing two steals and striking out in all three at-bats before coming out for a pinch-hitter. He couldn't do much on the steals because the runners got such good jumps off the pitcher, but the three strikeouts are surprising from a guy who whiffed just 72 times in 626 plate appearances at Triple-A. If anything, Morales' ability to make contact is probably his best skill.
Gardenhire has made the correct decisions with the outfield logjam so far, benching Young against right-hander Felix Hernandez and benching Jason Kubel against left-hander Erik Bedard. There's no real reason to play Kubel versus a lefty when either Young or Michael Cuddyer will always be available to sub for him, and for now at least Cuddyer is a better bet than Young versus righties. Because of their defense, Span and Carlos Gomez would be my picks to play every day regardless of who's pitching.
Taking the loss while serving up a pair of homers and allowing four runs is hardly a great debut for Francisco Liriano, but his velocity was good and inducing 12 ground balls is a positive sign. Prior to Tommy John surgery Liriano had a ground-ball rate of 55.3 percent that ranked fifth in the league, but that number fell to a fly-ball heavy 41.6 percent last season. Getting back over the 50-percent mark will be key for Liriano now that his stuff isn't as overpowering.
Once you're done here, check out my "Circling The Bases" blog over at NBCSports.com.