Posted by: gravessack | March 1, 2015

Buxton and Sano Are Ready To Make That Leap

This is the second consecutive Spring Training which will feature the top 2 Twins prospects. Spending the last several seasons in the Twins minor league system, Byron Buxton and Miguel Sano are ready to show the nation that they are ready for the big leagues. This is the perfect year for the Twins to promote these eager players to MLB and show fans what to expect in the future. Fans have been hearing about Buxton and Sano for years now, but are wondering why they are still at the Double-A level if they are so good.

Buxton, who was drafted 2nd overall in the 2012 MLB Draft, was recently named the #1 prospect for 2015 by the MLB Network. Before an injury-riddled 2014 season, Buxton batted .334 with 77 RBIs and 12 home runs at both A and AA in 2013. The center fielder also had 163 singles and had a slugging percentage of .520 during that same season. Buxton has played three seasons at the lower levels, recording a .300 batting average with 21 home runs. Last year, Buxton played in just 31 games due to a concussion and a wrist injury; therefore, he underperformed.

Sano, who signed with the Twins in 2009, was named #11 on the same prospect list. Sano missed the entire 2014 season after tearing his elbow just a couple of games into Spring Training, requiring Tommy John surgery. The muscular third baseman had a successful recovery and is ready to show off his skills again. During Sano’s four minor league seasons prior to 2014, he batted .373, slugged 90 home runs, and had 291 RBIs. Sano also had a slugging percentage of .567 over those years. After taking a year off, Sano is hoping to regain his strength and join the Twins at some point this season.

Both Buxton’s and Sano’s 2015 journeys are about to start, as they are scheduled to play in Wednesday’s game against, yes, the Minnesota Golden Gophers in Florida. These stars should get considerable playing time this spring, and if they have a bright month, I can’t see how the Twins can keep Buxton and Sano in the minors much longer. Fans are desperate for change, and Buxton’s and Sano’s promotions would be one great leap of change!

Written by: Michael L. Sack

Posted by: gravessack | February 22, 2015

Video Games Being Made For People With Disabilities

There are tons of popular video games, but many do not work for people with physical disabilities. That is why Joshua Straub, who has cerebral palsy and loves to play video games, created a website called Disabled Accessibility For Gaming Entertainment Rating System (D.A.G.A.R.S.). This website rates various video games and how accessible they are for people with all kinds of disabilities. Video game developers began to pay attention to Straub’s reviews, and Straub started getting consulting contracts from video game companies as far away as London and Paris! Last November, Straub was awarded $5,000 from the Courage Kenny Foundation. He says he will use the money to re-design his website. Click here to read more and to watch a brief news story on Straub!

*On another note, I will be going to Fort Myers, Florida, where the Twins have their spring training, in about a month. Look for updates and pictures! Though his defense is shaky, I predict outfielder Oswaldo Arcia will finally learn to be patient and have a big year offensively!

Written by: Sam Graves

Posted by: gravessack | February 18, 2015

My Spring Training Preview

Baseball is back in action! Today, the first five teams reported to their respective camps. Twins pitchers and catchers report February 22 in Florida, with the rest of the team joining them five days later. This year, the Twins hope to end a four-season streak with 90 or more losses. In fact, our club wants to play .500 baseball and perhaps make the play-offs for the first time since 2010.

Here are a few things to watch as players and coaches are prepping for this seven-month marathon.

Unlike in recent seasons, this group of pitchers looks promising. The Twins basically have three starting pitchers locked in, with two spots up for grabs. In reality though, Kyle Gibson will cover the fourth spot unless he has a horrific spring. The three shoe-ins for the starters are Ricky Nolasco, Phil Hughes, and newbie Ervin Santana (36 wins combined in 2014). Nolasco recorded 6 of those last year, but look for pitching coach Neil Allen to work with him. Candidates who are competing to be the fifth starter are Alex Meyer, Trevor May, Mike Pelfrey, and Tommy Milone. To me, Meyer and May will get considerable looks, with Pelfrey and Milone as fall-backs.

The Twins offense this season should be one of the best. Last year, a few prospects made appearances. Danny Santana came up last season and had some good months, batting .319 with 129 singles and 40 RBIs. Astonishingly, Santana wasn’t the best rookie to debut in 2014. The Twins brought up a youngster named Kennys Vargas, who looks a little like “Big Papi.” Vargas sure did produce with 38 RBIs and nine home runs in just 53 games. Look for Vargas and Santana to win a spot on the MLB roster out of spring training.

Another exciting addition to the offense is the return of Torii Hunter. Hunter will most likely be the left fielder in 2015, as he still has the batting power. Hunter went .279 with 87 RBIs and 17 home runs with Detroit last year. Finally, and again, Minor League superstars Byron Buxton and Miguel Sano will be making spring training appearances in the upcoming month. Don’t look for Buxton and Sano to start in the Majors this season, but the Twins better bring up their marquee players later on. It’s time!

