It’s Game Time: Grapefruit League Opener 2/27

By: Kelly Thesier/

Tonight marks the start of game action for the Twins as they host the Red Sox in the Grapefruit League opener at Hammond Stadium. It’s also the start of the Mayor’s Cup competition between the two clubs
with five matchups between them this spring (three of which will take
place in a row to start off the schedule).

Here are the lineups for the opener:

Red Sox (0-0)
Darnell McDonald, LF
Jed Lowrie, 2B
David Ortiz, DH
Kevin Youkilis, 3B
Mike Cameron, CF
Jarrod Saltalamacchia, C
Ryan Kalish, RF
Lars Anderson, 1B
Jose Iglesias, SS
Pitching: RHP Josh Beckett

Others scheduled to pitch: Clay Buchholz, Brandon Duckworth, Hideki Okajima, Scott Atchison, Dan Wheeler

Twins (0-0)
Denard Span, CF
Tsuyoshi Nishioka, 2B
Jason Kubel, RF
Jim Thome, DH
Danny Valencia, 3B
Chris Parmelee, 1B
Jason Repko, LF
Alexi Casilla, SS
Drew Butera, C
Pitching: RHP Carl Pavano

Others scheduled to pitch: Pat Neshek, Dusty Hughes, Alex Burnett, Jeff Manship, Scott Diamond, Anthony Swarzak, Yorman Bazardo

Mauer downplays lubricating shots for his left knee





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FORT MYERS, Fla. – Twins catcher Joe Mauer downplayed the lubricating shots that he’s receiving in his surgically repaired left knee, saying Wednesday morning that they are “not really that big of a deal.”

Twins manager Ron Gardenhire revealed Tuesday that Mauer had received a shot of medication to help lubricate his left knee joint and general manager Bill Smith confirmed the news that Mauer had gotten a shot after Tuesday’s workout.

“I was surprised that it was out there,” Mauer said as he spoke with reporters before Wednesday’s first full squad workout. “Usually a lot of these things happen and you never know about it. But nothing set me back or anything like that. It was part of the plan, and [I’m] just working my way back.”

Tuesday’s shot was the first of a series of around 3 or 4 shots that he will receive in his left knee, Mauer said. The shots will occur once a week and Mauer stressed that they were a planned part of his treatment following minor surgery that he had on his knee in mid-December.

“It’s not that I need it,” Mauer said of the shots. “It’s more of a preventative thing just to make sure I’m good to go for the season. So like I said it’s really not that big of a deal and I kind of wish it wasn’t out there but here we are.”

Mauer will take things easy during Wednesday’s workout  and possibly Thursday as he lets the shot take effect. He has been taking part in the daily workouts since pitchers and catchers reported last Thursday, although Mauer has yet to catch a bullpen session this spring. Gardenhire reiterated Tuesday that the Twins plan to keep Mauer’s workload light throughout the spring to help ensure that he’s healthy for the regular season.

Mauer said the decision to have the shots was made shortly after he had the surgery on his left knee. The knee is the same one that Mauer had surgery on in 2004, his rookie season, when he had a torn medial meniscus repaired.

`We talked about it a little bit as a possibility,” Mauer said of the shots. “It’s pretty common. A lot of athletes have them. I guess being a catcher and all that stuff, it might sound a lot worse than what it is.’

Busy day in Fort Myers: Day 5 of ST

By: Kelly Thesier/

The last day of pitchers and catchers workouts for the Twins started out this morning with a large group of Japanese media gathered inside the home clubhouse awaiting Tsuyoshi Nishioka.

Nishioka did not work out on Tuesday, but he spent some time greeting his new teammates, shaking hands with them as he walked around the entire clubhouse. The infielder then met with the Japanese media and finally the American media before heading out as he awaits the first full squad workout on Wednesday.

It was far from the only thing that drew attention on Tuesday. First baseman Justin Morneau was greeted with a light smattering of applause from fans when he started taking swings with his teammates on one of the back fields at the Lee County Sports Complex.

