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.
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
Twins manager Ron Gardenhire has decided that nice guys finish last - or nice guys lose 291 games over a three-year period.
Gardenhire on Sunday watched Oswaldo Arica get buzzed twice by Rays pitcher Adam Liberatore then blast a solo homer to left during the Twins' 6-3 loss to Tampa Bay. There are no indications that Arcia and Liberatore have a history, but it did bring up memories of a couple moments last year that Arcia was pitched tough.
If Arcia is giving off bad body language and is getting pitched up and in because of it, Gardenhire is not going to blame Arcia. Especially if he responds the way he did on Sunday.
``If you don't like people buzzing your tower then, there you have it,'' Gardenhire said. ``You have to hit it in the seats. That's what I told him on the bench. Two bow ties, and (Liberatore) had to go get a new baseball.''
Gardenhire doesn't sound concerned if he has players who walk that fine line - or even cross it.
``You need a little bit of that,'' Gardenhire said. ``How are you Mr, Gardenhire. How are you, sir? You know what? Kiss my (rear) let's go kick somebody's (rear).''
The Twins should have a lot of that attitude in storage after the last three seasons. Someone needs to pay,
As expected, Miguel Sano on Sunday left for the Dominican Republic to visit friends and family before he returns to the USA to have Tommy John surgery in a couple of weeks.
The exact date is not known yet, as the Twins are checking to see when Sano can be scheduled to be operated on by well-respected surgeon Dr. David Altchek in New York. Twins assistant General Manager Rob Antony on Sunday confirmed that Altchek is the doctor they are trying to schedule the surgery with.
While it's likely that Sano's season is over, Antony isn't ruling anything out, including playing as a designated hitter late in the season. A stint in the Arizona Fall League in addition to winter ball are possibilites too.
``We're not going to rule anything out,'' Antony said. ``We won't rule out DH-ing at the end of the season if he was up for it. At the time, if there is any rsk of that irritating or slowing the process then we wont do that.
We'll have to see how he progesses, that is kind of the goal.
``The biggest thing is haing him ready for spring training next year.''
New Twin Ricky Nolasco threw two shutout innings while giving up two doubles.
Six of his seven pitches in the first inning were strikes, but a few of them were struck well. Nolasco got out of the second when Jose Molina lined into an inning ending-double play.
It's hard to judge early spring outings. Pitchers usually work on spotting their fastballs early. Hitters look for that and try to attack.
Nolasco said he already has a good feel for his pitches, and he's just in the process of building arm strength.
``It was good to get a little adrenaline going and and get into a game atmosphere,'' he said.
Ricky Nolasco makes his first appearance as a Twin today as he takes the mound against the Rays at Charlotte Sports Park. thought Jason Bartlett would make the trip to see his old pals, but he's. Jorge Polanco is. So are Byron Buxton and Max Kepler, a couple of the interesting young players in camp.
If you haven't read it yet, check out Jim Souhan's tremendous piece on Buxton and he makes his way to the majors. Great work by Jim, Jerry Holt and Mckenna Ewen.
Miguel Sano, whose season is likely over due to Tommy John surgery, has flown home to the Dominican Republic to visit family and friends for a few days. He's expected to return around Friday.
Meanwhile, the Twins are checking with Dr. David Altchek, the specialist expected to peform the surgery, to see when they can schedule the procedure. Twins assistant GM Rob Antony didn't rule out the possibility of Sano playing in the Arizona Fall League or winter ball once he recovers. Antony added that Sano could DH late in the season if doctors and trainers were comfortable with it.
Shortop prospect Daniel Santana is very talented but has had trouble being a consistent player. But Twins manager Ron Gardenhire said he's noticed a different player that two years ago, calling the difference, ``like night and day.'' Santana finished last season at Class AA New Britain and could be line for a callup during the regular season if needed.
Alex Pressly, OF
Danny Santana, SS
Jason Kubel, LF
Chris Colabello, 1B
Chris Parmelee, DH
Oswaldo Arcia, RF
Deibinson Romero, 3B
Eric Fryer, C
James Beresford, 2B
Pitching: Ricky Nolasco. followed by Alex Meyer, Logan Darnell (L), Anthony Swarzak, Brooks Raley (L) and Lester Oliveros.
Desmond, Jennings, CF
David DeJesus, LF
Evan Longoria, 3B
James Loney, 1B
Yunel Escobar, SS
Jeremy Moore, DH
Jose Molina, C
Brandon Guyer, RF
Cole Figueroa, 2B
Pitching: Alex Cobb