March 2009


Morneau scractched. Roster moves. Lineups are up. Henry Sanchez crushes one

Tuesday, March 31st, 2009

 Twins first baseman Justin Morneau was scratched today after this back tightened up during batting practice. “Not a big deal,” he said. The Twins decided not to risk any further injury. Brock Peterson replaced Morneau at first base.

Catcher Jose Morales was told this morning that he will begin the season with the major league club. He began having flashbacks to events over  the past couple of years, debuting in Chicago, injuring his ankle, trying to play on a bad ankle last year before having season-ending surgery.

“Then I started crying,” he said.

Two weeks ago, Drew Butera looked to have the edge to be on the Opening Day roster, as he was stronger defensively (which goes a long way with the pitching staff). But Morales made up enough ground since then to get the nod. He’s a switch-hitter with a good bat, which is a plus.

“We had a very, very tough decision on this one,” Twins general manager Bill Smith said. “Both Drew Butera and Jose Morales have played very well this year. Ultimately, Morales is an offensive catcher. Butera is a very good defensive catcher. And I think Jose has had a little more experience. He’s played at triple-A. We wanted to give him this chance.

“He’s a good fit with Mike Redmond. And Morales has improved his catching a lot during this spring training. The coaching staff has talked to him about cleaning up his catching and he’s worked very hard at it.”

Lefthnader Jose Mijares was cut from camp this morning after showing up overweight and posting a 9.90 ERA. Mirares told the media that he would be back in June, but Smith said he told Mijares to get ready as soon as he can because the Twins have frequently made mid-April pitching call ups.

In addition to Mijares and Butera, infielder Alejandro Machado also has been cut. Catcher Jeff Christy has been told he wil stick around until Saturday.

Was told that the decision on the final bullpen spot will be made soon, but the decision on the final backup infield spot could come down to the last day.

Outfielder Michael Cuddyer is in the Twin Cities having his left index finger examined. I was told its just a routine checkup and that he’s expected back in time to play in tomorrow’s game.

Carlos Gomez is leaving after batting practice today to take his pregnant wife to a routine check up.

Joe Mauer, working his way back from a sore sacroiliac joint, was on the field with the rest of the team this morning to play catch. Mauer squatted as he caught throws of up to 100 feet from Jason Kubel. One Twins official I spoke with this morning emphasized that Mauer is expected to rejoin the team sometime in April – whether it’s two or three weeks -or a little longer into April remains to be seen.

Joe Crede told me he will probably sit out the next couple of games to left his swollen right hand heal. Crede was plunked by a Matt Garza pitch yesterday. “No sense in pushing it,” he said.

 Because Cuddyer and Gomez aren’t around. There’s a very interesting right fielder today.

Forgot to mention that Henry Sanchez, the Twins’ sandwich pick in 2005, hit a loooooong home run yesterday while playing for Class A Beloit. The oft-injured Sanchez, who is running out of time, recently had his knee drained. While the Twins initially wanted him to open the season at Class A Fort Myers, he’ll likely open the season as Beloit’s first baseman. 

Lineups

Pirates

1. Nyjer Morgan, LF
2. Freddy Sanchez, 2B.
3. Nate McLouth, CF
4. Eric Hinske, DH
5. Adam LaRoche, 1B
6. Brandon Moss, RF
7. Ramon Vazquez, 3B
8. Jack Wilson, SS
9. Jason Jaramillo, C

Pitching: Jeff Karstens

Twins

1. Denard Span, CF
2. Matt Tolbert, SS
3. Brendan Harris, 2B
4. Jason Kubel, LF
5. Brian Buscher, 3B
6. Mike Redmond, C
7. Matt Moses, 2003 first-round pick. DH
8. Brock Peterson, 1B
9. Chris Parmelee, 2006 first-round pick, RF

Pitching: Nick Blackburn, Luis Ayala, Joe Nathan – Nathan will pitch the first of back-to-back outings as he gets ready for prime time.

Twins-Cardinals: First pitch (hopefully) at 2:00 p.m. Twin Cities time. Lineup changes!

Sunday, March 29th, 2009

 The tarp is on the field. Rain is coming down.

