March 2010

Twins sign Denard Span to five-year, $16.5 million contract w/club option

By: Kelly Thesier/MLB.com

FORT MYERS, Fla. — The Twins have locked up their leadoff hitter, agreeing to terms with center fielder Denard Span on a five-year, $16.5 million contract extension.

The deal, which was announced Saturday, also includes a $9 million club option for the 2015 season with a $500,000 buyout.

Span is set to make $750,000 this season. He’ll make $1 million in 2011, $3 million in ’12, $4.75 million in ’13, and $6.5 million in ’14.

Last season, Span emerged as one of the top leadoff hitters in the league, batting .311 with a .392 on-base percentage and 68 RBIs in 145 games for the Twins. While he roamed all three outfield spots in 2009 for Minnesota, he will be the club’s permanent center fielder this season after Carlos Gomez was traded to Milwaukee in exchange for shortstop J.J. Hardy.

Span was Minnesota’s first-round draft pick in 2002.

Rain, rain — please go away

The downpouring rain that forced Thursday’s Twins-Orioles contest to be called in the eighth inning didn’t let up overnight. Close to four inches of rain fell between last night and this morning, forcing the club’s contest with the Mets to be canceled.

One humorous sight this afternoon was watching a few of the position players doing their stretching inside the clubhouse. A rainy day means having to adapt, right?

Here are a few other highlights from our media session with manager Ron Gardenhire following what little workout the Twins could get in due to the rainy day:

— Bench coach Steve Liddle, who is in the hospital after experiencing
chest pains, called and left a message for Gardenhire this morning. So far, Liddle seems to be remaining upbeat, Gardy said.

“He went
through a lot of tests last night and is going through a test this
morning that’s going to be all-day event,” Gardenhire said. “Everything
seems to have checked out so far from the gallbladder on up. They’re
doing some more testing on his heart and all that stuff.”

— Here is the updated pitching schedule now that Thursday’s game has been rained out.

SAT. AT PHILLIES: Pavano, Blackburn, Condrey, Mijares, Neshek, Slama, Swarzak, Burnett
SUN. VS. RED SOX: Slowey, Perkins
MON. AT MARLINS: Liriano, Duensing
TUES. VS. ORIOLES: Baker
WED. AT RAYS: Blackburn, Perkins

Thursday’s postgame tidbits — Liriano, Mauer, Portes

The Twins saw something from Francisco Liriano on Thursday night that they had been hoping to see this spring — confidence.

In his second outing of the spring, Liriano faced the Orioles for two innings in relief. He impressed with his outing, holding Baltimore scoreless while striking out three and allowing just one hit — a two-out triple to Robert Andino in the fifth inning.

Twins manager Ron Gardenhire said he was pleased with the way that Liriano located his fastball. Liriano’s breaking pitches looked good in his first spring outing but it’s been his fastball that he’s struggled with at times during his career.

“He was in one of those outings where you kind of get a little disappointed when they hit the ball,” Gardenhire said on Thursday. “There are a lot of swings and misses going on so when they hit it, you’re like [disappointed]. That’s how he threw the ball tonight. The ball was darting. I’m sure the guys on the other side will tell you he was pretty nasty.”

Gardenhire credited the difference in the way Liriano was throwing to his newfound confidence, not only in his stuff but the way he’s feeling physically.

“This game is all about confidence,” Gardenhire said. “Last year, he had just lost his confidence. He was questioning himself about which pitch to throw and all those things. When your stuff gets to a certain point and comes back and your arm feels good and your body feels good then everything starts to fall into place. By listening to him talk, that’s about where he is right now.”

— Drew Butera caught Liriano in his outing, although Joe Mauer had originally planned to do so. But Mauer left the contest after the third inning, thanks to taking a foul tip off his right shoulder. Gardenhire said Mauer was pretty sore after he came out of the game. Mauer had originally been scheduled to play on Friday against the Mets but now they’ll give him the day off.

“We all know catchers take a beating and there is no sense in pressing that,” Gardenhire said.

