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.
Twins megaprospect Miguel Sano will shut down for the rest of the winter ball season because of a strained ulnar collateral ligament in his right elbow.
Sano flew to the Twin Cities last week to be examined by team physicians Dr. John Steubs and Dr. Diane Dahm. But Sano's agent, Rob Plummer, said they decided to seek a second opinion. So on Tuesday, the third baseman flew to Birmingham, Ala., to be examined by famed specialist Dr. James Andrews.
Andrews concurred with the Twins' diagnosis that there is a strain but nothing more serious.
Sano will rest for five weeks, then begin a rehab program in the Dominican Republic. He will travel to Fort Myers, Fla., in January to continue rehab. He's expected to be ready in time for spring training, where he has a chance to be invited to major league camp.
Sano, 20, played in just two games for Estrellas of the Dominican winter league before sitting out the past two weeks because of the elbow, It didn't respond as well as everyone hoped, leading to more examinations.
In 123 games between Class A Fort Myers and Class AA New Britain, Sano batted .280 this season with 35 home runs and 103 RBI. He batted just .236 at New Britain but hit 19 of his homers there. Sano is considered one of the top ten prospects in all of baseball and second in the Twins system to outfielder Byron Buxton.
We reported yesterday about the players the Twins signed to minor league contracts. Here's the list the Twins sent us Monday afternoon:
Outfielder Wilkin Ramirez, catcher Dan Rohlfing, lefthander Aaron Thompson, outfielder Jermaine Mitchell, righthander Lester Oliveros, infielder Doug Bernier and second baseman James Beresford to Class AAA contracts with invites to spring training.
Righthander Virgil Vazquez signed a Triple-A contract but will not be invited to spring training.
Catcher Jairo Rodriguez and outfielder Reynaldo Rodriguez were signed to minor league contracts.
Thanks to Baseball America, here's the list of minor league players the Twins did not sign and now can sign with any organization:
RHP: Nick Blackburn (AAA), Kyle Davies (AA), Cole DeVries (AAA), Deolis Guerra (AAA), Miguel Munoz (Hi A), Dan Sattler (AA), Manuel Soliman (Hi A), Tom Stuifbergen (AA), Dan Turpen (AA)
LHP: Nelvin Fuentes (Hi A), Pedro Hernandez (AAA)
1B: Jeff Clement (AAA)
2B: Eric Farris (AAA)
SS: Ray Olmedo (AAA)
OF: Brian Dinkelman (AAA), Jhonathan Goncalves (Hi A), Angel Morales (AA), Jordan Parraz (AA), Antoan Richardson (AAA)
It's the end of the road, with the Twins, for several.
Blackburn: Showed promise as a ground ball pitcher, but injuries set him back. Thought he had things figured out with his arm this season but his knee flared up during his comeback attempt.
De Vries: Local product couldn't get over the hump, battled injuries and probably fell into a numbers situation with the Twins having so many back-end rotation guys.
Guerra: This closes the book on the Johan Santana trade with the Mets. Guerra hit 95 miles an hour on the radar gun as an 18-year old but the Twins rarely saw that after they got him. Battled injuries and missed all of last season because of a circulation problem in his shoulder.
Hernandez: Had a few stints with the Twins after coming over in the Francisco Liriano trade but failed to prove he belongs in the majors.
Dinkelman: Well-liked. Hard worker. Couldn't crack the next level.
Morales: Third round pick in 2007. Showed a lot of promise as a teenager - some believing he had five-tool talent. Injuries hampered him in 2011. Did OK at Fort Myers this season but batted .197 in 55 games at New Britain when promoted.
Justin Morneau turns 32 years old today, and he has a history of celebrating in style.
He's a career .360 hitter on his birthday with two doubles and four home runs. Those homers came in twos - at Cleveland in 2007 and at New York in 2009.
His birthday comes during a 10-game hitting streak during which he's batting .425. And his 17 RBI this month are the most in baseball.
BTW, it's also Brian Dozier's birthday. He's not in the lineup today.
Josh Willingham doubled off of Jake Peavy on Tuesday, and the Twins hope it's the start of a hot streak for the struggling slugger. Willingham went the other way with the pitch and drove it to right-center.
``That's what he's got to do right now,'' Twins manager Ron Gardenhire said.
Mike Pelfrey is on the mound today as he tries to take another step forward in his comeback season following Tommy John surgery. One thing the coaching staff has asked him to do is work faster, which might help him get in a good rhythm. Pelfrey, Gardy, said has a little Scott Baker in him in that he will get off the rubber, walk around the mound and scratch his head between pitches as he thinks about his next pitch.
The Twins want him to stay on the rubber more, trust his catcher, get the sign and execute.
One minor league note: Class A Cedar Rapids outfielder Adam Brett Walker II hit his third grand slam of the season last night, the ball clearing the batter's eye in center and traveling an estimated 450 feet. Walker, a third-round pick last season, is batting .309 with 10 home runs and 44 RBI in 35 games.
