By La Velle
Twins reliever Pat Neshek will have surgery tomorrow in the Twin Cities to repair a torn ulnar collateral ligament in this right elbow. Twins team physicians Dr. John Steubs and Dr. Dan Buss will conduct the surgery.
Neshek tore the ligament earlier this month while throwing at the Twins’ headquarters in Fort Myers. Fla., and is expected to miss the entire 2009 season.
Here are a bunch of other notes collected throughout the day….
RANTZ WINS AWARD
I just found out that Twins director of minor leagues Jim Rantz has won the inaugural Chief Bender Award for distinguished service in player development. Rantz, who has been with the Twins since Day One in 1961, will be honored next month during MLB’s winter meetings in Las Vegas.
I called Rantz earlier today to yak about minor leaguers and was unaware of the award until I clicked on the minor league baseball website and saw his picture on the homepage. I called back and pretended to be outraged that he didn’t say anything about it. Congrats, sir.
MANSHIP TO START TITLE GAME
Last year, Nick Blackburn was the starter and winning pitcher in the championship game of the Arizona Fall League. Jeff Manship will have a chance to follow Blackburn’s path. The Phoenix Desert Dogs have qualified for Saturday’s title game, and Manship has been named the starter in that game.
Manship is 2-1 with a 4,91 ERA in seven starts.
SOME GOOD, SOME BAD AT THE AFL
The Twins are generally pleased with how their lads are doing in the AFL – although some of them aren’t putting up great numbers.
Infielder Steven Tolleson, however, is among the league leaders with a .383 batting average and has added two homers and 20 RBI. “He’s had a good run,” Rantz said. “ but he’s missed a few games with some nagging injuries.”
As you can see, Danny Valencia has been terrible at the plate – but he’s committed just one error. “His defense has really tightened up,” Rantz said. “He’s worked hard at it and it is paying off.”
Dustin Martin? “He’s done O.K. He’s getting playing time against better competition.”
I don’t know what to make of Tim Lahey, Anthony Slama and Rob Delaney’s numbers. Someone told me last week that they were showing signs of wearing down but one bad outing by a reliever in a short season league can ruin numbers.
WINTER RETREAT WATCH
Winter ball has been going on for awhile now. Luke Hughes already has 79 at-bats for Tigres in the Venezuelan league and is making the most of them, batting .304 with three doubles, two triples, two homers and 13 RBI in 23 games. This is a big offseason for Hughes, who has been moved to third base and could debut sometime during 2009.
Jose Mijares has allowed one earned run in 11.1 innings for Tigres.
Carlos Gomez has played four games for Escogido of the Dominican league, going 4 for 15.
I can’t wait until spring training to see some of the younger players – which leads me to my next note.
40-MAN DECISIONS LOOM
Thursday is the deadline for teams to submit their 40-man rosters. The Twins current have 31 spaces filled on theirs. I guess players like Valencia, Hughes and Delaney – if required, see thrylos’ post below - would be added to the roster. And others should be invited to camp.
Can’t remember if Joe C. had this or not, but the Twins did re-sign infielder Alejandro Machado and lefthanders Jose Lugo and Ben Julianel to minor league deals. Julianel was the pitcher I ranted about last season because he was 27 and pitching at New Britain when Slama was stuck at Fort Myers with nothing left to prove. Julianel should be at Rochester next year now that Carmen Cali and Ricky Barrett are gone. So Slama, a fine relief prospect, should open the season at New Britain.
Was told that Machado, Lugo (who has a good fastball) and Julianel will be in the major league spring training camp.
WHAT ABOUT FREE AGENTS?
Don’t have any updates on the Casey Blake front. I still expect the Twins to present him a contract offer this week. It sounds like the sides have had a few discussions about a merger.
Some of you have wondered about righthander Juan Cruz drawing interest from the Twins. I have too, after eyeing his 71 strikeouts in 51 innings last season (lot of walks, however). I spoke with someone familliar with Cruz’s situation over the weekend.
Cruz is getting some nibbles from teams that don’t want to spend K-Rod money for a closer. If he’s not a closer, there’s a good chance his deal will include provisions for any games he saves. So it looks like Cruz will look for opportunities to close. Since Joe Nathan is the Twins’ closer, there might not be a match here. The situation could change if Cruz can’t find the right fit and is willing to sign as a set-up man. For now, I don’t see the Twins signing him.
Update: Cruz also is a Type A free agent, so the chances that the Twins would sign him and give up their first round draft choice is waaaaaaaaaay below zero.