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.
WASHINGTON -- Miguel Sano bid farewell to Class A baseball with a flourish on Sunday. And he wasn't the only one.
Sano, the Twins' top slugging prospect, hit two home runs during Fort Myers' 8-6 loss to Bradenton, then was informed that he had been promoted to Class AA New Britain. He'll head north along with Miracle teammates Eddie Rosario and Angel Morales -- each of whom also homered in their final Class A game.
Sano, a third baseman who was rated the Twins' top prospect by Baseball America, leaves the Miracle after batting .330 with a league-leading 16 home runs and 48 RBIs in just over two months in Fort Myers. Even better, said Twins' minor-league director Brad Steil, his defense has become more consistent.
"His range is improving. He made some pretty good plays the first couple of months, going across the third-base line and making some pretty impressive throws over to first," Steil said. "He's becoming more consistent."
Rosario, a former outfielder being converted to second base, "is becoming more comfortable over there every day," Steil said. "He's making a lot of plays there." Rosario, who batted .329 with six home runs and 35 RBIs, was benched for three games late last month for a violation of team rules, but Steil said that "is not something out of the ordinary."
Morales, a center fielder, was batting .297 with seven home runs and 36 RBIs.
To replace the trio, the Miracle activated Lakeville, Minn., native Mike Kvasnicka, an outfielder who has been sidelined all season with a broken hamate bone in his wrist, and first baseman Bryan Haar, who had been playing with the Twins' extended spring training team.
In another move, New Britain shortstop James Beresford was promoted to Class AAA Rochester. Beresford, who played for Team Australia in the World Baseball Classic in March, was batting .323 with 19 RBIs for the Rock Cats.
Camp grew more interesting on Monday, and warmer, too, once the sun came out. After yesterday's wet and windy workout, today dawned in the 30s, but was well into the 60s by the time the Twins finished working.
Mike Pelfrey was the star attraction of live BP, given his status as a likely starter -- and you can read more about him in Tuesday's Star Tribune -- but about a dozen more pitchers took the mound, too. As Pelfrey threw on the auxiliary field, Luis Perdomo unleashed his hard, sinking fastball on the main Hammond Stadium diamond. At one point, a coach looked at us writers near the dugout and described him with one word: "Filthy."
On the other hand, Justin Morneau has seen sinkers before. He timed one of Perdomo's pitches and launched it to the warning track in dead center field.
Mostly, however, hitters don't take many cuts on the first day, preferring instead to get their timing down after weeks without seeing full-speed pitching. Morneau probably swung at only three pitches in Perdomo's 10-minute throwing session, and Joe Mauer did the same. (There's also more on Mauer in tomorrow's paper, a story written by La Velle E. Neal III.)
A total of 15 pitchers threw full-speed on Monday, among them: Josh Roenicke, Michael Tonkin, P.J. Walters, Tyler Robertson, Caleb Thielbar, Ryan Pressly, Anthony Slama, Liam Hendriks, and Deolis Guerra.
I watched Trevor May throw, first time I'd seen the righthander acquired from Philadelphia in the Ben Revere trade, and was impressed. He's a big guy, 6-5 and thick, and he looked confident on the mound. I also watched Samuel Deduno take his turn, and he made one hitter (whom I couldn't see) swing and miss completely, unusual since the batters know what pitch is coming.
A handful of other sights at camp on Monday:
-- Joe Mauer took ground balls at first after the regular workout ended. He is also absolutely besieged by crowds of worked-up autograph seekers who shriek his name every time he walks by.
-- Tom Kelly gave private fielding lessons on a back field Monday, first to Miguel Sano, then to Jeff Clement.
-- Trevor Plouffe, bothered by a slightly strained calf, didn't take part in fielding drills for a second day.
-- The Twins closed the workout with baserunning drills, and nobody hustles on each one more than Darin Mastroianni.
The Twins signed Jared Burton and Casey Fien to minor-league deals last offseason and watched them turn into key members of this year’s bullpen. Maybe Tim Wood will do the same.
The Twins announced Saturday night that they’ve agreed to terms on a minor-league deal for Wood, who was named the International League’s best reliever this year by Baseball America.
Wood, who turns 30 next week, posted a 2.19 ERA and notched 21 saves in 54 appearances for Class AAA Indianapolis (Pirates), averaging 8.2 strikeouts and 3.0 walks per nine innings.
Two years ago, Baseball America’s scouting report on Wood said, “Despite his slender frame and unassuming appearance, Wood can run his fastball up to 94-95 mph with sink.”
