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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
Seattle midfielder Cristian Roldan (7), checked by the Loons’ Ethan Finlay, hit a header Friday during the Sounders’ 4-0 victory in the season ope

Neal: No longer a little expansion team, wait and watch as Loons get better

Last year's run to the Western Conference final was no fluke for Minnesota United.
Target Field sat empty after the announcement that Monday’s game between the Twins and Red Sox was postponed.

Neal: For Twins, Wolves and Wild, Monday was the right day for a break

It was no day to play. It was a day to say, "Not here. Not again."
Twins relief pitcher Hansel Robles gave up one hit and no earned runs and struck out six in the first four appearances for his new team.

Neal: Twins newcomer Robles was holding out on us

As soon as the flag dropped on the regular season, relief pitcher Hansel Robles - looking to rebound from a forgettable 2020 - was ready to go
Luis Arraez’s bat-handling skills resemble those of a young Rod Carew, someone Arraez seeks to emulate.

Neal: Arraez has been learning from the best, and it shows

Making contact and spraying the ball all over, the young Twins leadoff hitter is doing his best to emulate Twins legend Rod Carew.
In response to Georgia’s new voting law, Major League Baseball announced that it will move it’s All-Star Game from the park.

Neal: MLB makes right call by pulling All-Star Game from Georgia

MLB Commissioner Rob Manfred has stepped toward the fire with a decision that will not be popular with many baseball fans or politicians. But the decision was a home run.
Twins manager Rocco Baldelli went straight from Mike Bell’s funeral in Phoenix to the Twins’ season opener in Milwaukee.

Neal: Baldelli manages and mourns at the same time

La Velle E. Neal's weekly 3-2 pitch: Three observations, and two predictions for Twin Cities sports.
Luis Arraez was unable to field a ground ball during the third inning Thursday. Later defensive lapses cost the Twins on Opening Day.

Neal: Through one game, Twins were wrong about having defense covered

Two errors and two missed plays in the field proved costly in Thursday's season-opening loss.
Miguel Sano had a relatively bad season in 2020 and didn’t look great this spring, either. Can the big man shake all that off starting Thursday for

Neal: Twins' top players need revival after dismal spring training

Miguel Sano, Max Kepler, Byron Buxton and Jorge Polanco have not been at their best lately. The challenge for 2021 is for them to recapture their form, health and consistency.
AL Central managers (clockwise from top left): Tony Larussa of the White Sox, Rocco Baldelli of the Twins, Terry Francona of Cleveland, Mike Matheny o

AL Central packed with star power, but lots of it is in the dugouts

The World Series champion might not come out of the American League Central this season, but no one will beat the division for managerial star power.
Mookie Betts celebrated during Game 6 as the Dodgers wrapped up the World Series last year, and there’s good reason to believe L.A. could do it agai

La Velle E. Neal III's MLB Power Rankings

Yankees, Dodgers look like the best in class in their respective leagues.
Gophers infielder Katelyn Kemmetmueller (10) threw to first base during a softball game against Rutgers on March 12 in Leesburg, Fla. Big Ten teams ar

Neal's 3-2 Pitch: Big Ten rules against playing nonconference teams hurting Gophers baseball, softball

Three observations and two predictions every weekend.
Ben Johnson played for two seasons with the Gophers under Dan Monson before embarking on a coaching career that has taken him to five Division I schoo

Neal: Johnson faces challenge of making U basketball relevant again

Hiring a young assistant coach with local ties, as opposed to impact name, is a reflection of the state of Gophers men's hoops. The U is asking a lot from Ben Johnson.
Jose Berrios was pulled after five innings in his last start of 2020, Sept. 30 vs. Houston in the AL wild-card series. Get used to seeing early hooks

Neal: You can throw out MLB's innings-pitched standard

La Velle E. Neal's weekly 3-2 pitch: It looks like this is the wrong year to push for Jose Berrios or Kenta Maeda to meet the definition of a true ace.
Gonzaga guard Jalen Suggs

Neal: Suggs' march to history with Gonzaga set to begin Saturday

Jalen Suggs' family will be in attendance, although his father has a lot of driving ahead of him.
Mats Zuccarello and rookie star Kirill Kaprizov celebrated a Wild goal by Zuccarello in the third period Tuesday night.

