Like a broken record

Twins Spring Training

For the fourth straight game, the attendance figure was over 8,000. Today's 8,141 is the Hammond Stadium record.

Seems they needed a few games to figure out the stadium's new capacity. They added some seating areas in the off-season, including a lawn area beyond the right-field line. Earlier in the spring, they probably weren't selling as many tickets for this area as they could have.

Ponson looked sharp today and got the win. He appears to be a lock for the Opening Day rotation, along with Johan Santana, Carlos Silva, Ramon Ortiz and Boof Bonser.

Matt Garza, who also pitched, will likely have to start in Triple A and wait for a call to come. This says much for the rotation, since Garza ended last season in the big leagues. Most figured he would be back in the Twin Cities for the start of '07, but Ponson, Ortiz and Bonser have been good.

All the pieces are in place for Minnesota to be a contender. Worries over the starting rotation have been eased, especially in the last two weeks.

I won't predict a World Series title for the Twins ... not today, at least. What I will predict, however, is another attendance record before month's end, likely when the Yankees come to town.

Here is what the remainder of the home schedule looks like: Toronto (Friday), Pittsburgh (Saturday), Baltimore (Monday), Yankees (Tuesday), Boston (March 28), Pittsburgh (March 31).

See ya here for the Jays in a couple of days. Either on this blog, or in this stadium.

MINNESOTA 5, CINCINNATI 3

WP: Ponson (2-1), LP: Milton (0-1), S: Reyes (1).

2B: Mauer, MIN (1), Godwin, CIN (1); 3B: Castillo, MIN (1); HR: Cuddyer (3).

***

Scary moment in the first.

While Twins leadoff man Luis Castillo warmed up in the on-deck circle between innings, a donut weight flew off his bat and struck hitting coach Joe Vavra in the Minnesota dugout.

Vavra suffered a laceration in his right ear and was taken to a local hospital to receive stitches.

The first pitch by Reds left-hander Eric Milton was delayed as Twins coaches tended to Vavra, who later walked back toward the clubhouse with a trainer.

Incidentally, Castillo is having a big game. He is 2-for-2 thus far with an RBI triple and a run scored.

Ponson gave up a 3-spot in the third but has otherwise been solid. With the Reds batting in the fourth, he remains in the game.

Minnesota 5, Cincinnati 3; top of the fourth

***

Tough 48 hours for Twins lefty Randy Choate. A day after his beloved Seminoles were beaten by Mississippi State in the NIT, the FSU product has been optioned to Minor League camp.

Only move so far today.

***

The Reds bring the best record in spring training to Hammond Stadium .... and, so it seems, the best story.

Remember Josh Hamilton? He was the can't-miss-kid, taken No. 1 overall by the Tampa Bay Devil Rays in the '99 draft. Boy, did he miss?

On baseball's restricted list because of repeated drug offenses, Hamilton was out of the game for three years. The Reds took a flier on him, however, when they purchased his contract from the Chicago Cubs, who selected Hamilton for Cincinnati in the Rule 5 draft.

Look at how it has paid off.

Hamilton has been the talk of the Grapefruit League. He leads the team this spring with a .487 average, and has one home run and six RBIs.

He bats cleanup today for the Reds and plays right field. He'll face Twins right-hander Sidney Ponson, who himself has faced his share of demons off the field.

The Reds had their day off yesterday. Nonetheless, they are 13-5, one game ahead of NL Central rival Houston in the Grapefruit League standings.

About three hours from the first pitch. If anything interesting happens between now and then (it won't), I'll let you know.

The lineups:

CINCINNATI: CF Freel, 1B Hatteberg, 3B Encarnacion, RF Hamilton, C Valentin, SS Gonzalez, 2B Castro, LF Denorfia, C Moeller; LHP Eric Milton.

MINNESOTA: 2B Castillo, 3B Cirillo, C Mauer, DH Cuddyer, 1B Morneau, CF Hunter, LF White, RF Kubel, SS Casilla; RHP Sidney Ponson.

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