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The Baseball Guy’s Twins news and notes

  

By Gordy Jones

 

Spanning the Outfield

Since being called up from Rochester on June 29, Twins outfielder, Denard Span has been covering a lot of ground with fantastic speed as he makes great catches and crashes into walls. He’s been hitting over .300 – and getting those hits at crucial times.

Denard told me he’s been getting ready for this opportunity since he was five. He said that hitting his first major league home run against the White Sox on July 28 was an incredible feeling.

“It’s something that I’ve always dreamed about! And to come at a time like that, in a close game against a team we’re chasing. ”

Was Denard able to get his first home run ball for a keepsake?

“Yes. It bounced back in. I knew [my teammates] had it. After the game, we went into the locker room and they gave me a ball, saying it was my home run ball. But they had crazy things written all over my ball—jokes, pictures. I was looking at my home run ball and thinking, ‘How could they write this crazy stuff on my first home run ball?’ I wanted to cherish it for the rest of my life. How could they do it? Five minutes went by and I saw they were all staring at me and laughing. Then they threw me another ball and told me it was the real one. They had me going for five minutes. Just like the great fans here, we have great guys in the clubhouse.”

I asked Denard who was the major influence on him, someone who may have shaped his life and/or career.

Without hesitation he proudly said, “My Mom! She raised me and my brother in a single-parent home. She is a strong woman. I grew up watching her go to work every day and support two kids – that just drove me. Now I see her smiling a lot. I look at her and I know that I am putting that smile on her face. That’s very satisfying to me.”

 

Welcome Home

During Twins manager Ron Gardenhire’s one-day suspension for “expressing his opinion” to the umpires during the recent Chicago series, he couldn’t stand being away from his team. When he returned on Sunday, he wore an ear-to-ear smile all day.

He had a ball pitching to the players’ children during the weekly, early-Sunday-morning family day on the field. When he finished, I jokingly welcomed him back to the Dome. With both jubilation and a little mockery in his voice, he replied, “I get to play today!”

Then he threw his arms above his head. A few hours later he was even happier; his team had given him a win.

 

Who Wants Gum?

Twins infielder Alexi Casilla felt bad that he couldn’t sign autographs for children before the Indians game last week because of an injured writing hand. He felt so bad that he decided to pass out a treat.

He was heard saying, ”I’m sorry I can’t sign; my hand is hurt. Have some bubble gum instead.”

 

Get Out of the Way!

Pitching coach Rick “Andy” Anderson, on Francisco Liriano’s return and on his pitching staff in general, “I’m excited! We have such a young, talented pitching staff. I just stay out of their way and let them do their stuff!”

He’s quite modest. If a guy is having problems, Andy is the best in the business at figuring out what’s wrong and helping his pitcher to rectify it. He is an expert on pitching mechanics and has a special talent in communicating with these young, talented guys. He is a great teacher. There’s a lot of mutual respect between Andy and his staff.

 

Goodbye! Hello!

Relief pitcher Brian Bass, on Livan Hernandez leaving and Francisco Liriano returning: “Livan was a very influential pitcher on our staff. He’s a great guy and we’ll all miss him. But Francisco’s back! We’re very excited. He’s also a great guy. He’s very talented. The guys [on the pitching staff] are in a great mood. We have such a good chemistry that hasn’t been affected by anything, and we are in a race!” he said with a smile.

 

Uncle Joe

The usually reserved Twins catcher, Joe Mauer, was quite excited about the birth of his niece to his brother Billy and Billy’s wife, Stephanie, earlier this season. And with Joe’s love for children, he was their first choice to be the baby’s godfather. When I congratulated Joe, he said with an excited look: “More good news! Now my brother Jake and his wife are expecting. I’m going to be an uncle again!”

 

Terry Ryan Express

Former Twins General Manager Terry Ryan, who stepped down last year and is now Senior Advisor to GM Bill Smith, was at the Dome recently, and he looked great — very relaxed.

“I have nothing to worry about anymore,” he said, laughing. “I travel around and I do some scouting. I watch baseball at every level.”

I asked Terry how often the Twins call him for advice. Chuckling, he said, “More than I thought they would. But that’s all right. That’s my job. I just tell them what I think, and the rest is up to them.”

 

Coach Jake

Terry Ryan was recently in Florida watching the Twins’ Gulf Coast Team in the Rookie League. That’s where Joe Mauer’s older brother Jake is in his first year as manager. Terry commented, “Jake is settling in fine as a manager. He is really getting a grip on his team, and they’ve come a long way. He’s doing a nice job down there.”

Jake is a natural leader and has fantastic baseball smarts. Rumor has it: In the far-off future, someday when Gardy retires, Jake will be groomed and ready to take over and manage his brother Joe and the Minnesota Twins.

I asked Jake what he thought of that notion, and he said with a surprised sort of smile, “Yeah! That would be great to manage my brother and the Twins. But that’s a long way off. I have a lot of work to do before that ever happens.”

 

Deal or No Deal

Rob Antony, Assistant General Manager, was hanging out at the Dome, relaxing with his family after a hectic week of trade talks that never led to a trade.

“We had a lot of offers. But we were not going to do anything unless it would have improved the club. You also have to consider what any move will do to the chemistry of the team. You have to be very careful there.”

I asked Rob if there were any offers that were too ridiculous to consider. He said, “Definitely. But then you realize that they [other teams] place a higher value on their own players, as we may do on ours. They are just saying that this is what it would take to make this move.”

It’s all a matter of perspective.

 

Sleeping Contently

Nick Punto’s hand has healed, and he’s playing often and was playing fairly well….until the Twins went to Kansas City, when he began to struggle at the plate once again.

On the bright side, his family is doing well. Proud Papa Nick says, “My baby sleeps like a rock. We’re so happy. We’re really blessed. Yeah, everything’s great.”

 

Happy Birthdays!

Twins reliever Matty Guerrier had the best birthday of his life. On his birthday, which was August 2, he and his wife, Dejie, adopted a 3-day-old baby girl. Matt said the baby is the greatest gift ever. Congratulations!

 

More Twins Injuries/More Baby Talk

Michael Cuddyer was very excited that his hand felt better and that he could grip a bat. “I’m going to rehab, and soon I’ll be back in the lineup!” were his first words when he saw me during the Indians series. Little did he know that while at rehab, he’d break his foot— which may have ended his season.

I asked Michael how new baby Casey was doing, and how he and wife Claudia were adjusting to life with the little guy. “It’s going well. Every time I hold him, and feel him on my chest, I know how special he really is. We’re up a little more at night, but we know that we are providing for someone who will love us for the rest of our lives.”

 

Check out Gordy’s book at baseballguy.org. Gordy can be reached at gejones1@aol.com.