Say hello to the new guy in town

My time here as the Twins beat writer is coming to an end as you all have read in my last post. But before I departed for my new job with the LPGA, I wanted to introduce the new Twins beat writer for MLB.com, Rhett Bollinger, to everyone. He soon will have a blog of his own and you’ll get a chance to enjoy his work there. For now, though, here is his introduction to Twins fans and I know that you’ll all welcome him with open arms like you did with me five years ago.

Hi all!

So I’m the new guy covering the Twins for MLB.com.

I want to introduce myself as the Twins beat reporter, but first of all, I want to congratulate Kelly on her wonderful new job with the LPGA. I’m sure she’ll do great things there just like she did with us at MLB.com. I certainly have big shoes to fill (or small ones, as some
of you have pointed out) and I’m looking forward to the challenge.

Anyways, here’s a little bit of my background:

I was born and raised in sunny Southern California, growing up in Glendora, a suburb of Los Angeles. I attended USC – -  where I covered the football, basketball and baseball teams – -  before joining MLB.com in 2008 as an associate reporter covering the Angels.

I stuck around MLB.com after that season, covering mostly the Angels and Dodgers with plenty of other assignments in between the last two seasons. It was a great experience serving in somewhat of a utility role, and I feel it helped prepare me for the Twins beat.

I’ve actually never been to Minnesota, however, but have heard great things about the state and of course, Target Field. So if you have any advice, send it my way.

I’m obviously very thankful for this opportunity, and appreciate all the support Twins fans have already showed via Twitter.

Speaking of Twitter, you can follow me at @RhettBollinger and I’ll have my own blog here by early next week. In the meantime, feel free to email me at rhett.bollinger@mlb.com.

I look forward to bringing you coverage here at MLB.com and can’t wait for Opening Day.

- Rhett
 

Thoughts from the 18th hole

The 18th hole.
 
It seems to be a fitting description for where I feel like I am right now as I begin to write this blog. After a little over five years of covering the Twins for MLB.com, I’m getting ready to start what will be a new chapter of my career.

Next week, I will be joining the LPGA as a communications manager and moving to Daytona Beach, Fla. My job will entail traveling to LPGA tournaments around the world and helping to promote women’s golf.

For those of you that know me or have followed my blog in the past, you are aware that one of my greatest passions in life is golf. I started playing the sport at the age of 5, spent nearly all of my summers on the links while growing up in Michigan and then went on to play for the Michigan State women’s golf team (Go Spartans!).
 
When I was 12 years old, I wrote a paper for school detailing my dream of one day playing on the LPGA Tour. I might not be joining the tour in exactly the capacity I had envisioned when I was younger, but this is truly a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity that I could not pass up.

Sunday will be my final day on the Twins beat and admittedly there are a lot of emotions as I prepare to say goodbye to Minnesota and to all of the wonderful people that I’ve met while covering the Twins. It seems like just yesterday that I was moving to the Twin Cities and was greeted by numerous welcoming emails from Twins fans.
 
I’ve felt blessed to have the opportunity to work for MLB.com over the past six years, including the year I spent as an intern in Chicago. Over that time, I’ve been lucky enough to cover a World Series (yes, Twins fans it was in 2005 with the White Sox -sorry about that), three AL Central titles for the Twins and two Game 163s — the one against Detroit being perhaps the greatest game I’ve been able to see in person. I’ve gotten to watch two players have American League MVP seasons, covered Johan Santana winning a Cy Young and got a chance to write about Ron Gardenhire’s wait for a Manager of the Year Award come to an end this past November.

As a reporter, I’ll miss working with the Twins front office and covering a group of players that I watched grow over the past few years. It’s hard to find an organization with more continuity in their front office than the Twins. And everyone — from the baseball operations department to the baseball communications staff to the community relations staff and so on –has been so helpful to me over the years. There are always changes within a baseball clubhouse every year but I’ve been fortunate that a solid core of this Twins team has been around for awhile. And because of that, I’ve been lucky to have formed some great relationships along the way.