— Juan Portes continues to impress at the plate. The outfielder went 2-for-2 on Thursday night, with a double and his third home run of the spring. He’s now batting .700 (7-for-10) in six games this spring. His slugging percentage is a ridiculous 1.700.

Gardenhire said he first saw Portes back in Instructional League a few years ago and he liked the outfielder’s swing then.

“I always said he could swing the bat and I think he’s really showing it here,” Gardenhire said. “When you get invited to Major League camp, this is what you try to do. You try to open eyes and impress people. I think he’s doing that very well.”

— Twins bench coach Steve Liddle spent Thursday night in a local hospital after experiencing some dizziness and tightness in his chest during batting practice. Gardenhire said Liddle underwent some tests at the hospital on Thursday night but so far everything has checked out OK.

— Rain forced Thursday night’s contest to be called early and it could impact Friday’s game against the Mets. Gardenhire said there could be a window in the afternoon although rain is forecast for the entire morning.

Twins vs. Orioles 3/11

By: Kelly Thesier/MLB.com

After a couple days off, I’m back on the beat. Nothing happened while I was gone, right?

That was a joke of course. As for an update on that front, I spoke with Joe Nathan who was decked out in his workout gear today and had a busy day scheduled in the gym as well as the training room. For now, Nathan is trying to strengthen the muscles around the elbow and keep himself busy as he waits to gather all the information to decide whether he’ll try to pitch this season or not.

Nathan said he’d like to have a decision by next week and right now they’ll wait for some second opinions from Dr. James Andrews as well as Dr. David Altchek, the former Mets physician.

So for now, they wait.

Orioles (2-6)
Nolan Reimold, DH

Robert Andino, 2B

Nick Markakis, RF
Luke Scott, LF

Garrett Atkins, 1B
Josh Bell, 3B

Jeff Salazar, CF

Chad Moeller, C
Pedro Florimon, SS

Pitching: RHP Kevin Millwood

Others scheduled to pitch: Koji Uehara, Jim Johnson, Alberto Castillo

Twins (4-3)

Denard Span, CF

Orlando Hudson, 2B
Joe Mauer, C
Justin Morneau, 1B

Michael Cuddyer, RF
Jason Kubel, DH
Delmon Young, LF
J.J. Hardy, SS
Nick Punto, 3B
Pitching: RHP Scott Baker

Others scheduled to pitch: Francisco Liriano, Jon Rauch, Matt Guerrier, Mike Maroth, Brian Duensing, Rob Delaney

A reminder you can follow me on Twitter  @kellythesier

Monday’s tidbits: More chicken and batting order changes?

Twins manager Ron Gardenhire walked into the visiting clubhouse at Ed Smith Stadium after Monday’s 5-0 victory and had one complaint.

“These long-term contracts are killing us,” Gardenhire said. “Most teams get three pieces of chicken, we get two. We better hurry up [and eat] before Mauer signs or we’ll get one piece.”

Gardenhire’s joke was in regards to the team’s postgame meal for the bus ride home which was a box of chicken for each player. It garnered a good laugh out of the clubhouse where Nick Blackburn sat, having just signed a four-year, $14 million contract on Sunday.

The skipper was serious in his chicken complaint but he couldn’t help but laugh as well. He said that he even told one of the clubhouse guys to order twice as much since there was one less piece of chicken in each box.

— Before the game, Gardenhire talked about the possibility of moving Michael Cuddyer into the fifth spot in the lineup at times this season to break up the three lefties — Joe Mauer, Justin Morneau and Jason Kubel or Mauer, Morneau and Jim Thome.

Cuddyer hit 32 home runs last year and played a big role in the offense over the final three weeks of the season when Morneau was out due to his back injury. And Gardenhire wouldn’t mind the possibility of using him in that fifth spot to force other teams to think about leaving a left-hander in the game.

“I don’t mind putting a righty in [the fifth spot] and then having Kubel in there afterwards,” Gardenhire said. “Really that’s the best scenario because if they throw a lefty in there, they either have to leave him in to face Cuddyer to try to get to Kubel or take your chances or whatever. But I don’t worry about lefties vs. those guys either.”

