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.

Valencia's injury comes at a bad time

Posted by: La Velle E. Neal III Updated: June 21, 2011 - 12:46 PM

It will be interesting to see if Danny Valencia will be able to play tonight against the Giants. The Twins third baseman missed Sunday's game with a sore triceps  but expressed optimism that he would be ready to take the field at AT&T Park.

The way things have been going for the Twins this season, he might not.

Most projections the Twins have made about their injured players have  been short. This isn't to blame them as much as it suggests that it just isn't their year with injuries.

Joe Mauer and Tsuyoshi Nishioka missed two months each. No one was sure on Sunday when Denard Span and Jason Kubel will return. Justin Morneau could be out until the first full week of July with a wrist sprain - and that depends on what shape his wrist is when the cast comes off at the end of this week,

Valencia has to prove he can throw. The more I think about it, the Twins might want to have him go through pre-game drills then see how he feels tomorrow.

It's too bad for Valencia, who has homered in his last two games, 

``I don't view myself as a .218 hitter,'' he said Saturday.

Valencia has hit the ball hard with few results to show for it. He's trying to be patient, waiting for things to even out.

Some stats on suggest that it should happen.

Valencia entered Saturday with a 19.8 line drive percentage that was third best on the Twins behind Denard Span and Jason Kubel.

Valencia hit .311 with 7 homers and 30 RBI last season when he had a line drive percentage of 18.8.

Last season, Valencia's batting average on balls put in play was .345. This year is .233. According to Fangraphs, an average hitter's BAPIP is .290 to .310.

So that's bound to rise, right? With Valencia hitting line drives at a slightly better rate than last season, he should see more balls fall in. Or, as the case was on Saturday, fall in a fan's lap.

What he needs now is to be healthy so he can turn his season around.


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