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Series Preview: Twins @ Orioles

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Minnesota Twins (0-0) @ Baltimore Orioles (0-0)

Opening Day is here! Finally! Some of you will be noshing on crab cakes and Natty Boh while reading this. The rest of us sad, sad folks will be spending this wonderful holiday on the couch…or worse, in the office. In any case, on to business!

Not much in the way of statistics to post right now since we haven’t even played a game yet, but here are some factoids for you to digest along with your delicious crab cakes. Jake Arrieta will make his first ever Opening Day start. Feels pretty weird not to be typing Jeremy Guthrie right now, but there is hope that Jason Hammel, the game two starter acquired from Colorado, will bring a similar presence at the top of the Orioles starting rotation. If you haven’t been keeping up with the Orioles offseason goings on, Hammel isn’t the only new face. Several other Orioles will make their team debut at some point early in the season (possibly this series), including Nick Johnson (1B/DH), Ryan Flaherty (sleeper pick for many categories in the CC preseason contest), Luis Ayala (RP), Wei-Yin Chen (SP), Endy Chavez (OF), and more.

On the other side of the field, the Twins enter with a revamped (for better or worse) lineup and pitching staff. Big names such as Joe Nathan, Michael Cuddyer, and Jason Kubel bolted in the offseason, replaced with names such as Josh Willingham, Ryan Doumit, and Jason Marquis, etc. On the plus side for the Twins, Joe Mauer and Justin Morneau appear to be healthy. Mauer is coming off a very solid spring and could return as a top catcher. Morneau will move into a full-time DH role in order to keep him in the lineup on a daily basis. Pitching is a big question mark, as the Twins will look to more…senior…..guys (Carl Pavano and Jason Marquis) to lead the way in front of the younger Liam Hendriks and Francisco Liriano.

Game 1 (Friday @ 3:05pm):

Probable Pitchers:

MIN – Carl Pavano (9-13, 4.30 ERA)

BAL – Jake Arrieta (10-8, 5.05 ERA)

Scouting Report:

Significantly increased his use of the fastball over the previous season (up to 29.6 percent from 21 percent) and while cutting down on the majority of his other pitches. Velocity is down into the upper 80s, probably because Pavano is now 36 years of age. Does not utilize the inside corner on a regular basis, keeping most of his pitches on the outer half of the plate. Will mix in the occasional splitter and cutter.

Key Stats:

Of active Orioles, Nick Markakis leads the team with 6 hits, although Wilson Betemit boasts a .333 (5 for 15) career average versus Pavano. Matt Wieters is the only active Oriole with multiple extra-base hits against Pavano. Only a handful of active Twins have faced Jake Arrieta in previous meetings.

Game 2 (Saturday @ 7:05pm):

Probable Pitchers:

MIN – Francisco Liriano (9-10, 5.09 ERA)

BAL – Jason Hammel (7-13, 4.76 ERA w/ Colorado)

Scouting Report:

Mostly a fastball and slider guy, but will mix in a changeup. Rarely, if ever, throws the changeup to lefties. Will come in with the mid 80s slider (to righties), but favors low and outside with the fastball. Velocity down rather significantly from 2010 (nearly 3 MPH on the fastball).

Key Stats:

Both Jamey Carroll and Josh Willingham, recent acquisitions for the Twins, have solid numbers against Hammel. Justin Morneau has two hits-both doubles. Orioles have very weak statistics versus Liriano, although in limited at-bats. Betemit is the only O with double-digit ABs and has not fared well at all.

Game 3 (Sunday @ 1:35pm)

Probable Pitchers:

MIN – Liam Hendriks (0-2, 6.17 ERA)

BAL – Tommy Hunter (4-4, 4.68 ERA w/ Texas and Baltimore)

Scouting Report:

In limited action, Hendriks threw a majority of fastballs (nearly 50 percent of his pitches). Sat around 90 MPH. Mixed in some sliders and curves from time to time.

Key Stats:

Joe Mauer is 3 for 6 with a double and a homer versus Tommy Hunter. Only limited ABs for the remainder of the Twins lineup. The Orioles have yet to face Liam Hendriks.