I was also lucky to work with a wonderful traveling group of reporters during my time in Minnesota. I’ll miss getting to tease LaVelle about the Bears and the Illini, trips to Wild Ginger in Seattle with Joe C., and having someone who understands hockey and my love of Glee like Kelsie does. I’ve learned a lot about this business from them as well as the many other people I’ve encountered over the years. It’s impossible to mention everyone that I’ve been blessed to get to know but John, JK, Dave, Phil, Patrick, Tom, Barry, Stew, Peggy, Tonya and everyone in the Target Field Pressbox, thanks for everything.

I also can’t leave without thanking all of the readers who have reached out to me since I started covering the Twins. With this blog and Twitter, I feel like I’ve gotten to create a much closer bond in recent years. It always brought a smile to my face when Twins fans would say hello during Spring Training or at a ballpark on the road during the season. Twins fans certainly have a strong passion for their team and I thank you for having welcomed me to this beat with open arms.

But now I’m getting ready to pass this beat along to someone else. Rhett Bollinger will be taking over the Twins beat and he’ll be joining me in Fort Myers starting on Friday. I’ll introduce him to you on this blog tomorrow and I’m sure you will all welcome him with open arms like you did for me when I started covering the Twins back in December 2005.

For now, I just wanted to say thank you one last time for everything. It’s been a fun five years.

~Kelly

Slama to have MRI on elbow: Twins vs. Cardinals 3/7

By: Kelly Thesier/MLB.com

FORT MYERS, Fla. — Right-hander Anthony Slama is scheduled to have an MRI on his right elbow Monday.

Slama last pitched a week ago and he said he’s been experiencing some discomfort in his elbow since then. His hope is that the MRI comes back clean and he’ll back throwing in 2-3 days.

No other injury updates so far this morning. I’ll pass along more if we I find anything out later.

The Twins will try to continue their five-game spring winning streak against a Cardinals team that’s sans Albert Pujols today, since the slugger didn’t make the trip.

Cardinals (5-3)

Skip Schumaker, 2B
Ryan Theriot, SS
Colby Rasmus, CF
Lance Berkman, DH
Allen Craig, RF
Mark Hamilton, 1B
Yadier Molina, C
David Freese, 3B
Jon Jay, LF
Pitching: RHP Jake Westbrook

Others scheduled to pitch: Lance Lynn, Joe Kelly, Trever Miller, Blake King, Adam Ottavino

Twins

(6-2)
Denard Span, CF
Matt Tolbert, SS
Jason Kubel, RF
Jim Thome, DH
Luke
Hughes, 3B
Jeff Bailey, 1B
Rene Rivera, C
Ben Revere, LF
Trevor Plouffe, 2B
Pitching: RHP Scott Baker

Others scheduled to pitch: Jose Mijares, Joe Nathan, Glen Perkins, Carlos Gutierrez, Phil Dumatrait

A few raindrops falling: Twins vs. Orioles 3/6

By: Kelly Thesier/MLB.com

FORT MYERS, Fla. — Today was the annual MLB Players Association meeting so there was hardly any clubhouse access this morning.

It’s been raining this morning and it seems like that’s the first time all spring that the weather has been even a bit gloomy, at least that I can remember. Not that it’s a bad thing to have a little bit of rain. I’ve been trying to avoid too many weather references knowing all the snow that’s been falling back at home but it has been a wonderful Spring Training in terms of the weather this year.

The Twins have scheduled another B-game for Tuesday at 9 a.m. CT against the Pirates,
with Kevin Slowey, Kyle Gibson, Deolis Guerra and David Bromberg
scheduled to pitch. Carl Pavano will get the nod in the ‘A’ game that day at Hammond Stadium.

I’ll have more updates later, including whether or not Joe Mauer catches a bullpen session this morning.

UPDATE: No sign of Joe Mauer catching a bullpen session today and I didn’t see anything about it on the schedule. We’ll talk to Gardy after the game and see if it did happen, although the manager indicated yesterday that it might not happen today.

Former Twins pitcher Jim Kaat has arrived in camp and he was out on the field in uniform for the workout this morning.

