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Tag:Minnesota Twins
Posted on: February 22, 2011 2:32 pm
Edited on: February 22, 2011 2:33 pm
 

Now at second: Nishioka's translator?

FORT MYERS, Fla. -- The Twins will take the art of importing a Japanese free agent to a unique level when infielder Tsuyoshi Nishioka runs through Minnesota's first full-squad workout of the spring on Wednesday.

As Nishioka and Alexi Casilla familiarize themselves with each other this spring, manager Ron Gardenhire says he intends to have Nishioka's translator stationed in the infield during drills.

"Once the games start, it will get more entertaining," Gardenhire joked.

The purpose of keeping the translator close by, even if it means getting caked with infield dirt, is very simple.

"I want Nishi to communicate with the other players if any of them have any questions," Gardenhire said.

The general thinking is that Casilla will be the Twins' shortstop this season and that Nishioka will play second base. But the Twins say right now that no determination has been made and that that could flip. Nishioka, the Twins' first Asian-born player and the 2010 MVP of the Nippon League, was a shortstop in Japan.

Gardenhire said the early-spring plan is to work each man out at each position and go from there.

But the main thing early, he said, is to make sure Nishioka is comfortable.

"We had a little conversation today," Gardenhire said. "I want to make sure he understands we know he can play and that he doesn't have anything to prove. He's an All-Star. He's won a batting title. We know he can play."

Nishioka has been in town for several days but has been working out on the Twins' minor-league fields. He made an appearance in the big-league clubhouse early Tuesday morning but did not participate in the workouts.

"I was looking forward to participating in practice starting the 23rd with the first workout, so I wanted to be in the best shape possible," said Nishioka, who will wear No. 1. "I'm more excited than nervous."

Nishioka said he spoke with former big leaguer Kaz Matsui before joining the Twins "but it was brief, just good luck, nothing specific." He also said, when asked about adjusting to a new life in the majors, "I would like to learn English and try and adjust to that."

Meanwhile, Gardenhire is hard at work on his Japanese. At least, certain words and phrases.

He was leafing through a small pocket book called "Survival Japanese" on Tuesday morning and has already downloaded and printed a handful of pages' worth of Japenese baseball terms.

How's his Japanese coming?

"I have it in my book, not in my vocabulary," Gardenhire said, before joking, "If there's a nice-looking chick, I may ask him about her."

Seriously, Gardenhire said, "it's hard for me to put it in one word. But I want to do it in one sentence. He's going to understand me before it's all done. We're going to get it."

Sunblock Day? Lots of fog this morning. But that gave way to sun, 83 degrees and smiles. Pass the sunblock.

Likes: Always good to see former Twins manager Tom Kelly in uniform and assisting in drills here. ... Likewise, same with Hall of Famer Al Kaline at Detroit's camp in Lakeland. ... Oh my goodness, now Twins catcher Joe Mauer is a spokesman for Head & Shoulders Shampoo. Well lathered, Mauer. ... Nino's Pizzeria and Italian Restaurant remains on top of its game in both the chicken parmesan and pizza departments. I can attest to both over the past few nights.

Dislikes: What they ought to do to the scumbag who poisoned the trees at Auburn is turn the environmentalists loose on him ... on Arbor Day.

Rock 'N' Roll Lyric of the Day:

"I've been burning down all my yesterdays
"I can't stick around to see the smoke
"'Cause we’re on our way, and we don’t care where
"There’s no time to sit around and mope"

-- The Push Stars, Minnesota

Posted on: February 9, 2011 7:02 pm
 

On the spring comeback trail

Former NL Cy Young winner and White Sox ace Jake Peavy is not the only impact player looking to prove this spring that he's past a debilitating injury. Here are six others:

Chipper Jones, Braves: Strong early indications that Atlanta's leader is recovering well from major knee surgery last August. Just ask the baseballs: Jones has been hitting in Atlanta since the first of the year, and the legend already is growing. Earlier this month, he literally knocked the cover off of a ball -- ala Roy Hobbs in The Natural -- in a Turner Field batting cage.

"There might have been a stitch or two loose," says general manager Frank Wren, who was away on the Braves' Winter Caravan at the time and was told of the feat by club president John Schuerholz.

Where there was talk last summer that Jones' torn knee could have been a career-ending injury, now the Braves are expecting him to be full-go on the first day of spring training.

"I think we all expected him to be back performing at a high level," Wren says. "You're talking about a very gifted player. All the hard work he's put in, you can just see it. You can see it with your eyes."