Neal: When Wild fans soon return to St. Paul, they're in for a treat

Rookie Kirill Kaprizov is getting most of the attention in the Wild's hot streak. But there's much more to like about the Wild.
Illinois leads nine Big Team teams into the NCAA men’s basketball tournament. Michigan, Ohio State, Iowa and Wisconsin are the other teams with a go

Neal: Big Ten teams are out to end an NCAA drought

A Big Ten men's basketball team last won the NCAA tournament in 2000. Of the nine conference teams that made this year's field, four have the qualities to be the next.
Everyone has had enough of the empty seats, the cardboard cutouts and the canned noise. There’s no replacement for real fans.

Neal's 3-2 pitch: Pandemic baseball had moments that should never be relived

It was entertaining to hear Nelson Cruz cheer for himself during pregame introductions last season, but let's not ever have to go through that again.
Twins right fielder Alex Kirilloff celebrated with third base coach Tony Diaz after hitting a home run in the second inning against the Red Sox on Thu

Neal: Too early to worry about whiffs from Kirilloff, Sano

There are 18 spring training games remaining and plenty of time for Alex Kirilloff to earn his spot. Let it play out.
Nick Gordon was showing off his speed last month during a base-running drill at spring training in Fort Myers.

Neal: Why haven't you seen Gordon in Twins lineup yet? It's complicated.

Nick Gordon is still young, and he's providing important reminders: count your blessings on your health, and keep drafting shortstops.
Mike Radcliff

Neal: Baseball lifer Radcliff a scout, then executive and now a survivor

Mike Radcliff, the Twins vice president in charge of player personnel, is a comeback story in progress.
Fans were spaced apart in left field as they watched Friday’s spring training game between the Twins and Braves in North Port, Fla.

Neal: Minnesota should join other states, open doors to pro sports fans

Nearly 30 teams across the NHL and NBA are allowing a small number of fans into arenas. Why not in Minnesota?
JEFF WHEELER •  Jose Berrios threw in the bullpen last month at spring training in Fort Myers, Fla.

Neal: Time for Jose Berrios to step up and become the Twins' ace

Berrios is now at the age and the experience level in his career where he will either become a top-tier starting pitcher or merely a good one.
La Velle E. Neal III loved the baseball beat, and baseball loved him back. But now it’s on to a new challenge as a sports columnist.

Neal: For my first columnist pitch, 'I'm out to blaze my own trail'

In his debut piece as a Star Tribune sports columnist, La Velle E. Neal III interviewed his closest, most personal friend.
Byron Buxton, Andrelton Simmons and Josh Donaldson are dynamic two-way players the Twins need in their lineup.

Five questions for the Twins entering their first full-squad workout

Can key players Byron Buxton and Josh Donaldson stay healthy and make a bigger impact in 2021? But that's not the only issue facing the Twins as spring training heats up this week.
J.A. Happ

Happ's positive COVID-19 test not likely to hinder progress too much with Twins

New Twins pitcher J.A. Happ is asymptomatic, and he has the equipment to keep working out on his own.
Twins starting pitcher Jose Berrios

Berrios doesn't dwell on contract situation

Jose Berrios indicated that he has been having discussions with his agents about his future and hopes something can be worked out with the Twins.
Hammond Stadium in Fort Myers, where the Twins started training Friday.

Thirteen players absent as Twins pitcher, catchers hold first workout

The players, including pitchers Tyler Duffey and J.A. Happ, were missing because of weather delays, visa problems and COVID-related issues.
Kenta Maeda had an outstanding first season with the Twins, going 6-1 with a 2.70 ERA to finish second in the AL Cy Young voting.

Against all odds, Twins open spring training camp on time

Kenta Maeda threw 22 pitches during a bullpen session in Fort Myers on Thursday, marking an on-time start to spring training that many fans would have bet against.
Former Twins manager Ron Gardenhire (left) was among praising Brian Dozier during a Zoom call announcing Dozier’s retirement at age 33.

Former Twins All-Star Dozier retires at 33, lauded by former managers

Ron Gardenhire and Paul Molitor were among those offering tributes to Brian Dozier when he announced his retirement Thursday at age 33.
Ryan Jeffers tossed away his bat after he was hit by a pitch during a game against the Brewers at Target Field last season.

Jeffers' emergence gives Twins strength behind the plate

As pitchers and catchers officially report to Hammond Stadium on Thursday, no one is asking questions about the Twins catching situation.
Royce Lewis

Lewis among 32 Twins minor-leaguers coming to training camp

Pitchers and catchers report to Fort Myers on Thursday as spring training begins. The full squad has its first workout next week.
CHS Field, home of the St. Paul Saints.

