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Cuddyer’s double propels Rox to series win over Crew

April 22, 2012 Comments off

MILWAUKEE — Bruised toe and all, Michael Cuddyer just keeps on hitting.

With two on and one out in the eighth on Sunday, Cuddyer ripped the first pitch he saw from Milwaukee reliever Francisco Rodriguez into the gap. The result was a go-ahead double, as Cuddyer drove in a pair of runs and set up the Rockies for a 4-1 victory over the Brewers at Miller Park.

Every time a big late-game situation comes up this season, Cuddyer seems to be there to deliver for the Rockies. He had a game-winning pinch-hit on Friday before coming through again Sunday.

The veteran slugger seems to enjoy such opportunities, as well.

“Who doesn’t?” Cuddyer said. “A man in scoring position and a one-run game, the worst that can happen is you fail. And that happens a lot. So yeah, you’ve got to relish those opportunities.”

Cuddyer collected his team-leading 10th and 11th RBIs of the season. He also leads the Rockies in hits (19), doubles (8) and extra-base hits (11).

Perhaps more impressive is the fact that Cuddyer’s big hits this weekend came against a pair of the best relievers in the game, in John Axford and Rodriguez. With every Cuddyer at-bat, the Rockies’ biggest offseason acquisition looks better and better.

“The biggest thing is, every time he steps up to the plate, I think 24 other guys and the coaching staff have confidence that he’s going to get a big hit,” Rockies starter Jeremy Guthrie said.

Along with everything he’s done at the plate so far this season, Cuddyer can play a pretty good right field as well. He showed that Sunday not long after he delivered the game’s big blow.

Cuddyer made a great read on an Aramis Ramirez line drive to right to help snuff out a potential Brewers’ rally in the eighth. Milwaukee had the tying runs on base at the time.

Cuddyer then fired a strike toward second that could have doubled up Rickie Weeks, but Marco Scutaro cut the ball off.

“As I was letting go of the ball I was yelling, ‘Let it go, let it go, let it go,'” Cuddyer said. “But he didn’t. So then Matty [Belisle] was able to make a couple big pitches.”

But as impressive as his eighth-inning heroics were, Cuddyer was quick to share the spotlight.

As he saw it, the pitching was the story of the game.

In his fourth start of the season, Jeremy Guthrie gave the Rockies everything they needed. Coming off a pair of rough home starts, Guthrie had his best outing yet, tossing seven innings and allowing just one run on three hits with three walks with two strikeouts.

“It wasn’t just seven innings, it was seven quality innings,” said Rockies manager Jim Tracy, who earned the 800th win of his managerial career. “He had great movement with his two-seam fastball today, great command of his fastballs, period. Two- or four-seam. Which helped to make the breaking ball and the changeup that much more effective.”

A leadoff walk issued to Ryan Braun in the fourth inning led to the Brewers’ only run off Guthrie. First baseman Mat Gamel plated Braun with a two-out single to right field on a 1-1 cutter from Guthrie.

But the run wouldn’t have happened without the help of an unusual stolen base by Braun. Guthrie struck out Aramis Ramirez looking at a 3-2 pitch, and the throw beat Braun to second base, but Scutaro did not tag the runner, apparently thinking the pitch was ball four.

Brewers starter Yovani Gallardo matched Guthrie’s solid outing with an impressive one of his own. The right-hander went seven strong innings, giving up just one run on six hits with eight strikeouts against one walk.

In addition to Cuddyer and Guthrie’s big performances, the Rockies got a boost from Belisle in the eighth inning, who retired the heart of the Brewers lineup in order.

Entering the game with two on and no outs, Belisle got Braun to pop out, Ramirez to line out to Cuddyer — on the aforementioned near-double play — and struck out Corey Hart.

It was a big moment for the Rockies en route to the road series win, and an even bigger missed opportunity for the Brewers.

“When you don’t have many opportunities through the game, then you get that one shot at it and you feel like everything is on the line in one inning,” Roenicke said. “Unfortunately, it should be a lot of different innings. It’s tough.”

