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.

Twins-Yankees pregame: Buxton back in Ft. Myers lineup

Posted by: La Velle E. Neal III Updated: July 6, 2014 - 1:43 PM

Outfielder Byron Buxton will return to action on Sunday starting in Class A Fort Myers. He’s played just five games this season after re-injuring his wrist sliding into a base in May.

Buxton will start in center field and leadoff, but general manager Terry Ryan isn’t sure if he will play the entire game.

“Hopefully he’ll go out and be productive, do a good job and maybe we can move him up to the next level,” Ryan said.

Ryan repeated that Buxton was healthy and the team won’t be more precautious after suffering two wrist injuries this season.

“We handled it well the first time and unfortunately he just tweaked it,” Ryan said. “That happens. He’s ready to go.”

Meanwhile in the Twin Cities, Eduardo Nunez started at shortstop after missing Saturday’s game with an illness. It's Nunez's first start against his former team this series. He's made one appearance as a pinch runner over the last three games.Kendrys Morales received the day off with Chris Colabello slotted as the designated hitter. Here’s the lineup:

Yankees (43-43)

Brett Gardner (L), LF

Derek Jeter, SS

Jacoby Ellsbury (L), CF

Mark Teixeira (S), 1B

Brian McCann (L), C

Carlos Beltran (S), DH

Brian Roberts (S), 2B

Ichiro Suzuki (L), RF

Kelly Johnson (L), 3B

Hiroki Kuroda, RHP

Twins (39-47)

Brian Dozer, 2B

Eduardo Nunez, SS

Chris Parmelee (L), 1B

Josh Willingham, LF

Oswaldo Arcia (L), RF

Kurt Suzuki, C

Trevor Plouffe, 3B

Chris Colabello, DH

Sam Fuld (L), CF

Ricky Nolasco, RHP


Three Twins postgame thoughts from LEN3: Dozier, Pino, Gardy.

Posted by: La Velle E. Neal III Updated: July 5, 2014 - 7:47 PM

Here are three thoughts following the Twins' 2-1 win over the Yankees:

DOZIER TAKES A BEATING: When Brian Dozier showed no reaction to Ichiro Suzuki being tagged out during a steal attempt in the second, it influenced the decision to not challenge the play. The Twins learned a lesson from the experience - but still didn't pass up a chance to needle Dozier about his reaction to the play. ````Sometimes it's the reaction of the player when he's (saying), `I'm safe,' when they are sliding into second base like Dozier has a couple times and he's (really) out by 18 yards,'' Gardenhire said. ``And I go out there and challenge and look like an idiot. You just have to go on every close play. That's the way it is set up and they can give you a thumbs up or thumbs down. We talked about it in there. That was an experience for us.'' As Dozier spoke with a reporter, catcher Kurt Suzuki walked by him and barked, ``Come on, Doz! I need every one I can get!'' Suzuki entered the game having thrown out 23 percent of would-be base stealers. And, yes, Suzuki was joking. Another element in play here: There was little time to ask for the replay. When there's an out made on a grounder, fly ball or strikeout, the ball is thrown around the field, the pitcher is usually off the mound. With a stolen base, the pitcher is usually around the rubber, he gets the ball back and is focusing on the next pitch. There was a shorter window for someone to go, `Hey, wait a minute....'

PINO  BETTER: This far from a Murderer's Row of Yankee hitters, but Twins righthander Yohan Pino held them to one run over six innings on three hits and two walks. He said his goal was to keep the ball down more, and he executed that. He still doesn't have a major league win, but Pino kept the game close until the Twins go out of their own way and found a way to win. ``I thought his ball was jumping,'' Twins manager Ron Gardenhire said. ``I thought he was locating right from the get-go.  He made his pitches and you could see him really focus out there. He didn't back away from those guys at all and made some very nice pitches.''

