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 following the Twins 12-2 romp over the White Sox.
GOOD BASERUNNING: Torii Hunter got a good read on Joe Mauer's bloop single to left in the first inning, taking off almost at the crack of the bat and was at third with it landed. The better play was when Danny Santana, running on the pitch, scored from first on Brian Dozier's blooper to center. Chicago's Adam Eaton hesitated throwing the ball in, and third base coach Gene Glynn decided to gamble and send Santana around third. Someone in the clubhouse thought Eaton's throw was good enough to not cut off, but Jose Abreu did. Then he bobbled the ball and was unable to get a throw off. ``You got to give Danny credit,'' Twins manager Paul Molitor said, ``running on the pitch.Run hard to third and give Geno a chance to see if we can steal a run on the backside. It worked out.''
GRAHAM LIVES: Molitor was able to get Rule 5 draft pick J.R. Graham into the game to pitch the ninth. The coaching staff believes they were putting him into situations he wasn't ready for and had not used him in a game since Apr. 19. He pitched a scoreless ninth, striking out Eaton with a fastball at the knees for the second out. Graham has been working out with bullpen coach Eddie Guardado, throwing off the mound, working on his mechanics and trying not to bounce off the walls. ``It kind of keeps me sane,'' Graham said. ``I have a lot of penned up energy.''
THAT'S IT: I found myself writing about Adam Eaton a lot today. Not getting the relay throw in quickly on Santana's score. Missing Mauer's blast to right-center. The Carlos Gomez-ian throw from center on Escobar's two-run hit. Striking out against Graham. After the game, a frustrated Eaton shaved off his beard. ``That guy stunk,'' Eaton said. ``Gotta get rid of him.''
The Twins made it official earlier today, announcing that Casey Fien was being placed on the 15-day disabled list with a right shoulder strain. And righthander Michael Tonkin, 0-1 with a 2.45 ERA at Class AAA Rochester, was being called up to replace him.
Tonkin throws hard but needs to work on his control. He also has been searching for a reliable second pitch.
Lefthander Brian Duensing pitched a two-inning simulated game earlier today. Apparently, that went well and he should be activated from the DL in time for Saturday's game.
No word yet in Phil Hughes' hip, Jordan Schafer's knee (although he's taking early b.p. right now) and what the next step for Ricky Nolasco is.
Trevor May is back on the mound after being hit in the right elbow by a Kyle Seager line drive in Seattle.
Adam Eaton, CF
Alexei Ramirez, SS
Melky Cabrera, LF
Jose Abreu, 1B
Adam LaRoche, DH
Avisail Garcia, RF
Conor Gilaspie, 3B
Tyler Flowers, C
Micah Johnson, 2B
Chris Sale, LHP
Brian Dozier, 2B
Torii Hunter, RF
Joe Mauer, 1B
Trevor Plouffe, 3B
Kurt Suzuki, C
Kennys Vargas, DH
Eduardo Escobar, LF
Shane Robinson, CF
Danny Santana, SS
Trevor May, RHP
UPDATE: Right-handed reliever Michael Tonkin is headed to Minnesota and will rejoin the Twins’ bullpen.
The move likely means that Casey Fien, who left Wednesday’s game with soreness in his pitching shoulder, is headed for the disabled list.
Tonkin, who owns a 3.26 ERA in 34 career games with the Twins, has allowed two runs in 7 1/3 innings this season for the Class AAA affiliate.
Fien allowed three runs on five hits on Wednesday, including a home run to Miguel Cabrera, before leaving mid-inning with soreness in his shoulder. Manager Paul Molitor said afterward that “Casey’s shoulder still a little bit tender. We’re going to make sure we are on top of that. We’re going to get it checked out.”
Three extras after a bizarre Twins loss to Detroit:
— There was a “Molitor’s going to be mad” feeling in the press box when the Twins turned James McCann’s long fly ball into an inside-the-park home run Wednesday, not because of the freakish play itself — the ball bounced off the wall, hit Jordan Schafer’s leg and rolled along the warning track toward right field — but because more than one person said, “Where was Arcia?” It looked like the right fielder didn’t move over to help in case the ball got past Schafer. But Paul Molitor defended Arcia after the game, and pointed out that nobody could have predicted the ball would wind up where it did.
“He was moving,” the Twins’ manager said. “You want both your corners to close the gap. If you’re going over there, you’re expecting more of a carom back to the middle of the field than you are back to the right-field side. But I think he was moving in the right direction.”
More than that, Molitor said, “He’s working. … He knows he has to play defense if he wants to play.”
— Tim Stauffer faced five batters and allowed two of them, Miguel Cabrera and J.D. Martinez, to hit the ball out of the park. Molitor said the righthander “is trying to get himself going,” and sounded optimistic that he’s getting better, despite his 8.38 ERA. “His velocity may be a tick better,” Molitor said of Stauffer, whose fastball topped out at 90 mph. “Today, he just got a couple of balls up, and they made him pay.”
— It was an eventful day for Trevor Plouffe, who homered for the first time since his walk-off blast against Cleveland 10 days ago. This one was an accident, Plouffe said. “I was just trying to put the ball in play. I got down 0-2, we had a runner on third base, so iIwanted to put the ball in play, get that run in,” he said. “I think [Tigers starter Shane Greene] was trying to go away with that pitch, but he hung it.”
That home run was overshadowed by a popup that Plouffe called for, but didn’t catch, a hit that turned into the game-winning run. “To be honest, I didn’t really see it,” he said. “It got in the sun there, I tried to get around it to get a good view of it, but by the time I did see it, I called for it and I was in no position to catch it.”
