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.
Tony Oliva cornered me in the Twins' clubhouse today, and had a clipping from today's paper in his hand. I knew what he was going to say before he even started.
He corrected my error, in no uncertain terms. But there's a 49-year-old error that he can't get fixed.
In searching for context for Oswaldo Arcia's 11th home run of the season on Tuesday night, I did a computer search for home runs by a Twin in his first season, which showed that Arcia ranked sixth -- or so I thought. But in searching for "first" season instead of "rookie" season, I slighted Tony O, Gary Gaetti, Kent Hrbek, Tom Brunanski, Justin Morneau, and every other Twin who spent a few days in the big leagues before their official "rookie" season.
Jimmie Hall, I wrote in Wednesday's Star Tribune, holds the Twins' rookie record for home runs with 33, with Marty Cordova second. In reality, Hall is the record holder, but Oliva's 32 in 1964 is second-most; my search credited Oliva with zero, since he had nine at-bats in 1962, his "first" season.
But Oliva had another tidbit: He should be tied with Hall for the Twins' rookie record. "They missed one in Anaheim," he told me of that 1964 season. "I hit a ball high, and it came down behind the fence, but [the umpires] said it bounced over it." He was awarded a ground-rule double, he said, and was robbed of what would have been his 33rd homer.
So for the record, Arcia's 11 homers puts him in a tie for 18th place among rookies in Twins' history. Here's the complete, and correct, top 10. And my apologies to Tony Oliva; I never meant to slight No. 6.
33 - Jimmie Hall, 1963
32 -- Tony Oliva, 1964
25 -- Gary Gaetti, 1982
24 -- Marty Cordova, 1995
23 -- Kent Hrbek, 1982
22 -- Bobby Darwin, 1972
20 -- Tom Brunansky, 1982
19 -- Justin Morneau, 2004
16 -- Rich Rolllins, 1962
15 -- Lew Ford, 2004
15 -- Dan Ford, 1975
On to tonight's game. The Twins' base stealers were on the field before batting practice, working with coaches Joe Vavra, Scott Ullger and Cedar Rapids hitting coach Tommy Watkins on taking good leadoffs and getting better jumps.
The Twins think Alex Presley seems a little hesitant about when to go, and they want their runners to be more aggressive. They rank 13th in stolen bases, and with some of the speed they have on the roster now, they'd like to be more successful at putting pressure on opposing pitchers. It's also a good message that, even with just 19 games remaining, they haven't stopped working.
Josh Willingham remains in the sixth spot in the lineup, where he homered twice last night. Eduardo Escobar is in the lineup for the first time since the All-Star break, playing third base. But manager Ron Gardenhire didn't want Trevor Plouffe's bat out of the lineup, so he's the designated hitter.
Here are tonight's lineups as the Twins try to win their third straight game:
The Twins, like all major-league teams, are wearing white caps today with red, white and blue stars in the logo. The Twins' version has a red bill, the Yankees' navy blue, and honestly, they look like something you'd find in the bargain rack of a sporting-good store. But that's a quibble -- conditions are just about perfect otherwise on a beautiful afternoon at Target Field.
Minnesota will try to avoid a four-game sweep to the Yankees, with Kyle Gibson on the mound, facing David Phelps. Twins manager Ron Gardenhire complimented the rookie's composure before the game, and says he has no worries about Gibson's ability to handle the pressure, not after his terrific debut last Saturday.
Gardenhire also believes in the composure of Oswaldo Arcia, another rookie who is No. 3 in the batting order today. Arcia already leads all rookies in RBIs, doubles and extra-base hits, and he's tied with Aaron Hicks and Conor Gillaspie for the rookie home-run lead.
The Twins' usual No. 3 hitter lately, Ryan Doumit, is recovering from a sprained ankle and was the catcher last night, so Gardenhire said he decided to give him a day to recover, rather than put him in right field. That left Arcia as a natural for the No. 3 spot, a position he has occupied only once before, in the second game of the Twins' doubleheader against Miami on April 23.
"Arcia's a swinger. He's not afraid to let it fly," Gardenhire said. "He's not going to worry about where he's hitting. So put him in there and let him hack."