Jumbo Shrimp, Iron Pigs, Storm Chasers among new rivals for St. Paul Saints

The Saints will play in the 20-team Triple-A East Division as part of a total reorganization and shrinking of baseball's minor leagues.
Carlos Gonzalez • Fans were in line for Twins tickets at Hammond Stadium in Fort Myers, Fla., on Feb. 14, 2020.

Twins set revamped spring training schedule to cut down on travel

The Twins will play only five other teams during spring training with the first game set for Feb. 28 against the Red Sox.
Nelson Cruz talked with Twin Cities reporters Wednesday via Zoom.

Cruz isn't worried about MLB's plans to deaden baseballs this season

Veteran designated hitter Nelson Cruz is returning to lead the Bomba Squad with a one-year, $13 million deal. But he'll be swatting at a different make-up of baseballs.
Brewers outfielder Keon Broxton made a leaping catch on a ball hit by Twins second baseman Brian Dozier on July 4, 2018 in Milwaukee.

Twins sign four ex-major leaguers to minor league contracts

Keon Broxton has played with five major league teams and hit 20 homers for the Brewers in 2017. Andrew Albers, who had two stints with the Twins, is also back after three seasons in Japan.
Catcher Zack Collins and Alex Colome, right, celebrated a White Sox victory at Target Field on Sept. 18, 2019.

Bullpen makeover: Twins reach deal with former Sox closer Colome

Alex Colome had an 0.81 ERA and 12 saves for the White Sox in 2020 and had 47 saves for Tampa Bay in 2017. The Twins are still looking for more bullpen help.
Fans watched the Toronto Blue Jays take on the Minnesota Twins from center field at Hammond Stadium on Feb. 23, 2020.

Twins plan for spring training games with 2,400 fans in Fort Myers

Hammond Stadium will be at 28 percent capacity, with approval from MLB and Lee County.
Nelson Cruz has agrred to a $13 million contract for 2021.

Cruz returning to Twins, agrees to deal with team for 2021

After two strong seasons in Minnesota, 40-year-old Nelson Cruz won't get the two-year contract he wanted after hitting 57 home runs in two seasons with the Twins.
Andrelton Simmons won two Gold Gloves in Atlanta and two more with the Los Angeles Angels.

Signing Andrelton Simmons has Twins playing infield roulette

Jorge Polanco will move to second, and Luis Arraez will take over Marwin Gonzalez's utility role as the Twins pick up a Gold Glove-winning shortstop.
Jake Odorizzi remains unsigned, and the Twins continue to keep in touch with him.

Twins haven't given up on re-signing Odorizzi

Righthander Jake Odorizzi, as well as DH Nelson Cruz, remain on the Twins' radar, manager Rocco Baldelli said.
Nelson Cruz is turning 41 in July, but in his two seasons with the Twins his bat has shown no signs of slowing down.

Nelson Cruz waiting out a slow-moving free-agent market

There might be 15 more major league teams in need of a DH, impacting his decision about where he'll be playing in 2021.
Fans watched the Toronto Blue Jays take on the Minnesota Twins from center field at Hammond Stadium on Feb. 23, 2020.

Twins Mailbag: Pitching, stolen bases and a season on the brink

Spring training begins (maybe) in a month, with baseball's offseason action – particularly from the Twins – fairly stagnant. Answers to questions about the bullpen, Trevor Bauer and more.
The Twins will be looking to fill out their rotation and could try to bring back Jake Odorizzi.

Joyful espionage of MLB winter meetings missed as team plots free-agent moves

Twins Insider: The annual gathering is an espionage party that will be hard to replace.
General Manager Thad Levine greeted Miguel Sano during Twins spring training in 2019.

Twins general manager Levine candidate to run Philadelphia Phillies

Twins senior vice president and general manager Thad Levine has emerged as a candidate to run Philadelphia's baseball operations department, according to multiple sources.
Taylor Rogers

The Six Million Dollar Man: Twins sign reliever Taylor Rogers

In a rarity, the team won't have anyone headed to arbitration after finishing contracts with all players who were tendered.
The Twins did not offer Eddie Rosario a contract tender Wednesday, making the six-year left fielder a free agent.

