February 2012

Day 4 of pitchers and catchers working out

FORT MYERS, Fla. — Two more Twins showed up to camp today, as Josh Willingham and Sean Burroughs made their first appearances at the Lee County Sports Complex.

With Willingham and Burroughs in camp, only first baseman Justin Morneau and outfielder Oswaldo Arcia have yet to show before tomorrow’s official report date. Full workouts officially begin for position players on Friday.

Willingham said he’s excited to start working out with his new teammates, and needs Spring Training to help him adjust from the move from left field to right field.

And Burroughs’ road back to the Majors last year has been well-documented after battling substance abuse the previous few years. Here’s the full story on Burroughs on Twinsbaseball.com.

In other news, Luke Hughes received a positive update, as a second opinion by Dr. Lewis Yocum on an MRI exam taken on Hughes’ strained right shoulder found only inflammation. He had a cortisone shot today, and is expected to rest for a few days before returning to baseball activity next week.

Some other tidbits from today:

- Denard Span got through a second day of working out — taking BP, shagging fly balls and running the bases — without any problems.

- Twins GM Terry Ryan had lots of positive things to say about former Reds right-hander Jared Burton. Burton used to be Cincinnati’s eighth-inning guy before battling through various injuries over the last few seasons. But assistant GM Wayne Krivsky, who originally acquired Burton back when he was GM of the Reds, said that Burton ended last season healthy and productive.

- Twins manager Ron Gardenhire brought up former Pirates prospect Steve Pearce as a guy to watch for this spring. Pearce, who can play first base and outfield, has plenty of raw power and owns a career .835 OPS in Triple-A.

- Gardenhire said he plans on using Ryan Doumit as his primary DH this season with Joe Mauer and Justin Morneau also expected to get occasional starts there.

And here some photos from today:

Day 3 of pitchers and catchers working out

FORT MYERS, Fla. — The big news today was Denard Span making his first appearance at camp, and getting through a full day of workouts.

The center fielder took batting practice, ran the bases and shagged balls in the outfield without any issues.

He said he’s still bothered by the occasional bad day, but thinks he’s over the concussion-like symptoms that stemmed from his concussion suffered on June 3 in a home-plate collision. So be on the lookout for a full Denard Span story on the site later today.

And with Span at camp, only four Twins players — Justin Morneau, Josh Willingham, Oswaldo Arcia and Sean Burroughs — have yet to report prior to Thursday’s official report date. I’ve also heard that Willingham is expected to get into town tonight and report tomorrow.

Speaking of Morneau, Twins general manager Terry Ryan said he needs to be medically cleared by Major League Baseball because he ended last season on the disabled list with concussion-like symptoms. But it’s expected to be more than a formality than anything else because Morneau is feeling good and hasn’t felt those symptoms since December.

Other than that, it was a relatively quiet day at Twins camp. But are a few other notes from today:

- Twins manager Ron Gardenhire wouldn’t confirm that he’ll carry three catchers to start the season, but hinted strongly that’s the way he’s leaning. Drew Butera remains the favorite but should be pushed by former Astros top prospect J.R. Towles.

- The Twins are still waiting on Dr. Lewis Yocum to look at the MRI exam results taken on Luke Hughes’ sprained right shoulder. They could hear back by tomorrow.

- Shortstop Brian Dozier still has his cut left thumb wrapped up, but is able to swing the bat.

- Gardenhire talked about the stability he expects from Jamie Carroll at shortstop this season. He said he was never in favor of sending Jason Bartlett to the Rays in ’07 in the trade that brought Delmon Young to Minnesota. Also, he added that he wasn’t happy with the decision to not bring back Nick Punto last offseason. But he was happy to see him win the World Series with the Cardinals, and texted him shortly after the Fall Classic to congratulate him.

And here are today’s photos:

And a short video of Span taking batting practice:

Day 2 of pitchers and catchers working out

FORT MYERS, Fla. — The Twins held their second day of workouts between pitchers and catchers on Monday with roughly the same schedule as yesterday.

Most of the pitchers on the roster threw off the mound, including left-hander Francisco Liriano, who tossed his first official bullpen of Spring Training. He tossed more than 50 pitches — throwing his fastball, slider and changeup — and said he was throwing at about 80-85 percent.

Joe Mauer also was behind the plate for drills, and caught nearly 90 pitches in bullpen sessions with Scott Baker and Brendan Wise. Mauer and the other seven catchers also took batting practice for the second straight day.