Here are the lineups for the windup of the Twins' eight-game homestand (they're 2-5 so far):
I enjoyed the look on Mike Pelfrey's face this morning when Twins communications director Dustin Morse pointed out the huge media contingent -- there were four of us -- there to cover the team.
He couldn't believe it, and I understand why. Pelfrey spent seven seasons in New York, where a single newspaper might send four writers to cover a team.
"It's overwhelming there. It's every day after day after day -- there are 30 (media members) in the clubhouse, always," said the former Mets right-hander. "There are some great guys, but I think some try to write negatively. That's what people expect there, and it makes for a bad environment."
Pelfrey said he's impressed with the Twins' clubhouse, even though he's still learning some of the names. "It's a lot more relaxed here," he said. "(The Twins) do a good job of making things simple for the players."
Same thing on the fields surrounding Hammond Stadium, where the Twins held their first workout in preparation for the 2013 season. There were all the usual drills -- catchers settling under popups, pitchers covering first base, hitters using the right footwork to round the bases -- but they were being done by a lot of players unfamiliar to me. So like Pelfrey, I was spending a lot of time matching names to faces.
A couple of quick observations: The Twins have a lot of tall and/or beefy pitchers, but Rich Harden has that smaller, wiry frame (sort of like Billy Wagner) that makes you wonder where his velocity comes from. When he stands next to Vance Worley or Kyle Gibson, big guys who both threw well Wednesday, the effect is heightened.
-- The half-field where the infielders work every day has been named Tom Kelly Field, in honor of the former Twins manager who absolutely revels in lecturing rookies on fundamentals on it. I joked with Kelly that they named a diamond with no outfield after him, but he shot right back: Someone once brought up the fact that he hit only .181 in the majors, until he pointed out that he'd rather have hit .181 than never play in the majors at all. "Most people don't have a field named for them," he said. "So half a field is better than none, isn't it?"
-- Joe Mauer made it clear he doesn't consider himself close to being ready for the regular season yet, but he sure looked ready to me. Mauer was slashing baseballs all over the diamond during batting practice, and launched the last pitch he saw 40 feet beyond the right-field fence.
-- Some of the players received, unsolicited, new gloves with their names embroidered on them from a sporting-goods company after practice. None was very impressed. "It looks like a kid's glove," Glen Perkins said. "What an awful glove." Guess he won't be switching.
-- I was standing near Terry Ryan as the Twins' general manager shook hands with some fans near where the position players were taking batting practice. "It's good to meet you, Terry," said one fan. "I've heard a lot about you, all of it good." His friend standing next to him then piped up: "No, it wasn't all good." Ryan laughed pretty hard at that.
Coming off a three-game sweep of Cleveland, the Twins will try to snap their five-game losing streak against the first-place White Sox on Monday night at Target Field.
It’ll be a battle of rookies, as Cole De Vries pitches for the Twins, and Jose Quintana for the White Sox.
Of course, much of our attention will be focused toward Tuesday's game, when Francisco Liriano is scheduled to face the Twins. Jason Gonzalez is out here helping with our coverage.
Updates to come...
WHITE SOX (55-46)
1. Alejandro De Aza, CF
2. Kevin Youkilis, 3B
3. Adam Dunn, DH
4. Paul Konerko, 1B
5. Alex Rios, RF
6. A.J. Pierzynski, C
7. Dayan Viciedo, LF
8. Alexei Ramirez, SS
9. Gordon Beckham, 2B
Starting pitcher: Jose Quintana (4-1, 2.58 ERA)
1. Denard Span, CF
2. Ben Revere, RF
3. Joe Mauer, C
4. Josh Willingham, DH
5. Justin Morneau, 1B
6. Ryan Doumit, LF
7. Danny Valencia, 3B
8. Brian Dozier, SS
9. Jamey Carroll, 2B
Starting pitcher: Cole De Vries (2-2, 3.64)
Target Field. First pitch: 7:10 p.m. TV: FSN. Twins Radio Network
Follow along on Twitter: @JoeCStrib @LaVelleNeal @JGonStrib
Eden Prairie native Cole De Vries will be making his sixth big league start Saturday night, as the Twins try to snap a three-game losing streak in another battle with the surprising Oakland A's at Target Field.
