Saturday, March 19, 2005

A Lost Cause

I made the game out at 6-0 although Josh Gray assures me it was 7-0. But somewhere between the first and second innings I lost Kyle Phillips.

I'm blaming this on the rookies although they really had nothing to do with it. But they were all grinning at me earlier. This made me nervous. I think they think I'm going to take them home and feed them. They have the wrong girl. Honestly, they do.

In any case, Adam Harben took the start for the Rock Cats and walked the first batter. The second one hit straight up the middle allowing short stop Jesus Merchan to turn a beauty of a double play. He induced the third batter to ground out, making it a quick inning.

Ben Pattee opened up with a strike out for the Cats, but the catcher dropped the ball. Unfortunately, the ball didn't go far and he was quickly tagged out. Merchan came in and hit for a double. Doug Deeds struck out, and then Luis Jimenez, who was playing first base, and Kyle Phillips were both walked.

The umpires then "rolled" the inning. This is common in minor league spring training games but is one of those things that drives me nuts. In any case, you start the next inning with all of your players where you left them, so...

Back to Harben, who walked one and allowed one single, with one outfield fly (Ron Perodine with a tremendous put out on that one by the way) and a ground out. The single was up the middle and Pattee got the guy he walked out on second.

And this was when I lost Kyle. We started the bottom of the second with bases loaded. Omar Burgos walked, but I don't recall anyone coming in. Perodine hit a beauty double, and Merchan and Jimenez came in. Omar was tagged out at third, but Ronnie was safe on second.

So what happened to Kyle? Remember, the line up was Jesus on the third, Luis on second and Kyle at first when they started the inning and I saw Jesus and Luis run across the base and I never saw a walk come in. And yes, I'm positive it was Jesus because once you've seen Jesus you will never, ever mix him up for any other player.

In any case Alex Rodriguez and Andy Daigle struck out to end the inning.

I don't know where Jiminez came from, but he's much better on first than Danny Matienzo was for the Miracle last season. Matienzo is up in the Rochester work group. I'll put the work group schedule up on line later today.

Daigle caught in the Gulf Coast League last year. Big kid, big bat. He just sort of showed up one day, I assume he was a free agent signing.

The third allowed me to have a look at Glen Perkins for the first time. He looks small on the mound and would have fit in better with the grinning rookies. He pitched for damage control, walked one in the inning and did not srike out anyone. I was not overly impressed.

The Cats came in for the third with Pattee, Merchan and Deeds all hitting singles to load the bases again. Then Jiminez came up to bat and ripped one yard. Grand Slam. Don't know Jimenez came from but I hope he sticks around. Phillips hit a single, followed by another single by Burgos. Phillips was out at second on that single and then umpires rolled the inning again.

Back to Perkins. His first batter took an outfield fly but then he changed something. He started throwing fast balls and THAT was impressive. He was getting some good movement on the ball and just firing over the plate. He retired the reminder of the order quickly.

Daigle get's called over by Stan Cliburn after the inning. "Andy," he says, "When you get two quick strikes like that ALWAYS call for the fast ball again. ALWAYS." Andy assures Mr. Cliburn he understands and promises never call for anything other than a fast ball again.

Perodine lined out and Romero struck out before Daigle hit a single to get on base. It was short lived though as Pattee hit to second and it was an easy out on Daigle.

Next up was a pitcher named Jan Granado. Big guy. I rather liked him a lot, but he was allowing too many outfield flies. In fact, I though one was a gonner but Romero got it over by the fence. Those are going to hurt him eventually, especially in the shorter Eastern League parks.

Hitting wise the rest of the game was not really interesting. Merchan and Phillips had singles in the fifth, Romero in the sixth and Phillips in the eighth. Perodine also reached in the eighth on an infielding error.

The batting order was changed up after the fifth with Kyle Geiger replacing Daigle behind the plate, Felix Molina in for Pattee at second, Sam Taylor in for Merchan at short and Brent Tamburrino in for Burgos at third. Tambo made a great play in the ninth to end the game, his only at bat resulted in an outfield fly.

