La Velle E. Neal III has covered baseball for the Star Tribune since 1998 (the post-Knoblauch era). Born and raised in Chicago, he grew up following the White Sox and hating the Cubs. He attended both the University of Illinois and Illinois-Chicago and began his baseball writing career at the Kansas City Star. He can be heard occasionally on KFAN radio, lending his great baseball mind to Paul Allen and other hosts. Mark Rosen borrows him occasionally for WCCO-TV.
Pedro Florimon said this morning that he's scheduled to play three innings in a minor league game tomorrow then five innings on Saturday. If that goes well, then he's expected to join the grown ups on Monday and get two weeks of games in before Opening Day.
The lineup on Thursday looked like a possible Opening Day batting order, except for Danny Santana in the No. 9 hole - the spot that Florimon is expected to hold down this season.
Can Florimon produce more at the plate than the .219 batting average he's mustered in 181 major league games? That remains to be seen. He stole 15 bases last season and could double that total if he could just bat .250. That would put his on base percentage at around .310.
In other news, I reported in today's dead-tree edition that Miguel Sano had successful Tommy John surgery but Dr. David Altchek discovered a completely torn UCL when he opened up the elbow. Sometimes doctors don't know the full extent of an injury until they get a peek inside the elbow. Both Russ Ortiz and Scott Baker were supposed to have basically cleanups but they turned to Tommy John surgeries once doctors looked inside. It happens. Sano's timable for return has not changed. He'll return to camp on Friday and will soon begin some rehab.
Check out these lineups. Boths teams taking the neighborhood rivarly seriously.
Daniel Nava, LF
Shane Victorino, RF
Dustin Pedroia, 2B
David Ortiz, DH
Mike Napoli, 1B
A.J. Pierzynski, C
Xander Bogaerts, SS
Wil Middlebrooks, 3B
Jackie Bradley, Jr., CF
Jake Peavy, RHP
Aaron Hicks, CF
Brian Dozier, 2B
Joe Mauer, 1B
Josh Willingham, LF
Oswaldo Arcia, RF
Trevor Plouffe, 3B
Jason Kubel, DH
Kurt Suzuki, C
Danny Santana, SS
Phil Hughes, RHP
Third base prospect Miguel Sano is resting after undergoing Tommy John elbow surgery this afternoon in New York - but there's one interesting detail.
According to a source, Sano completely tore the ulnar collateral ligament in his right elbow when he attempted to throw out Kurt Suzuki during an intrasquad game on Feb. 27. It doesn't change his rehabilitation schedule - he has 13 months to rehab before the 2015 season, and Tommy John recoveries for position players are different than pitchers.
But it's unfortunate after the Twins recommended that he try rehab back in October of 2013 - which was also the recommendation of noted specialist Dr. James Andrews when a second opinion was sought. At the time, the ligament was only partially torn. Sano rehabbed throughout the offseason and passed all the checkups before being cleared open camp with the other players.
Sano will return to Fort Myers late Friday afternoon, and he's expected to begin rehab shortly thereafter.
As for the game...
Righthander Kevin Correia gave up four runs over three innings, including a two-run home run to Pedro Alvarez, but wasn't upset with his outing. That's life for a guy who doesn't have to worry about winning a job in camp.
Correia was chatting up Pedro Alvarez before Wednesday's Twins-Pirates game, the two being former teammates from Correia's time there.
``I talked to him before the game,'' Correia said. ``The wind was blowing out to right pretty good. I'm like, `hmmm, you gonna try to hit one today?' He was like, `No way.' Sure enough, he got one.''
Alvarez's two run blast came in third inning and was one of seven hits off of the Twins' righthander. Correia gave up four earned runs over three innings with no walks and one strikeout. The runs were the first off Correia this spring. He pitched two innings scoreless in an intrasquad game on Feb. 27, three scoreless on Feb. 3 against Toronto and three scoreless in a B game last Friday against Pittsburgh.
Righthander Vance Worley gave up a two-run home run to Travis Ishikawa that hit off the batter's eye in center, but the Twins weren't too concerned either.
Worley picked up Jason Bartlett by pitching out of a little mess in the fifth when Michael Martinez bunted for a hit and Jason Bartlett made an error on a sure double play ball to put two on with no outs. Worley got Alvarez to ground into a double play on the next batter. The homer to Ishikawa was off a poor pitch, but Twins manager Ron Gardenhire spoke highly of Worley after the game.
``There's competition here. He's got to get people out,'' Gardy said. ``But this is the best we've seen the ball come out of his hand. It actually came out with an angle, some nice breaking balls. His velocity jumped up there to 92-93 a couple times. That's the best we've seen it come out of his hand.''
Gardy called it a step in the right direction.
Worley entered the game in the fifth and pitched 32/3. Out of options, Worley might make the team as a reliever.
``If it comes to that, I'll have to do that,'' he said. ``Whatever keeps me in the big leagues, I will make the adjustment.''
Third baseman Deibinson Romero doubled in his only at-bat and is batting .429 in camp. ``He always seems to come up and get the barrel to the ball,'' Gardenhire said. Romero is expected to open the season at Rochester but looms as the replacement third baseman if there's an injury on the major league level.
Gardy said the scouting report on Romero is that he has limited range but catches the balls that he gets to. ``So far that is what we have seen. He's caught the ball well and he's moved around pretty good.''
