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.
HOUSTON -- Josh Willingham, whose 61 home runs over the past three seasons are the most by any Twins player, has been traded to the Kansas City Royals two months before his contract was to expire, the team announced shortly before game time Monday.
In exchange for the 35-year-old outfielder, the Twins receive righthanded pitcher Jason Adam, a 23-year-old native of Overland Park, Kansas, who has been pitching this season for Class AAA Omaha. Adam, a fifth-round selection in the 2010 draft, has been a starter throughout his career until reaching Triple-A, where he has posted a 2.35 ERA in eight appearances as a reliever. Adam will be assigned to Class AA New Britain.
The Twins used Willingham's roster spot to activate Joe Mauer from the disabled list. Mauer is in the lineup tonight for the first time since suffering a strained oblique muscle on July 1.
Willingham smacked 35 home runs in 2012, his first season after signing a three-year, $21 million contract with the team. But like Kevin Correia, who was dealt to the Dodgers on Saturday, he was unlikely to remain with the Twins beyond this season, so he was traded to a contender. The Royals, who have won seven straight games, currently lead the race for the second AL wild-card spot.
OAKLAND, Calif. -- After watching one newcomer make his first start, the Twins made room for another.
Tommy Milone, acquired from the A's at the trade deadline, will start for the Twins on Monday in Houston, replacing Kevin Correia, who was traded to the Los Angeles Dodgers during Saturday's game, the team announced afterward.
The Twins will receive a player to be named later or cash in the transaction.
Corriea, signed to a two-year, $10 million contract in December 2012, gave the Twins 314 innings for their money, posting a 4.49 ERA and a 14-26 record in 54 starts for Minnesota. His 13 quality starts this season (after providing 16 more in 2013) were tied for the most on the Twins, despite a 5-13 record and 4.94 ERA.
"He's been a pleasure. He's very professional, a guy that's going to be missed out there," manager Ron Gardenhire said. "Last year, he was our best pitcher, our most consistent pitcher. And this year, I know he had some ups and downs, but he always seemed to give us a chance."
For Correia, who turns 34 next month, it's a chance to go back home to California. The San Diego native has pitched for the Giants and Padres, so he knows the NL West well. But he said he wasn't looking to leave, though going to a first-place team is intriguing.
"It's always tough leaving guys you've played with for awhile, they've become good friends," he said. "But it will be nice to go somewhere and play some important baseball games at the end of the year. It's a place I'm familiar with, so it's exciting."
The move was made in order to add Milone to the rotation, joining Saturday's starter Trevor May in a revamped fivesome. Milone, a 27-year-old lefthander, allowed only one run in his debut for AAA Rochester last week, and considering he has a career 3.84 ERA in 80 major-league games, including a 6-3 record and 3.55 ERA this year for the Athletics, the Twins didn't want to wait to add him.
"We're going to get him up here. He pitched really well for his start in Triple-A. We did that to see where we're going, and we've made a spot now, and he's going to get the ball," Gardenhire said. "We're excited to have him. We know he can pitch in the big leagues."
The manager said he was happy for Correia, too, since the Dodgers have the best record in the National League. "He's going to a team in a pennant race, which is good. He deserves that," Gardenhire said. "And [to] California, where he can play a lot of golf. He likes that, too."
The Twins are indeed sellers at Thursday's non-waiver trade deadline, but they have acquired a pitcher with major-league experience, not a minor-league prospect, in the deal.
Tommy Milone, who has a 3.55 ERA in 16 major-league starts this season, has been acquired from the Oakland A's, the Twins announced Thursday morning, about five hours before the 3 p.m. deadline. In exchange, the Twins will return outfielder Sam Fuld to Oakland, where he started this season before being waived in April.
To fill Fuld's spot on the roster, the Twins have summoned Class AA first baseman Kennys Vargas from New Britain. Vargas, a switch-hitter who played on the international team in the Futures Game at Target Field earlier this month, has 17 home runs and 63 RBIs for the Rock Cats. He'll wear uniform No. 19.
Milone, a 27-year-old lefthander who was optioned to Class AAA Sacramento on July 5, will be assigned to Class AAA Rochester for the time being. Milone was likely available, and Fuld coveted by Oakland, after the A's acquired left-hander Jon Lester from Boston on Thursday in a deal that sent outfielder Yoenis Cespedes to the Red Sox.
The Twins are happy to accept the fallout from that deal, because Milone, drafted in the 10th round by the Nationals in 2010, has already had major-league success. He has a 3.84 ERA in 78 starts over four big-league seasons, winning 13 games in 2012 and 12 more last season.
He lost his starting job not because of poor pitching this season -- Milone's 3.55 ERA this year is better than any current Twins starter -- but because the A's, loading their pitching staff with veteran stars for a postseason run, acquired All-Star righthander Jeff Samardzija from the Cubs earlier this month. After starting the season 0-3, Milone won six consecutive decisions, and in his final start for Oakland, he shut out Toronto on four hits over six innings on July 4.
Milone hasn't been as good since being demoted to Sacramento, posting a 6.43 ERA in 21 innings over four starts, which is likely why he is being assigned to Rochester rather than joining the Twins right away.
Vargas, whose 24th birthday is Friday, is a David Ortiz lookalike, and views the Red Sox slugger as a mentor, having spent time with him during training camp in Fort Myers, Fla. He is capable of tape-measure home runs, but he's also never posted a on-base percentage lower than .344 in the minor leagues. Vargas served a 50-game suspension in 2012 after testing positive for performance-enhancing drugs.