On the pitching end of things Brian Wolfe returned to mound (welcome back Wolfey!) following surgery last season and put in a good performance for his first outing including make a great play on a infield pop up just off the mound.

Wolfe was followed by Nick Web in the eighth, who put in a fairly good performance but struggled a bit, allowing two singles. He had one strike out. John Thomas took the mound for the ninth, got two quick outs, including a strike out, but then had trouble find the last out. It ended with a clean hit to second that Felix Molina picked off in mid-air. Nice catch!

Yes the Orioles had names. I likely won't see these guys ever again, so I generally don't keep track of them, in part because while I can get a Twins roster, I can't get an Orioles one. No one was really that impressive anyway, or I would have made a note of it.

Travis Bowyer wandered over after the fifth when they were changing the line up to see what was going on. He's pitching tomorrow in Bradenton. I'm thinking I'm going to watch the Snappers at Lee County Sportsplex tomorrow. He tried to dazzle me with silly baseball tricks despite the fact that he dazzles me anyway and knows it. I don't care, I'm still not going to Bradenton tomorrow.

I called Josh Gray over after the game -- he was serving as ball boy as he pitched in the Rock Cats 2-1 win the day before. I explained the situtation in the second and asked him what happened to Kyle. He looked confused for a minute and then said, "Oh no, they walked one in." No way. Jesus came in over the plate on the double with right Luis on his heels. I'm very clear on this and I'm very clear on Omar getting tagged out at third and I never saw Kyle.

He's lost. I hope he's not lost for good.

* "Roll overs" are common in spring training. Basically if the inning is taking too long, they just roll it over to the next. Travis assured me of this. But I've never lost a player before...

* Mr. Gault complimented me on my cooking. Now this really confused me until he said of the the rookie pitchers had been over my house and I'd cooked dinner and...they must have me mixed up with someone. Michelle maybe. But not me. Besides, the rookie that was grinning at me the hardest, Brandon McConnell according to the roster, I've never laid eyes on before in my life. I'm not cooking for the rookies. If they're really nice I might give them free Subway coupons.

* The report on Trent Oltjen is good but it will take some time to heal up. His eye is fine, there should be not permanant damage.

* Garrett Guzman has a broke clavical that he suffered in an automobile accident. The only player listed on the DL is one Tim Henkenjohann, a rookie. Suspiciously missing off the roster is Kaulana Kuhaulua. I did not notice that until after I talked to Jose. Jose did say there were no other serious injuries (whatever that means).

* The new "Twins" wall is not just for decoration. It was being used for workouts today. I found that interesting but it does explain what the "golfing green" on the west side is for. No, they're not using it for putting. Believe me!

Thursday, March 17, 2005

Second Thoughts

I'd like to believe the answer at second base is Luis. I'm just not sure which one.

While the Twins seem dedicated to Luis Rivas at second, big toenails not withstanding, he didn't exactly fill me with a great deal of confidence last season.

I don't care if his little imaginary friend is dead. Little imaginary friends have a weird way of popping up after you think they've gone.

So I'm still not exactly comfortable with Rivas on second.

Oh sure, the name of Michael "Cuddy Bear" Cuddyer has been batted about on blogs here and there as moving from third to second. It might happen. Terry Tiffee might yet become a major leaguer this year. I certainly wouldn't weep if that occured.

For whatever reason, the Twins aren't really comfortable with Rivas' understudy, Luis Rodriguez. He got a look in training camp and was sent down to play with the Red Wings again. He needs to work on this defense some, he needs to improve a bit at the plate as well.

Still he remains the top prospect at second even if the Twins aren't yacking about him all of the time. (Which does concern me a little.)

Alex Prieto also put in some time at second for the Wings, but the .249 batting average is not exactly making him the talk of the town.

Honestly, Rodriguez understudy is Luis Maza. Maza started out as a short stop and struggled a bit there. He was moved to second and flurished. Very athletic and very competative, he can grab a ball and shut down a play in nothing flat.

