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.
Here are some notes from around the minors:
Berrios promoted: Righthander Jose Berrios, one of the Twins top pitching prospects, made his debut today for Class AA New Britain.
It wasn't pretty, as he gave up five earned runs over five innings on three hits, three walks and two home runs. New Britain had a doubleheader the day before and the Rock Cats needed a starter, but Berrios is up for good. At age 20, he'll be in a league with more players in their mid-to-upper 20's (the Rock Cats have players 27, 28, 29 and 30).
It will be a good challenge for him after going 9-3, 1.96 in 16 starts for Fort Myers. He walked 23 and struck out 109 there. I saw once of his starts there. He hit 95 consistently and threw one pitch at 96 and had a damn good change up to go with it. Jim Souhan saw him a month later, when he touched 98. On Wednesday, a fan posted on twitter that Berrios was 93-96 for the Rock Cats and touched 97.
Pinto activated: Josmil Pinto, currently the future of catching in the organization, was activated on Tuesday after recovering from a strained hip flexor muscle. ``He was playing well before the injury,'' said Brad Steil, the Twins' director of minor league operations.
Vargas in Puerto Rico: Class AA New Britain: Kennys Vargas was allowed to fly home to Puerto Rico this week to be present for the birth of his first child. He should return by Thursday.
Steil wasn't told the name of the baby, but Vargas did send him a photo of a newborn in a pink blanket, so he's pretty sure it's a girl.
Vargas is in a 0-for-17 skid with the Rock Cats. Perhaps approaching fatherhood had a hand in his slump. He's expected to re-join the Rock Cats on Thursday.
Burdi hits 100: Nick Burdi, the Twins' second round pick this year, had a pro debut to forget on June 29. He walked all four batters he faced, and all four scored.
His next two outings were idenitical: One inning, one hit, three strikeouts. That includes Tuesday, when he hit 100 on the radar gun, Steil said. ``He threw the ball pretty good last night,'' Steil added.
Mad Max: Robbinsdale's Max Murphy, the Twins' ninth round pick this year, is off to a massive start to his pro career at rookie league Elizabethton.
While playing all three outfield positions. Murphy is batting .424 with 5 home runs and 17 RBI in 17 games. Of his 25 hits, 12 have gone for extra bases. He's walked 11 times for a .519 on base percentage and a OPS of 1.350.
``You can't swing the bat much better than he has,'' Steil said.
Murphy played college ball at Bradley, where some other Twins outfielder once played.
Class A Cedar Rapids infieder Engelb Vielma is on the 7-day DL with a concussion suffered on Sunday. He made a sliding catch in sort left but was kicked in the head by teammate J.D. Williams as he tried to jump out of the way.
Trevor May (right calf strain) was scheduled to face hitters today and could pitch on Sunday. But the Twins might hold him back until after the All-Star break, which runs the same time as the MLB break.
One reason the Twins sold Vance Worley to Pittsburgh - other than performance - was that they had no room for him in the Rochester rotation.
I thought that was interesting. Then, when Scott Diamond accepted his assignment to Rochester, Sean Gilmartin had to be sent to Class AA New Britain so he could start. Brad Steil, the Twins director of minor league operations, said that Gilmartin was not happy with the move but understood the situation and handled it like a pro.
So just who is starting in the minors this season? Here's a look at the rotations at each level
Scott Diamond - LHP
Kris Johnson - LHP
Logan Darnell - LHP
Pat Dean - LHP
Taylor Rogers - LHP
Sean Gilmartin - LHP
Jason Wheeler - LHP
Brett Lee - LHP
Mason Melotakis - LHP
Miguel Sulbaran - LHP
The Twins use six-man rotations on the A-Ball level for a few reasons. More pitchers get a chance to start. it's easier to monitor innings and it's an easier transition for kids who pitched once a week in high school or college.
Meyer and May are in position to debut this season. Diamond is in position to redeem himself this season.
It's a big year for Wimmers, who's trying to get is career back on track after injuries and a bout of wildness.
Berrios and Melotakis should move up during the season.
Jorge and Stewart ones to watch at Cedar Rapids.
Noticed that Lewis Thorpe couldn't crack the Cedar Rapids rotation. Thorpe has a live arm and has gained five mph in his fastball, which now sits at 92-93 but can get to 95. He's one to watch down the road.
Remember Sulbaran? He's the pitcher the Twins received from the Dodgers for Drew Butera.
One more thing. GET YOUR PICKS TO CLICK IN! The polls close tomorrow at noon.
The Twins announced their minor league staff assignments this morning.
The managers in the system will remain the same.