The Twins will ring in a new era of coaching in 2015. Paul Molitor will bring a fresh voice for coaching, as he brought in five new coaches and re-assigned Joe Vavra to bench coach. As the Twins offense did pretty well last year, Molitor kept Tom Brunansky as hitting coach. The big addition is Allen, who replaces Rick Anderson as pitching coach. Allen, with help from new bullpen coach Eddie Guardado, will bring life to the Twins pitching staff. To learn more about all the new coaches, read my post from December.

Here’s to 2015 and a beginning of a remade ball club! Exciting times are ahead! What are your Spring Training predictions for 2015?

Written by: Michael L. Sack

Posted by: gravessack | February 5, 2015

Shields To Twins Would Be Pretty Sweet

UPDATE: James Shields has reportedly signed with the San Diego Padres February 9 on a four-year contract worth $75 million. Other teams that were on the brink of signing Shields were the Chicago Cubs and Miami Marlins. The Twins weren’t in contention, as expected. However, there are a few more starting pitchers left that the Twins could sign, like Joe Saunders or Bruce Chen. Below is an earlier report.

Ever since Max Scherzer signed with Washington on January 21 for seven years, all eyes turned to free agent pitcher James Shields, formerly of the Kansas City Royals. Shields is asking for big money but teams have been reluctant thus far to sign him. Since Shields has been a great pitcher for a few years now, I am surprised that he hasn’t been gobbled up yet. This is the perfect time for the Twins to swoop in and sign him.

During the last two off-seasons, the Twins have made it their priority to bring in top pitchers. During the 2013 off-season, the Twins signed Ricky Nolasco and Phil Hughes to big contracts. About two months ago, our team snagged top pitcher Ervin Santana for $54 million and extended Hughes’ contract. The Pohlads have been trending the right way in regards to spending money. Going after Shields would show Twins fans that they not only want to win a division, but a World Series title soon.

Twins fans would go crazy as we would have a solid rotation for the first time in years. Think about this rotation: Shields, Nolasco, Hughes, Santana, and Alex Meyer. In signing Shields, the Twins would bring in a pitcher with recent World Series experience. The nine-year veteran, who has several offers on the table, has a career record of 114-90 with 1,626 strike outs and 22 complete games. In 2013 and 2014, Shields was first in games started in the AL with 34. It would be a fabulous addition to a seemingly solid rotation that the Twins have created. Shields would provide the Twins the true ace that they have been looking for.

With that said, don’t expect the big probable announcement this weekend to be that Shields has chosen the Twins and pitch at Target Field. It remains unclear if the Twins have given the 33-year-old pitcher an offer. All we can do is hope and dream. Come to Minnesota, Shields!

Written by: Michael L. Sack

Posted by: gravessack | February 2, 2015

A Quick Update On Target Field’s Accessibility

Since the Twins and their fans will be returning to Target Field in two months with new features on hand, I thought it would be a good time to do an accessibility check-up. I wanted to get the scoop on updates to ADA features at Target Field. Last week, I chatted with Kevin Smith, Twins Senior Director, Corporate Communications and Broadcasting, to see what’s up. Here’s what Smith had to say.

  • For 2015, the Twins are adding a new bar area, which hasn’t been named, and an extra-large Skyline Suite for business meetings and gatherings. The Twins will combine three suites on the third base side to make the new meeting area. The new bar will replace the store inside Gate 6, and will feature drink rails and a television. Smith assured me that the bar area will be ADA compliant with ramps, handrails, and lowered counter heights, among other features.
  • Smith also provided information on the general progress of the six-year-old ballpark’s accessibility. He reminded Two Men On that when Target Field opened, “We not only met but exceeded ADA compliance standards and continue to monitor use of the facility in order to make adjustments, as necessary.”
  • When asked if there was any other plans to improve accessibility, Smith said, “I’m sure there will be other things on the horizon – but that will be down the road!”

Since the NFL season has now drawn to a close with the Patriots’ win over the Seahawks in Super Bowl XLIX, I am excited for Major League Baseball to start Spring Training in less than three weeks. As always, feel free to ask us questions about baseball or accessibility in the “Comments” section.

Written by: Michael L. Sack

Posted by: gravessack | January 24, 2015

A Cluster Of New Pitchers

After the signing of pitcher Ervin Santana on December 13, the Twins continued their mission to tug in more pitching. The Twins have made signing pitchers their main goal the past few off-seasons because they have struggled mightily in that position. These three additions won’t bring the Twins to the playoffs but could play a role in the 2015 season.

