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.

Minor details: A midweek look at what's going on in the Twins farm system

Posted by: La Velle E. Neal III under Twins Farm System, Twins prospects Updated: April 22, 2010 - 1:13 PM

Catcher Wilson Ramos and shortstop Trevor Plouffe homered on Wednesday for Class AAA Rochester. Third baseman Danny Valencia, also at Rochester.
Relievers Anthony Slama and Kyle Waldrop are being watched closely there. And you wonder if Ben Revere, at Class AA New Britain, will end up contributing in the majors before the season ends.
But some of the more compelling stories are at Class A Fort Myers right now.


The Twins drafted shortstop Paul Kelly in the second round in 2005 and really thought they had a player. Kelly has shown all the skills to be a good shortstop prospect, but he's been held back by a slew of knee problems. He didn't play at all last season and was limited to 33 at-bats over the two seasons before that!

Kelly hasn't given up on the dream and is 8-for-20 in six games with Class A Fort Myers. He must stay healthy and start moving up the ladder. He's been slowed in recent days by a sore ankle suffered when a runner rolled it during a force play at second.

Second baseman Drew Thompson is in a similar situation. Thompson, a second round sandwich pick in 2005, suffered a stress fracture in his back in 2006 and other back problems knocked him out of the 2007 and 2008 seasons. He was able to play 91 games for Class A Beloit last season. Now he's one half of an interesting middle infield combo at Fort Myers. Thompson, 23, is batting .282 in 10 games.
``He's moving around better than he was his first year,'' Fort Myers manager Jake Mauer said.

Both Kelly and Thompson will have to fight for playing time, as Yangervis Solarte and Chris Cates are middle infielders there too.


Righthander Kyle Gibson, the Twins first round pick, didn't make it out of the fourth inning in Fort Myers' season opener, also his pro debut,  giving up three runs on six hits and two walks in 3.2 innings. He did strike out seven. ``In his defense, they didn't catch the ball behind him,'' said Jim Rantz, the Twins' director of minor leagues.
Gibson came back with six shutout innings in his next start. On Monday, he held Charlotte to one run over seven innings.
Gibson is on the fast track, with some in the organization thinking he could reach the majors by next season. He has very good control and a very good sinking fastball.


The other player to watch at Fort Myers is righthander Shooter Hunt, the 31st overall pick in 2008 who walked 58 batters in 32.2 innings between Class A Beloit and the Gulf Coast League last year. He's starting the season as a reliever.
He replaced Gibson in the opener. It wasn't pretty.
Here's how it went: Hit batter, walk, walk, wild pitch (run scored), walk, grand slam, hook.
``He came in the next morning and said he was ready to go,'' Mauer said. ``That tells you a lot about him.''
Hunt has allowed just one earned run and walked two in four outings since then. On Tuesday, he threw three shutout innings with no walks and six strikeouts.
``His fastball is very lively,'' Mauer said. ``He runs it up there in the low 90's with movement. And his breaking ball was lights out.''
 It's been a challenging road for Hunt, who was referred to Twin Cities Sports Psychotherapist Rick Aberman last year to help with his struggles. He will remain in the bullpen to gain confidence and establish himself.


Class A Beloit righthander Liam Hendricks was named the Midwest League Player of the week. He's tossed 17 scoreless innings with one walk and 20 strikeouts to start the season. He's held opponents to a .105 batting average. The Aussie starts again on Friday. Too bad he's 0-0. His teammates haven't score much for him.

One reason is top prospect Aaron Hicks, who started out 1 for 20. ``I think he tried to carry the whole club,'' Rantz said. Hicks was moved out of the No. 3 hole into the leadoff spot and has started to come around. He's 6-for-15 with a homer over his last four games. But is still batting .200, which shows how poor of a start he got off to.

Ben Revere, batting .243 at Class AA New Britain, missed a couple games last week. Why? David Bromberg was throwing in the bullpen before one game, and Revere stood in at the plate for a few pitches (which happens a lot).
Bromberg held onto a slider too long and hit Revere in the knee, knocking him out of two games.

Bromberg and Revere are roommates. Would love to know what they talked about that night....


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