Well as the spring drags on, I find myself looking more and more at the calendar and waiting for April 1st to roll around. The Twins' 7-4 loss today to the Jays gets us one day closer, but of course speculation swirls all around Fort Meyers. Over the past week, we've gotten some good news and some not-so-good performances. Here's a quick run-down.
The best news all week was Justin Morneau's return to action, albeit in a B-squad game. But hey, at this point, we couldn't ask for anything more. When I first read that he played, I went from having a normal day to being borderline giddy the rest of the day. He has said that there haven't been any symptoms since then, and it was originally reported that he would see his first Grapefruit League action today, but, as we've come to expect, no dice. Gardy decided to give him an extra day and he's now supposed to play tomorrow. As petty as this may sound, it still worries me. It might just be me being extremely impatient, but until I see his name in the lineup card, I'm going to remain a pessimist. The Twins have gotten almost secretive about this whole situation, and I know they just want what's best for Justin, but if he can't go, I wish they'd just come out and say it. They did this to the fans last year when they thought he might be ready for the ALDS. We all know how that one turned out. I guess in the meantime, I'm going to keep my fingers crossed and be checking my iPhone every five minutes tomorrow until I see "Justin Morneau" penciled into that familiar four-hole.
The most disturbing thing come out of Florida this week was definitely Francisco Liriano. This guy never ceases to scare the living crap outta me. He has already admitted that he didn't do all of his off-season workouts, and he ended up with a sore shoulder because of it. Then he gets his first start after getting shelled in a B-game earlier, and promptly gets...shelled. I'd like to know what's going through this guy's mind sometimes. The talent is there, now we just need to see the preparation and dedication. Franky needs to be the ace of this ball club if we're going to go anywhere in the playoffs, much less make the playoffs. Putting that kind of responsibility on a someone that appears so immature just doesn't sit well with me.
In other pitching news, Blackburn gave up two bombs today and Eric Hacker couldn't get my dead grandma out right now. I hate to jump to conclusions, but I think we can at least eliminate him from contention of one of those bullpen spots. As for Blackburn, I'm not panicking yet, but golly gee willickers. Two bombs in three innings and you wonder if the sinker is still sinking. He's supposed to get ground balls. I'm gonna just brush this one aside though, and put it up there as a bad day. It's still March and we seem to learn over and over again that nothing really matters until April.
On a brighter, less frantic note, Joe Nathan continues to dominate. He threw another shut-out inning today and he is yet to give up a run. I haven't gotten the opportunity to actually see him pitch so I don't wanna go bananas here, but by all accounts, he's back and as good as ever. The velocity might be a little down butI expect that to climb throughout the spring and even into April as he builds his arm strength back to where it was. The only thing he has left to prove is to pitch on back-to-back days. If he does this successfully, it's going to raise the question whether he start the year as the full-time closer, or if he will share time with Matty Capps for a few months. Personally, I could care less. That one's up to Gardy. They both obviously have experience and that closer's mindset. Being mentally prepared is the biggest thing for a closer. I don't think either of these guys will have a problem with that. Let's just be glad Liriano isn't our closer.
And finally, there still have been no Mauer sightings. I had to feed my man-crush by purchasing MLB 11 The Show yesterday just to be able to see him in a Twins uniform again. The "Well played, Mauer" commercial was no longer enough for me. I found myself alone in my basement muttering, "With the stick" everytime I got a base hit. God, I can't wait for April 1st.