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.

Valencia entering rookie of year discussion, as Twins look to avoid sweep

Posted by: Phil Miller under Twins game coverage Updated: September 26, 2010 - 12:23 PM

DETROIT -- I wrote about Danny Valencia's Rookie of the Year chances for early editions last night. By night's end, Valencia was kicking himself for his late-inning at-bats and two errors, just as Carl Pavano was taking the blame for not protecting a five-run first-inning lead.

It might be too late for Valencia to win the rookie award. Rangers closer Neftali Feliz and Tigers center fielder Austin Jackson have been making big impacts on their teams for a full season.

But there’s no disputing the difference Valencia has made for the Twins in 77 games, especially over the past three months.

Valencia had his first career multi-homer game Saturday with a first-inning grand slam and a bases-empty shot in the fifth. Unfortunately, he also had his first multi-error game.

"It came down to defense," Valencia said, noting that he should have gotten at least one out on the ground ball hit to him in the 13th inning.

Jackson continued stating his case, going 4-for-6 with two RBI, to raise his average to .299. An exceptional defensive center fielder, Jackson has batted leadoff for the Tigers all year, stealing 26 bases and scoring 101 runs.

Meanwhile, Feliz improved to 38-for-41 in save opportunities and lowered his ERA to 2.85 as the Rangers defeated Oakland 4-3, clinching the American League West title.

If there weren’t other qualified candidates, Valencia might have a chance to join the list of Twins who've won rookie of the year honors: Tony Oliva (1964), Rod Carew (1967), John Castino (1979), Chuck Knoblauch (1991) and Marty Cordova (1995). (***Note, Castino was co-rookie of the year with Alfredo Griffin. Butch Wynegar was named rookie of the year in 1976 by The Sporting News.)

Most position players who’ve won the award have logged at least 100 games, though there are exceptions. Ryan Howard played 88 games for the Phillies when he won in 2005, batting .288 with 22 homers and 63 RBI.

Bob Horner played 89 games for the Braves when he won in 1978, batting .266 with 23 homers and 63 RBI. He edged Ozzie Smith, who played 159 games for the Padres, batting .258.

Valencia still has eight regular season games to pad his numbers. He’s now batting .327 with seven home runs and 40 RBI. The Twins have been desperate for third base help since Corey Koskie left as a free agent after the 2004 season. In Valencia, 26, they could have a solution for years to come.

Update: J.J. Hardy has a swollen left knee and is being checked by a doctor. He's not sure how he injured himself.

Denard Span fouled a ball off his right foot Saturday, came in sore today and is not in the lineup.

Jim Thome has a knot in the left side of his back and is a little concerned, though Manager Ron Gardenhire said the training staff is confident they'll remedy it soon.

Jason Repko has a bruised right thumb.

Gardenhire isn't sure if Joe Mauer will play in Kansas City and said he'll likely DH when he first comes back.

Gardy will be managing today, though his right ear isn't pretty.

TWINS (92-62)

1. Ben Revere, CF
2. Orlando Hudson, DH
3. Delmon Young, LF
4. Michael Cuddyer, 1B
5. Jason Kubel, RF
6. Danny Valencia, 3B
7. Jose Morales, C
8. Matt Tolbert, 2B
9. Nick Punto, SS

Starting pitcher: LH Brian Duensing (10-2, 2.19 ERA)

TIGERS (79-75)

1. Austin Jackson, CF
2. Casper Wells, RF
3. Ryan Raburn, LF
4. Miguel Cabrera, 1B
5. Jhonny Peralta, DH
6. Brandon Inge, 3B
7. Scott Sizemore, 2B
8. Ramon Santiago, SS
9. Gerald Laird, C

Starting pitcher: (9-11, 5.22 ERA)

Comerica Park. First pitch: 12:05 p.m. (Central). TV: Ch. 29 (WFTC). Twins Radio Network

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