Tag:Minnesota Twins
Posted on: June 16, 2011 5:30 pm
Edited on: June 16, 2011 6:23 pm
 

Gardenhire: "This will give me teaching tools"

Out of the ruins, sometimes, come plans.

Whatever happens the rest of the way in this odd Twins season -- they've now won 11 of 13 after falling 20 games below .500 -- what's already happened will shape what the club does next spring.

Nobody could have predicted that Minnesota would have put 15 players on the disabled list so far this season -- most in the majors. But what the Twins never would have predicted would be the fundamental mistakes they've had to endure.

An organization that prides itself on doing the little things right has, at times over the early part of the season, watched a train wreck in that department. Missed signs, missed relay throws, baserunning blunders.

"It gives me a tool," manager Ron Gardenhire says. "That's one of the things I've already thought about for next year. This will give me teaching tools."

In other words, when Gardenhire and his staff call for yet another round of fundamental drills in Fort Myers, Fla., next spring, there will be no room for questioning from the players.

Gardenhire's immediate rebuttal will be, hey, remember that time in Chicago last May when Alexi Casilla screwed up on the bases, or when Danny Valencia botched a rundown?

Ironic thing is, Minnesota emphasizes fundamentals as much as any team in the bigs in the spring.

But the flip side is, that's why the mistakes aren't tolerable.

Yes, the Twins have had to count on players they never would have imagined would fit into their plans in 2011 -- like Trevor Plouffe and Brian Dinkelman. But as far as they're concerned, while some players may be more talented than others, everybody can execute the fundamental part of the game ... whether your name is Joe Mauer or Trevor Plouffe.

Likes: Seattle calling up rookie second baseman Dustin Ackley. ... Brian Gordon on the hill for the Yankees on Thursday. ... Former colleague George Dohrmann's excellent piece on Jim Tressel and the Ohio State football mess in Sports Illustrated. ... Brad Paisley's new tune Eastwood featuring the voice -- and whistling talents -- of the song's inspiration, Clint Eastwood. ... Modern Family.

Dislikes: Poor Edwin Rodriguez. The Marlins are sinking fast -- they've lost 15 of 16 now, and seven in a row -- and if we know anything about Florida owner Jeffrey Loria, it's that he wastes no time in aiming a sharp knife at his managers. Hey Edwin, duck!

Rock 'N' Roll Lyric of the Day:

"Mind on a permanent vacation
"The ocean is my only medication
"Wishing my condition ain't ever gonna go away
"'Cause now I'm knee deep in the water somewhere
"Got the blue sky breeze blowing wind through my hair
"Only worry in the world is the tide gonna reach my chair"

-- Zac Brown Band, Knee Deep



Posted on: May 20, 2011 2:21 pm
Edited on: May 20, 2011 2:26 pm
 

Love Letters: The Killebrew (and more) Edition

A few tears (farewell, Harmon Killebrew) and a few laughs (hello again, Bronx Zoo), it's good for the soul. ...

FROM: Ed K.
Re: Killebrew was no 'Killer', except when it came to slugging

Dear Scott,

Your tribute to Harmon is terrific. My 10-year-son is starting to learn baseball history, and I will share your story with him. I once met Killebrew in Vegas. He was selling autographs, with ALL proceeds going to a children-based charity.

Cool thing is, you could read his autograph. One of my favorite things is how the Twins' Michael Cuddyer and the Angels' Torii Hunter tell stories that, when they were young, they both scribbled autographs until corrected by Mr. Killebrew. "If you're going to take the time to write your name, write it so people know who you are," Killebrew schooled them. Pure class.

FROM: Brian

"Listed at 6-feet, 190 pounds, until cancer slipped a final fastball by him Tuesday." Really? A man loses his life to cancer and you're making baseball metaphors? I typically enjoy your columns but this line is unprofessional, disrespectful and a literary stretch I'd more likely expect to find in a high school publication.

For a man who devoted his life to baseball ... you really think it's a stretch to use a baseball metaphor in tribute to him? What should be used, good metaphors?

FROM: Chris H.

