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.

Three Twins postgame thoughts from LEN3: Nolasco, Mauer, Dozier

Posted by: La Velle E. Neal III Updated: April 12, 2014 - 6:53 PM

1. NOLASCO STRONG: After making a mechanical adjustment, Ricky Nolasco resembled the pitcher the Twins hoped they bought on the free agent market. Nolasco racked up 12 ground ball outs as Royals hitters had trouble squaring up pitches for the second straight game.

2. MAUER POWER: Someone wanted to know when was the last time Joe Mauer hit a three-run home run. In terms of runs scored, it was his biggest since the grand slam he hit off of Luke Hochevar on Sept. 1, 2012. His last three-run homer was Aug. 4, 2012 off of Alfredo Aceves. I thought Mauer had missed his chance when James Shields threw a meatball over the plate on 3-1, and Mauer fouled it back. The next one, however, was a meatball with mashed potatoes and gravy, and Mauer didn't miss that one.

3. DOZIER SHOULD JUST MASH: Yes, Brian Dozier squared to bunt in the second inning on Saturday. No, it was not called by the bench. ``He kind of bunted on his own,'' interim manager Terry Steinbach said. ``We'll discuss that a little bit. I prefer to get four there.'' Dozier said Royals third baseman Mike Moustakas usually plays way in against him but had dropped back and looked vulnerable.  Dozier leads the Twins with four home runs. He should be looking to drive a ball there.

Tonkin arrives, Bartlett prepares to depart; Twins prepare for Royals

Posted by: La Velle E. Neal III Updated: April 12, 2014 - 12:10 PM

Michael Tonkin has landed in the Twin Cities and will be in uniform for today's game against the Royals. Tonkin had thrown 4.2 scoreless innings at Class AAA Rochester.

That means the Twins have a three-man bench, which today is Chris Herrmann, Darin Mastroianni and Eduardo Escobar. The Twins want offense, so Herrmann being here gives them the flexibility to use Pinto as the designated hitter.

Jason Bartlett will leave for Fort Myers tomorrow and begin a rehab assignment. Bartlett said before today's game that he agrees with the coaching staff that he needs to get out and get some at-bats.

Josh Willingham was on his way to get a MRI on his left hand. ``There's not going to be anything wrong,'' he predicted. But the Twins didn't want to play shorthanded longer than they have, so Willingham was placed on the DL. He's expected, eventually, to join Bartlett in Fort Myers and get some swings in during rehab games, too.

Vikings wide receiver Cordarrelle Patterson is here to compete in the home run derby vs. TC Bear and will also throw out the first pitch. He's told the Twins staff to, ``Get the radar guns ready.''

Royals (4-5)

1. Nori Aoki, RF
2. Omar Infante, 2B
3. Eric Hosmer, 1B
4. Billy Butler, DH
5. Alex Gordon, LF
6. Salvador Perez, C
7. Mike Moustakas, 3B
8. Lorenzo Cain, CF
9. Alcides Escobar, SS

Pitching: James Shields, RHP.

Twins (4-6)

1. Brian Dozier, 2B
2. Joe Mauer, 1B
3. Trevor Plouffe, 3B
4. Chris Colabello, RF
5. Jason Kubel, LF
6. Josmil Pinto, DH
7. Kurt Suzuki, C
8. Aaron Hicks, CF
9. Pedro Florimon, SS

Pitching: Ricky Nolasco, RHP

Three Twins postgame thoughts from LEN3: Gibson, Pinto, Bench

Posted by: La Velle E. Neal III Updated: April 12, 2014 - 12:02 AM

Here are three thoughts following the Twins' 10-1 victory over the Royals:

1. GIBSON SOLID NOT SPECTACULAR: But he wasn't that far away from being spectacular on Friday. If not for the wild pitch that allowed Omar Infante to move to third - or the ground ball that Pedro Florimon flubbed that ruined a chance for an inning-ending double play - Gibson might have pitched into the eighth inning. The Royals could not center his pitches. His sinker was pretty nasty. And he pitched inside (what a concept). It was really impressive how he gave up the leadoff double to Mike Moustakas``Getting a taste of it last year, and then applying what he learned in spring training,'' Twins pitching coach Rick Anderson said. ``He did not come in bewildered.'' The Twins have made sizeable financial commitments to Ricky Nolasco, Phil Hughes and Mike Pelfrey, but the future of the Twins' rotation is Gibson and Alex Meyer.

2. PINTO PACKS PUNCH: Twins assistant General Manager Rob Antony said before the game that Josmil Pinto. ``Is one of our better hitters.'' That's big statement considering Pinto has one-plus month of major league experience. But he started off the five-run fourth inning with a blast into the seats in left. He doesn't get cheated on a swing and goes up there looking to do damage. It's fun to watch him and Oswaldo Arcia go to the plate.

3. GOING TO 13 PITCHERS: The Twins put Josh Willingham on the 15-day DL and will have Michael Tonkin in the clubhouse before Saturday's game. The Twins now have a three-man bench, but there's some flexibility there. Chris Herrmann can play left, right, first and catch. Darin Mastroianni can play all three outfield spots. Eduardo Escobar can play around the infield and a little outfield too. What it lacks is a bonafide pinch hitter, but it's not that easy finding a bench player who can hit. If he can, he's on the bench of a contender.

Gardenhire misses game to attend funeral

Posted by: La Velle E. Neal III Updated: April 11, 2014 - 5:10 PM

Twins manager Ron Gardenhire has left team to travel to the Akron, Ohio area to attend the funeral of Mike Hirschbeck, the son of MLB umpire John Hirschbeck.

