Minnesota Twins Inside Pitch
Morneau is slated to bat in the six slot.
Morneau is slated to bat in the six slot.

Posted Feb 11, 2006


In this edition of Twins Inside Pitch, Gardenhire announces the beginning of the 2006 batting order, his son starts his first Spring Training as a member of the organization, the Twins sign Ruben Sierra, and much more.

Manager Ron Gardenhire unveiled his batting order for 2006 -- at least through five places -- and it looks decidedly different than the one he opened with last year.

Of course, that was the plan after the Twins finished 2005 as one of the worst-hitting teams in the majors.

Gardenhire's top five: left fielder Shannon Stewart, second baseman Luis Castillo, catcher Joe Mauer, designated hitter Rondell White and center fielder Torii Hunter.

The 2-3-4 spots represent the biggest difference over last year -- when the Twins opened with rookie shortstop Jason Bartlett in the No. 2 spot, Mauer at No. 3 and first baseman Justin Morneau at cleanup. Both Mauer and Morneau were spending their first full year in the majors.

The threesome had 157 combined games of big-league experience. This year's 2-3-4? They not only have 2,631 games of experience but bring four All-Star appearances and 11 .300 seasons between them.

Morneau, who struggled through much of a .239, 22-homer season last year, remains potentially the biggest power threat in the Twins' lineup, but after falling short of expectations last year, he enters 2006 with something to prove.

If the season opened tomorrow, he likely would bat sixth in the lineup, with third baseman Tony Batista and right fielder Michael Cuddyer taking the 7-8 spots in some order, and, according to Gardenhire, "whoever's our shortstop" batting ninth.

"Hopefully, I can change things," Morneau said. "I think I'll hit where I deserve to hit in the lineup if I'm swinging the bat well. You know, it doesn't matter that much. Hopefully it's somewhere in the middle, where I think I can help us win games."

NOTES, QUOTES

  • The Oscar-nominated movie "Brokeback Mountain" was co-produced by Bill Pohlad, the son of Twins owner Carl Pohlad, who said he was surprised by the success of the venture.

    "I was against him going into it," the Twins owner told the St. Paul Pioneer Press. "I said, 'You can never make it (win an Oscar).' I've been in and out of the pictures business for a number of years, and you don't just make one picture and hope you can get anything done with it. But that's quite an achievement. He fooled me."

    Carl Pohlad's thumbnail review after seeing the movie: "It's a powerful movie. Go see it."

  • The Twins appear to have acquired the final piece of their 2006 puzzle with the signing of 40-year-old DH/PH Ruben Sierra to serve as their veteran left-handed pinch hitter. Sierra, a switch hitter who hit .229 for the Yankees in duty limited by injury last year, signed as a minor league free agent but is considered a lock to make the roster, barring injury. The four-time All-Star with 306 career home runs helped eliminate the Twins in the first round of the 2004 playoffs with a three-run home run in the Yankees' decisive Game 4 win at the Metrodome.

  • Twins manager Ron Gardenhire is making one detour before heading south for spring training: to Minnesota's North Shore for a 370-mile snowmobile ride to help raise money for research into a cure for Lou Gehrig's disease.

  • Gardenhire's son, 23-year-old SS Toby Gardenhire, who finished his collegiate career at Illinois last year before being drafted by the Twins on the second day of the June draft, starts his first spring training as a member of the Twins organization this month. He's scheduled to travel to Fort Myers, Fla., next week to get a three-week head start on the opening of minor league camp there.

  • Ron Gardenhire, who has suffered episodes of heart palpitations at least twice and undergone stress tests at least three times since becoming Twins manager, is scheduled for one more precautionary stress test before departing for spring training this month.

  • Former Twins greats Rod Carew, Paul Molitor, Tony Oliva and Terry Steinbach all are expected to be in uniform for parts of spring training as special instructors during camp, along with former Twins manager Tom Kelly. The Twins also have asked Hall of Famer Harmon Killebrew to join that group.

  • The Twins hired Adam Abrams as the full-time replacement for legendary public-address announcer Bob Casey, who died last March. Abrams, who has worked with the Twins on the game presentation staff the past five years, also is the public-address announcer for the NHL's Minnesota Wild. The Twins used several PA announcers last year during a season-long tribute to Casey.

    BY THE NUMBERS: 23 -- Number of Twins players on provisional rosters for the inaugural World Baseball Classic, more than from any other club.

    QUOTE TO NOTE: "With the Yankees, I tried to help the young kids like Robinson Cano and Bubba Crosby. I expect to do the same thing with Minnesota." -- DH/PH Ruben Sierra, 40, on his role with the young Twins in 2006 after signing as a free agent last week.

    ROSTER REPORT

    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).

    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 last 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 last 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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