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.

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.

Twins update: Trevor May leaves game after being struck on elbow by line drive

Posted by: La Velle E. Neal III Updated: April 25, 2015 - 10:25 PM

Trevor May, from Longview, Wash., was excited to pitch in front of friends and family on Saturday - but it was a brief appearance.

May's start ended early when a line drive off Kyle Seager's bat with one out in the fifth struck May in the right elbow.

May left the game early and missed out on the Twins stringing hits around Safeco against erratic lefthander James Paxton and the Mariners bullpen.

May took the shot, chased after the ball when it deflected and threw to first to retire Seager. But he winced, grimaced and squirmed in pain as he tried to shake it off.

Head trainer Dave Pruemer rushed to his aid. After a few minutes, May was removed from the game.

X-Rays were negative, and May is day-to-day with a right elbow contusion.

The game was tied 2-2 at the time but the Twins offense got going and they led 6-3 in the late innings.

HERE'S WHAT WENT ON BEFORE THE GAME

Twins manager Paul Molitor has eight hitters in the lineup with the ability to hit righthanded against Seattle lefty James Paxton.

Brian Dozier is batting leadoff tonight,  but one of the models Molitor looked at for today's lineup had Joe Mauer batting leadoff. Mauer is not hitting for power but he is drawing walks and rarely takes a bad at bat. It seems like it's going to happen one of these days, just not today.

Eduardo Nunez and Eduardo Escobar are in the lineup, in left and at short, respectively.

Oswaldo Arcia is not in the lineup. In addition to hitting in the indoor cage early today, he was one of several players to get a haircut. ``Time for a different look.'' he said. Hopefully there are some hits in his latest creation.

Sounds like Chris Herrmann will definitely be in the lineup tomorrow against lefthander Roenis Elias. Molitor admitted it has been hard to get Herrmann on the field, Because of the off days, the regulars have not needed a break. With a day game tomorrow, Molly plans to rest Kurt Suzuki.

The Twins are now in a stretch where they are playing on 17 consecutive days, which will make it easier for Molitor to find spots for his bench players.

Twins

Brian Dozier, 2B
Torii Hunter, RF
Joe Mauer, DH
Trevor Plouffe, 3B
Kennys Vargas, 1B
Eduardo Nunez, Lf
Kuer Suzuki, C
Eduardo Escobar, SS
Shane Robinson, CF

Trevor May, RHP

Mariners

Austin Jackson, CF
Seth Smith, RF
Robinson Cano, 2B
Nelson Cruz, DH
Kyle Seager, 3B
Logan Morrison, 1B
Dustin Ackley, LF
Mike Zunino, C
Brad Miller, SS

James Paxton, LHP

Not in the King's Court: Hernandez outduels Hughes

Posted by: La Velle E. Neal III Updated: April 25, 2015 - 12:45 AM

SEATTLE --- Twins righthander Phil Hughes was excellent on Friday -  but he needed to be awesome, outstanding and probably out of this world.

He matched Mariners ace Felix Hernandez with a complete game, no walks and nine strikeouts. What foiled Hughes on this night were two pitches that landed in the seats and were the difference in a 2-0 loss to the Mariners.

The two dueled. The innings flew by. The game was played in a tidy 2 hours, 3 minutes. the shortest game by the Twins since 2010, when Toronto's Mark Rzepczynski beat Nick Blackburn.

``There wasn't too many times where there was a long break (between innings),'' Hughes said. ``When he's on like that you just hope you can squeeze a couple across.''

Hughes already has been on the losing end of matchups against Detroit's David Price and Chicago's Chris Sale. He was good enough on Friday to beat anyone - except Hernandez.

A whopping 72 of Hughes' 96 pitches were strikes. He threw first pitch strikes to 26 of the 30 batters he faced. Seattle picked up on his strike-throwing. They swung at Hughes' first pitch nine times over the first six innings of the game, fouling three off and putting six in play. But that's not the contact that doomed Hughes.

A 1-2 fastball to Nelson Cruz in the second inning met Cruz's bat and landed in the second deck at Safeco Field for the first run of the game. Hughes went right back to pounding the strike zone. He had a five-pitch third inning and an eight-pitch fourth. Then he fell behind 2-0 to Logan Morrison to start the fifth, and the first baseman hit the next pitch over the right-center wall to give Seattle a 2-0 lead.

``Two pitches I like to have back,'' Hughes said. ``That's been the story of my year so far.''

The Twins offense? Did not exist against King Felix.

