June 2009

Tuesday Lineups: Twins at Royals

The sun is shining, the temperature is in the low 80s and so the weather could not be more beautiful for a ballgame tonight at Kauffman Stadium. It’s nights like these where you can’t help but get excited about the move to Target Field next season, knowing that there are chances to see baseball in these kind of conditions.

As for news, Joe Crede’s back is better and he’s in the lineup agianst the Royals tonight. Crede said that there will be a few times during the season when his back flares up but he’s thankful for how the Twins have handled it so far. He knows it’s better not to try and push it on days like Monday when he just couldn’t get it loose because that’s when a more serious injury can happen.

In Minor League news, Triple-A Rochester coach Riccardo Ingram has taken a personal medical leave and will be away from the team indefinitely. To replace Ingram, Rich Miller will be moved up to Rochester from Class A
Beloit. The Twins have hired former player Chris
Heintz to take Miller’s place at Beloit. This will be Heintz’s first coaching job.

Here are your lineups:

Twins
Denard Span, LF
Brendan Harris, SS
Joe Mauer, C
Justin Morneau, 1B
Jason Kubel, DH
Michael Cuddyer, RF
Joe Crede, 3B
Carlos Gomez, CF
Nick Punto, 2B
Pitching: Scott Baker, RHP

Royals
David DeJesus, LF
Willie Bloomquist, RF
Billy Butler, 1B
Mike Jacobs, DH
Mark Teahen, 3B
Alberto Callaspo, 2B
Miguel Olivo, C
Mitch Maier, CF
Tony Pena Jr., SS
Pitching: Brian Bannister, RHP

Crede scratched

Twins third baseman Joe Crede was a late scratch from Monday’s lineup due to tightness in his back.

The team said that the move was for precautionary reasons.Brian Buscher was inserted into lineup at third base and took over Crede’s seventh spot in the batting order as well.

Prior to the news on Crede, the Twins had been thought to have 25 healthy players on the roster for the first time in quite awhile. Instead, they’ll likely be without Crede for the contest as manager Ron Gardenhire said that he’s hesitant to use Crede in late-game situations if his back is tight.

UPDATE: Crede said after the game that he couldn’t find a way to get his back loose prior to game time so rather than risk anything, the decision was made to have him taken out of the lineup.

The good thing is, just like last time, there’s no
sharp pain,” Crede said. “I did what I could, but you get to a point
where your back is not going to loosen up. Next thing you know, you’re
pulling something. So better to just take a day.”

Crede hopes to be back in the lineup for Tuesday’s contest in Kansas City. He’ll test the back to see if he’s ready to return.

Greetings from the newly renovated Kauffman Stadium

When I was at Kauffman Stadium last August, it was a bit of a mess trying to get through all of the construction that was taking place around the stadium. But all of that mess was worth it after walking into the ballpark today and seeing it with all of the new renovations complete.

The biggest change for us writers is they’ve moved us to an entirely new pressbox and it’s beautiful. Yet it’s all the new stuff in the outfield and the changes they’ve made overall in the concourse area that might be the most impressive.. They’ve extended the concourse all the way around the ballpark so fans can take a full lap. There is a party deck and sports bar in right field. Kids attractions are also in left center field. I haven’t had a chance to walk around there myself yet but I definitely want to take a look. I say all of this knowing that Kansas City is a popular place for Twins fans to visit. And even if you’ve been here before, it’d be worth coming back to see the new changes.

A local writer this afternoon said that with the new changes at the ballpark, it now plays a little differently. He said that many of the line drives are no longer affected by the wind since the outfield areas have been closed in, and it’s resulted in more extra-base hits this season. The Royals — who aren’t necessarily the speediest team– lead the Majors this season with 28 triples.

As for Twins news, Nick Punto is back in the lineup. He said that there has been a huge improvement in his ribs over the last three days. Punto took early batting practice and told manager Ron Gardenhire that he was ready to play again. The hope is that all of the rib problems are behind Punto, but Gardenhire said that if the second baseman has to leave the contest at all tonight then he’ll be headed for the DL.