He spent nine games with Rochester, but honestly, the stat that most impressed was 62 consecutive errorless games at the AA level. And he can swing a stick too, going .311 with the Rock Cats in 492 at bats with 66 RBI's and 12 yarders.

Never a horse that tore up the turf getting to the top, Maza's improvement has been slow and steady and has hinged on his tireless work ethic. He will need to work his way up to the next level but there's no reason he couldn't work himself into the Major League line up in a few years. (Note: he also has "my" Aaron's endorsement, which, yes, does mean a lot to me.

Tommy Watkins and Jake Mauer, two utility players I've mentioned in both the short stop and 3rd base essays are also available to play second. Watkins is a better second baseman than a short stop but he does try to excel at any position he plays.

On the home front here in Fort Myers, Felix Molina managed to turn into a pretty solid second baseman by the end of the season. He's likely to repeat in Fort Myers and there seems to be no current movement at second base, but I won't be disappointed to see "Mo" back. No, don't call him "The Cat" even if he seems cat quick at times. He hates his first name. But he does have a magical bag of tricks that he dips into from time to time.

Ben Pattee and Dusty Goman, who I've covered in previous posts also filled in a second.

One infielder I have missed though in my other posts is Brent Tamburrino. Tambo was one of the two Aussie players that went to the Olympics (the other being OF Trent Oltjen). Much like Watkins and Mauer before him, Tambo is a utility player and plays well enough at any position he's assigned.

He came up as a mid-season call up in 2003. At the end of the season though he managed to break his wrist. He then started the 2004 season on the DL after he dislocated his shoulder sliding into home base during a game in Australia.

The current question for Tambo is if he can regain the power he has lost through injuries. His stock has fallen a bit with the Twins as his power dropped off, so it will be interesting to see what the new season brings for him.

Pattee was doing second base duty in Quad Cities until he got called up. He'd been sharing though with another Australian, Paul Rutgers who got the bulk of the starts.

I liked Rutgers in the Gulf Coast League a couple of years ago when he was second in batting and hits and was named to the Post Season All Star Team. Rutgers production dropped off though with the Swing, as he was only hitting .202 in 77 games. (Note, a fall off in production is not unexpected, but this one was kind of steep.)

I would like to see him move up, but I believe he'll be repeating at the Low A level, at least to start the season.

Luke Hughes and switch hitting Matt Tolbert split second base duties in Elizabethton. Hughes I've watched play before and he's adequate but I've never been really enthused with him. Ended up batting .284 with 19 RBI's and 3 homers.

The problem is he was sort of eclipsed by Tolbert, who was drafted in the sixteenth round as a short stop out of the University of Missippi. He rather lost short to Ploufe, but performed well enough, hitting .308. Both may be candidates for promtion to the single A level, but I'd be surprised if Tolbert didn't start with the Snappers.

I've not got to evaluate him live yet, but I hope to have that opportunity this weekend.

In the Gulf Coast League second base belong to Odannys Valdez. He took the most of the starts there, 46 out of the sixty game schedule. I'm not exactly sure where we got him from, but he put in a solid rookie season, hitting first or second in the order and batting .252. He needs to put some power on his swing though, as he ground out quite a bit.

His understudy was Mike Lysaught, another Australian who played a couple of other positions as well. Rather unfortunately, his bat doomes him to another year in the Gulf Coast League.

Quick Notes:

Aaron Gleeman is featured in a blogging article in Major League Baseball 2005. They talk about his "Free Johan Santana" campaign.

SethSpeaks is the subject of an interview with the Perham Enterprise Bulletin. Where do they come up with the names for these newspapers anyway?

The rather large white building under construction across Plantation from the Twins Training Facility is going to be a high school. "Just what we need," one of the Gulf Coast League parent's quipped. "More distractions for the kids!"

Minor League pitching prospect Pat Neshek has been blogging about training camp and complaining about the "Weight Room". He has the name wrong. It's the "Wait Room". That's why they're still waiting for weights! Also, don't let him fool you. It hasn't even hit 90 yet, let alone 95! Whimp!