Scott,

I am a 48-year-old Twins fanatic, and Harmon was and always will be my hero. You did a wonderful job capturing the essence of my hero. Thank you so much for this article. Simply put, you did Harmon justice and being who Harmon was, that is quite a feat!

Thanks, Chris. I think it's our job to educate some of the younger fans who maybe don't know much about Killebrew as to just what a humble and class act he was.

FROM: Mike F.

This story may be apocryphal, but I once heard that the scout Bluege sent to look at Harmon Killebrew as a 17-year-old reported back to Clark Griffith as follows: "He has absolutely no weaknesses as a hitter. In my opinion, he is the best first base prospect since Lou Gehrig."

I just learned that Killebrew was passed over several time in the Hall of Fame voting. How is that possible? I know there are a few HOF voters who will not vote for anyone, but how could any sane person who knows baseball not see this guy as a first ballot Hall of Fame selection?

Especially because, as he was being passed over three times before being voted into Cooperstown, he ranked second all-time among right-handed home run hitters behind Hank Aaron. When he retired in 1975, he ranked second to Babe Ruth all-time among American League home run hitters. Utter nonsense he wasn't a first-ballot HOFer.

FROM: Bob D.

Thanks Scott. You understand.

Sniff.

FROM: Kevin M.

Mr. Miller,

Thank you so much for this article about Harmon Killebrew. He was such an inspiration to me while I was a boy. I loved listening to the radio and watching him play.

We've always gotta remember our inspirations, don't we?

FROM: Norman
Re: History tells us Yankees do not grow old gracefully

Great piece, Scott. A classic. History ... gracefully.

One thing you learn when writing a piece like that: How many Yankees fans lack a sense of humor.

FROM: Lee

Your column that the Yankees do not grow old gracefully is pretty interesting. Are the quotes accurate from these past managers and owners?

Uh, no. The tipoff was in the fact that I said the old Yankees diaries were grabbed by Navy SEALS at the YES Network fortress. Almost all of the historical information in the column is factual: The Yanks dumping Ruth, management leaning on Joe McCarthy to remove Lou Gehrig from the lineup sooner than he did because Gehrig's production was down, Steinbrenner forcing Reggie Jackson to take a physical ... all true. I had some fun with the "quotes" and what they were "thinking" at the time.

FROM: Eric S.

Really liked the concept, Scott. Was completely thrown off when I saw you were going make-believe, and not funny at that. The real dagger was the Gehrig stuff, though. That is just tasteless. I am hard to offend and think I have a well-developed sense of inappropriate humor, but there are some things that will never be funny. With all that Yankee material in your hands, trying to instead get laughs out of a debilitating disease is kind of pathetic. You could have done what it seemed like you set out to do -- tell the actual stories, not a corny, LOL nimrod version and had a great column. You can do far better.

Oh come on now. You can't tell me you didn't at least chuckle at the Joe Pepitone line.

FROM: Steve

You're an idiot. I want the 30 seconds of my life back that I wasted reading this drivel.

We just completed an old-fashioned baseball trade: I dealt your 30 seconds for the 30 it took to read your drivel.

FROM: Lee P.

Scott,
 
I actually know Babe Dahlgren’s grandson.  John wears Babe’s 1939 World Championship ring in honor of his grandfather. He will get a kick out of your column! I grew up in NY and finally moved to sunny, beautiful Southern California in 1995 and still love the Yankees. Yankees management and the media are always up to something. Keep up the good work!

Ah, 1939: A four-game Yanks sweep of the Cincinnati Reds, and Dahlgren contributed a homer and two RBI.

FROM: Edward
Re.: Compared to Yanks, 'immature' Rays whip-smart

You may be the worst baseball columnist on all of the major sports sites on the internet. Your bias shines through in every article you write, and is hardly EVER backed by any facts. Consider a new career. Maybe put a cool rag on your forehead, sit in a dark room, and re-evaluate your life.

Funny, I do that about twice a year. Usually with pizza, Mountain Dew and National Lampoon's Animal House playing.