Here is the team's release:
Gene Glynn will return for his third year as manager of the Twins Triple-A affiliate Rochester Red Wings (International League). Glynn managed the Red Wings to a 77-67 record and a second place finish in 2013. He spent five seasons as a pro scout for the Tampa Bay Rays from 2007-11. From 1996-2006, Glynn was a major league coach for the Colorado Rockies (1996-98), Montreal Expos (1999), Chicago Cubs (2000-02) and San Francisco Giants (2003-06). Marty Mason begins his second season as Red Wings pitching coach and 29th as a coach at the professional level. Mason was the pitching coach for Single-A Daytona (Cubs) from 2011-12 and spent 25 years in the St. Louis organization, including 11 as the Cardinals bullpen coach from 2000-10. Tim Doherty will begin his second season as hitting coach for the Wings after spending 2012 as a coaching assistant for the Boston Red Sox. Prior to that, he was a manager and coach for nine seasons with the Kansas City T-Bones (American Association). Larry Bennese will begin his second season as the Red Wings trainer, after spending 2011 and ‘12 at New Britain. 2014 will be Bennese’s 19th season in the Twins organization. Jon Cioffi returns for his second season as the Red Wings strength and conditioning coach after spending 2012 in New Britain and 2010-11 in the GCL.
Jeff Smith will begin his fifth year as manager of the Twins Double-A affiliate New Britain Rock Cats (Eastern League), after spending four seasons as a manager in the Twins system (Single-A Beloit, 2006-07; Single-A Ft. Myers, 2008-09). Stu Cliburn returns for his sixth consecutive season as pitching coach, a position he also held from 1999-2005, after spending 2006-08 as Rochester’s pitching coach. Chad Allen returns as the Rock Cats hitting coach. He played seven years in the major leagues, including three years with the Twins from 1999-2001. Chris Johnson returns for his second season as trainer for the Rock Cats. He has been with the Twins since 2006 and spent two seasons with Ft. Myers from 2011-12. Tyler Donahue will continue as the Rock Cats Strength and Conditioning Coach, his second year with the club.
Doug Mientkiewicz returns for his second year as manager of the Twins Single-A affiliate Ft. Myers Miracle (Florida State League). Mientkiewicz was previously with the Los Angeles Dodgers organization, where he was the hitting coach for the Ogden Raptors of the Pioneer League in 2012. Mientkiewicz played 12 seasons in the major leagues, including parts of seven seasons with the Twins from 1998-2004. Gary Lucas begins his first season as Miracle pitching coach and 15th as a pitching coach in the Twins organization, after spending the previous six seasons with Single-A Beloit/Cedar Rapids. Jim Dwyer will begin his ninth season as hitting coach at Ft. Myers, after spending nine as the Twins minor league hitting coordinator. Alan Rail will begin his second season as the Miracle trainer, after seven seasons with Beloit.
Jake Mauer will begin his seventh year as a manager in the Twins system and second as manager of the Twins Single-A affiliate Cedar Rapids Kernels (Midwest League). Mauer was manager at Ft. Myers from 2010-12, managed the GCL Twins from 2008-09, and also coached three seasons in the GCL. Ivan Arteaga begins his first season as pitching coach of the Kernels and his 14th season as a pitching coach in the Twins organization. Tommy Watkins will begin his fifth season as hitting coach, after playing in the Twins system from 1998-2009. Curtis Simondet will begin his first season as the Cedar Rapids trainer after spending last season at Elizabethton and two seasons in the GCL.
Ray Smith returns as manager for the Rookie-Elizabethton Twins (Appalachian League). Smith, who will be in his 28th season on staff for Elizabethton, has a career managerial record of 828-517 (.616), with 11 first place finishes in 20 seasons. Former Twins minor leaguer Henry Bonilla will begin his third season as a pitching coach, second with Elizabethton. Steven Taylor begins his first season as the trainer in Elizabethton, after spending last season with the GCL Twins.
Ramon Borrego will begin his fifth season with the rookie level Gulf Coast League Twins, and fourth season as manager. He will also run the Twins extended Spring Training program. Riccardo Ingram returns for his 17th season in the Twins organization and begins his second year as a hitting coach with the GCL Twins. Rudy Hernandez begins his 14th season in the Twins organization and returns as a hitting coach for the second straight year with the GCL Twins. Ehren Wasserman will continue his role as the pitching coach, a position he started in last year after coaching the 2012 season in the Independent Frontier League. Luis Ramirez will join the GCL Twins as a pitching coach, after holding the same title last season with the Twins Venezuelan Baseball Academy. Axel Lopez will begin his first year as the Twins GCL trainer after serving most recently as an intern in the Boston Red Sox organization.
In addition, Joel Lepel returns for his ninth year as the Twins minor league field coordinator, Eric Rasmussen returns for his sixth season as pitching coordinator, Bill Springman returns for his ninth season as hitting coordinator, and former Twin and Orioles Manager Sam Perlozzo has been named the minor league infield and baserunning coordinator. Chad Jackson enters his 12th season with the Twins and second as the club’s head minor league trainer and rehab coordinator. He spent the 2011-2012 seasons as the Red Wings trainer. Erik Beiser will begin his second season as minor league strength and conditioning coordinator, after spending the 2012 season with Rochester. Jose Marzan returns for his 10th season as the Twins Latin America operations coordinator. He will oversee the Twins field staff and academy personnel in the Dominican Republic and Venezuela, as well as the club’s cultural assimilation program. Brian Maloney enters his ninth season, first as Senior Manager of Florida Operations and Dave Ringler returns for his 18th season as equipment manager.
Former Twins great Tony Oliva will continue in his role as hitting coach, in addition to his community relations activities with the club. Also, former manager Tom Kelly will return as special assistant to the General Manager.
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.
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.
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