Jordan Schelling is a contributor to MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

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Rockies notes, 4/22

April 22, 2012 Comments off

Young’s speed helping swing games for Rox

By Jordan Schelling / Special to MLB.com

MILWAUKEE — He’s started just one game this season, but Eric Young Jr. has been an integral part of the Rockies’ success.

“He’s a weapon,” manager Jim Tracy said. “And he has embraced the role that he has right now.”

Young has played in 12 of Colorado’s first 14 games, showing an excellent approach at the plate as a pinch-hitter, and even better skills on the basepaths.

In fact, Young’s baserunning was key in the Rockies’ victory on Opening Day, and again Friday when they took the series opener from the Brewers at Miller Park. Both situations involved the outfielder advancing following errors on pickoff attempts and coming around to score go-ahead runs.

Young drew a big leadoff walk Saturday night in the sixth inning, which he followed up by stealing second and scoring a game-tying run on a groundout two batters later. In his fourth-year as a utility player for the Rockies, Young has the freedom to steal whenever he sees the right opportunity to do so.

“He has done just an absolute fantastic job in his role on this ballclub,” Tracy said. “A guy with that kind of speed that’s part of his game, that works on things like that, why would I sit over here and guess when he can stand there and see for himself and know if he can or can’t get a jump and take advantage of the situation?

“You let the light be green. Don’t go through the intersection if it goes to caution or red and cause a bad accident, and get to second. Simple as that. That’s what he does. He’s been absolutely terrific.”

Extra work before season paying off for Colvin

MILWAUKEE — Even his manager has been a little surprised by Tyler Colvin’s hot start for the Rockies.

After a breakout year in 2010, Colvin’s production dropped off last season with the Cubs. However, over his first 10 games and 26 at-bats with the Rockies, Colvin batted .346 with a home run and five RBIs.

Including Sunday against the Brewers, Colvin had started six of the Rockies’ first 15 contests. He batted in the No. 2 hole in the finale against Milwaukee, a spot where his numbers have not been particularly impressive in his career. Colvin has just eight hits in 59 career at-bats batting second, with a slash line of .136/.164/.237.

Even so, it’s a spot where manager Jim Tracy likes his bat.

“He handles the bat extremely well,” Tracy said. “Tyler Colvin’s a guy you can put runners in motion with, and he’s going to get a good swing off and put the ball in play.

“This is also a bat that you have to respect from a depth standpoint and not cheat too much to the point where if there’s multiple runners, he’s going to burn you and drive a ball over your head. He has that capability, he makes those outfielders stay honest that way.”

Colvin also has been a valuable and versatile defender, having already played each of the three outfield positions and first base at least once each. His start Friday night gave right fielder Michael Cuddyer an extra day off to rest his bruised left big toe, while Dexter Fowler got a day off Sunday.

Tracy said the Rockies brought Colvin in two months before Spring Training to get a jump on working with the young outfielder. Colvin came to the Rockies in a trade with the Cubs in December.

“We got very proactive on this one,” Tracy said. “There were some things that we saw on film that we strongly felt had to be cleaned up, that we felt like, ‘This is the big reason why he took a major step backward in 2011, in relation to where he was in 2010.’

“We wanted to get started and give him the opportunity to take the information home with him, knowing he still had eight weeks to go, rather than vice versa.”

Cuddyer made sure to track Humber’s perfecto

MILWAUKEE — Fans across the nation tuned in Saturday evening to catch the end of the White Sox game at Seattle, as Philip Humber completed the 21st perfect game in Major League history.

In the visitor’s clubhouse at Miller Park, the Rockies were watching as well. Right fielder Michael Cuddyer looked on with particular interest, being Humber’s former teammate.

“It’s unbelievable,” Cuddyer said. “What’s even more amazing is the White Sox have 18 no-hitters. It’s incredible.”

Cuddyer played with Humber briefly during the 2008-09 seasons, when Humber pitched 20 2/3 innings in 13 relief appearances for the Twins.