  • On December 16, the Twins and free agent pitcher Wil Ledezma agreed to a minor league contract with an invite to Spring Training. Ledezma last pitched in the Majors in 2011 with the Dodgers. During his nine-year career, Ledezma has a 15-25 record with a 5.40 ERA. Ledezma also has 283 strikeouts with 40 starts under his belt. After being released from Los Angeles in 2012, Ledezma went overseas to play with Aragua in Venezuela, and later for Yucatan in Mexico, where he maintained good velocity. This signing is low-risk and it will create more competition between the pitchers.
  • Seven days later, the club inked another free agent pitcher named Tim Stauffer to a one-year, $2.2 million deal. Stauffer has spent his entire nine-year career in the San Diego organization. Having made 73 starts, Stauffer has a record of 32-34 with 435 strikeouts. Stauffer also has given up 58 home runs. He will likely pitch out of the bullpen in 2015, but Stauffer may spot start if needed.
  • The Twins still had one more pitcher to sign in 2014 as they grabbed Blaine Boyer off the market on New Year’s Eve. Boyer agreed to a minor league deal with him earning $750,000 if he makes the Twins roster. Boyer can opt out March 30 if he fails to make the big league pitching staff. Boyer’s career started in 2005 with Atlanta where he spent five years going 6-9 with 191 strikeouts. After he left the Braves, Boyer spent the next five years on four different NL teams. Last year, Boyer pitched in 32 games with San Diego, striking out 29. He pitched for the Hanshin Tigers in Japan during the 2013 season. If he makes the team, Boyer will certainly be added to the bullpen.

As there are under 3 weeks until Spring Training starts down in Florida, don’t look for the Twins to make any drastic adds. Although, GM Terry Ryan expressed interest in adding one more power bat earlier this off-season and has kept track of former Twin Johan Santana in the past few weeks. However, after Santana was done pitching in Venezuela for several teams last week, he was having some shoulder discomfort. It will be interesting moving forward to see if the Twins make an offer to Santana. In the meantime, the Twins look pretty content on bringing this roster to Spring Training, which will feature phenoms Byron Buxton and Miguel Sano.

Written by: Michael L. Sack

Posted by: gravessack | January 5, 2015

An Accessibility Report On Xcel Energy Center

On January 2, “Two Men On” went to Xcel Energy Center to see the Minnesota Wild play. It was very exciting to be at a hockey game as I had not been to one in several years, and the Wild won! While I did not do much exploring of the arena, I did pay attention to its wheelchair accessibility.

While Xcel Energy Center is fairly new (it opened in 2000), its accessibility is just average. The good part is that fans in wheelchairs can pull up right behind the railings and not have their view blocked like in the Metrodome. However, the main accessibility problem is that Kellogg Boulevard, which is where the accessible drop-off area is, is closed for pedestrian traffic right after games. Where are fans in wheelchairs supposed to go to be picked up? We had to walk around the arena, but that area needs to be kept open at all times. The elevators are also a problem because they are small and only some are for the general public (the others are for the media).

So although I have not experienced much of the Xcel Energy Center, there are some accessibility flaws, particularly with the drop-off area issue which seems like an easy fix. I had expected the arena to be more accessible, but compared to stadiums such as Target Field, it is not very wheelchair-friendly.

Written by: Sam Graves

Posted by: gravessack | December 19, 2014

Get To Know Them

It has been a crazy month, so let’s all relax and catch up on things. It’s the holiday season after all! Since the Twins relieved Ron Gardenhire of his duties in September, they have assembled their entire coaching staff for next year. These eight coaches below hope to bring our team back to the playoffs in the near future.

Paul Molitor will be the new manager of the Twins. After Molitor played baseball at Cretin-Derham Hall and the University of Minnesota, he was drafted by the Brewers in 1977. After playing for Milwaukee and Toronto, Molitor joined the Twins until his retirement in 1998. Molitor was Tom Kelly’s bench coach for three years in Minnesota, then came back to the Twins as a coach in 2014.

Tom Brunansky will remain the hitting coach for the second consecutive year. Brunansky played in MLB for 13 seasons, including eight in Minnesota. After his playing career, Brunansky quickly rose in the Twins organization and was named hitting coach at the end of the 2012 season. Brunansky led the Twins offense in 2014 as they finished seventh in the entire league in runs scored with 715.

Rudy Hernandez, who speaks Spanish, is joining the Twins as the assistant hitting coach. Hernandez has been associated with the Twins for 14 seasons. Hernandez, born in Turmero, Venezuela, was a manager in the Gulf Coast League and with the Elizabethton Twins. Last year, he was the bench coach for the Aragua Tigres, a team from his country.