Morneau hit in a group with Michael Cuddyer, Jason Kubel and Jim Thome and wore a protective batting helmet while doing so. He then fielded ground balls, taking throws from third and practiced turning double plays. It’s some of the same activities that Morneau has been doing in Arizona but it was a big step to see him back on the field with his teammates for the first time in awhile.

Delmon Young has arrived in Fort Myers, meaning that all of the Twins players are now officially in camp and ready for Wednesday’s first full squad workout. Twins manager Ron Gardenhire said the club is healthy heading into the workout, although Scott Baker might be backed off a day or too before throwing live BP.

Francisco Liriano threw a bullpen session on Tuesday and all the reports are that everything went well.

Quick thoughts from Day 3 of camp

By: Kelly Thesier/

Jim Thome meet Tsuyoshi Nishioka.

The Twins veteran slugger arrived at camp on Sunday morning and got a chance to take batting practice with his new teammate on one of the back fields of the Lee County Sports Complex.

Hitting coach Joe Vavra greeted Nishioka shortly after he arrived on the Minor League side of the complex and told him he’d be hitting with Michael Cuddyer, Jason Kubel and Thome. As more than 15 Japanese reporters and many of the Twins beat writers gathered around the cage, Thome remarked that he’d never seen this much media around a cage for Day 1 of batting practice in his 22 Spring Trainings.

Other than Thome’s arrival and Nishioka joining some of his teammates to work out, there wasn’t much news of the day. Francisco Liriano did some long toss on Sunday and said his shoulder felt good. He’s expected to throw a bullpen session in a couple days.

I’ll have more stuff later on the website as well as a blog post with some photos from the first few days of camp.

And we’re off….

By: Kelly Thesier/

FORT MYERS, Fla. — Day 1 of the Twins’ Spring Training is now officially underway as the pitchers and catchers are getting set for their first official workout.

Everyone always counts reporting day as the kickoff of spring, but not every Twins pitcher and catcher has to show up at the Lee County Sports Complex in Fort Myers on that day. Really the work gets started this morning with manager Ron Gardenhire getting the first meeting underway at 9 a.m. ET and then the groups dispersing to get the first workout underway.

It looked like everyone would be in attendance for the first workout, judging by looking around the clubhouse. Everyone that is except for right-hander Yorman Bazardo, a non-roster invitee, who general manager Bill Smith said would be reporting late due to a travel issue.

A few quick thoughts from yesterday’s report day and this morning before workouts:

— Jose Mijares looks to be in good shape, perhaps even a few pounds lighter than he was at the end of last season. Gardy stopped Mijares in the clubhouse to tell the lefty how good he looked. After many springs where Mijares has shown up out of shape, it’s certainly a positive sign to see him looking like this at the start.

–Joe Nathan, Kevin Slowey, Glen Perkins, Matt Capps, Brian Duensing Francisco Liriano and
Anthony Slama are among pitchers scheduled to throw in the bullpen

— Joe Mauer and Tsuyoshi Nishioka met each other for the first time yesterday in the clubhouse when Nishioka walked over to the catcher and said “Hello, nice to meet you.” And so the Twins star and the star in Japan got their official introductions out of the way.

All right, off to watch the workouts. More from camp later.

2011 will be John Gordon’s final season

By: Kelly Thesier/

John Gordon has been the voice of the Minnesota Twins for the past 24 seasons, but 2011 will be his final one in the booth.

Gordon, 70, will broadcast his 25th and final season in 2011, he told the Naples Daily News. The Twins radio voice since 1987, Gordon made his announcement on Tuesday morning while speaking to the Men’s Fellowship at Community Congregational Church in North Naples.

“It’s time,” Gordon told the newspaper. “I’ve had a wonderful career, but it’s time for me to move on to another phase of my life.”

It had already been announced that Gordon will be reducing his workload to 90 games for the 2011 season, after working 150 games this past season. He’ll still be joined by partner Dan Gladden to make up the Twins’ primary radio broadcast team. Ted Robinson and Bob Kurtz will also return and call 25 games each while Kris Atteberry will do about 45 games in a play-by-play and analyst role.

