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.
One week from today, the Twins will hold their first pitchers and catchers workout in Fort Myers, Fla., and from all reports, Francisco Liriano is raring to go.
The excitement for Liriano's 2010 season began building last winter, when the lefthander went 3-1 with a 0.49 ERA and a ton of strikeouts for Escogido in the Dominican Winter League playoffs.
Liriano spoke often about how much that helped restore his confidence after going 5-13 with a 5.80 ERA the previous year with the Twins.
He logged about 50 innings for Escogido, took a few weeks off, and then went through a full spring training, before pitching a career-high 191 2/3 innings for the Twins. When it came time to decide whether to let Liriano pitch winter ball again this year, the Twins declined.
"It was time for him to rest, and he understood that," Twins General Manager Bill Smith said.
Even though Liriano hasn't been pitching competitively, he's been working out and is said to be in good shape. Smith gets his reports from Fred Guerrero, a Twins scout who is based in the Dominican Republic.
"Francisco knows this is another big year for him," Smith said.
We'll see how Liriano responds to this week's news that the Twins are open to trading him. Like usual, Smith isn't touching that topic, but since writing this report, I've had team officials remind me that they'll listen to trade offers for anyone, not just Liriano.
I was also told that Liriano's camp did not specifically ask for a three-year, $39 million contract. I'd heard those numbers from a source but tried to be clear I couldn't be sure about the specifics. (Presumably, that would have been a three-year extension for Liriano added to this year's $4.3 million, which would give him a four-year deal similar to the ones Zack Greinke and Josh Johnson have signed in recent years.)
Again, I don't have the specifics. Apologies for the confusion, but the larger premise still holds: Long-term talks with Liriano have gone nowhere, he doesn't appear to be in the Twins plans past 2012, and they are open to trading him, as soon as next month.
* Tom Pelissero, with ESPN1500, heard from a source that the Rangers and Yankees are possible landing spots for Liriano.
* Over at FanGraphs, Dave Cameron analyzed the potential returns the Twins could get for Liriano, citing Shaun Marcum as the closest comparison. I had referenced the Matt Garza trade, but Cameron correctly notes that Garza can't become a free agent until after 2013.
* Many others have weighed in against the idea of the Twins trading Liriano. At TwinkieTown, Jesse Lund countered several of my points with interesting points of his own. Liriano relied more heavily on his slider last year because he was throwing the best slider in MLB, Lund wrote. I can't argue there. This definitely is a good debate that only figures to get more interesting as the Twins rotation begins taking shape in Florida.
The Twins are on the list of teams for which Rangers infielder Michael Young would approve a trade, but there is no chance that's going to happen now, a major league source said today.
This actually isn't the first time this scenario has come up. The Rangers and Twins have discussed a potential Young trade in previous years, but it wasn't a good fit financially for the Twins in years past, and certainly isn't now, with three years, $48 million remaining on his contract.
Young is a well-respected player, but many in the industry view him as vastly overpaid. The most likely outcome to this is that he'll remain with the Rangers, accepting a role as a roving infielder and DH who will still be in the lineup almost every day, just not at the same position.
The Twins added to their crop of experienced relief candidates today, claiming lefthanded pitcher Dusty Hughes off waivers from the Royals and designating righthander Rob Delaney for assignment.
Hughes, 28, went 1-3 with a 3.83 ERA for the Royals last season, with 24 walks and 34 strikeouts in 57 appearances, spanning 56 1/3 innings.
In 10 appearances against the Twins last season, Hughes posted a 2.03 ERA. This spring, Hughes will be competing for jobs with fellow Twins lefthanders Jose Mijares, Glen Perkins and Scott Diamond (Rule V draftee), along with non-roster invitees Chuck James and Phil Dumatrait.
"[Hughes] will just add to the competition for our bullpen spots," Twins General Manager Bill Smith said. "We lost a lot of guys that were with us at the end of the season, so we're adding to the depth."
On a side note, Delaney has been a delight to cover at spring training the past two years. There's hope he'll clear waivers and re-sign with the Twins. Here's a story about Delaney's unique offseason role, as a substitute teacher.
Also, here's an updated look at the Twins' 40-man roster:
Pitchers (21): Scott Baker, Nick Blackburn, David Bromberg, Alex Burnett, Matt Capps, Scott Diamond, Brian Duensing, Deolis Guerra, Eric Hacker, Jim Hoey, Dusty Hughes, Francisco Liriano, Jeff Manship, Jose Mijares, Joe Nathan, Pat Neshek, Carl Pavano, Glen Perkins, Anthony Slama, Kevin Slowey, Anthony Swarzak.
Catchers (2): Drew Butera, Joe Mauer.
Infielders (9): Alexi Casilla, Luke Hughes, Justin Morneau, Tsuyoshi Nishioka, Chris Parmalee, Trevor Plouffe, Jim Thome, Matt Tolbert, Danny Valencia.
Outfielders (8): Joe Benson, Michael Cuddyer, Jason Kubel, Jason Repko, Ben Revere, Denard Span, Rene Tosoni, Delmon Young.
Nick Punto's first choice was to re-sign with the Twins, and beyond that, he wanted to make sure he ended up with a contender.
When it became clear this week that the Twins were moving on, Punto struck quickly, signing a one-year, $750,000 deal with the St. Louis Cardinals. The Cardinals made the announcement today, with a quick reference for how to pronounce Punto's name (Poon-toh).
The Twins declined Punto's $5 million option, paying him a $500,000 buyout.
Punto, 33, batted .248 with a .323 on-base percentage and .324 slugging percentage over seven seasons with the Twins.
Carl Pavano is finally back in the fold.
The Twins announced that they've agreed to a two-year, $16.5 million contract with Pavano.
Pavano will make $8 million in 2011 and $8.5 million in 2012, with a chance to make $500,000 more in incentives for innings pitched in 2012.
Entering the offseason, there was talk that Pavano might command a three-year, $33 million contract similar to the one 35-year-old lefthander Ted Lilly signed with the Dodgers. The Twins got Pavano for exactly half that price.
Pavano, 35, went 17-11 with a 3.75 ERA last year, pitching a team-high 221 innings.
The move gives the Twins six candidates for their five starting rotation spots: Pavano, Francisco Liriano, Scott Baker, Nick Blackburn, Kevin Slowey and Brian Duensing.
Last year, Duensing opened the year in the bullpen, posting a 1.67 ERA in 40 relief appearances. Including his 13 starts, Duensing went 10-3 with a 2.62 ERA.
The Twins avoided arbitration with righthander Matt Capps, signing him to a one-year, $7.15 million contract, and lefthander Glen Perkins, signing him to a one-year, $700,000 contract.
Other potential arbitration cases include Delmon Young, Francisco Liriano and Kevin Slowey. The deadline for the sides to submit official offers was noon, and those figures will be released later this afternoon, unless these players reach agreement first.
Update: Here are the official arbitration figures:
Young: Team filed at $4.65 million. He filed at $6.25 million. (Midpoint is $5.45 million)
Liriano: Team filed at $3.6 million. He filed at $5.0 million. (Midpoint is $4.3 million)
Slowey: Team filed at $2.3 million. He filed at $3.1 million. (Midpoint is $2.7 million)
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