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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
The loud crowd at Target Field got even louder when it saluted Twins starter Pablo López on his way off the mound in the sixth inning Tuesday.

Neal: López dons Santana jersey, then does Santana things in Game 1

There have long been connections between Johan Santana and Pablo López, and now there's another one: Twins pitchers with postseason wins.
Jhoan Duran approached his teammates as fans went crazy after the Twins defeated the Blue Jays in Game 1 at Target Field.

La Velle live from Target Field: Ding, dong, the streak is dead!

Star Tribune Sports columnist La Velle E. Neal III was in the press box providing live updates as the Twins snapped their playoff losing streak.
José Berrios of the Blue Jays worked out at Target Field on Monday. The former Twin will start Game 2 on Wednesday.

Twins or Toronto? La Velle E. Neal makes his wild-card prediction

The teams have changed a bit since Kevin Gausman and José Berríos were last at Target Field in May. Our columnist says that's figuring into his decision about the series winner.
Carlos Correa did this a lot this season: play the field. The shortstop played through pain for large parts of the summer.

Neal: After painful regular season, Correa ready for 'all that matters'

Carlos Correa signed the richest contract in Twins history then battled through plantar fasciitis all season. As he prepares to return for the playoffs, he knows what's at stake.
Royce Lewis’ penchant for grand slams are a hopeful sign for a Twins team plagued by terrible offense in the playoffs.

Neal: Maybe this Twins team can hit in the playoffs

After years of whiffing when the postseason comes around, this Twins team, much improved after the All-Star break, could buck the trend.
Byron Buxton hasn’t played a game with the Twins since Aug. 1.

Buxton pitches Baldelli: Put me on playoff roster

Neal: Injured center fielder is "pushing day in and day out" trying to recover, and he'll work out this weekend in an attempt to prove he can play in the postseason on Tuesday.
Minnesota Twins manager Rocco Baldelli sits in the dugout during the first inning of a baseball game against the Chicago White Sox, Friday, Sept. 15,

Neal: Baldelli has choices to make — and here are five things he must do

The Twins need firepower in a three-game wild-card series. Here's what manager Rocco Baldelli should do with Byron Buxton, Joe Ryan and other when he sets the team's playoff roster.
Allie and Rocco Baldelli welcomed twins to their family: Enzo and Nino.

Neal: The Twins manager managing twins needs some sleep

Cigars and champagne for Rocco this weekend. Congrats to the Baldellis, who may not see a decent night's sleep for several more weeks.
Twins starter Sonny Gray has worked his way into the American League Cy Young conversation after being acquired from the Reds.

Neal: Trades with Twins helped revive Reds — but no regrets needed

The Twins traded away prospects for pitching, and now some of those prospects have put the Reds in the National League playoff race after being a 100-loss team last season.
The MLB playoffs are coming to Target Field, La Velle E. Neal III writes.

Neal: Twins will win AL Central, and here's their optimal opponent ...

Breaking down four potential playoff opponents and landing on one particular team that the Twins could beat — and break their ugly postseason losing streak while they're at it.
Twins closer Jhoan Duran hasn’t been using his curveball as much lately.

Neal: Where did Duran's dominance go? It's trouble with the curve

Closer Jhoan Duran either no longer has a feel for his curveball, has lost confidence in it — or both. It's lead to inconsistency that makes other Twins bullpen topics secondary.
Justin Walley made a huge play in the Gophers opening win, punching loose the football to cause a fumble.

Neal: Saluting Walley and his punch that saved the Gophers

There were several playmakers for Minnesota in its comeback vs. Nebraska, including Justin Walley and his game-saving forced fumble.
Gophers quarterback Athan Kaliakmanis will be playing behind an offensive line that needs to replace three starters this season.

Neal: Gophers fans. Are you ready for a mid-level bowl game this season?

Looking at a challenging schedule and knowing some of the issues that face the 2023 Gophers appears to lead the Gophers to a bowl bid — but not one of the glamour games. Here's why.
Max Kepler (left) and Emilio Pagan got off to terrible starts this season, but the Twins stuck with them. Now they’re both resurrecting their years

Neal: Kepler proved me wrong. Pagan proved me right. Here's why.

Max Kepler and Emilio Pagan had horrible starts to their Twins seasons. Many voices were asking for them to depart. The Twins kept both and those decisions are paying off now.
Twins catcher Joe Mauer took a foul ball off his mask from the Mets’ Ike Davis, left, on Aug. 19, 2013.