— Also a quick note that I’ll be off tomorrow. Jonathan Mayo, one of our talented writers, will be filling in for me so be sure to check the site for updates on Nathan and the rest of the club.

As promised to Mr. Mayo, I’m going to let my blog readers know about a great book if they are interested in finding out more information on Twins prospects. Blogger Seth Stohs of www.sethspeaks.net has written his second annual Minnesota Twins Prospect Handbook. There is a link on his website if you are interested in ordering. It’s got over 150 profiles on
prospects in the system, so it’s a great guide for sorting out all the
young players here in Ft.
Myers. Oh and the foreword is written by yours truly.
But please don’t let that discourage you from getting the book.

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Twins at Orioles 3/8

By: Kelly Thesier/MLB.com

Sorry for the lack of lineups yesterday, it was a little busy day with Twins news. But I’m in Sarasota for the Twins’ contest against the Orioles today.

As for an update on Joe Nathan, he’s in Minnesota to get his tests done today on his sore right elbow. There will be no news on the results of those exams until tomorrow. Nathan will fly back from Minnesota tonight and the doctors will compare his MRI and CT scan with those he had done in September. So we’ll know more about a plan of action after that takes place.

In other injury news, Glen Perkins has been battling a stiff back, manager Ron Gardenhire said. But Perkins supposedly felt better today when he got to the park. Pat Neshek is also dealing with a sore hamstring. Neither injury sounded like a big deal.

Denard Span said he’s been dealing with a little bit of soreness in his throwing arm, so he’s taking a break from throwing when he’s not playing in games. He said this morning that it’s just a normal part of spring, getting his arm back into shape and it getting a little sore from all the drills.

Twins (2-3)

Ben Revere, CF

Nick Punto, 3B
Michael Cuddyer, RF
Jason Kubel, DH

Brendan Harris, SS
Jacque Jones, LF
Luke Hughes, 2B
Chris Parmelee, 1B
Drew Butera, C
Pitching: RHP Kevin Slowey

Others scheduled to pitch: Nick Blackburn, Jose Mijares, Jeff Manship, Clay Condrey, Anthony Slama

Orioles (1-4)
Felix Pie, LF

Adam Jones, CF

Miguel Tejada, 3B
Luke Scott, 1B

Matt Wieters, DH
Lou Montanez, RF

Cesar Izturis, SS

Craig Tatum, C
Robert Andino, 2B

Pitching: LHP Brian Matusz

Others scheduled to pitch: Jim Johnson, Koji Uehara, Armando Gabino, Frank Mata, Ross Wolf
 

A reminder you can follow me on Twitter  @kellythesier

Twins sign RHP Nick Blackburn to four-year deal

By: Kelly Thesier/MLB.com

FORT MYERS, Fla. –The Twins announced Sunday that they have signed right-hander Nick Blackburn to a four-year, $14 million contract which includes an $8 million option for the 2014 season.

Blackburn was 11-11 with a 4.03 ERA in 33 starts for the Twins last season. He led the team in innings pitched (205 2/3) and was second on the team in wins.

A 29th round pick of the Twins in the 2001 First-Year Player Draft, Blackburn has a career record of 22-24 with 202 strikeouts in 72 appearances (66 starts).

The Twins have also signed the remaining unsigned players on their 40-man roster to one-year deals.

Nathan headed to Twin Cities for MRI on elbow

By: Kelly Thesier/MLB.com

FORT MYERS, Fla. -Twins closer Joe Nathan is headed to the Twin Cities for an MRI on his surgically repaired right elbow.

Nathan, 35, left Saturday’s game against the Red Sox for precautionary reasons after feeling tightness and soreness in that right elbow.

When he arrived in the Twins clubhouse on Sunday morning, Nathan said his elbow was feeling stiff and sore. After getting his elbow re-evaluated by team doctors, Nathan said the decision was made to have further pictures taken of the elbow.

The team and Nathan want to make sure the tightness in his elbow was not due to anything more than pain from breaking up scar tissue following the surgery he had on Oct. 20 to remove bone spurs and loose bodies from the elbow.

