(Frank) My first ever try at this blog thing comes on the very day when the Minnesota Twins are set to open what promises to be a very exciting and interesting 2008 season. There are many questions to be answered, and who better to answer some than one of the greatest pitchers ever and the voice of the Twins -- well, the color voice of the Twins, Bert Blyleven? All season long, I will be getting his input and producing a weekly entry in this blog. It should be interesting; here is one of the emails I got from my buddy, Bert the other day:
Frank: This blog idea sounds really fun, and I look forward to working with you.
Bert: I am excited to work with you. I'll keep this informative and fun, but don't expect any gossip. I know exactly how the players feel and I will let you know through my thoughts and past expereinces and the way the players are reacting to sucess and/or failure...Ill try to make it entertaining and funny too.-- It's hard to show humor through an e-mail or blog, not like I can on TV. So I will leave the humor up to your writing experience. I will probably call Adam Everett, Mike, all season long just so people like yourself and/or Dick can correct me...
(Editor) So needless to say-- it should be an interesting and entertaining blog!
Frank: Starting off easy, who will be the DH tonight, Jason Kubel or Craig Monroe?
Bert: Jason Kubel will probably DH, since the Angels are starting RHP Jered Weaver; but Gardy has said that the DH spot will be shared by Jason and Craig Monroe.
Frank: Can Livan Hernandez, the starting pitcher tonight for the Twins, help fill the void left by departing veteran pitchers Johan Santana and Carlos Silva, which left the pitching rotation very young and inexperienced?
Bert: What the Twins did in signing Livan Hernandez was to pick up a veteran pitcher that has been through the battles of the long 162-game schedule. Now maybe he isn't the pitcher that he was when he pitched in the World Series for the Florida Marlins in 1997, which they won over the Cleveland Indians, or in 2002 when he did so for the San Francisco Giants and they lost to the Anaheim Angels, but he is a pitcher who is exactly what the Twins need. With the youth movement in the starting rotation the Twins need a leader and Livan can show them how to pitch with maybe not his best stuff on a particular night. Livan is a pitcher that needs to work the corners of the plate and change speeds. His slow curveball can make some Major League hitters look foolish because he throws it so slow and with a big break (sounds like the words of a man who made 3,700 major league hitters look foolish with his big breaking curve). Livan has made 7 “Opening Day” starts, so Monday night won't bother him except for the butterflies he will have before game time. Once the game starts the Twins fans will see a very competitive pitcher.
Frank: Beyond tonight’s starter, how do you think the pitching will hold up this year?
Bert: The starters have to pitch into the 7th inning more this season because, as good as the bullpen is, they can not afford to wear them out. Look what happened to Pat Neshek last season when he had to get up in the bullpen almost every night. (He had a 1.70 E.R.A. at the all-star break, nearly enough to spend it on the elite squad. But all the work did damage to his right arm, and the E.R.A. ballooned to almost 5.00 after the break until he quit pitching with two weeks left in the season because of soreness.) The bullpen is anchored by Joe Nathan, surrounded by Neshek, Juan Rincon, Jesse Crain, Matt Guerrier, Dennys Reyes and new Twins pitcher Brian Bass. Being a former starting pitcher I know the importance of the innings a starter has to pitch throughout the season to keep the bullpen fresh; Boof Bonser, Kevin Slowey, Scott Baker and Nick Blackburn will have to "STEP UP." I also think the Twins did the right thing and that was to have Francisco Liriano stay in Ft. Myers and get some more starts and innings under his belt before he comes to Minnesota. Why? Because this kid is only 24 years old and coming off the "Tommy John" surgery. The Twins have to make sure that he has at least 2 or 3 good starts, of at least 6 innings, before they decide he is ready. Liriano is a young man that, as we all know, is nasty when he is healthy. So they need to make sure he is healthy to help the team win some ball games.
Frank: How about the opening series, with Torii Hunter returning to the Metrodome for the first time since trading “Minnesota Nice” for “Hollywood Nights.”
Bert: Playing the Angels for opening night and their first series will be fun to watch. Torii Hunter should get a standing ovation when he comes to the plate. Torii, even though he is an Angel now, actually he has always been an Angel, but now an Angels player, did all he could over his Twins career to represent the Twins organization with class. Players like Torii deserve good things in life because he has always been a class act. For the same reason, men like Blyleven deserve good things in life.
(Frank:) The Twins start the year with a full week of games at home. Beginning with the 4-game series against the LA Angels of Anaheim. Coverage on FSN North starts on Tuesday with the 6:30 pre-game show and 7:00 game. FSN North coverage begins at 6:30 on Wednesday then the Twins send the Angels off with a 12:00 game Thursday that is not televised. A weekend series with their division rival Royals follows, with a 6:30 FSN game Friday, then 12:30 games Saturday and Sunday.