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.

Going off on a lot of stuff, Part I

Posted by: La Velle E. Neal III under Twins Farm System, On the road Updated: March 30, 2010 - 2:45 PM


Now back in Minnesota after six weeks in Florida, I'm working on some preview stuff for the weekend series against the Cardinals.

I have many opinions about what transpired during Spring Training 2010. Too many for one blog....

I expressed my thoughts on the Twins' decision on closing-by-committee on Monday. I don't think the Twins will end this season this way. I just feel it's better to name one person and make adjustments later than it is to have three people going to the park each day not knowing what their role is.
I hope the Twins understand that they can't wait two months to sort this out. They won't be able to pull off a late-season rally every year, and they'll lament the games they lost in April and May if they fall short of the postseason.

At the same time, their offense might be able to absorb the lack of a proven closer until the Twins figure out something more permanent. The Twins were fifth in runs scored last season and added  J.J. Hardy, Orlando Hudson and Jim Thome to the roster. When the Twins have had their `A' lineup in this spring, they looked pretty darn good. Or, as Larry David would say, ``pretty....pretTY...pretTY...pretaaaaay good.''
Hudson, batting between Denard Span and Joe Mauer, really sets up the lineup nicely. Span already is one of the best leadoff hitters in the game. And their No. 3 hitter isn't shabby.

Speaking of Hudson, one of the nation's best baseball writers, Joe Posnanski, interviewed Hudson for Sports Illustrated's 2010 preview on the Twins. The angle: Hudson's importance to the lineup. The preview hits the newsstands tomorrow.

Something has been bugging me, so I sent an e-mail to the great Nick confirmation of STATS, Inc., for confirmation. And I was right!
Here are the leaders in foul balls given up last season:

1. Justin Verlander, Det         825
2. Scott Baker, Min                 774
3. Cliff Lee, Cle-Phi               736
4. Randy Wolf, LAD                665
5. Edwin Jackson, Det           649

I'm guessing this is a result of Baker pitching up in the zone so much....

If Twins manager Ron Gardenhire is going to figure out ways to get Jim Thome's bat in the lineup against righthanders, should he figure out ways to get Brendan Harris in the lineup against lefties? (I'm expecting Punto to start at third).
Harris batted .287 against lefties last season with a .348 on base percentage. He hit 50 points higher and had a OPS 108 points higher vs lefties than righties last season. Just wondering.
Harris, by the way, has been a workout stallion this spring. Most players have been long gone from the park while Harris was still in the gym. The first day I was in Florida, I stopped by the park in the afternoon and watched him running while attached to a sled carrying 50 pounds.

The Twins have agreed to let a couple massage therapists come in during homestands and work over the players. This was a touchy subject to Twins officials (probably because the players were clamoring for it and I took their concerns to the brass).
But it makes sense. Torii Hunter had therapists come to the team hotel during road trips to help him get the soreness out of his body. Carl Pavano, after being traded to the Twins, spent over $10,000 in airfare, lodging and other expenses to have his massage therapist visit him on the road.
Having covered marathoners and triathletes in my career, I understand the importance of massage therapy in recovering from these activities. Several teams use them now. Why not the Twins, now that they have a real trainer's room in Target Field.
And, please, don't send the Twins any resumes' looking for the gig. They already have a couple people in mind.

Relievers Anthony Slama and Kyle Waldrop definitely have put themselves in the radar for this season. Slama's deception was working against major league hitters, and they use the phrase, ``good tilt,'' when talking about Waldrop's pitches. That means they like the downward angle he creates. Slama looked and acted like he aged five years since last season. Waldrop never seemed nervous, and he was in his first major league camp.

That's it for today. Your homework assignment is to start thinking about Pick to Click for 2010. Don't need your choices today, but the polls will open soon!

Programming note: I'm sitting in with Henry Lake from 11-Noon tomorrow on KFAN. Tony Sanneh will join us to  talk about his charity work and some soccer stuff. But, of course, H Lake and I will talk baseball. And there's a chance that I'll fill in for P.A. on Monday from 9-Noon (still waiting to hear back from Sheikh on that).

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