Spring is all about learning and taking the final score or even the stats too seriously is rarely rewarded. After all, last season Jung Ho Kang led the team with 7 homeruns, but there are some things you can glean from an early contest such as this.
Mitch Keller is the best takeaway from the day, he completed his scheduled two innings of work and got through scoreless with no walks and really only one batter making hard contact off him. Solid defense from the young man as he made a good decision to go to third base rather than take the sure out at first picking off the lead runner in the second who had doubled earlier. Jacob Stallings was ready to keep it that way too as he picked off Royce Lewis trying to swipe second.
Then came James Marvel, who struggled, his control was off, and it resulted in walks and misses in the zone leading to solid contact to take advantage of the free passes. He needed to have a stellar Spring for a chance to stick or prove himself to be an option for spots down the road and this certainly wasn’t that.
Pitching wasn’t without bright spots though, Michael Feliz and Clay Holmes were pretty sharp especially Holmes who was tossing heat and hitting 97 on the gun inducing three straight groundball outs in a pristine inning. Clay has almost as much raw talent as anyone on the pitching staff, he could be a very nice piece if the new pitching coaches can get him to keep focus like he showed today.
Miguel Del Pozo looked solid in his outing as well making quick work of the Twins retiring the first two batters on two pitches and getting Peter Mooney to pop out to Oliva. Then he went out there and put up another zero, potential spot to be had for a lefty who shows up on this team. Nice start for the former Marlins prospect.
Almost as encouraging as Keller’s outing today was one from Blake Cederland. He came out blazing with a 98 and 99 respectively on 2 of his first three pitches. Then a nice change of pace 92 MPH slider. Control has been his issue but today he appeared to have that solved. Unfortunately, the umpire didn’t agree, and he did ring up a walk on two very borderline calls. He still struggles with his breaking stuff control, but the velocity is hard to ignore.
Unfortunately, Pitching was only part of the story today, the offense which was not sent out to die today as Derek Shelton deployed some of his biggest weapons in Bell, Reynolds and Frazier. The Bucs were held hitless through 4.1 innings before Cole Tucker plopped a shallow fly into the outfield. Tucker was taking leads with a purpose, possibly trying to show he can make a difference on the base paths this season and give himself an edge in position battles but ultimately stayed put.
In the bottom of the 7th KeBryan Hayes came to the plate with Jason Delay at first after walking and promptly doubled to right-center. Delay came home on a grounder by Susak that was bobbled and, on the attempt, to throw him out at first KeBryan Hayes broke for the plate and was out to end the inning. Everyone seemed to be trying to showcase their wheels and that’s either organizational emphasis or horses just wanting to run after a long Winter. Of course, I’d prefer to base such judgements off more than a handful of base runners.
The Bucs looked to rally in the bottom of the ninth as Hayes walked and Cruz followed with a single, but the game ended as Jake Elmore grounded into a double play back to the mound.
Notes and Takeaways
- Today’s starter for the Twins left hander Devin Smeltzer. This may be nothing but worth mentioning, Derek Shelton started all three of his switch hitters in this contest, perhaps wanting to see how they all handle the bat from the right side.
- Clay Holmes was impressive. As was Del Pozo. These are two players who could elevate the depth and effectiveness of the bullpen in a hurry.
- Will Craig will have to do better than 0 for 2 with a couple of strikeouts if he hopes to make a go of sticking out of Spring
- Blake Cederland did not feel like warming to the task this Spring and just came with the heat. Two K’s and hit 98+ four times.