Phil Miller covered three seasons of Twins baseball, but that was at a different ballpark for a different newspaper. Now Miller returns to the baseball beat after joining the Star Tribune as the Gopher football writer in 2010, and he won't miss the dingy dome for a minute. In addition to the Twins and Gophers, Miller covered the Utah Jazz and the NBA for six years at The Salt Lake Tribune.
HOUSTON -- The Twins come home after this afternoon's game at Minute Maid Park, but you have to wonder why.
They're 4-1 on this trip so far, and yes, they probably wouldn't mind playing Houston a lot more often, but they spent the weekend in Arlington, too.
In fact, the Twins are 15-10 since the All-Star break away from Target Field, and just 7-13 in their home park. They've gone 4-3, 4-3, 3-3 and now 4-1 on their trips, so they haven't had a losing trip since early July.
Last season was the first time in this century that the Twins won more games on the road than at home, but they appear headed to a similar fate this year. They are 33-40 on the road heading into today's matinee finale (sorry, no TV), with one trip left to Chicago and Oakland, and 28-36 at home. They won 35 road games last season, and should improve on that this year.
Can't think of a reason why they've been better out of Target Field the past two seasons. Can you?
Ron Gardenhire can't, for the most part. "I've never been able to figure out those cycles of baseball," the manager said. "But guys get frustrated at Target Field. We hit a lot of long fly balls there. ... I just think right now, we're putting too much pressure on ourselves at home."
Here are the lineups, as the Twins try to sweep a season series for the first time since winning all seven games against Baltimore in 2007:
Somehow, I have a nagging feeling that Torii Hunter is due for a big weekend here at Target Field.
Call it a hunch. But after watching Denard Span go 4-for-6 last weekend against the Twins, and Ben Revere drive them nuts with an 8-for-14 series, it just seems like Shark Week, with ex-Twins centerfielders as the sharks.
If Rich Becker shows up with the White Sox next week, I'll know for sure.
Hunter is a career .296 hitter against the Twins, with seven home runs. He's only got two homers this year, though.
Anyway, the beat-up Twins are feeling OK about themselves, and now they have a chance to keep the A.L. Central race close. The Tigers are 6 1/2 games ahead, but have a 14-18 record on the road. And Minnesota misses both 8-4 Justin Verlander and 9-0 Max Scherzer in this series.
Reminder: Tonight's game is a late start (7:35 p.m.) because of the Twins Hall of Fame ceremony honoring Eddie Guardado and Tom Mee.
Here are tonight's lineups, with Josh Willingham serving as the designated hitter once more:
The Twins won't face Felix Hernandez during this three-game series, but Hisashi Iwakuma might as well be King Hisashi for all they've managed against tonight's starter. In two starts against Minnesota last season, Iwakuma didn't allow an earned run in his 13 innings.
And He's only gotten better this year. Pitching for the second-lowest scoring team in the American League, the Japanese righthander is 5-1 with a 2.35 ERA, and that's not just a product of pitching in Safeco Field. He's 3-1 with a 3.23 ERA on the road. Nine of his 11 starts have been quality starts, and he's allowed more than three runs only once this season.
By contrast, Mike Pelfrey has allowed more than three runs six times this year, and the Twins need him to find the form he had in Cleveland at the start of the month, when he allowed one run over six innings. It's the right team to do it against -- check out the batting averages posted by the bottom five hitters in Seattle's lineup.
Here are tonight's lineups as the Twins try to extend their winning streak to five:
Endy Chavez (.290) RF
Jason Bay (.241) LF
Kyle Seager (.274) 3B
Kendrys Morales (.298) 1B
Raul Ibanez (.231) DH
Michael Saunders (.208) CF
Nick Franklin (.250) 2B
Jeses Sucre (.071) C
Brendan Ryan (.206) SS
This morning was picture day for the Twins, the day when the teams tries to take care of all the entities who need photos of the players all at once. The scoreboard operation people are here, the baseball card people, several media outlets, MLB, all to get updated shots of each of the nearly 70 guys in camp.
Each player puts on his game uniform and goes station to station, about 10 in all, and spends 30 seconds to a minute at each. It's quite an assembly line, and like the autograph seekers, the photographers tend to ask more of the stars. Swing the bat, Joe. Stop on your follow-through, Justin. Pretend you're doing a pickoff move, Glen. It's entertaining to watch.