The weather has also cleared up with the sun even peaking out and making a few appearances.

Orioles (4-1)

Randy Winn, RF
Roberto Andino, 2B
Nolan Reimold, LF
Jake Fox, DH
Josh Bell, 1B
Felix Pie, CF
Brendan Harris, 3B
Craig Tatum, C
Cesar Izturis, SS
Pitching: RHP Jeremy Guthrie

Others scheduled to pitch: Rick VandenHurk, Armando Gabino, Wynn Pelzer

Twins

(5-2)
Denard Span, CF
Tsuyoshi Nishioka, 2B
Danny Valencia, 3B
Luke Hughes, DH
Jeff Bailey, 1B
Jason
Repko, RF
Rene Tosoni, LF
Steve Holm, C
Alexi Casilla, SS
Pitching: LHP Brian Duensing

Others scheduled to pitch: Jim Hoey, Chuck James, Scott Diamond, Anthony Swarzak

Twins at Rays 3/5

By: Kelly Thesier/MLB.com

PORT CHARLOTTE, Fla. — Here are the lineups quickly. I’ll have more a little later after Gardy talks.

UPDATE: Ladies and gentleman, the Twins second baseman for the start of the 2011 season will be Tsuyoshi Nishioka.

Twins manager Ron Gardenhire said that he’s decided on Nishioka at second base, meaning that Alexi Casilla will be at shortstop. Gardy said he spoke with Nishioka, who told him that right now he feels more comfortable at second base and Gardy likes Casilla’s range and arm at shortstop. So we have the setup for the middle infield.

Twins
(4-2)

Ben Revere, LF
Matt Tolbert, SS
Jason
Kubel, DH
Danny Valencia, 3B
Chris Parmelee, 1B
Jason Repko, CF
Brian Dinkelman, RF
Trevor Plouffe, SS
Drew Butera, C
Pitching: RHP Nick Blackburn

Others scheduled to pitch: Matt
Capps, Pat Neshek, Phil Dumatrait, Jeff Manship, Dusty Hughes, Kyle Waldrop, Alex Burnett

Rays (1-5-1)

John Jaso, C
Johnny Damon, LF
Evan Longoria, 3B
Manny Ramirez, DH
Dan Johnston, 1B
B.J. Upton, CF
Sean Rodriguez, 2B
Desmond Jennings, RF
Ray Olmedo, SS
Pitching: RHP Andy Sonnanstine

Others

scheduled to pitch: Adam Russell, Chris Bootcheck, Chris Archer

Twins vs. Rays 3/4

By: Kelly Thesier/MLB.com

FORT MYERS, Fla. — I’m headed off to watch Francisco Liriano pitch in the ‘B’ game at the Minor League complex that starts at 10 a.m. ET.

UPDATE: Liriano was a little erratic in his first spring start. He pitched two innings and threw close to 40 pitches. He gave up a run while allowing three hits, walking two and hitting a batter. He also recorded one strikeout.

Still Liriano, who batted some shoulder soreness early in camp, seemed to have decent velocity and that’s a positive considering the early setback. Liriano said afterward that his arm felt good in his outing, but he felt that he was just rushing himself a bit.

“I wasn’t able to locate my fastball today,” Liriano said. “I think I was overthrowing. It was my first outing and I think I was pretty excited to be out there throwing. I think I jut have to calm down, make an adjustment, stay back and locate.”

Liriano said he threw all of his pitches and while he was upset with his fastball location, he was pleased with his changeup in the outing.

