March 2007

Baseball’s globetrotters

Saturday, March 31st, 2007

416_3522975.embedded.prod_affiliate.2.jpgWhen I moved away from Minnesota after college, my dad always saved the Star Tribune’s baseball preview section for me, knowing I could appreciate the quality of the work. I used to wonder how they did it, coming up with rich stories, filling page after page with interesting information and packaging everything with some of the best layout design you’ll ever see in a newspaper. All this while churning out the regular section every day during March Madness.

I’m proud to be a part of it now. Our 2007 preview section hit the newsstands today (in our early Sunday editions), and I can’t urge you enough to find a hard copy. “Baseball without borders” is the theme, as we examine the globalization of Major League Baseball. I promise you’ll learn a lot by reading it because we sure learned a lot by writing it.

The process started with a January meeting at Dunn Bros. Our sports editor, Glen Crevier, had the global idea after being fascinated with the Red Sox pursuit of Daisuke Matsuzaka from Japan. MLB’s biggest story heading into 2007 is Dice-K mania. Combine that with the biggest story for the Twins — the ability of Morneau (Canada), Santana (Venezuela) and Mauer (USA) to repeat their success — and you can’t help but be struck by this international theme.

Our baseball editor, Dennis Brackin, turned that coffee shop idea session into reality. He leaned on La Velle and me to think about the section throughout spring training. As crunch time neared, Dennis threw out his back and had to coordinate our paper’s massive Tubby Smith coverage. But he kept barking orders and cranking out large chunks of copy himself.

Design whiz Chris Carr worked his magic, bringing the stories, photos and graphics to life over 16 pages. As writers, we tracked down sources all over the world. Souhan and Reusse lent their considerable baseball expertise, each handling a region of the globe.

OU2E0544.jpgMy favorite part was the cover photo shoot with Santana, Morneau and Mauer. Our photographer, David Joles, is a real ace, and the players hammed it up pretty good, holding their respective flags, and showing all the pride they have for their countries. (At right, that’s Souhan, me and La Velle interspersed with The Big Three). As soon as I saw David’s photos, I knew this section would be a keeper. So, again, I invite you to pick it up. You’ll even learn how to say “Baseball without borders” in Dutch.

Parting shots from Florida

Friday, March 30th, 2007

I fly home to Minnesota in the morning, so I’m trying to savor my last moments watching baseball in the sun. It’s been a great spring, and I just want to say thank you to our readers for the support you’ve given us as we’ve launched these new baseball blogs.  We’re feeding off your energy now. This is going to be a lot of fun as the season progresses. Since I won’t get to see players wearing No. 95 for a while, here’s a couple quick parting shots:

Moses.jpg(*) Matt Moses (wearing No. 95 today for the Twins) just ripped an RBI single off the Pirates’ No. 3 starter, Tom Gorzelanny. A lefty-on-lefty matchup, and the trimmed down Twins prospect got it done. Moses, a 2003 first-round draft pick, has had big problems defensively over the years, but he fielded the first ball hit to him today no problem. OK, it was a Sunday hop that my Grandpa Fritz could have fielded, but I’m looking forward to following this kid’s progress at Class AAA Rochester. I know the Twins are, too.

Manship.jpg(*) Last night, as I was cranking out Carlos Silva copy, something else caught my eye. Kelly Thesier, the hard-working Twins beat writer for, told me the new pitcher was RH Jeff Manship. The Twins stole Manship in the 14th round of last year’s draft and convinced him to sign out of Notre Dame. Some scouts think he’ll be an even better pitcher than former Notre Dame pitcher (and wide receiver) Jeff Samardzija, whom the Cubs signed for something like a quarter-billion dollars. Manship’s stock wasn’t as high because he was injured in college, but he threw some eye-opening curve balls and hard fastballs. The Twins plan to start him at Class A Beloit, but my amateur scouting eyes tell me this guy is going to skyrocket through the system, Matt Garza-style.

That’s all from Florida. My wife knows how much I miss her. And I’ll see you all soon under the Metrodome’s teflon sky.

Postgame update

Thursday, March 29th, 2007

Carlos Silva was so good tonight, the Twins seemed to be rethinking their plan to make him the No. 5 starter. The official line after tonight’s game was that the three starters are set for the opening series against Baltimore: Johan Santana, Boof Bonser and Ramon Ortiz. Silva and Sidney Ponson are the other two starters, but pitching coach Rick Anderson and manager Ron Gardenhire did not want to give the order.

There is a big difference between No. 4 and No. 5. The Twins have an open date on the season’s fourth day, and if they proceed with their stated plan to keep Santana on regular rest, they will skip their fifth starter, and he won’t pitch until April 11 against the Yankees.

Final: Twins 10, Reds 2

Thursday, March 29th, 2007

Twins lineup: Castillo 2B, Cirillo 3B, Redmond C, Cuddyer RF, Morneau 1B, Hunter CF, White LF, Bartlett SS, Silva P.

Reds lineup: Josh Hamilton CF, Brandon Phillips 2B, Scott Hatteberg 1B, Edwin Encarnacion 3B, Ken Griffey Jr. RF, Jeff Conine LF, Alex Gonzalez SS, David Ross C, Bronson Arroyo P.

Ed Smith Stadium in Sarasota. First pitch: 6:06 (Central), 82 degrees.

Rotation, 25-man roster set

Thursday, March 29th, 2007

The Twins set their starting rotation like this: Johan Santana, Boof Bonser, Ramon Ortiz, Sidney Ponson and Carlos Silva. Also, the Arizona Diamondbacks cleared J.D. Durbin on waivers, and the Twins re-assigned Josh Rabe to minor-league camp. So Chris Heintz makes the roster as the third catcher. Here’s the list:

Pitchers (11): Santana, Bonser, Ortiz, Ponson, Silva, Nathan, Rincon, Crain, Reyes, Neshek and Guerrier.

Pos. players (14): Mauer, Redmond, Heintz, Morneau, Castillo, Punto, Bartlett, Rodriguez, Cirillo, White, Hunter, Cuddyer, Tyner and Kubel.