Did Cuddyer ever see perfect-game type stuff out of Humber?

“Well, perfect games, obviously you’ve got to have good stuff, but a lot of things also have to go your way,” Cuddyer said, “So I think [Saturday] was his day. I didn’t see the whole game, but it was definitely his day. That’s for sure.”

While he’s never been involved personally in a perfect game, Cuddyer was in right field for the Twins on May 3 last year, when Francisco Liriano no-hit the White Sox.

Cuddyer reflected on what it’s like being a part of a game like that.

“A lot of excitement,” Cuddyer said. “During that ninth inning, you’re more nervous as a defensive player than the pitcher is, especially in a perfect game. Because if you mess it up, then you messed it up for him. Not you or for the team. It’s nerve-wracking.”

Jordan Schelling is a contributor to MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

Pomeranz fades as Rockies fall

April 21, 2012 Comments off

MILWAUKEE — Esmil Rogers finally had an off night, and it sparked a big Brewers rally.

Entering the game having tossed 7 1/3 scoreless innings over four games, Rogers had been among the Rockies’ most reliable relievers through the first three weeks of the season. But Saturday went a little differently, as he gave up four runs on five hits over 1 1/3 innings in the Rockies’ 9-4 loss to the Brewers at Miller Park.

Rogers entered the game with a 3-2 lead in the sixth, but a home run by Ryan Braun — which snapped an 0-for-16 streak for the reigning National League MVP — quickly tied things up.

“We needed a stop; the Ryan Braun home run is the home run, but we needed a stop in the seventh inning,” Rockies manager Jim Tracy said. “And not only did we not get the stop, but the floodgates opened.”

The seventh inning went even worse as Rogers gave up a leadoff single, an RBI triple that gave the Brewers the lead, and an RBI single before leaving the game.

Braun, who admitted he’s been pressing to break out, added an RBI triple off the wall in left-center field. Three batters later, Alex Gonzalez connected for a 3-run homer off Edgmer Escalona to put the game well out of reach.

“Once you start struggling, you start trying too hard,” Braun said. “This game is hard enough as is. Once you start doing that, you get yourself in more trouble. Hopefully, a game like this tonight, collectively, it will get us out of our little funk.”

Tracy pointed to Rogers pitching from behind hitters as a key to the rough outing, as well as getting too much of the plate with a couple of two-strike pitches that turned into hits.

That six-run inning completely changed what was an excellent game early for the Rockies.

Left-hander Drew Pomeranz retired the first 12 batters he faced Saturday, but command issues knocked him out of the game having tossed just five innings and 74 pitches. He opened the fifth with a four-pitch walk, then gave up back-to-back doubles, which put the Brewers ahead, 2-1.

Before getting the first out of the inning, Pomeranz issued a second walk. Through four batters, the lefty had already tossed 17 pitches in the inning, only five of which were strikes. All told, it was a 30-pitch frame for Pomeranz after he needed just 44 to get through four innings.

“It’s just one of those things where I lost my rhythm for a minute and you can’t do that in the middle of a game,” Pomeranz said. “It’s hard to pitch when you lose it for a second there.”

As rough as the fifth inning was, Pomeranz still managed to limit the damage, thanks in part to the Brewers’ small ball strategy. He got the first out on a sacrifice bunt, and a contact play one batter later resulted in an easy out at home. Despite facing eight batters and allowing the first four to reach base, Pomeranz gave up just the two runs.

In his second start of the season, Pomeranz went five innings, allowing two runs on two hits. He also walked three batters and had a career-high six strikeouts.

“I saw a guy with great stuff the first four innings and then he just lost control,” Troy Tulowitzki said. “But those first four innings, I think he needs to build off that and look at the positive.”

Tulowitzki sparked the Rockies offensively, going 2-for-3 on the night with a home run and an RBI single. The latter put Colorado in front 3-2 before the Brewers rallied against the Rockies’ bullpen.

Todd Helton also homered in the game, his third of the year and second in as many nights. Aside from one rough inning, the Rockies played another solid game Saturday in Milwaukee.