Neal: Concussion disrupted Mauer's career, Twins' trajectory 10 years ago

A decade ago, Twins catcher Joe Mauer's career was permanently altered by a foul ball to the mask. What could have been if he hadn't suffered that concussion?
Matt Wallner made an emphatic statement on Tuesday night with his grand slam home run, but those who knew him as a prep player at Forest Lake could se

Neal: Wallner's power runs deep in Minnesota, from Forest Lake to Twins

Matt Wallner's high school baseball coach watched him grow into his 6-4, 220-pound frame before his senior year, and now Tal Gravelle gets to continue to watch Wallner's slugging progress in the stands at Target Field.
Jeremiah Shiner, center, huddled with Jays teammates last week at practice in Bryn Mawr Meadows Park in Minneapolis.

Neal: Bullets flew. Players scattered. Now these Minnesotans are champs.

The Minnesota Jays are more than just a football program — they are a safety net, a diversion, an opportunity and a life experience for players from north Minneapolis to St. Cloud. And they play excellent football, too.
Joe Mauer played in the “Crazy Game of Hockey” charity event in St. Paul earlier this month.

Joe Mauer at 40: A little golf, a little relaxation — and a lot of being dad

The Twins are inducting Joe Mauer into their Hall of Fame on August 5. His five years since retiring from baseball have been everything he wanted them to be.
Vikings linebacker Danielle Hunter has showed up at training camp, but it’s unclear if a contract impasse will keep him from doing more than that.

Neal: Hold out or 'hold in,' Hunter's contract dispute far from over

Don't let Danielle Hunter arriving at Vikings training camp fool you, the two sides remain at an impasse over his contract and how it will play out is far from clear.
The Twins will be glad to get Jorge Polanco back. Where he fits is the question.

Neal: Time for Polanco to try third, with Julien locking up second

Jorge Polanco has been a mainstay for the Twins and is now rehabbing in St. Paul. There, he should try third base — it could be the move the Twins lineup needs.
Converted starter Jhoan Duran has found his niche as the Twins’ closer, with a 104-mph fastball helping him compile a 2.17 ERA with 15 saves

Neal: Duran gives Twins 'game is over' feeling with 104-mph fastball

Jhoan Duran is so good at times it's unfair to hitters. He's another great example of how a minor league starter can become a major league ace out of the bullpen.
Should Twins bosses rely on Byron Buxton & Co. to improve? Or should they go out and get Buxton a new teammate or two?

Neal: Time for big changes draws close as Twins waste terrific pitching

If the hitting doesn't turn hot in the next few days, it will be time to set aside patience and choose change. The Twins have options they could take to make their lineup whole.
The Minnesota Aurora defeated Rochester FC in the May 24 season opener at TCO Stadium in Eagan.

Neal: Time for the Aurora to go pro; they just need the right investor

Sponsorships doubled from their first season and the team's home and playoff games were on TV. Now the Minnesota Aurora need investors to step up — and our columnist has an idea about who is should be.
Anthony Edwards signed a huge five-year contract extension with the Timberwolves.

Neal: Edwards gets paid, and now here comes the pressure

Anthony Edwards will make MVP-like money soon for the Timberwolves. MVPs get to the Finals and contend for championships. Can Ant be the first Wolf to fully deliver on investment?
Dallas Keuchel, a former Cy Young Award winner, has worked hard to reset his body and mind in a effort to get back to the major leagues. He is pitchin

Neal: After time to reset, Keuchel starts comeback with Saints

Former American League Cy Young Award winner Dallas Keuchel is hoping to get back to the major leagues with the Twins.
Larry Olimb led Orono to the Class 1A state championship game in February.

Neal: In ugly Orono hockey brawl, it's the kids who lost — again

High school leaders everywhere: If you need another reminder to sharpen your communication protocols, here it is. Kids lose when parents and coaches battle.
Andrew Bechtold is batting and pitching for the St. Paul Saints.

Neal: No Ohtani comparisons, please — just let Twins prospect Bechtold dream of doing it all

Rising Twins prospect Andrew Bechtold can play just about any position, including that one on the mound.
Former Gophers running back Thomas Tapeh with his daughters Jacqui, 7; Jaime, 3; and Janae, 9.

Neal: Former Gopher Tapeh strives to help his native Liberia through schools and coffee beans

The former member of the "Pair and a Spare" backfield at the U struggled after his football career, but he has found renewed purpose.
Jockey Jareth Loveberry is shown here in 2021 at Canterbury atop King Of Miami, son of American Pharoah.

