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.
Joe Mauer's concussion symptoms persist, five weeks after the foul tip that knocked him onto the disabled list, so general manager Terry Ryan decided Monday to drop any effort to return the All-Star catcher to the Twins' lineup in the season's final week.
"He's making steady progress, and a lot of favorable things going on. But with the calendar and the schedule about ready to run out, it's unrealistic for us to think we're going to get him on the field this year," general manager Terry Ryan said. "So we're going to work toward the 2014 season."
Mauer still feels sensitivity to light and noise, and has trouble outside confined spaces, he said, a result of the concussion he suffered during the Twins' game with the Mets on Aug. 19. "I was experiencing a lot of symptoms [during the] last homestand. Once the team got out of town, it really calmed down, [from] dialing back the activity," said the Twins' 30-year-old catcher. "Right now, I'm feeling good."
But he hasn't taken batting practice in weeks, hasn't squatted behind the plate in more than a month. The Twins' season ends Sunday, so even if his symptoms disappeared, he probably wouldn't be ready to play by the weekend.
That was the reason for shutting him down, Ryan stressed, not any worsening of his condition.
"There are no setbacks. I don't want you to think there are any red flags -- there are not," Ryan said. "But with all the advice we received [from] our medical people, everyone thinks the best thing to do to make this thing go as smooth as possible is to get ready for the next year."
Ryan delivered the news to Mauer over the weekend, and "it took me a few days to kind of get over that. It's frustrating not to be able to play the game," said Mauer, who finishes with a .324 batting average, 11 home runs and 47 RBIs in 113 games, the third time in his career he has played fewer than 120 games. "It's disappointing. All this time, I've been working to get back on the field. I gave it a good go, but just wasn't able to get back out there."
Meanwhile, his teammates still have seven games to play in Target Field, beginning with three games against Detroit. The Tigers can clinch their third straight A.L. Central championship as soon as tomorrow; a victory tonight insures no worse than a tie. Justin Verlander, who has pitched into the seventh inning eight times in his last nine starts, will be on the mound for the Tigers, facing Mike Pelfrey, who has gone seven innings in his last two starts combined.
Oswaldo Arcia was in the Twins' original lineup tonight, batting cleanup, but bruised his right knee while running into the right field wall during batting practice. He was scratched, and replaced by Clete Thomas. Josh Willingham moves back into the cleanup spot for the first time since Sept. 7.
Here are tonight's lineups:
Ron Gardenhire admitted something that few sports figures ever do on Sunday: That athletes read what's written about them.
That's why he made it clear Saturday night how unhappy he was with his team's intensity, how disappointed he was that Tampa Bay was able to win with so little resistance, how he noticed that one team was hungry and the other was not. Those quotes were recorded, reported and printed. And, presumably, noticed in the clubhouse.
"They read your articles, believe it or not," Gardenhire said to the assembled media after the game. "When you talk about stuff like this in the newspapers, about "one team's getting after it and one's not," these guys read the articles."
Well, that explains a few things. "It's why I use and abuse you," he joked with reporters. "I think they read some stuff. I hope they did. That's the way you're supposed to play, right there" as they did in Sunday's 6-4 victory.
It was a pretty lousy homestand, all things considered, with the Twins going 3-7, scoring only 28 runs in 10 games, and getting shut out three times. Since the Twins are 3-14 in their last 17 games at Target Field, maybe it's for the best they're headed to Chicago, where they took three out of four last month, and Oakland, where they are 6-5 over the past three years.
Still, there's one interesting thread between the three wins this week: They came in games started by Jared Weaver, Jarrod Parker and David Price. Not a bad collection of pitchers.
Not that anyone has forgotten, but it became really clear when Gene Glynn walked into the clubhouse this morning how many Twins have spent time in the minor leagues this season. Glynn, manager of the Rochester Red Wings, arrived today to serve as an extra coach on the Twins' bench for the final two weeks, and when he showed up, he was mobbed by a dozen or so Twins players. And no wonder: 18 players on the current roster spent significant time playing for Glynn this year.
Glynn will leave with the Twins on their road trip to Chicago and Oakland after the game, but Joe Mauer won't be on that flight. After some speculation about whether the All-Star catcher might be healthy enough to travel, the Twins have decided he's not ready yet to return from the concussion he suffered four weeks ago Monday.
Mauer could join the team in Oakland, manager Ron Gardenhire suggested, and he insisted that Mauer will play again this year once doctors clear him. "He's not happy sitting in the clubhouse," Gardenhire said. "He wants to swing the bat."
Somebody needs to for this team. The Twins haven't scored in the first two games of the series with Tampa Bay, and Cy Young lefthander David Price will attempt to extend Minnesota's scoreless streak, which now extends to 19 innings. Gardenhire has chosen to go with the lefthanded hitting Chris Parmelee at first base rather than the righthanded Chris Colabello, but neither has been a good option against lefties this year. Parmelee is batting .167 with a .278 slugging average against lefthanders, Colabello just .179 with a .282 slugging.
Here's to the 1,000 or so fans who stuck out a two-hour rain delay and a temperature that dropped into the mid-50s. I admire your determination, because there was no reason to believe that the Twins would make it worthwhile.
