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.
FORT MYERS, Fla. -- It was an emotional day at Twins camp, where the last cuts are always the most difficult, with players who expected to make the cut receiving some bad news. Chris Parmelee and Scott Diamond, both popular teammates in the clubhouse, were sent out, while Alex Presley was the lucky one, allowed to stay in the majors when Houston claimed him off waivers.
Presley frustrated the Twins because he never really flashed the speed he clearly possesses, never made himself a base-stealing threat. "The one thing we wanted Presley to do is be aggressive," Gardenhire said. "He's just not one of those big base-stealers. He can be. He can run." But it never happened with the Twins.
Aggressiveness is the problem with Parmelee, too, assistant general manager Rob Antony said, but at the plate, not on the bases. After a strong start to the spring, the Twins watched Parmelee revert back to his passive habits as a hitter.
"Taking pitches, taking first-pitch strikes, fastballs down the middle. He needs to go up there with the mentality that he can do some damage, he can be aggressive," Antony said. "We're just looking for him to swing at a strike. Try and hit it hard. Take your chances. Go down swinging."
But the most unusual part of the day was the admission by the Twins that Jason Bartlett made the team for his leadership off the field as much as his play on it. He's batting just .083 this spring, yet convinced the Twins that he could transform the attitude in the clubhouse. That such a makeover was necessary -- that's something teams don't often admit.
"If you're not down in that clubhouse every day, you probably don't get a sense of it. But those guys live together every day, all year," Antony said. "The last few years, some guys just haven't gone about it the way you'd hope. And sometimes that environment can get a little stale. And you need some people who know how that environment should be."
That's Bartlett, the shortstop on the Twins' division title team in 2006 and on the Rays' World Series team in 2008, and an All-Star in 2009. "He's only got a few hits, but I'll say that in the second half, he looks completely different than the first half. He's drawn some walks, he's hit some balls hard lately. From day 1, he's fielded the ball well, he runs the bases well, he does a lot of things you look for. And that can help some other players."
It's just a guess, but I wonder if Bartlett will be quietly steered toward Aaron Hicks, to help him develop and keep good habits as he gets older. Hicks didn't have much help around him when he failed as a rookie last year, and having a leader like Bartlett might prevent some of those deep slumps.
"Leadership can be a difficult thing for a guy who's not a starter, but he's got the ability and the traits," Antony said. "He's been on winning teams, and he can bring it home into the clubhouse. That can help us be a better team."
ATLANTA -- The decision about the Twins' starting-rotation vacancy hinged, at least in part, on the Detroit Tigers. That's who Minnesota's next starter will face on Friday, the major leagues' highest-scoring team on its home field, and that's why Samuel Deduno was the choice.
"I know for a fact [the Tigers] don't like facing him," manager Ron Gardenhire said of the team's consensus choice to promote the 29-year-old Dominican, rather than righthanders Kyle Gibson or P.J. Walters, or lefthander Andrew Albers. "They've got a great hitting lineup, but Deduno, he's pretty filthy. He can scare the living fire out of you because he's going to wing it."
Deduno held the Tigers to three runs over seven innings last Aug. 14, then was shelled for seven runs in 2 1/3 innings in Detroit last September. But "we were looking for a chance to compete and win a ballgame," Gardenhire said, "and we thought he gives us the best chance right now."
Deduno has struck out 17 batters over 16 2/3 innings for Rochester this year, posting a 2.70 ERA after recovering from a groin injury.
Gibson is close, but the Twins are still concerned about his good game/bad game pattern, Gardenhire said. "They're looking for him to hopefully put together a few [strong] starts before we bring him up, because once you bring that guy up, you want him to be here and stay here," he said. "And right now, he's not quite there. That's the belief."
Deduno's schedule start on Tuesday was cancelled, and he threw a long bullpen session instead. He will fly to Detroit on Thursday night and will be activated on Friday, setting up a weeklong competition in the Twins' bullpen to avoid being the pitcher sent to Class AAA to make room.
Caleb Thielbar, who made his major-league debut on Monday, is the most likely candidate to go, but assistant general manager Rob Antony made it clear that the Twins have not made a decision on who will go, so Thielbar's two shutout innings against the Braves give him a fighting chance to stay in the majors.
Another possibility, of course, is that the Twins keep all eight relievers and send down a position player, going with a 13-man bullpen.
