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La Velle E. Neal III

Columnist | Minnesota Twins
Phone: 612.674.4888

La Velle E. Neal III is a sports columnist for the Star Tribune who previously covered the Twins for more than 20 years.

A native of Chicago, La Velle has covered the Minnesota Twins since 1998. He also covered the Kansas City Royals for the Kansas City Star from 1995 through 1997. A graduate of the University of Illinois - Chicago, La Velle is a former president of the Baseball Writers Association of America.
Recent content from La Velle E. Neal III
Minnesota Twins starting pitcher Chris Paddack takes a moment behind the mound before pitching to the Baltimore Orioles earlier this month.

Neal: Paddack injury concerns killed trade talks between Mets, Padres

Chris Paddack had Tommy John surgery in 2016 then had an injection in the elbow in September because of a slight UCL sprain. A red flag for the Mets — but not the Twins.
Twins catcher Ryan Jeffers wore the PitchCom transmitter on his left wrist during a game at Baltimore earlier this month. 

Neal: PitchCom gives pitchers peace of mind signs aren't being stolen

Back in the day if someone stepped out of line, he was getting buzzed or hit with a pickoff throw. But new technology alleviates on-field issues.
Kristaps Zile, left, of Latvia and Ben Meyers of Team USA chased the puck in the IIOHF Wordld Championship in Tampere, Finland, last Friday.

Neal: Former Gopher Meyers seeing the world because of his hockey talents

Ben Meyers played for the U.S. team in the Beijing Olympics and is now on another national team in an international tournament in Finland.
Terry Ryan was the brains behind so many smart Twins moves.

Neal: Twins mastermind Terry Ryan out of baseball ... mostly

Good luck keeping up with former Twins General Manager Terry Ryan these days. He's always on the move. And don't be surprised if you sit next to him at a ballpark somewhere.
Kirill Kaprizov (97) of the Minnesota Wild in the first period Tuesday, May 10, at Xcel Energy Center in St. Paul, Minn. Game 5 of the NHL playoffs Mi

Neal: Kirill gave thrills, but others added little in Game 5 letdown

Kirill Kaprizov single-handedly got the Wild back into the game on Tuesday night. It's too bad so few of his teammates followed suit in the 5-2 loss.
Sonny Leon, riding Rich Strike, celebrates after winning the 148th running of the Kentucky Derby

Neal: Nothing like a long shot to quiet a big Kentucky Derby crowd

Canterbury Park fans were glued to a two-horse sprint down the stretch at Churchill Downs that included Minnesota-owned Zandon before Strike Rich spoiled the party.
The Blues’ Justin Faulk and the Wild’s Joel Eriksson Ek were pulled apart in the second period of St. Louis’ 4-0 victory in Game 1 on Monday.

La Velle E. Neal III: That wasn't the real Wild on Monday night ... was it?

When the usually classy Jared Spurgeon steps out of character and takes a cheap shot, you know something is amiss with the team that needs to be solved quickly.
Byron Buxton blasted the winner over — waaaay over — Liam Hendriks’ head on Sunday.

Neal: Buxton is 'best player in the world'? If you can see around that asterisk, yes.

"If he can stay healthy" are the words that always come with discussions of Byron Buxton's potential. But Rocco Baldelli isn't wrong: Buxton has "best"-level skills.
Grizzlies guard Ja Morant consoled Timberwolves guard Anthony Edwards late in the second half of Game 6 on Friday night.

Neal: Wolves were the better team, but that wasn't good enough

This series was lost in Game 3, when they blew two leads of more than 20 points, and in Game 5, when their fourth quarter lead evaporated amid bad decisions and other misadventures
Vikings General Manager Kwesi Adofo-Mensah addressed the media Tuesday in Eagan. The Vikings have the No. 12 pick in this year’s draft.

Neal: Nature of draft means Vikings must be ready to pivot

As new GM Kwesi Adofo-Mensah prepares to make picks for the first time, he knows the NFL draft is unpredictable and that his team will face many options.
Angel McCoughtry is ready for her first season with the Lynx.

