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.

From LEN3: Nine innings of notes

Posted by: La Velle E. Neal III Updated: December 17, 2013 - 4:39 PM

This seemed to be a good idea when I thought about it yesterday. It turned out to be much longer than I anticipated. I hope you have a few extra minutes.....


1. More pitching? The Twins, most likely, are done looking for starting pitching after signing righthander Mike Pelfrey over the weekend. When I asked a Twins official about it, I was told: ``Not sure. Maybe if it makes sense. We still have some things to address.'' I took that as doubtful.

The Twins would like to add a bat and an experienced catcher to help with the development of Josmil Pinto. Besides, their top four starters now look like this:

Ricky Nolasco, RHP
Phil Hughes, RHP
Kevin Correia, RHP
Mike Pelfrey, RHP

The top two guys dramatically alter the roation because they both have career strikeout rates of 7.4 and 7.6 per nine innings. Pelfrey, actually, struck out a career best 6.0 pe nine last season. The problem was his 3.3 walks per nine innings.

So they have four spots locked up. That leaves several pitchers to compete for the last spot, a group that includes righthanders Samuel Deduno, Vance Worley and Kyle Gibson and lefthanders Andrew Albers, Scott Diamond and Kris Johnson. Prospects like Alex Meyer and Trevor May will be around as well.  The Twins didn't add ace pitchers this offseason but still ugraded with Nolasco and Hughes. And that's how you get better, pushing down on your roster.

As for the other starting pitching targets, there's concern around the league about giving Garza a four- or five-year deal because of injury concerns (he has a screw near his elbow). I also don't think Bronson Arroyo is going to get a three-year deal like he wants. I expect the Twins to shift gears and look at other areas.

Pelfrey will be in town Thursday for his physical, and the deal could be made official by Friday.

2. Tanaka Time?  Masahiro Tanaka, the Japanese righthander who went 24-0 for the Rakuten Golden Eagles last season, has told his team that he wants to move to the majors in 2014. The club wants him to stay but the chances are good that Tanaka will be posted. Japanese baseball fans enjoy seeing their players prove themselves in MLB so, in most cases, clubs will agree to post players. Now, the Golden Eagles would have liked to recieve a posting fee of $50 million like Daisuke Matzusaka and Yu Darvish drew, but the new posting system limits the highest bid to $20 million.

Will the Twins make a run at Tanaka? I was told by an official during the winter meetings last week that they were considering it (but I'm not sure now that they have four spots in the rotation filled). But at least half the teams in the league are expected to put in a bid because only one team ends up paying the $20 million - the team that signs him. So the wealthy teams like the Dodgers, Cubs and Yankees are equipped to win the sweepstakes. I guess I can't rule out the Mariners, who have had lucurative sponsorship deals with Japanese companies in the past and would benefit from landing Tanaka.

Teams can put in a bid knowing they have little change of signing Tanaka, but can say they made a run at him.

3. Checking in with Matty G. There was a rumor last week that the Twins had expressed some interest in bringing back reliever Matt Guerrier (they must be going with the alumni angle this offseason). Guerrier, 35, posted a 4.80 ERA in 34 games with the Dodgers before being traded to the Cubs, where he had a 2.13 ERA through 15 games. But a torn flexor tendon ended his season in August, and he's been rehabbing ever since.

``I completely tore the muscle off the bone in August,'' Guerrier said during a phone conversation on Monday. ``I'm pretty far along now, right at the four-month mark. I started throwing (a throwing program) a couple of weeks ago.''

Guerrier is looking for a team, and he confirmed that the Twins have contacted him. Teams will likely wait until Guerrier completes his rehab before making a move to sign him.

``My agent mentioned that the Twins asked about me and asked to keep them in mind as we go along,'' Guerrier said.

Guerrier has a 3.51 ERA over 528 appearances. He was one of the low-key but popular members of the Twins bullen during their run in the 2000's.

4. Hughes vs Miggy. Well, you can look at it as an opportunity for Phil Hughes to work on his approach to Miguel Cabrera, or you can run and hide when the two meet.

The outstanding John Lowe of the Detroit Free Press points out that Miguel Cabrera has a .560 career batting average against new Twins righthander Phil Hughes. Eight of his 14 hits off of Hughes have gone for extra bases. The Twins hope that Hughes is a different pitcher in their uniform - and it looks like he better be when he faces Cabrera.

5. White Sox re-model: It's been interesting to watch Chicago GM Rick Hahn restructure the White Sox roster. They were getting old and really have few top propsects ready to break into the majors. On Monday, they sent closer Addison Reed to the Diamondbacks for third baseman Matt Davidson, the top power hitting prospect in Arizona's system. Last week, the landed outfielder Adam Eaton from Arizona as part of a three-team trade with the Angels.

Don't forget that they landed outfielder Avisail Garcia (just an impressively built young man) during the season in a three-way trade with Detroit and Boston. And they landed first baseman Jose Abreu (who flashed some serious power during the World Baseball Classic) during the season. Chicago is loading up with nearly-ready talent. It will interesting to see how it works out over the next few years.

6. Spring training construction: It's about time to start thinking of sunshine and baseball. Construction is in full swing down at the Twins' year-round facility in Fort Myers, Fla. on a $48.5 million facelift. Hammond Stadium is being expanded from 8,000 seats to 9,300 with additional seats in left-centerfield and right-centerfield, and a berm in the left field corner (two berms now!). A 360-degree boardwalk is being built as well. All kinds of contruction is underway at the minor league complex. A dorm for young prospects is being built, the clubhouse is being remodled, the traning room is being moved next to the weight room and will be expanded. A hydrotherapy room, with three new pools, is being added.