Several position players also showed up to camp today such as outfielders Ben Revere and Rene Tosoni. Infielder Tsuyoshi Nishioka also made an appearance and took some swings in the batting cage.

By my count only four position players on the 40-man roster aren’t here yet — Justin Morneau, Denard Span, Josh Willingham and Oswaldo Arcia. Position players are scheduled to report on Thursday with workouts starting on Friday.

The Twins also announced they are hosting a “B” game against the Red Sox on March 1 at 1 p.m. at Hammond Stadium. They’re also working on adding another one because they have 33 pitchers in camp.

Other notes from Day 2:

- Nick Blackburn said his right forearm is a non-issue and that he doesn’t have any restrictions this spring. He had surgery on Oct. 1 to decompress the radial nerve in his right forearm.

- Shortstop Brian Dozier took some swings today after suffering a cut on his left hand and reported no problems.

- Infielder Luke Hughes, who suffered a right shoulder sprain in Australia, had his MRI exam results sent to a doctor for a second opinion. The Twins will hear more tomorrow.

And here are some pictures from today’s workout:

Twins officially begin Spring Training workouts

FORT MYERS, Fla. — The Twins held their first official workout of Spring Training today, as pitchers and catchers performed a variety of drills at the Lee County Sports Complex.

The day started with the eight catchers on the roster meeting with Twins manager Ron Gardenhire before the pitchers worked on fielding practice on two different fields. All of the 33 pitchers invited to camp also threw off the mound in the bullpen. And the catchers finished the day by taking batting practice.

“A lot of people, a lot of bodies, a lot of pitchers,” Gardenhire said. “Good participation, everybody was running around. I didn’t go down and see the position players down on the other fields, but they looked like they were doing their thing, and the pitchers were all into it, so it’s just always nice to get back out on the baseball field.”

Other notes from today’s action:

- Joe Mauer got through the day just fine, as he worked with pitchers while they participated in fielding drills, caught about 90 pitches in bullpen sessions with Carlos Gutierrez, Brendan Wise and Jason Marquis and took batting practice.

- Twins GM Terry Ryan said that none of the 33 pitchers in camp have any health problems that will limit them in camp. Right-hander Joel Zumaya will be monitored closely after missing all of last year after undergoing elbow surgery, but threw 40 pitches in a bullpen session without any problems.

- Shortstop Brian Dozier is day to day after cutting his left hand, and is restricted from swinging for the next few days. Infielder Luke Hughes (shoulder) likely won’t start swinging the bat until next week.

- The Twins announced a new policy this season, as all injury updates will come from general manager Terry Ryan or assistant general manager Rob Antony instead of manager Ron Gardenhire.

And here are a bunch of photo’s from today’s first official workout:

Mauer set to catch in Sunday’s first workout

FORT MYERS, Fla. — Spring Training officially started for the Twins today, with 41 pitchers and catchers reporting to the Lee County Sports Complex.

Several pitchers participated in light workouts such as Glen Perkins, Scott Baker, Brian Duensing, Nick Blackburn, Carl Pavano, Matt Capps and Jason Marquis, but the Twins don’t hold their first official workout until tomorrow morning.

The first workout begins at 8:30 a.m. ET, with catchers going over signs with manager Ron Gardenhire. Later in the morning, pitchers are scheduled to work out and throw bullpen sessions with the eight catchers invited to camp — Joe Mauer, Ryan Doumit, Drew Butera, Chris Herrmann, Danny Lehmann, Dan Rohlfing, J.R. Towles and Rene Rivera

Mauer is expected to be in full gear, which is a change from last year, when he didn’t start catching until early March because he had offseason surgery on his left knee.

“I’ve been catching a little bit,” Mauer said. “It’ll be good to get the gear back on, running around with the guys. I caught Baker a little bit the other day. I try to limit as much bending down as I can, but I’m feeling good and I’m ready to go.”

Other notes from today:
– Capps and his wife, Jennifer, welcomed a new addition to the family on Feb. 8, as she gave birth to a baby boy named Maxwell Martin Capps. Maxwell weighed 8 pounds, 9 ounces.

- Baker said his right elbow is a “non-issue” and is fully healthy headed into camp. He said coming back to pitch in relief at the end the season helped him get into a normal offseason routine.

