The Washington Nationals are becoming more and more interesting. They are 20-18, and in less than three weeks they are expected to promote phenom Stephen Strasburg to the big leagues. Strasburg's next test for Class AAA Syracuse comes Tuesday night in Rochester, N.Y., where he'll stare down Twins prospects including Trevor Plouffe, Danny Valencia and Wilson Ramos.
After drafting Strasburg No. 1 overall last year, the Nationals also have the first pick in next month's draft, and all eyes are on catcher Bryce Harper. Dave Sheinin had a great story on the attitude questions surrounding Harper in Sunday's Washington Post.
* As La Velle noted in his series preview and latest video, the Twins have a very interesting challenge awaiting them in Toronto over the next two days. The Blue Jays have hit an American League leading 60 home runs in 39 games, while the Twins have hit 35 homers, and just 26 in 33 games since they smashed nine in their opening four-game series in Anaheim, Calif. Blue Jays pitchers also lead the AL with 7.9 strikeouts per nine innings (compared to 6.7 for the Twins).
* Sunday was a big day for Jason Kubel and his brother-in-law, Michael Tonkin. Kubel hit a game-winning grand slam off Mariano Rivera. Tonkin, 20, tossed seven scoreless innings for Class A Beloit in Appleton, Wis. The tall righthander had six strikeouts and no walks.
Whenever I start hearing about an up-and-coming Twins minor leaguer, I turn to Seth Stohs' 2010 Prospect Handbook. Seth's entry on Tonkin says, "At 6-foot-7 and 215 lbs, he has a very projectable frame. His fastball currently sits between 86 and 89 mph. ... As his strength and velocity increase, he should continue to move up the system."
* The Minnesota Twins Wives are holding the first annual Mommy & Me Fashion Show on Saturday, from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m., at the Hotel Sofitel in Bloomington, with proceeds benefiting the Southside Life Care Center. Claudia Cuddyer will be the master of ceremonies. Southside is a non-profit organization that offers free, confidential advice for women and children in crisis. Individual seats for the event are $60. For more information, visit the web site, www.southsidefashionshow.com.
* In addition to helping build Target Field, the Twins ballpark tax has provided Hennepin County money for youth sports programs, including a $345,000 grant for the St. Anthony-New Brighton School District. Tonight at 6, the district will hold a ribbon-cutting ceremony at Central Park, celebrating the improvements made to various facilities, including the varsity baseball and softball fields.
* Before the Twins left for New York, Justin Morneau was among the players surrounded by throngs of reporters looking for his thoughts going into the Yankees series. La Velle threw him a curve ball: "Are you picking the Blackhawks to win the Stanley Cup?" Morneau, of course, is a huge Canucks fan, and La Velle's team had just finished ousting Vancouver in the Western semis. Without missing a beat, Morneau said, "Let's go Sharks."