Draft helped Vikings patch up some holes

  • Article by: SID HARTMAN , Star Tribune
  • Updated: May 1, 2011 - 10:06 PM

Coach Leslie Frazier hopes the team has found immediate help and added depth among its selections.

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New Vikings quarterback Christian Ponder grinned when he heard coach Leslie Frazier say that he had talked with a former teammate of Ponder's while researching his character.

Photo: Jeff Wheeler, Star Tribune

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Vikings coach Leslie Frazier said he believe the team filled a number of holes with the 10 players drafted this past weekend, and he also thinks the group will create some good competition when and if there is a training camp.

The drafting of Florida State quarterback Christian Ponder in the first round was a big surprise to several draft analysts, so the Vikings weren't given a high draft grade by some of the so-called experts -- most of whom look silly when some of the draftees they make fun of turn into stars.

About the decision to draft Ponder, Frazier said: "We had talked about a bunch of different scenarios leading up to the draft, and one of those included being able to take a quarterback, if he was there, a guy that we really liked.

"Fortunately for us Christian Ponder was there. We had done extensive work regarding him and the fact that he was there, it was just too good for us to pass up. We didn't want to take a chance on not being able to address that need in this draft if we didn't get it done."

A bigger surprise was when the Vikings drafted Notre Dame tight end Kyle Rudolph in the second round, when they have three veteran tight ends in Jim Kleinsasser, Visanthe Shiancoe and Jeff Dugan. But all three will be free agents after next season.

"When I watched Kyle Rudolph on tape, I just saw a player who has a chance to be exceptional at his position," Frazier said. "His hands, along with his size [6-6, 265] and speed, he's a first-round talent but because of his hamstring injury his senior year this previous season, that's the reason why he dropped down to our pick. So it was just a pick that was too good for us to pass up.

"... He was the No. 1 guy at that position for us. I think it's going to turn out to be a great pick for the Minnesota Vikings."

Frazier said Iowa's Christian Ballard, taken by the Vikings in the fourth round, "was one of the premier guys coming out in this draft at the defensive tackle position, so for us to get him at the position that we got him, we're really counting on him to be able to come in and help us right away. Hopefully we'll get started with football here relatively soon but he's a guy who has a chance to have an impact.

"That was an area where we needed some help. We're getting a little bit older on the defensive line. ... We were able to address a potential need for our football team."

As for the other seven draftees, Frazier said: "The guys that we took we took them right about where we thought they would be when it was our turn to draft, based on the way we had set our board. So things really fell just about the way we wanted them to."

Well, Bud Grant always said you never know the result of a draft for three years. But the Vikings will need to have some players from this draft contribute right away, and the people who did the drafting believe it will happen.

McHale might coach

Former Wolves coach and executive Kevin McHale is definitely interested in the head coaching position with the Houston Rockets and will interview once he completes his television work during the NBA playoffs. McHale will do television commentary on the Oklahoma City-Memphis game Tuesday night.

The smartest thing Timberwolves boss David Kahn could do if he fires coach Kurt Rambis, which he shouldn't do, would be to hire McHale.

About the race for the NBA title, McHale said: "It'll be interesting. I didn't think Memphis would win going into Oklahoma City after playing Friday night at home vs. San Antonio. It's going to be fun. I think [Miami] is going to have their hands full with Boston, that's going to be a good series. They looked good [Sunday]. Boston didn't look very good [on offense] and had a few too many turnovers. I'll tell you what I think, Chicago is playing as good as anybody."

Jottings

• Joe Mauer was at Target Field working out Sunday, trying to get himself in shape to get back in the lineup. Mauer definitely will go out on a rehab assignment as soon as he is healthy enough to play. And according to Twins officials, there hasn't been any talk about moving Mauer from catcher to another position.

• Twins General Manager Bill Smith is not happy with the play of shortstop Alexi Casilla -- who was hitting .167 before hitting two triples in Sunday's game with Kansas City and not fielding well -- and with Matt Tolbert, who is hitting .178.

"Casilla and Tolbert have manned that position for the first month and I think it's been underwhelming, to say the least," Smith said. "We've got to get better defense out of our shortstops. We've got to get a little offense, we've got to get some situational hitting, but first and foremost we've got to get good defense."

• Twins second baseman Tsuyoshi Nishioka is going to Fort Myers today and according to Smith, "We're going to get him starting some of the baseball activities -- fielding, doing some swinging and all that stuff. He's not ready to play in games yet, but we'll get him down there and hopefully within a few weeks we'll be able to get him back into our lineup as well."

• Outfielder Delmon Young, who is also on the disabled list because of a strained oblique, also is expected to head to Fort Myers this week for some rehabilitation.

Twins pitcher Kevin Slowey, who has been sidelined because of a shoulder strain, will pitch Monday for the Fort Myers Miracle in Class A and probably throw about 65 pitches. "If he's good and strong and healthy, he'll hopefully rejoin us maybe next weekend in Boston," Smith said.

• Twins catcher Drew Butera was hitting .114 going into Sunday's loss to the Royals and the other Twins catcher, Steve Holm, is hitting .118. They have combined to drive in four runs in 64 at-bats. ... Wilson Ramos, the former Twins catcher who was dealt to the Nationals last season in the Matt Capps trade, is hitting .358 with two home runs, six RBI and an on-base percentage of .426. Ramos had the first multi-home run game of his major-league career Tuesday when he went 3-for-4 with two solo home runs. Ramos is playing slightly more than Ivan Rodriguez, the Nationals' other catcher, Ramos has 53 at-bats, while Rodriguez has 44.

• Former Twins utility man Nick Punto is hitting .222 with five RBI, four runs scored and an on-base percentage of .344 in 11 games with the Cardinals. On Friday, Punto had the game-winning hit with a two-run triple in the 11th inning as the Cardinals beat the Braves 5-3. Punto had to leave Sundays' game because of a tight hamstring.

Sid Hartman can be heard weekdays on WCCO AM-830 at 6:40, 7:40 and 8:40 a.m. • shartman@startribune.com

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