Terry Steinbach will manage the team Friday and will do so again on Saturday in Gardenhire's absence.

Mike Hirschbeck's association with the Twins goes back more than 20 years. Diagnosed with a rare brain disease - adrenoleukodystrophy, or ALD - he underwent a bone-marrow transplant in at the University of Minnesota Hospitals in 1992. Then manager Tom Kelly visited him in the hospital at the time. Mike also got to know Gardenhire and the rest of the coaching staff.

His father is one of more well-liked umpires in the league. Based in Sarasota during spring training, Mike Hirschbeck would come over to Ed Smith Stadium and be the Twins' batboy when they came to town to play the Reds, before they moved to Arizona, and later the Orioles. Mike last was the Twins' batboy in 2013.

The Twins are sending flowers to the funeral and the coaching staff is making a donation to the Hirschbeck's foundation.

Jason Bartlett, recovering from a left ankle sprain, ran the bases before the game and said everything went, "Great!" The Twins now must determine when to send him out on a minor league rehab assignment. Once he goes, Bartlett is expected to get plently of at bats.

Josh Willingham is still day-to-day with a bruised left wrist, but Steinbach said if he still can't play in the next few days the club will have to consider a DL stint for him.

The Twins will try to snap a three-game losing streak tonight, as well as a nine-game skid at home, going back to last season.

The two leading hitters in the league are in the park tonight, Kansas City's Sal Perez (.458) and the Twins' Jason Kubel (.448).

Brian Dozier enters the game tied for the AL lead with nine runs.

Mike Pelfrey is one of three AL pitchers to have given up a league-high four home runs.

Royals (4-4)

Norichika Aoki, RF
Omar Infante, 2B
Eric Hosmer, 1B
Billy Butler, DH
Alex Gordon, LF
Salvador Perez, C
Mike Moustakas, 3B
Lorenzo Cain, CF
Alcides Escobar, SS

Pitching: Brue Chen, LHP

Twins (3-6)

Brian Dozier, 2B
Joe Mauer, 1B
Trevor Plouffe, 3B
Chris Colabello, RF
Jason Kubel, LF
Josmil Pinto, LF
Kurt Suzuki, C
Aaron Hicks, CF
Pedro Florimon, SS

Kyle Gibson, RHP

Twins-Athletics: Arcia headed to DL. Mastroianni called up

Posted by: La Velle E. Neal III Updated: April 9, 2014 - 4:56 PM

Outfielder Oswaldo Arcia said before batting practice on Wednesday that his right wrist was much better and that he was available to play. That was before he took battling practice.

Twins manager Ron Gardenhire watched Arcia swing and said the young oufielder, ``wasn't quite letting it loose.'' Then, following a conversaton with the Twins training staff, Arcia admitted that his wrist still bothered him.

So the Twins placed Arcia on the 15-day disabled list following Wednesday's game. Class AAA Rochester outfielder Darin MAstroianni, who started 9-for-20 with the Red Wings, has been called up to replace him on the roster.

With Josh Willingham day-to-day with a sore left wrist, the Twins are running out of bodies and can't a few more days for Arcia to get healthy.

``I don't think we can keep playing two guys short,'' Twins assistant General Manager Rob Antony said.

Mastroianni had his contract selected, and the Twins had one available space left on their 40-man roster, so he gets it. The Twins now have a legitimate option if they want to give Aaron Hicks a break or use both Hicks and Mastroianni in the outfield to increase the range,

Jason Bartlett took some swings too. Bartlett is on the disabled list because of a left ankle sprain. All indications are that Bartlett will head out on a rehab assignment once he's ready to come off the DL. That might be a good thing, as the team wants him to get some at-bats in the minors, see if he can get his swing going, then return to the team.

Twins will honor Ron Gardenhire before the game for passing the 1,000 victory milestone. They have a pretty cool gift to give to him.

Phil Hughes makes his second start of the season, first at Target Field as a Twin.

A's (4-3)

Sam Fuld, CF
Jed Lowrie, SS
Josh Donaldoson, 3B
Brandon Moss, 1B
Yoenis Cespedes, LF
Alberto Callaspo, DH
John Jaso, C
Josh Reddick, RF
Eric Sogard, RHP

Pitching: Jesse Chavez, RHP

Twins (3-4)

Brian Dozier, 2B
Joe Mauer, 1B
Trevor Plouffe, 3B
Chris Colabello, DH
Jason Kubel, LF
Kurt Suzuki, C
Chris Herrmann, RF
Aaron Hicks, CF
Pedro Florimon, SS

Pitching: Phil Hughes, RHP

Twins trade for Eduardo Nunez

Posted by: La Velle E. Neal III Updated: April 7, 2014 - 4:45 PM

The Twins have sent minor league lefthander Miguel Sulbaran to the Yankees in exchange for Eduardo Nunez, who has 270 career games in New York.

Nunez, 26, will be assigned to Class AAA Rochester and count on the Twins' 40-man roster. They now have 39 spots filled. He had been designated for assignment last week.

Sulbaran was slated to open the season in the Cedar Rapids rotation. The Twins dealt for him last July 31, in exchange for Drew Butera.

Nunez is a .260 career hitter with a .313 on base percentage. Of the 258 games he's played defensively, 152 have come as a shortstop, 78 at third, 20 at second and a few in the outfield.



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