Twins cut ties with Rosario; Berrios, Buxton reach deals for 2021

Eddie Rosario fell victim to baseball's economy when the Twins did not offer him a contract for 2021, making him a free agent and likely opening up a spot for one of their top prospects in the outfield.
Minnesota Twins relief pitcher Tyler Duffey

Twins reach deal with Duffey; Rosario decision still pending

Tyler Duffey agreed to a one-year contract worth $2.,2 million; Eddie Rosario cleared waivers this afternoon, and the Twins have until 7 p.m. to make him an offer for 2021.
Reliever Thielbar gets one-year deal from Twins

Reliever Thielbar gets one-year deal from Twins

The 33-year-old lefthanded reliever, who is a native of Randolph, Minn., returned to the majors last season after a five-year absence.
Power-hitting Eddie Rosario might have played his final game for the Twins.

Twins may not offer contract to Eddie Rosario by tonight's deadline

Rosario is projected to make more than $10 million next season, a salary the Twins don't want to pay in baseball's hard economic times. The outfielder would become a free agent.
The St. Paul Saints will still play at CHS Field, but soon the Saints will leave independent baseball to become the Class AAA team for the Twins.

St. Paul Saints to become Twins' top minor-league team; Class AA in Wichita

The St. Paul Saints will leave independent baseball to become the Class AAA team for the Twins as part of a major overhaul of the minor leagues.
Jordan Balazovic pitched for the Ft. Myers Miracle in 2019 and is one of the Twins’ top minor league prospects.

Twins add Balazovic, Ober and Rortvedt to 40-man roster

With Friday's moves, the Twins have 37 players — 19 pitchers, four catchers, six infielders and eight outfielders — on their 40-man roster.
CHS Field in St. Paul could house the Twins’ Class AAA team next season.

Twins eye St. Paul for top minor-league team in major baseball shake-up

Baseball is planning a dramatic overhaul that would eliminate dozens of minor-league teams and emphasize affiliates that are more geographically friendly.
The Twins are talking with slugger Nelson Cruz about a return.

Negotiations with Cruz start as Twins dive into offseason of uncertainty

Is spending money on players wise this winter? What are the rules of engagement? Buckle up, baseball fans, for a bumpy offseason.
Nelson Cruz and Byron Buxton.

Cruz, Buxton each win two awards from Twin Cities baseball writers

The Twins, in conjunction with the Twin Cities Chapter of the Baseball Writers Association of America, announced the winners of the annual Diamond Awards on Friday morning.
Slugger Nelson Cruz has earned many honors in his time with the Twins.

Nelson Cruz wins leadership award from baseball's players union

Cruz has been named the winner of baseball's Marvin Miller Award, which is given by the players union for leadership on the field and in the community.
Dodgers starter Clayton Kershaw (left) has a 175-76 record with a 2.45 ERA in 13 major league seasons. But he has struggled in the postseason, where h

Here at last: Matching up Rays-Dodgers in the 2020 World Series

After all of it — the truncated season, battling outbreaks, rescheduling games, etc. — the best two teams in baseball will square off in the World Series.
Jorge Polanco had a tribute to Ozzie Virgil Sr. on his hat on Sept. 23, the 64th anniversary of Virgil becoming the first Dominican player in the majo

Twins shortstop Polanco has ankle surgery

The 27-year-old had a similar procedure last year following his All-Star season.
Twins player-by-player look ahead: Will they stay or will they go?

Twins player-by-player look ahead: Will they stay or will they go?

Part of the Twins trying to figure out how to end their 18-game postseason losing streak is to build a team that can handle both the grind of the regular season and the added stresses of the playoffs.
Jose Berrios

'We know we fell short.' Falvey ponders conquering 'Octoberphobia'

Twins executive Derek Falvey Falvey and manager Rocco Baldelli understand that the fan base has 'Octoberphobia' when it comes to the Twins and the playoffs.
Twins left fielder Eddie Rosario spoke to home plate umpire Manny Gonzalez after he struck out in the sixth inning. Gonzalez ejected Rosario for the i

Rosario ejected, Berrios exits early as frustration fills Twins' day

There was passion, frustration and reflection from the Twins on a day their season came to an end.
Twins pinch runner Byron Buxton was tagged out in a rundown by Astros pitcher Cristian Javier in the eighth inning.

Buxton sits to start Game 2, gets picked off as pinch runner

Byron Buxton's 2020 season began with him out of the lineup because of a mid-foot sprain and interrupted by a left shoulder strain. It didn't end very well, either.
The Astros Yuli Gurriel scored after Minnesota Twins relief pitcher Sergio Romo (54), rear, walked Houston Astros second baseman Jose Altuve (27) with

Ninth-inning meltdown, absent offense drops Twins to Game 1 loss

The Twins have dropped 17 consecutive postseason games, giving them the longest playoff losing streak in major North American sports history. The one happened because of failures in all aspects of the game.
Byron Buxton's excellent September was put on hold when he was hit in a head with a pitch on Friday against Cincinnati.

