Results tagged ‘ Nick Punto ’

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.

Twins pick up Kubel’s option, decline Punto’s option

By: Kelly Thesier/

MINNEAPOLIS — The Twins have exercised Jason Kubel’s club option for the 2011 season and they’ve declined Nick Punto’s club option, the team announced Friday morning.

Kubel’s salary in 2011 will be $5.25 million. He batted .249 with 21 home runs and 92 RBIs in 143 games with the Twins in 2010. After starting last season as the club’s everyday designated hitter, Kubel spent nearly the entire second half playing in right field for the Twins. He was used almost exclusively in right field after Michael Cuddyer shifted to first base in the absence of Justin Morneau, who suffered a season-ending concussion on July 7.

The Twins chose not to exercise Punto’s $5 million option for the 2011 season. Punto, who will receive a $500,000 buyout, will become a free agent.

Punto played in 88 games for the Twins in 2010. He batted .238 with 11 doubles, one triple, one home run and 20 RBIs. The infielder was hampered by a strained left hamstring late in the season and he went on the disabled list twice with the injury.

Punto to the DL; Tolbert recalled

By: Kelly Thesier/

MINNEAPOLIS — Twins infielder Nick Punto has been placed on the 15-day disabled list with a strained left hamstring and the club has recalled infielder Matt Tolbert from Triple-A Rochester to take his spot on the roster.

The move comes just three days after Punto came off the DL for the same injury.

Punto re-injured his hamstring during Thursday night’s game against the White Sox. It initially appeared that Punto dived into second base while trying to break up a double play. But manager Ron Gardenhire said after the game that Punto didn’t actually attempt a dive but rather fell into the base after he “blew out” the muscle while running to second base.

Tolbert is batting .283 in 42 games with the Red Wings. In 23 games with
the Twins this season, Tolbert is batting  .217.

Punto goes on the DL

By: Kelly Thesier/

KANSAS CITY — Nick Punto has been placed on the 15-day disabled list with a right hip flexor strain, the Twins announced today.

Punto, who was named the Twins starting third baseman just before the season started, has been battling a sore groin muscle and has not played since April 15. He was hoping that the injury would heal with some rest, but he said it’s been in a “stalemate” last four days so the decision was made to place him on the DL.

“It was one of those things where I thought it would be just a few days,” Punto said. “We’ve gone seven days and it hasn’t made a whole lot of progress.”

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–Punto is headed back to Minnesota on Saturday to get an MRI done on the area and make sure there is nothing more serious. In nine games this season, Punto is batting .269 with two doubles, a triple and an RBI. With Punto sidelined, Brendan Harris has taken over as the starter at third base.

Punto will be placed on the DL retroactive to Apr, 16, so he could return
May 1.

To replace Punto on the roster, the Twins
will recall infielder Luke Hughes from Triple-A Rochester. Hughes hit .267 with eight doubles in 12 games
for the Red Wings and will join the team on Saturday.

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

By: Kelly Thesier/

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. 

Greetings from Toronto and Happy Labor Day!

After missing the last three games in Cleveland to attend a friend’s wedding, I’m back on the beat with the club in Toronto.

It’s the first time I’ve made the trip to Toronto since the Twins opened the 2006 season here. So I’ve been getting reacquainted with the city as well as trying to catch up with the Twins after a tough weekend in which they went 1-2 vs. the Indians and  fell to 7 games back of Detroit in the AL Central standings.

The Twins will try to get back on track offensively at the Rogers Centre, where they’ve lost seven straight and have won just 1 of their last 10 games.

As I’m writing this, Twins manager Ron Gardenhire and some of the players are greeting former Twin Randy Ruiz behind the batting cage. Ruiz, who is is batting .296 with six home runs and 11 RBI in 20 games for Toronto, was struck in the side of his face by a pitch in a contest against the Yankees on Sunday afternoon and is not in the lineup for the Blue Jays today. Ruiz seems to be OK though as he joked with his former teammates and coaches, motioning how the pitch hit his face.

