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.
Phil Miller covered three seasons of Twins baseball, but that was at a different ballpark for a different newspaper. Now Miller returns to the baseball beat after joining the Star Tribune as the Gopher football writer in 2010, and he won't miss the dingy dome for a minute. In addition to the Twins and Gophers, Miller covered the Utah Jazz and the NBA for six years at The Salt Lake Tribune.
Here are three thoughts from the Twins' 9-4 loss to Cleveland
THE FALL: The Twins began the week in second place in the A.L. Central. Now they are tied with Cleveland for last place and are in Detroit for a three-game series this weekend. Can they escape the cellar this weekend? Without Joe Mauer? With Josh Willingham and Oswaldo Arcia still on the mend? Things won't get easier for them as they play host to Boston at Target Field starting Tuesday.
THE MAUER SITUATION: Can Joe Mauer avoid the disabled list? The first baseman has been playing catch and swinging lightly while treating his sore back. That ends Friday, when he plans to increase his activities. ``I'm going to get to the park early and give it a good test and see where we are at,'' Mauer said. Mauer has told the Twins that he thinks that he can be ready to play by Friday or Saturday.
``I think Saturday is more realistic,'' Twins manager Ron Gardenhire said. If Mauer can't play by then, look for him to land on the disabled list. He will have missed a week of games by then, so missing another week won't be that much of a stretch. Mauer said he's feeling better, but I don't think he has enough time.
OTHER MOVES: You can't give up on Pedro Florimon just yet. He'll go down to Rochester and see if he can get his swing going. I will state that, his track record says he won't become a good offensive player. Can he become somewhat functional, bat .240 so he can steal a few more bases? Maybe. But he's got to figure out something on offense quickly...In a perfect world, Aaron Hicks would spend some games at Rochester to get his bat going before being activated from the DL. But the Twins need outfielders. As long as he passes the concussion tests on Friday. He should be in uniform. I don't have a sense on the other player the Twins might call up. Gardy called it ``a surprise.'' Kenny Wilson? Eric Fryer? Another transaction? We'll see. BTW, Brooks Raley was claimed off waivers from Anaheim. The Twins needed to make room for Matt Guerrier and tried to get Raley through outright waivers.
1. HAMMER TO HAVE SURGERY: Josh Willingham hopes to be ready to return to action in four to six weeks after he has surgery on Wednesday to repair a torn meniscus and also recover from a bone bruise. My guess is that it will take every bit of six weeks for him to recover, putting him in a mid-to-late August return. That means he won't have much time to impress before the Aug. 31 trade deadline either. Willingham has just been removed as a trade target by GM's across the league.
2. I MUST REMEMBER: I wrote last week that the Twins would have some tough roster decisions to make once Aaron Hicks and Mike Pelfrey are ready to return. History tells us that roster moves often have a way of working themselves out. Willingham needs surgery. Here comes Hicks. Pelfrey has been named the starter for Saturday's game against Toronto (and possibly R.A. Dickey). Let's see how that one works its way out.
3. INTERNATIONAL SIGNING DAY: The Twins expect to sign several prospects from Latin America, Europe and Australia. They have agreements with outfielder Lewin Diaz ($1.4 million) and third baseman Roni Tapia ($550,000). Righthander Mayky Perez also is on their radar but they are trying to get him to reduce his asking price. Look for several more prospects to sign over the next couple of weeks. The Twins still have roughly $2 million to spend (based on what we know) which could come in handy as other teams run out of money. The Twins had the fourth-highest bonus pool, so only three other teams can outspend them. Keep in mind that, while there's a frenzy now, teams will be signing players up until next June.
Today's game is being delayed until 3:30 p.m. It's raining again, but the groundscrew has painted the infield, so they can just pull the tarp up and spruce things up once they are ready to play.
By the way, this is the first "true" doubleheader the Twins have played in since Sept. 13, 2008 in Baltimore. There will be 30 minutes between games.
A couple notes:
Kyle Gibson on Friday gave up three runs over 3.2 innings on five hits and three walks as Class AAA Rochester lost 8-5 to Buffalo. He threw 68 pitches, 43 strikes. That should be Gibson's final start of the minor league season as he works his way back from Tommy John surgery last year. Between Rochester, Fort Myers and the Gulf Coast League, Gibson threw 28.1 innings.
