Live from Florida, Day 7: GM Smith on bullpen; Morneau takes live BP
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FORT MYERS, Fla. -- A rundown of the news, notes and quotes from Wednesday at Minnesota Twins spring training:
Catching up with ... Bill Smith
General manager Bill Smith stopped by the 1500 ESPN booth at Hammond Stadium on Wednesday to discuss the first week of spring training. Here are his thoughts on a handful of topics:
On possibly moving Joe Mauer to a new position at some point
• Joe's an impact catcher. He can impact a game offensively, he can impact it defensively. That's his position, and until he can't do it anymore -- and he wants to be a catcher, and we want to keep him there.
On having six starting pitchers for five slots
• Six is better than four every time. We've got six pitchers. Let's keep the focus on getting close to April 1st with six healthy ones, and we'll figure it out from there.
On LHP Scott Diamond, who was acquired from Atlanta in the Rule 5 draft
• We have good reports on this guy. He's a good-sized kid, and he's done well over in the Braves organization, and we're going to give him a good look. We would love to get a good-bodied, left-handed pitcher out of that Rule 5 draft. He did that once before and had some success (Johan Santana).
He's not going to be Johan Santana, but we've got good reports on this guy. We like him.
We had Scott Diamond, when we got the list last year, we were thrilled in December at the winter meetings. We were thrilled that he got to us.
On what he likes about the 2011 team that might be different from last year's team, besides Morneau
• I think speed. We brought in, last year, Hardy and Hudson, and it worked. They did what we wanted them to do. We wanted a little more of a veteran presence, we wanted guys that were going to be absolutely solid up the middle, and one of the things we lost was a little step in speed. I think with the middle of our lineup, if we can get Casilla and Nishioka and Denard Span on base, running around, creating a little havoc on the bases, and then have Mauer, Morneau, Cuddyer, Kubel, Delmon Young, Jim Thome coming up, we're going to score enough runs.
On what Alexi Casilla has done to earn such a high vote of confidence
• 2009 was a disappointment. He had played well in '08 when he came up. He was a little bit of a spark for us. He really scuffled in '09. Last year I think he came back -- and the manager and the coaches, the guys that are with hi day in, day out, they saw just a little bit more maturity, and he handled situations. We had stretches where Hudson was out, and Casilla played at second base. We had stretches where Hardy was out and he played at shortstop. They had a lot of confidence in him, that when those guys are out we could give them the time to heal, because Casilla was playing well.
On Tsuyoshi Nishioka working out alone in the weeks leading up to Wednesday
• There are a couple of things. Number one, that is how they do it over there; they have their trainers. And he has a personal trainer, and then he's got a baseball trainer. And that's a little bit of how they do it in Japan. The second thing is, and he had talked to a few of the people here, that today was a special day because it was the first day that he was going to put on his Twins uniform. So I think through the workouts, the unofficial workouts, I don't think he wanted to do it for whatever reason -- be it superstition, or he was excited about (Wednesday). We're glad to have him.
On the bullpen battle
• Jesse Crain was really the one guy we had that had some velocity. Back when we made the deal with Hardy, Jim Hoey was a guy that fit the bill of what we were looking for. He hasn't always thrown it over enough, certainly by our standards, because we like pitchers that throw strikes. But he will just rear back and throw it and say, 'hit it if you can.' We've got a number of other guys, some veteran guys, and we've got about 14 or 15 guys that are going to battle for those seven bullpen spots.
4: The number of former, notable Twins players standing around the batting cage during live batting practice -- Tony Oliva, Rod Carew, Paul Molitor and Terry Steinbach, who regularly throws to hitters.
2 or 3: The number of months former Twins infielder Nick Punto will miss after suffering a sports hernia in St. Louis Cardinals camp. The Twins elected not to retain Punto -- who signed for $750,000 -- in large part because of his inability to stay healthy over the last couple seasons.
• RHP Nick Blackburn had a minor scare during live batting practice on Wednesday. Catcher Rene Rivera threw a ball back to the mound that glanced off the metal frame of the L-screen and into the left side of Blackburn's face. A Twins PR person confirmed Blackburn is OK, but he left the field early.
• C Joe Mauer (knee) was limited after receiving a lubricant injection on Tuesday. The catcher was not thrilled that news of the injection became public, and he insists 'it's really not that big of a deal.' Mauer did, however, take live batting practice against Carl Pavano.
• 1B Justin Morneau (concussion) faced live pitching -- against Pavano -- for the first time in months on Wednesday. He has now gone through full workouts two straight days since arriving to Fort Myers.
"Check home! Check home!"
-- Tsuyoshi Nishioka, as part of an infield drill during the early stages of Wednesday's workout. Nishioka is trying to learn various baseball phrases in English, but he also has a translator with him on the field at all times.
Full-squad workouts continue on Thursday. The first spring-training game takes place on Sunday night against the Red Sox.