Twins
Denard Span, CF
Brendan Harris, SS
Joe Mauer, C
Justin Morneau, 1B
Jason Kubel, DH
Michael Cuddyer, RF
Joe Crede, 3B Brian Buscher, 3B
Delmon Young, LF
Nick Punto, 2B
Pitching: Nick Blackburn, RHP

Royals
David DeJesus, LF
Willie Bloomquist, RF
Billy Butler, 1B
Mike Jacobs, DH
Mark Teahen, 3B
Alberto Callaspo, 2B
Miguel Olivo, C
Mitch Maier, CF
Tony Pena Jr., SS
Pitching: Luke Hochevar, RHP

Dickey earning more time in late innings

As the season has progressed and his recent hot streak has continued, R.A. Dickey has slowly been earning the confidence of the Twins coaching staff. And Dickey’s recent string of success led the situation that Dickey was placed in on Thursday — pitching in the seventh inning with the Twins holding a 6-3 lead.

The knuckleballer stepped up to the task as well, retiring all three batters he faced in the one inning of work.

“As I told him today, ‘Son, we’re going to probably be using you quite
a bit, if you keep throwing like this,’ ” Twins manager Ron Gardenhire said. “He can go
out there and throw just about every day.”

Dickey entered Thursday’s game having posted a 0.67 ERA over his previous 11 appearances (27 innings). Over that span, he held batters to a .170 batting average while issuing just five walks.

“There hasn’t really been a formal conversation [about a late-inning role],
but you kind of get a pulse of how things are moving,” Dickey said.
“Whether I’m getting outs in the seventh or the third, I’ve still gotta
get outs.”

All of his recent success has allowed Dickey to join Matt Guerrier, Jose Mijares and closer Joe Nathan as the pitchers in the ‘pen that Gardenhire now feels confident using when the team is holding a late lead.

“I enjoy that they have confidence in me, and I enjoy pitching in games that we’re winning,” said Dickey. “But I don’t put any more pressure on myself.”

Dickey might not feel the pressure but that’s not exactly true for the Twins catchers, who will now be catching him in higher intensity situations.

“It’s
getting a little easier but it’s still kind of uncomfortable when he’s throwing because it’s nasty,” Joe Mauer said of catching Dickey’s knuckleball. “He’s a guy who’s
been getting a lot of outs, and I’m sure he’ll probably be getting into
some closer situations.”

Based on Gardenhire’s comments, it sure seems like it.

Day Game finale in Brew Town

Coming off last night’s stunning 4-3 loss late to the Brewers, the Twins are back at Miller Park and trying to prevent their second straight Interleague series loss.

While the clubhouse was awfully quiet on Wednesday night after the game, the mood this morning was loose and back to normal. I think everyone knows that today’s contest will be a big test for the club to bounce back and get this roadtrip off to a good start. The Twins have struggled in day games this season, going 8-17 in them so far.

As for news this morning, Nick Punto is back in Minnesota to get his rib cage checked out. Manager Ron Gardenhire said that he expects Punto or another middle infielder to join the team in St. Louis on Friday for the start of the series with the Cardinals. That means the club is hoping to have some sort of news on Punto today about what exactly is causing the soreness in his ribs.

The problem for the Twins is that if Punto has to go on the DL, their middle infield options to replace him are limited. Alexi Casilla is currently sidelined with a groin injury at Triple-A Rochester, so Steve Tolleson might be the club’s other option. Tolleson has been hitting well — batting .327 in 25 games — but the reports are that he’s struggled some defensively for the Red Wings.

Right now, Gardenhire said that his backup at second base is Michael Cuddyer and that Cuddyer might even see a start at the position this weekend in St. Louis. Cuddyer seemed to welcome the opportunity when I talked to him this morning. He said he’d have to borrow an infielder’s glove since his is not with him on the trip, but he already started fielding some balls at second just in case.

Kevin Slowey is set to make his start on Saturday. He had a little stiffness following a throwing session on Wednesday, but pitching coach Rick Anderson said that Slowey made it through another session this morning without any problems. So the right-hander will be on the mound for Saturday’s day game in St. Louis, which is expected to be sweltering with temperates in the upper 90s.