He’s battled elbow and shoulder issues in his career but has shown promise when healthy. In 2009, he had a 2.82 ERA in 18 appearances for the Marlins, but over the next two years, he posted a 5.55 ERA in 39 combined appearances for the Marlins and Pirates.
The Twins also agreed to terms on a minor-league deal with catcher Eric Fryer, who batted .204 in 65 games for Class AAA Indianapolis.
Fryer, 27, has batted .267 in 16 career big league games, all with the Pirates. The Twins likely signed him to provide depth at Class AAA Rochester.
The Twins got the vote they wanted Tuesday morning, as the Lee County Board of Commissioners approved their renovation plans for their spring training facility in Fort Myers, Fla.
The Commissioners voted 3-1, with one abstaining, in favor of a plan that will give Hammond Stadium and the surrounding facilities a $42.5 million facelift. Under the agreement, the Twins have agreed to a new 30-year lease that would keep them in Fort Myers through 2045.
Hammond Stadium’s seating capacity will increase from 8,000 to 9,300, with wider concourses, renovated concession stands and restrooms, a 360-degree walkway for fans around the field, and more shaded areas. The outfield wall will be re-designed with the same dimensions the Twins have at Target Field.
The Twins are paying $3.9 million to build an on-site dormitory that will include 55 sleeping rooms for players and staff. The Lee County Sports Complex will feature an additional practice field, a new weight room on the major league side of the complex and add a hydrotherapy area. Besides being used for spring training, the 55 dorm rooms will house the Twins' Class A Florida State League affiliate and rookie-level Gulf Coast League affiliate, both based in Fort Myers.
The Twins named Brad Steil their new minor-league director today, removing the interim tag they gave him after Jim Rantz announced his retirement last month. Steil was the team’s director of baseball operations for the previous five seasons.
The Twins also filled their head trainer position, promoting longtime assistant Dave Pruemer into the lead role. Pruemer replaces Rick McWane, who was fired after eight years on the job. Tony Leo was named assistant athletic trainer, and Lanning Tucker was named assistant athletic trainer and rehab coordinator.
Meanwhile, Twins pitching prospect Kyle Gibson has been tabbed to start in Saturday night’s Rising Stars Game in the Arizona Fall League. Twins relief prospect Michael Tonkin also was picked for the game, which will be televised live on MLB Network at 7 p.m.
The Twins spring training home in Fort Myers, Fla., would get a $45.5 million facelift, to renovate Hammond Stadium and enhance the surrounding facilities, with the team agreeing to a new 30-year lease, under a proposal presented today to the Lee County Board of County Commissioners.
Hammond Stadium’s seating capacity would increase from 8,000 to 9,300, with wider concourses, renovated concession stands and rest rooms, a 360-degree walkway for fans around the field, and more shaded areas.
The Twins would pay $13.8 million toward the project, partly through an increase in rent from $300,000 to $500,000 per year, and through the construction of an on-site dormitory that would include 55 sleeping rooms for players and staff. The rest of the tab would be paid through a county bond issue, with the state of Florida kicking in $15 million over the course of the 30-year lease.
The Lee County Commissioners are scheduled to vote on the matter Nov. 6, and a report in the Fort Myers New Press quoted one commissioner who expects the measure to pass 4-to-1.
Bill Smith, the Twins former general manager who now works as a special assistant to the team’s president and GM, has been the Twins point person on the project and played a central role in the planning when the Lee County Sports Complex first opened for the Twins in 1991.
“We’re excited, we’re pleased,” Smith said. “We think there’s a very good package of improvements to the ballpark that will make this thing one of the best in the game.”
The new lease would take effect when the renovation is completed, and Smith said the Twins hope that’s in time for spring training in 2015.
The plans would add an additional practice field, build a new weight room on the major league side of the complex and add a hydrotherapy area.
“We have a great complex now, but it’s 22 years old, and there’s a lot of it that needs to be refreshed and remodeled,” Smith said. “And in addition to that, there’s a lot of things that have changed in the game over the last 22 years.”
Smith said the Tigers and Pirates are among the teams that have on-site dormitories in their spring training facilities.
The Twins want 55 rooms because that is a number they would use throughout the season with their Class A Florida State League affiliate and rookie-level Gulf Coast League affiliate both based in Fort Myers. During spring training, older minor-league players would still stay in local hotels.
“It’s much more than sleeping rooms,” Smith said. “It’s dining facilities which allow us to improve nutrition across the board in spring training and year-round for rookie players and our instructional league players.
“It’s meeting rooms and classrooms to help us improve education across the board for all players, not just for teaching English to foreign players.”
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