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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.

Tigers notebook, 7/22

July 22, 2011 Comments off

Leyland addresses Thursday’s decisions

MINNEAPOLIS — After right-hander Justin Verlander gave up a leadoff triple on Thursday in the second inning, Tigers manager Jim Leyland played the infield back with Jim Thome at the plate. But following Thome’s strikeout, Leyland moved the infield in with one out.

Leyland discussed the thought process behind the two decisions before Friday’s game.

“Well, with no outs, you don’t want to open up a big inning,” Leyland said. “If you’re playing in and he hits a ball in the hole that you didn’t get, you still got a guy on first. You’ve got one out and you still got the double play in order.

“Over my career, I’ve seen too many infields back and a routine ground ball to the shortstop allows a guy to trot home.”

The strategy did not really end up mattering for Leyland and the Tigers, as Verlander struck out both Thome and Danny Valencia, setting up a ground out to end the inning with the runner stranded at third base.

But Leyland said that he generally likes to bring the infield in with one out and a runner on third.

“Unless you’re worried about a big inning, I play them in all the time,” Leyland said. “If you got one out, I think you should be able to come out of it without a big inning.”

Leyland, Thome share jovial conversation

MINNEAPOLIS — Early on Friday afternoon, Tigers manager Jim Leyland sat out to enjoy a beautiful day at Target Field, which he called “gorgeous,” “beautiful” and a “tremendous” ballpark.

In the home dugout, Leyland spotted Jim Thome and struck up a conversation with the Twins’ slugger.

“I just happened to see him in their dugout, and I pointed to the that sign out there,” said Leyland, referring to the banner above center field that read ‘THOME 596,’ counting down his chase for 600 career home runs.

“I said, ‘I don’t want to see that go up while I’m here,’ kidding him,” Leyland said.

Thome didn’t really have a comeback for Leyland’s joke, but he said that he had a good time talking with Leyland.

“I didn’t really comment, you know?” Thome said. “What are you going to say? It was just all in fun and joking.”

With seven home runs on the year, Thome is within striking distance of becoming the eighth player in Major League history to reach the 600-home run plateau.

Leyland discussed with Thome how nice a ballpark Target Field is, and Thome pointed out to him that all five cities in the American League Central are great places to play.

Aside from the joke about Leyland not wanting to see Thome get any closer to 600 homers this weekend, neither discussed any specifics about their conversation. But both had plenty of good things to say about the other.

“Jimmy’s been around the game a long time,” Thome said. “He’s an old school manager that I think a lot of people have respect for. He’s always been very, very pleasant and very nice to me. Any time I’ve run across him, he’s always been very cordial, very polite. He’s just a good guy to talk to about baseball in general.”

Tigers manager recalls memories of Blyleven

MINNEAPOLIS — With former Twins right-hander Bert Blyleven set to be inducted into the National Baseball Hall of Fame on Sunday in Cooperstown, he was a topic of discussion on Friday when Tigers manager Jim Leyland met with reporters.

Leyland recalled his first encounter with Blyleven in 1969, when both were in the Florida League, playing for the Tigers’ and Twins’ affiliates at the Class A level.

“He was in Orlando when I was at Lakeland,” Leyland said. “I hit against him.”

So the obvious next question was, how did Leyland fare against Blyleven in the early stages of what would eventually become a Hall of Fame pitching career?

“I was probably one of the first guys who sent him on his way to Cooperstown,” Leyland said. “And I can assure you one thing, he doesn’t remember what happened, because he had no clue who I was.”

Tigers sign Draft picks Westlake, Collier

MINNEAPOLIS — The Tigers announced on Friday that they had signed third round pick Aaron Westlake and 22nd round pick Tommy Collier.

With two more players signed from the 2011 MLB First-Year Player Draft, the Tigers have now agreed to terms with 28 of the club’s selections.

Westlake, a first baseman from Vanderbilt University, earned second team All-America honors from Baseball America after hitting .344 with 18 doubles, 18 home runs and 56 RBIs in 66 games this year for the Commodores.

Collier, a right-hander from San Jacinto College, was pitching with Bourne of the Cape Cod League this summer before he signed. In five starts, Collier compiled a 3-1 record with a 1.04 ERA, allowing three earned runs over 26 innings pitched with 26 strikeouts.