Here are today’s lineups for the “varsity game” as Gardy called it:

Rays (1-4-1)

B.J. Upton, CF
John Jaso, DH
Evan Longoria, 3B
Manny Ramirez, LF
Casey Kotchman, 1B
Felipe Lopez, 2B
Justin Ruggiano, RF
Jose Lobaton, C
Reid Brignac, SS
Pitching: LHP Alex Torres

Twins
(3-2)

Denard Span, CF
Tsuyoshi Nishioka, SS
Jason Kubel, RF
Jim Thome, DH
Luke Hughes, 3B
Jeff Bailey, 1B
Rene Rivera, C
Jason Repko, LF
Alexi Casilla, 2B
Pitching: RHP Kevin Slowey

Others scheduled to pitch: Jose Mijares, Joe Nathan, Eric Hacker, Carlos Gutierrez, Kyle Gibson, Yorman Bazardo

First spring roadtrip: Twins at Pirates 3/2

By: Kelly Thesier/MLB.com

BRADENTON, Fla. — It’s been a little bit of a busy morning so far with both Michael Cuddyer and Justin Morneau returning from separate visits to see doctors yesterday.

As you’ve likely already read on this blog, Morneau had a scheduled visit with his doctor in Pittsburgh on Tuesday and he still has not been cleared to play in games. But Morneau said this doctor’s visit is not a sign of a setback. He’s continuing to make progress, there is just no timetable for him yet.

Cuddyer said that it was a mutual decision between himself and the team to have the plantar wart on his left foot removed. The hope was that the cream was working but it was just taking too long. So now, Cuddyer is happy that he should have time at the end of spring to prepare himself for the regular season.

I also spoke with Joe Nathan this morning, who said he was experiencing just normal soreness the day after his first game action. He said it’s no different than what he felt after throwing bullpen sessions, so that’s a positive sign. He also said that scouts had his fastball touching 92 mph on their radar guns Tuesday with his slider around 86-88 mph. Those are good numbers for a guy that typically doesn’t gain velocity until later in spring.

Gardy also said that Brian Duensing has earned the right to be in the rotation, which is the first time this spring that it’s sounds like Duensing might be close to a lock for one of the starting  spots. I’ll have more updates later.

Here are lineups and pitchers today:

Twins
(1-2)

Ben Revere, CF
Trevor Plouffe, SS
Jason
Kubel, DH
Danny Valencia, 3B
Luke Hughes, 2B
Jeff Bailey, 1B
Brian Dinkelman, LF
Steve Holm, C
Jason Repko, RF
Pitching: LHP Brian Duensing

Others scheduled to pitch: Matt Capps, Pat Neshek, Phil Dumatrait, Jeff Manship, Dusty Hughes

Pirates (3-2)

Jose Tabata, LF
Corey Wimberly, SS
Andrew McCutchen, CF
Pedro Alvarez, 3B
Neil Walker, 2B
Lyle Overbay, 1B
Steve Pearce, DH
Ryan Doumit, C
Andrew Lambo, RF
Pitching: RHP Ross Ohlendorf

Others
scheduled to pitch: Tony Watson, Joel Hanrahan, Jose Veras, Mike Crotta, Chris Leroux

Morneau making progress but no games yet

By: Kelly Thesier/MLB.com

BRADENTON, Fla. — Justin Morneau visited the doctor in Pittsburgh on Tuesday for what was a previously scheduled appointment but he still has yet to be cleared in games.

Morneau made it clear that he continues to make progress in his recovery from the concussion that he suffered on July 7 last year, but there is still no timetable for his return, he said.

“Everything’s still going good,” said Morneau. “It wasn’t like we’re going to run up [to the
doctor] if something happened. It was something already planned. It’s
been planned for a while.

“We’re going to continue what we’re doing, and when you see me in the
lineup, that’s when I’m cleared for games.  There’s no timetable,
there’s nothing. Test results — everything’s still improving. It’s not
all the way there yet, but it’s a lot closer than it was.”

Morneau said he’ll continue with the same workouts, which has included taking batting practice, facing live pitching and doing fielding drills like he has all spring.

“Pretty much everything except no game action,” Morneau said. “No activity
where I could be in danger, where there’s still a risk of injury.”

I’ll have more on Morneau later but here was the quick update for now.

Nathan’s first game action: Twins vs. Red Sox 3/1

By: Kelly Thesier/MLB.com

FORT MYERS, Fla. — Joe Nathan will take the next big step in his recovery from Tommy John surgery on Tuesday afternoon at Hammond Stadium.

