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.

Posts about On the road

Twins-White Sox: Road kings are back on the road

Posted by: La Velle E. Neal III Updated: September 16, 2013 - 5:25 PM


The Twins begin their final road trip of the season tonight against the White Sox, their new patsies. Their only patsies in the division.

Ten of 16 games between the teams this season have gone to the Twins, as Chicago has sunk to the bottom of the division standings. Given how the Twins have won so many road series the second half - including ones at Texas and Detroit, anything less than two out of three would be shocking, right?

The Twins have gone 33-41 on the road compared to 31-43 at home. They are 17-11 on the road since July 13, tied for second most wins in baseball since that date. And they are 6-2-1 in their last nine road series. So they are about to get this road trip off to a roaring start, right?

Will check in later with lineups and updates.

By the way, 17 years ago today, Paul Molitor got his 3,000th hit with a triple in Kansas City. He was the first member of that 3,000 hit club to do with a triple. Chuck Knoblauch got his 1,000th career hit in the same game.

Updates

Brian Dozier is getting a day off, which has been a couple weeks in the making. Dozier was able to hold Gardy off for awhile, but no longer.

Eric Freyer will get the start on Wednesday because he worked well with Scott Diamond when the two were at Class AAA Rochester.

The White Sox are 33 games under .500 for the first time since the end of the 1976 season. Holy Hanna.

Trevor Plouffe, batting third tonight, is hitting .368 this month.


Twins (64-84)

1. Alex Presley, OF
2. Eduardo Escobar, 2B
3. Trevor Plouffe, 3B
4. Oswaldo Arcia, LF
5. Josh Willingham, DH
6. Chris Parmelee, 1B
7. Josmil Pinto, C
8. Chris Herrmann, RF
9. Pedro Florimon, SS

Pitching: Liam Hendriks, RHP

White Sox (58-91)

1. Alejandro De Aza, CF
2. Alexei Ramirez, SS
3. Conor Gillapsie, 3B
4. Paul Konerko, 1B
5. Adam Dunn, DH
6. Dayan Viciedo, LF
7. Jordan Danks, RF
8. Gordon Beckham, 2B
9. Bryan Anderson, C

Pitching: Erik Johnson, C

Twins-Blue Jays: Will the Twins ever win another home game?

Posted by: La Velle E. Neal III Updated: September 7, 2013 - 4:02 PM


Will the Twins' puzzling run at home contune as they face the Blue Jays tonight at Target Field?

After not winning a road series before the break, they have won five and tied one on the road - including road series at Detroit and Texas, a pair of playoff teams. But the Twins have won two home series since the break, saving their worst baseball of the season for Twins Nation to view in person.

And, if they lost to J. A. Happ tonight, it will clinch another series lost in front of the home crowd.

Some odds and ends:

Josmil Pinto hit his first career major league home run Fridsay with a solo shot in the ninth inning off Janssen…he is the fifth Twins rookie to homer this
season…in four major league games he is hitting .643 (9‐for‐14) with a home run, two RBI and four runs scored.

Trevor Plouffe has at least one hit in 15 of his last 18 games, since August 18…over the 18 games he is hitting .319 (22‐for‐69) with eight
doubles, two home runs and five RBI. Twins manaer Ron Gardenhire thinks Plouffe looks more relaxeed at the plate right now.

Alex Presley has a hit in four of his five games since being acquired by the Twins on August 31…in those five games he is hitting .364 (8‐for‐22) with two doubles, a home run and five RBI.

Chris Colabello on Friday extended his current hit‐streak to five games, tying his career‐high he is hitting .400 (8‐for‐20) with a double, three home runs and eight RBI in those games. He has three home runs over his last five games, seven total for the season. He's been working with Tom Brunansky on understanding how he's being pitched at this level and making adjustments.

Oswaldo Arcia's single in the second inning on Friday snapped a 0‐for‐15 skid.

Joe Mauer did some early hitting again on Saturday but won't hit with team. Still going at his own pace until symptoms go away and stay away.

