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.
The Pirates on Saturday sent former second-round pick Duke Welker to the Twins to complete the Justin Morneau trade.
Welker, a righthanded reliever, appeared in two games for Pittsburgh last season, pitching 1 1/3 scoreless innings. The 6-foot-7 former Seminole State pitcher, drafted in the second round in 2005, had a 3.57 ERA with 65 strikeouts and 31 walks in 63 innings for Class AAA Indianapolis in 2013. He is expected to compete for a spot in the Twins' bullpen next spring.
"He's got a good slider he likes to use a lot," said Alex Presley, the outfielder who was also acquired Aug. 31 in exchange for Morneau. "He's a two-pitch guy who runs it up there 96, 97 [mph]. He's had one of the better years of his career this year, and he's building off that."
The Twins and Pirates agreed at the time of the trade on a group of players that the final player traded would be drawn from. The choice of which one to send to Minnesota was Pittsburgh's general manager Terry Ryan said.
I'm not sure if Justin Morneau knew he was about to be traded when he spoke after Friday night's game, his last, as it turned out, as a Twin (for now?). He told one of his teammates he had an inkling it was coming, and he didn't see at all worried about the possibility in the wake of his game-winning home run.
"If it happens, I'm going to somebody who wants me and feels they can use me in a pennant chase or a playoff drive. And if not, I'm here and I know I'll be here for the rest of the year," Morneau said. "Either way, it's a good situation."
Turned out to be the former, and Morneau hustled out of town once he got the news. He rode the Twins' bus to Rangers Ballpark, gathered his belongings, said his goodbyes, and caught a flight to Pittsburgh, where he was in the dugout by the sixth inning.
"You try to get here as quick as you can because you want to be a part of this," Morneau told reporters, according to the Associated Press.
But he didn't forget where he came from, either. In a classy gesture, Morneau wrote a message to Minnesotans that he hoped to run as a full-page newspaper ad. In it, he thanks the Twins and their fans, and even apologizes for not bringing a World Series title to Minneapolis.
"I was a wide-eyed 22-year-old kid when I made my big-league debut in 2002. I received a warm welcome that day and have felt welcomed ever since," he wrote. "... I am sorry that during my time here, we weren't able to achieve our ultimate goal of winning the World Series, but I will forever carry many wonderful memories of my time here. I will always cherish every day I was lucky enough to play in front of your fans in a Minnesota uniform."
A lot of athletes might express those sentiments, and you would roll your eyes. Morneau always seemed sincere, however, and was the best player on the team, every year, at looking at the long view, at talking about the future and where the franchise is headed, and not just today's game.
And he genuinely felt a part of something bigger than himself. You could hear it when I asked him last night about passing Tony Oliva on the franchise's all-time home run list.
"This is an organization with a good history, a pretty long history. We've got Hall of Famers and retired numbers, and to pass one of the greatest Twins of all time, it's a really good feeling," Morneau said.
Oliva is around the clubhouse a lot, and that's why being linked with him, Morneau said, "is something really special. [Oliva] is a guy who's always around. He's always got a smile. It means a lot."
CHICAGO -- When the Twins signed Jamey Carroll before the 2012 season, it was with the hope that he would act as a teacher and stabilizer for a young infield trying to fight its way into the playoffs.
The Twins were never good enough for that to happen, though. So on Sunday, they decided to let him try to fill that role for the Royals.
Carroll, a 39-year-old utility infielder, was traded to Kansas City shortly after the Twins' 5-2 victory over Chicago, in return for a player to be named later or cash. But what comes back from the Royals, who entered the day 4 1/2 games out of a wildcard spot, didn't matter much to the Twins.
"This is about an opportunity for Jamey," assistant general manager Rob Antony said. "... We weren't going to let anything stand in the way of letting him have the opportunity."
With the Twins determined to devote playing time to young players, Carroll has sat largely unused this season, starting only 46 games including Sunday. He batted .230 this season, and was so marginalized on a team that is playing for 2014 and beyond, he volunteered to pitch an inning last Monday against, coincidentally enough, the Royals. "That's when [the Royals] knew he was a true utility guy -- he can play anywhere," Antony joked. But more seriously, he said, "he'll be missed in this clubhouse."
And vice versa. "I love these guys in this room. I've had a lot of fun, got a lot of great friends that I'll have for a long time," Carroll said between hugs with his teammates. "It's going to be a little different to be on the other side. I know [Kansas City] is a good young ballclub that's playing very well, so it's exciting to go and be in that situation."
The Twins will fill Carroll's roster spot before Monday night's game against Cleveland at Target Field, Antony said.
BOSTON -- The Twins traded third baseman Danny Valencia to the Red Sox today for Jeremias Pineda, a 21-year-old outfielder from the Dominican Republic who was playing in the rookie-level Gulf Coast League.
The Red Sox, who have a rookie standout at third base in Will Middlebrooks, immediately optioned Valencia to Class AAA Pawtucket. The Twins assigned Pineda to their GCL affiliate.
Then, in another surprising twist, the Twins promoted Tsuyoshi Nishioka from Class AAA Rochester to fill Valencia's spot on their 25-man roster. Nishioka was batting .245 for the Red Wings.
Pineda, 21, was batting .421 (56-for-133) with nine double, three triples and 14 stolen bases for the Red Sox GCL affiliate.
“Our staff’s obviously seen him a lot because we play them a lot [in the GCL],” Twins assistant general manager Rob Antony said. “I saw him for a few games last week. He can run, he can throw, he can hit.”