Tuesday, March 15, 2005

Minor Matters

I just want to muse a bit on the way the minor leagues work because it always seem to me that some fans just don't understand the system.

I recall making a comment last season about the lack of quality talent at some locations on the field and and the response was "Well, can't we trade them for better players?"

Obviously, the fan in question was not really knowledgable about baseball in the first place as how many times do you get to trade off poor players for really good ones?

The other item that set me off on this track was that John made a comment on how um...understocked shall we say?...the minor league system was in some positions and that it surprised him.

It doesn't really surprise me, but you have to understand how the minors work. So let's kind of start at the beginning.

Most -- although not all -- players come into the system via the draft. Trades play a part as well, as do free agent signings. But the draft is still the largest supplier of players.

In any baseball system, because you have more pitchers than any of the other players on the field, the draft will be pitcher heavy. But with the Twins, the focus has been on pitching, sometime to the exclusion of everything else.

For example, some teams will just draft the best available player when their turn comes up. The Twins on the other hand look for not just good player, but players that they believe will be willing to sign with them. After that they focus on pitching. They also like to take local boys from either Minnesota or Florida if they can get them.

This is especially true after the first round. This is why the Mauer vs. Prior arguement has always lacked merrit. Joe Mauer was willing to sign with the Twins and he was a local boy and a very talented player. Prior was never really an option for the Twins.

Glen Perkins is another example of a perfect draft pick for the Twins. He's a pitcher, he signed and he's a local Minnesota boy.

If the Twins draft heavy on the pitcher's end, they will then try to fill in the fielding positions through free agent signings in Australia and the Latin American countries.

Generally speaking, players drafted out of high school are assigned to the Gulf Coast League, players drafted out of College are assigned to Elizabethton for their first "short" year.

If a player is exceptional he might be promoted to Betsy part way through the season, but it's not a standard practice.

All prospects are graded and receive a report card. Basically it's the same numerical scale that the scouts use (which I am too lazy to look up right now) that rates a player from all-around altheletism to mechanics to their attitude. The high the number, the higher the ranking, with the largest number possible (it's like a six or an eight) means the player has Major League skill that ability.

After their first "short" year with the Twins, player report to minor league training camp the following year. If they are still going to play in a "short" season league, say repeating at the Gulf Coast League or progressing from Gulf Coast to Appalachian League, they will participate in what is refered to as "extended spring training" or what I also know as "spring instructional league".

Played in Fort Myers and pretty much with the same opponents as the GCL, and starting anywhere from 11 AM to 1 PM, and being a glutton for punishment, I try to make as many of these games as I can. (This ended up with me watching three baseball games in one day. With Terry Ryan. Who sat next to me. Eak!)

Generally speaking, a player must be recommended for advancement by seven different coaches. It's based on their report card with some subjective adjustment for special circumstances.

In the Rookie League, be it GCL or Appy, the player are out to make a good impression with their coaches, so they tend to swing at any old thing that comes their way. However, part of the training they recieve is to be more selective in their batting.

As a result, batting averages tend to fall a bit once they get to the Single A level. Both Low A and High A are known as "pitchers" leagues, in part because the players are adjusting to selective batting and in part due to other factors including the MLB sized facilities in the Florida State League and Florida's hot and humid air.

(Just a side note, there is a phenomina that happens to pitchers entering the Gulf Coast League. Basically they lose 3 to 5 mph off their pitches. No one is really quite sure why this happens but generally fatigue, playing under afternoon games and the hot, humid air of Florida in the late summer, are all considered to be factors. Yes, the pitchers get it back, but the drop off in speed is not unusual.)

The change in batting style really is necessary however, as the fielding gets better and even if the batter weren't being more selective, there'd be a drop off in batting average as the some of the garbage runs that the prospects got in the rookie leagues would be outs at the Single A level.
Some, but not all, of the prospects at this level will also play fall ball in what is called the Fall Instructional League. This is similar to the Spring Instructional League with the games in the middle of the day and the opponents being limited to the Red, Red Sox and Pirates.

