Wednesday, November 28, 2007
As Santana trade rumors swirl, Twins players try to stay in tune
MINNEAPOLIS -- Spring training is still months away, but the
Minnesota Twins are already wondering who will show up.
It's not only Johan Santana who could wind up playing elsewhere.
This winter, several Twins might find themselves included in a
trade -- and two already have. Starting pitcher Matt Garza and
shortstop Jason Bartlett were dealt to Tampa Bay on Wednesday in a
six-player swap that brought outfielder Delmon Young and shortstop
Brendan Harris to Minnesota.
"It's always a difficult time with teammates leaving, but you
know that's how it's been ever since Day 1 in pro ball," Twins
reliever Pat Neshek said in an e-mail. "Guys get released, signed,
offered contracts. The offseason is a crazy time and hard to
understand. It's also nice, because you get fresh faces in the
clubhouse and that keeps guys on their feet and make them want to
work harder so they have a spot on the team."
A two-time Cy Young Award winner, Santana has been the obvious
focal point of the Twins and their offseason plans. They're trying
to improve on their 79-83 finish, as well as field a contending
team for the 2010 opening of their new ballpark.
"What the front office does, they're doing it for the benefit
of the team," Garza said from his home in Fresno, Calif., before
the deal with Tampa Bay was completed. "It's not like they're
going to let the team be bad for two years."
With All-Star center fielder Torii Hunter already lost to the
Los Angeles Angels in free agency, the departure of Santana would
deplete this team's star power much further. Even with young
left-hander Francisco Liriano coming back from elbow surgery and
Joe Mauer and Justin Morneau anchoring the lineup, it would be
tough for the Twins to keep up in the loaded AL Central.
Infielder Nick Punto acknowledged the anxiety of such a time for
a player, not knowing who might be sent packing next. But it's part
of that business-of-baseball stuff that everyone who gets paid to
play this game is accustomed to by now.
Including the chance that an ace such as Santana could be dealt.
"I would hate to see him go. I love him as a teammate and as a
player, but that's not my job to sit back and worry and be an
armchair quarterback and say what should happen with this team,"
Punto said from his home in Scottsdale, Ariz.
The Twins also made a handful of minor moves Wednesday, signing
right-hander Brian Bass -- who spent last season at Triple-A
Rochester -- and placing him on the 40-man roster.
In addition, they signed a pair of pitchers to minor league
contracts with invitations to spring training, right-hander R.A.
Dickey and left-hander Mariano Gomez.
Dickey spent parts of five seasons with Texas, compiling a 5.72
ERA in 266 innings, including 33 starts. Last year, he was in
Triple-A with Milwaukee's affiliate in Nashville. Gomez spent last
season in Cleveland's organization.
Also, left-handers Ricky Barrett and Errol Simonitch were
removed from the 40-man roster. They cleared waivers and were
assigned to Triple-A.