Jim Souhan analyzes the local sports scene and advises you to never take his betting advice. He likes old guitars and old music, never eats press box hot dogs, and can be heard on 1500ESPN at 2:05 p.m. weekdays, and Sundays from 10 a.m.-noon.
Find him on Twitter
Earlier thsi spring, I wrote about Glen Perkins' transformation from problematic probable first-round bust to Everybody's Favorite Twin. Then, yesterday, he signed a contract extension for far less than his market value to remain with the Twins through 2017 or 2018.
What I love most about the story is that Perkins approached the Twins with the bargain. So many athletes are insulted if they aren't paid what their comparable peers are paid. Perkins begged to be underpaid.
I've been around him since the start of his career and these two things are true:
-I've never seen a local athlete so completely transform his personality and career path.
-Perkins is genuine. He lives in Lakeville year round. He wants to play for the Twins his entire career. He recognizes that he's lucky to be playing a game making tens of millions of dollars. He recognizes that if he isn't stupid with the money he and his family will always have more than they need.
Perkins is good with his teammates. He's good with Twins employees. He's good with writers. He kills time in the offseason hanging out with his old coaches at the University of Minnesota, and by dropping by Target Field to hang out with the media relations department.
He's also the latest prominent Twin to defy the beach-body ethic of modern sports. Perkins has a gut. So did Kirby Puckett and Kent Hrbek. Perkins is in pretty good company in all kinds of ways.
I'll be doing Sunday Sports Talk on 1500ESPN from 10-noon from Fort Myers while Scott Korzenowski hosts from the Twin Cities.
I'm also on WJON in St. Cloud at 7:15 every weekday morning, and on 1500ESPN (1500 AM) in the Twin Cities at about 12:15 every weekday. You can follow me on Twitter at @Souhanstrib.
Took a walk around the Twins' complex today. My observations:
-The ballpark improvements are tremendous. Hammond Stadium is more than twice the ballpark it used to be. There are two nice, roofed, full-service bars, one down the third-base line and one in rightfield. There are rails where you can stand with a drink or a sandwich and watch the game from the outfield. The outfield seats provide a great view, and the new walkway allows you walk completely around the ballpark (other than behind the batter's eye) without losing view of the field.
The berm in rightfield is a popular spot, and there are more food stations and options now.
-Chatted with Kennys Vargas, the young slugger who is friends with and being compared to David Ortiz. He'll start the year at Class AA. He's a nice kid with a big personality. He was talking about hitting the golf ball a long way, and visiting the nearby driving range. A teammate told him, ``Yeah, but you hit it all over the place.'' Vargas said, ``Yeah, I I hit it loooong.''
-Lakeville native Mike Kvasnicka is in minor-league camp working with the Class AA New Britain squad.
The Astros made him the 33rd pick of the draft in 2010 out of the University of Minnesota. After three years in the Astros' system, the Twins traded a minor-league pitcher for him and sent him to Class A Fort Myers. The Astros drafted him and tried him as a catcher before moving him to third base and right field.
The Twins used him primarily as an outfielder, and last year he put up career-bests with a batting average of .282, on-base percentage of .341 and slugging percentage of .460.
I'll be on 1500ESPN at 12:15 every weekday from Fort Myers.
Fort Myers, Fla.
First impressions of some key people in the Twins' spring training camp:
-Byron Buxton: It might be the strangest thing I've ever seen in early spring training, when pitchers throw live batting practice to hitters. Buxton takes every pitch. He told me he wants to improve his pitch selection, and he's working on that by tracking pitches and not swinging.
Most young hitters want to show off, to hit tape-measure home runs. And that's what Miguel Sano and Kennys Vargas do every day. Buxton is so supremely confident in his swing and ability to hit that he would rather spend live BP getting used to the movement of pitches. Remarkable.
-Miguel Sano: Yes, he's about 260 pounds. (Last I heard he weighed in at 255, and that was before dinner.) But he's not fat. He has massive legs and shoulders. He is a powerhouse. I think he'll be a better defensive third baseman than Trevor Plouffe and has a chance to hit 40 home runs in the big leagues whenever he settles in as an everyday player.
-Kennys Vargas: Excellent power from both sides of the plate. Needs to work on pitch selection, taking good at-bats, fielding, but he's come a long way. He, Buxton and Sano could play together at Class AA New Britain this season. They could put on a show.
-MIke Pelfrey: Looks to me like he's throwing easier and with more zip than last spring.
-Alex Meyer: Eddie Guardado pulled me aside and mimicked Meyer's motion. He said when Meyer leads toward home plate with a firm left (non-throwing) arm, his mechanics fall into place and he pitches with a downward angle that makes his fastball sizzle and his breaking pitches dive. When he gets lazy with his front arm, he tends to sling the ball three-quarters, losing velocity and downward movement.
Guardado, who is not always easy to please, says he ``loves'' Meyer, meaning Meyer can listen and implement advice. Meyer has by far the best arm in camp.
-Vance Worley: When he succeeded as a rookie in Philadelphia, he threw 93-94. Last year, he sometimes began games throwing in the high-80s, and sometimes it didn't get much better than that. He doesn't have the kind of pitch command to be able to throw 89. He tends to pitch up in the strike zone. He needs to recapture velocity to have a chance to make it back to the big leagues.