Neal: From Canterbury to Kentucky Derby fame and back again

Jockey Jareth Loveberry showed off his skills at Canterbury for years before showing everyone what he could do at the Kentucky Derby this past May. He returns for some rides Wednesday in Shakopee.
Dick Bremer has been a sports broadcaster for 40 years.

Neal: Bremer has sweet Father's Day connection with son Erik

Erik made Dick Bremer a dad on Father's Day, and now the two share the same profession. Also: a quick-change for Minnesota Aurora, and a big change for Alary's.
Miami’s Luis Arraez was hit by a pitch from White Sox starter Michael Kopech on Saturday.

Neal: Arraez on chasing elusive .400 mark: 'I just have to trust myself'

After the Twins traded him to Miami for Pablo López, Luis Arraez has made waves throughout baseball as his average hovers around .400 in June.
Carlos Correa’s hitting isn’t impressive enough at the moment to deserve the third spot in the batting order.

Neal: Grand slam aside, why a change for Correa tops Twins' to-do list

La Velle's 3-2 Pitch: Ways to improve struggling Twins, soccer observations and a Vikings prediction.
Neal: If Hunter follows Cook out Vikings' door, look out

Neal: If Hunter follows Cook out Vikings' door, look out

This 13-win team is one more big move away from "tearing it down to the studs." If Danielle Hunter departs, along with Dalvin Cook, that's a sign that a roster remodel is turning into something much bigger.
Since the end of the 2019 season, Max Kepler has batted .217 in 319 games.

Neal: Time for Twins to replace Kepler with Wallner or Larnach

The best role for Max Kepler for the rest of this season, the final one in his contract, would be backing up all three outfield spots. Or the Twins could cut ties with him altogether.
Twins reliever Emilio Pagán has a place on their roster. He can be effective in the right spots.

Neal: Pagán of Twins should keep his spot. Should Towns?

The Twins need to stick with a pitcher who sometimes struggles. The Timberwolves, however, might need to entertain a trade.
Northwoods League leaders are hoping they can do for college-eligible softball players what they have done for baseball players.

Neal: Northwoods League Softball arrives, with goal of lifting game and players

The project comes from the same origins as the men's baseball league that has burgeoned.
Northwoods League Softball will use a similar formula to what the Northwoods League has  used for baseball in cities such as Mankato, Minn.

Northwoods League Softball set for 2024 debut in cities across Midwest

The nation's first for-profit women's summer collegiate softball league will model itself after the Northwoods League, its baseball counterpart.
That earpiece in the umpire’s ear was the source for ball-strike calls Thursday at the Saints game.

Neal: The robo-umps have arrived — and they're not far from Target Field

At some St. Paul Saints games, you may think the umpire is calling balls and strikes. You could be wrong. And there will come a time when automated balls and strikes are being called at Target Field, too.
Twins right fielder Max Kepler doused Alex Kirilloff with an ice water bath as he took part in a post-game interview after his game-winning hit agains

Kirilloff makes a splash as Twins work 11 innings to beat Padres 4-3

Alex Kirilloff's base hit in the bottom of the 11th inning sent the Twins to victory at Target Field. Pablo López got things started with a solid outing on the mound.
Struggling at the plate and in the field, Jose Miranda was sent down to Class AAA St. Paul before Wednesday’s game. Part of Rocco Baldelli’s advic

Neal: Miranda's St. Paul mission: Clean it up and get back to Twins

Jose Miranda's struggles earned him a demotion to Class AAA, but he still could be a middle-of-the-order run producer and solid third baseman with some refinements.
Twins manager Rocco Baldelli (arguing with umpire Dan Iassogna after being ejected against Cleveland on Saturday) doesn’t call a team meeting every

When to rant about poor play? Twins manager Baldelli picks his spots

Rocco Baldelli called a team meeting after Tuesday's loss to the Padres to address defensive lapses and mental errors, but he resists the urge to call out the players over every mistake.
Twins center fielder Michael A. Taylor couldn’t quite get high enough to rob San Diego’s Juan Soto of a seventh-inning homer.

Wednesday's Twins-Padres recap

The Twins are now 4-2 in extra-inning games this season.
José Miranda has been sent to the St. Paul Saints.