FROM: Bob

Cheesy? Cheesy? America's game should not wear Red, White and Blue on the most important days of the country? While Jackie Robinson's efforts were tremendous -- big Dodger fan here -- it was only in this country could that have happened in the western world. The only country to elect an African-American and did not have colonies in Africa. But it would seem history is not your forte, Ass!

If 100 percent of the profits from the red, white and blue caps went to the troops, I'd be fully in favor of it.

FROM: Chris

Wow ... banging on the Yankees with Tampa as the new flavor of the week. What guts, Scott. But I guess who would read what you write if it didn't include knocking the Yankees? I know I wouldn't. And congrats on one thing: You didn't even mention New York's bloated payroll. Oh but I forgot, you're a pro. You will save that one for next week when the Bombers have turned it around again.

Sorry, I stopped reading when you said you wouldn't read what I write if it didn't include knocking the Yankees. Was there anything pertinent after that?

Likes: Jim Leyland on interleague play. He's right. ... Very cool story, Cleveland's Orlando Cabrera missing a game the other day to become a U.S. citizen. ... Mets pitcher Dillon Gee. ... Sean Burroughs back in the majors (with Arizona) for the first time since 2007. Great story. ... Stephen Colbert the other night: "Starbucks is being sued for firing a dwarf. Or, as Starbucks calls him, a 'tall.'" ... Bridesmaids is pretty funny for a chick flick. Not great. But entertaining. Probably about as good as we're going to get in another crappy summer movie season. ... Bob Seger in Detroit for three shows this week. Wish I could be there for one of those -- and preferably for this past Tuesday's show when The Rockets opened. What a great, underrated Detroit group they were from the late 1970s-early 1980s. Turn up the radio, indeed.

Dislikes: Farewell to Harmon Killebrew, one of the great human beings the game has ever seen.

Rock 'N' Roll Lyric of the Day:

"When the Senators stopped playin’ ball
"The Twin Cities got the call
"Minnesota joined the American League
"With Mele at the reins
"The Twins made instant gains
"In ’65 they had the flag and an MVP
"I’m talkin’ baseball
"Allison and Perry
"Twins baseball
"Kitty Kaat and Jerry
"Don Mincher and Mudcat comin’ through
"Jimmie Hall and Davey Boswell, too
"Just like Tony ... the Killer and Carew

-- Terry Cashman, Talkin' Baseball (Twins version)

Posted on: May 9, 2011 11:53 pm
 

Short Hops: 3 thoughts on the Marlins (and more)

The Florida Marlins are off to the best start in club history, Josh Johnson is pitching like a Cy Young winner and Anibal Sanchez is threatening to re-visit No-Hitter Land. A lot is going right for the Marlins, and it couldn't be coming at a better time. This summer isn't just about this summer for Florida. With a new stadium set to open in 2012, these aren't your typical cut-rate Marlins. They need to stir interest and sell tickets and bring a strong product into their new ballpark to set a solid foundation.

This isn't to say the Marlins are looking to flex their financial muscle. But they're definitely looking to win, and behind Johnson, Sanchez and Ricky Nolasco, they've got three starters going in the right direction. And, in Leo Nunez, they've got one closer consistently nailing things down.

Three thoughts on the Marlins as they tangle with Philadelphia this week:

1. Johnson is incorporating a slower curve with the help of Marlins pitching coach Randy St. Claire in an effort to work deeper into games. He's thrown more than 200 innings in his career just once, in 2009, and both Johnson and the Marlins would like to get him to that level consistently. Already, he throws a fastball, slider, sinker and change-up. With a fastball that already kills at 94, 95 m.p.h., the curve that is clocked around 77, 78 is leaving hitters with little chance.

2. The Marlins are off to their best start with All-Star Hanley Ramirez off to one of his worst, which bodes well for them for later this summer. Because, as one scout says, "Hanley will hit. He always hits." The man who has hit the most home runs of any major-league shortstop since 2006 started the season with none in his first 23 games. He's currently hitting just .195 with one homer and 13 RBI. While the Marlins wait, first baseman and team leader Gaby Sanchez, plugs along as one of the game's most underrated players.

