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.

Sizzling Mauer back at first tonight

Posted by: La Velle E. Neal III Updated: July 19, 2011 - 6:08 PM

I'll give the Twins some credit. Despite the noontime rain, it's boiling outside again. But the Twins are out for early hitting this afternoon. Cleveland stayed  inside.

Perhaps the Twins realize how important it is to get their offense going. They are averaging 3.67 runs a game during this homestand. Unacceptable. They are batting .258 during the homestand, but if you take out Joe Mauer's .550 (11-for-20) average, the team average over six games at Target Field since the break is .223.

Despite getting swept yesterday, the Twins still lead the season series 4-3, so it's not like they've forgotten how to beat the Tribe.

Twins manager Ron Gardenhire is making good on his bet with shortstop Tsuyoshi Nishioka. He's on the field wearing a "I (heart) Japanese Women's Soccer,' t-shirt.


Jason Kubel played nine innings in right field for Class AAA Rochester on Monday and is scheduled to DH tonight. Kubel expressed hope he could join the Twins on Thursday for the Tigers series, but Gardy just said he's not going to call someone up who is still finding his swing.

Kubel is 1 for 8 so far at Rochester.

Gardy said he wants to go back to 12 pitches and add another position player by Thursday. If Kubel doesn't get some hits over the next two games, Rene Tosoni could be called up instead.

Kevin Slowey starts tomorrow for Rochester.

Scott Baker (flexor strain) is going to throw in the bullpen on Wednesday. The Twins will decide then if he will return to t he rotation or make a rehab start.

Baker said he felt really good today. 

The flexor muscle is near the ulnar collateral ligament (Tommy John territory),but Baker said he underwent all the UCL tests and passed, ``with flying colors.'' 

Cleveland outfielder Michaell Brantley is a late scratch.

Cleveland (51-44)

1. Ezequiel Carrera, CF
2. Orlando Cabrera, 2B
3. Asdrubal Cabrera, SS
4. Carlos Santana, 1B
5. Matt LaPorta, DH
6. Austin Kearns, RF
7. Jack Hannahan, 3B
8. Lou Marson, C
9. Travis Buck, LF

Twins (44-51)

1. Ben Revere, CF
2. Alexi Casilla, 2B
3. Joe Mauer, 1B
4. Michael Cuddyer, RF
5. Jim Thome, DH
6. Danny Valencia, 3B
7. Delmon Young, LF
8. Tsuyoshi Nishioka, SS
9. Drew Butera, C

Pitching: Francisco Liriano. LHP



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