Action heats up at chilly Twins campPosted: Thursday February 28, 2002 1:15 PM
Updated: Monday March 04, 2002 3:32 PM
By Mark Bechtel, Sports Illustrated
Team: Minnesota Twins
Site: Fort. Myers, Fla.
Weather: High 50s, with a lip-chapping wind
Player I Saw Whom I Really Liked: Doug Mientkiewicz. In the first major league spring training game of the year -- a contest in which guys can, by all rights, dog it -- the 27-year-old first baseman ended up looking like Charlie Brown's pal Pigpen. He made a great scoop on a low throw from Christian Guzman on the first play of the game. Then he hit a rope in the bottom of the first that he legged into a double, thanks to a head-first slide into second. Alas, his day was cut short when he fouled a pitch off his leg in the second inning. When he did, someone said, "That's going to be the first of a thousand ice packs for him this year." Mientkiewicz, like the rest of the Twins, plays like his job is hanging in the balance.
Around the Horn: There's really only one starting position up for grabs on the Twins, though, and that's right field. Most of the Minnesota players would like Brian Buchanan (10 homers in 197 at-bats in the bigs last year) to get the nod over Michael Cuddyer (30 HRs with Class AA New Britain). Buchanan keeps things loose and is very popular in the clubhouse. In the team's 13-0 thrashing of the Reds Wednesday, Buchanan went 0-2 with a broken-bat grounder and a strikeout, while Cuddyer went 1-3 with a double and a sharply hit groundout. ... Joe Mauer, the No. 1 overall pick in last summer's draft, got his first big league at-bat in the eighth against Cincinnati, a line-drive single off fellow Minnesotan Jim Brower. The crowd, comprised largely of masochists who for some reason stuck around by and large until the bitter end, gave Mauer a huge ovation. After the game, Twins skipper Ron Gardenhire, managing his first game, was pleased with himself for getting the 18-year-old catcher a turn at the plate. "You think I don't know how to play the fans?" he asked with a grin. ... After Mientkiewicz was forced to leave, his replacement, Todd Sears, made a terrific play to pull a low relay throw out of the dirt on a double play. ... One reason not to bet against the Twins: their defense. They have five legit Gold Glove candidates, and shortstop Guzman would have a shot, too, if Omar Vizquel ever hung it up. ... Don't be surprised if Rick Reed ends up on the Twins' roster after all. He exercised his contractual right to ask for a trade, and if Minnesota doesn't deal him by March 15 he can become a free agent. But the right-hander turns 37 this summer and will have a hard time cashing in on the open market. He might try to get the club to guarantee the final year of his contract and then rescind the request. Adding Reed -- assuming he's in the same form he was before the Twins acquired him from the Mets last summer -- to a rotation with Brad Radke, Eric Milton and Joe Mays would give Minnesota a rotation to rival the Yankees' group of pitchers. Radke, Milton and Mays combined to win 47 games last year; Roger Clemens, Mike Mussina and Andy Pettitte won 52.
Sports Illustrated staff writer Mark Bechtel will check in periodically with
reports from his tour of spring