3. Without question, the biggest difference in this year's Marlins is at the back end of games. Florida's bullpen is second in the NL with a 2.59 ERA. Last year's Marlins ranked ninth in the league with a 4.01 ERA and ninth in saves (39). This year, Nunez's 11 saves (the Marlins' total) are tied for third in the NL. Brian Sanches, Randy Choate and Ryan Webb have been instrumental in the improvement.

-- The Marlins are expected to pursue a third baseman at some point this summer, but veteran Greg Dobbs has been outstanding there in the wake of the fractured elbow prospect Matt Dominguez suffered late in spring training. Dobbs' steady glove and .359 batting average and .411 on-base percentage have eased some of the Marlins' pain.

-- One scout, who was in Seattle for this weekend's White Sox-Mariners series, on Milton  Bradley being designated for assignment Monday: "He was going through the motions. Good for Jack [Zduriecik, Mariners' general manager]."

-- Among the reasons to believe Cleveland is for real: On Monday, the Indians' +48 run differential was best in the majors. Next-closest in the American League: The Yankees, at +38. Next-closest in baseball: St. Louis at +44, followed by the Phillies, who were even with the Yanks at +38.

-- Those watching closely the final two months of last season know that Cleveland right-hander Justin Masterson's 5-0 start is no fluke. Masterson's 2.86 ERA from Aug. 4 through season's end in 2010 ranked ninth in the AL. Currently, his 2.11 ERA is fifth in the AL. "The last six weeks last year, he was able to repeat his delivery more often," Indians manager Manny Acta says. Part of that is, pitching coach Tim Belcher has helped him institute a series of checkpoints in his windup and deliver, which allows the 6-6 Masterson to be more efficient at making in-game adjustments. It's also allowed Masterson to reduce his walks. Over 47 innings pitched this year, he has 34 strikeouts and just 13 walks.

-- The Twins' -68 was by far the game's worst run differential. Nobody's even close: Next-worst are the Dodgers and Houston, each at -35.

-- One scout on the Cubs: "They have no speed, and not much power."

-- The Padres have been shut out a stunning eight times in 34 games, twice as much as anybody else (the Nationals, Red Sox, White Sox and Athletics each has been shut out four times). Indications are, Petco Park is getting in the heads of newcomers like Brad Hawpe (signed over the winter) and Ryan Ludwick (acquired at last July's trading deadline) and others.

-- Pirates manager Clint Hurdle on Petco, where he's also managed several games as Colorado's skipper: "I think the worst damage it did when it was first built was to the home team. There was wailing and gnashing of teeth you could hear from across the other side when this thing was first built. I think it's been tinkered with since. I think perception is so huge in this game. The first thing hitters look for are flags and distances. Actually, I just try and get them focused saying, 'Look at all that grass out there. There's room for all kinds of hits. Let's focus on that.'"

-- More Hurdle on Petco Park: "I've got to believe if you put Tony Gwynn in here, you know what? He'd get a lot of hits in here. I do believe that, unfortunately, there's this thing called the male ego, and if that number's big out there [on the outfield fence] and you think, 'I’m still going to hit it out', before you know it, you're doing more grunting and manipulating your swing just to try and hit it out rather than just hit it hard."

-- Outstanding: Angels outfielder Torii Hunter's at-bat music for his first trip to the plate at home each night is the theme from Sanford & Son, the old television show. It started as a joke last week when Hunter was in a slump.

-- Great line from Larry Stone, the excellent baseball writer for the Seattle Times, on the rise of Justin Smoak: "The Mariners are trying to coax Pat Meares out of retirement so they can do it with Smoak & Meares."

-- White Sox manager Ozzie Guillen on counterpart Mike Scioscia earning his 1,000th win managing the Angels on Sunday: "You manage for 100 years, you will have 1,000 wins." Seriously, Guillen added, "I think it's a great thing, especially when you manage the same ballclub."