Generally speaking, you can expect a pick up in a prospect's batting average once they hit the AA league. You should see a noticable improvement towards the end of a prospects Single A stint. Sometimes that doesn't happen.

James Tomlin, for example, hit.303 in 2003 with the Miracle. He was promoted to the Rock Cats and hit .216 and was often frustrated at the plate. I honestly cannot offer an explaination on this one. Perhaps he needed to make an adjustment to the a higher level of pitching? Whatever the case, "J.T." is a tremedously gifted player, but he's going to have to rediscover his batting prowness if he's ever going to be a major league prospect in the outfield.

However, the jump from a "pitcher's league" at Single A to a "hitters league" in Double AA, helped a lot by the shorter parks the prospects play in, also helps explain why guys like Jason Kubel suddenly appear out of no where on the so called "radar". Kubel has been their all along. He was an All-Star in 2003 in the Florida State League and might have won the Home Run Derby if it hadn't have been rained out that year. But most didn't catch on to him until his 2004 season in AA and AAA.

Now up until you hit AA there's no such thing as signing a free agent to help shore up a position. That's why winning at the Single A level is probably the hardest thing a field manager can do. Additionally virtually every move a field manager makes is watched over by the major league club. If they don't like your line up for the night (and you have to phone it in before the game) they'll change it. If you make a substitution (and you have to call in after the game with a report), it's going to be questioned. Winning is not as important as making sure that certain prospects get playing time.

Needless to say, as a minor league fan at the Single A (Advanced) level, this can all be very um...frustrating. Especially if the team is NOT putting up winning numbers.

Oh sure, we try to make the best of bad situations, like sitting over the dugout and putting our rally caps on and doing rally chants as the Miracle got thumped 17 to nothing by the Tampa Yanks, but you know...we tried. We did our part as fans.

At the AA level, the field managers can request that the Twins sign a certain player for a certain postion on your team. Doesn't mean they'll do it, but you can at least ask, an option you don't have as a field manager at the Single A level. And yes, the Twins still scrutinze your line ups and ask questions about player substitutions. But it's not so tough.

And it's not so much teaching either. At the Single A level you have to be 75% teacher and 25% coach. By the time a player makes AA, he's pretty much set in his ways. You can make some adjustments, but it's hard to correct major problems.

Example: I had asked Jose Marzan about Jake Mauer's batting stance. He said - this being Single A High - all you could do was try to adjust it. You can't change it any more. The player is set in his ways. As a result, Jake may always drag around the tag of "No Power Mauer".

At the AAA you can finally do your own line ups. You can suggest trades, you can ask for free agents to be signed. Basically, by the AAA level, you're playing competative baseball. Up until then, you playing developmental baseball.

I'm not going to get into the AA verse AAA issue for callups. Frankly the Twins use a AAA system for promotions verses a AA call up system which some other teams use. Yes I'm sure they retire some prospect to the AAA (Marsters for example) until their tenure is up, but on the whole, being in Triple A means you are still as much of a prospect as if you are in Double A. Or maybe even more so.

Notes: Some players get to skip levels because they are good. Some players get to skip levels because they are expendable.

I hate to malign my buddy Bryan Kennedy, but Kennedy was promoted to Rochester in 2003 after a short stint with the Miracle. The reason, Greg Blum was proving to be more reliable behind the plate for the Miracle who were headed for the playoffs.

The Red Wings were out of the playoffs, so it didn't matter.

Granted, a lot more happened after that in terms of roster moves, but that's the "short" version.
And finally... The worst thing about being a minor league fan is having to welcome some guys back when you really wish they would be elsewhere. And yes, sometimes that second year will "do" it for them (Luis Maza for example has become a good prospect for the Twins), but sometimes You'd really like to see their backsides and hope that the incoming players prove better.

And of course it's the players that you'd most like to see the backsides off that most often show their front sides on your field again.

