March 2009

No update on Mauer yet

Twins catcher Joe Mauer was scheduled to see a specialist in Baltimore on Saturday regarding his lower back, but as of late afternoon Twins GM Bill Smith had not gotten any updates concerning the exam.

Smith said that Mauer was due to fly back to Fort Myers on Saturday night. So the expectation is that the club will get updated by sometime on Sunday at the very latest.

The catcher was diagnosed with inflammation in the right sacroiliac
joint — where the base of the spine meets the top of the pelvis — by
Twins doctors following a magnetic resonance arthrogram this week. He’s been unable to take part in any team workouts so far this spring due to pain in his lower back, which he first started experiencing late last season.

The team doesn’t believe that this pain is related to the Dec. 22 surgery that Mauer had to eliminate a kidney obstruction. In fact, the doctors discovered the kidney obstruction while trying to determine what was causing Mauer’s back pain. While the surgery eliminated some of Mauer’s discomfort, there is still pain near that joint that has lingered and affects Mauer whenever he tries to run.

Smith was asked on Saturday if he was getting nervous about the situation.

“Long term? No.” Smith said. “No one has given me any reason to be and I hope they never do.” 

Saturday Morning — updates and lineups

Greetings from the pressbox at Hammond Stadium. It’s a beautiful Saturday morning here in Fort Myers (something that’s a little easier to say knowing that it’s going to be near 50 degrees in the Twin Cities today).

Jose Mijares is set to return to the mound today for the first time since he tweaked his ankle in last Saturday’s contest against the Pirates. The left-hander has been hampered by a sore groin muscle as well but he’s feeling better and ready to pitch again.

The swelling in Nick Punto’s right elbow has decreased but just to the point where he might take some light swings today. Punto is hoping to make Sunday’s trip to Tampa to play the Yankees but that will depend on how his elbow is doing. With three weeks left of Spring Training, there is no need to rush the shortstop.

Philip Humber has been slotted to get the start on Monday since Nick Blackburn will back up Glen Perkins on Sunday.

Also, if there are any updates later on Joe Mauer’s exam in Baltimore today I will let you know. For now, here are the lineups.

Twins:
Carlos Gomez, CF
Alexi Casilla, 2B
Joe Crede, DH
Justin Morneau, 1B
Michael Cuddyer, RF
Delmon Young, LF
Brendan Harris, 3B
Drew Butera, C
Matt Tolbert, SS
Pitching: Kevin Slowey, RHP

Marlins:
Emilio Bonifacio, 3B
Robert Andino, SS
Hanley Ramirez, DH
Dallas McPherson, 1B
Dan Uggla, 2B
Jeremy Hermida, LF
Brett Carroll, RF
Alejandro De Aza, CF
Brett Hayes, C
Pitching: Andrew Miller, LHP

Friday night vs. the Reds — Under the Lights edition

The Twins are getting ready for their second night game of the spring. And while the regular season is full of games at night, it’s always a bit of an adjustment during the spring when you are accustomed to getting up early and getting the day going at that time.

As for things going on today, the swelling in Nick Punto’s right elbow has decreased and he should be back in the lineup in a couple days as expected.

Justin Morneau is back in the lineup for the first time since leaving for the World Baseball Classic and Jesse Crain, who also played for Team Canada, will also pitch in the contest.

Here are the lineups:

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

Reds:
Chris Dickerson, CF
Alex Gonzalez, SS
Joey Votto, 1B
Brandon Phillips, 2B
Jay Bruce, RF
Edwin Encarnacion, 3B
Jacque Jones, LF
Jonny Gomes, DH
Ryan Hanigan, C
Pitching: Micah Owings, RHP

Joe Mauer has inflammed lower back

Twins catcher Joe Mauer has been diagnosed with inflammation in the sacroiliac joint, following the magnetic resonance arthrogram he had on Tuesday.

The sacroiliac joint, often referred to as the SI joint, is located at the base of each side of the spine where it meets the top of the pelvis. Mauer’s inflammation is located in the joint on the right side of his lower back.

Twins manager Ron Gardenhire said he was told by team physician, Dr. John Steubs, that the doctors will switch Mauer to a more aggressive medication in hopes of clearing up the inflammation. The team will wait a few days to see how Mauer responds to the medication before he tries any physical activity.

“It shows the same thing,” Gardenhire said. “The inflammation in the SI joint and they are going just change the medicine and we’ll go from there.”

Gardenhire said the Twins had been treating Mauer for some inflammation
in the joint already, so the news that there were no additional
problems was a relief.

“You are thinking that it could be something huge with the way it’s
been going,” Gardenhire said. “But obviously it’s the same thing. They
just haven’t gotten it under control yet.”

Mauer underwent the exam after lower back discomfort has prevented him from doing any baseball related activities in recent days.  The catcher has been limited in his work so far this spring following surgery to eliminate a kidney obstruction on Dec. 22.

But Mauer hasn’t been experiencing the discomfort when he’s catching, throwing or swinging a bat. The only time that his back has proved to be an issue is when he tries to run.

