Minnesota Twins Inside Pitch

Lohse could be headed to another hearing.

The Twins made a few moves this past off-season, and with Spring Training right around the corner, we bring you our latest installment of Inside Pitch. In this edition, see all departures and arrivals, whats the deal with Kyle Lohse, and where does Michael Cuddyer fit in. All that and more in this edition.

The Twins reached agreements quickly with two of their three arbitration-eligible players once players and clubs exchanged figures, then turned their full attention to their toughest case, that of pitcher Kyle Lohse.

Although Lohse, who filed a figure of $3.95 million early last week, suggested at the time he could be headed to an arbitration hearing with the club for the second straight year, general manager Terry Ryan said he's holding out hope he can avoid a hearing with his No. 4 starter.

"I'd like to think (there's reason for optimism)," Ryan said. "I don't know exactly what the thoughts are with Kyle. But I hope we can solve this through negotiations."

The club filed at $3.4 million.

Lohse has never signed easily since reaching the major leagues. In addition to taking the team to a hearing last year in his first year of arbitration eligibility -- unwilling to split a difference of $250,000 -- Lohse refused to agree to terms the previous two seasons, forcing the club to renew his contract.

The Lohse issue is the last major order of business for the Twins before pitchers and catchers report Feb. 19. No other contract issues loom, and they've filled all the holes they felt they had in the lineup.

Meanwhile, first-year arbitration-eligible players Michael Cuddyer ($1.3 million) and Nick Punto ($690,000) agreed to terms within days of exchanging figures.

Cuddyer's deal split the difference between his filing and the team's. Punto agreed to a deal closer to the team's filing ($625,000) than his ($850,000).

"You never want to go that hearing if you don't have to," said Punto, who hit .239 with 13 stolen bases in a career-high 112 games last season. "That's an ugly part about baseball."

The payroll is expected to be near $63 million, up from about $56 million last year.

NOTES, QUOTES

  • DH/OF Ruben Sierra signed a minor league contract with the Twins. Sierra, 40, spent the last two seasons on the Yankees' bench. He figures to have a good chance of making the Twins as a reserve.

  • The Twins granted permission to the Cincinnati Reds to interview assistant GM Wayne Krivsky for the Reds' GM vacancy. Krivsky, who was considered the frontrunner for that job the last time it was open before then-owner Carl Lindner vetoed the decision made by the club's baseball operations people, is scheduled to interview in the next few days.

  • CF Torii Hunter on the Twins' new designated hitter, Rondell White, the former Detroit Tiger who is Hunter's friend: "I would take him out to eat after games, and he was always smiling. I was, like, 'Dude, stop smiling so much. You're scaring me.'"

  • INF Nick Punto, a utility player who won the starting second baseman job early last season before being sidelined by injury, plans to battle second-year SS Jason Bartlett for the starting shortstop job this spring. GM Terry Ryan said that position is wide open, with three candidates, including SS Juan Castro, in the mix as spring training opens.

  • OF/INF Michael Cuddyer, who hit .263 with 12 homers in 422 at-bats during an up-and-down season that included 14 errors at third base last year, said he hasn't spoken directly to team officials about where he's expected to play but is preparing for right field. The club signed 3B Tony Batista and traded for 2B Luis Castillo, filling the infield positions where Cuddyer had started.

    Cuddyer will battle Jason Kubel, Lew Ford and possibly Jason Tyner for the right field job.

    "I've been reading the paper like everybody else, and the writing's obviously on the wall in regards to me being in the outfield," Cuddyer said. "I'm going to spring training trying to win right field. Apparently."

    Cuddyer remains a potential backup at as many as five positions in the infield and outfield.

  • GM Terry Ryan said the Twins looked at DH Frank Thomas -- who ultimately signed with Oakland -- and that money wasn't an issue. But the Twins no longer had interest once they signed DH Rondell White to a $2.5 million deal with a 2007 option.

    BY THE NUMBERS: 8,000 -- Projected season-ticket sales for 2006, about the same as last year, when the Twins reached 2 million in attendance for the first time since 1993.

    QUOTE TO NOTE: "He's hit or miss ... but he can hit." -- CF Torii Hunter on strikeout-prone 3B Tony Batista, who signed with the Twins as a free agent.

    ROSTER REPORT

    The Twins filled the last of their offseason priorities by signing free agent DH/OF Rondell White ($2.5 million), on the heels of their signing of free agent 3B Tony Batista ($1.25 million). After ranking at or near the bottom of the AL in every major offensive category in 2005 and opening the season with a 2-3-5 heart of the lineup (SS Jason Bartlett, C Joe Mauer and 1B Justin Morneau) with just 157 total games in the big leagues, the Twins' first five in the 2006 Opening Day lineup figure to be: LF Shannon Stewart, 2B Luis Castillo, C Joe Mauer, DH Rondell White and CF Torii Hunter, with Morneau and Batista filling 6-7 in some order. GM Terry Ryan said he anticipates both an upgraded offense and defense (based largely on Castillo) with the additions.

    ARRIVALS:

    DH Rondell White (free agent from Detroit), 3B Tony Batista (free agent from Japan), LHP Dennys Reyes (minor league free agent from San Diego), 2B Luis Castillo (trade with Florida), OF Jason Pridie (selected from Tampa Bay in Rule 5 draft), LHP Gabe White (minor league free agent from St. Louis), LHP Darrell May (minor league free agent from New York Yankees), DH/OF Ruben Sierra (minor league free agent from New York Yankees).

    DEPARTURES:

    RF Jacque Jones (free agent, signed with Cubs), LHP J.C. Romero (traded to Angels), INF/OF Brent Abernathy (free agent, signed with Milwaukee), OF Mike Ryan (minor league free agent, signed with Atlanta), C Corky Miller (minor league free agent), RHP Joe Mays (free agent, signed with Kansas City), DH/C Matt LeCroy (released), LHP Terry Mulholland (free agent, signed with Arizona), 2B Luis Rivas (released, signed with Tampa Bay), INF Augie Ojeda (free agent, signed with Cubs).

    BIGGEST NEEDS:

    With the offseason hitting and defensive needs addressed as well as the Twins plan to address them, the front office turned its attention to bullpen depth, particularly left-handers. LHPs Dennys Reyes, Gabe White and Darrell May received spring invites.

    FREE AGENTS:

    None.

    ARBITRATION ELIGIBLE:

    RHP Kyle Lohse could be headed to another arbitration hearing.

    IN LIMBO:

    With LHP J.C. Romero traded to the Angels, arbitration-eligible RHP Kyle Lohse tendered a contract and OF Jacque Jones departed once and for all as a free agent, the Twins have settled the roster issues that appeared most uncertain at 2005 season's end.

    MEDICAL WATCH:

    OF Jason Kubel, who was expected to battle for a starting job in 2005 before suffering a massive knee injury during 2004 Arizona Fall League play, produced well at the plate in Arizona this fall but was still not allowed to play in the field or run the bases hard. It is doubtful he'll be 100 percent healthy and ready to compete for RF Jacque Jones' vacated spot when spring training opens. ... RHP Carlos Silva, who was limited to 27 starts this season because of torn meniscus in his right knee, underwent successful surgery and is expected to be at full strength for spring training. ... C Mike Redmond had a bone spur in his foot surgically repaired and is expected to make a full recovery by spring training.

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