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.

Battle for rotation spot heats up as Twins beat Yankees 7-3

Posted by: La Velle E. Neal III Updated: March 14, 2014 - 5:40 PM

The big news of the day is that the Perkolator has signed with the Twins through 2017 with a club option for 2018. It's a good move for Perk in an era in which some teams believe closers are dispensable.

But a few things went on in Tampa during the Twins' 7-3 win over the Yankees that are worth noting.

Kyle Gibson kept his hat in the ring for a spot in the rotation despite giving up three runs in the first inning. The first batter should have been thrown out at second by Oswaldo Arcia, but Danny Santana let the throw get though his legs. That jump-started the Yankees inning, during which Gibson threw 29 pitches.

``He got two strikes on two hitters in a row but he couldn't finish off a hitter and they double,'' Twins manager Ron Gardenhire said. ``That was disappointing, but we missed the ball and gave them three runs.

``The ball was coming out of his hand with a good angle. I thought he had above average stuff.''

Gibson said his slider was in and out on Friday and that his hard sinker bailed him out time and time again. Catcher Josmil Pinto said they decided to go to the sinker in key moments, with great results.

So Gibson, with a 3.00 ERA this spring remains in the battle for a spot in the rotation. Samuel Deduno might be in the driver's seat right now as he's allowed one earned run in 92/3 innings and is showing no effects from offseason shoulder surgery.

I wasn't in Gardy's office after Thursday's game, so I asked him about Deduno today.

Me: ``What did you think about Deduno?''

Gardy: ``What did YOU think?''

Me: ``I thought he was filthy.''

Gardy: ``I did too. I think I've said that every time that he's thrown.  Dominant stuff. First pitch strike, breaking ball, hammers. He had it all yesterday. That was nasty.''

That tells you what the manager is thinking about as camp battles heat up. Look for Deduno to be moved into a starting role in the next few days for more evaluation.

Other stuff

Chris Colabello was 2-for-5 with 2 RBI singles - both coming with two outs. That was severely lacking last season. Colabello is batting .409 this spring and leads the team with 7 RBI.

Danny Santana, was Danny Santana. He was 2-for-3 with a double and run scored but missed Arcia's throw in the first. That's the second straight game Santana has flubbed a play.

Caleb Thielbar pitched a 1-2-3 fifth inning, that included getting Jacoby Ellsbury to fly out and Brian Roberts to strike out.

Finally, Kirby Puckett would have been 54 today. Didn't get to know him very well when I moved to the Twin Cities in 1997 (he had his circle of close friends) but we got along fine. But who didn't with Puck? RIP, No. 34.


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