Class A Cedar Rapids coach Tommy Watkins has joined the club for the rest of the season. Class A Rochester Manager Gene Glynn will join the team once the Red Wings are done in the postseason. They need to avoid elimination today at Pawtucket. Scott Diamond is on the mound for the Red Wings. With a day game on Sunday, any callups probably wouldn't arrive here until Monday - if the Red Wing lose tonight.

Blue Jays (65-76)

1. Jose Reyes, SS
2. Munenori Kawasaki, 2B
3. Edwin Encarnacion, DH
4. Adam Lind, 1B
5. Brett Lawrie, 3B
6. Moises Sierra, RF
7. J.P. Arrencibia, C
8. Anthony Gose, CF
9. Kevin Pillar, LF

Pitching: J.A. Happ, LHP

Twins (61-78)

1. Alex Presley, CF
2. Darin Mastroianni, RF
3. Brian Dozier, 2B
4 Josh Willingham, DH
5. Trevor Plouffe, 3B
6. Oswaldo Arcia, LF
7. Chris Colabello, 1B
8. Josmil Pinto, C
9. Pedro Florimon, SS

Pitching: Kevin Correia, RHP

 

 

Postgame: Twins getting a little swagger back

Posted by: La Velle E. Neal III Updated: July 24, 2013 - 11:31 AM

 

It was around 6 p.m. Pacific time. Chris Herrmann was shagging balls in right field. Kyle Gibson was in the clubhouse, getting ready for the pitchers and catchers meeting. Joe Mauer was in the middle of batting practice.

Rod McCormick, the Twins clubhouse attendant, rushed to the field to tell manager Ron Gardenhire that Maddie Mauer had called looking for her husband. And the wheels started rolling.

Mauer was in the clubhouse with traveling secretary Mike Herman, who was arranging a charter flight back to the Twin Cities. Gardenhire waved Herrmann over and told him that was starting behind the plate. Gibson prepared to throw to someone else.

Mauer, normally pulse-less in pressure situations, wasn't this time.

``That's probably the least calm I've seen him,'' said closer Glen Perkins. ``He was pacing around pretty good. Mike had gotten up to do something, and he was like, `Where's Mike? Where's Mike?' I was the same way, when we had our second one I was in Kansas City.''

Mauer was off to the airport, and a Twins lineup already down a few quarts of experience, looked even less lethal. But it erupted at the end, bailing out Perkins, who had blown a save in the bottom of the ninth, to win 10-3 in 10 innings. The Twins have won six of their last seven and have won their last three series.

This team is ballin' a little right now.

``We have some confidence right now,'' Gardenhire said. ``Guys are getting after the game. Just happy more so than anything else. The defense has just been outstanding. We are making plays all over the field and that is fun to watch and guys are getting as excited about the defense as it is scoring runs.
``That's what baseball is supposed to be about. Both sides of the ball.''

It was another reminder that anything can happen when you go to the ballpark.

Perkins came on in the ninth with the Twins leading 3-2 and looking for his 25th save but walked three batters, with the third one - issued to the unwalkable Erick Aybar - forcing in the tying run. Perkins entered the game with a 1.66 ERA and 24 saves in 26 chances. Over his previous 19 appearances he had walked one without giving up an earned run. He was coming off a four-out save on Monday and pronounced himself ready to roll on Tuesday.

Los Angeles sent Frieri, his 2.76 ERA and 24 saves to the mound for the tenth. Boy, did the Twins get after him.
Jamey Carroll and Justin Morneau reached with singles, then Ryan Doumit smoked a RBI double to left-center, scoring Carroll with the lead run. Josh Roenicke got up in the bullpen to warm up for the bottom of the inning - his first save as a Twin.

Thomas came to the plate, but with Herrmann on deck the Angels elected to go after the rookie. Made sense - for a minute.
Hermann got hold of a 2-1 slider and sent it into the seats in left for the Twins' first grand slam of the season and an 8-3 Twins lead. It was the Twins' first extra-inning grand slam on the road since Cesar Tovar in 1969.

As the announced crowd of 39,177 came to grips with what happened, Pedro Florimon socked a two-run shot to right to make it 10-3. Roenicke gave up a hit in the 10th but got through it to wrap of the game.

