Tagged: Jose Morales

Catching liability?

By: Kelly Thesier/MLB.com

BOSTON — During Spring Training, it would have been easy to assume that the backup catching spot would be there for Jose Morales once he recovered from offseason right wrist surgery.

But now that Morales’ wrist is healed and he’s starting to catch and DH at Triple-A Rochester, Twins manager Ron Gardenhire said that Morales has to prove that he deserves to have that spot.

“That’s not a given at all. It depends on how he does
and whether he can catch and throw,” Gardenhire said. “There’s nothing
written in stone that that’s his job. Coming back from an injury, he has
to earn the promotion just like everybody else. He’s been told that,
and I think his agent’s been told that.”

The biggest test for Morales now is to show that he can
control the running game.

Morales threw out just one of 19 baserunners
attempting to steal over his 29 games in the big leagues last year and was charged with five passed balls. He wasn’t able to work on those skills this winter due to his wrist injury and he missed all of Spring Training as he recovered from surgery, making it difficult for the club to work with him on his issues.

But before Gardenhire can hand the backup catching position to Morales, he first needs to see that the catcher can help to control a running game.

“We know he’s not the strongest-armed kid in the world, that’s a given,”
Gardenhire said, “but you have to be able to be serviceable enough to
throw the ball down there and get the people you’re supposed to get,
that’s all. His thing is getting healthy.”

Gardenhire reiterated that he’s very happy with the job that Drew Butera has done in the backup catcher role. Although Morales is a better hitter, Butera “can catch and throw with the best of them,” according to Gardenhire. And while Butera is batting .136 for the Twins, the club feels he’s a good fit since he doesn’t get many starts playing behind Joe Mauer.

Perfect weather for a Photo Day

The Twins workout got off to a later start than usual this morning due to the team’s annual Photo Day. Although it’s been chilly and windy for many of the workout days, the Twins got a break on Monday with a warmer, sunny day. A fitting time for the weather to improve considering how many pictures had to be taken.

Here are some notes from the day:

— Jose Morales had the cast removed from his surgically repaired right wrist on Monday. He’s now set to start working on getting the strength and flexibility back in his wrist. It will be two weeks before the switch-hitter will be allowed to swing from the right side and four weeks before he will swing from the left side. So it looks like Morales will still be pushing to be ready in time for Opening Day.

— Manager Ron Gardenhire passed along Boston’s pitching lineup for the three games the two clubs will play against each other this week. So here are the matchups:

Thursday: Nick Blackburn/Kevin Slowey vs. Josh Beckett
Friday: Carl Pavano vs. Jon Lester
Saturday: Francisco Liriano vs. John Lackey

Also I wanted to pass along a funny exchange with Jose Mijares, who was struck by a line drive off Jason Kubel’s bat while throwing live batting practice on Sunday.

I walked over to Mijares’ locker in the clubhouse today and before I could even get there, Mijares pointed to his arm and gave me a big thumbs up. The left-hander then said that his arm is a little sore but he’ll be OK. He plans to throw live batting practice on Tuesday.

Mijares didn’t use a screen to pitch behind on Sunday. But when I asked him if he’ll use one on Tuesday, his answer was emphatic.

“Yeah, a BIG one,” he said.

Monday camp tidbits: Injury updates, tall pitchers and Team USA

By: Kelly Thesier/MLB.com

Day 1 of Twins camp is in the books and it was the most beautiful day weather-wise since I arrived in Fort Myers, Fla. a little over a week ago. The sun was shining and temperatures were in the mid-70s for the first day of workouts for pitchers and catchers. Now that actual workouts are underway, it’s a good time to empty the notebook with some interesting tidbits and stories.

— The only injury concern currently in camp is pitcher Loek Van Mil, who is battling some soreness in his right shoulder. Van Mil is going to be limited to long toss for the next couple days so he won’t be throwing in the bullpen during that time.