In fact, had they gotten another hit in the top of the sixth, the result may have been a lot different.

“We missed an opportunity that could have changed the complexion of the entire game,” Tracy said. “We had taken the lead in the sixth inning and we stole second and third on the 3-1 pitch. A two-out base hit there changes this entire scheme of things. But it just didn’t work out tonight and we’ve got to come back here tomorrow and try to win a series here.”

Jordan Schelling is a contributor to MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

Rockies notes, 4/21

April 21, 2012 Comments off

Scutaro impresses Tracy with unselfishness

By Jordan Schelling / Special to MLB.com

MILWAUKEE — Following the Rockies’ 4-3 victory Friday night over the Brewers, manager Jim Tracy gave high praise to Michael Cuddyer for his “professional” pinch-hit at-bat.During his pregame session with reporters Saturday afternoon, Tracy took the opportunity to point out another at-bat during that same ninth inning.

“One of the things that I saw last night that I think is so significant to championship-caliber type baseball is the Marco Scutaro at-bat in the ninth inning,” Tracy said. “Here’s a pro standing at home plate that’s 0-for-4 and you could tell by the way he went about his business with the at-bat he has no issues whatsoever in being 0-for-5, just so long as Eric Young Jr. is standing at third base with one out.”

And that is exactly what Scutaro delivered, driving a 1-2 curveball from Axford deep to right for the first out of the inning. Young tagged, and scored the go-ahead run from third one batter later on Cuddyer’s pinch-hit single.

Thanks to a pair of pinch hits and an overlooked, but very significant fly out to right, the Rockies got the run they needed to complete Friday night’s victory.

“It’s that type of stuff right there that separates clubs that are playing Major League baseball and those that are playing very significant games in the latter part of the season,” Tracy said. “That was such an unselfish, professional act that we needed to see more of a year ago like we saw a lot of in 2009 and 2010. That is a big time separator in my opinion.”

De La Rosa pitches well in extended spring

MILWAUKEE — In extended Spring Training action Saturday, lefties Jorge De La Rosa and Josh Outman each pitched without any issues.

De La Rosa went four innings as scheduled, tossing just over 60 pitches. Outman did not throw during game action, but pitched two simulated innings.

“From what I understand, everything came out just fine,” Rockies manager Jim Tracy said. “[De La Rosa] used all of his pitches: fastball, slider, change and curveball. Didn’t meet resistance with anything.”

Outman, who is rehabbing an oblique injury suffered earlier this month, is scheduled to pitch an inning in a game early next week.

Both pitchers are moving along just the way the Rockies would like them to. Tracy declined to speculate, though, on when either might see time in Minor League rehab games, especially De La Rosa, who is working his way back from Tommy John surgery.

“We’ll eventually get there,” Tracy said. “Do I have a specific time period in mind? The answer is ‘No’.

“There is no rush in this one. We’ll go according to how [De La Rosa] feels and the progression that has been mapped out for him.”

Jordan Schelling is a contributor to MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

Axford talks pitching, elbow injuries, Tommy John surgery

April 17, 2012 Comments off

MILWAUKEE — Even as the workload of pitchers decreases, the injuries seem to be mounting with increasing frequency. Especially elbow injuries, and especially with closers.

That was the premise of a story written today by Tom Verducci for SI.com. As he sees it, the injury trends point to a need for rethinking the modern bullpen in which relievers — outside of a select group of long relief pitchers — are limited to single innings or at-bats in very specific situations.

Left-handed relievers often face strictly left-handed batters late in ballgames. Managers like Tony La Russa have no problem running out three different relievers for three batters in a single inning: right-hander to face righty at the plate, lefty versus lefty, and then back to the right side. Or vice versa.

The alarming thing is that while pitchers’ workloads are generally decreasing, the likelihood of injury seems to be on the rise. Just this week, Giants closer Brian Wilson went down with a season-ending elbow injury that will require his second Tommy John surgery.