De Vries faced Oakland on May 29, tossing five scoreless innings in a 3-2 victory, but he was overly cautious that night, walking five batters. The Twins have seen him attack the strike zone since then, as he has walked just two batters in his last 20 innings.
He was superb in his last outing, holding the host Rangers to three hits and one walk over seven shutout innings last Sunday. The Twins blew a ninth-inning lead, however, and went on to lose that game.
Oakland counters with lefthander Tommy Milone, who came to the A’s in the trade that sent Gio Gonzalez to the Nationals. Like a lot of Oakland’s pitchers, Milone has been on a roll, going 2-1 with a 0.96 ERA in his past four starts, racking up 22 strikeouts and just two walks.
The A's are 7-1 in their past eight games and 22-13 since June 2.
The Twins will induct Camilo Pascual into their Hall of Fame in an on-field ceremony before the game. For more on Pascual, click here.
1. Rickie Weeks, 2B
2. Seth Smith, LF
3. Josh Reddick, CF
4. Yeonis Cespedes, DH
5. Brandon Moss, RF
6. Chris Carter, 1B
7. Brandon Inge, 3B
8. Cliff Pennington, SS
9. Kurt Suzuki, C
Starting pitcher: LH Tommy Milone (8-6, 3.57 ERA)
1. Denard Span, CF
2. Ben Revere, RF
3. Joe Mauer, C
4. Josh Willingham, LF
5. Justin Morneau, 1B
6. Trevor Plouffe, 3B
7. Ryan Doumit, DH
8. Brian Dozier, SS
9. Jamey Carroll, 2B
Starting pitcher: RH Cole De Vries (2-1, 3.00 ERA)
Target Field. First pitch: 6:10 p.m. TV: FSN. Twins Radio Network
Follow along on Twitter: @JoeCStrib
When Justin Morneau speaks, people listen because he usually brings the unvarnished truth. The Twins have scored five runs combined over the past six games -- all losses, at Target Field.
They are 21 games under .500 for the first time since 2000.
Morneau was one of the first players by his locker when the media entered the clubhouse after Friday's 8-1 loss to Detroit.
"I’ve never been a part of anything like this," he said. "Definitely not going to get used to it. ... We need to find a way to get ourselves out of it and finish the year strong, not just be satisfied with looking toward next year.
"We still have a month left in the season, and guys are fighting for jobs next year, guys are trying to prove that they belong, and there’s a lot of stuff that can be done this year. When you start looking toward next year, that’s when you get in trouble. We still have a lot of games left. We’ve gotta finish strong."
Does he feel like the effort's there?
"Oh, definitely," Morneau said. "I think we’ve done more work this year than we’ve done in a long time. With all the young guys here, we're having [early defensive workouts] pretty much every day, early hitting, it’s definitely not from a lack of effort.
"If you look around, you don’t see too many teams that have four rookies in the starting lineup; it’s not an excuse, it’s just the reality. It’s all part of the game. It’s hard to win when everyone’s trying to learn. That’s not a reason for [the losing]. Like I said, the guys in the middle [of the order] have to be better, and the guys that are supposed to get it done need to get it done."
How can they turn it around for the final 31 games?
"I need to play the way I’m capable of playing; that’s the first thing," Morneau said. "It’s just gotta be simple. Getting guys over, getting guys in, stealing a base when we need to, take the extra base, go from first to third. All the little things that good teams do. Not giving too many outs.
"You give a major league team 28 outs, you’ve got a chance, but when you give them 29-30, it’s hard. Good teams will take advantage of that."
Morneau, who is batting .219 with four homers and 29 RBI, said it's natural for guys to put too much pressure on themselves during stretches like this.
"I think when the flood gates open, it’s going to be a lot of fun, but we’ve just gotta simplify it," he said. "Instead of trying to get everybody in, we’ve gotta make sure we get one guy in. When we get a runner on third with less than two outs, we’ve gotta make sure we get that ball to the outfield in the air.
"Instead of trying to do more, we’ve gotta try to do less."
Saturday's a good day to try a new approach. Justin Verlander will be on the mound for Detroit. What do the Twins have to lose?
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