-Trevor May: Needs to work on control, but the Twins hope/believe he can develop into a member of their future rotation, which could look like this: Meyer, Ricky Nolasco, Phil Hughes, Mike Pelfrey, Kyle Gibson, May. (I listed six because someone always gets hurt.) Then the Twins have good young arms like Jose Berrios and Kohl Stewart on the way.
-Trevor Plouffe: Came into camp looking stronger, but he already had good power. If he wants to have a big-league career, he needs to become quicker and more alert at third base. He doesn't anticipate well and he lacks initial quickness, which is why so many seemingly catchable balls fly by him.
-Aaron Hicks: Let's face it. He's a mystery. I still believe he'll be a good everyday outfielder, with a high on-base percentage and excellent fielding range. But who knows when he'll figure it out? And if he succeeds this spring, that won't prove anything, because he succeeded last spring.
-Michael Tonkin: Excellent stuff, good attitude, could be a big part of the bullpen for years to come.
-Caleb Thielbar: Even in live batting practice, impresses with his stuff and aggression.
I'm not saying any positive developments in camp could make the Twins contenders. But I don't think they'll embarrass themselves this year the way they have the last three years.
I"ll be on WJON in St. Cloud at 7:15 every weekday ,and on 1500ESPN in the Twin Cities (that's 1500 AM) at 12:15 or so with Mackey & Judd every weekday. I'll be back in studio with Scott Korzenowski 10-noon on Sunday on 1500ESPN.
You can follow me on Twitter at @Souhanstrib.
Greetings from Fort Myers, Fla. Yes, it's beautiful here.
Twins manager Ron Gardenhire has hinted at a willingness to take 13 pitchers north when spring training camp breaks. Here's an early look at the possibilities, if all of the key figures remain healthy:
Starting rotation: Ricky Nolasco, Phil Hughes, Kevin Correia and Mike Pelfrey are locks. Sam Deduno and Kyle Gibson are the leading candidates for the fifth spot. Deduno may have the edge because of his raw stuff and occasional games in which he looks unhittable, and because Gibson may benefit from another stint at Triple A. If both fail to earn the job, the next contenders would be Vance Worley and Scott Diamond. Worley is pitching to keep his career alive. Diamond would give the Twins a lefthander in the rotation. The most interesting aspect of this competition is that Diamond, Worley and Deduno are out of options. What happens if Worley fails to impress but the front office doesn't want to cut him for fear he'll resurface later as a success elsehwere, or for fear that cutting him will make the Ben Revere-for-Worley and Trevor May trade look bad? The easy way out might be to keep Deduno as the fifth starter, send Gibson to Triple A temporarily, and keep Diamond and Worley in the bullpen.
Bullpen: Glen Perkins will close. Casey Fien, Jared Burton, Caleb Thielbar and Brian Duensing are close to being locks. Anthony Swarzak has been a bullpen-saver the last two years and deserves to stick, but may face competition for the long role from starters without options who fail to make the rotation.
Kris Johnson is a lefty with good stuff. Michael Tonkin has the stuff to handle late-game roles once he cracks the big-league roster, and the field staff will likely want him on the team. There are a handful of other invitees with good stuff, but the last couple of bullpen spots could be used to protect pitchers who are out of options.
For all of their struggles the last three years, the bullpen is a point of strength. The Twins may be in a position to trade someone - Swarzak? - for a bat or young starting pitching if their key pitchers remain healthy.
This is a much stronger group than last year's, thanks to the addition of Nolasco and Hughes. And I didn't even mention top prospect Alex Meyer, who should be pushing for a spot in the rotation by midseason, if not sooner.
I'll be on the air weekdays in St. Cloud on WJON at 7:15 am, and on 1500ESPN at 12:15 with Mackey & Judd. You can follow me on Twitter at @Souhanstrib.
The Pirates try to secure their first winning season since 1992 tonight in Milwaukee.
Former Twin Francisco Liriano will start for the Pirates, and former Twin Justin Morneau will bat cleanup and wear a new number: 66.
I guessed that was a result of the intense hockey fan paying homage to Penguins great Mario Lemeiux. I was wrong.
``Nope,'' Morneau said. ``It's just 33 times two.''
Morneau wore 33 during his prime with the Twins. Is 99 a possibility? ``Nope,'' he said. ``There's only one 99 for us Canadians.''
He means Wayne Gretzky, of course.
``I wore 27 in '05,'' he said. ``And I wore 27 in the first World Baseball Classic because Larry Walker was there. in spring training in 2003, I wore 61.''
I admitted I had forgotten all of that. ``I only have one person's number to remember,'' he said.
Wednesday afternoon, Pirates manager Clint Hurdle said he plans to keep Morneau in the cleanup spot because of Morneau's experience, and experience in pennant races. ``He's been through this,'' Hurdle said.
Tuesday night, Morneau went 3-for-3 with a walk as the Pirates came back to beat the Brewers.
``That was needed,'' he said. ``You want to have good at-bats, but at the same time you want to have quality at-bats and have an impact. I think that was a good day for feeling like a part of the team. You're kind of jumping into somebody else's party. You want to feel like you contributed, that you're not just along for the ride.''
I'll be on 1500ESPN at noon tomorrow.
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