March 21, 2007

Twins Notes

  • UPDATE: LaVelle E. Neal III reports that Joe Mauer has a potentially serious leg injury:

    Twins catcher Joe Mauer has been diagnosed with a stress reaction in his left fibula. He will be treated with a bone stimulator and physical therapy and will be re-evaluated on Sunday.

    Mauer came to the ballpark today complaining of soreness in the leg. An MRI was taken, which revealed the stress reaction.

    A stress reaction is considered a precursor to a stress fracture. The Twins say they are optimistic that the condition was diagnosed early enough to keep it from becoming a serious long-term problem.

    I'll try to post most details as they become available, but ... well, I guess it's not worth getting worked up over quite yet.

  • UPDATE #2: Two people with knowledge of the situation have contacted me to say that the Twins think Mauer will be able to avoid being sidelined for a significant length of time and may actually be in the Opening Day lineup. So, for now at least, disaster averted.
  • It's early yet, but Jason Williams' replacement at the St. Paul Pioneer Press, Kelsie Smith, has been pumping out some good articles. Among them is a well-written piece that looks at the early stages of Francisco Liriano's lengthy comeback from Tommy John surgery, including how things might change once his elbow allows him to begin throwing again:

    Once Liriano gets back on the mound, [pitching coach Rick] Anderson said they would work to smooth out his delivery. "We'll make some adjustments to keep him (facing) the catcher more instead of being violent and falling off (the mound)," Anderson said. "If anything is good about this, it's that he's starting over with his delivery."

    Liriano said he's not going to "put away" the wicked slider ... "I'm going to throw my slider, too, you know," Liriano said, "but I'm going to throw more of my changeup, my two-seamer."

    Last season, Liriano hesitated in telling manager Ron Gardenhire when his elbow was bothering him. He said he's learned now that it's more important to be honest. "I'm more open this year," Liriano said. "Last year, that was my first year, I wanted to pitch, make sure that I was going to be up the whole year with a major league team. I thought if I got hurt they might send me down to Triple-A."

  • Between Smith's solid start on the Twins beat and the Pioneer Press' long-overdue website redesign, it's been a good week for the Twin Cities' "other" newspaper.

  • The source of Alejandro Machado's ongoing shoulder problems was found to be a partially torn labrum that will sideline him well into the season and may require surgery. Machado is a Rule 5 pick, which means the Twins have to offer him back to the Nationals if they fail to keep him on the major-league roster for the entire season, but the injury allows them to stash him on the disabled list and buy some additional time to make a decision.

    Between the natural amount of time needed for Machado's shoulder to heal up and the long and leisurely minor-league rehab assignment the Twins could send him on once he's reasonably healthy, the team could put off a decision for most of the year. Of course, while that makes it a little easier to keep Machado in the organization long term, it also means the Twins are without a backup middle infielder right now.

    Thankfully, Ron Gardenhire appears to have softened on his initial stance about Nick Punto sticking solely to third base, indicating that he'd be willing to use Punto to back up Jason Bartlett at shortstop if necessary. Not only is that an obvious, reasonable solution, it would allow the Twins to keep Jeff Cirillo and Luis Rodriguez as the backup infielders despite the fact that neither of them can handle shortstop.

  • With Machado out of the picture there was briefly talk of keeping Alexi Casilla as a backup, but the Twins smartly realized that would waste development and service time. While interviewing Gardenhire at the Winter Meetings in December, I asked if Casilla "would be the guy coming up if there was an injury to an infielder." Gardenhire said Casilla "impressed the heck out of us" and "would probably be first in line." Asked a similar question by a real reporter this week, Gardenhire gave the same answer:

    Casilla is one of those guys that if something happened to one of my infielders after the season starts, and it's for an extended period, he's the guy I'd want out there playing.

    I suspect that both Gardenhire and Terry Ryan would ideally like to be able to keep Casilla at Triple-A until September, before handing him the starting job at second base next spring following Luis Castillo's departure. Assuming Bartlett and Castillo can stay relatively healthy, it's a plan that should work as long as Gardenhire is willing to take advantage of Punto's defensive versatility.

  • Apparently Sidney Ponson's relationship with the Baltimore media while playing for the Orioles was pretty horrible, because plenty of ugliness on both sides was documented by various newspapers when Ponson pitched against his former team last week. For instance, here's how the Baltimore Sun's Dan Connolly began a column about Ponson:

    Different uniform and different hairstyle. Same old Sidney Ponson.

    The Prodigal Right-hander was back at Fort Lauderdale Stadium yesterday, happily greeting old teammates, taking jabs at Orioles fans and stiffing the Baltimore media. It was like old times, except he now has a thick dark mullet, wears the Minnesota Twins stripes and hasn't posed for a mug shot in months.

    It's interesting to note than Ponson appears to have a good relationship with Joe Christensen, who covered Ponson in Baltimore before joining the Minneapolis Star Tribune last year. More importantly, Ponson appears to have secured the final spot in the Twins' starting rotation, predictably beating out Matt Garza and Glen Perkins. In other words, as I've been fearing all offseason, the Twins will pay $9 million and give 60 percent of their starts to a trio of pitchers who combined for a 5.84 ERA last season.

    Even Baby Dash can see the problem with that.

  • Justin Morneau and the Twins have ended contract negotiations without agreeing to a long-term deal. Morneau reportedly turned down a deal that was similar to the four-year, $33 million contract that Joe Mauer agreed to this offseason, but doesn't seem overly upset about it: "Oh, well. I'll just have a good year and we'll try to get something done next year." Because of Morneau's service time, he won't be eligible for free agency until after the 2010 season anyway, which means a four-year deal would have simply given the Twins some cost certainty.
  • A quick update on two former Twins: Willie Eyre was sent to Triple-A by the Rangers and Cristian Guzman is still fighting his way back from shoulder problems with the Nationals.
  • As part of their ongoing team-by-team season previews, I appeared on Baseball Prospectus Radio to discuss the Twins with Will Carroll. Click here to listen to what is, I think, the first over-the-phone radio interview I've ever agreed to do.
  • Friend of Tom Tango is running "community forecasts" to see if the "wisdom of crowds" can out-perform various projection systems when it comes to predicting how players will fare this season. He's specifically looking for some hardcore Twins fans to share their predictions, so go check it out.

  • No Comments

    No comments yet.

    Sorry, the comment form is closed at this time.