Herrmann was 3-for-5. Thomas, Doumit, Morneau and Carroll each had two hits. The Twins go for the sweep tomorrow....er...in a few hours.

Mauer left the Twins to go see about his twins. He'll be placed on the paternity leave list and will be replaced by Drew Butera, who will fly in early Wednesday morning from Class AAA Rochester. There was speculation that Oswaldo Arcia would get the call, but Gardenhire mentioned that Arcia was removed from Tuesday's game for not running hard to first base. And assistant General Manager Rob Antony confirmed that Arcia was not removed because of injury.

Butera will join a team that's playing with a little swagger.

``We have been playing some really good baseball, the last week and a half,'' Gibson said. ``It's been a fun clubhouse and everyone has a lot of confidence.''

And a tip of the cap to Perkins, who waited  at his stall for anyone who had questions. On a night like tonight, he could have slipped out unnoticed.

MLB Draft: Twins go for four pitchers, THREE catchers and a third baseman on Day Two

Posted by: La Velle E. Neal III Updated: June 7, 2013 - 5:34 PM

TENTH ROUND, C.K. IRBY, RHP

Indications are that he will be a reliever, where his fastball has touched 95 miles an hour to go with a nice curve. Has been a two-way player in college and used as a starter or reliever.

Baseball America has him ranked 233rd. Here's what was written about him:

Irby helped Samford reach regionals in 2012 as a closer (10 saves, 2.06 ERA) and has contributed as a two-way player throughout his career, hitting at a .384 clip with eight home runs entering the season’s last regular-season weekend while spending most of his time at first or third base. Scouts like him on the mound and prefer him in a bullpen role, which made it difficult to evaluate the 6-foot-2, 190-pounder this season. The loss of three senior starters from 2012 forced Irby into the weekend rotation this spring, and his velocity has settled into the 87-90 mph range. In the past he hit 95 and sat 89-93 as a reliever, throwing enough strikes with his fastball to set up his plus curve. He has averaged nearly a strikeout per inning over more than 150 career innings and has a good feel for his breaking ball. Irby has a max-effort approach to the game, and hitting and pitching has taken a lot out of him this spring. A fresh Irby could move quickly as a future middle reliever.

Here's a recent story on Irby

That's it for today! Will be back tomorrow for more, but information might be touch to come by as we near the 40th round!

NINTH ROUND, MITCHELL GARVER, C

Yes, the Twins go for another catcher in Garver, who played well in the Cape Cod Leaguwas undrafted as a junior but came and carried it into his senior year, during which he batted .390 with 6 homers and 68 RBI. He improved his defense, but scouts wonder if his offense was a result of playing in a hitter-friendly enviroment.

Baseball America ranked him 230th, here's their write-up:

                                                        Garver is one of the top senior talents in the draft, and could get pushed even further up draft boards because it’s a thin year for college catching. Scouts liked him behind the plate in the Cape Cod League last summer, and he has good defensive statistics this spring. He is a good athlete at 6-foot-1 and 205 pounds, runs well for a catcher and has above-average arm strength. Still, some scouts doubt his ability to catch long-term in pro ball. He’ll need to do that to have value because while he’s a solid hitter who drives the ball to all fields, it’s to the gaps and he doesn’t really profile as a corner-quality bat. Scouts also wonder how much of Garver’s production is park-related. Heading in the final weekend of the season, he ranked fifth in the country with 84 hits, but he was batting .496 in the thin air in Albuquerque, and .281 on the road. After hitting 10 home runs as a junior–when he went undrafted–he had four this season. Still, as a senior at a premium position, Garver could get pushed up as high as the fifth round.

Like Stuart Turner, Garver is a Johnny Bench Award finalist. The Twins have drafted two of the three finalists for that award.

Here's a little bit from MLB.com.

Garver has improved defensively in the last year, quieting most of the concerns about his ability to remain behind the plate as a professional. He is an average receiver with a solid arm. Garver has also played left field, but his bat profiles much better if he can catch.

