It was hard to miss the two Canada hats and the Canadian Olympic scarf hanging from the lockers of Justin Morneau and Rene Tosoni inside the Hammond Stadium clubhouse this morning.
When Morneau walked into the clubhouse after getting his photos taken for “Photo Day,” the New Westminster, British Columbia native wore a mile-wide smile on his face and even walked with a little strut following Canada’s 3-2 OT win over the U.S. in the Olympic gold medal game yesterday.
Morneau watched the game with his fellow Canadian, Tosoni, but they also let infielder Brendan Harris in on their Canadian-only viewing party because Morneau said that Harris is actually a hockey fan.
The first baseman said that he got quite a few text messages from his Twins teammates when the U.S. tied the game at 2 with 24.4 seconds remaining in regulation. But it only seemed to make Canada’s victory even sweeter for the Twins first baseman, who texted some of the members of the gold medal winning team after the game — Chris Pronger, Patrick Marleau, Brenden Morrow and Brent Seabrook.
“I thanked them for making my life a lot easier,” Morneau said with a laugh.
Today is photo day, so the workouts started a little later than usual.
Also, here are a few nuggets from yesterday that I didn’t get to blog.
— Left-hander Francisco Liriano impressed during his first round of live batting practice. His slider was sharp, as was his fastball at times. Danny Valencia, who cracked his bat on the first swing off Liriano, called one fastball down and away “unhittable.” Manager Ron Gardenhire was not on the same field as Liriano yesterday but said that all reports were that the pitcher was “pretty filthy.”
— Gardenhire did get a chance to see a few of the new pitchers on his field, including Clay Condrey and non-roster invitee Mike Maroth.Having watched Maroth for many years as he pitched against the Twins with Detroit, Gardenhire said he saw many of the same good things from the left-hander.
“The ball was really moving all over the place,” Gardenhire said of Maroth. “He’s working on a few different things with the grip and
location. In and out a little bit better. The ball was really good. It
was really nice. First day out there and I haven’t seen him throw ‘pens
or anything…the same guy I remember. The ball moving all over the
place. Pretty good.”
–Gardenhire also reiterated that Michael Cuddyer will be the backup at first base and likely will see time there when Justin Morneau gets a day off. While Jacque Jones said he’d be willing to take grounders at first as he tries to make the club, even if it’s a long shot at best, Gardenhire didn’t seem so enthused by that idea.
“I don’t worry about Jacque in left, center or right,” Gardenhire
said. “I would worry about Jacque at first base. I haven’t seen that
part and I don’t really believe that’s part of his repertoire. Just
guessing. On the flip side, there is no doubt that he would take ground
balls at first base and be willing to do that.”
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All right, now that my trip back from Tampa is complete — and I got some dinner — here are some of the other newsworthy things that happened on Saturday.
- The Twins will use Monday’s off day as just that — an off day. Left-hander Francisco Liriano will come to the ballpark to throw a bullpen but otherwise there is no planned workout for the team. Manager Ron Gardenhire said that Joe Mauer might come in and catch Liriano’s bullpen, now that he’s advanced to doing that. But the team might also give him a day of rest since he’s been working out every day. The decision on whether Mauer will be the one to catch Liriano will be made by the trainers, Gardenhire said. The off day is one of four that is scheduled for the Twins during this prolonged Spring Training.
- Any questions about whether the Twins might acquire reliever Juan Cruz were answered Saturday when he signed a two-year, $6 million deal with the Royals. The contract includes a $4 million club option for 2011 with a $500,000 buyout. Although many Twins fans were hopeful that the club would sign Cruz, the two sides just never seemed to find a fit and now the Twins will move forward with Jesse Crain, Luis Ayala, and Jose Mijares as their primary setup options.
- One of the hottest hitters for the Twins early in spring has been outfielder Delmon Young. After a 3-for-3 performance on Saturday, Young is now batting .857 (6-for-7) this spring. Although some of Young’s hits in previous games weren’t necessary bullets, he showed more power in his three hits agianst the Yankees. And Young isn’t the only one delivering hits. Brian Buscher is now 6-for-8 this spring with 4 RBIs, Jason Kubel is 2-for-4 with a home run and Carlos Gomez even delivered a home run to left field on Saturday… “The guys are swinging good,” manager Ron Gardenhire said after the club’s 7-3 win over the Yankees. “Delmon is whacking the crap out of it; Kubel looks like he’s been hitting all winter long. There have been some really good at-bats and good swings. A lot of guys look like they’ve really got it going, and it’s early. Only six or eight more weeks of spring.” (The last part was Gardy joking…there are only five weeks left of spring –which is still plenty of time)
- Quote of Day: Gardenhire on Nick Punto playing for Team Italy “I think he grew up in Little Italy in California. That’s why I thought I had a shot to manage the Canadian team, because I live in Little Canada.”
(And for those of you who didn’t learn why Punto is playing for the Italian team — his grandparents are from Italy)