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Archive for May, 2011

Twins plant spruce tree in honor of fallen fan

May 31, 2011 Comments off

 

ZUMBROTA, Minn. — Those who knew Patrick Gadient would tell you he did not like to be the center of attention. Imagine what he would have thought of the Twins holding a ceremony Tuesday morning in his honor.

One of the 14 black spruce trees from Target Field was planted just beyond the center field fence at Zumbrota Mazeppa High School, creating a memorial to Gadient, a Class of 2006 graduate who was killed in a car accident on Feb. 3, 2011.

The tree was awarded to Twins season-ticket holder Dan Flaaen through the club’s “Sweet Spot” program. When the Twins decided to remove the trees from beyond the center-field fence at Target Field, season-ticket holders had the opportunity to submit a video on why they deserved to have a black spruce tree from the inaugural season at Target Field.

Flaeen, a friend and classmate of Gadient, teamed with another classmate, Bobbie Ersland, to submit a video in their friend’s honor.

“We got the email, I think they sent it out in about January, and I didn’t even think about it,” Flaaen said. “But then after the funeral, I was walking back from class, I called Bobbie, and I said, ‘You know, I think we should do it.’ … It felt right. He loved the Twins, he loved baseball, and so I thought it fit perfectly.”

At Tuesday’s ceremony, Flaeen and Ersland spoke along with Gadient’s sister, Karen Lang, and Zumbrota Mazeppa High School Principal Erik Enger. They spoke of Gadient’s personality and his love not only for baseball but life in general.

Enger commended Flaaen and Ersland for seeing the opportunity and taking advantage of it to honor their friend.

“None of us controls our fate, that is given to an ultimate higher power,” Enger said. “What we can control is how we respond to when things happen. And thanks to the response of Bob and Dan getting things started with the tree, and then the response from the community … that makes me feel very proud.”

The video, titled “Spruce for Pat,” was filmed at Zumbrota Mazeppa, using video equipment from the high school, along with photos of Gadient from his Facebook page.

It details Gadient’s popularity among his friends, his love for outdoor activities and his connection to the Twins as a baseball player. Twice during his career, Gadient had the opportunity to play at the Metrodome on the same field as his heroes.

“He was just ecstatic,” Ersland said of Gadient playing at the Metrodome. “He knew he’d be pitching off the mound and all the greats that pitched from ’82 to ’04 and ’06, when we went and played there, he was toeing the same rubber as those guys that toed the rubber.”

After placing among the five finalists, Flaaen and Ersland spread the word to friends and family to vote for the video. The response snowballed as the people they contacted sent it to other people they knew, then so on.

The video received 69 percent of the vote, winning easily as no other video got more than 26 percent.

“They did a phenomenal job of showing what a great person he was and how much he really loved the Twins,” Lang said. “So, here’s to Dan and Bobbie.”

Gadient was engaged to be married to his high school sweetheart, Briana Darcy of Mazeppa, in July. But as he drove home from work on that February night, his car hit a patch of ice and slid into oncoming traffic.

He may never get to play baseball again or go to another Twins game, but as the Target Field black spruce grows beyond left-center field at the Zumbrota Mazeppa baseball field, it will serve as a reminder of Gadient.

As his friends and family see it, Gadient will get to watch his younger brother, Kurt, play on the field. Even after his brother has graduated, they believe Gadient will be watching over the field and the school.

“Just like when we were in class and he’d be joking around and everyone would draw the attention to him, we knew that happen with this tree, too,” Ersland said. “Let’s make this about him, and the attention was drawn towards, ‘Everyone vote for this tree so we can plant it for Pat, so that he can be remembered all the time.

“Any time they play a ball game here, this tree’s going to be in center field, and it’s only going to grow bigger.”

Jordan Schelling is an associate reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

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Defense hurts Twins in loss to Angels

May 30, 2011 Comments off

MINNEAPOLIS — Some games this year, it’s been the Twins offense. In others, the pitching has been to blame. In their series finale with the Angels on Sunday, defense was the problem.

