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 Off the field

Twins-White Sox: Twins try to stop the slide

Posted by: La Velle E. Neal III Updated: August 2, 2014 - 5:22 PM

The Twins already have had three, three-game losing streaks since the All-Star break.

I received many questions from twitter followers and through e-mail about the Twins' choice of uniform last night. Yes, it was the first time this regular season the Twins have worn the red uniform tops. They were a fixture during spring training.

The starting pitcher normally chooses that day's uniform, and Logan Darnell did sign off on the decision. But some with the club thought it would be worth trying out to see if its luck would change. The offense scored eight runs on Friday, which was good, but the bullpen imploded in a 10-8 loss. Not sure when they will try the red uniforms again.

A big roar went up in the clubhouse when former Twin Sam Fuld threw out Alex Gordon at home plate to end the fourth inning of the A's-Royals game.

One topic of conversation before the game was how to pitch to Chicago first baseman Frank Thomas....I mean Jose Abreu. Abreu brings a streak of reaching base in ten straight plate appearances into the game.  Pitching coach Rick Anderson said a pitcher can't make mistakes over the plate and must pitch hitters like Abreu hard inside so they don't too comfortable attacking the outer half of the plate.

``Make him aware that you can get in there,'' Anderson said.

Ricky Nolasco threw in the bullpen before today's game and will head to Cedar Rapids for a start on Tuesday. Nolasco has told some people with the team that his arm feels the best it has in two years. That's encouraging to the Twins, who have sunk a nice chunk of change in Nolasco and would like to see some results.

Kennys Vargas is back in the Twins lineup tonight, but as the desginated hitter. Still, when the rest of the team came off the field, Vargas remained at first base with Paul Molitor, going over things.

Twins (48-60)

Danny Santana, CF
Brian Dozier, 2B
Trevor Plouffe, 3B
Josh Willingham, LF
Kurt Suzuki, C
Kennys Vargas, DH
Oswaldo Arcia, RF
Chris Parmelee, 1B
Eduardo Escobar, SS

Yohan Pino, RHP

White Sox (54-56)

Adam Eaton, CF
Gordon Beckham, 2B
Jose Abreu, 1B
Adam Dunn, DH
Alexi Ramirez, SS
Conor Gillaspie, 3B
Dayan Viciedo, RF
Alejandro De Aza, LF
Adrian Nieto, C

Scott Carroll, RHP

Twins-Yankees: The boat is starting to take on water

Posted by: La Velle E. Neal III Updated: July 5, 2014 - 12:25 PM


The Twins' recent slide is bringing back those old feelings, They are banged up, the offense is sputtering and the starting pitching is faltering. As a result, they have lost nine of their last 11 games and are 11 games back in the AL Central.

Worse yet: Houston and Arizona are tied for the worst record in baseball - and the Twins are just 3.5 games ahead.

They need a slumpbuster today against the Yankees. Can Yohan Pino provide it?

Jeter day

The Twins will honor the retiring Derek Jeter before today's game. It's making quite a difference here this week.

Twins fans, for some reason, have booed Jeter mercilessly here for years despite the fact that he's never done anything to warrant such action - other than win games. No taunting. No injuring Twins players, No showboating. No cheating. But he's been booed when other Yankees players haven't. It's perplexing. Then again, it's not.

But not this week. Jeter was cheered when he took the field for pre-game work today and cheered when he came off the field.

Santana update

Danny Santana is eligible to come off the disabled list on July 13, the final game before the All-Star break.
The Twins are willing to activate him for that game in Colorado. instead of giving him four more days off.
Santana, on the 15-day DL with a bone bruise near his left knee, is making progress with his rehabilitation. The Twins are considering bringing him on the upcoming road trip to Seattle and Colorado so he can work out with the team, if it looks like he'll be ready to play once he's eligible to be activated.

UPDATE: Twins GM Terry Ryan said the Santana will not travel with the team on the road trip and that there's a chance he would go on a minor league rehab stint during the MLB All-Star break. That makes sense, to make sure the knee is fine.

 Yankees (43-42)

Jacoby Ellsbury, CF
The Captain, SS
Brian McCann, C
Mark Teixeira, 1B
Carlos Beltran, DH
Brian Roberts, 2B
Ichiro, RF
Alfonso Soriano, LF
Zelous Wheeler, 3B

David Phelps, RHP

Twins (38-47)

Brian Dozier, 2B
Kurt Suzuki, C
Chris Parmelee, 1B
Kendrys Morales, DH
Josh Willingham, LF
Oswaldo Arcia, RF
Trevor Plouffe, 3B
Eduardo Escobar, SS
Sam Fuld, CF

Yohan Pino, RHP

Some minor league notes before the Twins-Dodgers game

Posted by: La Velle E. Neal III Updated: May 1, 2014 - 11:52 AM


The occupation of Target Field has begun. Just got here and getting set up for a longgggg day at the park. The tarp is down. It's cold, with occasional drizzle. Yuck. Looking at the radar, it's going to be like this for....hours.