Buxton finally stands apart with his skills. He's in lineup for Game 1

The Twins began the season wondering when Byron Buxton would be healthy enough to play. Those health concerns continued, but he'll be in today's lineup.
The Twins' Jake Cave (60) celebrated with Eddie Rosario (20) after hitting a home run in the fourth inning. Cave belted another in the sixth, and Rosa

Twins take over first place, hold off Tigers 7-6 on Cave's two-homer night

Jake Cave put on the "Rally Robe" twice Wednesday thanks to the third multihomer game of his career, and he made a diving catch of a Victor Reyes liner in the sixth.
Twins designated hitter Nelson Cruz missed his fourth consecutive game Wednesday night because of a sore right knee.

Don't expect Twins lineup juggling to stop in the postseason

Because of injuries, the Twins have put their first-choice lineup on the field in only two of 57 games this season.
Twins designated hitter Nelson Cruz put his Twins-embroidered bath robe on right fielder Max Kepler after Kepler's late-inning heroics Tuesday night a

Tenth-inning rally pushes Twins past Tigers, within half-game of first place

First, Cleveland rallied past the first-place White Sox with a 10th-inning walk off home run. Then, Max Kepler smashed the Twins into a 3-3 and then blooped a single for the 5-4 victory.
Twins second baseman Luis Arraez fielded a ball last month in Cleveland.

New ankle injury keeps Arraez from returning to Twins lineup

Luis Arraez was playing in an intrasquad game at the Twins' alternative training site in St. Paul when he sprained his ankle during a rundown.
Minnesota Twins starting pitcher Jake Odorizzi is sidelined because of a finger injury.

Twins set postseason roster, taxi squad; Donaldson fined

The Twins have released their 40-man roster for the postseason, which consists of the current 28-man roster plus a 12-man taxi squad.
Clockwise from top left: Kenta Maeda, Jose Berrios, Rich Hill and Michael Pineda have been the team's four best starters recently.

Cracking the code: Who will start Game 1 of the playoffs for the Twins?

As the Twins prepare for next week's playoffs, there will be tough choices for the 28-man roster and even tougher conversations with some pitchers who will want the ball.
Josh Donaldson kicked dirt on home plate in the sixth inning Thursday after homering and was ejected by umpire Dan Bellino. The two argued a strike ca

Donaldson ejected while hitting homer; Twins lose lead, game to White Sox

Two more home runs from Byron Buxton weren't enough on an afternoon marked by Josh Donaldson's ejected as he crossed home plate after hitting a homer.
Twins center fielder Byron Buxton celebrated his second home run off Reynaldo Lopez on Thursday in Chicago.

Buxton keeping smashing home runs, but where are the stolen bases?

After a two-homer outing on Thursday, Buxton has seven home runs in the past nine games.
Twins starting pitcher Randy Dobnak pauses after hitting St. Louis Cardinals' Tommy Edman with the bases loaded on Sept. 8.

Twins make 'challenging decision' to demote Dobnak

Righthander Randy Dobnak, who has given up nine earned runs over his past two outings and has an 8.27 ERA over his past four, was optioned to the Twins' alternate training camp in St. Paul.
Twins starter Jake Odorizzi looked at his pitching hand as he left Wednesday’s game against Chicago in the fourth inning.

Twins pick up much-needed win but ups and downs continue for Odorizzi

Jake Odorizzi got the start Wednesday in the Twins' 5-1 win over the White Sox, and pitched effectively. But his start was reduced to 3⅔ innings because of a fingernail problem on his pitching hand.
Minnesota Twins manager Rocco Baldelli, center, pulls Minnesota Twins starting pitcher Randy Dobnak (68) during the fifth inning of the team's basebal

Frustrated Twins lose again in Chicago; Baldelli, Cruz ejected

For a second straight night, the Twins were outclassed by a White Sox team that is 22-5 over its past 27 games and leads them by three games in the division.
Twins reliever Tyler Clippard on the current postseason format: “I think with the way that the playoff structure is set up right now, winning your d

For Twins and others, division title isn't quite the prize it used to be

The new playoff structure places more of a premium on setting up for postseason success.