Ok, so the title's a bit misleading, but who can really resist a good Daunte Culpepper reference? I sure can't. Apologies in advance to those who pictured Revere praying to a Jobu-esque effigy of the former Vikings QB with whom he shares a number. I wish that were the case just as much as you do.
Yesterday Rhett Bollinger dropped a few outfield-related notes on us over at MLB.com, including one about Ben Revere's offseason training regime, which included regularly airing out long range throws with a football to improve his arm strength. Can Revere's Hail Mary drills make his arm less of a liability and more of a complement to his outstanding range? More details and a poll after the jump (ooohhh, mysterious and alluring, right?),
Revere and Ron Gardenhire both think this drill has helped to improve his arm strength, according to Bollinger, albeit to varying degrees. Revere is quoted as joking, "hopefully I'll have an Ichiro arm," where Gardy offers a more level-headed: "His throwing has been getting better. The ball is coming out of his hand."
We can discuss the finer points of Gardenhire's smack-your-self-in-the-forehead simplistic quotes at another date (e.g. "This guy's a baseball player," or "He's a guy who can catch the ball and throw it too," etc.). For now I'm a little more intrigued by the second portion of Bollinger's piece, which discusses Josh Willingham's transition from left field to right field.
Hammer's played just 264 innings of right field in his career, but as it stands right now, he'll likely be asked to quadruple or quintuple that this season as the Twins' primary right fielder. Gardy told Bollinger yesterday, however, that Spring Training will be a large component in determining whether or not Willingham can handle right field on an everyday basis, and even mentioned the possibility of switching him back to left field if he were to struggle tremendously there:
"I know Ben Revere can move over to the other side in a heartbeat," Gardenhire said. "Span could move over there. We have guys willing to do whatever it takes to win. That's what we are going to do. We're going to try to figure this out in Spring Training. We're going to start out this way and if it looks like it's working OK and he's getting used to that, he'll be out in right field. But if it looks like he's not comfortable in right field, I know the other guys can do it for a fact."
My initial reaction to that is: Yikes. Revere in right field sounds like a terrifying concept given his noodle arm, but perhaps we can also take that as a vote of confidence that this offseason really has improved his throwing arm. It's not as if Revere really needs to have a vintage Ichiro arm in order for his defense to be a positive. In 952 innings last year, his range alone made him worth 15.2 runs above average (if you're an Ultimate Zone Rating fan). Over that same time, his arm only cost the Twins 3.5 runs.
I'm willing to give Revere the benefit of the doubt and trust Gardenhire a little bit and assume that his throwing has improved. That's still not enough to make a transition to right field a good idea, though. Span isn't known for having a cannon, but it's safe to say that his arm is far less of a liability than Revere's has been. A shift to right field for either Revere or Span may lead baserunners to employ a "prove it" mentality and challenge the Twins by taking extra bases early on in the season. In that scenario, Span's the far more likely of the two to actually deliver on that challenge.
The best hope for the Twins is probably just that the current plan works out well enough, and Willingham, whose arm has been average or slightly above for most of his career, transitions well. If he truly ends up struggling to the point where Gardenhire and Co. feel that a change is in order, Span should be the one shifting over to right field. Denard's shown the capability to handle right field in the past, and Revere's superior range plays best in the vast expanses of center field anyway. His arm may be more costly there, but the runs saved from his range should once again trump the losses handily. And hey, who knows? Maybe the spirit of Culpepper will take over Revere's body and we'll see him "get his roll on" after gunning a few runners down at home plate this year (Warning: video link contains adult language and footage of Daunte Culpepper in a Raiders uniform, one of which may or may not be more offensive than the other).
Let's throw a poll out there and call it a day.
Steve Adams also writes for MLBTradeRumors.com, RotoAuthority.com, and MLB.com Fantasy Baseball. You can follow him on Twitter: @Adams_Steve