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 postgame: Plenty going on besides 3-1 loss to Cardinals

Posted by: La Velle E. Neal III Updated: March 19, 2014 - 5:31 PM

Before the game recap....

BUXTON INJURY UPDATE

Twins outfield prospect Byron Buxton hasn't played since Sunday, when he dived after a ball and sprained his left wrist. Brad Steil, the Twins' director of minor league operations, said Buxton is considered day-to-day.
Buxton was invited to major league camp and showed all of his talents before being cut on March 9. After rejecting possibility that he could reach the majors this season, I have changed my mind and expect the Twins to call him up during the second half of the season.

ANTONY WANTS SOMEONE TO STEP UP

The Twins are following the competitions for some roster spots in which no one stands out - and there's 10 days left before they head to Chicago to open the season against the White Sox. It led to a blunt assessment of some camp battles from assistant General Manager Rob Antony.
``I wish some guys would step up and earn a job,'' Antony said. ``No one is really doing that. All these guys who are in competition. Hicks hasn't been anything special this spring. Neither has Presley in center field. So there's your centerfield battle.''
Hicks entered Wednesday batting .269 in spring games. He went 1-for-2 with a walk and bloop single on Wednesday. Presley was batting .167 and 0-for-3 in stolen base attempts.
Antony moved on to the race for the final spot in the starting rotation,
``(Samuel) Deduno has done a nice job and (Kyle) Gibson's going today.,'' he said. ``(Vance) Worley didn't help himself at all (Tuesday). (Scott) Diamond has just been fair. So nobody has really stepped up to try and earn the spot. That's a bad feeling when you're looking at giving spots away.''
Gibson helped his cause by holding the Cardinals to one run over 41/3 innings on Wednesday. Deduno gave up two runs Wednesday over 22/3 innings, but manager Ron Gardenhire felt he threw the ball well. Worley, however, has a 13.50 ERA this spring while Diamond is 1-0, 5.59.
Antony continued to competition for bench spots.
``(Jason) Kubel hasn't been very good,'' Antony said. ``I think he's got a hit (actually two) all spring. (Jason) Bartlett is hitless. (Eduardo) Escobar has had defensive lapses and made mistakes in the field. So these are the guys battling for a utility spot, so it's hard to get excited and say, `this is our guy,' when no one is doing particularly well.''
Antony spoke before Bartlett got this first hit of the spring, a hard single to right during a hit-and-run in the sixth that led to the Twins'  first run. But Antony's disappointment was obvious as he calls for someone to step up.

Different opinions

Antony's comments came during a discussion about the differences in opinion that pop up between managers and the front office at this time of year. For instance, Gardenhire is pushing for Jason Bartlett, who just got his first hit of spring on Wednesday.
``He's very confident he's had a positive attitude,'' Gardenhire said. ``We'll see. There's some arguing going on. I hope I win.''
Gardenhire was asked if a manager should worry about things GM's worry about, like who's out of options. The Twins have eight such players in camp.
``I understand all that stuff,'' he said. ``Options are deceiving  because if you are out of options that means you had chances, you had lots of opportunities.
``They are deceiving. They don't deceive me. They are in my way, let's put it that way.''

O.K., NOW FOR THE GAME STUFF

Righthander Kyle Gibson pitched well once again. He said the stiff wind at his back flattened out his sinker some, but he was able to make adjustments and put together another strong outing - one earned run over 41/3 innings. And this game against a Cardinal team that had Matt Carpenter, Matt Holiday, Allen Craig and other regulars in it.

Gibson is pushing hard for a roster spot, whether it's in the rotation or bullpen.

Righthander Samuel Deduno retired the first six batters he faced before Peter Bourjos led off the eighth with a double. Deduno walked the next batter, and those two baserunners eventually came around to score. Deduno's ERA rose from 0.93 to 2.19 but the Twins remain pleased with his spring so far.

I can see a scenario in which Gibson is the fifth starter and Deduno works out of the bullpen. Deduno has relieved some in the minors, and he's coming off of shoulder surgery. The Twins did stretch him out on Wednesday but they haven't given him a start yet. ``I missed a couple pitches and they hit them pretty good,'' Deduno said, ``but I'm feeling very good.''

Twins manager Ron Gardenhire joked that they gave Jason Bartlett a game ball for finally getting his first hit in 30 plate appearances this spring. Bartlett singled hard to right field as Aaron Hicks took off for second. Hicks was waved around third and scored the Twins' only run of the game.

Bartlett has a batting average now - .037.

Gardenhire has made no secret of his support for Bartlett. He believes the clubhouse needs players who have had success in the past, and believes Bartlett would be great in that playing mentor role. But it would sure make things easier if Bartlett got a few hits.

``His last three games he's had, out of 10 at bats, eight of them have been quality at bats,'' Gardenhire said before the game. ``A couple walks, hitting the ball on the nose.  Just make sure his legs are underneath him, that he can move around and we'll see how it breaks down at the end. I like the kid an awful lot.''

Pedro Florimon was 0-for-2 but went to his left to gobble up Yadier Molina's grounder in the second, spun and threw to first for the out. It reminded you of his value to the team. It was Florimon's second start since returning to the lineup following surgery to remove his appendix late last month. Gardenhire is going play him as much as possible to help him get his timing at the plate and his legs in game shape.

Oh. Aaron Hicks drew a walk in the third inning - his first of the spring. He'll have to do that more often if he's going to bat leadoff in this offense. The manager is fretting over the lineup right now and needs to see his leadoff hitter actually be a table-setter.

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