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 complete first day of full workouts

Posted by: La Velle E. Neal III Updated: February 23, 2011 - 2:03 PM

I don't mean to rub it in, but we've had a run of good weather down here for spring training. Today might have been the best of them all.

The Twins hit the sun-splashed fields at the Lee County Sports Complex for their first full squad workout of 2011 as a record number of reporters looked on. (I'm sayin' it was a record although there's no way to prove it)..

All eyes were on infielder Tsuyoshi Nishioka, who worked out with his team for the first time. The man has some skill. His hands are quick. The exchange from glove to hand is exceptional. His arm is acceptable, clearly not as strong as Alexi Casilla's or Trevor Plouffe's.

During batting practice, Nishioka showed a very smooth,  easy swing. He's not going to try to hit home runs, which should help him in Target Field.

Nishioka, through interpreter Ryo Shinkawa, said communication with Casilla went well. He was asked if he'll have to learn Spanish as well as English.

``Hopefully we will make our own language together,''' Nishioka said.

Other highlights:

A ball thrown by catcher  Rene Rivera deflected off a screen and hit Nick Blackburn in the face, but he's fine. Blackburn was hit in the head with a line drive once and bounced back.

``Yeah, it just looks bad,'' Blackburn said, ``It didn’t feel great at the time. Loud, lot of ringing, but whatever.''

Watched Kyle Gibson throw to hitters. He's good. Like see-you-up-here-in-June good. His pitches have late life,

Alex Burnett has his curveball working.

Scott Baker threw in the bullpen with no problems and will face hitters on Friday.

Francisco Liriano will throw in the bullpen tomorrow  and start facing hitters on Saturday.

Justin Morneau, wearing sunglasses but no helmet, looked smooth at first base during drills.

Jim Thome swung and missed a Anthony Swarzak fastball, and Twins manager Ron Gardenhire piled on from his spot in short left. ``Striiiiiiiike!''

Carl Pavano will start Sunday's spring opener against Boston - and will start on Opening Day on Apr. 1 in Toronto.

Star Tribune coverage is at full throttle right now, with myself and Jim Souhan on the keyboards, Carlos Gonzales providing daily photo essays and McKenna Ewen adding great video content in his rookie season in Fort Myers. Be sure to take it all in....

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