La Velle E. Neal III has covered baseball for the Star Tribune since 1998 (the post-Knoblauch era). Born and raised in Chicago, he grew up following the White Sox and hating the Cubs. He attended both the University of Illinois and Illinois-Chicago and began his baseball writing career at the Kansas City Star. He can be heard occasionally on KFAN radio, lending his great baseball mind to Paul Allen and other hosts. Mark Rosen borrows him occasionally for WCCO-TV.

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.

Countdown to Fort Myers

Posted by: La Velle E. Neal III Updated: February 10, 2010 - 7:47 AM

This photo (courtesy of Jerry Holt) is from the first workout last year. We're just days away from many images like this one coming from Fort Myers, Fla., where the Twins will begin spring training 2010. Thanks to an offseason during which the Twins finally stayed away from the Sean Bergman, Butch Huskey, Bobby and Luis Ayala types and upgraded their roster which proven veteran talent, everyone heads to Florida with high expectations.

Based on the increasing amount of e-mails recently, it appears that Twins fans are ready to head down to spring training and catch their favorite squad.

Many of your e-mails have asked the same question: Will I present another dining/entertainment guide to spring training.

My answer: Do I have a choice?

My plan is post the guide right before pitchers and catchers report, so keep an eye out for it!

Meanwhile, any of you who have been to Fort Myers recently and have tips on new restaurants or other sights, please e-mail me at with your suggestions. I'm scheduled to fly down to Florida on Tuesday and will have time to, ahem, critique them.

I have been working on a big Sunday project (remember that trip I took last month?) and have left Joe C. to cover the breaking news. But here's a few things:

+I saw Jacque Jones at the winter meetings in Indianapolis last December, looking for a job. He didn't play in the majors at all in 2009  and seemed to have a hard time finding work. He needs to play to prove he belongs in the majors. It would take a rash of injuries for him to make the Opening Day roster.  If he gets off to a good start, I wouldn't be surprised if the Twins move him to a club that can use him in the majors.

It's true that Jones started 210 games in the center field for the Twins. And, in 1999, there were times when Jones was in center and Torii Hunter was a corner outfielder. Could Jones return to center now if Denard Span broke down? Don't know. All Jones could find last year was some at bats with the Newark Bears, so he's got to open some eyes that he can play at the top level again.

+Max Kepler passed his GED exam recently with flying colors, so now he's a full-time Twins prospect.

+Miguel Sano will report to camp with the rest of the Dominican players but will return home to rest for a week before playing in the Domincan Summer League. After a couple weeks, Sano will return to the States to play in the Gulf Coast League.

+Jorge Polanco, the other Latin bonus baby will do the same. Was told by a coach to keep an eye on Polanco, who is flying under the Sano radar. Polanco is projected as a true shortstop, whereas Sano will move to third and might end up in the outfield. Was also told that at least two teams offered more for Polanco than the Twins. Polanco, however, preferred the relationship he built with the Twins. That's another good reflection on their Latin American scout, Fred Guerrero. 

+Players are beginning to arrive in Florida to start workouts. That includes new Twins shortstop J.J. Hardy, who is catching up with his buddy Joe Mauer.


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