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.

Twins camp Day 9: Games are almost here; Santana update

Posted by: La Velle E. Neal III Updated: February 26, 2014 - 9:22 AM

The Twins have just hit the field for one of their final workouts before they begin playing games. There's an intrasquad game here at 10 a.m. (EST) tomorrow, then the spring training opener on Friday at JetBlue Park against the Red Sox.

So we're in that run of 30-something fake games before 162 real ones. Some players can take their time and prepare for the regular season. They are locks for the roster. They can work on peaking for Opening Day. Others have to make the team, so they need to have a strong month. And there's nothing like getting off to a good start in spring games to make a good first impression.

Twins manager Ron Gardenhire was asked what he expects from the first few games of the spring schedule.
``I think you have to keep an open mind to everything,'' he said. ``You hope they get better as they go along. I think for the sanity of a couple of players, maybe it would be nice for them to get a few hits early, take the pressure off themselves early. There’s a couple I would like to see get off to a good start.''

You can draw your own conclusions as to which players need to play well early for sanity's sake.

I'm double-checking on the site, but the intrasquad game usually takes place on Field 5, the one across the street from the high school.

In case you missed it, Johan Santana threw for seven teams yesterday, including the Twins, as he continues his comeback from a second shoulder surgery. He topped out at 81 miles an hour, which doesn't surprise me. Shoulder surgeries are tough to come back from. Joe Nathan lost 13 miles an hour off his fastball when he came back from his shoulder surgery with the Giants, and it took awhile for him to regain his velocity.

Santana is in a tougher spot because of age and the fact that he's had two shoulder surgeries. He's going to need time to get back as much of his old form as he can. Frankly, if he gets to 88 mph it will be an achievement.

Surely, some teams were turned off by the outing. It will be interesting to see what Johan does next. He needs to sign with a club so someone can get their hands on his shoulder and help him through his recovery. He's thrown three times - three - during his comeback. His velo is supposed to be down. How much more can he add with more rehab? That's the question.

Sounds like the Twins will continue to monitor Santana's recovery and keep in touch. The one person I checked in with said they weren't surprised by what they saw.                                

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