GARDY'S EJECTION: David Phelps did commit a balk on Saturday when he tried to throw Sam Fuld out at first base. And, yes, home plate umpire Marty Foster had a quick trigger. to eject Gardy. The Twins said it was the second time Phelps had balked in the game. Foster didn't like the yelling and tossed the manager, who was asking him to at least check with crew chief Joe West (who loves calling balks).

Twins-Yankees: The boat is starting to take on water

Posted by: La Velle E. Neal III under Off the field Updated: July 5, 2014 - 12:25 PM

The Twins' recent slide is bringing back those old feelings, They are banged up, the offense is sputtering and the starting pitching is faltering. As a result, they have lost nine of their last 11 games and are 11 games back in the AL Central.

Worse yet: Houston and Arizona are tied for the worst record in baseball - and the Twins are just 3.5 games ahead.

They need a slumpbuster today against the Yankees. Can Yohan Pino provide it?

Jeter day

The Twins will honor the retiring Derek Jeter before today's game. It's making quite a difference here this week.

Twins fans, for some reason, have booed Jeter mercilessly here for years despite the fact that he's never done anything to warrant such action - other than win games. No taunting. No injuring Twins players, No showboating. No cheating. But he's been booed when other Yankees players haven't. It's perplexing. Then again, it's not.

But not this week. Jeter was cheered when he took the field for pre-game work today and cheered when he came off the field.

Santana update

Danny Santana is eligible to come off the disabled list on July 13, the final game before the All-Star break.
The Twins are willing to activate him for that game in Colorado. instead of giving him four more days off.
Santana, on the 15-day DL with a bone bruise near his left knee, is making progress with his rehabilitation. The Twins are considering bringing him on the upcoming road trip to Seattle and Colorado so he can work out with the team, if it looks like he'll be ready to play once he's eligible to be activated.

UPDATE: Twins GM Terry Ryan said the Santana will not travel with the team on the road trip and that there's a chance he would go on a minor league rehab stint during the MLB All-Star break. That makes sense, to make sure the knee is fine.

 Yankees (43-42)

Jacoby Ellsbury, CF
The Captain, SS
Brian McCann, C
Mark Teixeira, 1B
Carlos Beltran, DH
Brian Roberts, 2B
Ichiro, RF
Alfonso Soriano, LF
Zelous Wheeler, 3B

David Phelps, RHP

Twins (38-47)

Brian Dozier, 2B
Kurt Suzuki, C
Chris Parmelee, 1B
Kendrys Morales, DH
Josh Willingham, LF
Oswaldo Arcia, RF
Trevor Plouffe, 3B
Eduardo Escobar, SS
Sam Fuld, CF

Yohan Pino, RHP

Postgame: Twins' offense, Correia, Pelfrey

Posted by: La Velle E. Neal III Updated: July 2, 2014 - 7:38 PM

THE OFFENSE IS OFFENSIVE: And it could be ugly for a couple more weeks. There was a brief moment last month where Danny Santana took over the leadoff spot, Kendrys Morales signed and got off to a fast start, and the Twins looked like they had a balance in their lineup. Morales has floundered lately, Brian Dozier is in a 0-for-17 skid, Josh Willingham has tailed off and Santana and Joe Mauer are on the disabled list. ``Some guys are just going to have to step up,'' Twins manager Ron Gardenhire said. Chris Parmelee is taking advantage of this opportunity. Anyone else feel free to join him. Santana can come back the last day before the All-Star break begins. Mauer can return the first game after the break (but oblique injuries can linger). There's 11 games before both can be in the lineup again. Someone needs to step up. Can you hit? The Twins would like to speak with you.

CORREIA NOT BAD: Kevin Correia looked like he was going to get run out of the game early, but said he figured out why he was throwing the ball up in the zone and was able to get his mechanics straightened out. He lasted six innings, giving up just two earned runs. Correia said a month ago in Toronto that the numbers were bound to turn his way, and the son of a gun is right, if you look at the basic numbers. He's 2-3 with a 2.40 ERA in his last five starts.  The Twins have scored a total of 12 runs in those five starts and have been shutout twice. At least his ERA dipped under 5.00 today.