Likes: The "20 Greatest Games" on MLB Network is a cool feature. Watched the network's treatment of Game 7 of the 1991 World Series, Jack Morris' 1-0 classic for the Twins over Atlanta, with Morris and John Smoltz in studio. It's worth seeing. ... White Sox outfielder Mark Teahen says he still keeps in touch with some of his ex-Royals' teammates -- the few left from when he was there. ... Glad to see LaTroy Hawkins (shoulder surgery) back in Milwaukee's bullpen. ... Latest CD rave: The Sound of Love: The Very Best of Darlene Love. Man, that woman can sing.

Dislikes: Gatorade used to be so easy. You worked out, you sweated, you rehydrated. But now, there's Gatorade for before your workout (Prime), during/after your workout (Perform) and post-workout (Recovery). What if you drink them in the wrong order. Then what happens? ... So now Kate Hudson is in this Something Borrowed? Does she choose her roles, or handlers? And to think, there was such hope for her after Almost Famous.

Rock 'N' Roll Lyric of the Day:

"You're the reason I changed to beer from soda pop
"And you're the reason I never get to go to the beauty shop
"You're the reason our kids are ugly little darlins'
"Oh, but looks ain't everything
"And money ain't everything"

-- Conway Twitty and Loretta Lynn, (You're the Reason) Our Kids Are Ugly

 

Posted on: April 22, 2011 6:26 pm
Edited on: April 23, 2011 12:08 am
 

Stelly back, Twins in business

Just after noon Friday and the longest tenured coach in the majors was in his car at a stoplight, about to take a right turn back into baseball.

No secret that the Twins (7-12) have had a rough beginning, but I'm thinking that maybe some of their timing will come back with the return of bullpen coach Rick Stelmaszek.

"Joe Mauer's been out and Justin Morneau's been out, but Stelly might be more critical," quipped Twins president Dave St. Peter.

The man known as Stelly, who first started coaching with the Twins 31 seasons ago, has had five surgeries on his right eye since last November. One for cataracts and the other four for a detached retina that wouldn't stay re-attached the first three times.

In one sense, maybe the fact that the darned surgery wouldn't take is not a surprise to anyone who knows this ornery and stubborn man.

Yet, tough and crusty as he is, it is unimaginable to think anything physical could keep one of the most beloved figures in Minnesota baseball down for long.

"You know what," Stelmaszek, 62, was saying as he was pulling into his Target Field parking spot Friday. "I was pretty good. I knew I had to be good or I'd drive myself crazy.

"That's not the easiest thing to do, do nothing. But I made it to this point."

The strangest part was not seeing him in spring training. This is the first spring he's missed in uniform in 44 years, and he's been the Master Planner in charge of Minnesota's spring training since the 1980s.

Anybody was unsure of which field they were supposed to be on or what was supposed to happen next, Stelly was usually there with his clipboard, barking directions like a Chicago traffic cop.

Until this year, when the eye surgeries prevented him from traveling and kept him home with his wife, Kathie, in, yes, Chicago.

Doing?

"The bonding stuff," Stelmaszek said. "I learned how to shop. Things I have no idea about."

Uh-oh.

"My wife gave me English lessons," he continued. "She told me I've got to be careful with my antecedents, that I have to put my antecedents in front of my pronouns better.

"You asked me how I'm doing? I'm married to a schoolteacher!"

One of the game's true characters, Stelmaszek, like so many baseball men, speaks his own language. When it's about time for the Twins to gather for pre-batting practice stretching (or, as he sometimes calls it, "bend and hang"), you can often hear him calling out, "Stretch monsters! Let's go!" When a pitcher is getting rocked, Stelly will shake his head and mutter, "Chuck and duck."

There definitely was a bounce in his step -- at least, through the telephone -- on Friday, which was good to see (hear?). He's lost a significant amount of sight in that troublesome right eye, but doctors are confident that this time the retina is fixed.

"Knock on wood," he said.

Doctors used oil and silicone to re-attach the retina, which will allow him to travel (when they use gas to fix the retina, doctors won't clear patients to fly). He was at Target Field earlier this week, while the Twins were in Baltimore, doing what once came as naturally as reading a scouting report: He was hitting fungoes, just to make sure he still can.

