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

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

Three postgame thoughts from LEN3: Parmelee, Hendriks, Minnesota sports fans

Posted by: La Velle E. Neal III Updated: April 26, 2012 - 12:20 AM

The Twins' losing streak is at five games now after losing to the Red Sox. Here are three quick thoughts:

1. Chris Parmelee. That sound. You cringe when you hear the ball strike the batting helmet. But most folks at the park on Wednesday heard the noise when Justin Thomas hit Chris Parmelee in the head with a pitch in the sixth inning.. Justin Morneau was on first base when it happened. "I had about as good of view as anybody,'' he said. " Almost exact same way I got hit in '05, kind of hanging in there, waiting. making sure hanging in long enough for a breaking ball and all of the sudden the two seamer comes running at you and you can’t get away, it’s a scary feeling, I went back and talked to him, seems like he’s doing alright. I think he’s got a little bit of a headache, but other than that, he seemed to be in good spirits, and hopefully the day off will do him some good. Obviously, it’s impossible to tell with these things, but he seemed optimistic, so I’ll be optimistic too." Twins manager Ron Gardenhire said Parmelee had a headache and tests will be ongoing. "We're just lucky the kid is O.K." he said. The ball appeared to catch the bill of his helmet more than anything. Thomas was booed off the field, but wasn't trying to hurt Parmelee. "No intention there," Thomas said. "I just hope he's feeling alright."

2. Liam Hendriks. Hendriks admitted that he got away from his game plan Wednesday and needed to throw more strikes, I wonder how the first inning war with Adrian Gonzalez affected him. Gonzalez fought through a 15- pitch at bat, fouling off 10 pitches, before grounding out. Hendriks threw 31 pitches in the first inning.

3. Minnesota sports fans. My brother, who still roots for all Chicago sports teams, has even said, "Minnesota doesn't deserve this." This is a bad run for the pro sports teams. Recent championships belong to the Lnyx and Minnesota Stars. That's it. The anguish is coming out more and more on these blogs and on twitter. Just remember, we're here to let you vent. This could be a long summer.

Twins Camp Day 10: Some pre-workout notes

Posted by: La Velle E. Neal III Updated: February 28, 2012 - 8:32 AM

Today will be a good day to watch relievers at the Lee County Sports Complex.

Alex Burnett, Jared Burton, Matt Maloney, Kyle Waldrop and Jason Bulger all are scheduled to throw batting practice. There's a good chance that one or two relievers from this group break camp with the team. With Brian Duensing in the bullpen there's less of a need to keep a third lefty like Maloney, but you never know.

Burton has looked pretty good so far, but that doesn't really matter until he starts facing opposing hitters.

There's a chance that reliever Joel Zumaya will reach a decision on his future. We'll let you know here as soon as it happens.

A couple injury updates. Luke Hughes took 25 light swings this morning and he works his way back from right shoulder inflammation. He's been allowed to take part in fielding drills but can only roll the ball off the field after he fields grounders. He hopes he'll be promoted to light tosses soon. Ah, rehab. Baby steps,

Reliever Jeff Gray was kept off the mound for a couple days because he had trouble getting loose, But he's going to throw today,

Having covered Michael Cuddyer for 11 seasons, heck yes I'm biased

Posted by: La Velle E. Neal III Updated: December 16, 2011 - 3:19 PM


It was either 2004 or 2005 (the years are beginning to blur) when I was having lunch during spring training. Matthew LeCroy walked in and sat down next me.

While picking sushi rolls up with his hands and stuffing them into his mouth, he talked about Michael Cuddyer.

``He's unbelievable,'' LeCroy said. ``When he arrived at New Britain (2000) he walked into the office and said, `Anything you need to have done in the community, let me know. I want to help.'
When I asked him about it, he said he wanted to be that guy to give back.''

Until the end of his time with the Twins, Cuddyer was that guy. When Twins officials this summer talked about trying to sign him to one more contract, they spoke of how Cuddyer has done everything they've asked of him through the years. Hosting `Baseball Unplugged' during off-days. Interviewing players during the Diamond Awards dinner. Cuddyer stepped up for them. One more contract, they felt, would make him a lock for the Twins' Hall of Fame.

He was a pretty good player too. He never had a really, really big season. He reached 30 homers once. He drove in 100 runs once. He didn't make an All-Star team until last season. But, once the Twins figured out where to play him, he was reliable, he could carry a team for a little while and made baserunners pay when they tried to stretch for two.

But it was the whole package, on and off the field, that made covering him a pleasure.

I've known Cuddyer since 1999. I remember buying rounds for him and Michael Restovich at a  watering hole during their first major league training camp a couple years later and getting to know them. (I also remember getting crushed at the pool table that night). He treats people the way he wants to be treated. He's funny. He's loyal. He married a teacher. He's creative. Good grief, the guy once thought about opening a bar in which people swiped their credit cards at taps designed like gasoline pumps and pour their own beer. He was an impressive young man in 1999 and really never changed.

Luke Hughes is in awe of the guy. Hughes is trying to get Australian baseball moving forward and has gone to Cuddyer for advice on what to say and what to do to motivate players in his homeland. To Hughes, Cuddyer's professionalism is one trait every player should have.

When the Twins were in the process of getting waxed by the Yankees in the 2010 playoffs, it was Cuddyer who came out and faced the media while other players remained in the restricted area of the clubhouse.

This past season drained Cuddyer and factored into his decision to leave. In September, he told me during a casual conversation that it probably was his toughest season, based on failed expectations and how things played out in the clubhouse.

Fellow clubhouse leader Justin Morneau struggled with injuries and recurring concussion symptoms. When and where Joe Mauer was playing was a daily mystery. Young players needed to be straightened out. Cuddyer tried to play with a sore neck late in the season to send a message to everyone, but it became pointless as the losses mounted and the Rochester roster migrated West.

``I feel like I'm fighting a one-man battle,'' Cuddyer told someone in the clubhouse.

It's a great deal, $31.5 million over three years. Clearly more than the Twins were willing to go. Good for Cuddyer, one of my favorite players to cover since I started writing ball in 1994. The Twins get two draft picks and might have $8-9 million to spend (starting pitching?). Good for the Twins.

Cuddyer is off to the Rockies. The Twins will try to recover from rock-bottom baseball.

 

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