— Catcher Jose Morales sat in the dugout bench on Field 5 and watched as pitchers and catchers stretched before the start of Monday’s workout. Morales’ right arm is still in a cast following surgery at the end of last month to stabilize a tendon in his wrist. Morales said that the cast is scheduled to come off in a week. The switch-hitter said he should be able to start swinging from the right side in about two weeks and the left side in about four.

— Infielder Nick Punto has not yet reported to camp, as position players don’t officially have to be here until Friday, but Twins general manager Bill Smith said that the team plans to take it easy with him early in camp. Punto underwent a cleanup surgery on his right wrist at the end of last month and had been expected to be ready to go on the first day of full squad workouts.  But Smith said there is no rush for Punto to be 100 percent.

“He’s such a high energy player. We’re just going to try to slow him down,” Smith said. “We’ll make sure we take out time. Opening Day is a long ways away.”

— When talking about Van Mil’s sore shoulder, manager Ron Gardenhire was asked what it’s like to have so many tall pitchers in camp this spring. Van Mil is 7-foot-1 and reliever Jon Rauch is 6-foot-11. The two pitchers weren’t in the same throwing group but everyone laughed at how Van Mil made one member of his group — Joe Nathan, who is 6-foot-4 — look short.

“I’m already prepping them on, if I come up to the mound they have to back off the mound so I can look at them eye to eye,” Gardenhire said with a laugh. “Too many guys I’m going to have to look up to on this staff.”

— There was one additional position player who reported to camp on Monday — outfielder Delmon Young. While Gardenhire was meeting with the media, Young stuck his head in the manager’s office to say hello. Young, who has dropped at least 30 pounds from last season, surprised his skipper by his new svelte look and it led to a humorous exchange.

“What happened brother? You go to a shrink machine?” Gardenhire joked with Young.

“[Carl] Pavano is on our staff,” Young said. “I need to catch the fly balls on the warning track.”

— Young wasn’t the only player that Gardenhire enjoyed teasing on Monday. Even though first baseman Justin Morneau has yet to report to camp, he wasn’t exempt from getting a few jabs from the manager.

Gardenhire said he was texting Morneau during the USA-Canada Olympic hockey game on Sunday night. The U.S. pulled off the upset, defeating Canada 5-3 and Gardenhire couldn’t miss out on the opportunity to get on British Columbia-native Morneau, who shares his Canadian pride with everyone.

“He’s catching a lot of heat,” Gardenhire said.

Morneau’s wife, Krista, is from Minnesota and the first baseman told Gardenhire that this was one of the times it was hard to be married to an American. But there will likely be some more ribbing awaiting Morneau when he arrives at camp, as many of his teammates were ready to continue the trash-talking about Team USA’s win. Morneau is rumored to be arriving to camp tomorrow so it’s possible that he could arrive to a little red, white and blue tribute in his locker. 

Another day in a pennant race: Twins at Royals 9/26

The Twins will try for their fifth straight win and their 11th win in their last 12 games when they face Royals left-hander Lenny DiNardo on Saturday night in Kansas City.

Scott Baker will take the hill for the Twins. Baker has been one of the Twins better starters in the second half and they hope that he can deliver a strong outing again in yet another must-win situation for the club.

No huge news during manager Ron Gardenhire’s pre-game session. Only one lineup change today. Brendan Harris gets the nod as the DH. Gardenhire said yesterday that he likes the way Harris has been swinging against left-handed pitching.

Gardenhire also said that he might start Jose Morales behind the plate during Sunday’s afternoon contest with the Royals, allowing Joe Mauer to DH. That way he can keep Mauer’s bat in the lineup but still give his everyday catcher a needed rest for his legs and body.

One interesting note I didn’t get in my story last night was that the Twins are closing in on having four players with at least 90 RBIs — which would mark the first time in club history that’s happened. Jason Kubel and Joe Mauer each collected their 90th RBI on Friday night and Justin Morneau has 100 RBIs for the season. Michael Cuddyer currently is sitting at 88 RBIs after driving in two runs last night.