In addition to the 90 regular season games, Gordon is also expected to call around 15 Spring Training broadcasts as well.

Twins president Dave St. Peter said back in December when the broadcast changes were announced that Gordon had wanted to spend more time with his family outside of the booth and that was the reason for the reduced schedule. Now, Gordon will get set to enter what will be his 25th and final season as the voice of the Twins.

But Gordon told the Naples Daily News his hope is that his time with the Twins will end the same way it began –with him calling a World Series win.

Delaney claimed by Rays

By: Kelly Thesier/

MINNEAPOLIS — Right-hander Rob Delaney, who was designated for assignment this week when the Twins picked up left-hander Dusty Hughes, has been claimed off waivers by the Rays.

Delaney made one appearance for Minnesota last season, giving up one run
on two hits in one inning. He was 7-9 with a 4.73 ERA in 61 appearances
with Triple-A Rochester in 2010.

Changes at Target Field

By: Kelly Thesier/

MINNEAPOLIS — The batter’s eye at Target Field will look slightly different when the Twins open up the 2011 season.

Twins president Dave St. Peter said Friday that the team plans to remove the black spruce trees that are currently behind the center field wall. Hitters, for both the Twins and visiting teams, have complained that the trees have been a distraction and make it difficult to see the ball coming out of the pitcher’s hand.

The team also plans to install a new “almost honeycomb-like” material on
the backdrop that will help to reduce the glare for hitters, which was a
problem during late afternoon games.

“It’s more of a safety issue for players,” Twins general manager Bill Smith said. “That is one of those things that you really don’t know until you get into a park and start playing. The glare, you can project what the glare will be but you don’t know until you start playing. We certainly want to make it safe for the players.”

St. Peter said that the team is still working on determining what to do with the trees. He mentioned it’s possible that they could be relocated to a different parts of the state

Twins claim Hughes off waivers

By: Kelly Thesier/

MINNEAPOLIS – The Twins have added another experienced arm to their bullpen competition this spring, claiming left-hander Dusty Hughes off waivers from the Royals on Wednesday.

Hughes, 28, was 1-3 with a 3.83 ERA, 24 walks and 34 strikeouts over 56 1/3 innings for the Royals in 2010. He pitched in 57 games last season, which gave him the second highest number of appearances among rookies in the American League. The left-hander, who was an 11th round pick by the Royals in 2003, was designated for assignment by Kansas City on Jan. 20.

To make room for Hughes on the 40-man roster, the Twins have designated right-handed pitcher Rob Delaney for assignment. Delaney made one appearance for the Twins last season, giving up a run on two hits in one inning. He was 7-9 with a 4.73 ERA in 61 appearances with Triple-A Rochester in 2010.

Nick Punto is a Cardinal

By: Kelly Thesier/

MINNEAPOLIS — Nick Punto’s days in a Minnesota Twins uniform have officially come to an end.

The versatile infielder has signed a one-year contract with the Cardinals. According to the St. Louis Dispatch, the contract is worth $700,000.

The Twins declined Punto’s $5 million option back in October, paying him a $500,000 buyout instead. Twins manager Ron Gardenhire wanted to bring back Punto, 33, to use in a utility role and to give the team protection in the middle infield in case of injuries, but the club appears to have reached its payroll limit after signing veteran starter Carl Pavano this week.

In seven seasons with the Twins, Punto batted .248 with a .323 on-base percentage, 12 home runs and 89 stolen bases. But Punto’s value came primarily from his defense and Gardenhire often proclaimed that Punto was his best defensive infielder at whatever position he played — whether it was second base, shortstop or third base.

The Twins have other options for their utility infielder role, including Matt Tolbert who is a switch-hitter like Punto and can play the same three defensive spots. Tolbert is quick, although he doesn’t possess the same defensive prowess as Punto, who was considered to be one of the best defensive infielders in baseball.

Along with Tolbert, the Twins also have Trevor Plouffe as an option at shortstop should the team need a steady fill-in at that spot. Another potential option could be infielder Luke Hughes, who had a short stint with the team this past season.