"King's Court", a spot in the left field corner reserved for willing fans, is at least two sections large on the nights Hernandez pitches at Safeco. On Friday, it was a whopping four sections strong, as the demand for fans willing to wear gold t-shirts and wave "K" cards was huge. Whenever Hernandez got two strikes on a Twins hitter, the section would stand and chant for the strikeout.

It was the was the soundtrack of the early innings.

Danny Santana had no chance, striking out on a change up in the dirt. Torii Hunter couldn't check his swing in time. And Joe Mauer looked at strike three in the first inning.  Hernandez struck out five of the first nine batters he faced. Only one ball was hit out of the infield the first three innings - Oswaldo Arcia's fly out to right to lead off the third.

It was 14 up, 14 down for King Felix - with seven strikeouts - before Trevor Plouffe lined a single to right for the Twins first hit of the night.

``We were trying different things,'' Twins manager Paul Molitor said. ``We tried to be aggressive. We tried to be patient. Nothing was very effective. He was throwing hard enough, cutting the ball enough, the change up was outstanding.''

Twins outfielder Jordan Schafer, who got an infield single in the sixth to snap a 0-for-21 slump, was more blunt.

``Thank God every guy you face isn't like that,'' he said.

Hernandez struck out the final four batters in his previous outing, plus the first four on Friday. He's the first Seattle starter since Mark Langston in 1986 to strike out eight batters in a row.

``When I started the game, I was in the strike zone, and I felt really good,'' Hernandez said. ``The fastball was really good and making everything better. I knew I had it. I had the stuff to throw a perfect game, but it didn’t happen.''

Kurt Suzuki reached on an infield hit in the sixth and went to second on a throwing error by Seattle shortstop Brad Miller. Then Schafer got the infield hit. The top of the Twins order was up, but Santana flied out to short center, Hunter struck out and Mauer grounded to first to end the inning.

The Twins had runners on first and third with two out in the seventh, but Suzuki flied out to end that inning. That was it for Twins scoring threats. The Twins were shut out for the third time this season.

``Phil threw outstanding,'' Twins manager Paul Molitor said. ``Too bad we couldn't get those runs across.''

NOTES:

Phil Hughes had not given up a home run in 29.1 career innings at Safeco Field before today.

At 54 games, Joe Mauer is now in the longest home run drought of his career.

Twins-Mariners: Twins try to take down King Felix

Posted by: La Velle E. Neal III Updated: April 24, 2015 - 5:18 PM


The roof is closed today as rain is expected tonight. In fact, I would not be surprised if the roof is closed the entire series, based on the gloomy forecast,

The Twins have two hitters in Torii Hunter (.320) and Joe Mauer (.378) who have good numbers against Felix Hernandez and will have to to have big games if the Twins are going to take down the King.

Also, Hunter is on a seven-game hitting streak, during which he's batting .345.

Ricky Nolasco's start at in Cedar Rapids has been pushed back from Saturday to Sunday, Not sure why.

Don't forget: Tonight's game will be televised on FSN PLUS, since the Wild-Blues game is taking precedent.

From the Twins game notes: Dan Gladden had his career-high five-hit game in Seattle on Sept. 29, 1989.

Twins (6-9)

Danny Santana, SS
Torii Hunter, RF
Joe Mauer, 1B
Brian Dozier, 2B
Kennys Vargas, DH
Trevor Plouffe, 3B
Oswaldo Arcia, LF
Kurt Suzuki, C
Jordan Schafer, CF

Phil Hughes, RHP


Seattle (6-9)

Austin Jackson, CF
Seth Smith, DH
Robinson Cano, 2B
Nelson Cruz, RF
Kyle Seager, 3B
Dustin Ackley, LF
Logan Morrison, 1B
Mike Zunino, C
Brad Miller, SS

King Felix, RHP

Kohl Stewart on DL with sore elbow

Posted by: La Velle E. Neal III Updated: April 23, 2015 - 6:58 PM


Righthander Kohl Stewart, the Twins first-round draft pick in 2013 and one of their top prospects, has been placed on the 7-Day disabled list at Class A Fort Myers because of right elbow inflammation.

Stewart is 0-2 with a 3.10 ERA in three starts. In his last outing on Tuesday, he gave up four earned runs over 61/3 innings to Palm Beach. He gave up six hits and two walks while striking out two, Brad Steil, the Twins director of minor league operations, would not say if Stewart would be seen by a specialist or have a Magnetic Resonance Imaging exam of not. But it's safe to assume that the Twins wouldn't cut any corners with one of their top starting prospects.

``We know he will miss his next start,'' Steil said. ``We don’t know how he will feel in 6 days when he is due to come off the DL.''