Nathan is set to take the mound in a game for the first time since tearing the ulnar collateral ligament in his right elbow last spring in a game against the Red Sox on March 6 at City of Palms Park. Nathan underwent surgery on March 26 and since then he’s reported no setbacks. But of course this is a big day for the 36-year-old right-hander as he works to regain his closer role with the Twins and prove he’ll be ready for Opening Day.

But Nathan isn’t the only pitcher to watch in this contest. Right-hander Scott Baker, who underwent arthroscopic surgery on his right elbow this offseason, is making his first start of the spring. Baker had a slight setback last month after pushing his recovery but he’s back on track once again.

Another piece of news from Twins camp is that Jim Kaat will be joining the team’s Spring Training staff.

Kaat, 72, will be in uniform as a special instructor from Sunday through next Friday. The pitcher, who spent 25 years in the big leagues including 13 of those with the Twins, is the Twins’ all-time leader in wins (189), games started (422) and innings pitched (2959 1/3).

Also, a slight tweak in the pitching schedule. Left-hander Francisco Liriano is going to pitch in a ‘B’ game on Friday, so Kevin Slowey will get the start in the ‘A’ game against the Rays at Hammond Stadium that day.

Here are the lineups and note how many interesting pitchers there are to watch for the Twins today:

Red Sox (1-1)
Marco Scutaro, SS
Jed Lowrie, 2B
Mike Cameron, DH
Kevin Youkilis, 3B
Ryan Kalish, CF
Darnell McDonald, LF
Jarrod Saltalamacchia, C
Josh Reddick, RF
Drew Sutton, 1B
Pitching: LHP Jon Lester

Others
scheduled to pitch: Alfredo Aceves, Jonathan Papelbon, Tony Pena Jr., Randy Williams, Rich Hill

Twins
(1-1)

Denard Span, CF
Tsuyoshi Nishioka, 2B
Danny Valencia, 3B
Jim Thome, DH
Joe Benson, RF
Chris Parmelee, 1B
Rene Tosoni, LF
Drew Butera, C
Alexi Casilla, SS
Pitching: RHP Scott Baker

Others scheduled to pitch: Joe Nathan, Jose Mijares, Kyle Gibson, Carlos Gutierrez, Yorman Bazardo, David Bromberg, Kyle Waldrop, Deolis Guerra

Mayor’s Cup Competition Take 2: Twins at Red Sox 2/28

By: Kelly Thesier/MLB.com

Fort Myers, Fla. — The Twins are getting set to play their second of three straight contests against the Red Sox to open up the spring. This time they’re at City of Palms Park.

Michael Cuddyer said this morning that there is really no update about the wart on his left foot. Cuddyer is trying the cream that he received this weekend to treat the wart but for now, there has been no change and it’s a waiting process. One that Cuddyer certainly does not enjoy as he said he really wants to get back on the field.

Other than that, not much news yet this morning. We’re going to try to talk to manager Ron Gardenhire before the game and if there are any updates, including about exactly when Justin Morneau might go see a doctor this week to get cleared for games, I’ll pass them along.

For now, here are the lineups and pitchers:

Twins
(1-0)

Ben Revere, LF
Trevor Plouffe, SS
Jason
Kubel, DH
Luke Hughes, 3B
Jeff Bailey, 1B
Brian Dinkelman, RF
Matt Tolbert, 2B
Rene Rivera, C
Jason Repko, CF
Pitching: RHP Nick Blackburn

Others scheduled to pitch: Kevin Slowey, Glen Perkins, Anthony Slama, Jim Hoey, David Bromberg, Deolis Guerra, Eric Hacker, Kyle Waldrop

Red Sox (0-1)

Jacoby Ellsbury, CF
Dustin Pedroia, 2B
Carl Crawford, LF
David Ortiz, DH
J.D. Drew, RF
Jason Varitek, C
Brent Dlugach, SS
Drew Sutton, 1B
Yamaico Navarro, 3B
Pitching: RHP Daisuke Matsuzaka

Others
scheduled to pitch: Tim Wakefield, Andrew Miller, Daniel Bard, Matt Albers, Matt Fox

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