Here are some of the statistics from Verducci’s story:

  • Sixty-six percent of 2011 Opening Day closers (20 of 30) are no longer closing for the same team 12 months later, with seven of them hurt.
  • Fifty percent of all starting pitchers will go on the DL every year, as well as 34 percent of all relievers, according to research by Stan Conte, director of medical services for the Los Angeles Dodgers. That bears repeating: half of all starting pitchers will break down this year. (“When I did the research,” Conte said, “I was so surprised I figured I must have done the math wrong.”)
  • Injuries last year cost clubs $487 million — or about $16 million per team. The bill since 2008 for players who can’t play is $1.9 billion.

As for guys like Wilson, going through the surgery a second time, 70 percent of relievers make it back while only one in 10 starters returns following a second operation and lengthy rehab.

A couple more stats from Verducci:

  • The past two seasons mark the first time since the save statistic became official in 1969 that nobody saved 25 games with 81 innings in back-to-back full seasons. Bailey, with the 2009 Athletics, is the only closer to do so in the past four years.
  • Over the previous five seasons, 53 closers saved 25 games at least once. Thirty-three of them, or 62 percent, no longer are closing.
  • Only five pitchers saved 25 games three times in the past five years and are still closing: Jose Valverde, Mariano Rivera, Jonathan Papelbon, Heath Bell and Joe Nathan

With all that in mind, I talked this afternoon with Brewers closer John Axford about the story and the injury trends, to assess his feelings and level of concern about the likelihood of injury and seemingly short lifespan of pitchers in his role.

Here’s what he had to say:

Do the injury trends worry you at all?

“No, not particularly. As far as injuries go, that happens to anybody, whether you’re a starter or reliever. I don’t think it matters whether you’re specified as a closer or not. As a pitcher in general I think you’re more susceptible to injury than a position player.”

“It’s nothing I think about every single day, that’s for sure.”

Do you ever think at all about the fact that as a closer you’re likely to have a short lifespan in the role?

“Some people do, some people don’t. It just depends on the trend and the people that they want to look at. Once again, it’s not something I really look at and think about too much.”

Did you ever talk to Trevor Hoffman about how he was able to last in the role so successfully for such a long time?

“Really, just his work ethic. Just watching him work day in and day out, you could just tell his determination and dedication every single day. I think that’s really what it takes.”

“Obviously for Trevor, too, it was a matter of San Diego. Him wanting to be there, taking an opportunity when he had it, and obviously the team wanting him to be there also. So if I’m given the opportunity to stay in Milwaukee, I obviously would love to do that. I think you have a better chance of staying with that same club than testing free agency and popping out everywhere as a closer. That doesn’t seem to go over quite as well. Unless you’re Papelbon, I guess.”

Would the likelihood of injuries make you more likely to want to sign early if offered an extension?

“I know how hard I work, I know the effort I put in every single day. I know my body and I know what it’s capable of. Same with the team. They’re pretty trustworthy and they’re pretty open to both sides. If I tell them I can’t pitch on a particular day, they know they won’t put me in. Even if I say I’m OK, sometimes Ron [Roenicke]’s going to say, ‘No, we’re going to give you a day off.’ If it’s early in the season, obviously, why not give a guy a break when he needs a break? And Ron and Kranny [pitching coach Rick Kranitz], they’re great about that. They’re great about making sure that the relievers and everybody has the time that they need.”

“So I don’t think I’m going to get overworked, and I know how hard I work. So I don’t feel like an ‘injury waiting to happen’ by any means.”

Another thing mentioned in the story is the setup of the bullpen and closers being limited to late-inning save situations, if it were up to you would you stick with that or pitch whenever high-leverage situations came up? Fifth-inning, sixth inning?

“I don’t really know. Maybe not that early. I think my mentality’s kind of made up now towards the end of the ballgame. I really enjoy that role. Obviously in 2010, I was in there in the eighth inning at times for some saves. So I got some two-inning saves, some four- and five-out saves. Those opportunities I think really kept me focused out there as well. Having the bullpen we have now, though, everything is really role-oriented… so there isn’t much that you need to do to deviate from that.”