Fort Lauderdale and Mauer updates

Greetings from Fort Lauderdale, where the Twins are set to take on the Orioles this afternoon.

I’m here to cover the game but the big news of the day will be when the Twins learn the result of Joe Mauer’s magnetic resonance arthrogram of his lower back. Mauer was able to get in and have the exam done on Tuesday afternoon. Twins physician, Dr. John Steubs, said that he expects to get the results of the test this morning. The team won’t comment on those results until after Steubs consults with other doctors and talks with Mauer and the Twins officials.

I’ll keep you updated with news on that as soon as I get it.

I stopped by the clubhouse this morning and both Justin Morneau and Jesse Crain had returned after Team Canada was knocked out of the World Baseball Classic. Morneau expressed disappointment at the quick exit but said that Crain looked really strong in his outings. I’ll have more on that in a story later today.

As for the game, Nick Blackburn is on the trip and is expected to pitch one inning after starter Glen Perkins is finished. Joe Crede has made the trip and will get the start at third base today. Joe Nathan is also making his second trip in a week to Fort Lauderdale, which he joked hasn’t happened in the six years he’s been with the Twins.

For now, here are today’s lineups.

Twins:
Denard Span, LF
Alexi Casilla, 2B
Joe Crede, 3B
Jason Kubel, DH
Michael Cuddyer, RF
Brian Buscher, 1B
Mike Redmond, C
Brendan Harris, SS
Carlos Gomez, CF
Pitching: Glen Perkins, LHP

Orioles:
Brian Robers, 2B
Adam Jones, CF
Ty Wigginton, 3B
Aubrey Huff, 1B
Matt Wieters, DH
Luke Scott, LF
Ryan Freel, RF
Gregg Zaun, C
Jolbert Cabrerea, SS
Pitching: David Pauley, RHP

Shorty day

Today was a day that we call a “shorty” at MLB.com. That means that instead of heading on the roadtrip with the team to Fort Lauderdale, I remained behind to cover the workout at home. It’s one way that the bosses try to help make the long Spring Training schedule a little easier.

It was a pretty quiet day at the Twins complex. For most of the morning it was cloudy and overcast before the skies cleared and the sun appeared by midday, which was perfect for the players who had tee times scheduled for the afternoon since they got the trip off.

Glen Perkins threw a bullpen and said he worked on his slider. It’s a pitch that Perkins said he has to get a feel for early in spring and really the best way to do that is in a game setting. With his roster spot secure, Perkins said it’s a little easier this spring to work on the pitch.

Joe Mauer has also grown accustomed to these workouts, not that he’s taken part in any of them. The catcher has tried not to appear frustrated during his slow recovery from kidney surgery but even as he headed off to do his work on Sunday, it was clear that he’s itching to get back on the field.

Mauer’s slow progress this spring was something that manager Ron Gardenhire addressed with reporters during the roadtrip to Fort Lauderdale.

“It’s just been a slow process, probably slower than anybody expected,” Gardenhire told reporters on Sunday. “We can’t do anything about it because if you can’t run, you can’t run. If you’re not ready, you’re not ready. He comes in and does all his work. No one is probably more frustrated than him.”

When asked whether he has considered scenarios should Mauer not be ready for Opening Day, Gardenhire indicated to reporters that he still is planning on the catcher being available April 6. At least, Gardenhire is for right now.

“I’m still holding my ground here, waiting,” Gardenhire told reporters. “Have I got secondary plans that I’m working on? I’m playing a lot of catchers. If it were to get to a point where he’s not going to be able to start with us, then we’ll start really locking down on things.”

Twins sign Scott Baker to four-year deal

The Twins announced Saturday that they had agreed to terms with pitcher
Scott Baker on a four-year, $15.25 million contract that includes a $9.25
million club option for the 2013 season.

Baker, 27, was 11-4 with a 3.45 ERA in 28 starts for the
Twins last season. He held opponents to a .247 batting average and led all of
the Twins pitchers with 141 strikeouts in 172 1/3 innings. He’s scheduled to be
the Twins Opening Day pitcher on April 6.

The right-hander was in line to be eligible for
arbitration after the 2009 season. The contract will buy out all three of Baker’s
arbitration years and would also cover his first year of free agency should his
option be picked up.

Baker holds a career record of 28-24 with a 4.23 ERA.

More news and nuggets

Before I headed to the ballpark this morning, I thought I’d post some additional stuff from yesterday’s game and other news

  • A reminder: Twins single-game regular season tickets go on sale today at noon CT. Tickets can be purchased by visiting twinsbaseball.com

  • Glen Perkins looked relaxed in his latest start. Perkins said that coming into the spring knowing that he has a starting job has made him more relaxed and his focus now is just to put himself in the best position to make it through the entire season feeling strong…”Every year prior to this, I think I came in more season-ready,” Perkins said. “I’m using this as a Spring Training, saving some of those bullets for September and October rather than March.”