Joe Mauer felt good to play today so he’s back in the lineup, but that means he’ll likely get Saturday’s day game in St. Louis as his day off. Gardenhire said he also checked with Joe Crede on Thursday morning but he was ready to play as well.

So here are today’s lineups for the rubber match:

Twins
Denard Span, CF
Brendan Harris, SS
Joe Mauer, C
Justin Morneau, 1B
Jason Kubel, LF
Michael Cuddyer, RF
Joe Crede, 3B
Matt Tolbert, 2B
Scott Baker, P

Brewers
Craig Counsell, 2B
Casey McGehee, 3B
Ryan Braun, LF
Prince Fielder, 1B
Corey Hart, RF
Mike Cameron, CF
J.J. Hardy, SS
Jason Kendall, C
Mike Burns, P

Punto headed back to Minnesota to be examined

Twins infielder Nick Punto will return to Minnesota on Thursday to have a precautionary MRI on his ribcage after he was kept out of the lineup again due to sore ribs.

Punto has been battling soreness in his ribs since diving headfirst into first base in Saturday night’s contest against the Astros. He started Tuesday’s game at Milwaukee but left in the seventh inning due to what trainers called cramping in his ribcage.

Punto said Wednesday that he’s been frustrated by the injury as his ribs are still feeling pretty sore. The club now hopes to determine the exact cause of why Punto’s ribs are sore.

Welcome Back, Denard Span

One of the first people I saw walking around on the field when I arrived at Miller Park this afternoon was Denard Span. The outfielder made it through his two rehab games at Triple-A Rochester alive — although not without a new bruise, this one on the palm of his left hand.

Span was hit by a pitch in the fifth inning of Rochester’s game on Tuesday night. His left thumb and the palm area around it are swollen and a bit sore today, but Span is planning to take batting practice with the team to see if he’ll be activated for Thursday’s series finale with the Brewers. Manager Ron Gardenhire said that he expects Span will be fine.

Jason Kubel is back in the lineup as he’s feeling a little better after battling through some cold and flu-like like symptoms. He’ll be in left field tonight and I’m sure that the heat won’t be a huge help to him. But he seemed confident that he’d be able to weather through it just fine.

Nick Punto said that his ribs are still sore and he is not in the lineup again. He left Tuesday night’s game with cramping in his ribs. Punto, who injured his ribs while diving head-first into first base on Saturday night, is listed as day-to-day.

With no batting cages or weight room currently at Miller Park due to the recent flooding, players have had to be a little more creative with their time. The Twins have a small room in the clubhouse with a batting tee that’s been constantly in use. But there have been a few more card games than usual — anything to pass the time, particularly for a team that usually spends a lot of time in the batting cage.

Here are today’s lineups:

Twins
Carlos Gomez, CF
Brendan Harris, SS
Joe Mauer, C
Justin Morneau, 1B
Jason Kubel, LF
Michael Cuddyer, RF
Joe Crede, 3B
Matt Tolbert, 2B
Nick Blackburn, P

Brewers
Craig Counsell, 2B
Mat Gamel, 3B
Ryan Braun, LF
Prince Fielder, 1B
Corey Hart, RF
Mike Cameron, CF
J.J. Hardy, SS
Jason Kendall, C
Braden Looper, P

SI Cover boy, Joe Mauer and Tuesday Lineups: Twins at Brewers

Thumbnail image for SICover_062909_JoeMauer.jpgBefore I get into today’s baseball news, a little note to Twins fans to check out this week’s Sports Illustrated. Joe Mauer is donning the cover for the second time (he also did so in Aug. 2006). Tom Verducci explores the catcher’s chances of becoming the first player to hit .400 since Ted Williams did in 1941.

As for Twins news today in Milwaukee, manager Ron Gardenhire had to wait a little while to post his lineup today as he was checking up on the health status of a few players. Justin Morneau is back in the lineup after getting a day off on Sunday due to “general soreness.” Nick Punto also returns after missing Sunday’s game with bruised right ribs. Jason Kubel, who left Sunday’s game with flu-like symptoms, is not in the lineup with what the team is calling “general illness.”