Neal: Lynx facilities an added bonus for McCoughtry

La Velle E. Neal's weekly 3-2 pitch: Five-time WNBA All-Star Angel McCoughtry figures she's in good hands with the Lynx as she recovers from knee surgery because of the team's connection with Mayo Clinic.
Twins rookie Joe Ryan is utilizing his slider more this season than he did after getting traded from Tampa Bay last year.

Joe Ryan relying on slider lot more this season

The young righthander is throwing sliders on 31.2% on his pitches — or almost twice as often as last season.
Ryan Jeffers reaches third base on a wild pitch by White Sox pitcher Kendall Graveman during the eighth inning

Twins take advantage of two White Sox errors, win 2-1 in series opener

Another night of offensive ineptitude had the Target Field scoreboard flooded with scoreless innings until everything was turned inside out by an outbreak of defensive madness by the White Sox.
Friday's Twins-White Sox game recap

Friday's Twins-White Sox game recap

A quick look at Friday night's series opener.
Bailey Ober

Ober starts, Buxton sits as Twins begin series against White Sox

Injury-depleted Chicago has lost three in a row coming into the battle of American League Central teams.
Winger Kevin Fiala and defenseman Matt Dumba (24) celebrated a Wild goal last season, but salary cap issues this offseason might force the team to kee

Neal: Offseason conundrum: Should the Wild keep Fiala or Dumba?

Salary cap issues mean the team will likely have to part ways with one of their best players. If it does, does the team hang onto a top-four defenseman or a dynamic offensive threat?
Jhoan Duran pitched a perfect ninth inning in the Twins’ 4-0 win over Seattle on Monday.

Neal: 102 mph indicates Duran is worth a try as Twins' closer

La Velle E. Neal III's weekly 3-2 pitch: The Twins have an opening for a closer, and Jhoan Duran would be a much quicker cure there than if he were groomed to be a starter.
Dean Evason, Chris Finch and Rocco Baldelli have set the standard for other coaches on the Twin Cities sports scene.

Neal: Three smart coaching hires in the spotlight Tuesday in the Twin Cities

Rocco Baldelli, Dean Evason and Chris Finch have raised the standards for their respective pro teams and has made them competitive.
Twins pitching coach Wes Johnson, left, with pitcher Sonny Gray during spring training.

Neal: Many teams cross fingers, hope their pitchers stay healthy

The lockout left many clubs in the lurch while they waited to learn about players' health.
Twins pinch hitter Luis Arraez reacted to an umpire’s call before hitting a single in the ninth inning against the Mariners on Friday.

Neal: We are going to learn a lot about this Twins team in April

Pitching produced some pleasant surprises, and the big hitters in the lineup have yet to heat up.
Chris Paddack

Twins trade All-Star Rogers to Padres, will get two pitchers in deal

Brent Rooker also is headed west as the Twins in addition to the Twins' former closer. Minnesota will get starting pitcher Chris Paddack and reliever Emilio Pagan.
The Twins’ lineup, with Carlos Correa added for this season at least, should be powerful. But there are major problems elsewhere.

Neal: Enthusiastic Twins still have to prove themselves on the field

The Twins should have a powerful enough lineup at the plate to turn heads in 2022. But there are glaring weaknesses elsewhere.
Derek Falvey, president of baseball operations, and Twins manager Rocco Baldelli will have two young starters in the rotation this season, but only on

Neal: Even if it feels frustrating, Twins' slow build of a rotation continuing

The club has several prospects in the minor leagues, but the balancing act between giving them time to develop and the immediate needs of the big-league club is a difficult one.
Gio Urshela was one of three Twins who homered Tuesday in a 10-6 loss to the Red Sox in Fort Myers, Fla., the team’s final exhibition game.

Twins finish exhibition season with 10-6 loss to Red Sox

Byron Buxton, Gio Urshela and Carlos Correa homered as the Twins closed out Grapefruit League play.
Jhoan Duran was one of three prospects the Twins acquired from Arizona for Eduardo Escobar in July 2018. The righthander is expected to make the Twins

Neal: Twins prospect Duran ready to school big-league hitters

Highly regarded Dominican flamethrower Jhoan Duran completed his high school degree because he knows nothing is a given when it comes to baseball.
Twins pitchers Tyler Duffey, left, and Taylor Rogers are in their 10th spring training together — quite an achievement in the free agency era.

