August 2009


Monday lineups: Twins stand pat

Monday, August 31st, 2009

The Twins did not make a trade or sign a free agent today, team officials said, meaning there will be no new additions before tonight’s deadline to have players in the organization for potential playoff rosters.

This also means they’ll proceed with Nick Blackburn, Jeff Manship and Brian Duensing starting the next three games against the White Sox.

Previously, the Twins added shortstop Orlando Cabrera and pitchers Carl Pavano, Jon Rauch and Ron Mahay. But Brad Penny is reportedly signing with the Giants, and the Cubs are reportedly holding onto Rich Harden.

Lineups and updates to come.

Update: The Rays defeated the Tigers 11-7 today, so by night’s end, the Twins will be within four games of first place, or the White Sox will be back within five.

Update: Joe Crede laughed off the retirement talk today. After a second epidural, he said he’ll see where he’s at in about three or four days but hopes to be there for the stretch drive. He also wants to play next year and beyond. (More on that in the notebook.)

Manager Ron Gardenhire said there are no immediate plans to promote anybody from Class AAA Rochester, even though active rosters can expand Tuesday. Matt Tolbert has a knee injury, Brian Buscher has a thumb injury, and Anthony Swarzak struggled in Sunday’s start for the Red Wings. Those three could help the Twins eventually, though, too.

Why did the Twins pass on Penny? Let’s just say I’m hearing Penny’s people made it very clear that he wanted to pitch in the National League.

That’s OK. Manship wants to be here. He’s looking forward to making his first major league start Tuesday.

“Absolutely,” he said. “Hopefully I can stick in this role.”

Update: Ozzie Guillen can’t wait to leave the Metrodome, of course. Twins are running a “Countdown to outdoor baseball” in left field. It’s at 15 now, and Guillen wants to be there when it counts down from 13 (his number) to 12 on Wednesday. I guess Guillen said something about piranhas turning into sardines next year in the cold. Good stuff. La Velle will have more for first editions.

Update: One move the Twins could make with rosters expanding is activating Glen Perkins from the disabled list. General Manager Bill Smith said Perkins faced hitters for one inning Saturday (in Florida) and is not scheduled to face more hitters down there. Asked if that meant Perkins would be activated, Smith said, “We’ll let you know.”

Update: The Twins just announced that they are activating Glen Perkins from the DL and optioning him to Rochester. So there you have it.

WHITE SOX (64-67)

1. Scott Podsednik, LF
2. Gordon Beckham, 3B
3. A.J. Pierzynski, C
4. Paul Konerko, 1B
5. Jim Thome, DH
6. Jermaine Dye, RF
7. Alex Rios, CF
8. Alexei Ramirez, SS
9. Jayson Nix, 2B

Starting pitcher: LH John Danks (12-8, 3.82 ERA)

TWINS (65-65)

1. Denard Span, LF
2. Orlando Cabrera, SS
3. Joe Mauer, C
4. Justin Morneau, 1B
5. Jason Kubel, DH
6. Michael Cuddyer, RF
7. Brendan Harris, 3B
8. Carlos Gomez, CF
9. Alexi Casilla, 2B

Starting pitcher: RH Nick Blackburn (11-9, 5.20 ERA)

Metrodome. First pitch: 7:10 p.m. TV: FSN

(Note: If you’re not watching the game on TV or in person, check out the new enhanced play-by-play at startribune.com/sports. Click on the “@ the ballpark” feature in the Twins line score for game updates, stats and more.)

Reports: Penny to Giants; Harden stays with Cubs

Monday, August 31st, 2009

As of late Sunday night, the Twins had yet to request Cubs pitcher Rich Harden’s medical records, a person close to Harden told the Star Tribune, adding that a deal by today’s noon deadline appeared unlikely.

Harden, 27, has been on the disabled list seven times since 2005, so it would be uncharacteristic for the Twins to trade for him without first examining those medical records.

Then again, in eight starts since July 16, Harden is 3-1 with a 1.80 ERA, so it’s possible the Twins could roll the dice, giving the Cubs the prospects it would take to land Harden for the season’s final five weeks. Harden is a pending Type A free agent, so a team could offer him arbitration after the season and be compensated with two high picks in the 2010 draft if he signed with another team.

