February 2013

Twins sign LHP Rafel Perez to Minor League deal

FORT MYERS, Fla. — The Twins signed left-hander Rafael Perez to a Minor League deal with an invitation to Major League Spring Training, the club announced on Thursday. Perez is set to arrive at the Lee County Sports Complex on Saturday.

Perez, 30, is coming off shoulder surgery in September and threw only 7 2/3 innings in 2012. But he’s healthy, according to assistant general manager Rob Antony and will be stretched out to start in Spring Training even though he’s never started in the big leagues in 338 career appearances with the Indians.

“He liked the possibility of stretching out and possibly starting for us, which is what he did throughout the Minors,” Antony said. “We just told him if he’s one of our best starters, we’re not going to turn a blind eye to anything. And if not, he’s fine in the bullpen.”

Before the shoulder injury, Perez was one of the better left-handed setup men in the American League, as he has a career 3.64 ERA with 268 strikeouts in 329 innings. He also posted a 3.25 ERA in 61 innings in ’10 and a 3.00 ERA in 63 innings in ’11.

Twins manager Ron Gardenhire was pleased with the signing, as he liked what he saw from him against his club. Perez has a career 1.89 ERA in 38 innings vs. Minnesota.

“He’s filthy,” Gardenhire said. “He’s got great stuff. He’s good out of the ‘pen but I like the idea of stretching him out too. So we’ll see what the best fit is for us and go from there. But he’s a quality pitcher and a big league guy.”

Twins host first official workouts of spring

FORT MYERS, Fla. — The Twins hosted their first official workouts of Spring Training today, as pitchers and catchers participated in several drills on the first day of camp.

It began early in the morning with a catchers meeting with manager Ron Gardenhire before he addressed all of the players currently in camp for the first official team meeting. Gardenhire said he kept it simple, as he plans on going through a more structured meeting once the rest of the team reports on Friday with the first full workouts set for Saturday morning.

After the meeting, the players broke up into different groups with 16 pitchers throwing bullpen sessions and the others playing catch. The pitchers also participated in pitchers fielding practice (PFP) drills and ran in the outfield at Hammond Stadium.

The 16 pitchers who threw bullpens were: Glen Perkins, Vance Worley, Cole De Vries, Rich Harden, Brian Duensing, Casey Fien, Bryan Augenstein, Esmerling Vasquez, Jared Burton, Alex Meyer, B.J. Hermsen, Kyle Gibson, Alex Burnett, Kevin Correia, Pedro Hernandez and Jose Berrios.

The nine catchers on the roster went over signs early in the morning with Gardenhire before catching bullpens and taking batting practice later in the day.

Here are some other notes:

— Harden felt encouraged by his first bullpen and says he hopes to stay on the same plan as all the other pitchers in camp but has to see how his shoulder holds up. He said he hasn’t been told if he’ll be stretched out to start but is open to starting or relieving.

— Infielders such as Jamey Carroll, Brian Dozier and Trevor Plouffe and outfielders such as Chris Parmelee, Aaron Hicks, Joe Benson and Darin Mastroianni all took part in informal workouts even though position players aren’t required to report until Friday.

— Ron Gardenhire said he plans on using a few younger players in games to get ready for the World Baseball Classic such as Berrios (Puerto Rico), Andrew Albers (Canada) and Eddie Rosario (Puerto Rico)

— Joe Mauer talked about preparing for both the World Baseball Classic and the upcoming season in this story.

— Make sure to check out my Instagram account (rhettbollinger) for photos throughout the spring and during the season. I also uploaded a few videos to my Twitter feed (@rhettbollinger)

Welcome to Spring Training

FORT MYERS, Fla. — Spring Training is officially here, as pitchers and catchers reported to the Lee County Sports Complex today.

The Twins didn’t have any issues with any of the pitchers or catchers reporting on time, but injured right-handers Nick Blackburn (wrist surgery) and Lester Oliveros (Tommy John surgery) were both sent to Minor League camp instead because they aren’t ready to pitch.

Several Twins pitchers participated in light workouts, including Brian Duensing, Glen Perkins, Jared Burton, Liam Hendriks, Casey Fien, Tyler Robertson and Vance Worley. But official workouts don’t begin for Twins pitchers and catchers until Wednesday morning.

A handful of Twins position players were also at camp to get extra work in such as Trevor Plouffe, Chris Parmelee, Aaron Hicks, Brian Dozier, Joe Benson and Darin Mastroianni.

I plan on being more active on the blog this spring, especially once Grapefruit League play begins, just like last Spring Training. Here’s an example of what I did last year once the games started with a short recap and some photos.

I’m also on Instagram (rhettbollinger) and will be taking plenty of photos throughout the season. Here’s one of Hammond Stadium from today.

Here are some other Twins notes and I’ll have a full notebook over on Twinsbaseball.com later today:

— Left-hander Scott Diamond might not be ready for Opening Day, as he’s still rebuilding arm strength after getting a bone chip removed from his elbow in December. He said his goal is to start on Opening Day but that he doesn’t want to push it because it’s such a long season.

— Right-hander Anthony Swarzak was apologetic when talking about the wrestling incident with teammates on Jan. 25 that caused him two fracture two ribs. He said he’ll be out another three weeks or so but expects to be ready for the start of the season.

— Reliever Jared Burton said there will be no restrictions on him this year unlike last year when the club was cautious with him because he was coming off shoulder surgery. He also said he was very happy about the two-year deal he signed this offseason to remain in Minnesota.

— Several Twins players said they feel like the vibe in the clubhouse is better this year than last season and that they feel like they have something to prove after the struggles of the last two seasons. But it’s just the first day of Spring Training so it’s easy for the players to be optimistic.

Swarzak out for a month with fractured ribs

MINNEAPOLIS — Right-hander Anthony Swarzak fractured two ribs on his left side in a non-baseball activity on Jan. 25 and is expected to be out for a month, the Twins announced today.

The club did not announce how Swarzak injured his ribs but he’s expected to resume baseball activities in late February.

It’s bad timing for Swarzak, as Twins pitchers and catchers are set to report to the club’s Spring Training complex in Fort Myers, Fla. on Tuesday with the first workout set for the next morning.

Swarzak, who posted a 5.03 ERA in 96 2/3 innings last season, is expected to be in the running as the club’s long reliever this season.

The 27-year-old fared better in a relief role last year, as he had a 4.05 ERA in 73 1/3 innings in that role compared to an 8.10 ERA in 23 1/3 innings in five spot starts.

UPDATE: I just got off the phone with Twins general manager Terry Ryan, who said Swarzak injured himself while in Minnesota for TwinsFest. He was playing around and wrestling when he hurt his ribs. The Twins are hopeful he’ll still be healthy in time for the season.