Neal: Duffey, Rogers have grown up, grown close in Twins organization

Both pitchers started in rookie league in 2012, and are the rare players who have stuck together for the past decade.
Gophers baseball coach John Anderson

Neal: Pandemic-caused backlog has college baseball on transfer portal roundabout

Players are moving, including one of the Gophers' top pitchers, Aidan Maldonado, who came back home from Illinois.
Carlos Correa, right, then the Houston Astros shortstop, stood at second base alongside Twins center fielder Byron Buxton in a 2018 game at Target Fie

Neal: A teenage Correa 'hit bombs' all over Target Field, and it almost made him a Twin

La Velle's Sunday 3-2 Pitch: Houston drafted Carlos Correa ahead of the Twins, otherwise the Astros' new shortstop would have been their shortstop all along.
Are you soon going to be partying like Kirby Puckett?

Neal: Team upgrades could make Minnesota a parade place

In five days, pro teams in the Twin Cities became a five-star destination. If a couple more smart moves are made, don't be surprised when championships follow.
General Manager Bill Guerin (center) listened as new Wild goalie Marc-Andre Fleury spoke at a pregame press conference. BSN play-by-play voice Anthony

Neal: Wild needed a problem-solver, so Guerin jumped in

The team's general manager saw issues with the power play and penalty kill, not enough physicality and inconsistent goaltending. So Bill Guerin started dealing.
Carlos Correa celebrated a playoff home run against the Twins in 2020 at Target Field.

Neal: Signing Correa is right move but it can't be Twins' last

By keeping his foot on the gas, Derek Falvey would be keeping his promise to make the Twins competitive this summer.
Mya Hooten has had an outstanding season for the Gophers, with three perfect 10s in floor exercise.

Neal: Gophers gymnast Hooten has powerful message in her moves

Sophomore Mya Hooten does her floor exercise routine to Beyonce's song "Freedom".
Seated from left to right: Gary Sanchez, Gio Urshela, Luis Arraez and Jorge Polanco. Standing: Miguel Sano.

Neal: Here's how Twins can kick trade machine into higher gear

Derek Falvey insists the Twins plan is to contend in 2022. While the current roster doesn't meet that expectation, there's still a way for that to happen.
The Target Center scoreboard served as a backdrop to promote the NCAA Women’s Final Four that will be held here in April.

Neal: Selection Sunday double feature sets tone, so let's go dance

Putting both men's and women's selection shows on the same night broadened the spotlight on college basketball during its most important month. Then Tom Brady came along.
Rebecca Lobo, a star at Target Center for the last women’s Final Four to come to Minneapolis, recently helped promote the 2022 version.

Neal: March Madness (for real this time) is coming and I'm here for it

The timing for the women's Final Four to come to Minneapolis couldn't be better. We need to celebrate growth, to heal and to watch some excellent basketball.
Will Target Field be used for baseball in 2022 or just hockey?

Neal: Baseball's lockout cutting to the bone for fans, Twins, St. Peter

It's up to you to decide which side is the insincere one. The owners jumped out to a big lead, but both sides are at fault for the events of the past couple days.
Residents walk by a screen showing Chinese President Xi Jinping wearing a face mask attending the closing ceremony.

Neal: China should have never been allowed to host these Olympics

The experience here was fine, but that's not the point: We should not have been here in the first place. The International Olympic Committee needs a full reboot.
Beyond all the Minnesotans La Velle E. Neal III was in China to cover, he took an interest in a number of other athletes competing in the 2022 Winter

Neal: After covering first Olympics, La Velle 'all-in' and ready for more

From telling stories about many of the 30 Minnesota athletes in Beijing and others, our columnist wonders how many will quality for the 2026 Games. 'Heck, let's hope I qualify again,' he adds.
Giorgia Birkeland of White Bear Laker was happy with her finish at the speedskating mass start semifinals Saturday.