Speaking of potential roster moves, Gardenhire and Antony said they are well aware of how Chris Colabello is hitting in Rochester, and "we're looking at all kinds of options [about] how to give this kid a chance," Gardenhire said. "All I can tell Chris is, keep swinging, and something will shake itself out."
Colabello has done plenty of swinging -- he's batting .360 for the season, and .541 with four homers and 15 RBIs over his last 10 games. This week the Red Wings' first baseman began playing right field for the Red Wings, because "he's not going to play first base here," Gardenhire said. "You better figure out someplace we can play him before we bring him up here."
Tonight's lineups include a new element, at least for this season: Backup catcher Ryan Doumit is playing right field, the first time he's done that since May 4, 2012. It limits Gardenhire's maneuverability, because the Twins carry only two catchers; the manager won't be able to replace Doumit with a better fielder, because he needs him in case something happens to Joe Mauer. But the tradeoff was worth it, Gardenhire said, to get Doumit's bat in the lineup against Braves righthander Tim Hudson.
The Twins have had very little luck batting against Hudson in the past. Josh Willingham is 1-for-20 with seven strikeouts, Jamey Carroll is 1-for-11, Joe Mauer is 1-for-7 and Trevor Plouffe is 0-for-4.
One other small tweak to Minnesota's lineup: a day after batting Pedro Florimon seventh and Aaron Hicks eighth, Gardenhire flipped them back to his more normal order. "It just didn't feel right" having them bat in the other order on Monday, the manager said.
Tonight's lineups as the Twins, who have fallen into last place in the A.L. Central, try to break their six-game losing streak:
J. Upton LF
B.J. Upton CF
Tim Hudson RHP
(Update: Michael Cuddyer hit a second-inning home run and Nick Blackburn pitched eight shutout innings to give the Twins a 1-0 victory over Chicago. More details coming soon.)
Tsuyoshi Nishioka is batting third for the Twins today, and playing shortstop, for his Target Field debut.
Instead of moving Ben Revere and Alexi Casilla out of the top two spots in the lineup, Manager Ron Gardenhire has decided to slot Nishioka behind them.
Gardenhire said he wanted to leave Revere and Casilla alone in the 1-2 spots, "for sure," and also factored in the opposing pitcher (lefthander Mark Buehrle) as well as wanting to give Nishioka a chance to bat and settle his nerves in the first inning.
This, of course, will change Friday when Joe Mauer returns to the lineup.
* The Twins will have roster moves to announce after today's game, as Mauer and Glen Perkins will both be activated from the DL. So two players must head back to Rochester, and the Twins also must clear another spot on the 40-man roster with Mauer coming off the 60-day DL.
* Gardenhire said Joe Nathan definitely will be heading to Rochester for a rehab stint. Nathan will be at Target Field today to have his right elbow re-examined, but he's feeling good and champing at the bit.
WHITE SOX (33-36)
1. Juan Pierre, LF
2. Alexei Ramirez, SS
3. Carlos Quentin, RF
4. Paul Konerko, 1B
5. A.J. Pierzynski, C
6. Alex Rios, CF
7. Adam Dunn, DH
8. Gordon Beckham, 2B
9. Brent Morel, 3B
Starting pitcher: LH Mark Buehrle (6-4, 3.95 ERA)
1 Ben Revere, CF
2. Alexi Casilla, 2B
3. Tsuyoshi Nishioka, SS
4. Michael Cuddyer, RF
5. Delmon Young, DH
6. Luke Hughes, 1B
7. Danny Valencia, 3B
8. Rene Rivera, C
9. Jason Repko, LF
Starting pitcher: RH Nick Blackburn (5-4, 3.47 ERA)
Target Field. First pitch: 12:10 p.m. TV: FSN. Twins Radio Network
KANSAS CITY, MO. -- The Twins have acquired minor-league outfielder Jeremy Reed from the Brewers for future considerations and will assign him to Class AAA Rochester, the Star Tribune has learned
The Twins also made several roster moves after Thursday's game, and Reed is a distant part of the domino effect.
* Brian Dinkelman was promoted from Rochester as a left-handed bat off the Twins bench, with Trevor Plouffe getting sent back to Rochester.
* To add Dinkelman to the 40-man roster, the Twins moved Joe Mauer to the 60-day disabled list. Mauer would be eligible to return on June 12.
* Reed was acquired, in part, to give the depleted Rochester roster some help with all these players coming to the majors. He has major league experience with the Mariners, Mets, Blue Jays and Brewers.
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