Justin Morneau, Twins: The 2006 AL MVP did not play after July 7 last year -- one day after Peavy went down -- because of post-concussion syndrome. The Twins missed him badly during their first-round playoff loss to the Yankees, and there's still a weird vibe about this whole situation. Such as, Twins GM Bill Smith told Morneau to skip TwinsFest a couple of weeks ago so he could stay home and concentrate on his conditioning. And as of the end of January, Morneau still had not resumed baseball activities.

What to expect from Morneau this spring?

"We have pledged patience, and we only want him to go when he's ready," Smith told colleague Danny Knobler a couple of weeks ago. "If that's March 1, April 1 or July 1, that's what it will be. We only want him to go through this one time. We don't want this to become a rollercoaster."

Smith says the date he has circled is April 1, because that's Minnesota's opening day. But it sounds like it's in pencil, not pen.

Brandon Webb, Rangers: In danger of falling permanently into the "Whatever Happened To..." category, Webb has a chance to become Texas' sleeper this summer and help ease the Rangers' pain following the departure of ace Cliff Lee. The 2006 NL Cy Young winner, Webb has made only one big-league start since 2008. And that lasted only four innings.

Arizona was hopeful Webb would have helped last year's club, but he couldn't make it back to the mound following shoulder debridement surgery in August, 2009.

"There's obviously a risk, an unknown anytime a guy is coming back from surgery," Texas GM Jon Daniels says. "But the timeline, the 18-months-out from surgery when you think a guy has a chance to bounce back, lines up with the beginning of the season.

"We're betting on the guy."

The Rangers like what they see so far: Webb has been on a conditioning and throwing program, he's worked over the winter with Rangers strength and conditioning coach Jose Vazquez and he's talked with pitching coach Mike Maddux about what everyone expects. His heavy sinker is made-to-order for the Ballpark in Arlington.

"We're going to push him more on the conditioning side than anything," Daniels says. "If he's ready to go, I'd expect him to be in the rotation."

Kendry Morales, Angels: We haven't heard from Morales since his game-winning grand slam last May beat the Mariners and Morales suffered a broken leg when he awkwardly landed on home plate. The injury required immediate surgery and Morales, who led the Angels at the time with 11 homers, 39 RBIs and a .290 batting average, was done for the season.

The injury was one of many things that wrecked the Angels' season, and after a rough winter in which they failed in their quest to sign Carl Crawford, a big comeback season from Morales is a must. The hope is that he can replicate a 2009 season in which he crashed 34 home runs, compiled a .569 slugging percentage and finished fifth in AL MVP voting.

"We're anticipating him to be full go in spring training," manager Mike Scioscia said at the winter meetings in December. "Obviously, once you get on the field and get into some more extensive activities, you're going to take it slow. Does it mean he'll play our first spring training game? I don't know yet. When he comes into spring training, we expect he'll be full go for all the drills. And if not, we'll adjust on that."

Joe Nathan, Twins: The Upper Midwest report on the Twins' closer sounds more promising than it does on Morneau. Nathan, sidelined the entire 2010 season following Tommy John surgery, has been throwing off of a mound and was throwing breaking balls by the end of January. Smith described Nathan as "very upbeat" and noted what a big boost it would be to have a fully healthy Nathan along with experienced closer Matt Capps late in games.

Carlos Santana, Indians: He could have been Buster Posey, or Jason Heyward. Instead, things weren't exactly smooth for the baseball Santana, whose rookie season was ruined after his June 11 recall when he suffered a torn lateral collateral ligament in his left knee during a home plate collision with Boston's Ryan Kalish on Aug. 2.

One of the many bright lights in a stunningly good rookie class in 2010, Santana has been cleared by Indians doctors to resume full baseball activities during spring training. Barring any setbacks, Santana could start playing in games when the Cactus League schedule begins on Feb. 27.

The Indians, losers of 93 games and the worst-drawing team in the majors last season, are not expected to contend in 2011. But in Santana, one of the brightest young prospects in the game, and center fielder Grady Sizemore -- also recovering from left knee surgery -- Cleveland's season could gain traction (or slip into the ditch) depending on how this duo progresses in Arizona this spring.

 

Posted on: December 9, 2010 1:12 am
Edited on: December 9, 2010 1:15 am
 

Twins to ship Hardy to Baltimore

LAKE BUENA VISTA, Fla. -- Having spent much of the week looking for a shortstop, the Orioles have found one: The Twins have agreed to send J.J. Hardy and infielder Brendan Harris to Baltimore in exchange for minor-league pitchers Brett Jacobson and Jim Hoey.

The deal is in place, pending medicals, according to sources, and could be formalized on Thursday.