- I still haven’t seen Francisco Liriano at Hammond Stadium, but I’m told he’ll be here for tomorrow’s official workout.

- Look for a full notebook later today. For now, here’s the full story on the pitchers and catchers officially reporting.

Twins’ 25-man roster breakdown/predictions

FORT MYERS, Fla. — Spring Training officially kicks off for the Twins on Saturday with pitchers and catchers reporting to the Lee County Sports Complex in Fort Myers.

Altogether, 66 players will be in big league camp with the Twins, and only 25 will be making the trip north once camp breaks on April 4.

Some players are assured to be on the Opening Day roster, but like every Spring Training, others are fighting for the chance to make the club.

It’s obviously still too early to make any definitive judgments on how the roster will shake out, but here are my predictions a day before pitchers and catchers report:

ROTATION

Locks: Carl Pavano, Francisco Liriano (L), Scott Baker, Nick Blackburn and Jason Marquis
Spots open: None
Situation: The Twins appear set with their rotation, as left-hander Brian Duensing is heading to the bullpen after the club signed Marquis this offseason. Everyone but Pavano dealt with injuries last season, but all head into camp healthy. Right-hander Liam Hendricks and left-hander Scott Diamond are likely to start the year at Triple-A Rochester.

BULLPEN

Locks: Matt Capps (CL), Glen Perkins (L), Brian Duensing (L) and Joel Zumaya
Spots open: Three
Prediction: Anthony Swarzak, Alex Burnett and Terry Doyle
Other candidates: Jason Bulger, Jared Burton, Scott Diamond, Phil Dumatrait (L), Jeff Gray, Matt Maloney (L), Jeff Manship, Lester Oliveros, Esmerling Vasquez and Kyle Waldrop.
Situation: The bullpen competition could get interesting, but Swarzak is likely to make the club given his success last year and the fact he’s out of Minor League options. The Twins also like Burnett’s potential despite the fact he posted a 5.51 ERA in 50 2/3 innings in ’11. Doyle, a Rule 5 Draft pick from the White Sox, would have to be offered back to Chicago if he doesn’t make the team out of camp. But keep an eye out on Gray and non-roster invitees Burton and Bulger. It’s also worth noting that Gray and Maloney are out of options.

CATCHER

Locks: Joe Mauer, Ryan Doumit
Spots open: One
Candidates: Drew Butera and J.R. Towles
Prediction: Butera
Situation: The Twins are going to keep three catchers considering Mauer caught just 52 games and Doumit caught just 60. Butera is the most likely to be that third backstop given his experience with Twins pitchers and the defense he brings behind the plate. But he did hit just .167 last year, and will be pushed by Towles, who has a career .286/.389/.443 line at Triple-A but just a .187/.267/.315 line in 484 big league plate appearances.

INFIELD

Locks: Justin Morneau, Alexi Casilla, Jamey Carroll, Danny Valencia
Spots open: One or two
Candidates: Tsuyoshi Nishioka, Luke Hughes, Chris Parmelee, Brian Dozier
Prediction: Nishioka, Hughes
Situation: The Twins might keep just one backup infielder, and if that’s the case, I believe Nishioka is the favorite because of his ability to play both shortstop and second base. But Hughes is out of options, so I think the Twins will give him another chance as long as he’s healed from the right shoulder injury he suffered in Australia. But it’s an important spring for both Nishioka and Hughes. And Parmelee and Dozier should called up at some point this year, even though they’re expected to start the year in the Minors.

OUTFIELD

Locks: Josh Willingham, Denard Span, Ben Revere, Trevor Plouffe
Spots open: One or none
Candidates: Rene Tosoni, Joe Benson, Darin Mastroianni
Prediction: No open spot
Situation: If the Twins decide to keep just one backup infielder, Tosoni would be the top candidate to make the club as a fifth outfielder. But I think the Twins are more likely to go with two backup infielders considering Doumit’s ability to play some right field. It’ll be interesting to see how Plouffe handles the transition to the outfield, and how much playing time he’ll get in the infield as the club’s utility player. Benson is an intriguing candidate, but needs more seasoning, as he’s yet to play at Triple-A.

Welcome from Hammond Stadium

FORT MYERS, Fla. — I just arrived in Fort Myers last night, and headed over to the Twins’ Spring Training complex this morning on the day before pitchers and catchers officially report.

