July 2012

Twins don’t make any moves on Trade Deadline day

MINNEAPOLIS — Baseball’s Trade Deadline passed on Tuesday with the Twins opting not to make another trade after dealing left-hander Francisco Liriano to the White Sox for infielder Eduardo Escobar and left-hander Pedro Hernandez late Saturday night.

Clubs had interest in first baseman Justin Morneau, outfielders Denard Span and Josh Willingham and relievers Glen Perkins and Jared Burton but general manager Terry Ryan never received a good enough offer to pull the trigger.

Ryan, though, said he was fine not dealing any of those players before the 3 p.m. CT deadline. They’re all under contract through at least next year, including Burton who is eligible for salary arbitration after the season.

“I’d be more disappointed if we made a bad trade,” Ryan said. “I wouldn’t want to do that, either, just to make a trade, I don’t think that’s right. I think any organization could make a trade today, but if you don’t feel good about it I think you better not do that. Because you have ample opportunity to do so in the future if you so desire if you just want to make a trade. But I didn’t feel comfortable about doing anything.”

It doesn’t mean there weren’t rumors surrounding the Twins on Trade Deadline day, as several reports indicated the Reds were talking to the Twins about Span.

One report even said that Span rejected a trade to Cincinnati, which was false, as Span confirmed he doesn’t even have a no-trade clause in his contract that runs through ’14 with an option for ’15.

“I don’t have a no-trade clause,” Span said. “It was just crazy, man. This is the second year in a row I’ve had to sweat this thing out to the last minute with something bogus happening. Last year, when going to Washington was a done deal, and now me rejecting a trade. It’s definitely been entertaining and an interesting two years for me this deadline.”

Ryan added that he was never close to dealing Span, and strongly hinted that other players drew even more interest than the speedy center fielder.

“I don’t know about that, the subject of him being the most-talked about,” Ryan said. “I don’t really think that was accurate. For some reason his name was out there out front in this organization but I can tell you that there were other people that probably were more so than that.”

Morneau, who is due $14 million next season in the last year of a six-year, $80 million deal, drew interest from several clubs but the Twins didn’t want to part with one of the faces of their franchise.

And Willingham, who signed a three-year, $21 million deal before the season, also drew interest but the Twins wanted a big return considering his affordable contract and his production this season.

Clubs also made late pushes for Perkins and Burton, according to reports, but Perkins just signed a three-year deal before the season and Burton still has another year of club control.

Ryan wouldn’t say how close he got to dealing any of those players but did confirm that he was looking for starting pitching in any deal.

“I would say that’s a desirable piece to this organization,” Ryan said. “It’s difficult to come out with starting pitching, especially the younger controllable-type guys that organizations covet, where they have control. That’s exactly the types of people we were looking to bring back in any sort of deal, and we just couldn’t get what we were looking for today.”

The Twins, though, might not be done dealing, as they could make moves in August.

Now that the non-waiver trade deadline has passed, deals involving players on the 40-man roster cannot be made unless the players already have cleared waivers. In other words, the player must be offered to the other teams in reverse order of the standings, and if he is claimed by one of the teams, he cannot be traded. The club that placed the player on waivers can either withdraw the request and keep the player, or let the player go to the claiming team, which would then have the rights to the player.

Two players who could draw interest if they return to form and prove to be healthy are closer Matt Capps and right-hander Carl Pavano. Both veterans are currently on the disabled list and are eligible for free agency after the season.

Ryan to continue to listen to offers before Deadline

MINNEAPOLIS — The Twins made their first trade as sellers late Saturday night, when they sent left-hander Francisco Liriano to the White Sox for infielder Eduardo Escobar and left-hander Pedro Hernandez.

But it might not be their only trade before Tuesday’s Trade Deadline, as clubs have interest in first baseman Justin Morneau and outfielders Denard Span and Josh Willingham.

Twins general manager Terry Ryan wouldn’t rule out another deal, as he said he’ll be listening in on offers until the deadline.

“We’ll do a little bit of everything,” Ryan said. “You have to make sure your options are open. If you have a chance to do something good, you do it. There’s no harm in exploring.”

Ryan, though, wouldn’t say how likely it is that the Twins make another trade after dealing Liriano.

“I have no idea,” Ryan said. “That’s a tough thing to quantify. I don’t know. I felt like this thing with Frankie was going to happen because there was interest in pitching and we didn’t talk about an extension.”

Liriano traded to the White Sox for two prospects

MINNEAPOLIS — Francisco Liriano will be staying in the American League Central.

The Twins traded the left-hander to the division rival White Sox on Saturday night for infielder Eduardo Escobar and left-hander Pedro Hernandez. It’s just the seventh time the two clubs have completed a trade and the first time since 1986.

“It was getting close to the deadline, and we’re trying to make a good baseball trade,” Twins general manager Terry Ryan said. “We certainly were looking for a possible trade with Frankie. I do want to mention that this guy is one of the best guys we’ve got in that clubhouse. He’s a good teammate. He’s a good worker, and I decided the timing, I’m going to make this move. I’m not thrilled with trading him within the division obviously. You know where we are in the standings.”