Only two errors went down in the box score, on throws by Danny Valencia and Trevor Plouffe in the third inning, but defensive miscues seemed to come far too often as the Twins lost to the Angels, 6-5, at Target Field.

Plouffe opened the third inning with a throw that got past Justin Morneau at first base, but it was ruled an infield single for Mark Trumbo. Two batters later, Valencia also threw one past Morneau, which went down as another single. Valencia was credited for the error when the runner advanced to third base.

Capping things off was Plouffe, who sailed a throw past first base with two outs, allowing the run to score from third for the Angels’ third run of the inning.

“I sailed ’em,” Plouffe said of the throws. “That’s all that is.”

Twins manager Ron Gardenhire has been on Plouffe about his defense, and Sunday’s performance was not exactly what he had in mind.

Earlier in the week, Plouffe misplayed a couple balls in the infield by not being aggressive and getting to them quickly enough, allowing the runners to beat his throws. On his poor throws Sunday, Plouffe also seemed to lack some aggression, appearing tentative as he tossed the ball over to first.

“It kind of looked like he didn’t let ’em fly, just kind of lobbed ’em over there,” Gardenhire said. “That’s what we’re talking about. Be aggressive.

“We worked really hard at it yesterday and he did a good job throwing the ball.”

Gardenhire talked before the game about how Plouffe had been unhappy the other day after having to answer questions from a number of reporters about his defensive struggles. It motivated Plouffe to work on his play at shortstop, leading him to put in extra work.

Whatever the problem is, the work Plouffe is putting in, and the focus he’s put on being aggressive have not translated into positive results on the field.

“I’ve got to look at some video, see what I’m doing, and make an adjustment,” Plouffe said. “That’s all I can do. I can’t go back in time and fix anything right now. Just move forward.”

One tough defensive inning behind him was enough to keep Carl Pavano in pursuit of his 100th career win for at least one more start. Pavano battled well against Angels starter Dan Haren, but the three-run third inning was the difference.

Making his sixth attempt at getting that elusive career mark, Pavano remained winless for the month of May. He went eight innings, allowing five runs (four earned) on 10 hits. Pavano struck out three batters and did not allow a walk.

While the third inning was tough, Pavano was bothered most by the run he allowed in the fifth, which made it a two-run game when Jeff Mathis scored on an Erick Aybar single.

“The thing that stands out the most for me is allowing [Mathis] to get a walking lead and steal second,” Pavano said. “That run right there really makes it a tight ball game, it changes the order, how the order comes up. I gave him no credit at all and he ends up stealing that bag and scoring on a bloop to center.”

Haren did not appear to have his best stuff against the Twins, giving up three runs on 10 hits and exiting after six innings with just two strikeouts.

But he still picked up the win, as the Angels offense picked him up.

“I didn’t really have any out pitches,” Haren said. “I needed runs today. I didn’t have much.”

A three-hit game for Denard Span highlighted the Twins offensive output. Span scored after doubling in the first, drove in Plouffe with his seventh-inning double, singled home Matt Tolbert to spark a ninth-inning rally and later scored on Justin Morneau’s single to bring the Twins within a run.

The Twins’ ninth-inning rally came up short, as they plated a pair of runs on two singles and two walks. Right fielder Michael Cuddyer drove a ball deep to center field, but Peter Bourjos was right there to make the out to end the game.

While they came up short and dropped to 17-34 overall with a 6-15 home record, the Twins were encouraged by the late rally after a tough game.

“We kept fighting,” Cuddyer said. “We never gave up, and we haven’t given up yet. We’ve got to keep playing hard.”

Jordan Schelling is an associate reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

Twins notebook, 5/29

May 30, 2011 Comments off

Nathan’s soreness not unusual after surgery

MINNEAPOLIS — Twins reliever Joe Nathan got encouraging news on Sunday from Dr. David Altchek, who performed his Tommy John surgery last March.

After taking a look at the MRI of Nathan’s elbow, Altchek said what he saw was not unusual in the process of returning from the surgery.

