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.

Miguel Sano takes battling practice

Posted by: La Velle E. Neal III Updated: August 26, 2014 - 11:36 AM

Twins third base prospect Miguel Sano recently started swinging a bat and thanks to the folks with www.miguelsanostory.com, we have some footage of him taking batting practice.

You can check it out here. 

Sano, who had surgery during spring training, will remain in Fort Myers until Dec. 1, then he'll head to the Dominican Republic to play the second half of the winter ball season. That will allow him to get some game action in before spring training camp opens in February.

The injury ruined any chance of him debuting this season. Sano was scheduled to join fellow top prospect Byron Buxton and Kennys Vargas at New Britain, but Sano's elbow injury and Buxton's wrist injury kept New Britain from having a threatening lineup.

Three quick Twins postgame thoughts from LEN3: Tigers, May, double dip

Posted by: La Velle E. Neal III Updated: August 23, 2014 - 11:50 PM


Here are three thoughts following the Twins' doubleheader split with Detroit.

TIGERS DON'T LOOK LIKE A THREAT: The Tigers throw the ball around a little. Miguel Cabrera is not hitting for power. When Joe Nathan gave up a run in the ninth, we wondering if Detroit would make Joba Chamberlain the closer if Nathan blew the save. The Tigers aren't clicking right now and can be had. Heck, they have been had, as they are trying to catch the Royals in the A.L. Central.

TREVOR MAY: An AL scout at the game said this of Trevor May: ``He's got the ammo, He needs to locate it. And his fastball is kind of flat. May hears him on that last point. May said, for some reason, he's not getting the movement on his fastball like he did in the minors, and figures that he needs to work on his mechanics to rediscover it. He also needs to command his fastball because that will make his breaking stuff more effective. May still pitched into the sixth inning for the first time in three starts and looked like he was getting in a groove at times. He ended up being charged for five runs over 51/3 innings on 11 hits. But, for the first time, he didn't walk anyone. ``Getting ahead is the biggest thing,'' May said. ``I had pretty good command of the breaking balls today and they kept me in a  lot of counts. Keeping the fastball out of the middle of the plate is the biggest thing.''

TWO-DAY DAMAGE: The Twins are batting .375 through the first three games of this series with 38 runs on 45 hits. They have hit 14 doubles, four triples and four home runs in the three games, Trevor Plouffe is 6-for-10 in this series with three doubles. He has 36 doubles this season, on shy of Corey Koskie's club record for a third baseman. Joe Mauer is batting .340 over his last 13 games. Danny Santana hit a triple in each game today. His six triples this season are the most by a Twins rookie since Denard Span had seven in 2008. Tony Oliva holds the rookie triples record with nine.

Game 1: Twins, 12, Tigers 4

Posted by: La Velle E. Neal III Updated: August 23, 2014 - 4:28 PM

They had some more left in them, after all.

The Twins were back to bludgeoning Detroit pitching on Saturday as they pulled away to a easy 12-4 win in the first game of a double header at Target Field. After scoring 20 runs on 20 hits on Friday, the Twins scored 12 runs on 14 hits in Game 1 on Saturday. The 32 runs in back -to-back games is the most since they scored 32 runs in a doubleheader in 2007.

Jordan Schafer hit a bases-clearing triple as part of a six-run second inning. Kennys Vargas added a bases-clearing double in the seventh.

``Baseball go like that sometimes,'' Twins manager Ron Gardenhire said. ``You take swings and balls start falling you reach out and tap them and balls are falling in. We put a lot of good swings out there..''

Vargas finished 2-for-4 with a career high 5 RBI. In 21 games, Vargas has 22 RBI, the most for a player in his first 21 games since - Albert Pujols had 22 on 2001.

Righthander Yohan Pino improved to 2-5 as he pitched five innings, giving up four runs, one earned, on two walks and six strikeouts.

Target Field is being prepared for Game 2, which starts at 7:10. Oswaldo Arcia is expected to be in the starting lineup. He spent all night in the hospital with his sick newborn son, Oswell Daniel.

Twins play two against the Tigers today at Target Field

Posted by: La Velle E. Neal III Updated: August 23, 2014 - 11:21 AM


We're here for a long day at the park as the Twins and Tigers play two games, one at 12:10 and the other at 7:10. Why is the second game at 7:10 instead of 6:10 (normally the Saturday start time)? They need to prepare the stadium for the second game. But today was supposed to be the day Chuck Knobluach was to be inducted into the Twins Hall of Fame. That event was canceled after Knoblauch was charged with assault in his hometown of Houston.

Despite using five relievers on Friday during the 20-6 rout of Detroit, Twins manager Ron Gardenhire said his bullpen is in pretty good shape heading into the doubleheader. Both Anthony Swarzak and Samuel Deduno are ready if needed early.

``We're hoping our starter pitches deep into the game in game one,'' Gardenhire said of righthander Yohan Pino. ``I think both managers are hoping that.''

Detroit skipper Brad Ausmus used six real relievers and shortstop Andrew Romine to get through the game. As a result, the Tigers have called up lefthanders Kyle Lobstein and Patrick McCoy in for today's game so they can have some fresh arms.

