Twins Tough, Royals Ready To Rebound?

Carl Pavano ... ex-Indian returning to Twins?

Minnesota's Ron Gardenhire won the AL Manager of the Year award for a very good reason -- he's currently the best in the business. Gardenhire guided the Twins to another AL Central title in 2010 despite injuries to key players. If those guys are healthy next year, his job should be easier and Minnesota should win it again. Meanwhile in Kansas City, the Royals may finally be on the road back.


Joe Mauer spent much of the 2010 season getting beat up behind the plate, playing through shoulder and knee injuries all the way into the AL Division Series against the Yankees. But Mauer, 27, isn't ready to change positions.
"I know that's going to happen at some point, I'm hoping it's a lot later than sooner," Mauer said. "But there will be a point where I won't be able to play (catcher) anymore, too. Like I said, I hope I don't have to worry about that for a long time."
Mauer also missed a week because of a deep heel bruise suffered while trying to beat out an infield grounder. One month after the Twins lost in the first round of the playoffs, the catcher was still recovering.
"I'm still healing from last season, I guess," he said. "It's still pretty early in the offseason. I've started moving around a little bit, letting my body try to heal."
Twins general manager Bill Smith said Oct. 29 that Mauer would not need surgery, saying it's "best treated by rest and rehab." Smith said Nov. 10 that was still the case.
Mauer played in 137 games, committed just three errors and had four passed balls. He threw out 15 of 68 base runners attempting to steal (22 percent), and he captured his third Gold Glove. He also won his fourth Silver Slugger Award.
Asked whether he had started his offseason routine, Mauer said, "I'm moving around a little bit. Obviously it's not too extensive right now; I'm still trying to let the body heal itself."
NOTES, QUOTES: The Twins announced some changes at Target Field for 2011, but none had to do with the outfield dimensions. Perhaps that's what prompted 1B Justin Morneau to send an email to the Minneapolis Star-Tribune saying that he and his teammates were "very disappointed" the fences were not moved in.
"Right-center to left-center is ridiculous," Morenau wrote. "(It's almost impossible for a right-handed hitter to (hit a home run to the) opposite field and very difficult for lefties. It affects the hitters a lot, and you start to develop bad habits as a hitter when you feel like you can only pull the ball to hit it over the fence. You take those habits on the road."
Team president Dave St. Peter noted the Twins had an AL-best 53-28 record at home in their first season at Target Field, while they were 41-40 on the road.
"We had a lot of discussions in the clubhouse with the manager and general manager, but right now there is no plan to alter the dimensions," St. Peter told the newspaper. "We have to remember we won 53 games in this place, so I think we liked how Target Field played."
Morneau conceded that point, and stressed he hoped he didn't sound selfish, but was thinking about the team's future success. "I think we had a team built around power and offense, and were not able to take full advantage of it," Morneau said.
RHP Yorman Bazardo, who had been in the Astros' organization, signed a minor league contract with an invitation to the Twins' spring camp. He was 4-5 with a 3.87 ERA in Class AAA last season.
C Joe Mauer won his third Gold Glove Award on Nov. 9. "It obviously means a lot for me because when I was drafted, everyone knew I could hit a little bit, and I worked really hard on the defensive side," he said. Mauer is the first Twins catcher to win three Gold Glove Awards, surpassing Earl Battey (1961-62), and the fifth at any position to win three, joining Jim Kaat (11), Torii Hunter (seven), Kirby Puckett (six) and Gary Gaetti (four).
RHP Eric Hacker, 27, was signed to a major league contract and will be added to the 40-man roster on Nov. 19. "He's a good get," GM Bill Smith said. "He was among our targeted minor league free agents, and we're pleased to get him." Pacific Coast League managers named Hacker the league's top right-hander in 2010 after he went 16-9 with a 4.51 ERA for Fresno, the Giants' Class AAA affiliate. He throws four pitches and has one minor-league option left.