I want to blend Turner's defense, Navarreto's power and Garver's hitting for average. I would have one heck of a prospect!

EIGHTH ROUND, DUSTIN DEMUTH, 3B

The Twins add their second University of Indiana player when they selected third baseman Dustin DeMuth. DeMuth led the Hoosiers with a .396 batting average - 12th in Division I - but hit just five home runs to go with 40 RBI. It's the low power numbers that have the draftniks concerned. But he's listed at 6-foot-3 and 205 pounds, and the frame is probably what attracted the Twins. He's also swiped 11 bases.

Baseball America has DeMuth ranked as the 278th best prospect in the draft. He's also played some second base and shortstop.

Here's his campus bio.

SEVENTH ROUND, BRIAN GILBERT, RHP

Early indications are that Gilbnert is a reliever, but he has started some in his college career and the Twins aren't afraid to give him a chance to start if he has a good third pitch. The worst case is that he returns to relieving.

Baseball America has him ranked 495th,

Gilbert went 4-4 with a .240 ERA in 27 games (one start) while collecting six saves.  

SIXTH ROUND, BRIAN NAVARRETO, C

High school catchers can be tough to project because they might grow out of the position and they don't have extensive experience calling games and dealing with pitchers. But then some tools can't be ignored. The Twins drafted catcher Brian Navarreto in the sixth round out of Arlington Country Day school (Jacksonville, Fla.). Here's MLB.com's write-up on him:

In a Draft class fairly deep in high school catching, it would be smart not to forget about this Florida prep standout. Big and strong, Navarreto has the chance to hit for both average and power, with bat speed and loft. He has a good plan at the plate and makes adjustments well. He has a strong arm that he's not afraid to show off from behind the plate and is fairly athletic. He's the kind of strong competitor teams like to see at the position as well, giving him the chance to maximize his solid all-around tools.There are other high school backstops who will go ahead of Navarreto, but he shouldn't have to wait too long to hear his name called.

Ranked 185th by Baseball America

Navarreto played a role in this incident, not sure when it happened.

Here's BA's write-up: 

                            Navaretto attends the same school as 2011 Cubs first-rounder Javier Baez and and was playing in a tournament against a team from Oklahoma in March when he was involved in a game-ending brawl. It just added to the makeup questions scouts have about Navaretto, who otherwise has the physicality and arm strength to get scouts excited about him as a future catcher. He has his "man strength" at 6-foot-3, 220 pounds, yet shows good agility behind the plate as well as an above-average arm with consistent 1.85-second pop times. He'll tap into his plus raw power if he can shorten up his swing, which is on the long side. In a deep year for prep catchers, Navaretto matches up with just about anyone physically and had some third-round helium.

 

FIFTH ROUND: AARON SLEGERS, RHP

The Twins selected Indiana U Aaron Slegers, a 6-foot-10 inch righthander. Slegers, the 2013 Big Ten pitcher of the year, has battled injuries in the past but was healthy this year.  He went 9-1 with a 1.94 ERA for the Hoosiers this season. In 92 innings, he struck out 53 and walked 13. He gave up one home run all season.

Ranked 226th by Baseball America

From MLB.com:

Injuries limited Slegers to just 10 innings from 2010, his senior year in high school, to 2012. He is finally healthy this season and, as a redshirt sophomore, has taken over as Indiana's ace, helping lead the Hoosiers to a Big Ten championship. Slegers typically throws his fastball about 90 mph and has touched 95 mph. He has a good approach on the mound and is able to add and subtract from his fastball as needed. Slegers also throws a solid changeup and is working to improve his slider. He is listed at 6-foot-10, 250 pounds, but repeats his delivery well for a pitcher of his size.

Here's a story on Slegers as Indiana prepares for Super Regional action this weekend.

FOURTH ROUND, STEPHEN GONSALVES, LHP

The Twins select lefthander Stephen Gonsalves, a lefthander out of Cathedral Catholic High School in San Diego, Calif. From what I can tell, he posted a 1.91 ERA in 14 games. Not sure how many wins because some of his outings were three innings.

