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 spring training: Early arrivals. Hard hat zone.

Posted by: La Velle E. Neal III Updated: February 12, 2014 - 12:59 PM

Twins pitchers and catchers don't report until Sunday, but a large group already has been working out at the Lee County Sports Complex.

I guessed that around 25 major and minor leaguers were at the facility today, but strength and conditioning coordinator Perry Castellano said I was low. Several players already live in the area, and many more have arrived early to get some conditioning in before camp starts on Monday.

Matt Guerrier, Michael Tonkin, Kohl Stewart, Mike Pelfrey, Vance Worley and Madison Boer were among the pitchers I noticed (or had pointed out to me) on the field. Aaron Hicks, Jason Bartlett, Brian Dozier, Trevor Plouffe, Wilkin Ramirez and Chris Parmelee were among position players. Plenty and of smiling and laughing as they worked out.

Parmelee, Dozier, Bartlett and Plouffe manned the infield as Castellano hit grounders to them. Bartlett took grounders at both short and third.

Some observations:

Worley, who is out of options, has lost 25 pounds and looks great. Twins pitching coach Rick Anderson, who stopped by on Wednesday, was impressed.

Bartlett is in great shape, too, and moved well after knee injures had slowed him down before he stopped playing in 2012.

Plouffe? The gun show is in town. The man has added some muscle during the offseason and looks in great shape. Let's see if he can hold off the Miguel Sano express.

BTW, a member of the Twins watched Johan Santana throw off a mound last week and came back with favorable reports. The Twins remain interested, and I would be surprised if a deal isn't struck sometime over the next couple of weeks.

Meanwhile....

Chaos is too strong of a word. But the Lee County Sports Complex is construction central as workers hurry to complete the first phase of a $48-million renovation and expansion project. There's action at the main stadium and all kinds of madness going on around the minor league complex.

The first phase was to be completed by Feb. 15 - I don't see how they are going to hit that mark. But all the practice fields will be ready to go, so camp shouldn't be affected. The stadium is going to look pretty sweet. The concrete boardwalk, the seating in right field, the berm in left and the bar near the right field corner a gives the park a completely different look. The minor league clubhouse is being expanded, dorms are being built and a new field for the GCL team is being added. There's tons and tons of equipment over there.

Heads up: If you are coming down to watch the Twins this spring, the main parking lot will be smaller. Part of it has been removed in place of an agility field. And I'm guessing that construction parking might take up other spots for a couple more weeks.

I will point out that, yesterday, I drove by and saw a big mound of dirt at the far end of the parking lot. Today - boom! - agility field. So maybe they can complete everything over the next couple of weeks. While there were about two dozen players working out today, they were outnumbered by people wearing hard hats.

That's it for today. I've gotta finish unpacking then scout a restaurant for my annual food guide.

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