Oswaldo Arcia returned to the lineup for the first time since March 4 and struck out all three times, But he did battle in a couple of those plate appearances, fouling a few pitches off.
FORT MYERS, FLA. - The Twins on Wednesday lost 8-4 to the Pittsburgh Pirates in a spring training game at Hammond Stadium.
Pedro Alvarez and Travis Ishikawa each hit two-run home runs to lead the Pirates. Alvarez connected off of Kevin Correia in the third while Ishikawa hit one off the batter's eye in center off Worley in the sixth. Righthander Gerrit Cole got the win for the Pirates.
Correia gave up four runs over three innings, but said after that he's been pleased with how spring training has been going. He felt he was just off on a couple pitches and was and kept the ball down in the strike zone.
Aaron Hicks played in his first game since March third and hit the second pitch he saw over the left-center fence for his first home run of spring training. Hicks, who replaced Alex Presley in the fifth, had been out with a spore elbow.
Chris Colabello hit a two-run home run for the Twins and is batting .467 this spring.
Third baseman Miguel Sano on Wednesday left a message for fans as he prepared for surgery this afternoon in New York to replace a torn ulnar collateral ligament in his right elbow.
Sano is expected to miss the entire season but the surgery does little to alter his status as one of the top prospects in baseball. Sano will return to Fort Myers on Friday to begin rehabilitation.
You can check out the video here.
Oswaldo Arcia was seen in the clubhouse this morning - and holding a bat.
The outfielder returns to the lineup for the first time since March 4 after recovering from food poisoning. It's a relief to the Twins, as they start to figure out what their lineup is going to look like.
While Arcia is expected bat near the middle of the order, the Twins need someone take control of the leadoff spot. That person should be Aaron Hicks, but he also hasn't played since March 4 because of a sore right elbow. He has been in the batting cages in recent days and says the elbow feels better.
The Twins would like to see Hicks in the lineup as soon as possible, with Opening Day less than three weeks away.
It's a rematch of the B game last week, as Kevin Correia starts opposite of young Gerrit Cole.
In other news, Ervin Santana has signed a one-year contract with the Atlanta Braves worth about $14 million. The Twins spoke with Santana's agent about a three-year deal in the $30-33 million range, but Santana wanted to sign for one year then re-enter the market next offseason.
That keeps the Twins with one open spot in their rotation. Vance Worley, Scott Diamond, Samuel Deduno and Kyle Gibson are the main candidates for that role. The way manager Ron Gardenhire has talked up Deduno (1.35 ERA in spring), he appears to be the favorite to land that No. 5 spot. Kyle Gibson, however, has pitched well so far, tossing five shutout innings.
The Twins won't divulge their plans yet, but the rotation is set up to go Ricky Nolasco, Correia, Phil Hughes, Mike Pelfrey and ??????????.
1. Jaff Decker, CF
2. Michael Martinez, 2B
3. Travis Snider, RF
4. Pedro Alvarez, 3B
5. Chris Dickerson, LF
6. Robert Andino, SS
7. Andrew Lambo, 1B
8. Travis Ishikawa, DH
9. Chris Stewart, C
Pitching: Gerritt Cole, RHP
1. Alex Presley, CF
2. Brian Dozier, 2B
3. Joe Mauer, DH
4. Josh Willingham, LF
5. Oswaldo Arcia, RF
6. Trevor Plouffe, 3B
7. Chris Parmelee, 1B
8. Josmil Pinto, C
9. Jason Bartlett, 2B
Pitching: Kevin Correia, RHP
I've spoken to some people over the last two days about Ervin Santana. From what I gathered, they are in a holding pattern as far as being a potential landing spot.
All indications are that Santana, 9-10 with a 3.24 ERA last season, wants a one-year deal and looks headed to Toronto (for $14 million) or Baltimore ($13 million). That's barring a late offer, as Atlanta might look for a starter because of recent injuries.
The Twins have spoken with Santana's agent, but we might be hashing over semantics about how they have expressed their interest.
The Twins, I was told, called recently to see what it would take to land Santana. During that time, they expressed what they would be willing to do business at. The number is unknown - there have been reports of a three-year deal for anywhere between $30-40 million. In their eyes they really haven't made a concrete offer. So, in their eyes, no offer is still on the table.
My thing is, if Santana's agent called back said, ``Let's work on what we've talked about,'' that would be a starting point to negotiations, right?
But it appears Santana wants a one-year deal and is gambling on a good season so he can enter next offseason with more gusto.
The Twins, meanwhile, doubled back on Matt Garza during the offseason and have taken a look at Santana. If the price is right, they would add another arm and deal with mass of bodies piled up at the back end of the rotation later.
By the way, Twins manager Ron Gardenhire on Sunday made it clear that he wants Samuel Deduno somewhere on the pitching staff. Deduno was 8-8, 3.83 last season, giving up just 0.6 home runs per nine innings. If he's healthy, he looks like the perfect No. 5 starter, doesn't he? Let's see how this plays out. Vance Worley looked good until his last outing. Scott Diamond needs to get going. Kyle Gibson looks pretty good. The last week of camp will be interesting.
I'll give the Twins credit for going after a higher caliber of free agents this offseason. They need to take the next step and win a couple more of these battles.
What if they had landed Garza? And A.J. Pierzynski? And become Johan Santana's official rehabilitation sponsor? That's a better chance of nearing .500 this season, then taking off from there in 2015 when Byron Buxton, Alex Meyer and Miguel Sano could be factors.