Twins officials still haven’t confirmed or denied that they are the team that claimed Harden, as ESPN Chicago reported.

Today, we also will learn whether the Twins placed a claim on Brad Penny, who had to be placed through release waivers before becoming a free agent. That waiver period also expires today, in time for teams to set potential playoff rosters by tonight’s 11 p.m., deadline.

Twins officials have not dismissed the possibility that they would pick up the remainder of Penny’s contract — and likely pay about $1.2 million for six starts — instead of letting Penny hit the open market. From all indications, Penny would prefer to sign with a National League team if he goes unclaimed, so the Twins only chance to get him would be to take on the contract.

Update: Bruce Levine, who had the original report for ESPN Chicago that the Twins are the team that claimed Harden, now reports that the Cubs will hold onto Harden.

Last night, La Velle heard that the Twins were looking at other pitching possibilities, besides Harden and Penny. We’ll be tracking this all day.

Update: SI.com’s Jon Heyman reports that Penny went unclaimed. I assume that means there’s very little chance he ends up with the Twins.

Update: Heyman now reports Penny is signing with the Giants for a pro-rated portion of the minimum salary.

Rangers are making an impression

Saturday, August 29th, 2009

It seems somehow misleading to lump the Twins and Rangers together as potential playoff teams. Yes, the Twins have a chance to make the postseason because the AL Central is so weak, so this is series is just as important to both clubs.

But the Rangers have really impressed me. They remain 2 1/2 games behind Boston for the AL wild card, with Tampa Bay sitting 4 1/2 games back. It hardly seems fair that the Rangers and Rays could both be sitting home in October watching the Tigers, Twins or White Sox play in the postseason.

I like the Rangers’ blend of speed and power on offense. Their defense is better, and the pitching just boggles the mind, considering how bad it’s been in Texas all these years.

The starters have been terrific, and the bullpen is practically lights out. That’s 15 1/3 consecutive scoreless innings for Neftali Perez. C.J. Wilson has 32 strikeouts in 20 1/3 innings since the All-Star break.

And yet the Twins are 5-4 against the Rangers heading into their final meeting Sunday. Scott Baker vs. Kevin Millwood. It should be another good one. Head to La Velle’s blog in the morning for the starting lineups.

Note: For more on the Twins’ trade efforts, click here.

Saturday lineups: Twins/Rangers

Saturday, August 29th, 2009

The Twins designated pitcher R.A. Dickey for assignment today, making room on their 40-man roster for the signing of lefthanded reliever Ron Mahay.

The Twins now have 10 days to either trade Dickey or pass him through waivers. The Mahay signing is now official. I’ll have more updates later from the Metrodome.

Update: Apologies for such a dry pregame post, but have been poking around on the trade front, trying to sort through the information.

We checked, and there is no truth to the rumor that the Twins agreed to send Rene Tosoni and B.J. Hermsen to Chicago for Harden. It seemed possible because Hermsen pitched only one inning yesterday for the GCL Twins, but that team wanted several pitchers to get work, in preparation for the playoffs. Tosoni is in the lineup tonight for Class AA New Britain.

I keep telling myself to stop chasing rumors from our comment sections and Twitter, but I’ll take any tip I can get. Just wish people would have the decency not to send us on wild goose chases.

Major league officials are so careful when discussing waiver claims, we still haven’t had anybody confirm that the Twins are the team that has the claim on Harden, as ESPN Chicago is reporting. That said, nobody has denied it either.

I’m piecing together an update for the notebook. Meanwhile, RHP Jon Rauch is here, wearing No. 60, and LHP Ron Mahay is here, wearing No. 37 (Big Sweat’s old number).

“We’ve told them just be prepared to pitch,” Manager Ron Gardenhire said. “It doesn’t matter what inning. It can be anywhere from the sixth through the ninth, and it could be the fourth.”

Update: I’ve spoken to two people close to Harden today and neither expects him to get traded to the Twins. As of Saturday afternoon, the Cubs had yet to open a window for the Twins to negotiate a long-term contract extension with Harden — at least to the knowledge of anyone in the Harden camp.