Liriano, who was scheduled to start against the Indians on Sunday, will instead be joining Chicago’s rotation. Left-hander Brian Duensing will make a spot start in his place.

Liriano is scheduled to remain in Minnesota, as the Twins host the White Sox in a three-game series starting Monday at Target Field. Liriano is expected to make his first start with Chicago against his former team sometime next week.

The 28-year-old posted a 5.31 ERA with 109 strikeouts and 55 walks in 100 innings with the Twins this season, but he’s been pitching better recently with a 3.68 ERA with 79 strikeouts in 66 innings over his last 12 outings dating back to May 30 after a stint in the bullpen due to early season struggles.

“That was a rollercoaster season so far,” Ryan said. “It was a struggle, then he was great. He’s capable, as we all know. He’s capable of being quite good when he pitches ahead, throws the ball over the plate. It’s as simple as that.”

It’s the second time Liriano has been dealt in his career, as he was acquired by the Twins in a 2003 trade with the Giants that also brought Joe Nathan and Boof Bonser to Minnesota for catcher A.J. Pierzynski, who will be Liriano’s catcher in Chicago.

Liriano, who is set to be a free agent after the season, posted a 4.33 ERA in 156 career appearances with the Twins. He struck out 788 and walked 324 in 783 1/3 innings. He also threw a no-hitter against the White Sox last season at U.S. Cellular Field.

But the Twins didn’t approach Liriano about a possible contract extension before they opted to trade him, according to Ryan.

“I didn’t pursue an extension,” Ryan said. “I don’t want to pretend like we pursued an extension and I don’t want to pretend like they did. We never talked about an extension either party — his representative or us.”

Escobar, a 23-year-old who can play shortstop, second base and third base, has played in 35 games with the White Sox this season, batting .195 with a .275 on-base percentage and .244 slugging percentage. Escobar, who started the year ranked as Chicago’s No. 4 prospect according to MLB.com, is a career .270/.315/.351 hitter in six Minor League seasons.

He’ll be optioned to Triple-A Rochester, as the Twins want him to get consistent playing time after coming off the bench for the White Sox this season.

“That was a tough decision because he’s been in the big leagues, but I think he needs regular at-bats and we’re going to send him to Rochester for that reason,” Ryan said. “He’s a switch-hitter who can run. He’s got tremendous energy, he’s strong enough. He can play shortstop. He can play second. He doesn’t really profile at third offensively but he can play there. Defensively you wouldn’t have any problem with any of the three.”

Hernandez, also 23, made his Major League debut against the Red Sox on July 18, and allowed eight runs on 12 hits over four innings. Hernandez, ranked as the White Sox’s No. 20 prospect by MLB.com, has a career 3.42 ERA in six Minor League seasons. He has a 2.94 ERA split between Double-A Birmingham and Triple-A Charlotte this year.

Hernandez, whose wife gave birth to a healthy baby girl on Saturday, will be transferred from Charlotte to Rochester where he’ll remain a starter.

“He has enough stuff,” Ryan said. “He’s got a fastball, slider and a change. He throws a lot of strikes, which is good.”

With both Escobar and Hernandez on the 40-man roster, the Twins also transferred right-hander P.J. Walters to the 60-day disabled list. He was originally placed on the 15-day DL on May 14 with right shoulder inflammation.

The Twins will also recall a player on Sunday to take Liriano’s spot on the 25-man roster.

Capps headed to the disabled list

MINNEAPOLIS — Four days after being activated from the 15-day disabled list, Matt Capps is heading back to the DL.

Twins general manager Terry Ryan said Capps irritated his rotator cuff while pitching the ninth inning on Monday against Baltimore. It was only Capps’ second appearance back after he missed 15 games with right shoulder inflammation.

A corresponding roster move is expected to be announced following Tuesday’s game.

Capps made two rehab appearances for Class A Advanced Fort Myers before being activated from the DL on Friday.

“There wasn’t any urgency to rush back,” Ryan said. “He was doing fine on the rehab assignment. Last night, he did something to irritate that thing.”

Capps owns a 3.81 ERA in 29 appearances for Minnesota this season. The right-hander has successfully converted 14-of-15 save opportunities.

Capps’ fastball appeared to suffer from diminished velocity in his two appearances since returning from the DL. He threw 16 fastballs in a total of two innings of work, averaging 90.9 miles per hour. Capps has averaged 92.7 mph on his fastball this season, according to Fangraphs.com.

Left-hander Glen Perkins and right-hander Jared Burton are expected to share closing duties with Capps out. Capps, who was the subject of trade rumors before his shoulder problems, is eligible to return from the DL on Aug. 1.

Jordan Garretson

Mauer, Gardenhire help recruit Parise, Suter

DETROIT — It was a big day for the Minnesota Wild today, as they signed top free agents Zach Parise and Ryan Suter to identical 13-year, $98 million deals.

