Twins target Dominican teen Diaz

The international signing period begins Tuesday, and the Twins are set to make a splash. The club is expected to sign Dominican teenager Lewin Diaz, according to sources.

The 16-year-old Diaz, who is listed at 6-4 and 210 pounds, is a corner outfielder but could end up at first base, according to reports. He is an offensive prospect with a potentially powerful bat. Baseball America ranks him as the 15th-best international prospect available.

Every July 2, major league teams can sign prospects from outside of the United States, Canada and U.S. territories who are at least 16. There are no prospects this season rated as highly as Miguel Sano was when the Twins signed him in 2009 for $3.15 million, but many players will receive bonuses of more than $1 million.

The Twins also are interested in Dominican righthander Mayky Perez, ranked 19th by Baseball America. Some players don’t sign the first day, so some negotiations could take a while.

The top European eligible is Italian infielder Marten Gasparini. The Twins are interested but aren’t willing to go as high as some other teams, as his bonus is expected to break the record for a European player. That record is $800,000, set by the Twins when they signed German outfielder Max Kepler in 2009.

The Twins have $3.9 million in their bonus pool for international prospects this year, as recommended by Major League Baseball.

Family vacation

Mike Pelfrey will load up the car Sunday with his wife and two small kids and drive down to Iowa, where he is scheduled to make a rehabilitation start on Monday for Class A Cedar Rapids.

Pelfrey, who landed on the disabled list last Sunday because of a back strain, felt better two days later and has spent the week going through his regular routine.

He will pitch four innings for the Kernels. If all goes well, he is eligible to come off the disabled list Thursday.

On the comeback trail

Nick Blackburn on Friday pitched in a game for the first time since September, pitching four shutout innings for the Twins’ Gulf Cost League rookie team. Twins General Manager Terry Ryan said Blackburn touched 90 miles per hour on the radar gun.

“He threw the ball good,” Ryan said.

Ryan said he will be interested in how Blackburn throws the second time out after such a long layoff. Blackburn has struggled with wrist problems and had surgery in January at the Mayo Clinic.

Blackburn, who is earning $5.5 million this season, will need several weeks to build up his arm strength and put up numbers worthy of a callup. But he has at least reached the final stage of his comeback.

“He’s got a chance to join this club at some point,” Ryan said. “I don’t want to make a prediction here. Let’s see how he progresses. Let’s get him into a league where he belongs before we start getting too excited over what he did [Friday].”

Francoeur dropped

After Saturday’s game, the Royals designated veteran outfielder Jeff Francoeur for assignment and recalled infielder Johnny Giavotella from Class AAA Omaha.

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