"It will be nice to see his sometime smiling face around, giving people trouble again," St. Peter teased.

"Aw, look," Stelmaszek said as he pulled into the Target Field parking lot. "'Welcome Back Stelly' signs are all over the place."

Seriously?

"Naw," Stelly said, voice dancing. "I'm just bull------- you."

Stretch monsters, get ready.

 

Posted on: April 12, 2011 2:06 pm
 

Stuff my editors whacked from the column

Being entrenched as Cincinnati's shortstop means something else for Paul Janish: Perhaps his pitching days are finally finished.

"Ideally," he says, chuckling.

In two big-league mop-up appearances, Janish has fashioned a not-so-stellar 49.50 ERA.

Two innings pitched (both in 2009), nine hits, 11 earned runs, two walks, three strikeouts.

Within that are two homers surrendered, a two-run shot to Prince Fielder and a grand slam by Jayson Werth.

He says he's been informed by my friend and curator of "Useless Information", Jayson Stark of ESPN.com, that he owns the record for most runs given up by a position player in the last 50 years.

"So that made it pretty good," Janish says.

He says college recruiters projected him as a pitcher out of Houston's Cypress Creek High School. But at Rice University, the pitching staff was loaded, including Jeff Niemann (first-round pick by Tampa Bay in 2004), Philip Humber (first-round pick by the Mets in 2004), Wade Townsend (first-round pick of the Orioles in 2004, then first-round by Tampa Bay in 2005) and David Aardsma (first-round by the Giants in 2003).

So he remained an infielder at Rice, and helped the Owls win the College World Series in 2003.

Now, as the Reds starting shortstop, and two years after his last appearance on the mound, Janish no longer is being recruited as a pitcher -- by universities, or by Cincinnati manager Dusty Baker.

"No," he says. "And I don't think I'm going to be able to take [the 49.50 career ERA] to arbitration."

Likes: Friday Night Lights back for season five beginning on Friday (for those of us who don't have DirecTV). Can't wait. Mixed emotions, though: I hate that it's the final season for one of the best television shows ever. ... Win Win, the new film featuring Paul Giamatti as a dispirited attorney who moonlights as a high school wrestling coach. Really good. ... The Joe Mauer/Troy Polamalu commercial for Head & Shoulders. Well played, Mauer ... and Palamalu.

Dislikes: Ken Griffey Jr. in the commercials. Junior, I love ya, but that Dick's Sporting Goods ad is just awful. ... Speaking of which, MLB's newest ad campaign, Always Epic, has a clunker of a television ad taking us "inside" Brian Wilson's beard. Creepy.

Rock 'N' Roll Lyric of the Day:

"Well darkness has a hunger that's insatiable
"And lightness has a call that's hard to hear
"I wrap my fear around me like a blanket
"I sailed my ship of safety till I sank it, I'm crawling on your shores"

-- Indigo Girls, Closer to Fine

Posted on: April 8, 2011 12:36 pm
Edited on: April 8, 2011 12:52 pm
 

Giants look to keep pitching sharp year later

The season following their 2005 World Series triumph, the pitching-strong White Sox were flat.

The season following his World Series MVP appearance, Philadelphia's Cole Hamels was flat.

There's no question that an extra month's pitching in October, with intense pressure riding on every pitch, sometimes grinds down even the best rotations.

And as the world champion Giants head toward their home opener Friday following a tough (2-3) opening trip, they're determined that their most precious asset -- their starting pitching -- will remain their strength.

Tim Lincecum, with a second consecutive impressive start in Wednesday's 8-4 pummeling of the Padres (13 strikeouts and no walks over seven innings), already is strong out of the gate. As for the overall rotation, while the Giants aren't taking any drastic measures, they've been subtly watching things all spring.

"We didn't push [the starters] once the games started in terms of pitch count," Giants pitching coach Dave Righetti said. "We kept it to a minimum."