Neal: Minnesota didn't take over the world in Beijing, a reminder of how hard this is

After 2018 and 2021, we got spoiled with Olympics dominance and gold rushes. This time: good not great, but let's not consider our Olympians anything other than excellent.
Federica Brignone of Italy, right, and Prior Lake’s Paula Moltzan race during a quarterfinal of the mixed team skiing event at the 2022 Winter Olymp

Prior Lake's Moltzan just misses bronze in Alpine mixed team event

After falling near the finish line in the semifinals racing Germany, Paula Moltzan bounced back to win her bronze medal match against Norway. But the Norwegian team won on a tiebreaker.
Curler Matt Hamilton stood out during Team Shuster’s Olympic run because of his hair, which will get cut for charity.

Neal: Hamilton will cut gold medal quality hair after Olympics for charity

The end of the USA men's curling team's run at the 2022 Olympics means no more viewing Matt Hamilton's marvelous mane of brown hair.
Columnist La Velle E. Neal III’s long day took him from curling to hockey and back to curling in Beijing.

Neal: A long, long day of difficult defeats — with a Minnesota flavor

From curling to hockey and back for more curling, our columnist's Thursday in Beijing started early in the morning and didn't end until after midnight.
Canada’s Marie-Philip Poulin collides United States’ Lee Stecklein during the women’s gold medal hockey game. Poulin, the team captain, scored t

Neal: Gold-medal battle makes me want more women's hockey

Watching the pace, flair and grit in the Olympic tournament — and all that led up to it — makes me wonder how much more the game could grow with a stable women's pro league.
United States’ John Shuster celebrates with Matt Hamilton during a men’s curling match against Denmark at the Beijing Winter Olympics on Thursday

Shuster skips U.S. into curling semifinals, loses to Great Britain

Great Britain ended Team USA's hopes to repeat as the curling gold-medal winner with an 8-4 victory over John Shuster's team in the semifinals.
The United States’ Nina Roth reacted after a missed shot during the women’s curling match against Japan on Wednesday in the Beijing Olympics.

Eagan-led U.S. women's curling loses to Japan, eliminated from competition

The United States fell behind early and failed to take advantage of several opportunities for a successful comeback.
Slovakia’s Peter Cehlarik, left, scored the winning goal past United States goalkeeper Strauss Mann during the shootout.

Neal: U.S. men's hockey team is left to lament the missed chances

Team USA led Slovakia until there were 43.7 seconds left in regulation in their quarterfinal matchup. Then, after a scoreless overtime and one goal against them in a shootout, the Americans faced the sudden numbness of being out of the Olympic tournament.
United States skip John Shuster

Neal: Big shotmaker Shuster's miss adds drama in quest to defend gold

The shot was off by only a few inches. But it heightened the drama about whether Team Shuster can advance to the knockout round and defend the curling gold medal it won at the 2018 Olympics.
Canada’s Tyler Wotherspoon (23) chases the puck with United States’ Matt Knies (67) during a preliminary round men’s hockey game at the Olympics

From a distance, Gophers on Olympic team watching Big Ten standings

The Gophers have kept winning while Matt Knies, Brock Faber and Ben Meyers, who have accounted for a sizable chunk of the U's offense, are in Beijing.
The Olympic women’s hockey matchup everyone wanted is nearly here: Ann-Renee Desbiens (35), Emily Clark (26) and powerful Team Canada (left) vs. Ale

Neal: Superpowers of women's hockey set for gold medal collision

Team USA and Canada — the two teams all other countries emulate in women's hockey — prepare to reignite one of the greatest rivalries in sports.
Brian O’Neill, left — the lone player back from the 2018 U.S. men’s Olympic hockey team — celebrated a goal by teammate Kenny Agostino in a 4

U.S. men's Olympic hockey veterans help lead the way into quarterfinals

The team's 15 college players draw the spotlight, but thirtysomethings Brian O'Neill, Steven Kampfer, Andy Miele and Aaron Ness are making their mark.
United States’ Cayla Barnes (3) celebrates after scoring a goal against Finland.

