ARLINGTON — The wait is over.
Byron Buxton, the No. 1 overall prospect according to MLBPipeline.com, will have his contract purchased by the Twins from Double-A Chattanooga before Sunday’s game against the Rangers. The Twins will announce a corresponding roster move on Sunday.
Buxton, 21, was hitting .283/.351/.489 with six homers, seven doubles, 12 triples and 37 RBIs in 59 games at Double-A. He also stole 20 bases in 22 attempts. The center fielder had been on fire recently with a 10-game hitting streak, batting .421/.489/.500 with a double and a triple.
Buxton has stayed healthy this year after missing most of last season with a variety of ailments, including a left sprained wrist, a concussion and a dislocated left finger. He played in just 31 games last season, hitting .234/.307/.395, including just one game at Double-A, as he suffered his concussion in an outfield collision in his first career Double-A game. He also hit .263/.311/.298 in 13 games in the Arizona Fall League before dislocating his finger, which required surgery.
Buxton, the No. 2 overall pick in the 2012 First-Year Player Draft after the Astros selected Carlos Correa, is a career .296/.380/.486 hitter in the Minors with 205 runs, 150 RBIs and 92 stolen bases in 263 games.
The Twins are looking for a spark after struggling so far in June after a strong showing in May. Center fielder Aaron Hicks is sidelined with a sore right elbow that could see him placed on the 15-day disabled list, while Torii Hunter is suspended for Sunday’s game after dropping his appeal of his two-game suspension on Saturday.
MINNEAPOLIS — The Twins placed outfielder Oswaldo Arcia on the 15-day disabled list with a right hip flexor strain on Monday, and recalled fellow outfielder Eddie Rosario from Triple-A Rochester to take Arcia’s place on the roster.
Arcia left Sunday’s game in the fourth inning with what was described as right hip irritation, and the Twins were hopeful Arcia would just be day to day. But Arcia was placed on the DL, giving Rosario his first call-up to the Majors.
Rosario, ranked as Minnesota’s No. 9 prospect by MLB.com, was hitting .242/.280/.379 with three homers, a stolen base and 12 RBIs in 23 games at Triple-A. The former top prospect was suspended 50 games for a drug of abuse last season, and once he returned, he hit .237/.277/.396 in 79 games. But he fared much better in the Arizona Fall League, batting .330/.345/.410 in 24 games.
Rosario, 23, was picked over fellow outfielder Aaron Hicks, who was outperforming him at Triple-A Rochester. Hicks, 25, is batting .289/.375/.494 with two homers, five doubles and three triples in 21 games.
MINNEAPOLIS — Twins right-hander Phil Hughes, who left his start on Wednesday with a minor left hip flexor strain, threw a bullpen session with no issues on Friday and will make his next start on Monday against the A’s.
Hughes left his outing after just five innings, as he said he felt tightness in his hip and it worsened as the game went along. But Hughes was confident it was just a minor injury and after throwing his bullpen on Wednesday, he will make his next start as scheduled.
“He reported he’s ready to pitch on Monday,” Twins manager Paul Molitor said. “That’s obviously good news for us.”
The Twins will also activate right-hander Ricky Nolasco (right elbow inflammation) and left-handed reliever Brian Duensing (right intercostal strain) from the 15-day disabled list on Saturday.
Nolasco will start against the White Sox, while Duensing will head to the bullpen and will likely replace fellow left-hander Caleb Thielbar, who is expected to be optioned to Triple-A Rochester. The roster move for Nolasco is less clear, but the Twins could look to option Michael Tonkin or Ryan Pressly back to Triple-A. Tonkin was called up Thursday with reliever Casey Fien going on the DL with a right shoulder strain, while Pressly was recalled Friday with reliever Tim Stauffer being placed on the DL with a right intercostal strain.
Nolasco threw 67 pitches in a rehab start with Class A Cedar Rapids on Sunday, and is expected to be limited to about 85 pitches on Saturday. But he’s said he’s excited to be back, as he made just one start this year before being placed on the DL.
“I’m just glad to be getting back to normal and to being on my five days,” Nolasco said. “I want to start building on that and start pitching deep into games.”
FORT MYERS, Fla. — A day after struggling with his command, walking four batters in two innings against the Rays, top pitching prospect Alex Meyer was optioned to Triple-A Rochester, the Twins announced Friday.