“Everything is looking good as it not being super serious,” Nathan said. “As far as tears or anything, it doesn’t look like it’s anything like that. That’s a positive and I’m going up there with positive thoughts. But we definitely want to be precautionary and make sure that we have all the information we could gather to at least give us peace of mind and know that hopefully nothing is going on.”

Nathan said he’ll take a couple days off from throwing. But he wouldn’t know the exact plan of treatment until they get more information from the MRI, which they’ll compare to a previous one he had prior to surgery.

“I think we always expect speed bumps when you are coming back from surgery,” Nathan said. “It’s nice that if there is a time to have it happen, it happened on my first game and not my last game down here. Now we’re staring at the season starting and me missing time during the season.  Just going to hope it’s as minor as it can be and it hopefully it doesn’t go into the regular season.”

More notes and nuggets from Game 3 of spring

By: Kelly Thesier/MLB.com

Twins manager Ron Gardenhire wasn’t pleased with how his pitching staff threw the ball in their third spring game, a 9-3 loss to the Red Sox. But the bigger concern to come out of Saturday’s contest was the health of closer Joe Nathan.

Nathan had to leave the game after recording just one out in the third inning due to tightness and soreness in his surgically repaired right elbow. For a team that doesn’t have a clear choice for the closer spot if Nathan isn’t available, it’s not a comforting sight to see him have to leave a game.

After exiting the contest, Nathan went back to the Twins Spring Training complex across town to have his elbow examined by the team doctors. The club will know more from the results of that, but the belief (and hope) of the team is that this could be normal soreness as Nathan works his way back from the surgery.

So we’ll have to see on Sunday what the news is about Nathan. He’ll likely be shut down for at least a few days. Since it’s Spring Training, the club will be cautious with their four-time All-Star closer.

Here are a few other nuggets from the day:

–Jesse Crain was scheduled to pitch in Saturday’s contest but he was scratched due to a case of the flu. It’s possible he could end up throwing in one of the split squad games on Sunday.

–Loek Van Mil had another MRI on his right shoulder but Twins manager Ron Gardenhire said he hadn’t heard the results of that yet.

— I had a nice visit with Dmitri Young, who was at the game on Saturday with his 12-year-old son, Owen, to watch Delmon. Dmitri said he is officially done playing and was happy to get to take in a ballgame as a fan as Owen was a batboy for the Twins.

But rather than stay in the stands, Dmtiri tried out a different angle to watch the game. He sat between Star Tribune writer, Joe Christensen, and me up in the press box. It was entertaining to listen to Dmitri’s thoughts on the game although Joe had to kindly inform him early on that there is no cheering in the pressbox. Dmitri was in great spirits and after what was tough year for the entire Young family following the passing of the boys’ mother, Bonnie Young, it was heart warming to see them all enjoying the day together.

Game 3: Twins at Red Sox

By: Kelly Thesier/MLB.com

The Twins are set to close out a three-game set with their Fort Myers crosstown rivals, the Red Sox, at City of Palms Park this afternoon. It’s a split squad day for Boston so their manager Terry Francona is in Port Charlotte with the other half of the club to face the Rays.

And for those keeping track, the Mayor’s Cup race is now tied 1-1 with five contests (incl. today) remaining.

Twins (1-1)

Ben Revere, CF

Orlando Hudson, 2B

J.J. Hardy, SS

Justin Morneau, 1B
Jason Kubel, RF
Delmon Young, LF
Jacque Jones, DH
Brendan Harris, 3B
Wilson Ramos, C
Pitching: LHP Francisco Liriano

Others scheduled to pitch: Jeff Manship, Joe Nathan, Glen Perkins, Jesse Crain, Jose Mijares, Kyle Waldrop

Red Sox (1-1)
Mike Cameron, CF

Bill Hall, 3B

J.D. Drew, RF
David Ortiz, DH

Jeremy Hermida, LF
Luis Exposito, C

Aaron Bates, 1B

Angel Sanchez, SS

Gil Velazquez, 2B

Pitching: RHP John Lackey

Others scheduled to pitch: Michael Bowden, Manny Delcarmen, Brian Shouse, Joe Nelson, Junichi Tazawa
 

A reminder you can follow me on Twitter  @kellythesier