Still, at age 21, Pineda was one of the oldest players in the GCL, so this was a sign of how far Valencia’s stock has fallen. After serving as the Twins regular third baseman for much of 2010 and all of 2011, Valencia got demoted to Class AAA Rochester this May and fell behind Trevor Plouffe on the depth chart.
Plouffe is on the disabled list with a bruised right thumb, but the Twins decided they were better off using Jamey Carroll at third base than continuing to use Valencia, who was clearly pressing in the chances he got. Valencia batted .198 with two homers and 17 RBI in 34 games with the Twins this year.
Since the July 31 non-waiver trade deadline has passed, the Twins placed Valencia on waivers, and the Red Sox made a claim. The team finalized the deal today.
“It wasn’t a matter where we were down on him or anything else,” Antony said. “It was just a situation where this might be a better opportunity for him.”
Valencia declined comment through a Twins spokesman.
Plouffe has 19 home runs in 74 games, and the Twins believe he’s got a chance to hold down third base for a while.
“I don’t think we ever want to hand anybody a job, but Trevor has done a pretty good job over there,” Antony said. “He’s kind of established himself. ... You can read into it how you want. But we’re pleased with what Trevor has done.”
The Reds have definite interest in center fielder Denard Span, a Twins official confirmed today, while hinting strongly that Span won't be going anywhere before today's 3 p.m., non-waiver trade deadline.
"They are one of many who like him, but so do we!!!" the Twins official texted. "No pressure to trade. Very valuable in a lot of ways!"
Scott Miller, of CBSSportsline.com, reported earlier that a source thought the Reds had a 50-50 chance of trading for Span. It's worth noting, however, that the Reds are thin on pitching prospects, which is something the Twins would almost surely require in a deal for Span, who is under contract through 2014.
I was about to wax poetic about tonight's 12-5 victory for the Twins, when word came (via the White Sox on Twitter), that the Twins had just traded Francisco Liriano.
So, I had about 30 minutes to write that (and an abbreviated game story) for our first metro editions. To anybody who gets one of those papers -- or anyone who saw that slop online -- I apologize. Hopefully, my late-edition stuff is more legible.
And I'm not complaining. If I thought the trade turned my night upside down, imagine the three players involved.
Besides getting traded to the Twins, along with Eduardo Escobar, Pedro Hernandez was with his wife in Fort Wayne, Ind., as she gave birth to their daughter. That second bit of news came just minutes after the trade was announced.
It’s going to be whirlwind time for all three of these ballplayers -- Liriano, Hernandez and Escobar -- so here’s a quick glance at each situation.
He was scheduled to start for the Twins on Sunday against Cleveland. Now he’s going to wait around the Twin Cities because the White Sox are heading to Target Field for a three-game series that starts Monday. He’ll likely pitch in one of those three games -- against the Twins -- but White Sox manager Robin Ventura wasn’t ready to say which one.
The Twins could have waited to see how Liriano did against Cleveland and seen if there was a better offer before Tuesday’s non-waiver trade deadline.
“I didn’t want to do it,” General Manager Terry Ryan said. “Number one, I didn’t think it was fair to him any longer. He had his name out there and everyone was out there talking about it. I know he was concerned. I didn’t want him to go out there for many reasons. That’s one, and another is I certainly didn’t want him to get hurt.
“I waited as long as I wanted anymore to have go through all of this. For him to pitch here tomorrow, I’m not sure that would’ve been fair.
“If he would’ve spun one up there and done great or had a stinker, I don’t think it would’ve affected it. When you evaluate guys, when you see what you like, you never forget that. They know what they’re getting and I know what we’re giving up.”
The White Sox had the 23-year-old lefthander make a spot start at Fenway Park on July 18, and he gave up eight runs over four innings before getting sent back to Class AAA Charlotte.
The Twins are sending the Venezuela native [and his expanded family] to Class AAA Rochester. While he's introducing himself to his new teammates, he can pass out the celebratory stogies.
Ryan believes Hernandez has the stuff to be a full-time big league starter, though the GM didn’t want to label him a potential No. 1-5, etc.
“He has enough stuff,” Ryan said. “He’s got a fastball, slider and a change. He throws a lot of strikes, which is good, but I’m not going to say he pitches to contact. No, he doesn’t do that. He pitches to get outs.”
In another awkward twist, Escobar has been on Chicago’s major league roster all year, but after this trade, he’ll be joining Hernandez in Class AAA Rochester.
Listen kid, you might have been good enough for the first-place White Sox, but you’re heading back to the minors before you can expect to play for these vaunted Twins.
“That was a tough decision because he’s been in the big leagues, but I think he needs regular at-bats and we’re going to send him to Rochester for that reason,” Ryan said.
Another 23-year-old Venezuela native, Escobar has received limited playing time behind shortstop Alexei Ramirez and second baseman Gordon Beckham. Escobar is 18-for-87 (.207) with no homers and 14 runs scored.
The Twins think Escobar can become an everyday shortstop or second baseman.
“He’s a switch-hitter who can run,” Ryan said. “He’s got tremendous energy. He’s strong enough. He can play shortstop. He can play second. He doesn’t really profile at third offensively, but he can play there. Defensively you wouldn’t have any problem with any of the three.”
* Brian Duensing will start Sunday's game in Liriano's place. Ryan said he's not sure if Duensing will remain in the rotation. It could depend on how well he pitches. Liam Hendriks has been very good for Rochester, but he had a rough outing tonight.
* The Twins will be promoting someone from Rochester to take Liriano's roster spot, but Ryan wasn't ready to say who that will be.
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