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.
PORT ST. LUCIE -- Spring training games often don't include extra innings, particularly if the visitors have used all their pitching and have a long bus ride ahead. That's why the Twins accepted their third tie in a week on Saturday, after a game played in beautiful 80-degree weather at Tradition Field.
One guy who could have used a few more innings of work, perhaps, is shortstop Danny Santana. The 23-year-old Dominican is likely headed to Class AAA Rochester, but looks like the Twins' future at shortstop.
If he can tighten his grip on the ball.
For the third consecutive day, Santana misplayed a ball in the field, this time dropping a throw from first baseman Chris Colabello after pitcher Scott Diamond picked off Mets outfielder Matt den Dekker. Diamond was already a step or two toward the dugout when Santana dropped the ball and pounded his glove into the dirt in frustration, but he had no trouble ending the inning a couple pitches later.
Manager Ron Gardenhire, eager to get starter Pedro Florimon back on the field, said Santana's troubles are typical of a young shortstop. "He's always trying to be too quick. He was trying to be too quick on the tag and the ball comes out," Gardenhire said. "Yesterday, same thing. Try to be too quick on the tag and misses the ball. He has good at-bats, makes some great throws. But the [requirement] is slowing the game down and making all the routine plays and getting the outs you're supposed to. He's got to work on that."
Working on fundamentals helps. Just look at the play Chris Parmelee made in the fourth inning, Gardenhire said. Antony Swarzak relieved Diamond with two outs and runners on first and second, and gave up a sharp single to Mets outfielder Brian Burgamy.
But Parmelee came up with the ball quickly and whistled a one-hop throw to the plate, where catcher Eric Fryer easily tagged out Anthony Recker.
"Very nice. Heck of a throw. That's what you'e got to do," Gardenhire said of Parmelee's throw. "We've been working on that stuff enough, you'd better throw it perfect."
That's it from the Atlantic side of Florida for today. Back tomorrow from Hammond Stadium.
PORT ST. LUCIE, Fla. -- The Twins are conducting a competitioin for the center field job. Or so Ron Gardenhire has heard.
But the Twins' spring schedule has been a little travel-centric this spring, with five bus rides of roughly two hours or more already, trips that only about half the players make at a time. Tired of simply reading reports about his possible center fielders, the Twins' manager brought all four potential contenders with him today, and two of them will be in the starting lineup.
Aaron Hicks will start in center (and bat second, a little unusual) while Darin Mastroianni starts in left. They'll play five innings, then give way to Alex Presley and Jermaine Mitchell, all so Gardenhire can better gauge where each stands with two weeks remaining in spring camp.
Oh, and that unusual batting order? It's so Jason Bartlett can lead off and get as many plate appearances as possible. The Twins are waiting for Bartlett to show he can still hit -- "We're looking for some veteran leadership on this team," Gardenhire said of the 34-year-old infielder -- but he's now 0-for-19 in camp. He hit a couple of balls hard yesterday, but both were caught; Gardenhire said he hopes that Bartlett is beginning to regain some confidence.
Here are the lineups for Saturday's game with the Mets (or what Mets are left; much of the team is in Las Vegas for a weekend exhibition series against the Cubs):
den Dekker RF
FORT MYERS, Fla. -- It's only an exhibition game, and it's only a one-day visit, but Friday figures to be a fun day for Mike Kvasnicka.
The former Gopher, a Lakeville native and North High grad, will wear the uniform of his hometown team today, after being called up to supplement the Twins' roster for a noon CDT game against the Orioles in Hammond Stadium.
Kvasnicka, the 33rd overall pick in the 2010 draft, was acquired by the Twins last spring in a trade with Houston, and he spent last season here in Hammond Stadium, playing for the Class A Miracle. Today, he'll likely take over in the outfield for Josh Willingham or Darin Mastroianni in the fifth inning or so, after the regulars get three at-bats.
The Twins needed Kvasnicka and a couple of other minor leaguers -- shortstop Aderlin Mejia and outfielder Brad Nelson -- to fill out the roster today, since half the team, along with manager Ron Gardenhire, boarded buses at 7:30 this morning and left for Tampa, where the split squad will face the Yankees at Steinbrenner Field.
Mike Pelfrey gets the start here, and Matt Guerrier, recovering from forearm surgery, is scheduled to pitch in his first true exhibition game. Kyle Gibson is starting against the Yankees. Check La Velle Neal's blog for updates from there.
