March 2009

Morales is the backup catcher — plus Tuesday lineups

Jose Morales will start the season as the Twins backup catcher, the team informed him on
Tuesday morning.

Morales beat out Drew Butera to be the backup to Mike Redmond, who will be the starting catcher while Joe Mauer is out with his sore back. Butera had appeared to have the edge a couple of weeks ago as he’s the stronger catcher defensively, but Morales showed a lot of improvement behind the plate recently and that combined with his stronger bat helped to earn him the nod.

Butera was one of three cuts the Twins made on Tuesday. The club optioned Butera and left-hander Jose Mijares to Triple-A Rochester and reassigned infielder Alejandro Machado to Minor League camp.

Twins manager Ron Gardenhire said Monday that the team expected to have their bullpen set following this set of cuts, but Mijares was the only pitcher cut. The expectation is that the Twins will break camp with 12 pitchers so that would leave three pitchers battling for two relief spots. Philip Humber, R.A. Dickey and Brian Duensing are in the mix for the long relief role and one other opening in the bullpen.

The club also still has three infielders competing for two utility spots. That race is expected to go down to the final day of camp.

The Twins also informed catcher Jeff Christy that he’ll stay with the Major League club through Saturday but will then be reassigned to Minor League camp.

That leaves the Twins with 30 players in camp, although that includes Christy along with Mauer and Boof Bonser, who are both expected to be placed on the disabled list for the start of the season. So technically the Twins have to make two more cuts to get down to their Opening Day 25-man roster.


Denard Span, CF
Matt Tolbert, SS
Brendan Harris, 2B
Jason Kubel, LF
Brian Buscher, 3B
Mike Redmond, C
Matt Moses, DH
Brock Peterson, 1B
Chris Parmelee, RF
Pitching: Nick Blackburn, RHP

Nyjer Morgan, LF
Freddy Sanchez, 2B
Nate McLouth, CF
Eric Hinske, DH
Adam LaRoche, 1B
Brandon Moss, RF
Ramon Vazquez, 3B
Jack Wilson, SS
Jason Jaramillo, C
Pitching: Jeff Karstens, RHP

UPDATE: Justin Morneau was scratched from an early lineup due to some stiffness in his back that he felt while swinging earlier today. It doesn’t seem serious, just something that the Twins decided not to take a chance with.

Facing Matt Garza — Twins vs. Rays

Former Twins pitcher Matt Garza will be facing his old team for the first time today when the Twins host the Rays at Hammond Stadium.

Garza is slated to be the Rays’ No. 3 starter this season and is coming off a breakout 2008 season when he was named the MVP of the ALCS vs. the Red Sox. This will be Garza’s fourth official start this spring and he’s 0-0 with a 5.90 ERA in his previous three outings.

As for the Twins, both Justin Morneau and Joe Crede are back in the lineup after getting a day off yesterday due to the long rain delay.

It was a pretty quiet morning in the Twins clubhouse so not much news to report, but I’ll leave you with the lineups — both of which feature many of the regulars so you can tell we’re getting toward the end of Spring Training. Today also marks the final spring broadcast being shown on FS North, so for those of you looking to catch a glimpse of the club, tune in.

Denard Span, CF
Alexi Casilla, 2B
Michael Cuddyer, RF
Justin Morneau, 1B
Jason Kubel, DH
Delmon Young, LF
Joe Crede, 3B
Jose Morales, C
Nick Punto, SS
Pitching: Glen Perkins, LHP

Akinori Iwamura, 2B
Carl Crawford, LF
Evan Longoria, 3B
Carlos Pena, 1B
Pat Burrell, DH
Dioner Navarro, C
Ben Zobrist, RF
Gabe Kapler, CF
Jason Bartlett, SS
Pitching: Matt Garza, RHP

Rain, Rain go away

The tarp has been on the field for most of the morning and it’s still on as of 12:30 p.m. ET, with the rain continuing to come down.

Today’s game against the Cardinals is sold out and is being televised in the Twin Cities. So the best guess is that they’ll try to wait out the rain…although it’s unclear just when they might get started.

Joe Mauer spoke with us for a short time this morning. There wasn’t much of an update oon his progress except that he’s feeling the best he has all spring. I’ll have more on that later.

As we wait for a start time, here are the lineups..

Update: The first pitch is scheduled for 3 p.m. ET and there have been a few lineup changes for the Twins as noted below. Just some changes since the players had to sit around for a few extra hours and the field is likely still a little wet.

Update 2: Twins manager Ron Gardenhire said after the game that as we thought, he decided to give Joe Crede and Justin Morneau the day off due to the long rain delay.

“I’m just not going to mess with it,” Gardenhire said. “There is no sense in doing that with both of those guys…We’ve got some games left and they are playing a bunch anyway.”

