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.

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.

Liriano MRI good. Baker good. Nishioka good. Get well, Stelly

Posted by: La Velle E. Neal III Updated: February 19, 2011 - 12:02 PM

The worst news concerns bullpen coach Rick Stelmaszek, who is in his 31st year with the club.

Stelmaszek suffered a torn retina last week that required surgery. His first procedure didn't take well, so he had a second one that he's recovering from. He's resting at his home in Chicago, and hopes to get clearance to fly down to Fort Myers soon.

I spoke with Stelly on the phone today, and he's a little frustrated. Having had my retina re-attached four times, I told him the process stinks but the process must be adhered to to get his eye back on line. You have to take your eye drops on time, stay off your feet, don't scratch the eye, etc. But it has to be done.

My eyes? It was the hand I was dealt. I was wearing thick glasses at age 3. I had cataract surgery in my early 30s.  I have long eyeballs. My doctor calls them, ``The Shaquille of eyeballs". My retina first tore in the fall of 2005 and would tear three more times. That's the way it goes sometimes. There have been worse cases.

My last surgery was in May 2006 at the Mayo Clinic. I returned to work on June 7. On June 8, the Twins started their big run to the postseason. Just sayin'.  And I haven't had any problems since.

Anyway, I know what Stelly is going through. You feel like a loser. You worry that your other eye is going to go haywire and that you'll end up blind. You feel like a big, fat zero. Having gone through it, you just have to respect the process and remain optimisitc. It's not easy. I'm grateful for modern medicine.


Francisco Liirano actually had an MRI on his shoulder recently in Miami. The Twins tracked down the results, looked at them and saw no problems.

Scott Baker threw in the bullpen today. Twins manager Ron Gardenhire  said Baker is feeling some discomfort when throwing his changeup, so he's going to be careful about how much he throws it for now.

Bullpen catcher Nate Dammann has left the team to return to the Twin Cities to be with his wife for the birth of their first child. With Joe Mauer on the take-it-easy plan, Gardy would like to bring in another catcher but is not having any luck with GM Bill Smith.

Tsuyoshi Nishioka is working by himself - in non-Twins gear - as the other position players in camp work out on a neighboring field. Gardy has told Nishioka that he's welcome to join the others. But Gardy indicated that Nishioka wants to stick to his plan because that's how he won the batting title last season while with the Chiba Lotte Marines.

Technically, position players can wear whatever they want during the voluntary phase of workouts. I mentioned Nishioka being decked out in addias gear to Michael Cuddyer, and Cuddy had no problems with it.

I am mildly surprised that he's not working out with other position players. He did earlier in the week and seemed to enjoy meeting new people. Again, full squad workouts aren't until Wednesday.

``One thing that I know about Japan and Japanese baseball over there is if they do something and they have a really good year, they like to do the very same thing,'' Gardy said. `` I've heard this over and over again. So, he’s doing the very same program that he did leading up to spring training last year for his Japanese team -- the very same stuff, because he won a batting championship.''


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