Blame Joe Nathan.

Somehow, a set of bongos appeared in the clubhouse this morning. Nathan grabbed them and began to pound out a song.

“Is it raining yet?” he wondered.

Soon, Nick Punto and Matt Guerrier began their version of a rain dance.

Twins manager Ron Gardenhire walked out of his office and said, “there’s no need for a rain dance. Perry (Castellano, the strength and conditioning coordinator) said we’re going to play. So we’re going to get our work in!”

But now it’s raining.

The game is sold out and is being televised in the Twin Cities. And the Cardinals have ALL their regulars here. One media member who attended Michigan State (it shouldn’t be hard to figure who that is) is rooting for a washout because the Spartans are on at 2:20 pm EST.

My guess is that we will wait the rain out.

Update: The plan is to pull the tarp up at 1:00-1:10 CST. It should take 30 minutes to prepare the field. So first pitch could be 1:35ish, Central. Plans can always change….

Update: The tarp is coming off!!! But this crew needs an hour to get the field ready, Estimated first pitch: 2: 00.

Update III: Joe Crede and Justin Morneau have been scratched. Brendan Harris and Brian Buscher have taken their places in the lineup. No reason was given for the changes – but they usually announce injuries. 

Update IV: The Cardinals have moved Skip Shumaker to the leadoff spot and Joe Mather to the No. 9 hole. I have no idea why. It’s LaRussa….

Not much news this morning. Joe Mauer spoke with the media briefly and said he feels the best he has all spring. He’s still only up to playing catch – they want to slowly build him up to more activities. Expect him to miss a month of the regular season – then be pleasantly surprised if he comes back before that.

Lineups

Cards

1. Joe Mather, DH
2. Rick Ankiel, CF
3. Albert Pujols,. 1B
4. Ryan Ludwick, RF
5. Khalil Green, SS
6. Chris Duncan, LF
7. Yadier Molina, C
8. David Freese, 3B
9. Skip Shumaker, 2B
Pitching: Chris Carpenter

Twins

1. Carlos Gomez, CF
2. Alexi Casilla, 2B
3. Joe Crede Brendan Harris, 3B
4. Justin Morneau Brian Buscher, 1B
5. Jason Kubel, DH
6. Michael Cuddyer, RF
7. Delmon Young, LF
8. Mike Redmond, C
9. Nick Punto, SS
Pitching: Kevin Slowey. R.A, Dickey and Jose Mijares also in line to pitch.

Twins Cut Five Players

Friday, March 27th, 2009

Outfielder Jason Pridie was optioned to Class AAA Rochester on Friday.

Lefthander, Sean Henn, righthander Bobby Keppel, infielder Brock Peterson and outfielder David Winfree, all who aren’t on the 40-man roster, have been reassigned to the minor league camp.

That leaves the Twins with 34 active players – but that includes the soon-to-be-placed-on-the-disabled list Boof Bonser and Joe Mauer. So the Twins need to cut eight players before breaking camp.

Jose Mijares survived the cut. I wouldn’t have been surprised if he had been optioned but, this way, he can keep working with Rick Anderson.

Mauer update: Heard that Joe Mauer might have caught in the bullpen yesterday. Still looking into that. He did appear in the clubhouse this morning to grab a glove to go play a little catch.

It just so happened that Joe C. and I were scheming while standing in front of Mauer’s stall when he came out of nowhere.

“What, are you guys staking me out?” he asked.

“No,” I replied, “but I could say that Joe and I usually stand in the areas of the clubhouse where there’s never anyone around.”

Mauer (laughing): “That’s means I’m somewhere working.”

Then off Mauer went. To work.

