Sunday, March 12, 2023

Spring Training Trip: Red Sox vs. Twins 3/11/23

The previous day's events at Fenway South gave an idea of one kind of Spring Training experience, a kind of well-tailored, well-curated replica of a Boston experience with a lot of pomp and circumstance. It was nice for what it was, but there were limitations. 

Yesterday's game at Hammond Stadium was...a slight bit cozier.

Look, I'd been to this one before, and even in comparison to 2017's JetBlue Park, this was still my favorite. Just a lot more hands-off, and giving people more freedom to do what they want and have a low-key time. It's tailored to a different type of fan, the Minnesota fan, the nicer, more laid back type, in comparison to the rough and intimidating Boston fans.

Plus, unlike Fenway South, we actually had some time to traverse the backfields. 

That, folks, is Byron Buxton, who was taking some reps and drills despite not playing in the game that day. Buck was under the watchful eyes of lots of Twins fans, and he spent about four minutes signing for everybody at one point. There were a few different signers, people like Randy Dobnak and Matt Wallner. I didn't get any autos this time around, and I didn't bring anything to sign.

We were also right by the batting cages, where we saw a few different people taking BP, including Grayson Greiner. And as one of the alumni coaches, Tony Oliva was there giving advice. At one point he was only a couple feet from us, talking to some lovely Minnesota fans in front of us. You have to soak it in at that point. There's a Hall of Famer and legend, just talking to fans like it's nothing. My uncle thought he saw Justin Morneau helping out as well, but I wasn't sure it was him. 

We also saw a bunch of Twins taking fielding drills, like Kyle Farmer, and a bunch of pitchers practicing on the backfields, like Bailey Ober and Josh Winder. It was a very low-key, respectful environment, and we felt at home there.

This was the first year of the Twins' new uniforms, and the first year of a new organizational look for them, without Miguel Sano, Luis Arraez and Gary Sanchez. It was a team I had some high hopes for, but even with the Red Sox in town that day, I wasn't sure if they could make anything happe

We got some pretty full rosters across the board for this game. No Buxton, Vazquez or Correa, but people like Miranda, Farmer, Kepler, Taylor and Jeffers, who would be playing major roles for the Twins. Plus, a strong pitching duel between Chris Sale and Tyler Mahle, two pitchers I'd seen before. 

These, folks, were our seats. Up a bit, yes, but behind home plate and in the heart of the action. Plus, we were covered, and shaded the whole time. This is not the best view I've had of this stadium, as last time we snuck in on a colleague's seats by the visiting dugout. But it was pretty damned good.

This was actually a pretty solid game, compared to the slog that was Friday's. Sale was sharp through 3 innings, his stuff is still as nasty as ever, and no Twins could get to him substantially. Mahle fared worse, allowing a few runs early before getting pulled for a reliever in the second.

At the start of the third inning, a new pitcher emerged...looking a hell of a lot like the starting pitcher.

Apparently in Spring Training you can put pitchers back on after pulling them. So after Baldelli took out Mahle, he was able to put him back in so he could get another inning of work. Yes, Cole Sands would come in afterwards and end his day for good, but...I guess the Twins really wanted to make sure Mahle got his reps in.

Having a good portion of Sox personnel meant also seeing some big name relievers, like Ryan Brasier and, as pictured above, Kenley Jansen, who did fairly well given an inning of work early. Joely Rodriguez was the one who had the worse day, as his rocky fifth inning led to Ryan Jeffers and Michael Taylor making some contact, including a Jeffers homer. All of the errors the Twins made earlier, including some fumbling Jeffers had behind the plate and a few infield boners that made me wonder if they were paying attention during those earlier drills, didn't feel as bad now that the team was actually playing well.

The eventual lead the Twins would take was also thanks to starters like Jose Miranda and Kyle Farmer, and would make for a calmer atmosphere in the fairly chummy Minnesota-centric stadium. It shouldn't surprise you, however, for me to note that Joey Gallo went 0-3.

The rest of the game flew by, with some great relief pitching rounding things up and leaving us with a worthy Twins win. Which means, folks, that the first two Boston Spring Training losses of the season were games I attended. Again, you're welcome.

Today I arrived in Clearwater and caught a game. I'll write that one up tomorrow. 

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