The Twins are wearing their white-front batting practice caps for the first time this spring, the same ones they'll wear before games at Target Field this summer. They had been wearing red caps during the first week; those are for batting practice on the road once the season starts. Available at all Twins gift shops, I'm sure. I was getting used to the red ones, but I'm not crazy about the white. They really look odd when several players are standing together. (You can see the white cap on my Twitter account, @MillerStrib.)
Speaking of uniforms, that Brian Dozier No. 20 jersey you bought last year is obsolete now. With Denard Span traded to Washington, Dozier has adopted his old No. 2, a better fit for a guy who is fighting to become the regular second baseman.
"I hated 20, so of course that's what I got" when he first arrived, Dozier said. "It wasn't a big deal, a jersey's a jersey, but I wanted to change."
The Twins actually wanted him to change, too, because they have so many pitchers -- 35 now -- in camp this spring. They don't have many numbers available (with retired numbers, all the extra staff members, and so many minor leaguers around), and didn't want to give a pitcher a single-digit number. So they asked Dozier to switch, "a win-win for me," said the Mississippi native, who wore 12 and 4 in college and the minors. "Two is good. Maybe Denard's number has a little more magic in it."
So update your rosters: New reliever Josh Roenicke is now wearing No. 20, though he was first assigned 56. But that went to Rafael Perez when he signed with the Twins last week.
One other note: Add one and possibly two more players to the Twins' WBC contingent. Samuel Deduno has been added to the starting rotation for the Dominican Republic, and will leave March 3 with the other WBC Twins. And Jamey Carroll, according to the Twins, is on Team USA's reserve list, available for call-up should someone suffer an injury. That brings the list to 12 Twins, and possibly 13, headed to the World Baseball Classic next month.
Drills have begun now, and we'll see some more live batting practice sessions today featuring Kevin Correia, Brian Duensing, Jose Berrios, Kyle Gibson, Vance Worley, and Glen Perkins, among others. I hesitate to mention it, knowing what's going on in Minnesota today, but the weather has warmed up considerably here; it's 67 and sunny now, headed for the mid-70s. Stay warm.
Well folks, the time has come to switch blogs. After eight years covering the Twins for the Star Tribune, I’ve moved to the Gophers football beat, swapping places with Phil Miller.
As much as I love baseball writing, I requested the change, so I could spend less time on the road and more time at home with Julie C and our two young kids. I’m excited for the chance to cover college football, and it’s nice knowing the Star Tribune’s baseball beat is in good hands with Phil and La Velle.
Before signing off here, I want to thank everyone who stopped by Around the Majors over the years. If you haven’t yet, please add Gridiron Gold to your bookmarks, and you can come along for the ride as I make the transition from Target Field to TCF Bank Stadium.
The Twins placed center fielder Denard Span on the 15-day disabled list with a right shoulder injury after Thursday's 5-4 loss to the Mariners and announced that they would make a corresponding move in time for Friday's game in Kansas City.
Teams can expand their active rosters on Saturday, but the Twins did this today so they can recall outfielder Matt Carson from Rochester on Friday. Carson was demoted back to the minors on Aug. 23, and players must spend 10 days in the minors after being optioned -- unless the team has a DL situation.
The Twins would have used Span off the bench, at least, in Thursday's loss, but he wasn't available.
Span hasn't played since Monday, so he'll be eligible to return Sept. 12. But his right shoulder has been bothering him since he rolled awkwardly trying to make a catch on Aug. 12. He was listed as day-to-day, but missed nine games before returning to the lineup.
Span had another MRI exam on Wednesday and was diagnosed with a strained sternoclavicular joint. He was told it's an injury that won't fully heal until the offseason, but he was determined to try to play when it was manageable.
"I had my bags packed [for Kansas City] this morning and was ready to go on the road trip," Span said. "But I had a talk with [GM Terry Ryan], and we agreed that maybe it was just best to take a few more days to get some of the swelling out of the ligament that’s swollen and see where I’m at in 10 days."
Span couldn't rule out the chance that he's finished for the season.
"We’ll see [on Sept. 12], depending on how it feels," he said. "Hopefully these next 10 days it’ll heal enough to where I can finish the season off and start that healing process again during the offseason.
"But I’m just going to listen to my body. Hopefully these 10 days and the treatment and the anti-inflammatories will help out, but I’m going to be smart as well, when I come off the DL, and do what I think is best."
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