Hardy, who batted .268 with six homers and 38 RBIs in 101 games for the Twins in 2010, became expendable when Minnesota won negotiating rights to Japanese free agent shortstop Tsuyoshi Nishioka. The Twins are expected to sign the middle infielder to a three-year deal worth between $9 and $12 million soon.

A wrist injury knocked Hardy out for nearly two months last season. He earned $5.1 million in 2010 and, arbitration-eligible, will earn more in 2011.

The Twins are looking for pitchers in return for Hardy, especially because it appears that they will lose two key relievers from last year's club, Matt Guerrier and Jesse Crain.

 

Posted on: December 8, 2010 7:12 pm
 

Twins talking Hardy with O's, Pirates

LAKE BUENA VISTA, Fla. -- With one shortstop off the board after Tampa Bay agreed to send Jason Bartlett to San Diego for a couple of pitchers, the Twins continued Wednesday night to shop J.J. Hardy.

The Twins are talking with both the Baltimore Orioles and Pittsburgh Pirates on Hardy in a deal that sources said could happen by the end of the day Wednesday. Both the O's, who acquired third baseman Mark Reynolds from Arizona earlier this week, and the Pirates have been scouring the market for a shortstop.

Hardy, who batted .268 with six homers and 38 RBIs in 101 games for the Twins in 2010, became expendable when Minnesota won negotiating rights to Japanese free agent shortstop Tsuyoshi Nishioka. The Twins are expected to sign the middle infielder to a three-year deal worth between $9 and $12 million soon.

The Twins are looking for pitchers in return for Hardy and, according to the Baltimore Sun, would receive a couple of minor-league pitchers from the Orioles in return for Hardy. A wrist injury knocked Hardy out for nearly two months last season. He earned $5.1 million in 2010 and, arbitration-eligible, will earn more in 2011.

Posted on: December 8, 2010 5:16 pm
Edited on: December 8, 2010 6:12 pm
 

Shortstops on the move? Hardy, Bartlett dangled

LAKE BUENA VISTA, Fla. -- Indications are that at least one shortstop will be dealt by night's end as the Minnesota Twins continue shopping J.J. Hardy and the Tampa Bay Rays work toward moving Jason Bartlett multiple sources tell CBSSports.com.

The Twins are talking with both the Baltimore Orioles and Pittsburgh Pirates on Hardy in a deal that sources said could happen by the end of the day Wednesday. Both the O's, who acquired third baseman Mark Reynolds from Arizona earlier this week, and the Pirates have been scouring the market for a shortstop.

Hardy, who batted .268 with six homers and 38 RBIs in 101 games for the Twins in 2010, became expendable when Minnesota won negotiating rights to Japanese free agent shortstop Tsuyoshi Nishioka. The Twins are expected to sign the middle infielder to a three-year deal worth between $9 and $12 million soon.

The Twins are looking for pitchers in return for Hardy and, according to the Baltimore Sun, would receive a couple of minor-league pitchers from the Orioles in return for Hardy. A wrist injury knocked Hardy out for nearly two months last season. He earned $5.1 million in 2010 and, arbitration-eligible, will earn more in 2011.

Bartlett, 31, is coming off of a very disappointing season and, as the Rays look to cut payroll, will give way to Reid Brignac at shortstop in 2011. Bartlett earned $4 million in 2010 and is due more through arbitration in 2011. He batted .254 with four homers and 57 RBIs in 2010, his third full season in Tampa Bay after the Rays acquired him, along with right-hander Matt Garza, from the Twins in the Delmon Young trade.

Talks between the Orioles and Rays for Bartlett have run alternately hot and cold this week. Tampa Bay is looking for relief pitchers to patch a bullpen decimated by free agency this winter.

The Pirates and San Diego have been talking to the Rays as well. The Padres desperately need middle infielders and they have surplus relief pitching that Tampa Bay is requiring.

Posted on: December 7, 2010 4:55 pm
Edited on: December 7, 2010 5:25 pm
 

Guerrier talking with clubs, below Benoit Line

LAKE BUENA VISTA, Fla. -- Matt Guerrier's agent, Joe Bick, checked in Tuesday afternoon to dispute my report that the reliever is looking for a Joaquin Benoit-like, three-year, $16.5 million deal.

Not true, Bick said of Guerrier, who went 5-7 with a 3.17 ERA in 74 appearances (71 innings) for Ron Gardenhire's Twins in 2010.

"We have interest from several clubs," Bick said. "That's all I'm going to say about it."

Posted on: December 7, 2010 3:53 pm
Edited on: December 7, 2010 4:42 pm
 

Crain, others looking for Benoit deal

LAKE BUENA VISTA, Fla. -- Everyone is trolling the lobby for pitchers, and this side of Cliff Lee, what most teams want is bullpen help.