Carlos Gomez, CF
Alexi Casilla, 2B
Joe Crede, 3B Brendan Harris, 3B
Justin Morneau, 1B Brian Buscher, 1B
Jason Kubel, DH
Michael Cuddyer, RF
Delmon Young, LF
Mike Redmond, C
Nick Punto, SS
Pitching: Kevin Slowey, RHP

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

Twins complete trade with Yankees to keep Rule 5 Draft pick, Jason Jones

The Twins traded Class A pitcher Charles Nolte to the Yankees on Saturday in exchange for the rights to Rule 5 Draft pick Jason Jones.

Following the trade, Jones was outrighted to Triple-A Rochester where he will be a part of the Red Wings starting rotation.

Jones went 2-0 with a 2.70 ERA in seven appearances for the Twins this spring. He allowed 11 hits while walking three and striking out five in 10 innings.

Nolte spent last season at Class A Beloit, where he was 4-3 with a 2.05 ERA in 44 relief appearances.

Last go around in Sarasota

After a two-day break, I’m back on the beat again and here for the Twins final game in Sarasota since the Reds are moving their Spring Training to Arizona next year.

I know all of us beat writers will miss the short drive to Sarasota (yes, an hour and 15 minute drive is short for us from Fort Myers). And the hope is that if they can’t bring in another team to Fort Myers, they might be able to attract one here in Sarasota.

All right back to baseball, Carlos Gomez says that his back is feeling much better and that he could have played earlier this week but the training staff felt it was best to wait. He’ll back in the lineup tomorrow.

Joe Mauer had a glove in his hand today as he went to work out with strength and conditioning coordinator Perry Castellano. Not sure what that means exactly in terms of his program right now but it’s certainly a positive sign.

Also, manager Ron Gardenhire said that the team will make another set of cuts on Friday morning. With just a little over a week remaining of camp, my guess is there will be a significant amount of moves.

Here are the lineups —

Denard Span, CF
Alexi Casilla, 2B
Brendan Harris, 3B
Justin Morneau, 1B
Michael Cuddyer, RF
Delmon Young, LF
Mike Redmond, C
Nick Punto, SS
Nick Blackburn, P

Willie Taveras, CF
Jerry Hairston, Jr, SS
Joey Votto, 1B
Brandon Phillips, 2B
Jay Bruce, RF
Jeff Keppinger, 3B
Chris Dickerson, LF
Ramon Hernandez, C
Micah Owings, P


Sunday lineups — Twins vs. Blue Jays

It was a pretty quiet morning after the long trip to Clearwater on Saturday so not much news to report early.

Denard Span, CF
Nick Punto, SS
Jason Kubel, DH
Justin Morneau, 1B
Joe Crede, 3B
Michael Cuddyer, RF
Delmon Young, LF
Mike Redmond, C
Matt Tolbert, 2B
Pitching: Scott Baker, RHP

Blue Jays
Russ Adams, RF
Brad Emaus, 2B
Adam Lind, LF
Jason Lane, CF
Michael Barrett, C
Randy Ruiz, 1B
Scott Campbell, 3B
Kyle Phillips, DH
Justin Jackson, SS
Pitching: Matt Clement, RHP

Emptying the notebook — Saturday edition

I guess I also could have titled this entry the late edition of the notebook. Sometimes that happens after those long drives down I-75.

The drive back from Clearwater today also featured a sight that I hadn’t seen along the highway before, a brush fire. As I was coming down the highway near Sarasota, a huge black cloud of smoke billowed high into the clouds. From what I read later, it was a fire that covered nearly three acres of ground and eventually shut down a stretch of I-75. Fortunately I made it through before that happened, but it made for quite an interesting scene with smoke bellowing over the highway as I drove past.

To fill you in on more baseball news, here are a few things that were also noteworthy on Saturday.

–After the victory over the Phillies, manager Ron Gardenhire said that first baseman Justin Morneau would be back in the lineup for Sunday’s game against the Blue Jays. Morneau was able to work out back at Hammond Stadium on Saturday after battling a case of the flu.

— Right-hander Nick Blackburn made his start in a Minor League contest back in Fort Myers on Saturday so that he wouldn’t have to test his left knee at the plate as the club played National League rules against the Phillies. Blackburn instead started for Double-A New Britain as they faced Triple-A Rochester and he allowed one run on four hits over his three innings. Blackburn threw 45 pitches and walked two while striking out one.

Corey Koskie retires and Saturday lineups vs. Philly

After working this spring to make his comeback in the Major Leagues, former Twins third baseman Corey Koskie announced Saturday morning that he was retiring from baseball.