Struggling Miranda demoted to minors to make room for Farmer

José Miranda has been struggling on offense and defense for the Twins after a successful rookie season, with only three hits in his last 25 at-bats.
Minnesota Twins relief pitcher Jorge Alcala (66) reacts after giving up a 3-run home run to San Diego Padres third baseman Manny Machado (13) in the t

Three-error inning, three-run homer sink Twins in 6-1 loss to Padres

The Twins defense unraveled in the seventh inning, letting the Padres score two runs without a hit, and the outcome was sealed when Jorge Alcala yielded a massive home run.
Twins infielder Kyle Farmer and his wife, Courtney, discussed Kyle’s recent fastball-to-the-face injury in an April 12 game against the White Sox. H

Twins' Farmer to return soon after frightening fastball in the face

Infielder Kyle Farmer spent last week at Class AAA St. Paul and batted .308 with three RBI in four games.
Padres designated hitter Nelson Cruz, wearing a sombrero before playing his former team at Target Field on Tuesday, brought plenty of power and person

Neal: Even at 42, Padres' Cruz is still what the Twins need

Slugger Nelson Cruz not only has a commanding middle-of-the-order presence the Twins lack, but he also brings an inspirational and professional personality that ripples throughout the clubhouse.
Tuesday's Twins-San Diego recap

Tuesday's Twins-San Diego recap

Padres outfielder Juan Soto went 4-for-4 with two doubles.
Racing fans reacted on Saturday while watching the running of the 149th Kentucky Derby at Canterbury Park in Shakopee.

Neal: No roses for local favorite Two Phil's in Kentucky Derby

The crowd at Canterbury Park in Shakopee was swept up in the excitement of the horse and jockey Jareth Loveberry, both with ties to the track, making a strong showing at the race's finish.
The Twins are at their best when Byron Buxton is healthy and playing center field.

Neal: Twins need to take the risk, put Buxton back in center field

The Twins are simply a better team with Byron Buxton in center field — and they have other players to move in and out of the DH spot.
Marcus Foligno (17) reacts after being called for tripping during the third period.

Neal: Officials got it wrong, but Wild have to get right for Game 5

Two penalties against Marcus Foligno looked dubious and the Wild winger said the calls were "a joke." But getting ready for Game 5 against Dallas is all that matters now.
Gustav Nyquist (28) of the Wild has four assists in three playoff games against the Dallas Stars.

Neal: Guerin's bet on Nyquist paying off in playoffs

When the Wild traded for the veteran forward, he had a shoulder injury and his availability for the rest of this season was uncertain. Now he has four assists in three playoff games.
Game 1 in the playoffs went quite differently for the Wild and Timberwolves. The Wild nipped the Stars 3-2 in two overtimes in Dallas, but Anthony Edw

Neal: Maybe there's still a late-night playoff run in a Minnesota team

The Wolves are undermanned, and it doesn't look like this will be their year. The Wild can make a statement with a Game 2 victory.
Karl-Anthony Towns scored only 11 points in Sunday’s loss, most of them after the game had long been decided.

Neal: In mile-high blowout, Wolves show they may not have anything left

After beating Oklahoma City in the win-or-go-home play-in game, the Timberwolves looked in Game 1 like they'd merely delayed their offseason vacations by a week.
Twins pitcher Pablo López tipped his cap as he exited the game Tuesday after a strong outing.

Neal: To those who still don't like the Arraez-for-López deal: You're wrong

The sentiment that the Arráez-López trade is a bad one for the Twins needs to be debunked. It just might be a proven talent-for-proven talent swap that benefits both teams.
Fans applauded as Twins third baseman Kyle Farmer was helped to the dugout after getting hit by a pitch by Lucas Giolito of the White Sox in the fourt

Neal: Outcome 'some sort of miracle' after Farmer hit in face by fastball

Chicago's Lucas Giolito's threw a 91.6 mph fastball that locked in on Twins shortstop Kyle Farmer. The sound of the baseball hitting his face will be hard to forget.
Kyle Farmer fell to the ground after he was hit in the face by a pitch in Wednesday’s Twins game.

Farmer hit by pitch in jaw, Buxton leaves early in win over White Sox

Twins pitchers combined on a six-hitter but the game was more notable for a frightening scene involving infielder Kyle Farmer and Byron Buxton's collision on the bases.
Second baseman Edouard Julien made his major league debut for the Twins on Wednesday at Target Field against the White Sox.