Kennys Vargas’ benching lasted two days. Twins manager Paul Molitor has the 25-year-old Puerto Rican slugger back in the lineup today, but a couple things have changed. Vargas will bat seventh, the lowest he’s ever been in the lineup. And he’ll play first base for just the third time this year.
Being a designated hitter is difficult for young players, Molitor believes, especially during a slump, because they have so much time to stew over their failures between at-bats. He hopes manning a position will help Vargas put his 2-for-28 drought out of his mind, at least for awhile, and it has the added benefit of giving Joe Mauer a DH day in the middle of 17 straight games.
Speaking of droughts, Phil Hughes will try to end his four-game winless streak today, and for a change, he’s not facing he ace of a staff. Nothing against Shane Greene, the righthander who looked plenty good in beating the Twins three weeks ago in Detroit, but Hughes at least can hope for more run support than he’s received so far — two entire runs in his four starts.
Who will start this weekend remains an increasingly intriguing mystery, because Molitor said cryptically that “things are coming together” regarding the starting rotation, which currently has six pitchers and no obvious solutions, but he would not elaborate. He ruled out the possibility of going with a six-man rotation, even temporarily, because going to a six-man bullpen would risk overtaxing the relievers just a month into the season.
Molitor said he intends to consult with general manager Terry Ryan today, but for now, he’s not ready to say who might be headed to the bullpen, or the minor leagues, or perhaps another rehab start. For now, Trevor May and Kyle Gibson are slated to start against the White Sox on Thursday and Friday, and the rest of the rotation is TBA.
Here are the lineups for today’s noon matinee, the last time the Twins will see the Tigers for … well, two entire weeks. They return to Detroit on May 12-14.
V Martinez DH
JD Martinez RF
Here are three thoughts following the Twins' 3-2 victory over Detroit:
WHAT IS WITH PELFREY?: He's around the paint more. He's hitting corners. He's getting strikeouts. Who is this impostor? Pelfrey is confident, he;'s working fast and working over opponents. He's definitely caught a wave, let's see how long he can ride it. Two or three times tonight he told us this is what he expects when he's healthy. But he also has added split-fingered pitch and improved his breaking ball. ``I'm healthy,'' Pelfrey said. ``I busted my tail this offseason to come back and try to put myself in the best situation to succeed. I feel like I've gotten better. I worked all offseason on making the slider better and I think talking to (bullpen coach) Eddie Guardado this spring about my split, tweaking it a little but, that has been great for me. Some secondary pitches have gotten better and that has made me better.''
ARCIA'S MAD DASH: Oswaldo Arcia decided to blow by the stop signal held up by third base coach Gene Glynn in the fifth inning. He made a mad dash for home and was tagged out easily.
Arcia had hit a one-out single, Suzuki followed with a single and Danny Santana hit a two-out single to right when Arcia made his ill-advised decision to try to score. Torii Hunter, who was on deck at the time, spoke to him for a few seconds as a stunned announced crowd of 18,169 looked on. Twins manager Paul Molitor said it was due to, `miscommunication,'' that Arcia tried to score. Glynn, when asked, fell down in front of the bus. ``If he was confused there's no doubt that it's me,'' Glynn said. ``Trying to score the tying run, I give him a ton of credit. All I can tell you is that I probably confused him. That has to be on me.'' Okay, the part of the replay we were able to see suggested Arcia never looked up as he rounded third. On April 20 in Kansas City, the Twins started their six-game road trip with a clunker against the Royals. One of the low points of that game was when Arcia had a routine soft liner in his range and, somehow, missed the ball. Can the Twins handle Arcia making one glaring mistake a week?
JUST SPECULATING: The Yankees, Red Sox, Dodgers, Cardinals, Reds and others are all in need of starting pitching because of injuries or other developments. If the Twins want to solve their six-starters-into-five-rotation-spots problem it shouldn't be too difficult to find someone to trade with. The Dodgers actually had a scout at the game Tuesday. But I don't see the Twins willing to pull the trigger on something like that this early in the season. But they will have to before the year is over because they must take a look at Alex Meyer if he's going good. Another reason to make deal: I wrote during spring training that, according to sources, the Twins have a real shot at landing Dominican shortstop Wander Javier. It will eat up all of their international scouting bonus pool. This year's class is a good one, and the Twins will have to trade for pool money - which is allowable - if they want to sign more players than Javier. My prediction is that the Twins will stand pat, which I disagree with. I know they don't have Cole Hamels to trade but several clubs need starters NOW.
A year ago during spring training, then-coach Paul Molitor challenged Brian Dozier, telling him he can be someone who players 155 games a year and impact the team in many ways. Dozier, indeed, came into his own as a player last season.
But he's going to get his days off. And today is one of them as the Twins take on the Tigers at Target Field.
Danny Santana is back at the top of the lineup, as the shortstop showed some life at the plate last night, going 2-for-3.
Brian Duensing is on track to be activated from the disabled this weekend after recovering from his mild intercostal muscle strain. Duensing will throw live batting practice on Friday - 15 pitches, rest like it's between innings, then throw 15 more. If that goes well then he will be activated on Saturday.
Trevor May threw in the bullpen today and is fine. So he's going to start on Friday. We'll see about Saturday, as the Twins don't know yet what they are going to do with Ricky Nolasco, who is about ready to come off the DL.
Anthony Gose, CF
Ian Kinsler, 2B
Yoenis Cespedes, LF
Alex Avila, C
Nick Castellanos, 3B
Jose Iglesias, SS
Anibal Sanchez, RHP
Danny Santana, SS
Torii Hunter, RF
Joe Mauer, 1B
Trevor Plouffe, 3B
Eduardo Nunez, 3B
Eduardo Escobar, 2B
Oswaldo Arcia, LF
Kurt Suzuki, C
Jordan Schafer, CF
Mike Pelfrey, RHP
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