Minnesota Twins Inside Pitch: 4/4/07

Bartlett had the game-winning hit on Tuesday.

The Minnesota Twins have looked good during the first two games of the 2007 season, taking two straight from the Baltimore Orioles. Here is a recap of everything Twins over the past two days:

The Twins on Tuesday proved they can win without power against quality pitching when the beat Baltimore 3-2.

The Twins didn't have a single extra base hit, but they stole five bases off 6-foot-9 right-hander Daniel Cabrera, who has a slow leg kick and delivery. Their last stolen base made it possible for Jason Tyner to score on a bloop to left field with the winning run.

The Twins had only seven hits in the game, so the stolen bases helped. They also moved runners over by hitting to the opposite field. Rondell White, who didn't have his first non-intentional walk until May 17 last season, walked for the second time this year on Tuesday.

Being able to vary their attack will make the Twins a dangerous team this season, especially when they do it against a pitcher like Cabrera, who made the Twins look silly on a number of swings.

Last Game:TWINS 3, ORIOLES 2:
The Twins scored a run on a broken-bat single by Jason Bartlett in the seventh inning to beat Baltimore. The Twins had seven singles against Baltimore pitching but stole five bases in the game, their most since August 2004. The pitching of Boof Bonser and the bullpen was key. Bonser nearly was lifted in the early innings but made a mechanical adjustment to retire 10 of the final 11 batters he faced. The bullpen combined for three scoreless innings, closer Joe Nathan earning his second save in as many nights.

NOTES, QUOTES:

  • 3B Jeff Cirillo will miss a few games because of an old injury, a slightly torn meniscus in his left knee, that is giving him new discomfort. Cirillo felt pain while running on Monday and had a cortisone shot for it on Tuesday. The earliest he could be available is Friday, because it takes a couple of days for the shot to take effect.

  • RHP Joe Nathan might be unavailable on Wednesday as he joins his wife for the birth of their baby son. The Nathans planned to have the baby on Wednesday all along so they could enjoy the off day on Thursday. There's a chance Nathan could get to the park on Wednesday, but he might opt to stay with his family.

  • OF Rondell White, who didn't draw his first walk last season until May 17, drew a walk in the season opener. White had a stiff shoulder last season, causing him to commit to swinging earlier and striking out a lot. This year he's healthy, which is allowing him to be more selective at the plate. "If the pitchers see that I'm aggressive, they won't throw me a strike," he said.

  • RHP Juan Rincon could be used as a closer on Wednesday while Joe Nathan is away to be with his family during childbirth. Rincon has three saves in his career because he's been used mostly as a setup man. But he has the good fastball and power slider to get saves and has had success in some high-pressure situations.

  • RHP Sidney Ponson will make his first start as a Twin on Saturday against the White Sox. Ponson made the team with a solid spring, and is motivated to prove doubters who point to his past run-ins with the law and claim he's finished. Ponson has shown a good sinking fastball and a solid curveball in camp.

    BY THE NUMBERS: .436 -- Luis Castillo's batting average in spring training, tops on the team.

    QUOTE TO NOTE: "We think we're OK, and we're seeded fourth. There better be some darn good teams if we're seeded fourth." -- Twins manager Ron Gardenhire, reacting to some preseason AL Central Division predictions.

    ROSTER REPORT:
    The Twins entered spring training looking to solidify their starting rotation and have nearly achieved that goal. They believe that RHPs Ramon Ortiz and Sidney Ponson -- both reclamation projects -- will be functional members of the rotation. While Carlos Silva is in line to pitch behind ace Johan Santana, there really is no No. 2 starter. It's a role someone needs to step up and take during the season. As for Silva, he could be out of the rotation if the search party for his sinker comes back empty-handed.

    ROTATION:
    1. LHP Johan Santana
    2. RHP Boof Bonser
    3. RHP Ramon Ortiz
    4. RHP Sidney Ponson
    5. RHP Carlos Silva
    After the best pitcher in baseball, the Twins rotation is loaded with questions. Bonser is the de facto No. 2 starter despite suiting up for his first-ever major league Opening Day. Ortiz loves working with pitching coach Rick Anderson, but will it be enough? Ponson was released twice last season but is in better shape and appears to have his good stuff back. Silva finished spring on a high note but must prove he's found the sinker he had last year.

    BULLPEN:
    RHP Joe Nathan (closer)
    RHP Juan Rincon
    RHP Jesse Crain
    LHP Dennys Reyes
    RHP Pat Neshek
    RHP Matt Guerrier
    Simply put, it is one of the best in baseball. Guerrier is the innings-eater. Neshek confuses hitters with an odd delivery. Reyes is the left-handed specialist. Crain and Rincon are good for the seventh and eighth innings, and they have power arms that can stop left-handed hitters. Nathan is one of the more underrated closers in the game. The Twins also do a good job of not overworking them. LHP Mike Venafro could make the team if 12 pitchers are needed.

    LINEUP:
    1. 2B Luis Castillo
    2. 3B Nick Punto
    3. C Joe Mauer
    4. RF Michael Cuddyer
    5. 1B Justin Morneau
    6. CF Torii Hunter
    7. LF Rondell White
    8. DH Jeff Cirillo
    9. SS Jason Bartlett
    The Twins are bringing back a batting champion and an MVP to their everyday lineup. For the first time in years, there shouldn't be much concern about scoring runs. They won't be a juggernaut at the plate, but they have a reliable leadoff man in Castillo, a pure hitter in Mauer and power hitters in Cuddyer, Morneau and Hunter. Cirillo and Jason Kubel will be in a lefty-righty platoon. Those two, with Bartlett at the bottom, could be more than just functional.

    RESERVES:
    C Mike Redmond
    INF Luis Rodriguez
    OF Jason Kubel
    OF Jason Tyner
    C Chris Heintz
    Kubel will get the most time of this bunch; he will start at DH against RHP and will give Rondel While an occasional break in the outfield. Rodriguez and Cirillo will be used as backups at short, second and third. Tyner can play all three outfield spots. Redmond is a good hit-and-run man and can shoot the ball to the opposite field. Heintz's presence allows the Twins to use Mauer as a DH more while Redmond catches. This will preserve Mauer for later in the season.

    ROOKIE WATCH: No rookies will be on the Opening Day roster. SS Alexi Casilla will be the first one called up if SS Jason Bartlett or 2B Luis Castillo goes down with an injury. RHP Matt Garza has a power arm and is a top-of-the-rotation prospect who could move into the rotation if someone is hurt or struggles. LHP Glen Perkins impressed in camp and could be called up if a starter goes down.

    MEDICAL WATCH:

  • 3B Jeff Cirillo (sore knee) was out for a few days because an old meniscus injury flared up.

  • OF Lew Ford (right knee surgery) is expected back in mid- to late April.

  • 1B Ken Harvey (right knee surgery) is expected back in mid- to late April.

  • INF Alejandro Machado (right shoulder surgery) is out indefinitely.
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