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.

Willingham traded to KC for AAA pitcher

Posted by: Phil Miller under MLB, Major league trades Updated: August 11, 2014 - 6:02 PM

    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.

    

Twins have a one-man bench today vs. A's

Posted by: Phil Miller under MLB Updated: August 10, 2014 - 2:00 PM

    OAKLAND, Calif. -- Backup catcher Eric Fryer might end up in the outfield today, Twins manager Ron Gardenhire said, and he wasn't kidding. The Twins are shorthanded once more as they wrap up a four-game series in O.co Coliseum due to a couple of minor injuries.

    Third baseman Trevor Plouffe fouled a pitch off his left ankle during his first at-bat on Saturday, then immediately lined an RBI single to give the Twins an early lead. (He said he was striking a blow for USC against A's starter Jeff Samardzija, a Notre Dame alum.) The foot hurt during the rest of the game, then swelled up overnight. It's too sore to play on today, he said, and the foot will x-rayed before the game.

    Meanwhile, Oswaldo Arcia is still bothered by soreness in his lower back, although he said it's greatly improved today. He injured it while swinging at a pitch during his next-to-last at-bat on Friday night, and made it a little worse on his final at-bat. But he'll hit in the cage today, he said, and believes he'll be OK to play Monday in Houston.

    Still, that leaves the Twins with a one-man bench today: Fryer. "He can play a lot of places if we need him to," the manager shrugged.

    The Twins are expected to add one more healthy player to the roster after the game, as Joe Mauer wraps up his rehab stint in Cedar Rapids. Barring a setback, Mauer should meet the team in Houston for tomorrow's game. How the Twins make room for him remains to be seen; I thought perhaps a disabled-list move was ahead for one of the two injured players, but after talking to them, neither seemed to think they'll need more than a day or so. X-rays could change that, though.

    The Twins are trying to snap a 12-game losing streak to the A's, and they'll have their best starting pitcher, Phil Hughes, facing Oakland's worst, Jason Hammel. Here are the lineups:

 

TWINS

 

Santana CF

Dozier 2B

Suzuki C

Vargas 1B

Willingham DH

Parmelee RF

Nunez 3B

Escobar SS

Schafer LF

 

Hughes RHP

 

A's

 

Crisp DH

Fuld CF

Donaldson 3B

Moss LF

Vogt 1B

Reddick RF

Jaso C

Callaspo SS

Sogard 2B

 

Hammel RHP

Postgame: Twins' rotation getting revamped

Posted by: Phil Miller under MLB Updated: August 10, 2014 - 1:20 AM

The Twins will save about $1.5 million of Kevin Correia's salary by sending him to the Dodgers, but that's not the most valuable thing they were looking to get from Saturday's trade. They wanted the roster spot, and even more important, the rotation spot. They want to see if Tommy Milone can pitch like he did with Oakland this year, where he won six games and posted a 3.55 ERA -- lower than anyone in the Twins' rotation. (He also now cannot reach six years of service time until after the 2018 season, giving the Twins an extra year of control before he reaches free agency.) They also have Ricky Nolasco coming back next week, presuming Sunday's rehab start in Cedar Rapids goes well, and they are committed to giving Trevor May his shot, too. So even with Correia gone, the Twins have six starters in their rotation for the moment. Yohan Pino is 30 years old, probably not part of the team's longterm future, and has been OK, but not great, since joining the Twins. It's entirely possible he's pitching for his job Tuesday in Houston, and it's also possible that it might not matter much.

    As for Correia, he'll be remembered by the statistics he posted, which aren't particularly good, especially this season. But Ron Gardenhire said "he's been a pleasure, nothing but a pleasure," and that's a universal sentiment in the clubhouse. Correia's laid-back California demeanor made him all but impossible to fluster, a valuable trait in a clubhouse where the losing takes a toll. He also delivered exactly what the Twins were looking for when they signed him: Innings. He never lived up to the promise of his first month with the team, when he went at least seven innings in all five starts and posted a 2.23 ERA. But he rarely missed a turn, consumed 314 innings and while he was no ace, he did deliver 30 quality starts. "I know he had some ups and downs, but he always seemed to give us a chance," Gardenhire said.

    Correia also had nice things to say about his team, between goodbye hugs. "I enjoyed every minute of it. The guys on the team and the coaching staff, everyone was great," he said. "I wish we had won more games, obviously. But besides that, I couldn't have enjoyed my time any more in Minnesota and with this organization."