INF Alexi Casilla, who will be given a shot to earn a middle infield spot in spring training, is playing winter ball with Gigantes del Cibao in the Dominican League. Through 11 games, he was batting .268 (11-for-41) with two doubles, a triple, four walks and two RBI.
Smith said the Twins likely would wait until the Nov. 23 deadline to offer arbitration to any of the team's 10 major league free agents: RHP Carl Pavano, RHP Jesse Crain, RHP Matt Guerrier, RHP Jon Rauch, LHP Brian Fuentes, LHP Randy Flores, LHP Ron Mahay, 2B Orlando Hudson, INF Nick Punto and DH Jim Thome. Teams must offer a free agent arbitration if they want to earn a compensatory pick should the player sign elsewhere. Free agents have until Nov. 30 to accept or decline arbitration.
1B/RF Chris Parmelee, 22, the Twins' first-round pick (20th overall) in the 2006 draft, was batting .354 (29-for-82) with nine doubles and 10 RBI through 21 games in the Arizona Fall League, besting two-time minor league Player of the Year OF Ben Revere (.337, two doubles, nine RBI).
BY THE NUMBERS:: $76.6 million -- Amount committed to just 11 players next season, nearly $12 million more than the team's Opening Day payroll in 2009.
QUOTE TO NOTE:: "I've been in contact with them, but as far as decisions go, I'm a catcher, I'm a player. All I'm trying to do is be prepared for the season. I'm not saying, 'We need this guy and that guy.' There are discussions, but my job is to catch and hit." -- C Joe Mauer, asked if he has discussed offseason moves with the team's brass.
ROSTER REPORT:: The Twins could lose their best starting pitcher from 2010, Carl Pavano, to free agency along with Jim Thome's 25 homers and Orlando Hudson's Gold Glove-caliber defense at second base. They already have $72 million committed to eight players in 2011, thanks in large part to Joe Mauer's new contract kicking in. The catcher will make $23 million next season after making $12.5 million this year. The Twins' biggest gray area in 2011 is the bullpen. With Jesse Crain, Matt Guerrier, Jon Rauch and Brian Fuentes all eligible for free agency, changes are on the way. On top of that, Matt Capps could double his 2010 salary of $3.5 million next season, and the Twins don't yet know how closer Joe Nathan, who is making $11.25 million in 2011, will bounce back from the Tommy John surgery he underwent in spring training.
ARRIVALS:: RHP Eric Hacker (minor league free agent from Giants).
FREE AGENTS:: RHP Carl Pavano, DH Jim Thome, 2B Orlando Hudson, RHP Matt Guerrier, RHP Jon Rauch, RHP Jesse Crain, LHP Brian Fuentes, LHP Randy Flores, LHP Ron Mahay, INF Nick Punto. The Twins will not be able to keep all their free agent relievers, but of the five, Guerrier might be the most likely to return. Minnesota would benefit from keeping Pavano and Thome, but they might make too much money. Hudson seems likely to move on. Flores, Mahay, Rauch and Fuentes are unlikely to be back. The Twins announced on Oct. 29 that they had declined the 2011 option in Punto's contract.
ARBITRATION-ELIGIBLE:: SS J.J. Hardy, RHP Matt Capps, LHP Francisco Liriano, LF Delmon Young, RHP Clay Condrey, RHP Kevin Slowey, INF Alexi Casilla, RHP Pat Neshek, LHP Glen Perkins. Hardy, Capps, Liriano and Young will all be due raises, but the Twins have a history of settling with their players before hearings. Minnesota might be interested in signing Liriano to a longer contract than one year, while Neshek, Perkins and Condrey might not be back.
IN LIMBO:: Hardy, Capps and Slowey could end up in trade talks this offseason.
MEDICAL WATCH:: 1B Justin Morneau (concussion); INF/OF Michael Cuddyer (arthroscopic right knee surgery); RHP Joe Nathan (Tommy John surgery in March); C Joe Mauer (left knee tissue inflammation); RHP Scott Baker (arthroscopic right elbow surgery in October); RHP Nick Blackburn (arthroscopic right elbow surgery in October); OF Jason Repko (left thumb surgery in October) should be ready for spring training.