It is possible the Twins would make a trade without the promise of an extension because Harden will be a Type A free agent, which would guarantee a team two compensation picks in the 2010 draft if he leaves. It’s possible, but my guess is this deal won’t happen.

RANGERS (71-56)

1. Julio Borbon, DH
2. Michael Young, 3B
3. Josh Hamilton, RF
4. Marlon Byrd, CF
5. Ian Kinsler, 2B
6. David Murphy, LF
7. Ivan Rodriguez, C
8. Chris Davis, 1B
9. Omar Vizquel, SS

Starting pitcher: RH Scott Feldman (13-4, 3.87 ERA)

TWINS (64-64)

1. Denard Span, LF
2. Orlando Cabrera, SS
3. Joe Mauer, C
4. Justin Morneau, 1B
5. Jason Kubel, DH
6. Michael Cuddyer, RF
7. Brendan Harris, 3B
8. Carlos Gomez, CF
9. Alexi Casilla, 2B

Starting pitcher: RH Carl Pavano (11-9, 5.20 ERA)

Metrodome. First pitch: 6:10 p.m. TV: FSN

Update: Twins could splurge for Penny; answer won’t come until Monday

Thursday, August 27th, 2009

The Twins are among the teams interested in Red Sox pitcher Brad Penny and would consider claiming him off release waivers instead of waiting for him to become a free agent, major league officials told the Star Tribune today.

Penny told the Boston Herald on Wednesday night that the Red Sox have granted him his release, but as of this morning, Penny had yet to be placed on release waivers. The Red Sox are expected to designate Penny for assignment tonight, to make room on their roster for reliever Billy Wagner.

There is speculation Penny will clear release waivers and land with a National League club — with the Rockies and Marlins both reportedly interested –  but the Twins will consider taking on his contract, knowing it will cost them between $1.11 million and about $1.44 million for the rest of the season, depending on how many innings he pitches.

The Red Sox tried passing Penny through trade waivers but reportedly pulled him back after he was claimed. To release him, they must pass him through release waivers, with teams in the American League getting first dibs in reverse order of their records. (This is amended below.)

Though Penny is 7-8 with a 5.61 ERA, it will be tough for the Twins to pass on him. They have serious holes in their rotation and Monday is the deadline to add players who can be eligible for postseason rosters.

Note: There are also indications the Twins are considering a move for lefthanded reliever Ron Mahay, who was designated for assignment by the Royals.  Mahay went 1-1 with a 4.79 ERA in 41 appearances for Kansas City.

Update: Class AAA Rochester shortstop Trevor Plouffe was selected to play for Team USA in the World Cup next month, joining former Twin Terry Tiffee.

Update: The Red Sox announced that they have released Penny, making room for Wagner, but I’m told Penny won’t be a free agent until he clears release waivers. This is a key point, since there was speculation this morning that the Red Sox were trying to steer him toward an NL team.

Update: Since Brad Penny was placed on release waivers today, we won’t know his new destination until Monday, as the waiver period lasts two full business days.

Yes, Penny can refuse to join the team that claims him and become a free agent, but he would forfeit the remaining $2.6 million or so (with incentives) he can earn under his current deal. So I think it’s safe to assume Penny is headed where he’s claimed, and if he goes unclaimed, he’ll have his pick.

I received an education today on release waivers and will include more details in my story for print editions. Let’s just say it’s interesting with the Twins and White Sox currently tied in the standings. One key point is that release waivers are different from trade waivers.

If multiple teams place a claim on Penny, he will go to team from either league with the worst record. With trade waivers, the claim is first awarded to the team in that player’s own league with the worst record. And if two claiming teams are tied in the standings, the player goes to the team with the worst record in the previous year. (Insert coin flip joke here.)

Update: ESPN is reporting that the Twins might have been the team that placed a claim for Cubs starter Rich Harden. We haven’t been able to confirm this, but since Harden will be a Type A free agent, the Cubs are probably looking for decent talent in return. My take: There’s a far stronger chance the Twins end up with Penny than Harden.