Today I Learned…
FORT MYERS, Fla. — Twins pitchers and catchers reported to spring training officially on Wednesday for their physical exams, and workouts begun for certain members of the group as the rain soaked the ball fields at CenturyLink Sports Complex. Observers with a vested interest in such matters did NOT report any sighting of Manny Machado, and it’s strongly believed that he’s not making his way to Twins camp.
Here are a few other things I learned on Wednesday:
*Willians Astudillo will once again be delayed reporting to camp because of paperwork issues, two people with the Twins said. It’s a holdup in getting from Venezuela, where he starred for his Winter League team, to the U.S., where he’s hoping to earn a spot on the Twins’ 25-man roster out of spring training. Astudillo was delayed last year, too, in his first season in the organization. Then he earned a call-up by mid-summer and by the fall he was a fan favorite among Twins supporters as well as the Internet’s Favorite Baseball Player.
Word from the Twins is that Astudillo is expected to travel to Fort Myers on Friday — the paperwork issues evidently in his rearview mirror. Saturday would be his first day at big league camp, two days ahead of the first full-squad workout on the schedule for the Twins.
*Kyle Gibson, who got sick with E. coli earlier this winter, is back at Twins camp and might take things slowly this spring training. In addition to the serious nature of the illness, Gibson lost some weight, at one point bottoming out at about 199 pounds. Gibson told us Wednesday that he’s on the mend and feeling better than he had been – and added that his goal will be to add another 10-12 points to get back to his customary 215 pounds to pitch through the season. He shouldn’t have to “make” the club with the way he pitched last season, though it’ll be interesting to track his quest back to full strength here in Fort Myers now that the rest of the group is set to get rolling.
*Robbie Grossman signed a 1-year contract with the Oakland A’s, according to multiple reports, for about $2 million. The Twins had non-tendered him over the winter rather than paying him a couple million more than that, and so he went looking for work, like a lot of other players this winter. The Billy Beane A’s and Robbie Grossman. That kind of feels right, doesn’t it?
*Phillies ace Aaron Nola agreed to a contract extension on Wednesday. The young pitcher had 3 years of team control remaining, but rather than haggle around year to year, the Phils got something done long-term that can be seen as something good for the club and for the player.
Nola is 25 years old and already has two great seasons under his belt. It’s being reported as a 4-year contract worth $45 million, and there’s a club option for another season after that at $16 million, per reports ($4.25 million buyout). So really it’s just shy of $50 million guaranted before getting into the business of performance bonuses.
It’s intriguing in the context of the Twins, even though you might not categorize J.O. Berrios as being in that same echelon right now. Still, the market for good young pitchers with several remaining years of team control just got another data point.
*The Twins had more than 50 employees in an all-staff meeting earlier this week to go over the roster of players. Where they’re at, what they’re working on, and how the staffers — from research & development to athletic trainers to nutritionists — can help that player reach his peak performance.
*The Twins have made no secret about their desire to make information-based decisions under Derek Falvey. And data counts as information. To that end, the Twins are working with tech like Rapsodo machines, Trackmn and Edgertronic cameras to try to gather data that can help get the best out of a player. That’s not limited to the number-crunchers in R&D, Falvey said, but it’s woven tightly into the fabric of the coaching staff.
*The Twins aren’t saying that they’re done building their roster. They might be, but Falvey went back to the old line “We don’t turn off our phones” during spring training. He said the exact same thing at this time last year. Many people made fun of him for it. And then the Twins signed 3 more Major Leaguers (and cut one) as camp progressed. Falvey was asked when he’d have a good idea of his 25-man roster ahead of opening day on March 28. He indicated, with a smile, that March 27 sounded like a good day for that final decision.