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.
PORT CHARLOTTE, FLA. -- The Twins got on the field in time for their 5:20 stretch before batting practice, but it was close. Apparently the team bus missed a turn on its way here -- not easy to do, considering the Rays' camp, about 30 miles north of Fort Myers, is closer to the Twins' than any other but the Red Sox -- and the players had to get dressed in a hurry.
Now that they're here, the Twins will use an unusual lineup for tonight's game with Tampa Bay, and not just because Oswaldo Arcia is in the cleanup spot for the first time. No, the element that struck me was Jamey Carroll in the third spot, something I didn't remember ever seeing before.
That's because it's only happened once before -- a long time ago. Sept. 29, 2002, to be exact, the final game of the season for Carroll's Expos. When I looked it up, I noticed something else that was strange: Vladimir Guerrero was the leadoff hitter, ahead of Endy Chavez, with Carroll batting third. Turns out, that was the only game in his career that Guerrero batted leadoff, too.
Weird lineup. So I asked Carroll if he remembered the only time in his career that he batted third. He did.
"Last game of the season. We were trying to get Vladdie 40-40 [home runs and stolen bases], so he batted leadoff to get him an extra at-bat," Carroll explained. "The rest of us just moved down a spot."
Guerrero, normally the Expos' cleanup hitter, had 40 steals, but just 39 home runs, leaving him one short of joining Jose Canseco, Barry Bonds and Alex Rodriguez as the only members, at the time, of the 40-40 club. (Alfonso Soriano later became the fourth, and nobody has reached the mark since 2006.)
So what's the reason for batting third today? Carroll just shrugged. "Gardy," he said. So I asked Ron Gardenhire, and he shrugged, too. "That's just the way it worked out," he said.
A couple of notes from camp before the Twins take their first day off of the Grapefruit League season tomorrow:
-- Chris Parmelee took batting practice today, and Gardenhire said all went well. Parmelee said he definitely plans to play on Wednesday against Baltimore. His strained groin is 100 percent again, he said.
-- Trevor Plouffe was sent off campus today to have an MRI on his calf. The Twins haven't heard any results yet.
Tonight's lineups, with both teams using shortstops named Escobar:
Twins -- Hicks CF, Eduardo Escobar SS, Carroll 3B, Arcia DH, Benson RF, Clement 1B, Mastroianni LF, Rohlfing C, Dozier 2B. Worley P, followed by Duensing, Gibson, Pressly, Robertson, Perdomo and/or Walters.
Rays -- Jennings CF, Johnson LF, Longoria 3B, Joyce RF, Yunel Escobar SS, Scott DH, Roberts 2B, Loney 1B, Lobaton C. Hernandez P.
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