Bill Smith was interviewed by Mike Ferrin and Joel Sherman on MLB Round Trip tonight. I caught most of the interview and thought I'd write down what I remembered. Especially given how little information we usually get out of Smith.
I missed the beginning of the interview, with what I'm guessing were Pavano-related questions. Overall, there were not a lot of things we didn't already know, but I still liked getting an idea of what Smith was thinking. He also gave injury updates on Morneau and Nathan.
Morneau: Smith said that he talked with Morneau earlier this week and that Justin's been doing great. Last Friday (1/14), Justin did a full workout (ie the most intensive workout he would normally do in season) and felt no concussion symptoms. Earlier in his injury, doctors told Morneau to take it easy if he felt any symptoms; since he's doing better now, they tell him that he should battle through it if he feels any symptoms.
Nathan: Joe has also been doing well. Smith said Nathan has not had a single day that's been a setback. Smith hasn't seen Nathan in a while because Nathan is in Tennessee right now with his family. But he will be here for Twinsfest, and the Twins plan to have him throw a bullpen session while he's in town to get a look.
Adding Speed to the Lineup: Smith was asked where he thought Nishioka belonged in the batting order (with interviewer first stating it was up to Gardy, not Smith). Smith said it didn't matter whether he was top of the order or bottom of the order. Smith would like to see some combination of Span, Nishioka, and Casilla, whether it is 9-1-2 or 8-9-1. Their speed will create more runs for the rest of the order to bat in - Mauer, Morneau, Delmon, Kubel, Thome, Cuddyer. (I don't remember which order he listed these guys in, but I think this was right, and I know Delmon was third). Smith also said that after last season, he and Gardy both agreed that we should add speed to the lineup. Last season we brought in a lot of veteran guys. And it worked. We won the division and made the playoffs. But speed was one of our weaknesses, and we will add to that this year (I don't remember what more than this he said for why we should add speed)
Lack of an Ace: Joel Sherman (I think) commented that people often say that the Twins have great rotation depth. A lot of good starters, but no ace. He asked if Smith felt the same way, whether Smith felt that Liriano could get back to ace status, or whether someone in our system could be our next ace. Smith responded that rotation depth is not a weakness, because you can never have too much pitching, as cliched as it sounds. It's a good thing to have six starters win 10 games each. He said that people don't understand that 1) there are not many aces in baseball, and 2) it is not easy to acquire those few aces who are available. Smith also said that Liriano has upside, and he showed it by coming through in some important spots last season. Pavano has shown that he can beat other teams' aces. Our other starters have also had great games. Baker's won some big games. Blackburn and Duensing have as well. Slowey is also a good pitcher. (Basically, he mentioned Liriano and Pavano specifically, then said the others are all very good pitchers. I'm sure he mentioned them in the order that I did, but I'm not sure whether to make anything of that).
Payroll: Mike Ferrin (I think) said that the Twins were in uncharted territory with our payroll, quoting Joe C.'s payroll estimate. He asked Smith whether we were at budget, overbudget, or still had budget remaining. Smith largely dodged the question. He responded that ownership has always tied payroll to revenue, and we have a lot of new revenue. Mentioned Target Field. Didn't say we are looking to spend more, but also avoided saying our payroll is all tapped out.
Bullpen: Nothing really new here. Mentioned that we lost a lot of our bullpen guys (Guerrier, Crain, Rauch, Fuentes). Said that this would be a good opportunity for guys in our system to step up and prove themselves.