Can you compare your arm now to what it was like before Tommy John surgery?

“The way the doctor described it was, it was a few pieces of string that’s now become a noose rope. I had what many people do not, which is a lack of a tendon in my wrist. So they used my hamstring. So it was thicker and stronger, and they looped it through four times. Generally it used to be two, then they started switching to three. They could do four really easily with me because I had such a prominent elbow bone, my bone sticks out prominently enough, so they looped it through four times. That’s why it sticks out even more now, unlike [the other] side, which just goes straight.”

“He said, as long as I continue to pitch in baseball and work the way you normally would and work hard,  I should never have another elbow problem again. And I haven’t. It’s been unbelievably strong since. Obviously it took a little longer to come back than I wanted because I was trying to figure out my arm path again. … But as far as the elbow is concerned, I’ve never had a problem with it since.”

Do you think there should be any concern in baseball in general about the increase in injuries despite the decrease in workload?

“Not to attack anyone’s work ethic, but it could be just a matter of how people are going about their work. If you’re doing a little too much throughout the year, that could affect it. If you’re not doing enough throughout the year, that could affect it. So many little things could affect an injury. Something small, something big.”

“The elbow is such a tough thing. Throwing a baseball is the most unnatural thing you can do in sports, other than serving a tennis ball. So it’s going to put a lot of strain on your elbow. You just have to take care of it. Certainly you have to understand and know of your body. If you’re putting too much strain on it outside of your throwing program and outside of the games, then obviously that’s not going to be good. But if you’re not doing enough to maintain your shoulder work and elbow work, then you’re going to hurt it then too.”

How well do you know BrianWilson and what did you think when you heard he would be having a second Tommy John surgery?

“We played together when I was in the Cape in 2002. But that was  the only time I ever met him. And that was just before he had his first Tommy John, and just before I had my first Tommy John.”

“It’s concerning because he had his in 2003 and that’s when I had mine too. So it’s interesting to think about. Obviously I don’t want to think about it too much because it’s the same timeframe for both of us. But it’s a tough break for him, tough break for the Giants.”

Hart powers Crew past Cards; Greinke brilliant in 2012 debut

April 7, 2012 Comments off

Corey Hart's second-inning home run was estimated at 447 feet, landing at about this spot.

 

MILWAUKEE — So much for easing Corey Hart into the regular season.

After a knee injury in Spring Training required surgery, it was unclear whether Hart would be ready to go on Opening Day for the second year in a row.

Through two games, Hart appears to be in midseason form.

Following a 1-for-2 performance Friday, Hart blasted two no-doubt home runs Saturday as the Brewers picked up their first win of the season, 6-0, over the Cardinals.

“I think it was big for us to come back today and show that we’re still a good team,” Hart said. “I think we did that.”

Hart’s first homer went deep into the second deck in left, while the second was a two-run shot to center field. Between the two, Hart had an estimated 860 feet worth of home runs on the day.

Not bad for a guy with a knee that is not yet at 100 percent.

“He’s really seeing the ball well,” said manager Ron Roenicke. “Hopefully he’ll come in tomorrow feeling well and we can get him back in there.”

Rickie Weeks also homered in the game, while Aramis Ramirez had a key RBI double in the sixth inning for his first hit in a Brewers uniform. Add in a 2-for-3 day by Ryan Braun — with a pair of doubles, a walk and a run scored — and the Crew showed just how good the offense could be this year, even without Prince Fielder batting cleanup.

All they really needed Saturday was the one run, which Hart provided with his second-inning blast that nearly went over Bernie Brewer’s slide beyond the left field bleachers. That’s because Zack Greinke delivered one of his best outings since coming to Milwaukee last offseason.

Greinke had everything working in his 2012 debut, facing the minimum through 4 1/3 innings. Had it not been for three singles in the fifth and sixth innings — two of which were nearly outs — Greinke may have been on his way to a complete game. Instead, he turned in a stellar seven frames, giving up just four hits and striking out seven batters without a walk.