Orlando Cabrera and Brendan Harris are both getting a day off. Gardenhire said that many of his club’s bats looked a little slow on Sunday so he decided to mix up the lineup a little bit. Nick Punto will get the start at shortstop and Brian Buscher is slotted in at third base.

Joe Crede planned to do everything in batting practice today, including fielding ground balls. How Crede feels after today will determine whether he takes part in the simulated game that Francisco Liriano will pitch on Tuesday.

Here are today’s lineups:

Twins (68-68)
2nd place in AL Central, 7 games back

Denard Span, CF
Nick Punto, SS
Joe Mauer, C
Justin Morneau, 1B
Jason Kubel, DH
Michael Cuddyer, RF
Delmon Young, LF
Brian Buscher, 3B
Alexi Casilla, 2B
Pitching: RHP Jeff Manship (0-0, 3.75)

Blue Jays (61-75)
4th place in AL East, 25.5 games back

Marco Scutaro, SS
Aaron Hill, 2B
Adam Lind, DH
Lyle Overbay, 1B
Vernon Wells, CF
Rod Barajas, C
Edwin Encarnacion, 3B
Travis Snider, LF
Joe Inglett, RF
Pitching: RHP Scott Richmond (6-8, 4.53)

A reminder you can follow me on Twitter  @kellythesier

Welcoming the leaders to the Dome

The Twins are opening up a three-game set with the Tigers tonight at the Dome. It’s a big series considering that Minnesota is currently three games back of Detroit in the AL Central standings.

Minnesota will be facing left-hander Luke French in his first Major League start. French has made two previous relief appearances for Detroit and did not give up a run over three innings. We’ll have to see how the Twins fare against a young lefty they’ve never seen before — they haven’t exactly been successful in some of those situations in the past.

Both Justin Morneau (tight left groin) and Nick Punto (tight lower back) are in the lineup after leaving Wednesday’s contest due to the injuries. Manager Ron Gardenhire said that both players were fine and that catcher Mike Redmond’s right forearm is still very sore so he’s unlikely to see any action tonight.

Jason Kubel is coming off the bench for the series opener as Delmon Young gets the start at DH. Gardenhire wanted to add one more right-hander in the lineup against the lefty French. So Kubel could provide a little pop off the bench late in the contest.

Here are tonight’s lineups:

Curtis Granderson, CF
Placido Polanco, 2B
Miguel Cabrera, 1B
Marcus Thames, DH
Don Kelly, LF
Brandon Inge, 3B
Josh Anderson, RF
Gerald Laird, C
Ramon Santiago, SS
Pitching: Luke French, LHP

Denard Span, LF
Brendan Harris, SS
Joe Mauer, C
Justin Morneau, 1B
Michael Cuddyer, RF
Joe Crede, 3B
Delmon Young, DH
Carlos Gomez, CF
Nick Punto, 2B
Pitching: Kevin Slowey, RHP


So much for a healthy team

The Twins entered Wednesday’s contest against the Royals with what manager Ron Gardenhire called “a healthy lineup.” But three players –Justin Morneau, Nick Punto and Mike Redmond — all left the game due to various injuries.

Redmond left the contest in the bottom of the fifth inning after he was struck by a foul tip in the right forearm. He was having X-rays on the arm, but results were not yet known.

Jose Morales, the Twins No. 3 catcher on the roster, replaced Redmond
behind the plate. Joe Mauer was already in the lineup for the as the
club’s designated hitter.

Justin Morneau and Nick Punto were both taken out of the game after the sixth. Punto left the game with a tight lower back. Morneau left with a tight left groin. Brendan Harris took over at shortstop for Punto and Brian Buscher replaced Morneau at first base.

I’ll have more updates on the injuries after the game.

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.

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

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

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:

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

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