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.

TwinsFest Friday: Delaney, Hughes, Oliva, Trees, Nathan

Posted by: La Velle E. Neal III Updated: January 28, 2011 - 2:59 PM

Some news on a TwinsFest Friday.

Righthander Ron Delaney, who was designated for assignment when the Twins claimed lefty Dusty Hughes, has been claimed by the Tampa Bay Rays.

The non-drafted free agent now takes his talents to the Rays, whose bullpen is undergoing drastic changes.

Delaney was 7-9 with a 4.73 ERA  for Class AAA Rochester last season. He made one appearance for the Twins, giving up two hits, including a home run to Ian Kinsler.

Talking with some Twins folks today, Delaney has decent stuff but they really think Hughes can help. Hughes throws four pitchers - fastball, curve, slider and change - and they think he can be more than a specialty lefty.

``He's Craig Breslow, with crisper stuff,'' one said of Hughes.

There were other newsworthy items during the annual media luncheon, held at Target Field.

++Reacting to concerns from players, the Black Spruce Trees are being removed from behind the center field wall. Players mentioned to us during the season that they had trouble picking up the ball when the trees would move during breezy days. There's also some glare that comes off of the batter's eye, so the Twins will copy what the Seattle Mariners did and hang material off the batter's eye that will absorb glare.

++The Twins also announced that a statue of Tony Oliva will be unveiled during the season. The Twins great has been posing for artists in recent weeks.

++Joe Nathan, who's determined to return as the closer this season, threw a bullpen session inside the stadium on Friday. We're waiting to hear how that went.

++More than 100,000 tickets have been sold for Twins spring training games.

++Thanks to everyone who attended last night's Diamond Awards. We had a record crowd of 565 in attendance and we raised thousands of dollars for medical research at the University of Minnesota. I'm waiting for the final numbers, but I'm sure we've passed the $3 million mark through six years of the banquet.

++Stay tuned for more news from TwinsFest as the doors get ready to open. Was told that fans began lining up at the Schwan's Center at  9 a,m. today. It might be scaled down but this won't stop us from getting fired up for spring training.

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