Mike Pelfrey will face Dan Haren in game one. The matchup everyone is waiting for is game two, when Kris Johnson squares off against Red Patterson. Come on over, it should be a lot of fun.

I wasn't here last night, opting to watch the whacky Wild-Avs game. About to head down to the clubhouse to see what's going on. But I wanted to drop some notes about the trip to Fort Myers I took last week after the Twins-Rays series.

As you read, I was able to sit down with Eddie Rosario for awhile to see how his 50-game suspension is going, His English is rough (he's taking English classes in Fort Myers), but he sounded pretty sincere about how bad he felt about the decision he made and how he needs to focus on his career and his family. He'll be a New Britain by the end of the month with a chance to salvage this season.

Took in Class A Fort Myers' game against Palm Beach last Friday.  Jose Berrios gave up a run in the first inning but was nails after that. He can change speeds and has a nice curveball. The stadium scoreboard had his fastballs from 94-96, with several 96's. To make sure I went down into the stands and asked a scout for his readings. He said he never saw any 96's on his gun, but Berrios settled in at 94 and hit 95 several times. So the Hammond Stadium scoreboard is a plus-1,

Jorge Polanco hit a solo homer in the game, one day after hitting a grand slam. ``He squares everything up,'' Miracle manager Doug Mientkiewicz said. It's been nice to see him go from a skinny, shy, homesick kid to someone who could be a player.

Travis Harrison in left, ugh. That is going to be a work in progress. To be honest, I'm a little surprised the Twins have pulled him from third base this early in his major league career.

Watched some players work out over at extended spring training. One player who caught my eye was shortstop Nelson Molina, a lanky kid who stands 6-3 but is listed at 154 pounds. He towered over the other infielders, and looked fairly smooth. Looked up his stats. He batted .110 at GCL last season. Ouch. He's definitely a project, but when you see someone that tall at short you wonder how he'll fill out and how he'll develop as a hitter. ``Last season, he was overmatched offensively, as you see by the numbers'' said Brad Steil, the Twins director of minor league operations. ``But he's gotten a lot stronger, so we'll see how he does this year.

Another shortstop, Joel Ramirez, showed nice hands and a solid arm. He batted .252 for the DSL Twins and is bouncing back from a shoulder injury.

Catcher Brian Navarreto, who was drafted in the sixth round last year, is big - in a good way. Hitting coach Riccardo Ingram said he thinks Navarretto is going to hit for power once he gets some experience.

That's about it. The grounds crew has pulled part of the tarp off the field to prepare the mound and home plate. It's not raining right now, so it looks like they have a chance to start on time. Headed downstairs and will check back soon.


The Twins, as expectred, are fired up over the Wild's series win over the Avs. Twins manager Ron Gardenhire didn't get a chance to send Wild head coach Mike Yeo a message after last night's thrilling win. "I will now,'' Gardy said. "Congratulations, and I wil be watching.''

Gardy said he had no problem with giving Trevor Plouffe the green light on 3-0 with the bases loaded last night, saying that Plouffe has been swinging well and can blast a fastball.

Chris Colabello is not in the lineup for game one. "He needs to stay in the (strike)  zone a little bit more,'' Gardy said, "that's what /I noticed last night.''

The Twins have lost their last five interleague games.

Dodgers (15-12)

Dee Gordon, 2B
Yasiel Puig, RF
Hanley Ramirez, SS
Adrian Gonzalez, 1B
Matt Kemp, CF
Andre Ethier, CF
Juan Uribe, 3B
Miguel Olivio, C
Carl Crawford, LF

Pitching: Dan Haren, RHP

Twins (12-12)

Brian Dozier, 2B
Joe Mauer, 1B
Trevor Plouffe, 3B
Jason Kubel, LF
Josmil Pinto, DH
Kurt Suzuki, C
Sam Fuld, RF
Aaron Hicks, CF
Eduardo Escobar, SS

Mike Pelfrey, RHP

Capps returns as the Twins begin their final homestands of the season

Posted by: La Velle E. Neal III Updated: September 24, 2012 - 6:08 PM

Righthander Matt Capps, who hasn't pitched in a game since July, as been activated from the disabled list and will be available tonight as the Twins begin their final homestand of the season.

Capps (shoulder) wants to prove he's healthy so there are no doubts during the offseason, when the Twins are expected to decline his option and make him a free agent.

The spoiler thing went well for the Twins over the weekend in Detroit, as they took two of three games from the Tigers. Let's see if they can keep it going against the Bronx Bombers.

Will check back with lineups and updates.

UPDATES

Gardenhire said he will look for the right opportunity to use Capps. He surely won't throw him into the heat of a late-inning, high-leverage, SportsCenter moment. I would guess it would be in the sixth or seventh inning. If the Twins are being blown off the field, Capps could enter at any time.

Jack Jablonski, the paralyzed hockey player, was on the field for batting practice and met Gardy as well as several players. Justin Morneau gave him one of his bats. Even Derek Jeter ran over to greet him. (Once again, I'll never understand why fans here boo Jeter).

