January 2010

Near record attendance at TwinsFest 2010

The Twins’ annual fan festival, TwinsFest, wrapped up on Sunday after
drawing one of the largest crowds in the history of the three-day

A total of 34,637 fans attended TwinsFest 2010 at the Metrodome this past weekend, the second-highest total attendance in the event’s history. The Twins set the record for attendance in 2007, when more than 35,000
fans showed up at the Metrodome.

which is one of the largest team-run fan festivals in professional sports, is an annual
fundraiser for the Minnesota Twins Community Fund. Since its inception in 1989,
TwinsFest has raised more than $4 million for programs and organizations
supported by the Twins Community Fund.

The end of TwinsFest means that the start of Spring Training is not far away. Twins pitchers
and catchers are scheduled to report to Fort Myers, Fla., on Feb. 21,
with their first workout taking place the next day. The rest of the
squad will report on Feb. 26, and full-squad workouts will begin on
Feb. 27.

Emptying the Notebook: TwinsFest Day 2

Now that the first two days of TwinsFest are over, I thought it would be a good time to share some of the extra tidbits that I’ve collected so far this weekend.

First up, here are some things that general manager Bill Smith shared with the media today.

— Acquiring a third baseman doesn’t appear to be a huge priority for the Twins right now as Smith said that he’s pleased with the club’s current candidates.

 “We have a lot of confidence in this group. We’ve
got two young kids coming in Danny Valencia and Luke Hughes. They’re
going to play in the big leagues, and the four guys we’ve got have
big-league time (Nick) Punto, (Alexi) Casilla, (Brendan) Harris and
(Matt) Tolbert. They all have versatility, they can all play around,
they can all play multiple positions.”

So in other words, it appears unlikely that the Twins will bring back Joe Crede, even on an incentive-laden contract. Crede, who remains an unsigned free agent, is coming off his third back surgery in three years.
— The Twins have yet to finalize the Jim Thome contract because they are waiting on the results of this weekend’s physicals. Smith doesn’t anticipate any problems, but the club has to make a move when the deal is finalized to open up a spot on the 40-man roster for Thome. It’s unclear what that move might be.

Manager Ron Gardenhire spoke with the media at length on Friday. Among the things he shared:

— If catcher Jose Morales isn’t ready to start the season following his wrist surgery on Thursday, Gardenhire might be interested in taking prospect Wilson Ramos north with the club to be their backup catcher.

Ramos, who spent last season at Double-A New Britain, is coming off a strong winter ball performance in his native Venezuela, where he batted .332 with 12 home runs and 49 RBIs in 54 games. He also posted a .397 on-base percentage.

“I know what [Drew] Butera is, he’s a catch-and-throw guy who can catch,”
Gardenhire said. “And I’m really kind of interested in Ramos. He’s
caught the Venezuelan National Team, he caught in the World Baseball
[Classic], this kid’s got some experience with some good pitching and so
forth, he’s a big, strong kid, health is an issue, but we’re talking
about a backup catcher to Joe Mauer.”

Ramos is considered to be one of the Twins top prospects, he was ranked No. 2 in their system by Baseball America this month, and he’s also been lauded for having a strong arm behind the plate.

— Gardy said that the current options he has for backups in center field behind Denard Span include Jason Pridie and Michael Cuddyer. He said he’ll put Pridie and Cuddyer in center some during Spring Training. It’s also likely that Matt Tolbert could be mixed into the outfield during the spring as well.

And finally here are some tidbits that Twins president Dave St. Peter shared about the inaugural season at Target Field during yesterday’s media luncheon.

— The Twins haven’t finalized the seating capacity at Target Field quite yet but it is expected to be around

— The Twins have sold the equivalent of about 19,500 season tickets. It’s a huge jump from their previous record at the Metrodome, which was right around 11,000. The expectation is still that the team will surpass 20,000 season tickets by Opening Day.

— The team will host an open house at Target Field for season ticket holders on March 20, followed by one for the general public on March 21.

— More food options for Target Field will be announced soon, including something involved with Twins legend Tony Oliva.

— The new Twins main retail store at Target Field will officially open on March 13.

— In addition to the Twins’ two exhibition games against the St. Louis Cardinals on April 2 and 3, Target Field will play host to a college baseball game on March 27.


Twins sign Thome to a one-year deal

The Twins have agreed to a one-year, incentive-laden deal with Jim Thome, a person familiar with the negotiations said on Tuesday.