Meyer, ranked as the No. 30 overall prospect by MLB.com, made three Grapefruit League appearances, posting a 1.59 ERA, but walked seven batters in 5 2/3 innings and admitted on Friday that he’s suffering from issues with his mechanics. With Meyer going to Triple-A, it leaves Tommy Milone, Mike Pelfrey and Trevor May as the three remaining candidates for the fifth spot in the rotation.
“He’s behind quite a few guys so that was a piece,” Twins general manager Terry Ryan said. “We want to make sure we get him consistent work so we’re going to send him over. Hopefully we can get him to settle it down. Yesterday, I was pleased to see him do some damage control because that could’ve got out of whack. It’s obvious he can strike people out but now it’s a matter of not getting into so much trouble.”
Meyer, 25, did show some positives against Tampa Bay after loading the bases, as he was able to get out of the jam after a sacrifice fly and a pair of strikeouts. Meyer has the stuff to be a frontline starter with a fastball that can reach 100 mph and a solid curveball to go along with a developing changeup, but has trouble harnessing it.
“I think we can fix that,” Ryan said. “His mechanics were speed up and he got into some trouble but he got out of the trouble like he can do. He has pitches he can use to get himself out of trouble.”
Meyer, who is one of the tallest pitchers in baseball at 6-foot-9, had a 3.52 ERA in 27 starts with Triple-A Rochester last year, and struck out 153 batters in 130 1/3 innings. But he also walked 64 batters, which led to 4.4 walks per nine innings, which would’ve been the second-worst mark in the Majors last year. So the Twins remain hopeful he can refine his command at Triple-A before making his highly anticipated big league debut.
“With those types of pitches, it’s hard to argue against him,” Ryan said. “But we all know there are guys where it takes a little more time than others and he’s one of them. Mechanically, he’s a big man with a lot of moving parts. I don’t want to harp on that too much, though, because he’s a pretty good athlete for his size.”
FORT MYERS, Fla. — The Twins are among the last teams to report for Spring Training, as pitchers and catchers don’t report to the CenturyLink Sports Complex until Sunday.
Sunday also marks the grand opening of the renovated CenturyLink Sports Complex, which underwent a $48.5 million facelift. It’s essentially the completion of the second phase of the project, as several additions were also made last year such as the boardwalk in the outfield and the creation of a player development academy on the Spring Training site.
The second phase more than doubled the size of the concourses while adding new concessions, upgraded restroom facilities and a new retail store for fans. The suites, offices and pressbox at Hammond Stadium were also updated. And the player development academy, which was still under construction last spring, is now completed.
Look for a full story and video of all of the renovations on Sunday, but for now, here are some photos:
SAN DIEGO — The Twins got their man on the last day of the Winter Meetings on Thursday, as they agreed to sign right-hander Ervin Santana to a four-year, $54 million deal, according to a Major League source.
The Twins met with Santana’s representatives in San Diego on Wednesday, and pushed hard over the last 24 hours to sign the right-hander. Santana helps bolster a rotation that finished with the worst ERA in the Majors for a second straight season. Santana is set to make $13.5 million per season over the next four years, according to a source. It’s a similar deal to the Twins signing Ricky Nolasco to a four-year, $49 million deal with an option last offseason.
Santana, 31, went 14-10 with a 3.95 ERA in 31 starts with the Braves last year. He struck out 179, walked 63 and gave up 16 homers in 196 innings.
It marked the fifth straight year Santana made at least 30 starts, but Santana missed reaching the 200-inning mark for just the second time over his last five seasons. He has a career 4.17 ERA with 1,507 strikeouts in 1,882 2/3 innings with the Angels, Royals and Braves.
The interest in Santana is nothing new for the Twins, who offered the right-hander a three-year, $33 million deal last offseason. But Santana ultimately spurned the Twins, opting to sign with the Braves on a one-year, $14.1 million deal to re-establish his value on the market.
MINNEAPOLIS — Torii Hunter is coming home.
The 39-year-old outfielder has agreed to a one-year, $10.5-million contract with the Twins, two Major League sources confirmed Tuesday night. The Twins, however, haven’t confirmed and haven’t made an official announcement, as the deal is still pending a physical.
Hunter played the first 11 years of his career with the Twins, who drafted him in the first round in the 1993 First-Year Player Draft. He won seven Gold Glove Awards and made two All-Star appearances in his first stint with the club. He hit .271/.324/.469 with 192 homers, 259 doubles and 126 stolen bases in 1,234 career games with the Twins.
Hunter left Minnesota in 2008 to sign with the Angels before playing the last two seasons with the Tigers in chase of his first World Series title. He’s five-time All-Star who won nine straight Gold Glove Awards from 2001-09 and won Silver Slugger Awards in ’09 and ‘13.