Blyleven has built tight bond with Twins fans

July 21, 2011 Comments off

MINNEAPOLIS — Circle me, Bert.

Nearly 10 years ago, during a Twins roadtrip, Bert Blyleven began using his telestrator during broadcasts to circle Twins fans during games. When the Twins returned home, the Metrodome was filled with “Circle me, Bert” signs, and the phenomenon began.

After spending 11 seasons in his 22-year career pitching for the Twins, Blyleven has been a color commentator on the team’s broadcasts since 1996. Now in his 16th year on the air, Blyleven’s popularity among fans has never been greater.

Blyleven in home stretch for Hall induction

July 18, 2011 Comments off

MINNEAPOLIS — All season, the Twins have been counting down the number of home games until Bert Blyleven’s induction into the National Baseball Hall of Fame.

That countdown reached single digits over the weekend, and was down to just five games Monday as Blyleven entered the final week before the ceremony in Cooperstown, N.Y.

It’s a big eight-day stretch for Blyleven, which began Saturday with the Twins retiring his No. 28 at Target Field, and will culminate in Sunday’s induction ceremony.

“It’s kind of a nice stepping stone to the following weekend in Cooperstown,” Blyleven said Friday on a conference call. “The honors are coming my way and it’s very, very nice.”

In the final week before his induction, Blyleven continued his usual broadcasting duties in the TV booth for the Twins during Monday’s doubleheader and Tuesday’s game at Target Field.

Blyleven also will be working on his induction speech, which he said Friday he had yet to finish. It should be a good one considering Blyleven’s experience with public speaking and doing color commentary for Fox Sports North.

“My speech, I’m still working on it,” Blyleven said. “To me, it’s a day of ‘Thank you’ to so many people that mentored me, and that’s what I’m just trying to get down.

“It’s going to be a long one, I’m thinking about going over an hour. … Just kidding.”

On Wednesday morning, Blyleven will fly out to Cooperstown to begin his busy week of Hall of Fame activities. Upon his arrival, Blyleven will have a series of meetings with the Hall of Fame staff and will go through the schedule for the weekend.

Among the things on Blyleven’s schedule on Friday and Saturday are an induction ceremony rehearsal, a Hall of Fame member golf outing, the awards presentation, the Parade of Legends and the Chairman’s party.

The induction ceremony will be held on Sunday at 1:30 p.m. ET (12:30 p.m. CT) at the Clark Sports Center, located about a mile from the National Baseball Hall of Fame Museum. Admission to the ceremony is free, and it will also be broadcast live on MLB Network.

On Monday morning, Blyleven will see his plaque at the Hall of Fame and take part in a program to share his memories before returning home.

He’ll have a lot on his schedule while in Cooperstown, but Blyleven said he’s looking forward to all of it.

“I enjoy meeting people, because that’s part of it,” Blyleven said. “Hopefully shaking a lot of hands of all the fans that come out there, taking time out of their busy schedule to come out and see myself or Roberto Alomar or Pat Gillick. It’s a great honor for me to be inducted into the Hall of Fame with those two gentlemen.

“I’m looking forward to seeing what Cooperstown is all about during the induction weekend. I heard it was a lot of fun.”

Blyleven seemed particularly excited about one particular person expected to be in attendance, flying in just to see him.

“I’m looking forward to also my mother, at 85, is flying in. Most of my family is going to be there,” Blyleven said. “Hopefully the weekend’s going to be very special for her.”

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

Blyleven’s 28 takes place among Twins greats

July 16, 2011 Comments off

MINNEAPOLIS — No player will wear No. 28 again for the Minnesota Twins.

Prior to Saturday’s game against the Royals, the Twins retired Bert Blyleven’s uniform No. 28, eight days before his induction into the National Baseball Hall of Fame.

Blyleven joined fellow Twins greats Harmon Killebrew, Rod Carew, Tony Oliva, Kent Hrbek and Kirby Puckett as the only six Minnesota players to have their numbers retired. Blyleven’s No. 28 was placed between Jackie Robinson’s No. 42 and Kirby Puckett’s No. 34.

“Target Field’s going to be here a long time,” Blyleven said Friday on a conference call. “Somewhere down the line, 50 years from now when I’m gone, some young kid will go to the ballpark and say, ‘Who was No. 28?’

