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.

Three Twins postgame thoughts from LEN3: Big Papi, Hicks, Tonkin

Posted by: La Velle E. Neal III Updated: May 15, 2014 - 12:10 AM

Here are three thoughts following the Twins 9-4 loss to Boston:

ORTIZ: Anthony Swarzak lost a battle with David Ortiz last year in Boston when he tried to come inside and Ortiz was waiting for it and roped a double down the line. On Wednesday, Swarzak brushed Ortiz back with a fastball to open up the outer half of the plate. Sure enough, he threw a fastball away and got the strikeout. Tuesday, Ricky Nolasco tried to pitch away without coming inside. Ortiz pulled a pitch for homer and later hit a RBI single. If a pitcher doesn't have a blazing fastball (especially those), he has to pitch hard inside or hitters will cover the outside part of the plate. That's the plan the Twins had coming into the series and most Twins pitchers have failed to execute it. Gardenhire wants his pitching staff to focus on what Swarzak did to Ortiz in the sixth, if they can't remember the game plan. ``We actually threw a ball in,'' Gardenhire said. ``It was amazing. He actually moved (Ortiz's) feet and we threw one outside and he didn't hit it. Amazing.''

HICKS ON HOT SEAT: Wow. Couldn't believe Gardenhire and Rob Antony before the game calling out Aaron Hicks for his poor preparation skills. Antony actually said he thinks Hicks goes to the plate without a plan sometimes. It's hard to learn how to be a good major leaguer, but those comments pretty much outed Hicks for his pre-game routine. When things get to this point, it means several people have tried to get Hicks to change his ways, without success. Hicks apparently worked his tail off before the game today, so maybe Gardy's words got through. The one hammer the Twins don't have here is a ticket to Rochester. Hicks is the only healthy centerfielder. Sam Fuld is going to be out a while longer with a concussion. So Hicks has to stay in the majors. The only hammer Gardy has is playing Danny Santana in center when he can. That should be enough of a message to Hicks, shouldn't it. Wow. The 2008 first-round pick. Loaded with talent. But it's not showing up in games.

TONKIN TOO? The Twins are going to go down to 12 pitchers before they head to San Diego and San Francisco next week. Michael Tonkin might be the one to go to Rochester to make that happen. Tonkin gave up two unearned runs on one hit and two walks. This is after he gave up three runs on Tuesday in two-thirds of an inning. I spoke with him briefly after the game. He feels fine. His slider isn't as sharp as he wants it, but he's still gotten people out with it in the past. Gardy has a different view. ``He's over-throwing the baseball,'' Gardy said. ``He's not throwing the breaking ball. You have to go out and tell him to spin the ball a little bit.''



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