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.

Masterson is on Twins radar

Posted by: La Velle E. Neal III Updated: November 17, 2014 - 5:24 PM
The following sentence is will be written over and over this offseason, with a different name inserted each time.
 
One of the free agents the Twins have expressed interest in is righthander Justin Masterson, the former Red Sox and Indians pitcher who wound up with St. Louis during the second half of 2014. A source with knowledge of the Twins search confirmed the interest.
 
The Twins have asked for, and have received, Masterson's medical records. Masterson spent some time on the disabled list this season with right knee inflammation. In the past, he's had surgery on his non-throwing shoulder. 
 
Masterson, 29, was 7-9 with a 5.88 ERA with Cleveland and St. Louis last season. It was awful timing for Masterson, who talked about an extension with the Indians before the season but tabled talks. Now a free agent, he's looking for a one or two year deal to re-establish his value. 
 
When he's right, he can eat up innings and stabilize a rotation. 
 
So he could be a good low-risk move for the Twins - but he could be for a lot of teams. More than 10 clubs has expressed interest, including his former Indians team.
 
The Twins are looking at pitching and outfield help this offseason and will be linked to many names throughout the offseason. They aren't expected to be make a flashy, splashy free agent signing, so making plays for the Justin Mastersons is their likely route.

Buxton injured during Arizona Fall League game

Posted by: La Velle E. Neal III Updated: October 27, 2014 - 6:04 PM

Twins top prospect Byron Buxton is injured again.

Buxton, who began the season as the top prospect in baseball, injured his left hand today while diving for a ball during a Arizona Fall League game. The initial report is that he dislocated his left middle finger.

As of this point, we're not sure how long he could be out.

Buxton is batting .263 for the Salt River Rafters, was 1 for 4 in the game - and 1 for 2 in stolen base attempts - before he was injured. There should be more details later tonight or tomorrow.

Buxton was limited to 31 minor league games this season  beccuase of a bruised left wrist during spring training - also while diving for a ball - and a concussion suffered late in the season.

Twins manager search: Jim Pohlad enters the process

Posted by: La Velle E. Neal III Updated: October 27, 2014 - 3:33 PM

Twins owner Jim Pohlad has entered the process as the club searches for a new manager.

Pohlad has spent recent days meeting with "multiple" candidates for the position, according to a source with knowledge of the search.

It's safe to assume that two people Pohlad has met with are Twins coach Paul Molitor and Boston bench coach Torey Lovullo.

Pohlad taking part in interviews is a sign that the Twins search is almost over. With the World Series ending as soon as Tuesday, the Twins could announce Ron Gardenhire's replacement as soon as Wednesday. I think it is safe to assume that the Twins will name their new skipper by the end of the week.

Twins notes: Club declines Jared Burton's 2015 option; winter ball updates

Posted by: La Velle E. Neal III Updated: October 22, 2014 - 4:30 PM


While we wait for Terry Ryan's exhaustive search for a new manager to be completed, let's move on to other Twins news.

The club on Wednesday declined to pick up the 2015 option for righthander Jared Burton. Instead of Burton making $3.6 million with the Twins next season, he receives a $200,000 buyout and is now a free agent.

Burton, 33, posted a 4.36 ERA and earned three saves in 68 games with the Twins this season. In three seasons with the Twins, Burton was 8-16 with a 3.47 ERA in 203 games. After injury plagued seasons in 2010 and 2011, Burton signed with the Twins and three largely healthy seasons.

Burton was lights out in 2012, posting a 2.18 ERA over 62 games, but his ERA rose to 3.92 in 2013 before passing 4.00 this season.

Other stuff

Second baseman Eddie Rosario is batting .429  through 10 Arizona Fall League Games, which probably is a relief to everyone at Target Field. Rosario saw his status as a top Twins prospect slip this season as he served a drug suspension then hit just .237 at Class AA New Britain.

At the same time, no one seems ready to jump off a bridge because outfielder Byron Buxton is batting .209 through his first 10 games.

Outfielder Aaron Hicks decided to play winter ball and hooked up with Margarita of the Venezuelan League. On Friday he singled in the ninth and went on to score the winning run for Margarita. The single came off of lefthander Ryan O'Rourke. O'Rourke posted a 3.98 ERA in 50 games for New Britain this season. Doug Mientkiewicz had him in Fort Myers and predicted that he's going to be a good major league reliever because he has the bulldog mentality and can strike batters out.

Hicks, by the way, is batting .318 with a .444 OBP through seven games with Margarita.

Joe McEwing interviews for Twins job

Posted by: La Velle E. Neal III Updated: October 10, 2014 - 4:55 PM


White Sox third base coach Joe McEwing interviewed with the Twins on Friday, the seventh known candidate to replace Ron Gardenhire.

McEwing also has interviewed for vacancies in Arizona and Texas.

McEwing retired after the 2007 season and became a minor league coach in the White Sox system. He rocketed up the ladder, joining Robin Ventura's staff in 2012.

One of his Twins connections is that McEwing managed Aaron Hicks and Brian Dozier for Mesa of the Arizona Fall League in 2011.

Other known candidates include Oakland bench coach Chip Hale, Boston bench coach Torey Lovullo, Cleveland bench coach Sandy Alomar, Jr and in-house candidates Paul Molitor, Doug Mientkiewicz and Gene Glynn.

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