Jablonski is going to throw out the first pitch tonight.
Over in Yankee-land,. Jeter is at shortstop tonight. He's been battling a bone bruise in his foot, and has been the DH in six of his last nine games because of it. It hasn't stop Captain Clutch at the plate, as he's batting .333 this month.

BATTING TITLE WATCH

Joe Mauer, batting .323 heading into the game,  is a career .294 hitter against Yankees starter Andy Pettitte.

Miguel Cabrera (.331)  and the Tigers are home against Kansas City and Luke Hochevar. Cabrera is a ridiculous 16-for-32 with two home runs and 10 RBI against Hochevar.

Yankees (88-64)

1. Derek Jeter, SS
2. Ichrio Suzuki, RF
3. Alex Rodriguez, DH
4. Robinson Cano, 2B
5. Nick Swisher, 1B
6. Curtis Granderson, CF
7. Raul Ibanez, LF
8. Russell Martin, C
9. Eric Chavez, 3B

Pitching: Andy Pettitte, LHP

Twins (64-89)

1. Denard Span, CF
2. Ben Revere, RF
3. Joe Mauer, C
4. Josh Willingham, LF
5. Justin Morneau, DH
6. Ryan Doumit, C
7. Trevor Plouffe, 3B
8. Jamey Carroll, 2B
9. Pedro Florimon, SS
 

Game delayed by rain but expected to re-start around 7:55

Posted by: La Velle E. Neal III Updated: July 8, 2012 - 7:47 PM

Lightning sent players scurrying off the field in the fourth inning, then rain came down on Rangers Ballpark in Arlington. The game has been delayed - the fourth rain delay for the Twins on this road trip.

But the game should resume by around 7:55, as the rain has stopped and the tarp is coming off.

 Righthander P.J. Walters suffered a setback during his rehab stint at Class AAA Rochester, coming down with some soreness in his shoulder after pitching on Friday. So he will wait a couple days and throw in the bullpen before starting another game.

That affects the Twins' plans for their post-All Star break rotation. As of now, Francisco Liriano is scheduled to start on Friday against Oakland. Brian Duensing is scheduled to start on Sunday, and no one is listed for Saturday's game.The Twins could give righthander Samuel Deduno another start or go with someone else.

Both Trevor Plouffe and Justin Morneau enter tonight with a nine-game hitting streak as the Twins try to hit the break with a winning road trip.

The Twins will head home after the game for the All-Star break - except for All-Star Joe Mauer. The team will meet on the field at 3 p.m. Friday for a lengthy workout before they face the A's.

Class AA New Britain outfielder Aaron Hicks has been named Twins minor league player of the week after batting .381 over six games.

Twins (36-48)

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

Pitching: Cole De Vries, (2-1, 3.91)

Rangers (51-34)

1. Ian Kinsler, 2B
2. Elvis Andrus, SS
3. Josh Hamilton, DH
4. Adrian Beltre, 3B
5. Nelson Cruz, RF
6. Michael Young, 1B
7. David Murphy, LF
8. Mike Napoli, C
9. Craig Gentry, CF

Pitching: Roy Oswalt, (2-1, 7.79)

 

Twins-Royals: Time to play a game

Posted by: La Velle E. Neal III Updated: April 29, 2012 - 9:28 AM

I tweeted late Saturday afternoon that the Twins could have gotten their game against the Royals in if they really had to. About 35 minutes after the game was called, the rain stopped and never returned.

But it would have been crummy weather to play in and crummy weather to watch a game in. Some readers feel the Twins should be called on the carpet for not playing the game after opening the gates. Folks, get used to it. This goes on all over baseball. Teams will open for business and sell a couple rounds while they cross their fingers that a "window:" will open to play the game in. If not, well, they were able to sell a couple rounds. I've sat through dozens of these situations in nearly 20 years of covering Major League Baseball. It's not going to change.

I'm assuming that, since the pitching matchups haven't changed, that the starting lineups haven't changed either, Will update if there is a change.

One minor league note: Righthander Sam Deduno threw six pitches on Friday for Class AAA Rochester and walked off the field with a sore shoulder. Righthander Deolis Guerra, the lone remaining player from the Johan Santana trade, has been promoted from Class AA New Britain. Guerra was 2-0 with a 0.71 ERA in 12.2 innings for the Rock Cats.

 

Royals (6-14)

1. Chris Getz, 2B
2. Alex Gordon, LF
3. Billy Butler, DH
4. Eric Hosmer, 1B
5. Jeff Francoeur, RF
6. Mike Moustakas,
7. Brayan Pena, C
8. Alcides Escobar, SS
9. Jarrod Dyson, CF

Bruce Chen, LHP

Twins (5-15)

1. Denard Span, CF
2. Jamey Carroll, SS
3. Joe Mauer, C
4. Josh Willingham, LF
5. Justin Morneau, 1B
6. Danny Valencia, 3B
7. Ryan Doumit, DH
8. Trevor Plouffe, RF
9. Alexi Casilla, 2B

Jason Marquis

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