After the first full day of practice for his team's pitchers and catchers, Twins manager Ron Gardenhire saw the handwriting on the wall. "Yep, it was a nice run, but the fat lady's singing. Time to pack her up and call it good."
His was a common assessment among coaches and players in Fort Myers, as the Twins officially announced that they have given up on 2011 and set their sights on 2012. The reasons were as numerous as they were obvious:
- Joe Mauer, still recovering from off-season knee surgery, doesn't know what his workload will be this spring. In a rare locker room outburst from Mauer, he exclaimed, "Golly. I mean, geez Louise." He then apologized and returned to drinking 1% milk and reading a Highlights magazine.
- Scott Baker, also recuperating, is a full week behind the other starting pitchers. Said pitching coach Rick Anderson: "Season's practically here, and Bake's a good seven days behind the rest of the guys. Can't expect any team to overcome that."
- Joe Nathan, 11 months removed from Tommy John surgery, said his velocity was up and that he felt great. "Joe knows as well as anyone that he totally jinxed himself right there," said Gardenhire. "Chrysler. He's showing up tomorrow in a full body cast. Just watch."
- Tsuyoshi Nishioka, expected to patch the holes in the middle infield and the top of the order, took grounders and didn't use both hands. Gardenhire: "That's not Twins baseball, right there. Nicky Punto? Both hands guy."
- The Twins bullpen, outside of Nathan, Matt Capps, and Jose Mijares, remains in flux, as do their nicknames. Twins President Dave St. Peter: "Gardy's got what, three, four guys who he has to plug in and find a shorthand way of referring to them? The naming process alone isn't gonna be wrapped up until Memorial Day, and you know the Tigers and the White Sox aren't going to wait around for us." Although Gardenhire didn't want to answer questions about it, a club source said he's agonizing over a nickname for Jim Hoey, with both "Jimmer" and "Hoho" in the running.
- Perhaps most importantly, the Twins still are uncertain about Justin Morneau's recovery from the NHL All-Star Game. "The TV he watched it on was standard definition," said GM Bill Smith. "Standard definition! You can't even see the darn puck! Never mind a concussion, you know the headache you get from trying to follow the action? Poor guy's been a mess ever since."