1. Dewayne Wise, CF
2. Alexi Ramirez, SS
3. Alex Rios, RF
4. Adam Dunn, 1B
5. Paul Konerko, DH
6. Conor Gillaspie, 3B
7. Dayan Viciedo, LF
8. Jeff Keppinger, 2B
9. Hector Gimenez, C
Pitching: Dylan Axelrod, RHP
1. Jamey Carroll, 2B
2. Joe Mauer, DH
3. Josh Willingham, LF
4. Justin Morneau, 1B
5. Ryan Doumit, C
6. Oswaldo Arcia, RF
7. Aaron Hicks, CF
8. Eduardo Escobar, 3B
9. Pedro Florimon, SS
Pitching: Mike Pelfrey, RHP
Righthander Trevor May on Friday had his best outing of the year, pitching seven shutout innings for Class AA New Britain in a 2-0 win over Portland.
May, who came over with Vance Worley in the Ben Revere trade, held Portland to two singles and one walk while striking out 10. He's allowed one earn run over his last 14 innings. He's the first Rock Cats pitcher to strike out ten in a game since Kyle Gibson in 2010.
And he had some good stuff to say to milb.com about the groove he's in:
Besides a rough outing against Harrisburg at the end of April, he's hallowed two runs or fewer in each of his other six starts. He's struck out 37 and walked 19 over 39 1/3 innings in his first season with the Twins.
``The biggest thing was finding out what was keeping me struggling. As a whole, I was not happy [with last season], it was a step back," May said. "It's very similar [in New Britain], pretty much pitching is the same anywhere, and for me it was finding out what worked for me mentally and keeping on a routine and a program and making sure my focus is where it needs to be.
``I've done a lot of work. Last year, I was throwing well at the end, and with the program I have, I've evolved from Spring Training and into this season and it's paying off. I'm able to kind of get myself where I need to be mentally. It's all come along, so I'm definitely happy with the progress.''
Thomas still out
Outfielder Clete Thomas' return from a sore quad has been pushed back to Monday. The Twins have been consistent in saying that Aaron Hicks will be given chances to get his game going with the big league club. Thomas got off to a fine start at Rochester, hitting .346 in 25 games. He loomed as the best option if the Twins changed their minds about Hicks, but now he's banged up.
Check out the latest installment of the minor league report. Wrote a litte about Jorge Polanco, who was part of the international signing class with Miguel Sano and Max Kepler. Polanco signed or $750,000 out of the Dominican Republic. After a couple of years, he's starting to come on.
Twins prospects Miguel Sano and Eddie Rosario both were out of the lineup for Class A Fort Myers today with injuries.
Sano was hit with a pitch on his left elbow in the seventh inning of Monday's game, and the elbow swelled up afterward. Fort Myers played a 10:35 am game today - losing 8-1 to Tampa - so Sano didn't play for a second straight game.
Rosario missed action on Tuesday and Wednesday with a leg injury.
``With the morning game, it made sense to give them today off,'' said Brad Steil, the Twins director of minor leagues. ``Sano will probably be in the tomorrow and Rosario in a couple of days.''
In 30 games, Sano is batting .387 with 10 home runs and 31 RBI. Rosario: .347-3-22. Twins officials are making the rounds through the minor league system and gathering information on all their prospects, and eventually they will begin discussions about promoting Sano, Rosario, Byron Buxton and others.
One thing I've heard was that it will be at least a few more weeks - the end of May, perhaps - before promotions will be handed out. But that can depend on if they continue to produce and who's healthy. A rash of injuries could force the Twins to move them up sooner.
For instance, Fort Myers just had seven players land on the disabled list in the last 11 days. What if that happens at New Britain?
Kyle Gibson is on the mound for Class AAA Rochester tonight and, boy, do the Red Wings need a strong outing.
The Red Wings played a 16 inning game on Tuesday during which nine pitchers were used. So the bullpen could use a break.
On Monday, ESPN's Keith Law ranked the Twins' farm system the second best in baseball, trailing only the Cardinals. On Tuesday, he showed why.
In his annual top 100 prospect list, Law included seven Twins minor leaguers. I haven't seen every list out there but that number of Twins are the most I've seen in a top 100. The Twins super seven are as follows:
11. Miguel Sano, 3B
22. Byron Buxton, OF
41. Kyle Gibson, RHP
49. Aaron Hicks, OF
59. Oswaldo Arcia, OF
61. Alex Meyer, RHP
65. Eddie Rosario, 2B/OF
So not just seven of the top 100, but seven of the top 65. It's another reason why the Twins future looks so promising. And six of the seven players are homegrown, with Meyer joining the organization in an offseason trade in exchange for Denard Span.
Law has scouting reports on every member of his top ten list, but a subscription is required to read them. Here's a link to his list of the top farm systems.