Team USA women top Finland, get gold medal rematch against Canada

The United States didn't show the same offensive firepower as Canada did in its semifinal victory. But the USA women controlled the pace throughout in beating Finland 4-1.
Grace Zumwinkle (13) of the U.S. watches a shot by teammate Lee Stecklein slide past Czech Republic goalkeeper Klara Peslarova during a quarterfinal w

U.S. women's hockey team seeks to turn more shots into goals

In the semifinals on Monday, the Americans will face a Finland team they beat 5-2 in the their first game of the Olympics tournament.
Team USA celebrates their victory during the Men's Ice Hockey Preliminary Round Group A match between the Team United States and Team Germany on Day 9

Neal: Undefeated Team USA men make quarterfinals with earned swagger

In three games, the USA men's hockey team routed a team it was expected to rout, punched its biggest rival in the mouth and held off the silver medalist from four years ago.
United States’ John Shuster throws a rock during a men’s curling match against Canada at the Beijing Winter Olympics on Sunday

U.S. men's curling down but not out as round robin play moves forward

Skip John Shuster and the Americans lost 10-5 to Canada on Sunday dropping them to 2-3 in Olympic competition in Beijing. But clawing back is nothing new for the Americans.
Jessie Diggins helped Team USA to a sixth-place finish in the Olympic women’s 4x5km relay.

Neal: USA women's 4x5k relay team, anchored by Diggins, finishes sixth

Team USA finished fifth in the event four years ago. Jessie Diggins of Afton was the only returnee from the team. She still has two more Olympic races to go.
Officials pull players apart during the United States-China game on Thursday.

Neal: In opener, Team USA wins easily but gets hit hard by China

Less then one minute into Thursday's 8-0 win over China, Team USA got a glimpse of the physical play it might well face throughout the Olympics.
United States' Grace Zumwinkle (13), right, watches as a shot by teammate Lee Stecklein, not shown, gets past Czech Republic goalkeeper Klara Peslarov

Neal: Disaster looming, Stecklein bails out USA in tough win over Czechs

Team USA appeared one play from being one of the biggest upsets victims in women's Olympic hockey history before Lee Stecklein of Roseville, a former Gophers star, stepped up in the 4-1 win.
Sweden defeated the United State in a pool-play rematch of their gold medal game at the 2018 Olympics. The teams could meet again in the championship

Sweden beats Shuster rink in pool play; U.S. rebounds to beat Great Britain

The matches were the second and third of 10 for the teams before the top four teams qualify for the knockout round — and Chisholm's John Shuster, despite some frustration during the Sweden match, struck a mellow tone afterward.
Lindsey Jacobellis of the United States celebrates her gold medal run in women’s snowboard cross .

Jacobellis waits 16 years to celebrate gold after blunder for the ages

Lindsey Jacobellis won the first gold medal for the USA in Beijing, besting the field in snowboard cross. One of Minnesota's curlers was especially thrilled about her triumph.
A team member consoles Mikaela Shiffrin after she skied out in the first run of the women’s slalom at the Winter Olympics on Wednesday.

Neal: Shiffrin comes down to earth, takes on Olympic skiing struggles

Mikaela Shiffrin sat in the snow for about 20 minutes, in anguish after her second botched run at the Olympics. Later, during interviews, it was clear she was struggling with her failings.
Paula Moltzan of Prior Lake finished eighth in the slalom on Wednesday.

Olympic Diary: Congrats to Paula Moltzan for making it down the mountain

The Prior Lake skier is being celebrated by family and friends in Minnesota and Massachusetts.
Paula Moltzan of the United States, a former skier at Buck Hill, passes a gate during the second run of the women’s slalom at the 2022 Winter Olympi

Prior Lake's Moltzan 'thrilled' with 8th place finish in women's slalom

Skiing in her first Olympics, Paula Moltzan's finish Wednesday was the highest by an American.
Maple Grove’s Brock Faber, a defenseman for the Gophers, played two years with the U.S. National Development Team and makes his Olympics debut this

Young U.S. men's hockey team will need to go to school in Beijing

With 15 college players, the American team has been quickly assembled for a tournament with a lot of unfamiliar names.
Canada’s Marie-Philip Poulin (29) celebrated after scoring on a penalty shot in the second period against the United States.