But the Wild were helped by Twins manager Ron Gardenhire and catcher Joe Mauer, as they did their best to recruit the two players. Gardenhire and Mauer both appeared in a video to recruit Parise — a Minnesota native — while Mauer also appeared in one to sell playing in Minnesota to Suter.

Mauer jokingly downplayed his role in the signing of both players, but added he was pleased to hear the news of the two signings from Twins director of baseball communications Dustin Morse.

“If it was then I’m really happy,” Mauer said. “Dustin called me this morning and let me know the news, and definitely being a Minnesota guy, that’s nice to hear. It’s exciting. It’s exciting news.”

Mauer said part of his sales pitch was that they could both come to Target Field to take batting practice before a Twins game. He also told Parise about how special it is to play in Minnesota as a native of the state.

“I think I was wearing a Wild jersey and I was just telling both of them that they’d look good in green,” Mauer said. “I think I might have even promised them batting practice, but I’ve met Zach a couple times before, and he seems like a really good guy and I’m looking forward to meeting Suter, too.”

Parise has participated in batting practice with the Twins twice before, and signed a picture that is displayed in Gardenhire’s office. There’s also a $5 bill tacked to the picture from an unrelated bet Gardenhire made with St. Paul Pioneer Press columnist Tom Powers.

Gardenhire joked that he told Parise he’d add that $5 to his contract if he signed with the Wild as part of his pitch.

“I don’t think he needs to the 5 dollars, but I definitely sent him a video,” Gardenhire said. “I’ve got a picture of him on my bulletin board, in a New Jersey jersey, and I told him I’d like that jersey to be green and there was 5 bucks over the top of it that I got from Tom Powers, which I told him I would add to his contract. That’s basically the video sent. So I’ll take credit for him. Then I offered him about 18,000 rounds of batting practice.”

Mauer and Gardenhire said they both are going to attend more Wild games this season considering the buzz generated by the two signings. Mauer spends his offseasons in Florida but added he’ll make sure to come to games when he’s back up in Minnesota for the holidays.

The Wild have reportedly sold 500-plus season tickets since the signings were announced this morning, and Gardenhire said he was happy to hear it.

“Season tickets ought be going up, and there’s always a lot of interest in the Wild anyway because it’s hockey country, the hockey town in the world, St. Paul/Minneapolis and mostly St. Paul,” Gardenhire said. “It’s No. 1. I don’t care what Detroit says; this is No. 1. Now we’ve got two of the best free agents coming to play for us. I’m pumped up. I’ll be up there in the press box with Sid [Hartman] watching.”

Twins option Blackburn, purchase Fien’s contract

DETROIT — Nick Blackburn’s yearlong struggles caused the Twins to option him to Triple-A Rochester on Wednesday after another poor outing against the Tigers on Tuesday. Right-hander reliever Casey Fien’s contract was purchased from Triple-A to take Blackburn’s’ place, and he’ll join the Twins in time for Thursday’s game in Detroit.

Blackburn lasted just four innings against the Tigers on Tuesday, allowing six runs on eight hits, including two homers. It dropped the right-hander to 4-5 with an 8.10 ERA in 13 starts this season.

It’s been a tough year for Blackburn, who has thrown just one quality start and hasn’t gone longer than six innings in any of his outings. He’s also battled injuries, as he missed time with tightness in his shoulder in April and was placed on the disabled list with a strained left quad in mid-May.

It’s been a continuation of last year, as the sinkerballer has a 7.61 ERA over his last 24 starts dating back to June 27, 2011. Blackburn pitched well early last year — he had a 3.15 ERA through his first 15 starts — but his 7.61 ERA since then is the highest among Major League starters.

Blackburn, who signed a four-year, $14-million extension before the 2010 season, has a career 4.79 ERA in 139 games, including 131 starts over six seasons.

Fien, meanwhile, had a 4.30 ERA with 42 strikeouts and 14 walks in 46 innings with Rochester. He has some big league experience, posting an 8.36 ERA in 14 innings over parts of two seasons with Detroit from 2009-10.

Twins recall De Vries, option Hendriks

MINNEAPOLIS — A day after right-hander Liam Hendriks gave up four runs in four-plus innings against the Tigers, the Twins optioned him to Triple-A Rochester. Right-hander Cole De Vries was recalled from Rochester to take his place on the roster.

Hendriks, 23, is winless in 12 career starts with a career 6.71 ERA. He has a 7.04 ERA in eight outings this season.

He appeared in line for his first win on Monday, as he took a 6-1 lead into the fifth inning, but allowed four straight runners to reach base and was pulled from the game in favor of reliever Anthony Swarzak.

De Vries, meanwhile, pitched well against the Royals on Saturday, allowing one run on five hits over six innings. But he was called up that day as the 26th man for a doubleheader and was optioned to Triple-A Rochester after his start.

De Vries is expected to take Hendriks’ spot in the rotation, which means he’s slated to start Saturday against the Rangers in Texas.