Fuld spent a little more than three months with the Twins, including a stint on the concussion disabled list after a collision with the center field wall, and was the team's hottest hitter over the past three weeks. He reached base in 18 of his last 22 games with the Twins, batting .358 with a .476 on-base percentage over that span. In 56 total games with Minnesota, the 33-year-old Fuld, who was claimed by the Twins on April 20 after being waived by Oakland, batted .274 with one homer and 17 RBIs.
His departure leaves the Twins short on experienced center fielders. Danny Santana, a converted shortstop, has handled the position for most of the past two months, but with Fuld gone, none of the Twins' other options -- Chris Parmelee, Eduardo Nunez, Eduardo Escobar -- figure to be a reliable backup.
The Pirates on Saturday sent former second-round pick Duke Welker to the Twins to complete the Justin Morneau trade.
Welker, a righthanded reliever, appeared in two games for Pittsburgh last season, pitching 1 1/3 scoreless innings. The 6-foot-7 former Seminole State pitcher, drafted in the second round in 2005, had a 3.57 ERA with 65 strikeouts and 31 walks in 63 innings for Class AAA Indianapolis in 2013. He is expected to compete for a spot in the Twins' bullpen next spring.
"He's got a good slider he likes to use a lot," said Alex Presley, the outfielder who was also acquired Aug. 31 in exchange for Morneau. "He's a two-pitch guy who runs it up there 96, 97 [mph]. He's had one of the better years of his career this year, and he's building off that."
The Twins and Pirates agreed at the time of the trade on a group of players that the final player traded would be drawn from. The choice of which one to send to Minnesota was Pittsburgh's general manager Terry Ryan said.
I'm not sure if Justin Morneau knew he was about to be traded when he spoke after Friday night's game, his last, as it turned out, as a Twin (for now?). He told one of his teammates he had an inkling it was coming, and he didn't see at all worried about the possibility in the wake of his game-winning home run.
"If it happens, I'm going to somebody who wants me and feels they can use me in a pennant chase or a playoff drive. And if not, I'm here and I know I'll be here for the rest of the year," Morneau said. "Either way, it's a good situation."
Turned out to be the former, and Morneau hustled out of town once he got the news. He rode the Twins' bus to Rangers Ballpark, gathered his belongings, said his goodbyes, and caught a flight to Pittsburgh, where he was in the dugout by the sixth inning.
"You try to get here as quick as you can because you want to be a part of this," Morneau told reporters, according to the Associated Press.
But he didn't forget where he came from, either. In a classy gesture, Morneau wrote a message to Minnesotans that he hoped to run as a full-page newspaper ad. In it, he thanks the Twins and their fans, and even apologizes for not bringing a World Series title to Minneapolis.
"I was a wide-eyed 22-year-old kid when I made my big-league debut in 2002. I received a warm welcome that day and have felt welcomed ever since," he wrote. "... I am sorry that during my time here, we weren't able to achieve our ultimate goal of winning the World Series, but I will forever carry many wonderful memories of my time here. I will always cherish every day I was lucky enough to play in front of your fans in a Minnesota uniform."
A lot of athletes might express those sentiments, and you would roll your eyes. Morneau always seemed sincere, however, and was the best player on the team, every year, at looking at the long view, at talking about the future and where the franchise is headed, and not just today's game.
And he genuinely felt a part of something bigger than himself. You could hear it when I asked him last night about passing Tony Oliva on the franchise's all-time home run list.
"This is an organization with a good history, a pretty long history. We've got Hall of Famers and retired numbers, and to pass one of the greatest Twins of all time, it's a really good feeling," Morneau said.
Oliva is around the clubhouse a lot, and that's why being linked with him, Morneau said, "is something really special. [Oliva] is a guy who's always around. He's always got a smile. It means a lot."
CHICAGO -- When the Twins signed Jamey Carroll before the 2012 season, it was with the hope that he would act as a teacher and stabilizer for a young infield trying to fight its way into the playoffs.
The Twins were never good enough for that to happen, though. So on Sunday, they decided to let him try to fill that role for the Royals.
Carroll, a 39-year-old utility infielder, was traded to Kansas City shortly after the Twins' 5-2 victory over Chicago, in return for a player to be named later or cash. But what comes back from the Royals, who entered the day 4 1/2 games out of a wildcard spot, didn't matter much to the Twins.
"This is about an opportunity for Jamey," assistant general manager Rob Antony said. "... We weren't going to let anything stand in the way of letting him have the opportunity."
With the Twins determined to devote playing time to young players, Carroll has sat largely unused this season, starting only 46 games including Sunday. He batted .230 this season, and was so marginalized on a team that is playing for 2014 and beyond, he volunteered to pitch an inning last Monday against, coincidentally enough, the Royals. "That's when [the Royals] knew he was a true utility guy -- he can play anywhere," Antony joked. But more seriously, he said, "he'll be missed in this clubhouse."
And vice versa. "I love these guys in this room. I've had a lot of fun, got a lot of great friends that I'll have for a long time," Carroll said between hugs with his teammates. "It's going to be a little different to be on the other side. I know [Kansas City] is a good young ballclub that's playing very well, so it's exciting to go and be in that situation."
The Twins will fill Carroll's roster spot before Monday night's game against Cleveland at Target Field, Antony said.
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