Neal: Quality over quantity. Canada women school Team USA in 4-2 pool play win

Despite being outshot 53-27, the Canadians did more with their opportunities to top the United States in the final matchup of the preliminary round. But bigger games loom.
Paula Moltzan of Prior Lake makes a turn during the second run of the women’s giant slalom. She finished 12th.

Five years after she was cut from Team USA, Prior Lake skier Moltzan earns Olympic spotlight

Paula Moltzan's giant slalom run was years in the making — and she deserved to savor every second after taking a circuitous route to China.
La Velle E. Neal III’s destination: Yanqing Alpine Ski Centre

Olympic diary: 14 vehicles, 1 trip up the mountain for rookie ski reporter

On Monday, La Velle E. Neal III covered a skiing event for the first time in his 33 years as a sportswriter. It just happened to be during the Olympics.
United States’ Hilary Knight (21) scores one of her two goals against Switzerland goalkeeper Saskia Maurer in an 8-0 win.

Neal: The real Olympic women's hockey begins as USA, Canada clash

After an 8-0 rout of Switzerland, the Americans are 3-0 and have outscored opponents 18-2. Up next: a game against Canada, the only other serious gold medal threat.
Chris Plys of Duluth during Saturday’s mixed doubles match against Canada.

Neal: U.S. mixed doubles curling team trying to get on the same page

Chris Plys of Duluth and his partner Vicky Persinger have dropped to 3-4 and need a strong finish in round-robin play to reach the semifinals.
Brittany Bowe and John Shuster, right, of Chisholm, carries the U.S. flag with speedskater Brittany Bowe during the Olympic Opening Ceremony on Friday

Neal: As China grabs the Olympic spotlight, let's turn it to the athletes

China's human rights record hovers like a dark cloud over these Games. The Olympians are the light and it's time to be entertained by the world's best athletes.
Team USA’s Brianna Decker, right, was injured after colliding with Finland’s Ronja Savolainen in the first period of the Americans’ 5-2 victory

Neal: Nice win, huge loss for U.S. women's hockey in Beijing opener

Team USA was happy to arrived in Beijing healthy. That lasted 9 minutes and 22 seconds before star forward Brianna Decker went down with an injury that will end the Olympics for her.
La Velle E. Neal III in his Beijing hotel room.

Neal: The Olympics started but I was sent back to my hotel

Just before covering his first-ever Olympics event, columnist La Velle E. Neal III was identified as a "close contact" of someone who tested positive for COVID. Here's what happened — and what happens now.
Amanda Kessel (28) is congratulated after scoring a goal during Thursday’s 5-2 victory over Finland.

Team USA dominates Finland in women's hockey opener; Decker hurt

The U.S. women had a 52-12 advantage in shots and held Finland scoreless until the third period. But the victory was marred by an injury to Brianna Decker, who was taken off the ice on a stretcher in the first period.
Team USA practiced on Wednesday in Beijing.

Blaine to Beijing: USA women's hockey team primed to defend gold

The journey towards more gold begins on Thursday against Finland in a preliminary-round game that starts at 7:10 a.m. (Twin Cities time). Nine players with Minnesota ties are on the team.
USA Curling got serious, and in the process moved its headquarters from Stevens Point, Wis., to the new Vikings complex in Eagan.

U.S. curling, overhauled and powered by Minnesotans, ready for Olympics

The mom-and-pop, beer-in-hand days are over. Team USA's 2018 gold medal was a start, and expansion and growth followed. Now, pressure to perform is here again.
The iconic Bird’s Nest Stadium will be the site of the Opening Ceremony in Beijing next week.

Neal: Ready for Minnesotans to shine bright once again on Olympic stage

Minnesotans rocked the 2018 Winter Olympics, bringing home a gold-medal haul. Last summer, Suni and Gable stole their shows. I can't wait to watch Minnesota's next big Olympic moment.