The Twins got positive news on Denard Span, who went 1-for-4 in his first rehab game with Triple-A Rochester on Monday night. Gardenhire said that Span didn’t have any recurrences of dizziness, so it sounds like he’ll be activated on Thursday as expected.. (That is of course if everything goes OK in the outfielder’s second rehab game tonight).

The newest member of the Twins bullpen, Bobby Keppel, is also here at Miller Park. He’s expected to be another option for the sixth or seventh inning now that Luis Ayala is no longer there. Speaking of Ayala, Gardenhire let it be known today that the reliever asked for a trade three weeks ago and that helped lead to his departure. More on that later.

Here are today’s lineups:

Twins
Carlos Gomez, CF
Brendan Harris, SS
Joe Mauer, C
Justin Morneau, 1B
Michael Cuddyer, RF
Joe Crede, 3B
Delmon Young, LF
Nick Punto, 2B
Francisco Liriano, P

Brewers
Jason Kendall, C
Casey McGehee, 2B
Ryan Braun, LF
Prince Fielder, 1B
Corey Hart, RF
Mike Cameron, CF
J.J. Hardy, SS
Bill Hall, 3B
Jeff Suppan, P

Water-logged Miller Park is in working order

Before coming to Milwaukee, I’d heard about the water damage that was suffered at Miller Park but I had no idea the extent of it until I got here. Pieces of drywall were missing throughout the service level of the ballpark as certain areas were flooded with nearly a foot and a half of water in the wee hours of Friday morning.

A huge pat on the back should go to the Brewers and their staff for getting the ballpark in working order in time for this series. All new carpeting was in the visiting clubhouse and there was also all new furniture. The club did everything it could to get things in working order. Of course not everything was back in place.There is still drywall missing at the bottom of the walls throughout the clubhouse as well, but that’s certainly understandable considering the situation.

The water damage affected the usual routine for the Brewers and the Twins. Both teams were asked not to arrive at the ballpark before 3:00 p.m. CT so the Twins usual early batting practice was canceled. There was also no batting cages or a weight room due to the water damage. Brewers GM Doug Melvin and Assistant GM Gord Ash met with the Twins on Friday afternoon to explain what was going on and assure them there are no health hazards. And knowing the difficult situation, the Twins appreciated all of the efforts being made.

“They’ve done a super job trying to get it ready for us here,” Gardenhire said. “The best they can. You just have to understand what’s happening here, which we do…It was really nice of them to come down and make themselves available for questions and reassure us about a few things.”

A couple of days ago Melvin said he called Twins GM Bill Smith to let him know what was going on with the ballpark and what to expect when the club arrived on Tuesday. While he was being serious about the issue, Melvin couldn’t help but have a little fun with Smith.

“I called Bill Smith the other day and told him [to
tell players] not to come to the park until 3 o’clock,” Melvin
said. “I told him Joe Mauer didn’t have to come until
Friday.” 

Adding to the list of sidelined players

Jason Kubel left Sunday’s series finale against the Astros following the third inning due to an illness, the team announced.

Kubel
had started the game in right field with Michael Cuddyer filling in at
first base for Justin Morneau, who got his first day off in nearly two
years on Sunday. Due to Kubel falling ill, Cuddyer moved back to right
field for the start of the fourth inning and Brian Buscher was inserted
at first base.

In addition to Morneau getting a day off due to
general soreness, Nick Punto was on the bench for Sunday’s contest with
sore right ribs. Punto bruised his ribs while diving head-first into
first base on Saturday night.

Twins manager Ron Gardenhire said
that he didn’t believe the injury would result in a disabled list stint
for Punto, but that the injury will take only a couple days to get
better. The infielder said he was still pretty sore on Sunday but he
hopes the club’s off day on Monday will give the injury enough time to
heal.

“You never think about that,” Punto said of suffering
bruised ribs on the play. “The dangers in diving head-first are hands
or shoulders. It’s just frustrating.” 

Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.