March 27, 2006
Before I get to today's batch of Twins notes, I want to thank everyone who offered their congratulations and support for my appearance in Sports Illustrated last week. The response was overwhelming, from the comments section here and the many individual e-mails I received to the numerous entries on other blogs and the personal notes from other writers. The whole experience was an amazing one.
One of the most interesting aspects was that people from my past came out of the woodwork. All sorts of family members, friends from way back in elementary school, and even people who rejected me for jobs got in contact with me. Sports Illustrated reaches a lot of different people in a lot of different places. The response from readers of this blog makes doing this worthwhile and reminded me that every once in a while it's nice to hear how many of you enjoy stopping by here each day.
With that over with, let's get back to normal ...
Despite what my "Free Johan Santana!" campaign a few years ago might have you believe, I'm not against Liriano beginning the year in the bullpen. In fact, I was never actually against Santana getting his feet wet as a reliever. I believe putting young starters in the bullpen is a great way to work them into the big leagues. However, in Santana's case his time as a reliever dragged on far too long. He had four seasons in the majors and was 25 years old by the time the Twins finally handed him a rotation spot for good. That was what I had a problem with.
There is no danger of that happening with Liriano, as the Twins have given every indication that he'll be a full-time member of the rotation by 2007 at the latest. With that said, I don't think using Liriano as a typical LOOGY is a very good plan. His future is without question in the rotation and there's a good chance that he'll be asked to start every fifth day during the second half. Because of that, is asking him to focus on short relief outings where he typically only faces left-handed hitters really all that smart?
I would love to see the Twins go without a traditional LOOGY, moving Matt Guerrier into a more prominent middle-relief role behind Juan Rincon and Jesse Crain, and sticking Liriano in Guerrier's old spot as a long reliever. That way Liriano gets his feet wet in low-pressure situations, but is also able to keep his stamina and arm ready for when he's asked to start while continuing to work on his full repertoire of pitches.
UPDATE: Tom Powers reports in the St. Paul Pioneer Press this morning that the Twins may take both Reyes and Liriano north, using Reyes as a LOOGY and Liriano in the long-relief role I described above. That's better than using Liriano only against lefties, but I'd much rather have Willie Eyre in the bullpen than Reyes.
This was before Ruben Sierra suffered a leg injury that may force him to the disabled list to begin the season, but regardless of that I wonder in what sense the Angels were interested in him. The Twins have given no indication that they plan to cut Sierra, and in fact have been fairly consistent in talking about Sierra as if he was a near-lock for Opening Day roster before the injury.
Among the possible targets in the Angels' search for a left-handed hitting bench player are Baltimore utility player David Newhan, who is batting .429 in 16 games this spring, Minnesota outfielder Ruben Sierra, a veteran switch-hitter with power who is batting .389 in nine games, and Florida veteran infielder Lenny Harris, who is hitting .200 in 15 games.
Perhaps the writer was just throwing out names without any sort of information from the Angels, but it does make me curious. The idea that the Twins could have potentially traded Sierra for something of actual value before the season even began is fascinating to me. Remember, for all the talk of him being "a veteran switch-hitter with power," Sierra is 40 years old and hit .229/.265/.371 last year.
Of course, the part they conveniently leave out is that Evan Meek has a 5.66 ERA in 97 career minor-league innings and walked more batters (100) than he struck out (84) despite that "lively fastball." How hard you throw doesn't matter if you can't get the ball over the plate.
Padres minor league staffers are intrigued by Twins castoff Evan Meek, a right-hander signed last September who has one of the liveliest fastballs of any Padres prospect. Meek, whose fastball reached 98 mph last fall in San Diego's instructional league, is working out with Double-A Mobile in minor league camp.