Recent call-up Julien called a major league hitter by Baldelli

Canadian second baseman Edouard Julien, who made his major league debut Wednesday, hit .300 with 17 homers and 67 RBI in Class AA last season.
Wednesday's Twins-Chicago White Sox game recap

Wednesday's Twins-Chicago White Sox game recap

The Twins' Michael A. Taylor was 2-for-4 with two RBI on Wednesday.
Sonny Gray

Top prospect Julien starts at second base for Twins vs. White Sox

Edouard Julien, one of the Twins top prospects, has reported to the major league club and is in the lineup after Joey Gallo went on the injured list.
Minnesota Twins right fielder Willi Castro (50) celebrates after scoring in the 10th inning on a bunt by Minnesota Twins center fielder Michael A. Tay

Twins top White Sox in 10th behind Taylor's walk-off bunt, López' 10 K's

The White Sox's fielding did them in again, when third baseman Hanser Alberto fielded a Michael A. Taylor bunt and threw wildly to first in the 10th. Willi Castro sprinted home from second with the winning run.
Tuesday's Twins-Chicago White Sox game recap

Tuesday's Twins-Chicago White Sox game recap

Twins righthander Pablo López held Chicago to two runs over 7⅔ innings on three hits while striking out 10.
Twins righthander Pablo López walked off the mound after throwing 7⅔ innings against the White Sox on Tuesday. He retired 23 batters in a row at on

Neal: In early going, Twins' López is living up to expectations

In one of the more efficient runs by a Twins pitcher in recent memory, Pablo López retired 23 consecutive Chicago hitters after letting the first four get on base.
Edouard Julien worked out during Twins spring training in Fort Myers, Fla.

Twins to call up top prospect Julien as Gallo goes on injured list

The Edouard Julien move will be made official on Wednesday when he comes up from St. Paul. Joey Gallo will miss a weekend series in New York against the Yankees.
Pablo Lopez

López starts for Twins vs. White Sox as Correa remains sidelined

Carlos Correa is out again while dealing with back spasms. Former Twin Lance Lynn is on the mound for Chicago.
Wolves forward Kyle Anderson went to the basket on Sunday, when he also was the recipient of a punch from teammate Rudy Gobert.

Neal: Wolves fight each other, fight back for win. What happens next?

When cohesiveness and focus was needed in an important game, the Timberwolves ended up arguing, fighting and injured. And winning. Will they bring the right kind of fight to the NBA play-in tournament?
Is this a lost season for Mike Conley (10), Karl Anthony-Towns (32), Rudy Gobert (27) Anthony Edwards (1) and Jaden McDaniels (3) of the Wolves?

Neal: This feels like a lost season for Timberwolves

The regular season comes to an end Sunday and the franchise still really doesn't know what it has.
The Twins will have a new scoreboard at Target Field for the 2023 season.

Neal: Home opener brings hope of memories. Will they be good ones?

There are plenty of Twins' Opening Day memories: From a star pitcher with a knack for giving up homers in the opener to a memorable flub by a mediocre outfielder to an eagle that landed in the wrong place.
New defensive rules favor athletic ability — and knowing where you are

New defensive rules favor athletic ability — and knowing where you are

The Twins used assorted shifts, which are now illegal, more often than most other teams. During the off-season, adding players with first-rate defensive skills became a priority. New rules are a big reason why.
Twins manager Rocco Baldelli will preside over a revamped roster in 2023, including what he calls the deepest pitching staff the team has had since he

Neal: Loss of dead weight means the Twins will win 90-plus games

After a busy offseason, the team has better players, top to bottom. Pitching and defense will be a strength this summer as the Twins contend in the American League.
Danny Coulombe

Twins lose two relievers, finish spring training with win over Pirates

The Twins lost veteran relievers when Jeff Hoffman was granted his release and Danny Coulombe was traded to Baltimore for cash considerations.
Donovan Solano

Twins power past Pirates, but top prospect Julien leaves with injury

After getting two singles, Edouard Julien twisted his ankle trying to avoid colliding with Pittsburgh's first baseman.
Hurricane Ian caused much damage in the Fort Myers and Fort Myers Beach areas of Florida.

Neal: What was lost in Fort Myers Beach might never come back

Hurricane Ian wiped out whole parts of Fort Myers Beach, Fla. What is rebuilt in this community won't look like what you remember — and it might feel different, too.
Will Trevor Larnach take advantage of his big opportunity?

Neal: Larnach finally looks ready to crack Twins Opening Day roster

Trevor Larnach has put in hard work, recovered from injuries and will take advantage of a chance created by injuries elsewhere on the roster.
Pablo Lopez will get the start on Opening Day in his first season with the Twins.

Twins name Pablo Lopez as Opening Day starter to face Royals

The Twins rotation likely will be Lopez, Sonny Gray, Joe Ryan, Kenta Maeda and Tyler Mahle.
Charles Adams is Minneapolis North’s football coach and director of security for the Minnesota Twins.

Neal: Shooting of North High player 'another wound' for team, coach

After North football player Cashmere Hamilton-Grunau was shot Wednesday night, coach Charles Adams, who is head of security for the Twins, spent a night worrying about the player and his teammates from far away.