“Hopefully their father or grandfather will explain who I was and what I did. It becomes almost unbelievable.”

The ceremony was emceed by Twins announcers Dick Bremer and John Gordon and included appearances by Carew, Oliva and Hrbek. Each of the three received a standing ovation from the crowd as he walked out from left field.

Blyleven followed those three, jogging out to huge ovation from the fans on Bert Blyleven Day at Target Field. Gordon introduced Blyleven as the “greatest right-handed pitcher in Twins history.”

A special presentation was made by The Netherlands, which gave Blyleven a special pair of Size 13 wooden shoes to commemorate his being the first Dutch-born player inducted into the Hall of Fame.

The ceremony also featured a video tribute as well as special presentations by Twins ownership and current team members.

Former Twins manager Tom Kelly brought out a brand new set of Callaway golf clubs along with a custom Hall of Fame bag given to Blyleven — an avid golfer — by the Twins front office.

Each member of the current ballclub followed manager Ron Gardenhire onto the field to present Blyleven with a signed replica of the No. 28 that will hang in his honor at Target Field.

“I think that’s a number that could have been retired a long time ago,” said lefty reliever Glen Perkins, a Minnesota native. “I think he should’ve been in the Hall of Fame a long time ago. It’s well-deserved.”

Said right fielder Michael Cuddyer: “It’s been a long time coming, and he deserves this as much as anybody does. He definitely, 100 percent deserves that recognition and that honor.”

Blyleven was joined on the field during the ceremony by his wife, Gayle, and a number of other family members. His children also took part in the ceremony as they unveiled the No. 28 on the left-field façade.

Special No. 28 logos honoring Blyleven were placed on the field behind the pitcher’s mound and along the foul lines for Saturday’s game.

Blyleven also threw out a ceremonial first pitch to former Twins catcher George Mitterwald, his first battery mate in the Major Leagues.

“Twenty-two years I played the greatest game in the world,” said Blyleven during his speech, “and I still miss it.”

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 to retire Blyleven’s number on Saturday

July 15, 2011 Comments off

 MINNEAPOLIS — Even with two World Series titles to his credit, Bert Blyleven considers being inducted into the National Baseball Hall of Fame to be the highlight of his career.

“It’s the ultimate,” Blyleven said on a conference call Friday. “You’re in a fraternity that is so small and so nationally recognized. All of a sudden … ‘Bert Blyleven, Major League pitcher,’ [turns into] ‘Bert Blyleven, Hall of Fame Major League pitcher.’

“It’s incredible.”

Before he’s inducted on July 24 alongside Roberto Alomar and Pat Gillick, the Twins will retire Blyleven’s No. 28 during a ceremony Saturday before their game against the Royals at Target Field.

His number will sit between No. 42 for Jackie Robinson and Kirby Puckett’s No. 34.

“Target Field’s going to be here a long time,” Blyleven said. “Somewhere down the line, 50 years from now when I’m gone, some young kid will go to the ballpark and say, ‘Who was No. 28?’

“Hopefully their father or grandfather will explain who I was and what I did. It becomes almost unbelievable.”

Saturday’s ceremony, which will be emceed by Twins announcers Dick Bremer and John Gordon, will include Rod Carew, Kent Hrbek and Tony Oliva. A special presentation to Blyleven will be made by The Netherlands. The ceremony will also feature a video tribute as well as special presentations by Twins ownership and current team members.

“I’m extremely excited about that,” said Michael Cuddyer, whose locker sits under the No. 28 that has been added in the Twins clubhouse. “He’s a fixture in this organization, obviously as a player and now as a broadcaster. He definitely, 100 percent, deserves that recognition and that honor.”

Special logos honoring Blyleven will be placed on the field behind the pitcher’s mound and along the foul lines. He will also throw out a ceremonial first pitch to former Twins catcher George Mitterwald, Blyleven’s first catcher in the Major Leagues.

The pregame ceremony will begin shortly after 6 p.m. CT.

The club will give away vouchers for Blyleven baseballs, with instructions on how to throw his curve ball, to the first 20,000 fans. The vouchers may be redeemed for the  ball — limited to one per person — starting in the middle of the seventh inning outside all gates at Target Field and at the Main Box Office through July 24.