Stewart was 3-5 with a 2.59 ERA last season for Class A Cedar Rapids in his first full minor league season. But he had some shoulder problems in July that required several tests, then he was removed from a game in August as a precaution when the shoulder bothered him again.

He reported to spring training this year with no apparent problems. But,.for the second straight season, the fourth overall pick in the 2013 season is injured.

``It appears to be just inflammation,'' Steil said.

Twins postgame: Molitor called for attempted steal of home

Posted by: La Velle E. Neal III Updated: April 22, 2015 - 11:48 PM

Torii Hunter almost landed in the Twins history books in the second - but ended up running the Twins out of a potentially big inning.

With two outs, the Twins loaded the bases against Royals starter Mark Guthrie. Hunter doubled, then Joe Mauer and Brian Dozier drew walks.

With Kennys Vargas at the plate, Hunter took off from third before Guthrie released his 0-1 pitch. It was an attempted steal of home.

``I just saw a weak link right there,'' Hunter said. ``He has a slow windup, but he sped it up and kind of short-armed the ball and threw it in the dirt but it was right there. If he throws that ball up any kind of way, I'm safe.''

Hunter was tagged on the foot by catcher Salvador Perez for the third out. But wait, the umpires huddled for a minute. Twins manager Paul Molitor was on the field, and felt Guthrie might have released the ball before putting his front foot down, which is illegal.  After a few moments, the umpires ruled Hunter out and the inning over.

It was Molitor who nodded at Torii that he had the option of taking off for home if he wanted to. It didn't matter if Guthrie was on the ropes or not, there was an edge Molitor wanted to exploit there,

``That's kind of my mindset,'' Molitor said. ``It's something that's not very typical, given that the bases were loaded and you have a guy like Kennys up. It didn't hurt us in the long run because the runs weren't up. Sometimes you take a shot.''

The last Twins player to steal home was Clete Thomas on Aug. 3, 2013 against Houston. Hunter stole home on May 4, 2002 against Detroit. But both Thomas' and Hunter's steals were on the back end of a double steal.

The last pure theft of home by a Twin was by Rich Becker, who did it Sept. 27, 1997 at Cleveland.

This can't be written without homage paid to Rod Carew, who stole home five times as a Twin.  The last major leaguer to steal home was the Phillies' Jayson Werth, who did it on May 12, 2009 for the Phillies against the Dodgers.

OTHER STUFF: Is a baserunning blunder the signal for a big inning by the Twins? On Tuesday, Joe Mauer's mistakes on the basepaths in the sixth were forgotten as the club ended up scoring four runs.

On Wednesday, Danny Santana led off the game with a double but then tried to advance to third on a grounder to short and was thrown out. Can't happen. But the Twins still scored three runs in the inning - which held up for nine innings.

Also, Hunter rushed in to try to catch Eric Hosmer's sinking liner in the eighth, had the ball skip under his glove and watched in shame as the ball rolled to the wall while Hosmer raced to third. Hunter said the ball dipped faster than he anticipated. That also can't happen.

Good win for the Twins. But they made mistakes in all three games of this series.


 

Twins try to avoid the big sweep at the hands of the Royals

Posted by: La Velle E. Neal III Updated: April 22, 2015 - 3:44 PM


Righthander Mike Pelfrey has a chance to gain some points today.

They need to avoid getting swept by a division opponent. And Pelfrey, who lives in Wichita, Kan., should have a few supporters in the stands

Torii Hunter remains in the lineup. He looked and sounded horrible after last night's game, as some sinus problem has been bugging him lately.

The Twins have several players with "numbers" against Royals starter Jeremy Guthrie. Hunter is batting .327 with a home run against him. Joe Mauer is batting .360 with three - THREE - home runs against Guthrie. Kurt Suzuki (.381) and Jordan Schafer (.313) also have hit Guthrie well.

Because of the Wild's playoff run, the Twins-Royals game is on FSN PLUS tonight. And Friday's game between the Twins and Mariners will be on the PLUS,

The Twins shove off to Seattle after this one, and King Felix is waiting. Another reason they need a good outing from Pelfrey.

Twins

Danny Santana, SS
Torii Hunter, RF
Joe Mauer, 1B
Brian Dozier, 2B
Kennys Vargas, DH
Trevor Plouffe, 3B
Oswaldo Arcia, LF
Kurt Suzuki, C
Jordan Schafer, CF

Mike Pelfrey, RHP

Royals

Alcides Escobar, SS
Mike Moustakas, 3B
Lorenzo Cain CF
Eric Hosmer, 1B
Kendrys Morales, DH
Alex Gordon, LF
Salvador Perez, C
Paulo Orlando, RF
Christian Colon, 2B

Jeremy Guthrie, RHP

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