A slew of pitchers threw off the mound today, including Scott Baker, Alex Burnett, David Bromberg, Scott Diamond, Anthony Swarzak, Liam Hendriks, Jason Bulger, Jared Burton, Jeff Manship and Hudson Boyd. And catchers Drew Butera, J.R. Towles, Chris Herrmann and Danny Lehmann also got some work in behind the plate.

Several infielders also took infield and batting practice such as Chris Parmelee, Aaron Bates and Ray Chang. Luke Hughes, who is recovering from a sprained right shoulder, also got in on the action, catching some throws at first base.

Left-hander Glen Perkins didn’t throw off the mound but did some long toss with Baker on the practice field. Other players showed up at the complex today, including Jamey Carroll, Alexi Casilla, Matt Capps and Brian Dozier.

It was a fairly informal workout, but things should ramp up once the club hosts their first official pitchers and catchers workout on Sunday.

One thing to look out for this Spring Training is much more coverage on the blog, as I plan on doing daily updates once Grapefruit League play begins and will be posting plenty of photos (and hopefully videos, too).

So for now, here are a few photos I took today:

Aaron Bates taking BP

Aaron Bates taking BP

Scott Diamond, Jason Bulger, Anthony Swarzak, Liam Hendriks and Hudson Boyd throwing bullpen

Scott Diamond, Jason Bulger, Anthony Swarzak, Liam Hendriks and Hudson Boyd throwing bullpen

Hammond Stadium

Hammond Stadium

Field at Hammond Stadium

Field at Hammond Stadium

Field at Hammond Stadium

Outfield at Hammond Stadium

View of pressbox at Hammond

View of pressbox at Hammond

View of infield at Hammond Stadium

View of infield at Hammond Stadium

Practice fields at complex

Practice fields at complex

Practice Field No. 5

Practice Field No. 5

Twins, Casilla avoid arbitration

MINNNEAPOLIS — The Twins agreed to terms with Alexi Casilla on a one-year contract worth $1,382,500 to avoid arbitration, the club announced today.

Casilla, 27, filed his arbitration figure at $1.75 million, while the Twins offered $1.065 million, meaning Casilla settled $25,000 below the midpoint to avoid an arbitration hearing.

Casilla, who batted .260 with a .322 on-base percentage and .368 slugging percentage in 97 games in 2011, made $865,000 last year. He missed 57 of the Twins’ final 58 games because of a strained right hamstring

After the season, Casilla also hit .336 with an .831 OPS during 31 regular season games for Gigantes del Cibao in the Dominican Winter League before hitting .397 with a .946 OPS in 17 playoff games.

Casilla was the last of the club’s three arbitration-eligible players to avoid arbitration. The Twins avoided arbitration with left-handers Francisco Liriano and Glen Perkins by signing them to one-year deals worth $5.5 million and $1.55 million, respectively, on Jan. 17.

The Twins have avoided arbitration hearings in recent years, as they haven’t gone to an arbitration hearing with a player since 2006, with Kyle Lohse.

Twins claim Mastroianni off waivers

MINNEAPOLIS — The Twins claimed outfielder Darin Mastroianni off waivers from the Blue Jays, the club announced today.

Mastroianni, 26, was designated for assignment by Toronto last week to make room on their roster for reliever Francisco Cordero.

He made his Major League debut last season, going 0-for-3 against the Royals on Aug. 24. It was his only big league appearance, as he spent most of the year split between Double-A New Hampshire and Triple-A Las Vegas.

He combined to hit .268 with a .353 on-base percentage and .377 slugging percentage with three homers, nine triples, 26 doubles and 34 stolen bases in 123 games in the Minors last year.

His best season came in ’10, when he led the Double-A Eastern League in stolen bases with 46, tied for the lead league in hits with 156 and was second in runs with 104 and walks with 77.

Mastroianni, who was selected by the Blue Jays in the 16th-round of 2007 First-Year Player Draft, has a career .279/.370/.372 line in four Minor League seasons. He’s served mostly as a center fielder in the Minors with 377 games played there, while he’s played 78 games in left field and four games in right field. He also played 63 games at second base in ‘07.

Update: I just got word that right-handed reliever Esmerling Vasquez was designated for assignment to make room for Mastroianni on the 40-man roster. Vasquez was claimed off waivers from the D-backs on Sept. 27 but never made an appearance with the club. The Twins have 10 days to trade Vasquez, release him or pass him through waivers.

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