Koskie, who was out of baseball for the last 2 1/2 years due to post-concussion syndrome, had signed a Minor League contract with the Cubs and played for Team Canada in the World Baseball Classic. Koskie felt he proved he can still play in the league, but he didn’t want to risk another injury and wanted to spend more time with his family, including his three young sons, ages 8, 6, and 3.

“I just decided that it’s not worth it,” Koskie said on a conference call with the Minnesota media. “It would be a tough day for me if I ended up getting another concussion and had to quit because of that. But I just decided the risk/reward is not worth it.”

David Winfree, who is suffering from the same flu as Justin Morneau, made the trip to Clearwater on Saturday. Manager Ron Gardenhire hadn’t gotten an update on how Morneau was feeling, but he expected the first baseman to go to the ballpark on Saturday and complete a light workout.

Phillies starter Chan Ho Park was scratched and right-hander Kyle Kendrick will start in his place. And yes the pitchers are batting in the National League park today so R.A. Dickey, Jesse Crain and Craig Breslow will be among those getting their swings in during the contest.

Here are the lineups

Denard Span, LF
Alexi Casilla, 2B
Michael Cuddyer, RF
Brian Buscher, 1B
Luke Hughes, 3B
Carlos Gomez, CF
Jose Morales, C
Brendan Harris, SS
R.A. Dickey, P

Miguel Cairo, SS
Geoff Jenkins, RF
Chase Utley, 2B
Ryan Howard, 1B
John Mayberry J., CF
Matt Stairs, LF
Pedro Feliz, 3B
Chris Coste, C
Kyle Kendrick, P

Monday lineups and another fellow blogger

Not too much to report this morning as the Twins had a MLB security meeting that kept the clubhouse closed for about an hour.

Today’s game against the Orioles will mark Philip Humber’s first start of the spring. The Twins gave the spot start to Humber in order to get a better look at him as he’s currently out of options.

Rule 5 draft pick Jason Jones is also scheduled to pitch in contest, along with Jesse Crain and Craig Breslow.

Oh and before I forget again, I want to let everyone know that Twins shortstop prospect Trevor Plouffe has started to blog. A first round pick by the Twins in the 2004 Draft, Plouffe is going to share some of this thoughts during Spring Training and the season. But don’t expect it to be all baseball. Plouffe has a wide variety of interests and told me, he plans to share some of those on the blog.

UPDATES (6:05 p.m. ET): Still no word on Joe Mauer. As for other injury news, Nick Punto said that he expects to be back in the lineup on Friday against the Yankees. The swelling has gone down in his elbow and he took batting practice today.

The Twins will be making their first set of cuts on Tuesday. A total of 11 players will be cut, manager Ron Gardenhire said after Monday’s game, trimming the roster from 55 to 44 players. 

All right, here are today’s lineups.

Denard Span, CF
Alexi Casilla, 2B
Joe Crede, 3B
Justin Morneau, 1B
Michael Cuddyer, RF
Jason Kubel, DH
Delmon Young, LF
Mike Redmond, C
Matt Tolbert, SS
Pitching: Philip Humber, RHP

Justin Turner, 3B
Adam Jones, CF
Nick Markakis, RF
Aubrey Huff, 1B
Ty Wigginton, DH
Felix Pie, LF
Gregg Zaun, C
Chris Gomez, SS
Carlos Rojas, 2B
Pitching: David Pauley, RHP    Mark Hendrickson, LHP 

Sunday in Tampa

Greetings from George M. Steinbrenner Field in Tampa. I just arrived to the ballpark a little bit ago so I’ll leave you with some lineups for now and post other news later.

Updates (2:00 ET) — Twins general manager Bill Smith said this morning that he still had not spoken to the doctors about Mauer’s exam in Baltimore on Saturday. The club has been hesitant to discuss possible contingency plans until more news is known on Mauer but manager Ron Gardenhire did say Sunday that as the days pass it looks more like the team will have to ad-lib at the start of the season.

As for all of the questions about the Twins interest in Pudge Rodriguez, I haven’t heard anything about the team looking outside at options right now. The club really is waiting to find out more on Mauer and the hope is that if he does miss time, it won’t be much at the start of the season. That would make it unlikely that the team would add another catcher — instead they would rely on internal options.


Denard Span, LF
Luke Hughes, 2B
Carlos Gomez, CF
Jason Kubel, DH
Brendan Harris, 3B
Brian Buscher, 1B
Mike Redmond, C
David Winfree, RF
Trevor Plouffe, SS
Pitching: Glen Perkins, LHP

Jorge Posada, C
Johnny Damon, LF
Mark Teixeira, 1B
Hideki Matsui, DH
Nick Swisher, RF
Melky Cabrera, CF
Angel Berroa, 3B
Ramiro Pena, SS
Doug Bernier, 2B
Pitching: Andy Pettitte, LHP