The Royals' 2010 Opening Day outfield has been traded.
Kansas City sent right fielder David DeJesus to the Athletics on Nov. 10 for two pitchers -- right-hander Vin Mazzaro and Class A left-hander Justin Marks. In July, the Royals dealt left fielder Scott Podsednik to the Dodgers and center fielder Rick Ankiel to the Braves.
The Royals picked up a club option of $6 million for DeJesus last month. DeJesus will be eligible for free agency after the 2011 season.
DeJesus hit .318 in 2010, but his season ended July 21 when he tore a right thumb ligament while crashing into the Yankee Stadium wall attempting to catch a ball hit by Derek Jeter. He has a .289 career batting average in 876 games in the majors, all with the Royals.
Mazzaro, 24, was 6-8 with a 4.27 ERA in 24 appearances, including 18 starts, in three stints with Oakland. He went 3-1 with a 3.13 ERA with Class AAA Sacramento. Mazzaro is projected to join a rotation that includes Zack Greinke, Luke Hochevar, Kyle Davies and Sean O'Sullivan, all right-handers.
Marks was the A's 2009 third-round pick out of Louisville, where he was selected the Big East Pitcher of the Year. In his first full professional season this year, Marks went 3-12 with a 4.92 ERA for low Class A Kane County, striking out 119 in 109 2/3 innings. Marks, 22, was promoted to high Class A Stockton and went 3-1 with a 4.58 ERA in five starts.
"This deal allows us to further increase our pitching depth at the major and minor league levels," Royals general manager Dayton Moore said. "Vin Mazzaro fits into our rotation for next season, while Justin Marks is a young left-hander who we see starting 2011 at (high Class A) Wilmington. David DeJesus is a high-class person and has been our most consistent performer, both offensively and defensively, over the past few years. We wish the very best for him in the future."
NOTES, QUOTES: RHP Brian Bannister, who won 12 games in 2007 as a rookie but went 7-12 with a 6.34 ERA in 24 games this year, was outrighted to Class AAA Omaha. Bannister refused the assignment and became a free agent. He made $2.3 million last season and was again eligible for arbitration.
RHP Brian Anderson, who opted to switch from the outfield to the mound at the end of spring training, was designated for assignment. Anderson, 28, went 0-0 with a 2.08 ERA in 14 total outings covering 17 1/3 innings for three minor league teams in 2010.
C Jason Kendall, who missed the final 31 games after having shoulder surgery to repair tears in his right rotator cuff, was reinstated to the 40-man major league roster. Kendall hit .256 with no home runs in 118 games.
OF Jeff Francoeur, who refused a minor-league assignment with the Rangers and became a free agent, is drawing interest from the Royals. Francoeur was drafted by the Braves when Royals GM Dayton Moore was with the Atlanta front office. Plus, Francoeur swings right-handed. The Royals' top four outfielders bat left-handed.
SS Chris McConnell, who has a good glove but a weak bat, declared for minor league free agency. He was a ninth-round pick in 2004 and hit .333 in his first two minor league seasons, but he has not batted higher than .237 since. He had a .231 average in 2010 in 122 games with Class AA Northwest Arkansas.
BY THE NUMBERS:: 5-3, 2.64 -- RHP Vin Mazzaro's record and ERA in 12 career appearances, including nine starts, against AL Central opponents. QUOTE TO NOTE:: "He's a big, strong guy who our scouts feel can be a solid rotation pitcher for a number of years, and we control him for five years." -- Royals GM Dayton Moore, on RHP Vin Mazzaro.
ARRIVALS:DEPARTURES:: OF David DeJesus (traded to Athletics).
ROSTER REPORT:: The Royals need reliable starters behind Zack Greinke in the rotation. They are a predominantly left-handed hitting club outside of Billy Butler. They could use a right-handed run-producer in the middle of the lineup. The Royals have money to spend on free agents with the salaries of Jose Guillen, Kyle Farnsworth, Rick Ankiel, Juan Cruz and Scott Podsednik off the books. However, they might not spend it because they don't want to block any prospects from making it to the bigs.
FREE AGENTS:: LHP Bruce Chen, RHP Brian Bannister. Chen was the only left-hander in the rotation in 2010 and topped the club by winning 12 games. Bannister was released after the season.
ARBITRATION-ELIGIBLE:: RHP Kyle Davies, RHP Luke Hochevar, RHP Robinson Tejeda, C Brayan Pena, 3B Josh Fields, INF/OF Wilson Betemit, 1B/DH Billy Butler, LF Alex Gordon. Davies and Hochevar make up 40 percent of the rotation and will get sizable raises, as will setup man Robinson Tejeda. Butler is in line for a huge payroll increase after hitting .300 the last two years. Gordon should be an interesting case, moving from third base to left field. Betemit began the season in the minors but finished with a .297 average and 13 home runs. Pena played sparingly before Jason Kendall went on the disabled list.
IN LIMBO:: RHP Zack Greinke could be available if the price is right. The Royals reportedly would be seeking at least two "can't-miss" players.
MEDICAL WATCH:: C Jason Kendall (shoulder surgery in September) is expected to be out until at least June 1; 2B Chris Getz (concussion) did not play after he was injured Sept. 12. He will be monitored this offseason to make sure he is 100 percent by spring training. Recommended Stories

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