Specifically, Righetti said, the Giants monitored their pitchers when runners were on base this spring and throwing from a stretch was required. They also kept Lincecum to 22 2/3 spring innings and Jonathan Sanchez to 20. Madison Bumgarner and Barry Zito each worked 27 1/3, while Matt Cain, who was slowed by a sore elbow early in camp, worked just 13 1/3 Cactus League innings.

"We're all in the business. We've been in it our whole life," Righetti said. "We understand that pitching that extra month is a grind. The effects, when the effects are going to happen, we'll see. You can't avoid it."

One thing the Giants are doing now is to stay on a five-man rotation in the early part of the season even with five days off within the season's first 31 days. Instead of skipping the No. 5 starter -- Bumgarner in this case -- San Francisco is opting for an extra day's rest for Lincecum, Sanchez, Cain and Zito.

Plus, there might be another benefit to that later, too.

"If there are any effects, you'll see it toward the end of the year, not now," manager Bruce Bochy said. "We'll keep a watchful eye.

"That's one reason we put Bumgarner in the fifth spot. We felt if we needed to give him a break, it would be easier to do from there.

"We'll monitor where we're at during the season, and who may need a break."

Though they are heading into the unknown this season in that they've never defended a World Series title since moving to San Francisco in 1958, the one thing the Giants hope they are certain of is how to handle pitching.

"Arms are precious," Righetti said. "You've got to watch every practice, every day. That doesn't change."

Likes: The Pirates donating leftover food from concession stands to local shelters and soup kitchens to feed the hungry. Best idea of the season, and I hope other teams follow. ... Day baseball in April. ... Home openers. ... If you're not checking out our Eye on Baseball blog several times a day, you're missing out. ... The Lincoln Lawyer. Very enjoyable flick.

Dislikes: Tough break for the Twins, losing second baseman Tsuyoshi Nishioki to a fractured left fibula.

Rock 'N' Roll Lyric of the Day:

"You can't have any pudding
"If you don't eat your meat
"How can you have any pudding
"If you don't eat your meat?"

-- Pink Floyd, Another Brick in the Wall

Posted on: February 27, 2011 1:42 pm
 

Nathan comeback on track

FORT MYERS, Fla. -- Joe Nathan has 247 career saves in the majors ... and none since Oct. 3, 2009.

Yes, it's been a long time, but following the Tommy John ligament transfer surgery a year ago that rendered him a spectator for all of 2010, the Minnesota closer is back to full speed and confident he can pick up where he left off in 2011.

So are the Twins.

"He's really done well in his rehab," general manager Bill Smith says. "He's attacked it. He committed himself, from the day of the surgery, to being in the best shape of his life. He wanted to get his body in the best shape possible so that when he came out of surgery, he could start rehabilitation sooner.

"He worked tirelessly, for months, even when he couldn't throw a baseball."

"I figured I'd work on whatever I could at the time," Nathan says.

So if that meant riding an exercise bike so his legs wouldn't go weak during the time he couldn't throw, he rode. And if it meant strengthening other parts of his body, that's what he did as well.

So far this spring, he says, "I can't complain. Everything has been full go. I'm doing all the drills."

He's thrown live batting practice and had no setbacks.

Meanwhile, the Twins have the luxury of bringing him along slowly thanks to the presence of Matt Capps, who closed in Washington and Pittsburgh over the past four seasons before Minnesota acquired him last July 29.

Don't expect to see Nathan working back-to-back games early. Not until the Twins are sure of what he can tolerate.

"A lot will probably depend on the number of pitches I throw," Nathan says. "If I throw a lot of pitches, they probably won't bring me back the next day.

"And the back-to-back-to-backs, the three days in a row, that may have to wait."

There's a lot of spring training left, and a lot Nathan still has to prove. And within that is the unsettled question of his contract beyond this year: The Twins hold a $12.5 million option on him for 2012, or a $2 million buyout.

But so far, he's healthy and determined in what would be a fairly rapid comeback.

"All he points at is, 'Billy Wagner did it'," Minnesota pitching coach Rick Anderson says. "'And if he can do it, I can do it.'"