Oswaldo Arcia is not in the starting lineup for Game 1. His newborn son, Oswell Daniel, got sick last night and he spent the night with him at a local hospital. ``He got like one hour of sleep,'' Gardenhire said. Arcia is at the park, presumably sleeping, and should play in Game 2.

Game 1 is a makeup game from Apr. 27.
Detroit (68-58)

Ian Kinsler, 2B
Ezequuiel Carera, CF
Miguel Cabrera, 1B
Victor Martinez, DH
J.D. Martinez, DH
Nick Castellanos, 3B
Don Kelly, RF
Alex Avila, C
Andrew Romine, SS

Buck Farmer, LHP

Twins (57-70)

Danny Santana, CF
Brian Dozier, 2B
Joe Mauer, DH
Kennys Vargas, 1B
Chris Parmelee, RF
Eduardo Nunez, 3B
Eduardo Escobar, SS
Eric Fryer, C
Jordan Schafer, LF

Yohan Pino, RHP

Three Twins postgame thoughts from LEN3: Dozier, Shut out, Nolasco, BONUS

Posted by: La Velle E. Neal III Updated: August 21, 2014 - 12:11 AM

Here are three thoughts following the Twins' 5-0 loss to Cleveland

WELCOME TO THE CLUB: Brian Dozier stole second base in the first inning, giving him 20 homers and 20 doubles on the season. He's the sixth Twin to do so, joining Larry Hisle, Kirby Puckett, Marty Cordova, Torii Hunter and Corey Koskie. Dozier gave credit to hitting coach Tom Brunansky for helping him use his legs more and get more power, and coaches Paul Molitor and Joe Vavra for giving him daily information that helps him look for ways to steal bases. ``Kind of takes me to what went through Molitor's head every time he was on the bases,'' Dozier said. In the end, it was hard for him to enjoy the achievement. "If you're not winning games, it's not going to taste as good,'' he said.

SHUT OUT BY A LEFTY: The Twins were shut out on Wednesday for the 10th time this season. Six of those have come from the following left-handed starters: Jason Vargas, Joe Saunders, Jason Vargas, Chris Sale, Jon Lester and now TJ House. Not sure if that means much of anything, but teams see far fewer lefties than righties. As manager Ron Gardenhire pointed out, they are a sub-.500 team against lefties and righties.

RICKY NOLASCO: I was going to focus my game story on him before the Twins ran their scoreless streak to 18 innings. Another problem, it was kind of a so-so performance. I thought he was going to get knocked out early, with some of the pitches he left up in the zone. But he did improve some as the game went along. He had a shot at a quality start, but Chris Dickerson stole second as Nolasco struck out Roberto Perez for the second out of the seventh inning. Nolasco was replaced by Caleb Thielbar, who gave up a RBI single - Nolasco's fourth earned run -  to Michael Bourn. ``I feel bad we gave up his fourth run,'' Gardenhire said. I need to see Nolasco get a little sharper before I can say he's looking like the $12 million a year pitcher they signed during the offseason.

SEPTEMBER CALLUPS: The Twins are having discussions about who to call up in September, and Twins GM Terry Ryan is headed to Rochester (this weekend, I'm guessing) to make some final decisions. Who deserves the call up? Josmil Pinto? James Beresford? AJ Acter? Michael Tonkin? Lester Oliveros? What about Alex Meyer? There are some in the organization who believe he should not be called up because, after two more starts, he will have added 30 percent to his workload over last season and there's no sense in pushing it. I get the feeling he's not coming up. That stinks, because I believe if a team thinks a player has a chance to make a team next season - and Meyer could push for a spot in the Opening Day rotation - then it's smart to get him up in September and the baptism out of the way. But it's a tricky situation with his workload.

Twins-Indians: Lineups

Posted by: La Velle E. Neal III Updated: August 20, 2014 - 3:54 PM

In last night's postgame blog, I mentioned Danny Santana's inability to get a bunt down. What I didn't address is if he should have been bunting at all.

If Jordan Schafer is batting, I might bunt. Down two runs, I would let Santana hit. He's one of the Twins' best offensive players right now. I can see the setting up an inning for Dozier, Mauer and others, but I want to see if Santana can clutch up and get a hit.

Home run leaders since July 23:

Chris Carter, Hou.        - 11
Giancarlo Stanton, Mia - 9
Oswaldo Arcia, Twins -   8

Tom Brunansky and Bobby Cuellar celebrate birthdays today.


Indians (63-61)

Michael Bourn, CF
Jose Ramirez, SS
Michael Brantley, LF
Carlos Santana, 1B
Jason Kipnis, 2B
Zach Walters, DH
Mike Aviles, 3B
Chris Dickerson, RF
Roberto Perez, C

TJ House, LHP


Twins (55-69)


Danny Santana, CF
Brian Dozier, 2B
Joe Mauer, 1B
Kennys Vargas, DH
Oswaldo Arcia, RF
Trevor Plouffe, 3B
Eduardo Escobar, SS
Eric Fryer, C
Jordan Schafer, LF

Ricky Nolasco, RHP

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