Twins (79-73)
2nd place in AL Central, 2 games back

Denard Span, CF
Orlando Cabrera, SS
Joe Mauer, C
Jason Kubel, RF
Michael Cuddyer, 1B
Delmon Young, LF
Brendan Harris, DH
Matt Tolbert, 3B
Nick Punto, 2B
Pitching: RHP Scott Baker (13-9, 4.43)

Royals (63-91)
4th place in AL Central, 19.5 games back
Willie Bloomquist, RF
Mitch Maier, LF
Billy Butler, 1B
Mike Jacobs, DH
Alberto Callaspo, 2B
Brayan Pena, C
Alex Gordon, 3B
Yuniesky Betancourt, SS
Josh Anderson, CF
Pitching: LHP Lenny Dinardo (0-1, 8.22)

A reminder you can follow me on Twitter  @kellythesier

A 12-man pitching staff once again

The Twins have returned to a 12-man pitching staff for the start of the second half, as expected.

The club announced Wednesday that they have selected the contract of right-handed pitcher Kevin Mulvey from Triple-A Rochester and to make room on the roster for Mulvey, they have optioned catcher Jose Morales to Rochester.

Mulvey was 3-6 with a 3.93 ERA in 17 starts for the Red Wings this season. He’s struck out 81 batters in 103 innings while walking just 31. The 24-year-old pitcher was acquired by the Twins from the Mets in the Johan Santana trade.

Morales had been the Twins third catcher. In three stints with the team, he had batted .343 in 32 games with four doubles and four RBIs.

Morales is the backup catcher — plus Tuesday lineups

Jose Morales will start the season as the Twins backup catcher, the team informed him on
Tuesday morning.

Morales beat out Drew Butera to be the backup to Mike Redmond, who will be the starting catcher while Joe Mauer is out with his sore back. Butera had appeared to have the edge a couple of weeks ago as he’s the stronger catcher defensively, but Morales showed a lot of improvement behind the plate recently and that combined with his stronger bat helped to earn him the nod.

Butera was one of three cuts the Twins made on Tuesday. The club optioned Butera and left-hander Jose Mijares to Triple-A Rochester and reassigned infielder Alejandro Machado to Minor League camp.

Twins manager Ron Gardenhire said Monday that the team expected to have their bullpen set following this set of cuts, but Mijares was the only pitcher cut. The expectation is that the Twins will break camp with 12 pitchers so that would leave three pitchers battling for two relief spots. Philip Humber, R.A. Dickey and Brian Duensing are in the mix for the long relief role and one other opening in the bullpen.

The club also still has three infielders competing for two utility spots. That race is expected to go down to the final day of camp.

The Twins also informed catcher Jeff Christy that he’ll stay with the Major League club through Saturday but will then be reassigned to Minor League camp.

That leaves the Twins with 30 players in camp, although that includes Christy along with Mauer and Boof Bonser, who are both expected to be placed on the disabled list for the start of the season. So technically the Twins have to make two more cuts to get down to their Opening Day 25-man roster.


Denard Span, CF
Matt Tolbert, SS
Brendan Harris, 2B
Jason Kubel, LF
Brian Buscher, 3B
Mike Redmond, C
Matt Moses, DH
Brock Peterson, 1B
Chris Parmelee, RF
Pitching: Nick Blackburn, RHP

Nyjer Morgan, LF
Freddy Sanchez, 2B
Nate McLouth, CF
Eric Hinske, DH
Adam LaRoche, 1B
Brandon Moss, RF
Ramon Vazquez, 3B
Jack Wilson, SS
Jason Jaramillo, C
Pitching: Jeff Karstens, RHP

UPDATE: Justin Morneau was scratched from an early lineup due to some stiffness in his back that he felt while swinging earlier today. It doesn’t seem serious, just something that the Twins decided not to take a chance with.