Post-Game Reaction: Remembering Ramon Ortiz and A Lesson In Patience

Jamie Squire

Today's game left me with two lasting impressions. Both impressions ask us to keep looking forward.

I know it's late, but there are just a couple of points I want to touch on before I collapse. The first involves a flashback to 2007 and a stick figure pitcher by the name of Ramon Ortiz. The second has to do with Aaron Hicks.

Over the winter I talked about how the last free agent pitcher to sign with the Twins and pitch the entire season was Kenny Rogers in 2003. Since then Minnesota has walked through an assortment of outcasts, from Sidney Ponson to Jason Marquis. One of those pitchers was Ortiz, who was brought in with Ponson in 2007.

Ortiz's history tempers my excitement a bit, because I don't expect these two starts to be the beginning of a veteran pitcher bucking his trend of performance through the years of his career. - Twinkie Town in recap of Ramon Ortiz's second Twins start


We lamented the signing of Ortiz, more for his contract than for the signing itself - just like Correia. Notably, Ortiz also started the season strong - just like Correia. As fun as it's been watching Correia pick up ground ball out after ground ball out, I can't help but feel like the Ghost of Twins Free Agent Starting Pitchers Past is a spectre dancing on the mound, warning us of what could be.

Ramon Ortiz, 2007

Starts 1 to 5: 35 IP, 2.57 ERA, .221 BABIP, .631 OPS
Starts 6 to 10: 21.1 IP, 10.97 ERA, .382 BABIP, 1.070 OPS

Ortiz was pulled from the rotation after his tenth start. Obviously this is a pretty drastic case of "regressing to the mean", but it's a perfect illustration of what is likely to happen at some point to Correia.

Secondly, Aaron Hicks is going to struggle. That's just a fact. If you didn't think he was going to have some major bumps and bruises this year then your expectations were too high.

Still, for right now, and for the foreseeable future, center field belongs to him. And it should. It doesn't matter if you thought he should have started the year in Rochester, because he didn't. The decision has been made by the front office and managerial staff that putting Hicks in center field, and when you put that level of commitment into a young player who you are grooming to be a franchise cornerstone, then you need to live with the consequences. Here's why.

Entrusting a position to a young player means that, ideally, you have a player who you believe will be a big part of the team for at least the next half decade. It also means that, due to the nature of the sport, you're agreeing to give him the time necessary for him to develop. Seven games isn't enough to for that to happen. It's not enough time to evaluate your fringe 24th or 25th players, much less your rookie center fielder.

Granting a young player the starting job and then deciding after seven games that he just isn't ready, that's not going to happen. If the front office is so easily convinced by measly seven games that they've made a mistake, then they probably shouldn't have their job.

I said something similar to this in a comment thread earlier today: Baseball is a long game. It's a long season with long careers and long games. Things take time to develop. There is no such thing as immediate gratification, unless it's a walk-off hit to win the World Series. Because for everything else there's always a bigger and better prize. And even then, that moment is the culmination of a 162-game season and a handful of post-season contests.

Don't get me wrong. I understand if you think that Joe Benson should have been given the job out of spring training so that Hicks could get some time in Triple-A. I can even understand if you wanted to limp along with Darin Mastroianni for a few weeks until it became apparent that he wasn't as much a solution as he was a very temporary stop-gap. But it's Hicks that got the job. We can't undo that.

If at some point later this summer we look back and he's been struggling for week after week after week after week, then you can look at his body of work and definitively say "Yes, he needs to go down to Triple-A to take a step back and work on a few things." That's not something that can be said right now, after seven games, even if he has two hits and 13 strikeouts in 30 at-bats.

Aaron Hicks may be the future of center field for the Twins, but in the foreseeable future he's going to struggle. For the foreseeable future, that's okay. Failure is a big part of the process. It's how the game works.

Let's try to show Hicks a little patience this season.

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