  • The Twins’ April 18 game against the Angels, which was originally scheduled as a 2:40 p.m. CT start, has been moved to a 6:10 p.m. CT contest instead. The reason is that Fox had been scheduled to do a national broadcast of the game, but chose to pick up another game. The reason for the switch? Fox decided to broadcast Manny Ramirez’s Dodgers instead.

  • The Twins will begin broadcasting the second of their 2009 television commercials on Monday on local TV outlets. The second ad is entitled “Take it Outside” and features catcher Joe Mauer, his mother Teresa Mauer and closer Joe Nathan. From what I’ve been told by people in the organization, this might be the club’s best commercial yet. And for those of you outside of Minnesota, the ad will be available at twinsbaseball.com after it debuts on TV.


Time changes and other morning updates

The Twins are scheduled to take on the Netherlands today at Hammond Stadium in a 2:05 p.m. ET start, which is an hour later than normal Spring Training day games. The players seemed as confused as anyone by the time change. Baseball is a sport that’s based upon habit and although today’s game just meant pushing back everything an hour, it seemed to get most of the players out of their usual routines.

As for news this morning, we talked to Nick Blackburn about his sore left knee. He said that he woke up on Friday morning, the day after his start in Sarasota, and noticed his knee was swollen. Doctors told Blackburn that might happen due to the arthroscopic surgery he had on the knee this offseason. Blackburn said this was the first time he’s experienced the swelling since the surgery, but doesn’t expect it to be a long-term thing…”I don’t see this going into the season,” he said.
UPDATE: Blackburn threw a seven-minute bullpen on Thursday morning and felt nothing. The plan is to have him throw another bullpen in two days to test the knee.

Joe Mauer reported that he expected to have small setbacks like the one he experienced the other day as he makes his comeback from kidney surgery. “You have to try out and see where you are at,” Mauer said.

Closer Joe Nathan is scheduled to throw to live hitters during batting practice this morning. If he doesn’t feel any soreness in his shoulder, then he likely will return to game action this weekend.
UPDATE: Nathan threw 28 pitches during his live batting practice session and said afterward that he hasn’t “felt like that in four years. That’s about as good as I’ve felt in a long time.” In total, Nathan threw around 40-50 pitches with his side work before the session. The plan now is to have the closer pitch in Sunday’s contest at Fort Lauderdale against the Orioles.

All right, here are your lineups today. The Netherlands starting pitcher is right-hander Tom Stiufbergen, a Twins prospect who missed the entire 2008 season as he recovered from right shoulder surgery. Another familiar face to Twins fans will also be in the dugout for the Netherlands. Bert Blyleven is the pitching coach for the team.

Lineups

Twins
Carlos Gomez, CF
Alejandro Machado, 2B
Joe Crede, 3B
Jason Kubel, DH
Michael Cuddyer, RF
Mike Redmond, C
Brock Peterson, 1B
Jason Pridie, LF
Matt Tolbert, SS
Pitching: Kevin Slowey

The Netherlands
Gene Kingsdale, RF
Sharlon Schoop, 2B
Randall Simon, 1B
Greg Halman, CF
Yurendell de Caster, 3B
Sharnol Adriana, DH
Bryan Engelhardt, LF
Kenley Jansen, C
Hainley Statia, SS
Pitching: Tom Stuifbergen

Better late than never?

Sorry for my delay in posting extra notes everyone. There are some days down here at Spring Training that get a little hectic with stories and then the travel…especially when it’s close to an hour and a half drive each way like it was to Bradenton yesterday. I promise I’ll try to get better.

Anyway, here are some extra news nuggets from Wednesday that I didn’t get into the stories.

  • Francisco Liriano looked much better in his second outing of the spring. After getting knocked around a little by the Yankees, Liriano pitched three scoreless innings against the Pirates and allowed just two hits with no walks and two strikeouts. It looked like Liriano was in much better command of the strike zone. His changeup continues to look better and better, and like everyone said it might just be his best pitch now.

  • Matt Macri made his first start at third base and produced an impressive play in second inning. He made a diving lunge toward the shortstop hole to snag a ball and then got up on his feet and side-armed the ball to Brian Buscher at first base to get the out. But Macri then was charged with an error the very next inning when the first batter, Jack Wilson, hit a hard grounder to third. After fielding the ball, Macri’s throw sailed high to first base and allowed Wilson to reach base. Manager Ron Gardenhire talked to Macri about using his legs more on the second play, but he was still pretty impressed by the first snag Macri made…”That’s probably about as laid out as you are going to get on a ground ball,” Gardenhire said. “Then you get up and make a throw submarine and still get the guy. I don’t know how much better you can do. That’s one of the better ones I’ve seen this spring.”

  • Memorable moment of the day: In the second inning, a white bird — likely a seagull– was seen sitting in the grass in right-center field. There was a debate in the press box as to whether the bird was dead or injured after Wilson Ramos hit a double close to the bird and it didn’t even move. Pirates center fielder Nate McLouth nearly stepped on the bird while trying to chase down the ball, but even then — nothing. So shortly after the next inning, a member of the grounds crew was sent to try and scoop up the bird with a shovel. But when he approached it with the shovel, the bird suddenly flew over the center field wall — miraculously fine.