He's got good size with a fastball that been clocked at 92-93 miles an hour. Sounds like he's a little raw and needs to improve his other pitches, but the crew on mlb.com's webcast said he entered the season expected to go higher in the draft so the Twins might have landed a pitcher with upside.

Ranked 107th by Baseball America

Here's what MLB.com wrote about him:

A high school lefty, Gonsalves had a very good summer, pitching well at the Area Code Games and the Perfect Game All-American Classic, though an inconsistent spring had some wondering just how high he'd go on Draft day.This is a pretty decent class for prep southpaws, and with his size and projectability, Gonsalves has the upside to be the best of the lot. He uses a full overhand delivery to fire 88-91 mph fastballs, though he was up to 93 mph at the Perfect Game Classic. He'll throw a plus changeup at times to go along with a slurve, which is a bit of a concern to scouts. So was the fact he struggled with his command for parts of the spring after a fairly successful summer on the showcase/USA Baseball tour. Still, many teams will have trouble looking past the ceiling and Gonsalves still has the chance to hear his name called fairly early in the Draft

THIRD ROUND, STUART TURNER, C

The Twins have selected University of Mississippi catcher Stuart Turner with their pick (No. 78 overall) of the MLB draft.

Twins scouting director Deron Johnson said before the draft that there was good catching depth in this year's draft, and follows that up by taking Turner, who played two years at a junior coilege before spending a year with Mississippi.Turner was considered one of the best catchers in the SEC, one of the strongest conferences in the country. Not too shabby for someone playing one year in that conference.

Ranked 110th by Baseball America.

Defense is his strength, with some concerns about his ability to make consistent contact.

Turner batted .374 for Ole Miss with 5 homers and 51 RBI in 62 games. He posted a .444 on base percentage. He threw out 21 of 41 basestealers. He's a finalist for the Johnny Bench Award, given to the top college catcher.

One site had Turner ranked as the 13th best catcher in the draft, calling him a, `solid defender with smart offensive approach.'

Here's what Basebeall America wrote about him:

Turner hails from Eunice, La., and went to Louisiana State-Eunice JC for two seasons, hitting .400 and earning tournament MVP honors last year as LSU-Eunice won the Division II NJCAA World Series. Nevertheless, he wasn't drafted and landed at Ole Miss, where he has been the Southeastern Conference's best catcher this season. Turner had been pitched around a bit in league play but remained the Rebels' best hitter and earned plaudits from scouts as the nation's best draft-eligible defensive catcher. He combines strength at 6-foot-2, 220 pounds with flexibility, agile feet and excellent arm strength. He had thrown out 20 of 39 basestealers, with consistent 1.9-second pop times. While Turner has performed at the plate this spring, scouts don't like his swing and question his ability to sting the ball consistently. He has controlled the strike zone and ranked third in the SEC in batting at .389.

 

 

Three Twins postgame thoughts from LEN3: Homestand, Hernandez, Gibson

Posted by: La Velle E. Neal III Updated: May 19, 2013 - 9:51 PM

Here are three postgame thoughts following the Twins' 5-1 loss to Boston:

1, WHAT A CRUMMY HOMESTAND: There were some grumpy ballplayers in the clubhouse as the Twins packed and flew out to Atlanta. Joe Mauer, Justin Morneau and Josh Willingham never appeared to speak to the media before the clubhouse was closed. They aren't hitting with runners in scoring position, with Mauer the most recent example. He struck out with the bases loaded in the eighth with the score 3-1. We all know Willingham isn't the world's greatest outfielder, but we didn't get a chance to ask him how tricky of a play that was (or not) when he played Pedroia's long drive into a home run. They will have to get right on the road trip and try it again in just over a week when the Brewers come to town. The Twins have 15 of their next 20 games on the road. Yikes.

2. PEDRO HERNANDEZ: He must be tired of facing the Red Sox because of how they have had their way with him. He was pulled from the game with the bases loaded and one out in the fifth inning - after throwing 107 pitches. Boston scored three runs on nine hits and a walk off him, including a solo homer by Wil Middlebrooks in the second inning. In three career starts against the Red Sox, Hernandez is 0-2 with a 14.80 ERA. In 10.3 innings, Boston has hit six home runs off of him.