Lineups

Rays

1. Akinori Iwamura, 2B
2. Carl Crawford, LF
3. Evan Longoria, 3B
4. Pat Burrell, RF
5. Matt Joyce, DH
6. Gabe Kapler, CF
7. Shawn Riggans, C
8. Morgan Ensberg, 1B
9. Jason Bartlett, SS

Pitching: James Shields

Twins

1. Denard Span, LF
2. Alexi Casilla, 2B
3. Joe Crede, 3B
4. Justin Morneau, 1B
5. Jason Kubel, DH
6. Michael Cuddyer, RF
7. Carlos Gomez, CF
8. Jose Morales, C
9. Nick Punto, SS

Pitching: Scott Baker

Others scheduled: Craig Breslow, Brian Duensing, Matt Guerrier

Extra pitchers: Anthony Slama, Zach Ward

Twins-Reds: Lineups

Thursday, March 26th, 2009

Sorry this is late. We had to wait for the manager to monitor all of batting practice and most of infield practice before he graced us with his presence. 

Carlos Gomez could be available as early as tomorrow as he recovers from a sore back. Gomez said he could have played this week but the trainers told him it’s not worth pushing it.

Tonight’s game is televised on FSN. Bert Blyleven who was last seen on the bench for the Netherlands in the World Baseball Classic is one the scene. The Twins’ games against St. Louis on Sunday (on WFTC)  and Tampa Bay on Monday (on FSN) will also be televised.

There will be roster moves tomorrow morning. I would not be surprised if this one hits double digits.

Lineups

Twins: 1. Span, CF. 2. Casilla, 2B. 3. Harris, 3B. 4. Morneau, 1B. 5. Cuddyer, RF. 6. Young, LF. 7. Redmond, C. 8. Punto, SS. 9. Blackburn P. Ayala, Nathan, Henn, Duensing, Mijares, Keppel and Crain also on the list to pitch.

Reds: 1. Taveras, CF. 2. Hariston, SS. 3. Votto, 1B. 4. Phillips, 2B. 5. Bruce, RF. 6. Keppinger, 3B. 7. Dickerson, LF, 8, Hernandez, C. 9. Owings, P. Weathers, Lincoln and Cordero on the list to pitch. 

A Trip to the Minor League Complex

Tuesday, March 24th, 2009

I was supposed to stay in the pressbox and work on special section stuff today, but decided to walk down to the minor league complex and make sure Glen Perkins didn’t pull something during his outing.

Perkins pitched for Class A Fort Myers against Lancaster of the Astros chain. Perkins gave up one run over five innings and was given the option of just throwing in the bullpen or going back out for a sixth inning. Perkins elected to take the mound for the sixth – and ended up in a mini-mess.

The first batter got his bat busted but still grounded a single to right. With the next batter up, Jose Morales tried to pick off the runner at first but bounced a throw that Rene Leveret couldn’t handle. Runner advances to second.  Then a ball was hit to center that I thought Joe Benson had a chance to catch (it looked like Joe Benson) but it fell at his feet.

Runners were on second and third – somehow, I missed an out while I was watching something on a neighboring field. Perkins was pulled from the game because he had passed the 70-pitch mark. In came David Bromberg, who led the organization with 177 strikeouts last year. And after watching him pitch I could see why. He has quite a curveball and has some zip on his fastball.

He did walk a batter to load the bases - but got a strikeout and fly out to get out of the inning.

During all this, I kept being distracted by Class A Beloit vs Greenville on the next field – Aaron Hicks and friends were playing.

Hicks, the Twins No. 1 draft pick last June,  can throw and he looks very confident at the plate. He flied out in the one at-bat I saw but he’s got a quick bat.

Hicks’ at-bat came after Nick Papasan and James Beresford walked and Jenfred Brito was hit by a pitch to load the bases. Hicks ended up with a sacrifice fly to left. He’s a little thin but you’d expect him to add a little weight as he gets older.

Up came Angel Morales, who led Elizabethton with 15 homers in just 54 games last season. Morales took a called strike then mashed a fastball that was about knee-high, middle in. No doubt about it, three-run homer. Impressive.

Those are the highlights from today’s action.

A couple notes

Things don’t look good for infielder Paul Kelly, the Twins’ second round pick in 2005. He’s trying to come back from left knee surgery but was sent home for 2-3 months after doctors looked at it down here and said it’s not ready for action. “The problem is.” Twins minor league director Jim Rantz said, “We don’t know if that’s going to be a enough time.” Too bad for Kelly who, by all accounts, can play.

And, only because thrylos is wondering, Justin Huber homered yesterday.