The Free Press, Mankato, MN

Ed Thoma

April 26, 2009

Morales appears to be catching on

Observations, thoughts and questions after the first three weeks of the season:

• With Joe Mauer apparently about ready to return to the lineup, there has to be somebody in the organization who has noticed that Jose Morales has outplayed Mike Redmond so far.

Morales has not only hit better (.690 OPS to Red Dog’s .572), his Catcher’s ERA — the team ERA with him behind the plate — is almost a half run lower than Redmond’s. (There are too few innings involved for that to be conclusive, but it’s a point in Morales’ favor.)

Roster flexibility considerations will probably win out here; the Twins can demote Morales without losing him, and that’s not the case with Redmond. Still, I wouldn’t be surprised if the Twins slid the veteran and his sore groin onto the DL when Mauer returns.

• The word on David Ortiz when the Twins hit Boston was that he was no longer hitting good fastballs.

Then he showed why Fenway Park might have been designed with him in mind. He peppered the Green Monster in that blowout doubleheader, including a double he popped off Jose Morillo — who, of course, throws wicked hard.

Ortiz has been known, since rising to stardom in Boston, to rip the Twins for insisting that he learn to hit to left field rather than try to pull everything. The truth is, that’s a skill that has helped him considerably in Fenway.

n The Twins aren’t the only ones having bullpen problems. Minnesota’s bullpen ERA entering Sunday was 6.52 — and there were three teams in the American League with worse figures.

The Angels’ relief pitchers — remember, Anaheim’s the team that blew that big lead to the Twins two Fridays ago — is 7.52, and there are rumblings that Scot Shields, long a mainstay of their middle relief corps, is cooked.

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Ed Thoma