3. KYLE GIBSON RAISES THE STAKES: Class AAA Rochester righthander Kyle Gibson had his best outing of the year on Sunday, taking a no hitter into the eighth inning before finishing with a three-hit complete game shutout as the Red Wings beat Lehigh Valley 11-0. Gibson needed just 93 pitches for his gem – 58 were strikes, 35 were balls. He walked two and struck out eight as his record Improved to 3-5 with a 3.25 ERA.  The Twins have wanted Gibson to show more consistency, so his next start will be important. Before Sunday, his previous outing lasted three innings. Before that, he threw a complete game. Before that, he was knocked out in the fifth. Before that, he threw 62/3 scoreless innings. So he needs to string some good outings together. If Gibson has another strong outing in five days I hope they consider bringing him up then. He's on an innings limit, so it would be nice to see him for a few starts. The problem is, Cole De Vries is healthy and was on the team before he was injured. Samuel Deduno is almost ready after recovering from a pulled groin. Even P.J. Walters has pitched well of late. The Twins might replace Hernandez in the rotation, but it might not be with Gibson.
 

Twins try to even the series with Diamond on the mound

Posted by: La Velle E. Neal III Updated: May 7, 2013 - 4:03 PM

Perfect day here in Boston as the Twins prepare to play the Red Sox. Lefthander Scott Diamond, making his first start at historic Fenway Park, is on the mound tonight looking to improve to 3-2 on the season.

The Twins lost 6-5 in 11 innings last night as they blew two major scoring chances. They had a chance to send to Clay Buchholz to the showers in the first inning. When you get a chance to put you foot down on a pitcher's throat on the road, ya gotta go get him. Let's see if the Twins keep that in mind as they face Ryan Dempster, who beat them twice last season.

They need to sustain offense. They are batting .228 on this road trip, .224 with runners in scoring position.

Curious to see what the Twins' batting order looks like. Jamey Carroll is batting .429 against Dempster, so I would expect him to be in the starting lineup somewhere. Will check back later with lineups.

Many of you will be locked in on the Wild-Blackhawks game when it begins. If that's the case, make sure to follow me on twitter at @LaVelleNeal for Twins updates.

UPDATES

Josh Roenicke is available out of the bullpen tonight. Ryan Pressky will be the long man if needed. Gardy was coy about who was and wasn't available tonight. But you can figure it out that Swarzak is out, Burton is out and Casey is probably out.

As expected, Jamey Carroll is in the starting lineup and Brian Dozier is getting a day off.

Aaron Hicks is not in the lineup either. He said he's been feeling better at the plate lately, but understood Gardy's decision to go with Wilkin Ramirez. ``Wilkin can turn on one and hit it over the Monster,'' Hicks said.

RED SOX NEWS

Closer Joel Hanrahan has been placed on the 15-day disabled list because of forearm tightness. Righthander Allan Webster was called up from Pawtucket to replace Hanrahan on the soter - but has been named the starter for Wednesday's game against the Twins. Lefthander Felix Doubront, originally scheduled to start on Wednesday, has been shifted to the bullpen.

If Boston needs to close out tonight's game, Junichi Tazawa will be the last man standing.

Twins (13-15)

1. Jamey Carroll, SS
2. Joe Mauer, DH
3. Josh Willingham, LF
4. Justin Morneau, 1B
5. Trevor Plouffe, 3B
6. Ryan Doumit, C
7. Chris Parmelee, RF
8. Wilkin Ramirez, CF
9. Brian Dozier, 2B

Pitching: Scott Diamond, LHP

Red Sox (21-11)

1. Jacoby Ellsbury, CF
2. Shane Victorino, RF
3. Dustin Pedroia, 2B
4. David Ortiz, DH
5. Mike Napoli, 1B
6. Jonny Gomes, LF
7. Will Middlebrooks, 3B
8. Stephen Drew, SS
9. David Ross, C

Pitching: Ryan Dempster, RHP

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