Twins VP Bill Smith, at the winter meetings last week, show reporters photographs of the work that's being done. Pretty sharp. For 2015, the concourse, concession areas, clubhouse,  and press box will be spruced up.

7. Ninth Annual Diamond Awards:  Shamless plug time. But it's for a great cause, as we raise money to support research at the U of M to help fight ALS (Lou Gehrig’s disease), ataxia, multiple sclerosis, muscular dystrophy, and Parkinson’s disease. In nine years, we have raised more than $2.5 million to support these efforts. Besides, it's a chance to talk baseball and look ahead to the 2014 season. I'm sure new Twins players like Ricky Nolasco and Phil Hughes will be among the Twins players there. So if you can make the Jan. 23 event, you can purchase tickets here.

8. Winter ball roundup: You can go here to keep up with Twins players in the various winter leagues. Just by looking at the stats, Oswaldo Arcia is locked in pretty good at the plate right now. Arcia's development will be key to any Twins revival in 2014. Jorge Polanco, one of the Twins best infield prospects, is batting leadoff for Escogido and producing.

Dakota Watts walked the only batter he faced on Sunday for Aragua of the Venzuelan League, but props to him for being willing to go down to winter ball and get some experience. The Twins had hoped Aaron Hicks would go down for awhile but he declined. Chris Herrmann went, however.

Lester Oliveros, who is coming back from Tommy John surgery, threw five innings for Caribes before coming down with some minor elbow irritation. Brad Steil, the Twins director of minor leagues, said Oliveros is doing fine now. Oliveros, who throws hard, could be a factor next season. Watts, another kid with a live arm, could make his major league debut.

Catcher Josmil Pinto is batting .179 in 10 games for Aragua of the Venzuelan league. He's come down with a sore shoulder and has been shut down from throwing for a couple weeks.  He had a similar problem in the middle of last season.

Notice that second baseman Eddie Rosario is batting under .200 in the Puerto Rican winter league. Rosario, a good hitting prospect, informed his team a few weeks ago that he failed a drug test. There's been nothing since, because the appeal process is underway. Look for a ruling on his situation in the coming weeks

9. We'll close with Coom: Because of space and deadlines, my story about Ron Coomer being named the Cubs' new radio analyst was sliced and diced. I'll post the whole story here, because Coomer sounded so thrilled over the phone on Thursday night when we talked.

Former Twins player Ron Coomer, who joined K-TWIN earlier this year as a radio show host, has been hired as the radio analyst for the Chicago Cubs. Coomer, who signed a two-year deal, replaces Keith Moreland.

Coomer, a Chicago-area native, was reccomended by Cubs play-by-play voice Pat Hughes. ``It's awesome,'' Coomer said. ``It's really awesome.''

Coomer, 47, played for the Twins from 1995-2000 before spending 2001 with the Cubs. He retired after the 2003 season. He's been a fixture in the Twin Cities since and has worked in television as well as radio. He worked with Fox Sports North from 2005-12 before moving to K-TWIN.

``You can not ask for anything more,'' he said. ``(Twins president) Dave St. Peter has been absoulutely incredible to me. Trevor Fleck and John Stroh (FSN producers) have been fantasic. They are 10's. Sam Elliott (K-TWIN GM) is a 10.''

Coomer is moving on and up - but not out. He will maintain his residence in the Twin Cites.

``Minnesota is my home,'' he said. ``I love all the fans. I can't say, `Thank You,' to them enough.''

Final123456789RHE
Chicago WSox000002010380
Minnesota «00100030X460
@Ballpark Replay
Preview | Matchup | Lineup | Log | Wrap | Box
W:J.Burton(2-2) L:R.Belisario(3-7) S:G.Perkins (25)
HR: CWS- A.Nieto (1) MIN- None

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San Diego - LP: J. Lane 0 FINAL
Atlanta - WP: E. Santana 2
Washington - LP: R. Soriano 6 FINAL
Miami - WP: M. Dunn 7
Philadelphia - LP: A. Burnett 1 FINAL
NY Mets - WP: B. Colon 7
Milwaukee - LP: K. Lohse 1 FINAL
Tampa Bay - WP: J. Odorizzi 2
Toronto - WP: R. Dickey 14 FINAL
Boston - LP: C. Buchholz 1
Arizona - WP: O. Perez 2 FINAL
Cincinnati - LP: J. Hoover 1
Colorado - LP: Y. Flande 1 FINAL
Chicago Cubs - WP: T. Wada 4
NY Yankees - LP: D. Phelps 2 FINAL
Texas - WP: Y. Darvish 4
Oakland - LP: J. Chavez 3 FINAL
Houston - WP: B. Oberholtzer 7
Pittsburgh - WP: V. Worley 5 FINAL
San Francisco - LP: M. Bumgarner 0
NY Giants 8/3/14 7:00 PM
Buffalo
Los Angeles 3 FINAL
Seattle 0
Winnipeg 7/31/14 6:00 PM
Hamilton
Toronto 8/1/14 6:00 PM
Montreal
Brt Columbia 8/1/14 9:00 PM
Calgary
Saskatchewan 8/2/14 6:00 PM
Ottawa
Indiana 73 FINAL
Los Angeles 77
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