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.
We expected rain here around 3 pm Eastern time, but Mother Nature had other ideas.
The tarp is down, rain is falling and we are delayed.
No word when we might play. The Cardinals
rode in fron the other side of the state, the are tons of Cards fans here and the Twins were looking at their first sellout of spring. I'm sure they will try to get the game in. But there's a tornado watch until 7 pm.
UPDATE: The game has been cancelled and will not be made up. Headed down to the clubhouse for updates. Fans have until March 20 to exchange tickets.
Now back to regular programming...
Well that didn't take long.
The lineup for today's game against the Cardinals wasn't out long when Aaron Hicks and Oswaldo Arcia needed to be scratched.
Hicks felt soreness in his elbow while swinging in the batting cages but said he'll be fine. Byron Buxton is getting the start in center field and batting leadoff.
Arcia, however, is sick as a dog and, hopefully, was sent home while I'm writing this before he infects the clubhouse.
Ricky Nolasco is scheduled to face Adam Wainright today. The Twins are expecting a sellout crowd because of the masses of Cardinals fans who travel down from St. Petersburg (where they used to train) for the game.
But the skies are overcast. And there's rain in the forecast. We'll see how this day turns out.
1. Byron Buxton, CF
2. Brian Dozier, 2B
3. Joe Mauer, DH
4. Wilkin Ramirez, RF
5. Trevor Plouffe, 3B
6. Jason Kubel, LF
7. Chris Parmelee, 1B
8. Josmil Pinto, C'
9. Eduardo Escobar, SS
Pitching: Ricky Nolasco, RHP
Yuck. This was a sloppy game, as Baltimore had two, five-run innings as they smoked the Twins 11-5 Hammond Stadium. Mike Pelfrey got them off on the wrong foot by leaving several pitches over the plate that were feasted on by Orioles hitters. ``I definitely need to be better,'' he said.
Defense let the Twins down as well. Jorge Polanco and Eduardo Escobar didn't turn a couple double play opportunities in the sixth, with Polanco committing a throwing error on the first missed opportunity. That led to four unearned runs off of Scott Diamond - but the O's were making solid contact off of him.
Kurt Suzuki was hit on the right instep with a pitch in the fourth inning. He fell over when he was hit but went to first base after trainer Tony Leo checked on him. Suzuki was pulled after the inning, but Twins manager Ron Gardenhire said it was scheduled. ``He's fine,'' Gardy said. ``He was ticked off about the pitching.'' Suzuki is scheduled to play tomorrow.
Alex Presley came through with a sharp opposite field single to drive in the Twins' third run of the game. The Twins need a leadoff hitter and have been talking to Presley about handling that role. He's battling Aaron Hicks for the center field job.
Chris Parmelee was 1-for-2 with sharp single to right. ``He's got a different look in his eyes right now,'' Gardenhire said. ``He's not worried about anything, just going out and playing. He knows what's at stake with him.''
James Beresford has soft hands in the field and could be called up during the season. I'm wondering how much he can/will hit.
Of the three starters who are out of options, I would rank them: 1. Worley. 2. Deduno. 3. Diamond at this time. Worley is keeping the ball down better and is showing some Vanimal-like tendencies that didn't exist last year when his ERA was 7-something.
Saw Suzuki, Mauer, Dozier on the list to play tomorrow. No Byron Buxton.
Jason Bartlett is now 0-for-10. I'm not surprised because of the layoff. He needs a hit, however, so he can remember what the feeling was like.
What would this team look like if they had actually won the battles for Garza and Pierzynski and also had Santana on the back burner?
Greetings from Fort Myers, where the Twins and Orioles will meet under the lights at Hammond Stadium.
Here are lineups, will be back with updates.
Pedro Florimon hit in the cage today and went through fielding drills as he works his way back from appendix surgery. Today's activities are a good sign that he's making progress toward a full recovery.
Jason Bartlett is batting second today in order to get more at bats. He's appeared in three games, going 0-for-7. He's started games at short and second and said he's going to start a game at first base fairly soon.
1. Quintin Berry, CF
2. Jemile Weeks, 2B
3. Xavier Paul, RF
4. Steve Pearc, 1B
5. Johnny Monell, C
6. Nolan Reimold, DH
7. Ryan Flaherty, 3B
8. Alex Gonzalez, SS
9. Juilo Borbon, LF
Pitching: Chris Tillman, followed Zach Britton, Steve Johnson and others
1. Alex Pressly, CF
2. Jason Bartlett, SS
3. Joe Mauer, 1B
4. Josh Willingham, LF
5. Jason Kubel, DH
6. Trevor Plouffe, 3B
7. Chris Parmelee, RF
8. Kurt Suzuki, C
9. James Beresford, 2B
Pitching: Mike Pelfrey, Scott Diamond, Glen Perkins, Jared Burton, Michael Tonkin, Deoils Guerra, Matt Hoffman.
All indications are that the Orioles today will announce the signing of left-hander Johan Santana to a minor league deal. One report suggested that Santana will be allowed into the major league camp to continue his rehab there.
Update: The deal was announced Monday morning. Santana signed a minor-league contract with the team.
Santana visited the Orioles on Monday. I contacted a member of the Twins organization last night who believed the deal was done. The Twins did have recent conversations with Peter Greenberg, Santana's agent.
The Twins have had numerous conversations with Greenberg since the end of last season. In fact, several people believed that a Twins-Santana reunion was inevitable. But the sides could never agree on a deal. Granted, we're talking about a minor league deal here, but the problem might have been the gap in incentives.