Posted on: February 27, 2011 1:09 pm
 

Stuff my editors whacked from the column

FORT MYERS, Fla. -- Outtakes from the Twins' camp regarding why Michael Cuddyer may have missed the World Series had Minnesota advanced in October, plus a rookie pitcher to watch:

-- Yes, Michael Cuddyer says, getting bounced from the playoffs by the Yankees (again) last October still hurts. But things might not have worked out well for him regardless last October even had the Twins played in the World Series.

Not only did he undergo arthroscopic surgery on his knee in mid-October, but he was stricken with appendicitis two days after that. All the time, he was going to push the knee surgery back until the offseason. The appendicitis? That might not have cooperated.

"If we had been in the World Series ... I was in the hospital watching Game 2," Cuddyer says. "I was thinking, 'That could be us.' And I was thinking, 'That could be me in San Francisco, laying in a hospital.

"It would have been good if we were in the World Series. But it would have sucked if I was in a hospital bed while it was going on."

Weird thing is, as Cuddyer watched from his hospital bed, Joe Buck and Tim McCarver were talking about Giants center fielder Andres Torres -- and how he was felled by appendicitis in early September but made it back in time for the postseason.

-- One more piece of inside dope on Renaissance man Cuddyer:

"He's a gadget guy," Twins designated hitter Jim Thome says. "He's got all the music, all the information. He's a big trivia guy. He knows all about baseball. Somebody asks who scored 155 runs in whatever year, he knows.

"We go to him. He's the leader of our clubhouse."

-- Keep an eye on young minor-league right-hander Kyle Gibson, 23, tabbed No. 34 on <em>Baseball America's</em> list of top 100 prospects. Gibson could be the next great Twins homegrown starter. At the very least, the man who moved from Class A to Triple A last summer likely will pitch for the Twins at some point this summer.

"He's what you want," Twins pitching coach Rick Anderson says. "His makeup, his attitude, everything about him."

Gibson throws four pitches well -- fastball, change-up, curve and a sinker/slider that is his best pitch.

"He's not your typical kid coming up," Anderson says. "He talks about pitching, changing speeds, pitching to the side to get away from a hitter. He's going to be one you'll hear about."

Sunblock Day? Not one day that you haven't needed sunblock since camps opened. Consistently in the 80s with warm sunshine.

Likes: Unquestionably, one of the best sights of spring: Twins minor-league hitting coach Riccado Ingram in camp and feeling great after being diagnosed with a cancerous brain tumor two years ago. He's been through chemotherapy, radiation and, praise be, it looks like he's out of the woods. What a great, great thing. ... Former infielder Jeff Reboulet visiting Twins camp. Reb, one of the good guys, is home in Dayton, Ohio, and working as a financial advisor (yes, he has some pro baseball clients), while teaming with his brother to run a sports academy in his spare time. ... Former Twins manager Tom Kelly, Hall of Famer Paul Molitor and former catcher Terry Steinbach in uniform instructing and running drills. ... Longtime radio man John Gordon retiring at 70 after 25 years with the Twins -- but still planning to broadcast 89 games this year. Team president Dave St. Peter and broadcast partner Dan Gladden talked him into it. ... Perfect tonic to re-charge the spring training batteries: An hour by the pool and dinner at Five Guys Burgers and Fries. Mmmm.

Dislikes: Minnesota bullpen coach Rick Stelmaszek, the longest tenured coach in the majors (this will be his 31st season), missing the first several days of spring camp following surgery to repair a detached retina in his right eye. He may wind up missing all of spring camp as the eye heals. Get well soon, Stelly. Spring camp with the Twins just isn't the same.

Rock 'N' Roll Lyric of the Day:

"Now you're lookin' at a man that's gettin' kind of mad
"I had lots of luck but it's all been bad
"No matter how I struggle and strive
"I'll never get out of this world alive
"My fishin' pole's broke the creek is full of sand
"My woman run away with another man
"No matter how I struggle and strive
"I'll never get out of this world alive"

-- Hank Williams Jr., I'll Never Get Out of This World Alive

 

 
 
 
 
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