“We talked to Dr. Altchek, who performed the surgery, and he said that’s a very common area for guys that have problems to get some inflammation and some soreness in that area,” Twins head trainer Rick McWane said. “That’s where they split the muscle to go in and perform the surgery, so [Nathan’s] got some scar tissue in there.”

McWane noted the MRI showed some inflammation in Nathan’s forearm, his flexor pronator and his flexor pronator tendon.

Unfortunately for Nathan, his aggressive rehab may have played a role in the setback. But it’s still not something the Twins are particularly concerned about.

“[Altchek] said particularly, guys that really work hard in their rehab, the ones that really get after it, which Joe did, are more susceptible to having this problem for some reason or another than guys that don’t,” McWane said. “He wasn’t overly concerned about it, and we’ll just have to take a few steps back and let it calm down.”

If Liriano is to start, must pitch ‘pen session next

MINNEAPOLIS — If lefty Francisco Liriano is to make his next start, the key date is Tuesday, when he’ll need to throw a bullpen session.

Liriano was scratched from his scheduled Saturday start with soreness in his left shoulder, and an MRI revealed inflammation but no structural damage, Twins head trainer Rick McWane said Saturday.

“Liriano is feeling a lot better today, he’s in there working out,” McWane said. “He understands and knows that he has to throw a bullpen on Tuesday if he’s going to make his next start.”

If Liriano cannot make his next start, Swarzak will get the nod once again, after tossing eight innings of one-hit shutout baseball Saturday night.

The Twins remain unsure of whether Liriano would go on the disabled list if he could not throw his bullpen Tuesday or make his next scheduled start.

“That’s up in the air, too,” manager Ron Gardenhire said. “If he ends up missing it and he’s still sore and everything … it sounds like he’ll probably be able to go out there and throw. But if it comes up that he’s having issues out there, [the DL] would be something we would definitely think about. Back him off and just give him a couple weeks here to regroup.”

Designated hitter Jim Thome got a cortisone shot in his left shoulder after Saturday night’s 1-0 victory over the Angels, and was a game-time decision Sunday. McWane said Thome was pretty sore, but moving around before the game Sunday morning.

Lefty reliever Glen Perkins is still progressing, getting closer to taking the next step in his rehab.

“He played catch at 60 feet today without pain,” McWane said. “We’ll start him on a graduated throwing program during the next couple days.”

Twins place Nathan on DL, call up James

May 29, 2011 Comments off

MINNEAPOLIS — Twins reliever Joe Nathan was placed on the 15-day disabled list after Saturday’s 1-0 win over the Angels with a right flexor muscle strain, suffering his first real setback since having Tommy John surgery last year.

To fill Nathan’s spot, the Twins selected the contract of left-handed reliever Chuck James from Triple-A Rochester, with second baseman Tsuyoshi Nishioka moved to the 60-day DL to make room on the 40-man roster.Nathan has soreness in his right elbow and underwent an MRI on Saturday afternoon that showed a little inflammation but no major structural damage.

The results will also be sent to Dr. David Altchek, who performed Nathan’s surgery last March.

“We obviously hoped he wouldn’t have any problems, but I wouldn’t say it’s uncommon to have a setback here or there with what he’s going through,” head trainer Rick McWane said before Saturday’s game. “He’s getting better, but it’s just a matter of him getting over the hump.”

McWane and Nathan said that no one was especially worried about the setback, they just wanted to be cautious with Nathan, who is only 14 months removed from the Tommy John surgery he underwent just prior to the start of last season.

Nathan said he expects to take some time to allow his arm to heal with the treatment he’s been undergoing this week before resuming a throwing program. After that, he said he thought he would go down to Fort Myers, Fla., and throw in a couple extended spring training games.

“Just get back to what worked so well for me then,” Nathan said. “Using more fastballs, get my extension where it needs to be. I feel like since Day 1, I’ve been competing and just trying to put up zeros any way I could.