Plus, Baltimore has a better chance of winning right now than the Twins.
It's too bad for the Twins, because fans were getting excited about the possibility of the two-time Cy Young winner slipping into Twinstripes once again. Santana has a long way to go since he's coming back from a second shoulder surgery. How close he can get back to what he once was is unknown. One shoulder surgery has ended pitchers' careers, remember that.
It would have been a great setup for Santana. There are a lot of people still around from his time with the Twins, mainly manager Ron Gardenhire, pitching coach Rick Anderson, trainers Dave Preumer and Lanning Tucker (former rehab coordinator) and strength and conditioning coordinator Perry Castellano. He would have been near his Fort Myers home and able to take his time and return to action when he felt right.
Baltimore trains in Sarasota, which is just over an hour away. And the Orioles, in January, hired Chris Correnti as their assistant athletic trainer. Correnti, it just so happens, worked for the Mets from 2007-10 - during Santana's time there.
Santana went to a local high school field on Feb. 7 to throw off a mound, and asked two two teams to check him out - the Twins and the Orioles.
I'm in Fort Myers today, working on a, `project.' Phil Miller is with the team in Jupiter, probably the worst drive of the spring schedule. Hang with 'em, Phil!
My neck is sore from watching Byron Buxton and Danny Santana round the bases during the Twins 9-2 win over Baltimore. The two burners took over the final two innings of the game. That's when Santana hit both his triples and Buxton blasted a ground-rule double to straight center and should have been a triple if it had stayed in the park.
Darin Mastroianni, one of the fastest players on the team last season, was asked where he would finish in a race between himself, Byron Buxton and Danny Santana.
``I'm not beating Buxton,'' Mastroianni said. ``Maybe the first two steps but not after that. Watching him is a lot of fun. Danny reminds a lot of Ben (Revere), a shorter guy but with long legs. The same kind of strides.''
Jaws dropped as they sped around the bases, giving everyone a chance to see what's not too far away in the Twins farm system. Santana has been plagued by inconsistency through his pro career, but has made big strides the past two seasons and could debut this season. He still has to prove he can be consistent (he committed 32 errors last season) and he has to try to walk more than 29 times a season.
Buxton's ground rule double was hit over the head of outfielder Quntin Berry, which is no small feat. Buxton was pulling into second as the ball disappeared behind the wall. The speed is frightening.
Some other observations:
Vance Worley threw a ton of strikes during his three shutout innings on Monday. He sounded confident afterward that the old Vance is back. He's throwing the ball down in the zone and his pitches have the movement his expects. Let's see if he can keep it up.
Last year, Wilkin Ramirez batted .404 and won a spot on the roster. Here he comes again, as Ramirez was 3-for-4 with 4 RBI. He's off to a .571 start this spring.
Trevor May gave up one run over two innings on three hits but he tried to mix his pitches and hit his spots. It just didn't work out today. ``He threw a couple of really nice change ups,'' Gardy said after the game.
Mastroianni stole a home run from Nelson Cruz in the second as he reached above the wall as he bumped into it, making the catch.
Santana and Ramirez let a pop fly fall between them in the fourth inning. No one called for the ball or for the other to take the ball. Gardy said Santana felt Ramirez's presence in the area and backed off. If he yells. `take it,' then Ramirez has the green light to barrel in and make the play.
Reports out of Baltimore late in the game had free agent lefthander Johan Santana on the verge of signing a minor league deal with the Orioles. The Twins have shown plenty of interest in bringing back the two-time Cy Young winner but the sides couldn't agree on figures. Santana is months away from helping a team, but it's time for him to sign with someone and get around some rehab coordinators who are going to push him through the final stages of his comeback.
The Twins head to Jupiter tomorrow to play the Fighting Redmonds. Phil Miller will be at the keyboard tomorrow.
Tomorrow also is reporting day for Twins minor leaguers, who will get to see a remodeled facility,
Hello from sunny Sarasota, where the split Twins will play the Orioles. Twins manager Ron Gardenhire is on the trip, continuing a routine established by Tom Kelly. Kelly never stayed back home on a split-squad day.
Josmil Pinto, who has recovered from a sore back, makes his first start behind the plate.
Jason Bartlett, trying to make the club as a utility player, will start at second base. I'm not worried about him playing around, I'm more interested in what he can do at the plate. But I must keep in mind that sometimes you have to ignore the first 10 -12 spring training games and wait for players to get their timing down, find a groove, etc.
Vance Worley makes his first spring start and second appearance, if you count the intrasquad game on Thursday.
1. Darin Mastroianni, CF
2. Danny Santana, SS
3. Trevor Plouffe, 3B
4. Chris Parmelee, RF
5. Chris Colabello, 1B
6. Jason Kubel, DH
7. Wilkin Ramirez, LF
8. Josmil Pinto, C
9. Jason Bartlett, 2B
Pitching: Vance Worley, followed by Trevor May, Sean Gilmartin, Lester Oliveros, Aaron Thompson, Logan Darnell and perhaps others.
1. J.J. Hardy, SS
2. Nick Markakis, DH
3. Adam Jones, CF
4. Chris Davis, 1B
5. Nelson Cruz, RF
6. Matt Wieters, C
7. Ryan Flaherty. 2B
8. Alex Gonzalez, 3B
9. David Lough, LF
Pitching: Bud Norris