With Diamond nearly flawless, offense explodes for 11 runs

  • Article by: JOE CHRISTENSEN , Star Tribune
  • Updated: July 28, 2012 - 8:22 AM

Span, Willingham and Morneau likely kept trade chatter buzzing.

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With the Twins buried in the standings, General Manager Terry Ryan has said he'll listen to offers for practically anyone leading up to Tuesday's nonwaiver trade deadline.

Pending free agent Francisco Liriano remains the most likely Twins player to be moved, but Denard Span, Josh Willingham and Justin Morneau are drawing interest. Of course, those last three are under contract for next season, so team officials aren't ashamed to admit the asking prices are high.

That trio sure didn't hurt its trade value Friday, giving Scott Diamond more than enough offensive support as he twirled his first career complete game in an 11-0 victory over Cleveland at Target Field.

"That was one of our better ballgames, if not the best all-around game this year," said manager Ron Gardenhire, whose team was coming off a humiliating three-game sweep in Chicago.

Diamond (9-4) tossed a three-hitter, with no walks and six strikeouts. It was Minnesota's second complete game of the season and first since P.J. Walters went the distance in Chicago on May 22.

Shortstop Brian Dozier and second baseman Alexi Casilla combined to make three spectacular plays.

"I was just trying to go as deep as I could," Diamond said. "I really think Dozier and Lexi up the middle helped me go all nine."

Span was the offensive catalyst, going 2-for-3 with two walks and three runs scored. Morneau gave the Twins a first-inning lift when he launched a two-out, three-run homer onto Target Plaza off Indians starter Josh Tomlin (5-8).

Willingham made it 8-0 with another three-run homer off Tomlin in the fourth.

According to ESPN's Jayson Stark, a baseball executive who talked to the Twins found Morneau "pricey" and Span "more pricey," adding that the price for Willingham "made me laugh."

Twins officials say that's because they're not looking to dump these players.

Willingham is coveted because he's been highly productive -- 26 home runs, 76 RBI -- in the first year of a three-year, $21 million contract. He's 33 and his trade value may never be higher, but they'd be more likely to move him at next year's deadline, if they're still looking for pitching.

"I haven't watched 'SportsCenter' in months, so do you think I look at trade rumors?" Willingham said. "No. My wife likes to read them. I tell her not to tell me. I would worry about it if I looked at it, so that's why I just don't."

The Twins are listening to offers for Span because Ben Revere gives them a natural replacement in center field, but they're thrilled to have Span under contract at a team-friendly price through 2014.

There's far less interest in Morneau because he's owed $20 million through the end of next season and hasn't been the same since he suffered a concussion in July 2010.

The Dodgers checked on Morneau's availability and learned the Twins weren't just looking to create an opening for Class AAA Rochester first baseman Chris Parmelee.

After homering again Friday, Parmelee has batted .327 with seven homers and 23 RBI in 32 games for Rochester, but Morneau will have more trade value if he stays healthy and productive through season's end.

Morneau has batted .325 over the past month, but Friday's homer was just his second since June 4.

He said his swing "feels a lot better than it did Opening Day, or the end of April, or the end of May."

If Morneau keeps improving, the Twins would rather have it be for them than someone else.

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