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 update: Baker, Plouffe, Nishioka, Casilla, Nathan.

Posted by: La Velle E. Neal III Updated: February 15, 2011 - 11:26 AM


Several Twins worked out at the Lee County Sports Complex this morning, two days before pitchers and catchers report. Some notes:

++Scott Baker, taking things easy after having a minor setback earlier in the month, threw in the bullpen with no apparent problems. He said he thinks he's a week behind.

++Several position players, including Trevor Plouffe, Jason Repko and Tsuyoshi Nishioka have been in Fort Myers for a few days. They took grounders and hit on a back field. Alexi Casilla arrived a few minutes after they began and jumped right in. Nishioka and Casilla shook hands then took grounders at second and short

Plouffe said Nishioka is a pretty funny guy. I'll be curious to see how Nishioka can cut through the language barrier with his humor.

++Nishioka makes a strange, ``whooph!'' sound just as he lets loose with a swing. Kind of like a tennis player when serving.

++Several minor leaguers are also working out,like Chris Parmelee, Steve Singleton and Max Kepler. Kepler looks a little bigger to me. And his swing sure looks polished for a 17-year old.

++Joe Nathan lands in Fort Myers today, and he'll be ready to prove that he can handle the closer's role right away despite being just 11 months removed from Tommy John surgery. His final bullpen session - when he hit 88-89 consistently - was an eye opener. Nathan usually opens camp throwing a little slower than that.
I'm going to back off frequent reports of how hard he is throwing - unless there's a drastic change. It's great that his arm is strong. Command is just as important. And the Twins need to be convinced over the next several weeks that Nathan can execute all his pitches.
Nathan said the countless long toss drills during the offseason allowed him to tinker with his change up. He's ready to use it more in games this season.
Nathan also has tinkered with pitching from each side of the rubber to see if coming in from different angle will help him against certain hitters.

I'll be live chatting at noon today, so check it out!
 

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