After starting the season without both Hart and Greinke a year ago, the Brewers already are enjoying what each of them brings to the table just two games in. Full seasons out of both All-Stars could go a long way toward making up for the lost production of Fielder.

“It makes a difference,” Roenicke said. “Last year, we didn’t have those two guys together for quite a while.”

Twins notebook, 7/24

July 24, 2011 Comments off

Twins happy to see Blyleven honored

By Jordan Schelling / MLB.com

MINNEAPOLIS — With the start time of Sunday’s series finale against the Tigers pushed back two hours, the Twins were looking forward to watching Bert Blyleven’s speech during his induction ceremony into the National Baseball Hall of Fame.

Blyleven, who had his No. 28 retired by the Twins eight days earlier at Target Field, has been in Cooperstown since Wednesday for various Hall of Fame activities. On Sunday, the day finally came for Blyleven — along with Roberto Alomar and Pat Gillick — to be honored at the Hall of Fame.

“It should be really cool,” lefty reliever Glen Perkins, a Minnesota native, said prior to the ceremony. “I remember when [Kirby] Puckett went in and [Paul] Molitor went in. Those were guys that I watched go in, and I never really knew Kirby, but I’ve known Paul pretty well for a while.

“I know Bert as well as I know Paul, so it’s going to be cool to watch him give that speech and see him at the Hall of Fame there. I’m looking forward to watching it.”

The Twins showed Blyleven’s speech on the video board for fans attending Sunday’s game, while Twins manager Ron Gardenhire and the players planned to watch it on TV in the clubhouse.

“I wish that we could be there to enjoy it with him,” Michael Cuddyer said. “But it’s been a long time coming, and he deserves it as much as anybody does.”

Given Blyleven’s 16-year career as a Twins broadcaster and his knack for keeping things interesting on the air, his speech is expected to be a good one.

“I can’t wait to listen; it ought to be really entertaining, knowing all the stories that he has,” Gardenhire said Sunday morning. “There’s got to be something good in there. I’d like to listen to it in here; I’m interested in what he has to say. It’ll be fun stories, knowing Bert.”

Baker feeling fine after first start off DL

MINNEAPOLIS — While he had no issues throwing 82 pitches in five innings on Saturday night, the important thing for Twins right-hander Scott Baker was how he felt the next day.

Before Sunday’s series finale with the Tigers, Baker said he felt great.

“I kind of had an idea that I was going to feel OK, because once I was done, I just felt like I got a good workout,” Baker said. “As far as a hurting type of soreness, I don’t have anything like that. I haven’t played catch yet, but I feel like everything should be fine.”

In making his first start since July 5, Baker went in with a limit of 75-80 pitches. After finishing the fourth with 72 pitches, Baker went back out for the fifth and tossed 10 more before leaving the game, having allowed just three hits.

Baker said he expected to be able to increase his pitch count in his next outing.

“I’ll leave that up to them,” Baker said. “But I’d like at least get to the 100-pitch mark next time.”

Span plays back-to-back rehab games

MINNEAPOLIS — Center fielder Denard Span played seven innings for Triple-A Rochester in a rehab game on Sunday after also playing seven innings on Saturday.

Span went 0-for-4 on Sunday in the Red Wings’ 3-0 loss. Through six rehab games, after being on the shelf since early June with a concussion, Span has three hits in 20 at-bats with Rochester. All three hits were singles, and Span has also stolen a base.

“Everything seems to be going along just fine,” said Twins manager Ron Gardenhire, who watched Denard play on Saturday night. “He’s feeling good.”

While a return to the Twins seems likely to come soon for Span, it will not happen until he plays full games in center field on consecutive nights. Gardenhire has also talked recently about getting Span going at the plate before his return.

“He’s still playing seven innings,” Gardenhire said. “The talk is trying to get him to where [he’s] playing nine innings, probably four or five days in a row. Then we’ll see where we’re at. He’s getting close to being able to do that.”

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