- Two major newspapers are closing their doors
Unfortunately, the financial crisis has hit some of the Twin Cities' local papers as well. The Star Tribune is facing bankruptcy, but has no plans to cut production just yet. It would be a terrible thing if it did, for the Strib has some of the best baseball beat writers around. While Jim Souhan, Patrick Reusse and Sid Hartman all deserve to be unemployed, their colleagues Joe Christensen, Howard Sinker, and especially La Velle E. Neal do not. Neal is one of the best beat reporters in baseball, and while Christensen and Sinker provide more opinion than analysis, these guys can hardly be considered blowhards. Or homers, for that matter.
I do find it fascinating that some of the best writing and analysis comes not from the mainstream media but from fan sites. Much of the stuff that's out there on blogs is either inaccurate or based solely on opinion, but the same can be said of most mainstream sports writers. For example, I would trust Dave Cameron's assessment of an outfielder more than I would trust, well, any of those dopes on Baseball Tonight. More incredibly, most of the writers for these fan sites (such as Fangraphs) don't get paid for their work; they do this simply because they have a passion for the game. It seems backwards that the people who do the best and most detailed analysis of everything going on in baseball get paid less than the likes of John Kruk and Steve Phillips, who do little more than read something prepared for them by an intern.
- Twins win fourth straight Grapefruit League game
Francisco Liriano wasn't exactly sharp in his two innings of work, giving up two earned runs on three hits while walking one, but it was good enough to beat the Yankees (again!). Liriano has reportedly been working on a changeup, since he's lost some velocity and bite on his slider. Liriano has had to make adjustments after his return from Tommy-John surgery, as he was previously a two-pitch pitcher (if that. He would usually just throw his slider all the time and rarely used his fastball) and his two pitches haven't been that effective. This is his second full year after his surgery, and it is often the most telling for a pitcher who has undergone the procedure.
The relief corps were really sharp for the most part. Jesse Crain has looked really good so far, retiring all six batters he's faced in his two relief appearances. His velocity is back up to the mid-nineties, and his fastballs have had movement on them. Jason Jones improved upon his poor performance in his first relief stint, in which he struggled to find the strike zone. He did walk one batter, but recorded two strikeouts. R. A. Dickey, Luis Ayala, Sean Henn, and Bobby Keppel all did an adequate job in relief, holding the Yankees scoreless through seven innings.
The competition for the starting jobs in the outfield looks to be over at this point, with Gardylikely utilizing a Cuddyer-Span-Young outfield. It took six plate appearances for Carlos Gomez finally record a hit (a solo homer off of Dan Giese in the second inning), but he's struck out twice in the meantime (and is still chasing pitches well outside the strike zone). It looks as though Go-Go will be spending most of the season on the bench, unless there is some sort of trade in the works. Denard Span hasn't been hitting that well so far either, but he does seem to be working some deep counts and I think his patience will eventually pay off. Delmon Young has been swinging a hot bat in his few plate appearances, though his double against Giese is the only thing he's hit particularly hard thus far. Young's gaudy 1.000 slugging percentage will come back down to earth eventually, but it appears as though he's poised for a breakout season.
- Royals sign Juan Cruz
And now Joe Nathan is reportedly experiencing shoulder pain. Great. It's probably nothing serious, and relievers Jesse Crain and Jose Mijares could probably replace him even if it is. But it looks as though the failure to sign Cruz will come back to haunt the Twins.