    The trade also had one other nice side effect: It served to deflect all of the postgame spotlight from Trevor May, who absolutely suffered through a nightmare debut. He walked seven batters, recorded only six outs and seemed to fall apart on the mound. But he stood up and answered questions after the game, which couldn't have been easy, either. "I missed a couple pitches to [Eric] Sogard there in the second [inning], and let things snowball a little bit," he said of his five-walk, three-run, 42-pitch inning. "When you're struggling to throw strikes, every pitch is a constant battle to get it back, and I didn't do a good job of that." He said he can learn from the experience, and he'll get a chance. Gardenhire made it clear that May will start when his turns comes up next, presumably Friday in Target Field against the Royals.

Twins add Milone to rotation, ship Correia to Dodgers

Posted by: Phil Miller under MLB, Major league trades Updated: August 10, 2014 - 12:34 AM

    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."

Big crowd expected as May makes debut

Posted by: Phil Miller under MLB Updated: August 9, 2014 - 6:18 PM

    OAKLAND, Calif. -- The interest in Trevor May's major-league debut is startlingly high. Hundreds of fans were lined up at the O.co Coliseum gates five hours before first pitch, and there's a festive mood in the stands during batting practice.

    OK, maybe the crowd thing has more to do with Tony LaRussa bobblehead night, but it's still going to be a fun atmosphere for May's first game. The A's may not draw the biggest crowds -- it's been 20,000 each of the first two nights -- but they do a good job of backing their team here, with soccer-style chants, flags and the swaying to the sax music of "Careless Whisper" when Josh Reddick bats.

    Maybe the mellow music will keep May from getting too keyed up, because he knows nerves are his biggest obstacle tonight. Well, nerves and the highest-scoring offense in the majors. May will be pitching to his Rochester teammate Eric Fryer, with Kurt Suzuki getting a night off before tomorrow's day game.

    Here are the lineups for tonight's game, as the Twins try to break an 11-game losing streak to Oakland:

TWINS

 

Santana CF

Dozier 2B

Plouffe 3B

Vargas DH

Willingham LF

Parmelee 1B

Escobar SS

Fryer C

Schafer RF

 

May RHP

 

A's

 

Crisp CF

Fuld LF

Donaldson 

Moss 1B

Norris C

Reddick RF

Lowrie SS

Vogt DH

Sogard 2B

 

Samardzija RHP

Postgame: Another big Twins homer drifts foul

Posted by: Phil Miller under MLB Updated: August 9, 2014 - 1:06 AM

    Three late-night leftovers from the home of baseball's best team:

    MISSED IT BY THIS MUCH: Second night in a row that the game has ended with Josh Willingham looking at a third strike, but this one was anticlimactic because of what preceded it. On the previous pitch, the Twins' slugger (and a former A's outfielder) pummeled a 95-mph fastball from Sean Doolittle into the left-field corner, a wallop that easily reached the seats, but clearly hooked foul. With Eduardo Escobar standing on first base, the blow would have put the Twins in front.  (Second night in a row that a critical home run strayed by a few feet; Brian Dozier's three-run near-home-run would have tied the game last night.) Instead, Doolittle froze Willingham with another fastball moments later, establishing a new Oakland A's record: 28 2/3 consecutive scoreless innings by the bullpen.

    WISH HIM WELL: It was a shame to see Chris Colabello go, but he had to know his days were numbered when the Twins decided to take a look at Kennys Vargas last week. Vargas was the cleanup hitter on Friday, hit a couple of hard line drives for hits, and looked increasingly like a player who will definitely be on next season's roster, likely as the designated hitter once Joe Mauer returns and Willingham departs. Colabello believes his statistics don't match the contact he's making at the plate these days, that he's had some bad luck, but it was clear he's not in the team's longterm plans. Still, what does it say about the Twins that he leaves after playing just 59 games -- and ranks fourth on the team in RBIs with 39, behind only Trevor Plouffe, Brian Dozier and Kurt Suzuki?

    A FEARSOME FOURSOME: The five members of the Athletics' starting rotation posed together on the O.co Coliseum mound Friday afternoon, a photo shoot before batting practice that, thankfully, the Twins didn't witness. These A's pitchers are scary enough one at a time. (OK, not the subpar Jason Hammel, but the other four are all All-Stars.) One night after Jon Lester throttled the Twins on three lonely singles, Scott Kasmir resumed his occasional torture of the same lineup. Kazmir retired the first 12 hitters he faced in order, and faced the minimum 18 hitters through six innings. Yes, he gave up even fewer hits through six (1) than Lester did (2) on Thursday. Next up? The Twins face Jeff Samardzija, who made the All-Star team as a Cub and has a 3.09 ERA so far with the A's. I don't know, maybe not letting the Coliseum fans dream about a no-hitter would be a good goal tomorrow. Fortunately for the Twins, they don't face Sonny Gray during this series.

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