The Twins have also retired the numbers for Harmon Killebrew (3), Carew (29), Oliva (6), Hrbek (14), Puckett (34) and Robinson (42).

Left-handed reliever Glen Perkins, a Minnesota native, said that while he was too young to remember Blyleven playing for the Twins — Perkins was only four years old in 1987 — he always knew Blyleven was one of the best pitchers in franchise history.

Since Perkins made his debut with the club in 2006, he’s gotten the chance to know Blyleven on a more personal level.

“He’s a great guy, he’s awesome,” Perkins said. “He’s fun because he’s still kind of got the player mentality. If you ask him questions, he’ll answer them, but he’s not a guy that preaches on you. He’s a great guy to have around. He’s a lot of fun and it’s just another great resource if you need it.”

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, 6/11

June 11, 2011 Comments off

Perry inducted into Twins Hall of Fame

MINNEAPOLIS — One of only three Cy Young Award winners in Twins history, right-hander Jim Perry was inducted into the Twins Hall of Fame on Saturday.

Perry, the 1970 Cy Young Award winner, was honored in an on-field pregame ceremony before the Twins played the Rangers at Target Field.

“I’ve been really looking forward to a day like today,” Perry said. “It’s great to be with the group, the other Minnesota Hall of Famers.

“Minnesota, my family really, they still call it home up here.”

Past inductees joining Perry for the ceremony included Rick Aguilera, Gary Gaetti, Tom Kelly, Tony Oliva, Rod Carew and Bert Blyleven.

A teammate and rookie during Perry’s Cy Young season, Blyleven introduced Perry before his induction speech. Perry said after the ceremony he planned to be in New York on July 24th for Blyleven’s induction into the National Baseball Hall of Fame.

“He still calls me ‘Dad’ and he calls my wife, ‘Mom,'” Perry said of Blyleven. “That’s the way Bert is all the time.

“I was here in October, I said, ‘You’re not in the Hall of Fame yet, but when they come up in January, you’ll be on that and I’m going to be there when you’re inducted.'”

After Oliva and Carew unveiled Perry’s plaque, Perry tossed a ceremonial first pitch to his former teammate and manager, Frank Quilici.

The ceremony also honored the deceased members of the Twins Hall of Fame, including Harmon Killebrew, who recently passed after batting esophageal cancer. Perry said Killebrew was the first person to greet him when he arrived in Minnesota back in 1963.

“I really missed having Harmon, I thought Harmon would be here,” Perry said. “The last time I saw him, he was doing pretty good, but that changed real quick.”

Perry, 75, is the older brother of 72-year-old Hall of Famer Gaylord Perry. Between the two of them, the Perry brothers won 529 games and three Cy Young Awards, as Gaylord won the honor in 1972 with the Indians and in ’78 with the Padres.

The Perry brothers are the second-winningest brother combination in baseball history behind Joe and Phil Niekro, who had 539 victories between them.

Nishioka moves up to Triple-A Rochester

MINNEAPOLIS — Twins shortstop Tsuyoshi Nishioka moved a step closer on Saturday to returning to the big league club, joining Triple-A Rochester on the road in Toledo.

Nishioka flew from Fort Myers to Toledo in the morning and was expected to be in the Red Wings’ lineup on Saturday night, according to Twins head trainer Rick McWane.

Twins manager Ron Gardenhire said before Saturday’s game that he was happy to hear Nishioka was headed to Triple-A.

“I talked with him on the phone, told him what we’d like him to do, and he had no problem with that,” Gardenhire said. “He’s excited to go up in a new place, a new venue, and get after it.”

In four games at Fort Myers, Nishioka batted .333, collecting four hits in 12 at-bats, including a double and an RBI. Nishioka also stole a base, walked twice and struck out twice.

As he moves from Class A to Triple-A, Nishioka will face much better competition, while also dealing with an increase in fans and media that will better prepare him for a return to the Major Leagues.

If everything goes as planned, Nishioka should make his return to the Twins during their current homestand.

“It’s a big move when we have to do something like that,” Gardenhire said. “But that’s what we want. We want him to get some swings against some [Triple-A] pitching. He should be able to join us by midweek.”