Monday, March 14, 2005

Second & Short

The Twins are an organization that really like versatility in its minor league system. As a result, that makes it really hard to break down the middle infield between short-stops and the second baseman, because they are often interchangeable. The same with the outfielders.

So I was trying to decide if I should procrastinate on the middle infielders on the on the outfielders.

However, even more riveting than the Michael Jackson trial is the battle for shortstop on the Twins.

I have to say, I'm backing Jason Bartlett. I WOULD have backed Nick Punto, but he calls in sick more than any person I know. In fact, he's missing more days than the aforementioned Jackson has missed at this trial. He's even missed more days this spring training than Typhyod Justin Morneau. Scary stuff.

So I have to back Bartlett. In part because I've yet to hide my head in my hands and scream over a stupid play. Juan Castro on the other hand, has that effect on me. In fact, the hiding of the head is usually accompanied by the drumming of the heals on pavement in shear frustration.
And I just can't take Augie Ojeda seriously as a full time player.

So if Bartlett, by some miracle or other lands the job, where does that leave us in the Minors?

The Rock Cats had three infielders that they used at short this season, although one actually belong to the Miracle.

The first is Seth Davidson who somehow skipped the Miracle and went on to play with Cats. His skills at short seemed adequate from what I saw of him last season in spring training. But I'm not sure he's ready for the AAA.

Of course, my opinion might change after I get another look at him this year. Plate wise, he was .280 on the year with no yarders and only 8 RBI's, showing not just a lack of power hitting, but also a lack of clutch hitting.

The next likely candidate would be Jake Mauer. I've mentioned Jake in my 3rd base breakdown as well because he played their quite a bit, with Davidson seeing 94 starts at short for the Cats. When he was with the Miracle however, Jake was the usual starter at short.

Jake strikes me as the kind of player who never quite made the jump from the Aluminum bats used in college to the wooden bats used in professional baseball. That he can have such a bad stance at the plate, and be so powerless with the bat, is mind boggling, given that he's Joe Mauer's brother. Then again, he's the older brother, so perhaps he was the experimental child?
Yes, I freely admit, there are player without power who make to the Majors and maybe Jake will get there one day. Right now he needs to get out of New Britain. His batting average beats out Davidson, .258 with 31 RBI's. So perhaps they will advance him.

Granted, the Red Wings could also use Glenn Williams or Brent Abernathy into that slot -- both are 2nd baseman which have played 3rd and both could probably pay short as well. Another option might be Riverdale High School grad Tommy Watkins who hit .267 on the year with 47 RBI's and 8 yarders. As stated in a previous article, he's a good utility infielder and could also cover third if Terry Tiffee gets called up or is injured.

Next down the list is Kualana Kuhaulua. He's from Hawaii and his name's not that hard, once you get the hang of it. "Koolie" played mainly a the Single A advanced level last season with only a seven game call up to the Rock Cats.

Some experts have pointed to that as the drop off in his game last year, but honestly, when I think back, he was bobbling the ball during spring training. He also seemed to have problems justing to Danny Matienzo at first, who is substantially shorter than Garrett Jones was. Still, some of those throws, Jones would have needed a ladder to reach.

As a result, Koolie comes into spring training with his position very much in question. This is not just my speculation, I've seen this voiced elsewhere on the web.

He finished the season in Fort Myers with a .237 batting average, 43 RBIs and 5 homers.

The other option though was Jesus Merchan who didn't appear on the fast track to success either. He frustrated early on by "Showboating" trying to throw in the middle of a jump and the like. This lead us very early in the season to suggest that maybe they should team him the basics of "Plant and Throw". We were told it was too early in the season for bleacher coaches. He did however start to improve shortly afterwards and managed to keep his feet on the ground.

Still he swung well, considering the lack of offense on the Miracle. A .287 batting average, although only 21 RBIs and no homers.

Part of what was originally appealing him though was his hitting, especially after a .314 season in the Gulf Coast League.