The deal is worth $1.5 million and includes up to $750,000 in incentives.

Thome, 39, currently sits at 564 career home runs, five shy of Rafael Palmeiro for 11th place on the all-time list, and while he’s entering the twilight of his career, he has continued to put up strong numbers. The slugger batted .249 with 23 home runs and 74 RBIs in 107 games with the White Sox before being dealt to the Dodgers in late August.

The Twins pursued Thome to help bolster their bench, which had been lacking a veteran hitting presence. It’s not exactly a perfect match as Thome can no longer play the field and Minnesota currently has a left-handed designated hitter in Jason Kubel. But Thome will give the team a quality pinch-hitting threat late in games and Kubel can play the outfield, so there could also be some opportunities for Thome to get some at-bats in the DH spot as well.

Mike Redmond signs with Indians

It became clear early in the offseason that the Twins were going to let Mike Redmond leave via free agency with Jose Morales appearing ready to take over the backup catcher role.

On Friday, Redmond, 38, officially became an ex-Twin when he signed a one-year deal with the Indians for the 2010 season. The terms of the deal were not known.

Redmond will be the veteran backup to Indians catcher Lou Marson, and he’ll provide some experience to what will be a young ballclub in Cleveland.

The Twins will miss Redmond mostly for the leadership and personality that he brought to the clubhouse. He played the role of mentor to Joe Mauer when he first arrived in Minnesota and over his five years there, he helped  many of the young pitchers in the rotation to develop.

While the Twins knew that Redmond would likely have to go elsewhere to continue playing, many of his Twins teammates agreed that his presence within the clubhouse will be missed.

“It will be hard not to see him in the clubhouse,” Michael Cuddyer said the day after the Twins were swept in the ALDS by the Yankees. “He’s been the unquestionable leader on this team. Any time Joe needed help with the staff, he went to Red. Any time guys needed help in how to play the game, they went to Red. Obviously he’s my best friend on the team and if he doesn’t play here again he’ll be sorely missed in my eyes. But at the same time, I think he’s left his mark here and now these young guys see the way he led. These guys will be able to follow his example.”

The Twins may no longer have the man who was known for the naked walk inside the clubhouse, but they’ll get a chance to see him plenty of times with the Indians. The two teams will face each other 18 times in 2010.

Report: Twins made Washburn a one-year, $5 million offer

The Twins have expressed interest in free agent pitcher Jarrod Washburn this winter and it appears that the club may have made a contract offer to the veteran left-hander.

A CBSSports.com report earlier this week said that the Twins were awaiting a response from Washburn and his agent, Scott Boras, on an official contract offer. On Friday, the Minneapolis Star Tribune followed up with a report that the Twins made Washburn a one-year, $5 million offer but that talks between the two sides have been “pretty much dead” since the initial offer was turned down a week ago.

In an interview with MLB.com this week, Washburn said that the Twins are “definitely one of the teams at the top of my list of places I’d like to end up.” The pitcher, who lives in Webster, Wis. which is a couple hours northeast of the Twin Cities, likes the idea of playing close to home and feels that the Twins are also a team that has a chance to win.

The Twins currently have four pitchers penciled into their rotation for 2010 — Scott Baker, Nick Blackburn, Carl Pavano and Kevin Slowey. There is expected to be plenty of competition for the fifth starter’s spot with left-handers Francisco Liriano, Brian Duensing and Glen Perkins and right-handers Anthony Swarzak and Jeff Manship all considered to be options.

Twins general manager Bill Smith wouldn’t comment on the reports that the club had made an official offer to Washburn but he told MLB.com this week that his club hasn’t eliminated the possibility of adding another starting pitcher.

“We’re definitely still looking,” Smith said. “I think we saw last year
you can never have too much pitching. We have to find a way to defend
our AL Central division championship, and we also want to find a way to
advance farther into the playoffs and get to the World Series. So you
can’t stop looking for any position. But pitching, you can never have
too much of it.”

By signing Washburn or another veteran pitcher, the Twins could possibly trade one of their young starters to fill an infield hole. Other teams have been informed this winter that Perkins is available and he was mentioned in a possible trade scenario for Padres third baseman Kevin Kouzmanoff.

While the Twins are looking for a veteran starter, the club appears to be seeking a pitcher who will sign a one-year deal. The Twins are trying to lock up Joe Mauer to a contract extension this winter and they seem reluctant to sign any free agents to multi-year deals due to the impact that Mauer’s contract could have on the payroll in future seasons.