He'll head to Florida Instructional League for a few weeks before Arizona Fall League play begins in October.
After the game, Gibson tweeted the following: "By no means is it the results I want, but its getting better in one way or another each time out! Gotta keep working each day to get there!"
Matt Capps (shoulder, rotator cuff) continues to work out at Target Field. Twins GM Terry Ryan said yesterday that there's a chance that Capps will be able to pitch in late September. Capps hasn't pitched in a game since June.
I'm going to re-post the starting lineups from last night's game, and will update if there are any changes. The only one I can think of is that Joe Mauer might play the first game after getting last night off.
UPDATE: It has stopped raining!!!!
The Twins have made their expected roster moves official. Righthander Esmerling Vasquez has had his contract purchased from Class AAA Rochester. Righthander P.J. Walters (shoulder) has been reinstated from the 60-day disabled list.
More callups are expected sometime next week.
1. Darin Mastroianni, CF
2. Jamey Carroll, 2B
3. Josh Willingham, DH
4. Justin Morneau, 1B
5. Ryan Doumit, C
6. Chris Parmelee, RF
7. Trevor Plouffe, 3B
8. Matt Carson, LF
9. Pedro Florimon, SS
Pitching: RHP Cole De Vries
1. Lorenzo Cain, CF
2. Yuniel Escobar, SS
3. Alex Gordon, LF
4. Billy Butler, DH
5 .Mike Moustakas, 3B
6. Brayan Pena, C
7. Jeff Francouer, RF
8. Eric Hosmer, 1B
9. Johnny Giavotella, 2B
Pitching: LHP Will Smith
The Twins lost 6-2 on Wednesday but made bigger news after the game with a few roster moves.
Here are a few initial thoughts after the Twins wear out the transaction wire.
1. Who is Darin Mastroianni? The Twins claimed him off waivers from the Blue Jays in February. Dude can run. He once stole 70 bases in a minor league season. He didn't show too much in spring training but wasn't expected to make the club anyway. When he got off to a slow start at Class AA New Britain, it looked like a bad move.
But Mastroianni took off once he got to Class AAA Rochester, batting .346. He can play all three outfield positions, he doesn't hit for power and can play a little second base. A little. "Mastroianni’s been playing the living fire out of the game down there,'' Twins manager Ron Gardenhire said. "They told me he’s the most exciting player down there. Terry (Ryan) has been down there watching that team for a week or so. I talked to the manager down there, Gene Glynn. He told me this kid has been playing really well, swinging the bat really well. Probably the most exciting player they have on that baseball team right now, running bases, stealing bases. He can fly. We’ll see. We’ll see how he does.”
The 8-22 Twins couldn't stand it anymore and made several roster moves after the game.
The Twins optioned third baseman Danny Valencia to Class AAA Rochester. He's gone 26 plate appearances without a hit this month.
Francisco Liriano was demoted to the bullpen.
Matt Maloney was designated for assignment and will likely head to Rochester if he isn't claimed off waivers.
The Twins have selected the contract of righthander P.J. Walters and outfielder Darin Mastroianni from Rochester. Walters will start Saturday. Mastroianni can play all three outfield spots.
Jamey Carroll, and others, will play third.
Will check back after deadline with updates. Until then, discuss.
Twins lose 7-0 to Seattle. Let's get to the three thoughts:
1. If there was ever a time for a prospect in the upper levels of the farm system to get hot, now is the time: There are spaces available on the major league roster. Terry Ryan and Ron Gardenhire are willing to shake things up to spark this team. Scott Diamond is on his way. Brian Dozier is too. Is there another? Is there another? Where, oh where, is Joe Benson?
2. Double plays: Things could have gotten out of hand earlier on Saturday if not for three double plays turned by the Twins infield. In fact, they got Ichiro to hit into a double play for the second straight game, something I've never seen and thought was impossible. But No. 51 has slowed down.
3. Can you hit? This is ridiculous. The Twins have scored in one of their last 36 innings. Nine hits in four games. I've never seen a team go from smacking the ball around the park and grinding out at-bats to looking meek at the plate. What gives? And how should they address this?
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