Even though it has been more or less obvious which 25 men would be going north to face the Tigers on opening day, some events today added both more clarity and some uncertainty.
On the clarity front, the Twins announced today Alex Burnett was claimed by Toronto on waivers leaving a 40-man roster spot open for Wilkin Ramirez. Although a corresponding release has not yet come out announcing the placing of Ramirez on the 40-man roster, it is expected at least by the deadline for setting 25-man rosters. An interesting side note on Ramirez is the fact that he played center field today, not his normal corner outfield spot. Obviously, grooming him for a super utility backup role to Darin Mastroianni.
The uncertainty today comes from reports that Cole De Vries left today’s spring training game early with an arm issue. Without more information, it is not wise for me to comment much yet. Suffice it to say, if he is placed at the back of the rotation, it will be a week before he would be due to pitch again, so there is time to determine if he needs to be replaced.
The departure of Burnett is a bit of a surprise. I would have thought a few others on the 40-man would have had a better chance of sliding through waivers without a claim, but the Twins apparently decided the risk was worth it. It may well be they have become disenchanted with him and his inconsistency.
My take on Burnett after watching him since he first came up with the Twins a few years ago, is he is a low-key, nice guy who is very competitive when the adrenalin is flowing, but a little lackadaisical when he pitches in less challenging situations. He seemed to do better when he came in with runners on base and had to shut the opposition down immediately than when he started innings. It is all anecdotal from my failing memory that I say all this, but it seems to me most of his walks were in low stress settings and he was particularly weak if the Twins were either way ahead or way behind when he came in to start an inning. He also was more effective earlier in the seasons he was with the Twins than he was toward the end of seasons. Whether that was from overuse and fatigue or lack of focus with the Twins being out of the running the last two years in particular might be pure speculation, but I suspect both played a part.
If I am right, this move could be a great opportunity for him. Toronto looks to be competitive for a division title and that would make Burnett’s appearances meaningful virtually every time out. His situation may well be a classic case of “needs a fresh start”. I’ll be paying attention to how he does in the Blue Jays organization, especially if he gets to pitch with the major league club.