“I kind of got away from what I’ve always done well. So, I’ve been throwing a lot of breaking balls, a lot of curve balls, and that’s not really going to help me with my extension so much. That’s almost hindering me from getting extended when I try to throw fastballs.”

Nathan was thinking positively about going to the DL, saying he thought it was “going to be a good thing for me when I do get back and finish the rest of the season.” As far as a timeframe for his return, Nathan said he is prepared for anything from 10 days to a month.

Anything longer than that, he said, would be unexpected.

He added that while you never want to go on the disabled list, the decision comes a little differently for him with the way the Twins have been playing through the first two months of the season.

“If we were closer to the front of this pack and competing, it would be a lot tougher for me to go on the DL,” Nathan said. “But with us scuffling right now, I think it at least makes the decision easier to go in, take care of this and make sure we do the right thing for me going into the rest of the season and on into next year.”

James will join the Twins in time for Sunday’s series finale against the Angels.

In 19 appearances with the Red Wings this season, James posted a 1-1 record with a 1.57 ERA, allowing just five earned runs over 28 2/3 innings of work. James also recorded 37 strikeouts against nine walks.

“He’s pitched well,” Twins manager Ron Gardenhire said. “Chuck James has thrown the ball well.”

In the past, James had some success with the Braves as a starter. Over four years with Atlanta, James went 24-19 with a 4.61 ERA in 55 starts. He allowed 153 earned runs in 298 2/3 innings, striking out 223 with 120 walks.

He also posted a 2.12 ERA in nine relief appearances with the Braves, allowing four runs on 10 hits in 17 innings.

James’ addition to the roster gives the Twins a wealth of left-handed options in the bullpen, as he joins fellow lefties Dusty Hughes, Phil Dumatrait and Jose Mijares, who could rejoin the club as soon as Monday in Detroit. Asked about it after the move was announced, Gardenhire said he just wants the best pitchers available, whether they’re lefties or righties.

“It’s an interesting situation, I’ve never had that many lefties out in the bullpen,” Gardenhire said. “[Rochester pitching coach] Bobby Cuellar said that Chuck James gets them out. It’s not always pretty, he’s up in the zone a little bit, but he knows how to get them out. He’s pitched in the big leagues, so hopefully he’ll continue that here.”

Jordan Schelling is an associate reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

Gardenhire tossed for third time this season

May 28, 2011 Comments off

MINNEAPOLIS — Manager Ron Gardenhire was ejected following the sixth inning of the Twins’ 1-0 victory over the Angels on Saturday, his third ejection of the season and 55th of his career.

Gardenhire went out to dispute second-base umpire Andy Fletcher’s call that Denard Span was picked off by Angels right-hander Jered Weaver. Replays showed the foot of shortstop Erick Aybar may have blocked Span from getting his hand on the base.

“That’s what [Fletcher] said, he said [Aybar] blocked [Span],” Gardenhire said. “In my opinion, plus the replays I saw, his hand was underneath his foot on the bag. I think maybe it might have looked a little different, [because] after the fact he raised his hand back up and put it in the middle of the bag. But you’re not going to just lay there, but his hand was underneath his shoe.”

After a short discussion of the call, Fletcher ejected Gardenhire from the game.

Span’s reaction to the call made it clear he didn’t agree. As far as he was concerned after the game, he thought he should have been safe, and that he got his hand back to the base before Aybar’s tag.

“I did, I did,” Span said. “He called me out, but I thought I did. Aybar, he had put his foot in front of the base, but I still felt like I had my hand there. And then when he took his foot off the base, it looked like I was still reaching for the base, but I felt like I had my hand on the base.”

Minnesota starter Anthony Swarzak was working on a no-hitter at the time of Gardenhire’s ejection. The no-no bid was broken up in the eighth on a one-out double by Peter Bourjos.

Jordan Schelling is an associate reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

Thome out of lineup with shoulder issue

May 28, 2011 Comments off

MINNEAPOLIS — Inflammation in his left shoulder kept Twins designated hitter Jim Thome out of the lineup Saturday, but he hoped it would only keep him out for one game.

