Tuesday, March 16, 2010

A Look at Spring Training - Pitchers to the Rescue

The Twins have completed about 2 weeks of Spring Training. In the two weeks, some players have shined, while others have struggled. There are some players that are either coming back from serious injury, or trying to return to form from a previous injury. Let's take a look at a couple players.

Francisco Liriano

Liriano has been outstanding so far in his 4 innings of work. He pitched two in two games so far and it looks like no one can touch his pitches. Reports are saying that his slider has just been unhittable. Does that remind you of the Liriano from 2006? If he wins the 5th spot in the rotation and pitches like he did in 2006, that would be a huge luxury for the Twins to have. There has been some talk about putting Liriano in the closer role since Joe Nathan became injured. No one knows right now if Joe Nathan will be able to return at all this year. Hopefully he will be ok, but the Twins need to start looking at other options because the chances that Nathan is going to play this year are slim to none. There are a few options for the closer role internally, but Liriano is not the best option. While a closer needs to be able to get a big strikeout and Liriano's slider meets the requirement, he would be much more useful as a starting pitcher. As an effective starter, he would be much more useful for the Twins than putting him at closer. It is a lot easier to find a closer than a dominant pitcher (if he comes back like he was in 2006). I think Gardenhire will probably feel the same way.

Pat Neshek

Neshek was dominant in 2007, when he just missed making the All-Star team. In 2008 though, he experienced a problem with his elbow. This was more than just a problem though, this was a serious injury. The injury required Tommy John surgery. He missed over a year, but it looks like he could be back for the start of the season. Will he be as dominant as he was prior to the injury though? Well, so far in Spring Training, he has been lights out. Pitching 3 innings so far in as many games, he has yet to allow a run. His pitches look very promising going into the regular season. If he can pitch like he is right now, he could be a huge help in the bullpen. Is he the possible answer to the closer position. Just a couple years ago, there was a little talk about Neshek possibly getting a chance at closing once Nathan was gone. Neshek definitely has the pitches to close out games, though he is a valuable as a set-up man and the Twins need an effective eighth inning pitcher. He was extremely good at holding ballgames in the 8th inning for Nathan in the 9th. I think that if he comes back strong this year, it will be in the set-up role, not closer.

If these two players can contribute this season at a high level, thisMinnesota Twins team could get one step closer to the end result almost 20 years ago.

Look back often for more about Spring Training throughout the remainder of it. Spring Training has a few more weeks left, and then it is off to the Regular Season! The Twins have a very good team this year, and could very easily make it deep into October.