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.

Three Twins postgame thoughts from LEN3: Hendriks, De Vries, CF's

Posted by: La Velle E. Neal III Updated: March 21, 2013 - 10:15 PM


Three postgame thoughts after the Twins beat the Yankees 6-1 on Thursday:

1. Pitching battle heating up. Liam Hendriks held the Yankees to one run, and it was unearned. He wasn't predictable with his pitches and enjoyed one of his best outings this spring. He needs to rally to win a job with the big club. This was a step in the right direction. Cole De Vries needed his outfielders to run down a couple deep drives but pitched four scoreless innings to lower his spring ERA to 0.64. He said he didn't feel locked in until his last inning of work. He was asked if that could be a by-product of coming out of the bullpen. ``Maybe a little bit,'' he said. ``It was definitely different. I didn't feel my arm was loose until that last inning.'' But the bullpen could be another route to the majors for him. ``I will take any spot that is available as long as it is up here and not in Rochester,'' he said. The Yankees had one hit all night. One.

2. Balk? What balk? We all thought that Aaron Hicks had made a terrific running catch to start a double play to end the seventh. Walter Ibarra had raced to second when the catch was made and thought he was thrown out before he got back to first. But none of us saw home plate umpire Toby Basner call a balk on Cole De Vries for quick pitching. ``I didn't hear him,'' De Vries said. ``The batter reacted like he didn't hear him. It was an odd situation.'' De Vries said Basner made the call right as he threw. But none of us saw it.

3. Not so fast. Aaron Hicks is still the favorite to go north with the team as the starting center fielder. He's batting .302 and was all over the outfield on Thursday. But Darin Mastroianni was 2-for-4 with a double and stolen base. He's now batting .429 this spring. There's still plenty of baseball left, and Mastroianni is not making the Twins' decision cut and dry - even if we all expect Hicks to be out there on Opening Day.
 

Bonus: Sano thoughts. Miguel Sano hit two long home runs during batting practice. One hit halfway up the scoreboard in left. The other hit halfway up the batter's eye in center. His bat speed is tremendous, so you can see why he's a great power hitting prospect.

He also booted grounders during pre-game work, not a good sign. But when the bright lights came on, he made two nice backhanded plays, including one in the seventh in which the ball looked like it bounced softly into a pillow. Twins manager Ron Gardenhire was satisfied with Sano's positioning, one thing the Twins are trying to get him to improve on.  All the skills are there for him to be a solid third baseman - barring any more growth spurts.And, no, he's not getting called up this year. He's 19. Let him develop. But if you ask me the same question a year from now, the answer could be different.

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