Hunter hit .286/.319/.446 with 17 home runs last season and is a .279/.334/.446 career hitter in 18 Major League seasons.
Hunter will start in right field for the Twins in 2015, as Oswaldo Arcia will move over from right field to left field. Hunter moved off center field to right field during the 2010 season while with the Angels.
Hunter will bring the Twins much-needed power from the right side after the departure of Josh Willingham, but will also serve as a clubhouse leader and mentor to the club’s younger players. Hunter is known as one of the best clubhouse presences in baseball and is very familiar with new manager Paul Molitor.
Hunter was a teammate of new Twins manager Paul Molitor in ’97 and ’98, although Hunter only played in a combined eight games those two years. But Molitor was also around Hunter while serving as Minnesota’s bench coach in 2000 and ’01. Hunter was also a teammate of new Twins bullpen coach Eddie Guardado from 1997-2003 and both represented the Twins as All-Stars in ’02.
The Twins had been in contact with Torii Hunter’s agent, Larry Reynolds, since early this offseason, but the question was whether Hunter wanted to play for a club that has lost at least 92 games in each of the last four seasons. But Hunter chose the Twins over the Rangers, as Minnesota outbid Texas for Hunter, according to a report from Foxsports.com.
MINNEAPOLIS — The Twins made it official, as Paul Molitor will be introduced as the club’s new manager on Tuesday in a press conference at Target Field.
Molitor, 58, was considered the front-runner for the position since the Twins dismissed Ron Gardenhire as manager on Sept. 29. The Hall of Famer signed a three-year deal to become the 13th manager in Minnesota Twins history and just the third since Tom Kelly took over for Ray Miller in 1986.
Twins general manager Terry Ryan, who conducted the search for the new manager, will attend Tuesday’s press conference along with owner Jim Pohlad, club president Dave St. Peter and Molitor.
Molitor served as a coach for the club last season and is familiar with the club after serving as Minnesota’s Minor League baserunning and infield coordinator from 2005-13. Molitor also had that role with the Twins in ’03 before joining the Mariners as a hitting coach in ’04. He also finished as runner-up the last time the Twins hired a manager, when Gardenhire was picked as Kelly’s successor in ‘02. Molitor was also Minnesota’s bench coach from 2000-01.
He will join the Cardinals’ Mike Matheny, the Dodgers’ Don Mattingly, the White Sox Robin Ventura, the Rockies’ Walt Weiss and John Farrell — with the Blue Jays before winning the World Series as Red Sox skipper — as recent MLB hires with no prior managerial experience. Molitor, though, assisted with in-game strategy last season before serving as first-base coach after the All-Star break, when Joe Vavra was moved off his role as third-base coach after undergoing hip surgery.
Molitor, a St. Paul native, played 21 seasons in the Majors, including his final three with Minnesota from 1996-98. He finished his career with a .306/.369/.448 slash line with 3,319 hits in 2,683 games.
The Twins had at least two formal interviews with Molitor and also had two interviews with Red Sox bench coach Torey Lovullo and Class A Advanced Fort Myers manager Doug Mientkiewicz. Minnesota also interviewed White Sox third-base coach Joe McEwing, Indians bench coach Sandy Alomar Jr. and Blue Jays bench coach DeMarlo Hale for the position. The Twins also contacted Chip Hale before he was named the D-backs’ manager.
Molitor will also join Ted Williams and Ryne Sandberg as only the third man to begin his big league managerial career following his Hall of Fame induction as a player. Williams was hired as manager of the Washington Senators in 1969, three years after he was enshrined in Cooperstown. Sandberg, elected to the Hall in 2005, began managing the Phillies in August 2013.
While Molitor is in rare company with Williams and Sandberg, there have been several eventual Hall of Famers who started managing before they became eligible, which takes until at least five years after the end of one’s playing career. That group includes Yogi Berra (hired by the Yankees in 1964, elected to the Hall in 1972), Bob Lemon (Royals 1970, 1976), Eddie Mathews (Braves 1972, 1978) Tony Perez (Reds 1993, 2000), Frank Robinson (Indians 1975, 1982) and Red Schoendienst (Cardinals 1965, 1989).
It should also be noted that the Hall did not induct its first class until 1936, which means there is a long list of players-turned-managers who went on to be elected to Cooperstown. That list includes baseball legends such as Ty Cobb, Eddie Collins, Walter Johnson, Rogers Hornsby, Christy Mathewson and Tris Speaker.