Here are the starting lineups here in Fort Myers:
And here is the Twins' lineup against the Yankees in Tampa:
PORT CHARLOTTE, Fla. -- Ricky Nolasco will be on the mound for the first time since March 2, and Scott Diamond will try to right himself after a couple of so-so outings today. But it's the players who aren't here for the noon CDT game with the Rays that are most notable.
Aaron Hicks and Oswaldo Arcia, both of whom had been expected to be back in the lineup today, stayed back in Fort Myers. And while manager Ron Gardenhire downplayed their absence, I wonder if he is a little annoyed that they aren't playing again.
"I can't take a chance on them coming here, working out and all of a sudden they feel something" and can't play, Gardenhire said. "I don't have enough people for that. ... Hopefully they'll be ready to go tomorrow."
Wednesday will mark eight days since either player appeared in the Twins' lineup, and Hicks hasn't played in the outfield since March 3, a long stretch for a player trying to earn a job. Arcia suffered what he believes is food poisoning, and Hicks felt tightness in his throwing elbow, knocking them out of action for a week.
"Arcia reported yesterday that he still feels a little something, but he thinks it's going to be OK. And Hicks, we haven't heard a word. He wasn't in when we left, or I haven't seen him," Gardenhire said. The center fielder was observed working in the batting cages Tuesday morning, but apparently didn't relay word of his status to the coaching staff. "Both of them need to hit on the field and tell me they're OK," Gardenhire said. With three straight home games coming up after today, he said he hopes that they'll play this week, ideally tomorrow against Pittsburgh.
Matt Guerrier makes his spring debut today in a minor league game back in Fort Myers, where Glen Perkins and Jared Burton are also scheduled to pitch. As for this game, here are the starting lineups, with the Twins set to face Tampa Bay ace David Price:
E. Escobar SS
Y. Escobar SS
UPDATE: The first replay in major-league (exhibition) history took place in the bottom of the sixth inning Monday, when umpire Fieldin Culbreth ruled that Toronto first baseman Jared Goedert's foot was not on the bag as Chris Rahl crossed first base. Blue Jays manager John Gibbons challenged the call, and the matter was turned over to umpire Brian O'Nora, who was stationed in a nearby TV truck.
Culbreth donned a headset next to the Jays' dugout, and O'Nora, after watching video of the play, told him the call should stand. The process took 2 minutes, 34 seconds (from the end of the play to the ruling). Rahl, the Twins' reserve outfielder, remained on first base and shortstop Munenori Kawasaki was charged with an error.
Two innings later, the umpires chose to review another close play at first, when Will Little ruled that Doug Bernier had beaten out a slow roller. Gibbons, who no longer had a challenge to exercise, came out to argue, or at least urge the umpires to call for a review themselves, as they can do from the seventh inning on. They obliged, and Culbreth, now stationed in the replay truck, upheld Little's call.
The Twins will become part of baseball history today in Hammond Stadium, where their game with the Blue Jays will be the first ever played under baseball's new replay challenge rule. Terry Steinbach is managing the split-squad game (Ron Gardenhire is in Sarasota), and he's been encouraged to use his challenge in order to test the new system.
The logistics are a little different than they will be during the season -- most notably, the challenge umpire will be watching the game from an MLB satellite truck behind the stadium, rather than in a central control room in New York -- but the idea is the same. Managers can challenge one call during the first seven innings, and if the umpire's call is overturned, that manager will be able to challenge one more call. From the seventh inning on, the umpires will decide whether to ask the replay umpire for a ruling.
Each team is allowed to have one representative watching the game and communicating with the dugout about whether to challenge a call. For the Twins, video coordinator Sean Harlin will handle the duties, normally from an office in whatever ballpark they're in. For today, Harlin will be working from a special monitor near the satellite trucks; he'll have a walkie-talkie to communicate with coach Paul Molitor in the dugout.
There are only four TV cameras broadcasting from Hammond Stadium, rather than the 10 that MLB will have to choose from in Target Field and other major-league stadiums. But it will be interesting to see how the system works (and how frequently the rule is invoked), starting today. This is the only game using the system in Florida today, though most parks will be using it within the few days.
On the field, Kevin Correia gets the start for the Twins, and he'll be followed in some order by Kyle Gibson, Brian Duensing, Casey Fien, Caleb Thielbar and Yohan Pino. The rest of the Twins' lineup:
And here is Toronto's lineup:
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