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.

Post-TwinsFest thoughts

Posted by: La Velle E. Neal III Updated: February 1, 2010 - 1:07 AM

Some final notes after navigating through a baseball-hungry horde of 34,000 fans to cover this team during TwinsFest.

Heard nothing that would help me identify when Joe Mauer will sign an detention, but players and coaches are confident that a deal will eventually be struck. When? Your guess is as good as mine. Although I no longer think talks will drag into the regular season.

I know they have been talking. They have been talking for a few weeks now. That comes from someone who knows how talks are going.

###Bill Smith confirmed that the Twins' revenue sharing cut will drop significantly after the 2010 season. Teams moving into new stadiums get that first season without a change in their cut. But once the increased revenues from that new ballpark kick in, things change in year two.

So the money coming in goes down. And any Mauer extension means that the money going out is going up. That's why the Twins haven't signed any free agent to more  than a one-year deal.

###No new news on Orlando Hudson. But so many Twins players and staff brought him up over the weekend that it seemed like the Twins are looking harder at the two-time All-Star. His price must come down, though.

I was told back in September that the Twins payroll could approach $95 million in 2010. They are just over $90 million now. Would O-Dog come here for $4 million with a chance to win?/

###Heard from a player that the Twins are keeping in touch with lefty reliever Ron Mahay. With the logjam of lefties the Twins have in Brian Duensing, Glen Perkins and Francisco Liriano, my sense is that the Twins would like to have Mahay on simmer at Rochester.

###My seeding of candidates for the last rotation spot: 1. Brian Duensing. 2. Francisco Liriano. 3. Glenn Perkins. Liriano has to prove he can take his winter  ball skills to the majors. Heard rumors that Liriano's. `slider from hell,' has returned. Alexi Casilla claims that the old Liriano is back.

I'm not going to fall for the banana in the tailpipe. Gotta see it in spring training.

As for Perkins. I really like the guy.  We get into Gophers vs. Illini arguments all the time. But I sense he will get a lot of chances to pitch this spring to showcase himself for  a trade.

###Heard that there are some concerns about Drew Butera's catching skills. That's why some people want Wilson Ramos up if Jose Morales isn't ready.

###You gotta feel for Jose Morales. He's been unable to play in winter ball for three straight offseasons. Two of them because of a bad ankle. And this year because his right wrist was sore. That's three offseasons he's been unable to work on his catching skills. Question that will be hard to get an answer to: Why did the Twins wait until Thursday to operate on Morales when they knew he needed surgery two weeks earlier?

###Pat Neshek is bouncing off the walls, he's so ready to pitch in games. But the Twins are doing the right thing in pretending he's not available until he forces them to change their minds.

###Alexi Casilla is out of options, which might give him a leg up over Jason Pridie for the final spot on the bench. I think Pridie deserves a shot on a big league roster. He doesn't do anything great but does a lot of things fairly well. But Casilla might have the edge right now.

Jim Thome is a more powerful version of Rusty Staub. But I remember how Rusty Staub was a fairly good pinch hitter for a few years with the Mets. I also remember Ron Gardenhire talking about how he would pinch run for Staub after a pinch hit.

So I can see Casilla pinch running for Thome a lot this season.

###Don't take for granted that the Gophers could have a massive attendance if the weather is nice when they play host to Louisiana Tech on March 27 at Target Field. Tickets will be capped, probably at 15,000.

The Twins and Gophers are learning from St. Johns, who played Columbia at Citi Field last year. Fans flocked to the stadium for a chance to check it out, and the staff could not handle the throng.

###This is my 13th year covering the Twins, and this is the best roster I've seen heading into spring training. The front office can be questioned for some things, but it has gone out and tried to make moves to strengthen the team. Pavano, Jon Rauch and Orlando Cabrera helped  last year. Pavano and Rauch are back this year to go with J.J. Hardy, Clay Condrey and Jim Thome.

They don't have a true No.1 starter but you have to like what they have done elsewhere. A good offense returns with J.J. Hardy and Thome coming off the bench. Delmon Young lost 29 pounds this offseason. And Denard Span, Joe Mauer and Justin Morneau are among the best at their positions. And Kubel isn't shabby as the DH.

The Twins-White Sox games should be must-see TV this year. Can't wait to see Thome vs Bobby Jenks.

 

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