Four hits. Ten strikeouts. An offense made to look pathetic by a Rays bullpen that is deep, sure, but not as unhittable as the Twins made them appear. For this you waited in the rain?
Ron Gardenhire sounded like a manager who wonders how much his team cares. He clearly wants to make life difficult for teams in the pennant race, but his players don't seem all that interested. Only twice all night did the Twins send more than four hitters to the plate in an inning, both times because Tampa Bay starter Matt Moore walked a batter.
No Twin who played Saturday has a batting average above .300, and only Alex Presley, at .283, is above .250.
Was there any redeeming feature to a game whose only mystery was whether they would get all nine innings in? Gardenhire found one: A couple of relievers who might contribute next year got some work, and looked effective. Shairon Martis pitched 1 2/3 innings, and while he allowed his first run as a Twin, it was only after he retired five Rays in a row, their longest hitless stretch of the night.
Then Michael Tonkin relieved him, and also recorded five straight outs. "He used a couple of breaking balls, which we're anxious to see," Gardenhire said of Tonkin, who figures to be in the Twins' bullpen next year. "He's got to be able to throw a breaking ball up here. He's got a big fastball, that's for sure."
Rain is on the way, perhaps as soon as sundown (not that we can see it through the overcast skies), so a fast game tonight is advised. The left-handers on the mound might be able to provide one.
Andrew Albers gave up only four hits in seven innings during his last start, and he's had two other scoreless outings in his seven-game major-league career. And Matt Moore has given up one run or fewer in six of his last eight starts; he's 15-3 and hasn't lost a game since mid-June. Of course, he missed August with elbow soreness, but with an ERA of 0.77 since he returned, the pain doesn't seem to be a problem anymore.
The Twins have a little more firepower in their lineup than they did last night, with Ryan Doumit, Josh Willingham and Chris Colabello all starting again. Doumit bats third because, as manager Ron Gardenhire points out, he's been OK batting right-handed; his .283 average and .338 on-base percentage are markedly better than his left-handed numbers.
Chris Herrmann will catch, despite the lefty on the mound and the presence of right-handed-hitting Josmil Pinto on the roster, because he is so experienced catching Albers. Gardenhire likes the combination well enough to give up a little offense at the position. And Brian Dozier makes his first appearance at the No. 2 slot, where Gardenhire has said a few times he particularly likes his second baseman, since July 10.
A notable change in Tampa Bay's lineup, too: former Twin Delmon Young, who turns 28 today, bats sixth as the DH for the Rays.
Mike Pelfrey is closing in on a $100,000 bonus for pitching 150 innings this season. But this isn't the way he wanted to get there.
Pelfrey suffered what may have been his worst outing of a difficult season Wednesday, surrendering seven runs and recording only nine outs as Oakland pounded the Twins, 18-3. By pitching so poorly, he is undoubtedly costing himself some money on his next contract, after he becomes a free agent in November. But he's costing himself some money this season, too.
Pelfrey, who earns $4 million as a base salary, has pitched 142 1/3 innings, and is due the bonus at 150 innings, and another $150,000 if he reaches 160. The Twins have discussed shutting him down for the season, considering he's a year removed from elbow surgery, but "I would like to finish the season," he said, though not because of the bonus. When healthy, he's always started 31 games or more, and he expects himself to live up to that standard, he said. "I always take pride in taking the ball every fifth day. Whatever I end up getting to is what I end up getting to."
Pelfrey says he still feels strong, though his last two starts have been disastrous; he allowed six runs in six innings against Toronto last Friday, and has a 12.00 ERA this month. He's also now 5-12 on the season.
His manager said before the game that there are no plans to remove Pelfrey from the rotation, but "We're definitely monitoring pitch counts right now," Ron Gardenhire said, of both Pelfrey and Andrew Albers. "If he feels like he's starting to run out of gas, we'll take him out. ... We're paying attention to it.
Even with a six-man rotation, Pelfrey could make three more starts this season, so it's not out of the question that Gardenhire's decision could mean as much as a quarter-million dollars to the 29-year-old righthander.
Players keep track of that, Gardenhire said. Managers cannot.
"You're aware. It's money, it's cash," Gardenhire said of bonus clauses -- which he had himself in his contracts while with the Mets. He got paid for playing a certain number of games. "That's why I was happy we had Rusty Staub," he joked, "because I pinch-ran for him all the time. And I made my appearances [bonus]. Because I would never have gotten them as a hitter."
But because of the possible conflicts of interest, he tries to remain oblivious about his player's incentive clauses, like the $1 million Josh Willingham won't earn this year because he won't reach 525 plate appearances, or the bonuses Glen Perkins receives for finishing games as the team's closer all year.
Or Pelfrey's innings incentive. "I don't pay attention to that stuff. I can't. I would never want anything like that to affect the way I handle a pitcher out there," Gardenhire said. "I've actually, in the past, had players try to tell me that stuff. That doesn't work out very well with me. I can't. We just have to pitch the best way we possibly can. If they deserve the innings, they'll get their innings. If they pitch well enough, they'll stay out there. But to try to force the issue, and have somebody make money because of that, I don't get involved in that stuff."
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