PELFREY SIGHTING:  Chatted with Mike Pelfrey today, who showed off the scar where he had ulnar nerve surgery. Pelfrey has begun some strengthening exercises and hopes to play catch in about a month. A comeback this year, however, looks unlikely. He hopes to be able to throw off of a mound by the first week in September but he wasn't sure if he would be able to pitch in a game before the season ends.

Joe Mauer goes on disabled list, Colabello called up

Posted by: La Velle E. Neal III Updated: July 2, 2014 - 11:12 AM

The Twins have placed first baseman Joe Mauer on the 15-day disabled list with a right oblique strain.

Mauer was injured on Tuesday night after hitting a double to left.

Chris Colabello has been called up from Class AAA Rochester. Colabello has been on a roll, batting .341 over his last 10 games with four home runs. He hit two yesterday.

Overall, Colabello was batting .275 at Rochester with six home runs and 27 RBI in 36 games. He's played mostly first base but has made a couple starts in right field.

``I'll play catcher if they want me to,'' Colabello said.'

Mauer said his oblique was barking on him pretty good when he arrived at the park this morning. The Twins already made arrangements to fly Colabello in and made the move as soon as Mauer told them he was in rough shape.

There was a chance Mauer could have been named to he All-Star team, since managers, with help from the commissioner's office, can fill out the roster after the fan and player votes. But this pretty much wipes out any chance Mauer had to be on the AL roster. He still will be involved in the buildup to the game as the official ambassador.

Royals (43-40)

Alcides Escobar, SS
Eric Hosmer, 1B
Billy Butler, DH
Alex Gordon, LF
Salvador Perez, C
Raul Ibanez, RF
Omar Infante, 2B
Moose, 3B
Jarrod Dyson, CF

Jason Vargas, LHP

Twins (38-44

Eduardo Nunez, SS
Brian Dozier, 2B
Chris Parmelee, 1B
Kendrys Morales, DH
Josh Willingham, LF
Oswado Arcia, RF
Trevor Plouffe, 3B
Eric Fryer, C
Sam Fuld, CF

Kevin Correia, RHP

Parmelee, Polanco in as Twins try to avoid sweep

Posted by: La Velle E. Neal III Updated: June 29, 2014 - 12:39 PM

Colby Lewis is on the mound today, he hasn't had a quality start since the middle of the 2012 season, and this is a day where the Twins need to step up and pound a struggling pitcher.

The Twins offense needs to get going. Kendrys Morales is batting .172 over his last 15 games. Kurt Suzuki is in a 0-for-17 skid. Brian Dozier is 4-for-20 on the trip (at least he's drawn three walks). I guess I have to mention Pedro Florimon here. He's in a 0-for-12 skid and has a career average of .082 as a lefthanded hitter. CAREER.

Maybe that's why the manager Ron Grdenhire has decided to shake up the lineup as he tries to salvage the final game of this six-game terror trip.  Kyle Gibson will try to shake off a poor outing on Tuesday in Anaheim.

Class AA New Britain righthander Taylor Rogers has been named Twins minor league player of the week after allowing one run over eight innings with 11 strikeouts on Wednesday.

Twins (36-43)

Brian Dozier, 2B
Joe Mauer, 1B
Chris Parmelee, CF
Josh Willingham, LF
Kendrys Morales, DH
Oswaldo Arcia, RF
Eduardo Escobar, 3B
Eric Fryer, C
Jorge Polanco, SS

Kyle Gibson, RHP

Rangers (37-43)

Shin-Soo Choo, DH
Elvis Andrus, SS,

Carlos Pena, 1B
Adrian Beltre, 3B
Alex Rios, RF
Leonys Martin, CF
Robinson Chirinos, C
Michael Choice, LF
Rougned Odor, 2B

Colby Lewis, RHP



Connect with twitterConnect with facebookConnect with Google+Connect with PinterestConnect with PinterestConnect with RssfeedConnect with email newsletters