Tuesday afternoon's win over Baltimore saw plenty to be happy about, but the competition in center field and between the pitchers sizzled.
Randy Ruiz added another hit to his spring total, Matt Tolbert added a trio to his and Joe Mauer remained scorching hot, but the two front runners for the center field position flashed their game on Tuesday. Denard Span led off, picking up another double and a walk with another start in center field. Carlos Gomez, who saw time in left field Tuesday afternoon, reached on a fielder's choice in the first inning. He proceeded to steal second base. Then, third base.
Even though Pridie hasn't been playing badly, he apparently isn't in the running for the center field position come Opening Day. It's been narrowed down to Span and Gomez: Span because of a solid spring and six years in the Twins farm system, Gomez because of his exciting style of play and his daunting title of "Alpha Male" in the kickback from the Johan transaction. Both men made bids for themselves on Tuesday, in different ways, and just a week after we last looked at the competition it now stacks up like this:
Name Age AB 2B 3B HR BB SO SB Avg Obp Slg
Carlos Gomez 22 41 2 2 1 2 4 8 .244 .267 .463
Denard Span 24 31 4 0 0 6 3 3 .290 .421 .419
Jason Pridie 24 38 1 0 0 1 7 3 .289 .300 .316
If the Twins do go with 12 pitchers, only one of these three will make the trip north at the end of the month. Between Gomez and Span there isn't a clear-cut choice of who should win the spot, but it does seem certain that your starting center fielder will be one of the two. Another season in triple-A couldn't hurt Span, who hit .267/.323/.355 there in '07, his first season at Rochester. Gomez could also benefit from starting the season in triple-A, where he would be able to log regular at-bats that will still challenge him at the plate without subjecting him to major league pitching immediately.
Carlos Gomez is an exciting player, but keeping in mind that it's all relative, Denard Span might be the more polished and major league-ready of the two.
On the Mound
Phil Humber allowed his first runs of the spring in his first start, lasting three innings and striking out two. Nick Blackburn went two innings and didn't allow a run, and Glen Perkins had a quick 1-2-3 inning. Their springs now summarize thusly:
Name Age GS IP H SO BB HR ERA
Humber 25 1 12.0 8 7 2 0 1.50
Blackburn 26 1 9.0 5 2 3 0 3.00
Perkins 25 2 11.0 15 6 4 2 5.73
Going off how the pitchers were used in Tuesday's game it seems the Twins are content to keep southpaw Glen Perkins in line for a bullpen/long relief role. His inning of work lasted all of three hitters, and he wasn't removed due to injury. If he were being considered seriously for a role as a starter, Perkins would have been allowed to throw a number of additional pitches to stretch his arm out.
As it is, Humber and Blackburn appear to be competing head-to-head for a spot in the rotation. Neither pitcher was particularly unimpressive, in spite of the runs allowed by Humber, but Blackburn's performance may have nosed him into a lead for the time being. Just like the battle for center field, this one isn't close to being over.