Thome pinch hit in the ninth Saturday for catcher Rene Rivera, striking out on seven pitches. He was scheduled to get a cortisone shot after the game.

He said it was an issue that has been bothering him for some time, and it just got a little worse this weekend.

“We want to stay on top of it before it gets worse,” Thome said. “That’s the main thing, I don’t want to let the thing go and then let it get worse.”

Both Thome and head trainer Rick McWane said he could be back in the lineup by Sunday. Thome left Friday’s game after drawing a walk in the bottom of the seventh, but he confirmed that it was only for a pinch runner and had nothing to do with his shoulder.

Thome said the injury affects him toward the back end of his swing, and it’s not anything he’s ever dealt with in the past.

“When I get here and then I roll over, I get it in the back on that bottom rotation,” Thome said while demonstrating a swing in front of his locker. “It’s got to be from my swing because it’s my left shoulder and I don’t throw a baseball [any] more. So it’s just from probably years of a little wear and tear.”

Twins notebook, 5/27

May 28, 2011 Comments off

Casilla earns start at short with strong bat

MINNEAPOLIS — His offensive struggles got Alexi Casilla taken out of the role as the Twins’ everyday shortstop. After a couple strong games at the plate while playing second base, Casilla found himself back at shortstop Friday against the Angels.

It was Casilla’s first start at shortstop since May 1, after playing 20 games at short in April.

“Swinging the bat, he’s aggressive,” Twins manager Ron Gardenhire said. “I think he looks more comfortable in the infield, hopefully he’ll look OK tonight at shortstop. At second base he looks more comfortable, we’ll move him back over there because he’s swinging.”

Casilla was joined up the middle by Michael Cuddyer, who was back in the Twins lineup Friday after missing two games with a strained right hip.

Over his last three starts, Casilla has gone 5-for-9 with a double and two runs scored. He’s raised his average over that time from .184 to .215.

“If Alexi stays aggressive with the bat like he has and drives the ball like he has, that’s fun to watch,” Gardenhire said. “That’s kind of what we were hoping for.”

Plouffe sits after struggles on field

MINNEAPOLIS — With the Twins leading by three runs Monday, shortstop Trevor Plouffe made a pair of miscues that helped the Mariners cut the deficit and eventually come back and win.

Plouffe hasn’t seen the field since.

First, he double-pumped on a throw and allowed Jack Wilson to reach on an error, and later let an Ichiro Suzuki popup land in front of him, allowing a runner to score from third. In both instances, Plouffe was not aggressive enough to make the play.

“You have to be aggressive,” Plouffe said before Friday’s game against the Angels. “I think that I am that player, I think that I had an inning where I wasn’t aggressive and clearly it was taken as it being that’s how I play, and that’s really not how I play. I feel like I am aggressive, I can play every day, I know.”

Plouffe’s defense, along with the way Alexi Casilla has hit lately, and the return of Michael Cuddyer at second base, have left Plouffe on the bench. He had previously started six straight games at shortstop for the Twins and 13 total games since being called up May 6.

Twins manager Ron Gardenhire and Plouffe have talked since his defensive miscues Monday night, and they’ve discussed the need for the shortstop to be aggressive while in the field. It’s also been made clear to Plouffe that when he is at short, he needs to be the leader of the infield defensively.

“He’s working on it,” Gardenhire said of Plouffe’s leadership. “First we’ve got to get him comfortable. But as I told him, ‘You need to run the infield. … Get out there and take charge.'”

Talking with reporters before Friday’s game, Gardenhire discussed the need to balance fielding the team he thinks had the best chance to win and getting Plouffe some time as well, while keeping him from getting discouraged about a couple mistakes.

“He’s in the Major Leagues, he’s got to be ready to handle whatever we throw at him,” Gardenhire said of Plouffe. “We’re trying to win ball games. We’re trying to get a feel for the people out there that can get it done. So now he comes off the bench, that’s a role too. Tonight he’s sitting on the bench, he may start at shortstop tomorrow.”