Joe Vavra will be sticking around with the team as the bench coach. Vavra has been with the Twins for 13 seasons and was the hitting coach for 7 of those. Vavra played with the Los Angeles Dodgers for five years in the minors. Tanner and Trey, his sons, are in the Twins minor league system.

Eddie Guardado is joining the club in 2015 as the bullpen coach. The two-time All-Star was a Spring Training Special Instructor with the Twins last year. During his 12 years with the Twins, “Everyday Eddie” pitched in 648 games earning 116 saves. Guardado was elected in the Twins Hall of Fame in 2013.

Neil Allen will be the new pitching coach. Starting in 1979, Allen pitched 11 seasons with five teams. Allen was a coach in Tampa Bay’s organization for seven years and was the Yankees bullpen coach in 2005. He has improved the Rays while coaching pitchers like David Price, Jeremy Hellickson, and Matt Moore.

Butch Davis will take over as the first base coach. Davis spent his entire coaching career in Baltimore. During 20 seasons with the Orioles, Davis held multiple coaching titles in the minors. Starting in 1983, Davis played 14 seasons in MLB with five teams.

Gene Glynn, who was born in Waseca, MN, will handle the third base duties. Glynn has been a MLB coach for 12 seasons. He previously managed the Rochester Red Wings, the Twins Triple-A affiliate, for three seasons. The Red Wings went 77-66 in consecutive seasons before Glynn got promoted. Glynn was also named the 1st Minnesota Mr. Basketball in 1975.

Written by: Michael L. Sack

Posted by: gravessack | December 12, 2014

Twins Snag Top Starting Pitcher Off The Market

If you were like me, you had your fingertips on Twitter all week as teams gathered in San Diego for this year’s winter meetings. Seeing all these huge trades and signings made me wonder what was General Manager Terry Ryan thinking, as no Twins news was breaking. There were rumors and rumblings on what moves the Twins could be seeking, but only one thing stayed the same: reports kept coming back to a free agent pitcher. Indeed, on December 11, the last day of meetings, the Twins struck a deal with starting pitcher Ervin Santana on a four-year, $55 million contract with a vesting option for 2019.

Santana, who has been contacted by the Twins before, scored the biggest free agent contract in Twins history after a pretty good 2014, when he went 14-10 with a 3.95 ERA and 179 strikeouts while in Atlanta. During his ten years in MLB, the 32-year-old has played with three teams, racking up 1,507 strikeouts and a combined record of 119-100. Santana, who made his only All-Star appearance in 2008, has exceeded 200 innings pitched several times that resulted in him pitching 14 complete games in his career, and one no-hitter in 2011.

After signing right fielder Torii Hunter on December 3 to a significant contract, Ryan had to show his fan base that he was serious about improving pitching. I think the Twins are just about there in bringing in big-time pitchers, but the Twins must show us more as many teams in their division made a flurry of moves to compete. Hopefully, combining Santana with Phil Hughes, who won 16 games this past year, the Twins can climb in the standings. To do that though, the Twins must not be scared to continue shelling out the big dough for talent.

***In other news: the Blue Jays claimed Chris Colabello from the Twins on December 8. After being red-hot in April, Colabello, who had 6 home runs and 47 hits, slipped all the way to the minors in 2014. Another noteworthy development would be that the Twins lost left-handed pitcher Sean Gilmartin to the New York Mets in the Rule 5 Draft on Thursday, but picked up pitcher J.R. Graham from Atlanta.

Written by: Michael L. Sack

Posted by: gravessack | December 11, 2014

An Overview of Adapted Sports

Many people love “traditional” sports, but many do not know much about adapted sports. These are sports that have modified rules that accommodate people with mobility limitations. Click to hear more. Read about the two interviewees below.

Written by: Sam Graves

Paul Pranghofer, Brose's long-time friend. Like Brose, Pranghofer assisted in the creation of adapted sports in Minnesota. Pranghofer is in his 34th year of officiating them in the MSHSL. Photo by Sam Graves, Nov. 22, 2014.

Paul Pranghofer, who has been a major part of adapted sports since they began in Minnesota. Pranghofer is in his 34th year of officiating them in the Minnesota State High School League (MSHSL). Photo by Sam Graves, Nov. 22, 2014.

Charlie Brose, who has been involved with adapted sports since they started in Minnesota and is the president of the sports and rec program We Love To Play. In addition, he officiates adapted sports in the Minnesota State High School League (MSHSL). Photo by Sam Graves, Nov. 22, 2014.

Charlie Brose, who also was involved in the creation of adapted sports in Minnesota and is the president of the sports and rec program We Love To Play. In addition, he officiates adapted sports in the MSHSL. Photo by Sam Graves, Nov. 22, 2014.

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