DETROIT — After Phil Hughes fell just one out short of reaching a $500,000 bonus for reaching 210 innings on the season because of a rain delay on Wednesday, the Twins offered him an opportunity to pitch in relief this weekend to reach the bonus, but he declined citing the health risks involved.
Hughes was at 96 pitches through eight innings against the D-backs and needed just one out in the ninth to reach 210 innings to get a $500,000 bonus. He would’ve gone back out for the final inning, but a 66-minute rain delay cost him the chance to reach that mark.
So Twins manager Ron Gardenhire and general manager Terry Ryan called Hughes into the manager’s office at Comerica Park before Thursday’s game to tell him he could pitch in relief this weekend. But Hughes didn’t take long to come to a decision, despite the amount of money involved.
“They extended the offer for me to pitch in the bullpen but I just didn’t think it was right,” Hughes said. “If I were fighting for a playoff spot, I’d 100 percent be available. But given the circumstances, I don’t think it’s the right thing to do.”
Hughes, who signed a three-year, $24 million deal before the year, already reached a pair of $250,000 bonuses for reaching 180 and 195 innings. His previous career-high was 191 1/3 innings set in 2012 while with the Yankees.
It wasn’t just rain on Wednesday that cost Hughes a chance at going more than 210 innings, as he saw his scheduled start on Sept. 12 pushed back a day due to a rainout or else he would’ve started in the season finale on Sunday.
“I owe too much to this organization for the next two years to risk getting hurt for an incentive,” Hughes said. “My outing [Sept. 12] got rained out and the last inning of my last start got rained out, so for whatever reason it wasn’t meant to be. There’s a lot bigger problems out there. I’m proud of my season.”
Twins general manager Terry Ryan said he believed it was the right thing for the organization to do because the weather played a factor and because of the way Hughes pitched this season. He also added the Twins can’t just give him the $500,000 bonus because of the rules of the contract.
“You’d have to restructure things,” Ryan said. “So it’s a little more complicated than meets the eye there.”
Ryan also said the signing couldn’t have worked out any better for the Twins and praised Hughes’ character for making his decision.
“He’s a good man,” Ryan said. “He’s done a wonderful job for us. This guy is a quality guy.”
Now that Hughes’ season is official done, he set Major League Baseball’s single-season strikeout-to-walk ratio record. Hughes struck out 186 batters and walked just 16 on the season for an 11.63 strikeout-to-walk ratio to break Bret Saberhagen’s record of 11.00 strikeouts per walk set in 1994.
If Hughes were to walk one more batter, he would fall below Saberhagen’s mark. Instead, Hughes finishes with as many wins as walks with 16 each, becoming just the third pitcher in the modern era to accomplish that feat with at least 15 wins. He also finished with a 3.52 ERA.
Hughes also wanted to thank the fans for their support, as many took to social media to tell him he deserved the $500,000 bonus. He joked that it’s not often fans want players to be paid more, but said he’s comfortable with the decision he made.
“That was very kind of them to appreciate what I’ve done this year,” Hughes said. “If I would’ve reached this milestone over the course of my 32 starts, then so be it. But I didn’t, so it is what it is.”
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OAKLAND — The wait is over.
Top prospect Trevor May is set to make his Major League debut for the Twins on Saturday against the A’s. The right-hander will be recalled from Triple-A Rochester to make his first big league start, and a corresponding roster move will come after Friday’s game.
May, ranked as the club’s No. 8 prospect by MLB.com, posted a 2.93 ERA in 17 starts with Rochester. He struck out 91, walked 37 and allowed four homers in 95 1/3 innings. May’s 2.93 ERA ranked fourth in the International League.
May had a chance to make his debut earlier this season, but missed nearly a month with a right calf strain sustained in late June. The injury also kept him from participating in the Sirius/XM Futures Game at Target Field on July 13.
May, along with fellow top prospect Alex Meyer, helped anchor the rotation at Rochester and cut down on his walk rate, which had plagued him in the past.
He’s always had a power arm — he’s struck out 10.5 batters per nine innings throughout his seven seasons in the Minors — but has suffered from control issues. But he’s cut his walk rate in three straight seasons, going from 4.7 walks per nine innings in ’12 to 4.0 last year and 3.5 this season.
May, 24, was originally acquired by the Twins before the ’13 season in the trade that sent Ben Revere to the Phillies. May, who will wear No. 65, was already on the 40-man roster.