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 notes: More cuts, and other rumblings from camp

Posted by: La Velle E. Neal III Updated: March 11, 2013 - 12:01 PM

The Twins have optioned catcher Chris Herrmann to Class AAA Rochester and righthanders Michael Tonkin, B.J. Hermsen, Trevor May, catcher Josmil Pinto and infielder Danny Santana to Class AA New Britain.

No major surprises here, although Tonkin was very impressive and could have been rewarded with a longer stay. But there are other pitchers the Twins need to evaluate for the major league team, and Tonkin hasn't pitched above A-ball.

May showed some of the talent that once made him the Phillies' top prospect. Hermsen took his lumps but maybe he will learn from the experience. Santana has a lot of talent (wow!) but needs to get the most out of it. New Britain will be a challenge for him.
 

Camp updates

Before Sunday, Jared Burton did not look like the Jared Burton who became a rock-solid member of the Twins bullpen last year. He couldn't command his breaking stuff, left fastballs over the middle of the plate and has been getting worked over.

But no one in Twins camp seemed to be worried. Burton reminded me a couple weeks ago that his velocity is usually several miles an hour down early in camp and, once his regain his arm strength, his command follows.

Burton, however, has been working with pitching coach Rick Anderson on finding the right tempo, and he took a big step forward on Sunday with a scoreless inning against Pittsburgh.

``Much better, Twins manager Ron Gardenhire said.

Burton gave up a hit, but his velocity was back in the low 90's where it belongs. The Twins have enough problems trying to but together a bullpen this season. The last thing they need is to worry about Burton.

They might have to worry about Alex Burnett, who gave two earned runs on three hits and two walks in an inning on Sunday. His spring ERA is 9.00. Burnett posted a respectable 3.52 ERA last season but I sense the Twins expect him to take another step forward this season. It's not working out that way right now.

Some other observations and stuff as we hit the meat of the spring training schedule.

Oswaldo Arcia made his spring debut on Sunday and was 0-for-3 with two strikeouts. But he's got quite a swing. Once of his outs was a hard drive to the warning track in right. It sounds like Twins manager Ron Gardenhire wants to see more of Arcia.

``I think Arcia gets out of bed in the morning thinking about getting hits,'' Gardenhire said.

Arcia should made his major league debut sometime this year, as that wave of talent everyone is waiting for starts to hit.

I saw hitting coach Tom Brunansky chatting up Joe Benson before Sunday's games. Benson has tons of talent but leads camp in strikeouts, and many of those are from taking bad at bats or trying to kill the ball.

I wrote a story about Benson earlier in camp. I used the phrase, `lost season,' to describe Benson's 2012. ``No, it was a learning season,'' Ryan responded.

True, but the man lost at-bats because of not one, but two, surgeries. There's rust storms blowing all over Southwest Florida every time Benson swings and misses. He's going to need time to get his game back. Benson also is known for accelerating slumps by getting down/angry/furious with himself, and he's got to free his mind and let his talent flow.

Don't count out Cole DeVries for a spot in the rotation. A wise Twins baseball observer told me recently that the one thing DeVries does well is execute pitches. He might not have drop dead stuff, but he's going to throw it over and be tricky whenever he can.

I think the Twins rotation will eventually be this: Vance Worley, Mike Pelfrey, Scott Diamond, Kyle Gibson and Kevin Correia. The Opening Day starter will be either Worley or Pelfrey. Diamond, barring a setback in his return from minor elbow surgery, will join the rotation in mid-April at the latest.

Not sure what the Twins' plans will be with Gibson. He's been excellent at times but struggled during his last outing. If they decide that Gibson needs more time in the minors, I think DeVries will get first crack at that spot in the rotation. The regular season starts Apr. 1, but the Twins won't need a fifth starter until Apr. 7. We'll see how Gardy and Andy handle that one.

Finally, I've enjoyed the World Baseball Classic. I love being able to get up at 6 a.m. and watch baseball before I head over to the ballpark. I love seeing prospects like Red Sox shortstop Xander Bogaerts, who plays for the Fighting Blylevens. I got a kick out of seeing former Twins reliever Dennys Reyes roll in from the bullpen for Team Mexico. And Team Italy....it's hilarious enough to see who is chosen for the team. Now they are winning? Forza Italia!

By the way, how is Justin Morneau feeling today? First, Team USA knocks Canada out of the WBC, them the Wild beat his Canucks. Will he even return to camp?

It's too bad we can't hold the WBC when pitchers are at full strength, but MLB will never shut the regular season down for a couple weeks to make that happen. We have to take it the way we have it now, I guess.

It's obvious and disappointing that some teams don't support the WBC. Clayton Kershaw revealed  that the Dodgers told him they would prefer if he remained in camp with them. That's wrong. Every player should be free to make his own decision, like Drew Butera playing for Italy when his future with the Twins isn't secure, and Darin Mastroianni option to remain with the Twins and secure his future.

Regardless of that the U.S. view of the tournament is, it's a great way to spread the gospel. China is getting into baseball. There's a baseball stadium being built in Amsterdam. Broadening baseball's reach helps clubs in the long run because it increases participation and, eventually, the talent base. One day, the Dodgers might sign a pitcher from China who fell in love with the game because of the WBC.

That's it for now. Check our baseball blogs around 2 p.m., because the Twins are expected to announce a few more cuts from camp.

 

 

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