March 1, 2007

Twins Notes

  • From the same anonymous source that brought us news of Mark Sheldon leaving the MLB.com Twins beat to cover the Reds last year and Gordon Wittenmyer leaving the St. Paul Pioneer Press for the Chicago Sun-Times last month, here's some fresh gossip:
    Jason Williams is done at the Pioneer Press about March 10. He's taking some sort of editing job at MLB.com and going to graduate school. No word on who's getting the beat, but it appears as if Kelsie Smith (fiancee of Chris Snow) is going to get one of the two openings. She's young, but did a bunch of Red Sox coverage the past couple of summers for the Boston Globe as an intern.

    You may recognize Chris Snow as the Boston Globe reporter who the Wild hired as their director of hockey operations last year, although I admittedly had to use Google to double-check that information because of my complete lack of hockey knowledge. I also know nothing of his alleged fiancee, Kelsie Smith, but I'll take my chances that she'll be an improvement over Jason Williams, who for various reasons has become a bit of a whipping boy here over the past year or so.

    I read the Pioneer Press each morning back when I lived in St. Paul and didn't read everything off a computer screen, but now I get about 95 percent of my local newspaper coverage from the Minneapolis Star Tribune. In that sense replacing both baseball writers in the span of about two months probably can't hurt too much--regardless of whether or not you agree with me that the coverage hasn't been all that good--and bringing someone in from a major newspaper like the Boston Globe is a positive step.

    If the Pioneer Press is interested in filling the apparent vacancy in an unconventional way, I could give them some names. If nothing else, the arrival of Smith would bring some much-needed new life to the local newspaper scene and might serve to keep the Official Twins Beat Writer of AG.com, LaVelle E. Neal III, on his toes a little bit. Between the prestigious OTBWoAG.com title, his newfound presence in the blogosphere, and a couple hits in the Twins' media softball game, LEN3 might be getting cocky.

  • I've become a fan of Seattle Times columnist Larry Stone thanks to the boys over at U.S.S. Mariner consistently praising his work, so it was nice to see him pen an article on "the best pitcher in baseball" this week.
  • I had very high hopes for Grant Balfour back when he was coming up through the Twins' minor-league system--and for a while he even lived up to them--so I'm rooting for him to bounce back from a slew of season-wrecking injuries to claim a spot in the Brewers' bullpen this spring.
  • I try not to make a habit of reading Jim Souhan's columns in the Star Tribune, but occasionally can't help myself. His column Sunday didn't do much to change my mind, with his usual assortment of cheesy, forced attempts at humor: "Baseball owners are the kind of people who leave their kids in the car while they gamble at Mystic Lake." Please, somebody give that man a rimshot! Anyway, I was able to keep chugging along until I thankfully got to this interesting quote from Terry Ryan:
    There is no question that if we had not brought up Matt Garza last year, with all of the things that he accomplished in the minors last year, he's a guy everybody would be salivating over.

    Souhan fails to provide much context for that--shocking, I know--but the implication seems to be that Ryan feels Matt Garza's stock dropped because of his 50 innings in Minnesota. If that's the case, it would certainly help explain why the Twins misguidedly felt the need to go out and get both Ramon Ortiz and Sidney Ponson this winter. It would also be a shame, because while Garza was certainly less than outstanding after being called up, he more than held his own after a rough first outing.

  • Here's an amusing note about Luis Castillo from the Star Tribune:
    Castillo learned it was his turn for a physical and wasn't thrilled to learn it meant a rubber-gloved rectal exam. "I think Luis will be fine, but he had a rough day today," [manager Ron] Gardenhire said. "Not normally what we like to see. He was scared to death he was going to get the finger, and I think it totally flabbergasted him."

    The potential for jokes here is so plentiful that I'm going to be an anti-Souhan and just leave it alone.

  • I've gotten a bunch of excited e-mails regarding Jesse Crain's new three-year contract, with many fans incorrectly thinking that the Twins locked Crain up in the same way they did with Joe Mauer last month. However, the Crain deal means almost nothing, because unlike Mauer he wouldn't have been eligible for arbitration until next season anyway. The Twins bought out one of Mauer's free-agent years, but with Crain they just pre-paid for two of his three arbitration-eligible seasons.

    Even when the three-year deal runs out following the 2009 season, the Twins will still have Crain under their control for one more year, his final arbitration-eligible season. In other words, he's still their property through 2010, just like he was before the three-year deal. All this does is give the team some cost certainty and give Crain some insurance in case he suffers a major injury. With that said, it's likely that a healthy Crain would have earned more than $3.25 million over the next three seasons.

  • Over at ESPN.com, Buster Olney recently interviewed Michael Cuddyer. The exchange didn't involve a whole lot of interesting stuff, but there were a few things worth noting. For instance, asked about which hitters made him nervous back when he was a third baseman, Cuddyer joked: "Have you seen my fielding numbers? Everyone made me nervous!" Then, asked about moving from third base to right field, Cuddyer went into a little more depth:
    There are many good things that have occurred because of my move to right field. The obvious and best reason, I guess, is that it has given me the opportunity to play every day at one position without the fear of having to remember to bring my other three gloves (a first baseman's mitt, a third base glove, and a second base glove) down to the field for the game. Because I grew up in the infield and played so long professionally there, I sometimes miss the action that comes with being in the infield. But with the way things have worked out, the positives most definitely outweigh the negatives by a long shot.

    If he weren't quite so diplomatic, Cuddyer likely could have phrased that answer a little differently. For instance: "The obvious and best reason, I guess, is that it stopped the Twins from jerking me around from position to position, and from the lineup to the bench. I'd rather still be in the infield, but at least this way I get consistent at-bats." Of course, maybe having a bunch of different gloves really was the main issue, in which case I'll just shut up now.

  • The Twins opened the spring schedule last night with a 10-inning tie against the Red Sox, as Garza started things with two strong innings (including a strikeout of David Ortiz) and Mauer homered off Julian Tavarez.

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