Isn't it great to have all four of the Twins full-season teams back in action? Three of the four teams opened on the road on Thursday night while Beloit's game at the Quad Cities was postponed. Although this young season has just begun, the quality of play felt so different from a year ago.
The Rochester Red Wings hadn't even opened their season when Manager Tom Nieto got the call that one of his players was needed by the Twins. Two hours before their first pitch, they got the news that Luke Hughes needed to get to Minnesota for the Twins home opener. With Tsuyoshi Nishioka on the disabled list with a broken fibula, Hughes was recalled to start at second base last night. Seth Stohs has reported that Toby Gardenhire will fill Hughes spot on the Red Wings roster. He is listed on the New Britain disabled list which may mean that he can't join the Wings active roster for seven days.
I will look at the opening games for each team following the jump.
Rochester Red Wings (AAA) (1-1, 1-1, Tied 2nd, -0.5 games behind Lehigh Valley)
The Red Wings struggled through last year, finishing with a 49-95 record which was one of the worst seasons in International League history. When Rochester re-signed with the Twins for another two years last summer, the Twins made a commitment to bring in more veteran players so the Wings can compete in 2011. The Twins did that with twelve players on their opening day roster brought in from other teams. Eleven are veterans, most with some major league experience.
The Wings wouldn't win their opener, but it was a great game they would lose to Pawtuckett 2-1. Anthony Swarzak was excellent, pitching 4.2 shutout innings with three hits and seven strikeouts. Chuck James pitched 1.2 innings of shutout relief with three strikeouts, one hit and a walk. Ben Revere led off the game and his AAA season with a double, however, they couldn't get him home.
Last night the Twins got another great start from Eric Hacker in a 7-2 win. Hacker pitched 5.0 shutout innings with two hits, five strikeouts and no walks. Carlos Gutierrez was anxious in his first outing, giving up two runs in an inning. Jim Hoey made an impressive debut with the organization, pitching 2.0 shutout innings with two hits, a walk and four strikeouts. Brian Dinkelman, Dustin Martin and Steve Holm all had two hits.
The Player of the Week from the Red Wings during this short week is Trevor Plouffe. After going 0-4 in the opener, Plouffe was 3-5 last night including a double, home run and three runs batted in.
New Britain Rock Cats (AA) (1-1, 1-1, Tied for 1st)
The Rock Cats are also coming off one of the worst seasons in their history, one in which they lost almost a hundred games at 44-98. With the addition of more veterans on the Rochester roster, the Twins weren't forced to push young prospects up to AAA meaning the AA Cats should be more competitive.
Their season also opened with a 6-4 loss to Richmond in a game they took a four run lead in the third inning. David Bromberg had the opening day start, pitching 4.0 innings with six hits and three runs. Jake Stevens pitched 2.0 shutout innings of relief before Spencer Steedley picked up the loss by allowing three runs. Newcomer Ray Chang was the hitting star, going 3-4 with a pair of doubles and runs batted in.
The Cats evened their record, winning 7-1 last night behind an excellent start by Deolis Guerra. Guerra pitched 5.0 innings of shutout ball with only three hits. Tyler Robertson allowed Richmond's only run in the ninth inning as he was making his first short relief appearance. Chris Parmelee had three hits while Yangervis Solarte, Joe Benson, Evan Bigley and first baseman D. J. Romero all had a pair of hits.
The Player of the Week for the Rock Cats is Eden Prairie native Cole DeVries who was dominant in 3.0 innings of relief last night. DeVries didn't allow any hits, runs or walks while striking out five of the nine batters he faced.
Ft. Myers Miracle (Hi-A) (2-0, 2-0, 1st place, 1.0 games ahead of four teams)
The Miracle got off to a winning start on the road at Jupiter, 3-2. Kane Holbrooks was their opening day starter, pitching 5.0 innings with four hits, two runs and a pair of walks. Aaron Hicks was 1-3 with a triple and two walks. Nick Romero was 3-4 while Danny Rams was 2-3 with a walk and two runs scored. Brian Dozier was 1-3 with two runs batted in. Paul Kelly went 0-4 as the opening night shortstop, however, the big news was that he was back on the field. I am of the opinion that Kelly could have been the Twins starting shortstop this year had he not lost nearly all of the last three years to knee injuries.
The Miracle returned behind Miguel Munoz to beat Jupiter last night, 5-1. Munoz allowed a run on two hits and four walks in 5.2 innings. The biggest news of the night was the relief appearance by embattled Shooter Hunt. Hunt pitched 2.0 shutout innings with one hit, one walk and a strikeout. With no wild pitches and no hit batters, it was one of his best appearances since his rookie season in Elizabethton. I know we all are rooting for this young man to get back on track as he has the stuff to have a wonderful future. Chris Herrmann and James Beresford both had a pair of hits in four at bats.
To some, it was a surprise that Brian Dozier was invited to spring training. There was then some talk that he may begin the season at New Britain. With only a half season of Hi-A ball behind him, it is probably best that he begin his season back at Ft. Myers before moving up. Dozier had a huge night last night, getting four hits in five at bats with his first home run and three runs scored making him this week's Miracle Player of the Week.
Beloit Snappers (A) (0-1, 0-1, last place, -1.0 game behind Quad Cities)
The Snappers opened their season last night after their opening night at Quad Cities was postponed. Coming off the only winning record (71-65) of all four full season teams last year, the Snappers lost their opener, 7-4. B. J. Hermsen returned to his native Iowa as the Snappers opening night starter. He pitched 5.1 innings with seven hits and four unearned runs. The story of the night was the five errors by Daniel Santana (2), Josmil Pinto, Derek McCallum and Daniel Ortiz. Manuel Soliman pitched a near perfect inning of relief with two strikeouts and a walk. Jose Gonzalez allowed two hits and three runs (two earned) in 0.2 inning. Last years Appalachian League Player of the Year, Oswaldo Arcia, had a double in three at bats plus a walk.
The opening night hitting star was Daniel Ortiz who was 2-3 with a two run home run. Ortiz' opening night performance earns him the pick for this week's Snapper Player of the Week.