I should also mentioned that he's been somewhat maligned by the fans because of his looks, or lack thereof. I think that's a bit unfair to the kid. He is very friendly and when I saw him this weekend he was wearing Rock Cats' red. But somehow I just don't see him advancing either.

However, there is room for advancement (I believe) within the organization and I'm not sure we can keep holding the back the prospects in low A.

Of the two, I have been most impressed with Sam Tayler who decided during the course of last season that he liked the name J.R. Taylor instead. Doesn't matter, same player. Put in some good defensive work in spring training last season and has a sweet movement on his bat.

Hit .266 with 57 RBIs and 4 homers for the Swing last season. By all reports he was also a valuable member of the Quad City defense and deserves a promtion this season. Maybe enough to skip Fort Myers and head for the Rock Cats?

The other prospect on short in the Quad Cities was Angel Garcia. I can honestly say I have never seen him play, or at least I don't remember ever seeing him play.

Lacking an eyewitness report, I can only go by his stats, which were .245 with 27 RBI's and one homer. Honestly I don't know. Given the depth at this position they may cut some players loose and he could advance.

The biggest prospect at this position remains Trevor Plouffe. I'll be looking forward to getting my first look at him in Spring Training this season as he started last year with Betsy. .283 in sixty games with 28 RBIs and 4 homers. He is expected to start the season with the Snappers, but may be on the fast trick to the bigs.

Patrick Ortiz is a switch hitter who also spelled a bit at short, but only played 19 games last season, batting .268 with 2 RBIs. It's a bit hard to consider moving him up to the Snappers, especially if Garcia stays with the team.

(Note, Matt Tolbert was drafted from the University of Mississippi as a short stop but played mainly at 2nd base for the Betsy Twins. I will cover him with the second basemen.)

On the move though should be Juan Portes, who batted .327 with the Florida Gulf Coast League with 31 RBIs and 8 homers. As I recall his big problem was his errors, but he was late round draft pick who had not played for a while. Will likely start at Elizabethton this year, but could start to move quickly through the system as well.

Destined to repeat in the Gulf Coast League is Michael Lysaught. While he was solid enough at short, his batting was painful to watch. Only managed a .186 for the Gulf Coast League Twins with 7 RBIs. make it short, that's it for the Short Stops in the system.

Roster Moves

The Minnesota Twins announced today that they have optioned pitcher Travis Bowyer, catcher Rob Bowen and infielders Garrett Jones and Luis Rodriguez to Rochester (AAA, International League), pitcher Francisco Liriano to New Britain (AA, Eastern League) and pitcher Scott Tyler to Ft. Myers (A, Florida State League). The Twins have also reassigned infielders Luis Maza and Glenn Williams and outfielder Josh Rabe to minor league camp.

The Twins currently have 47 players in camp (13 non-roster)- 20 pitchers, 6 catchers, 11 infielders and 10 outfielders.

Rock Cats gain first player

The Rock Cats received word of their first player today as hard throwing lefty Franciso Liriano was optioned down to New Britain by the Twins.

Pitchers and catchers reported this weekend and while official word on some players will have to wait, it seems almost certain that the Rock Cats will have some new talent. Garrett Jones will be playing in Rochester, so expect for the Cats to have hard hitting Danny Matienzo on first base. Matienzo lead the Fort Myers Miracle with a .305 batting average and five homers in the 2004 season.

Also expected to join the Cats is switch hitting catcher Jose Morales who was a Florida State League All-Star last season. Morales was fifth on the Miracle in batting with a .286 average and four homers and 46 RBI's. Both players should make a big impact on the New Britain line up.

Some friendly faces will return however, as utility infielder Tommy Watkins say he expects to rejoin the New Britain squad this season.

Meanwhile the Cliburns are both busy assessing talent at the Twins Minor League training camp and hope to come north with an impressive looking team this season.

In other moves made by the Twins today, former Cats Travis Bowyer, Rob Bowen, and Luis Rodriguez were optioned down to Rochester, and Josh Rabe and Luis Maza were assigned to Minor League Camp.