So why, then, has only one reliever signed with a new team on the free agent market so far?

Look no further than Detroit, where the Tigers signed free agent set-up man Joaquin Benoit to a three-year, $16.5 million deal earlier this winter.

The Benoit signing has put visions of sugar plums (and multi-millions) into the heads of middle relievers throughout the game.

And not all executives are ready to concede that type of contract to guys who will pitch the sixth, seventh or eighth innings for them.

"No way in hell am I going to pay a guy like that $5 million a year," one NL general manager said.

Among the dozens of relievers still on the market is Jesse Crain, who pitched very well out of the Minnesota bullpen for the past several seasons -- and sources say he's among a handful of relievers right now is targeting a contract similar to the one Benoit got from Detroit.

Aside from Benoit, only two relievers have signed so far this winter: Closer Mariano Rivera re-signed with the Yankees for two years and $30 million, and middle man Jose Contreras re-signed with Philadelphia for two years and $5.5 million.

Posted on: October 7, 2010 8:46 pm
Edited on: October 8, 2010 11:15 am
 

History between Gardenhire, Wendelstedt not good

MINNEAPOLIS -- It's never expected when a manager gets ejected in a playoff game, but when the Twins' Ron Gardenhire was run by plate umpire Hunter Wendelstedt in the seventh inning of Game 2, it wasn't exactly a shocker.

The history between the two is not good.

Wendelstedt has ejected Gardenhire multiple times, and there have been at least two public spats between the two -- including a particularly ugly incident in Detroit in August, 2009.

Gardenhire, still livid following the Twins' 5-2 Game 2 loss in the AL Division Series here Thursday during which he was ejected in the seventh inning for arguing a non-strike call to Lance Berkman, insisted the history between the two men had nothing to do with Thursday's ejection.

"Hunter and I talked and we kind of straightened all our stuff away," Gardenhire said tersely. "It has nothing to do with that at all, all right?"

Wendelstedt was not made available to reporters afterward.

Bob Watson, major-league baseball's vice-president for on-field operations, echoed Gardenhire.

"That's in the past," Watson told CBSSports.com regarding whether what appears to be an ongoing feud between Wendelstedt and Gardenhire played into Thursday's incident. "That had nothing to do with tonight.

"That's all squared away. It's non-issue."

Making Wendelstedt available might have helped make that more believable.

As for the Gardenhire-Wendelstedt dust-up in Detroit in 2009, following the ejection, according to Gardenhire at the time, the umpire taunted the manager by asking, "How do you like that?"

"That's the second time I've run into this, with this guy," Gardenhire told reporters after the Aug. 7, 2009, game in Detroit. "He's got an attitude. At home a few years back, he said, 'You're just out here for showtime.' He's got a smart mouth, and tonight was ridiculous, really."

Gardenhire continued: "A lot of the calls [were] no good He had a bad night. He didn't probably think so because he's god, as umpires go. ... I was really disappointed. There was no reason for me to get thrown out of that game."

Speaking to a pool reporter afterward, Wendelstedt said, "Basically, for a manager that has been around for so long, you would think he would understand the way baseball operates, that a warning is a warning."

In what essentially was a must-win Game 2 Thursday night here, the Twins and Yankees were tied at 2-2 when Minnesota starter Carl Pavano issued a walk to Jorge Posada to start the seventh. Then, with the count 1 and 2 on Lance Berkman, Wendelstedt ruled a Pavano sinker ball two when television replays appeared to show it should have been strike three.

On the very next pitch, Berkman ripped a go-ahead double into the left-center gap.

Gardenhire then went out to the mound for a visit with Pavano, Wendelstedt walked to the mound to hurry the game along and, from there, predictably, Gardenhire walked off the mound with Wendelstedt, giving the umpire an earful.

Wendelstedt ejected Gardenhire about the time the two reached home plate.

"I went out to make sure my guys were straight on what we were going to do next and make my side of the story known," Gardenhire said, explaining his trip to the mound with Berkman standing on second, the Twins trailing 3-2, nobody out and Brett Gardner about to bat. "I thought the ball was a strike, he didn't call it a strike and I wanted to make sure he knew that.

"But I wanted to get him away from my guys because there are a lot of guys full of emotion at that time and I wanted Carl to concentrate. I wanted to let [my guys know] they were going to bunt [Berkman] over, and to get the out. That's what I told my guys on the mound, and then I said what I had to say."

The dispute undoubtedly will help catapult the umpires back into the spotlight this postseason. Gardenhire was the second manager ejected on Thursday. Tampa Bay's Joe Maddon was given the heave-ho earlier in the day.


 
 
 
 
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