Inside Pitch: Baby Steps

In this edition of Twins Inside Pitch, the Twins have not been too active during the Winter Meetings, but are planning for the future. While they only have 60 percent of their rotation set, they do have young arms within the organization, including left-hander Glen Perkins. Jeff Cirillo is close to signing a deal with the Twins, and so much more.

As expected, the Twins came away from the winter meetings empty-handed despite a specific list of needs, topped by starting pitching.

"Obviously, we didn't make any news," general manager Terry Ryan said as the winter meetings concluded in Lake Buena Vista, Fla. "We rarely do down here. But we had some talks that should benefit us in the long run."

While the Twins watched the market for starting pitching zoom to heights far beyond their reach (read right-hander Gil Meche, whom they coveted early, going to Kansas City for a stunning five-year, $55 million deal), Ryan laid groundwork for possible multiyear deals with arbitration-eligible Twins Joe Mauer, Justin Morneau and Michael Cuddyer.

Ryan had very preliminary discussions with the agents for all three members of the middle of the Twins' batting order but admitted afterward, "This is going to be a long process."

Meanwhile, aside from a few minor bullpen and bench signings, as well as a Rule 5 pick, the Twins were bystanders in Florida this week. And with little payroll to even dream of going after a legitimate starting pitcher with a track record on the free agent market, they appear prepared to open spring training with a starting rotation that consists of Johan Santana's left wing and a prayer.

When asked during the meetings what his five-man rotation might look like, manager Ron Gardenhire said: "I don't know the first three yet. Why do you want five? Give me three and then we'll go for the other two, all right? Right now, we got Johan, and we got (Boof) Bonser and we got (Carlos) Silva. Those three are in uniform, and then we got the kids."

Those "kids" include two rookies, right-hander Matt Garza and lefty Glen Perkins, and young right-hander Scott Baker, who has yet to play a full season in the big leagues or prove he deserves another shot at that level.


  • OF/DH Rondell White could return to the Twins for another season, this time as the starting left fielder, but the sides are far apart in contract talks. White, who has expressed a strong desire to return and prove to the Twins that his disappointing 2006 season was a fluke, would like a salary similar to the $3.25 million he got last year. The club wants a discount, based on his .246, seven-homer season that included a .182, no-homer first half and the loss of his starting job.

  • The Twins' most "significant" move of the winter meetings was the Rule 5 selection of SS Alejandro Machado from the Nationals. Machado, who hit .260 in 116 games at Triple-A Pawtucket last year after a brief 2005 stint with the Red Sox, would be the Twins' backup middle infielder if he makes the club. That would mean the Twins could allow SS/2B Alexi Casilla, their top middle infield prospect, to open the year at Triple-A Rochester to gain seasoning as an everyday player (with an eye toward replacing 2B Luis Castillo in 2008).

  • RHP Kevin Cameron, a promising Triple-A reliever, and RHP Levale Speigner, a reliever who split time between Double-A New Britain and Triple-A Rochester last year, were lost to the Twins in the major league portion of the Rule 5 draft. Cameron was taken by the Padres, Speigner by the Nationals.

  • LHP Mike Venefro and LHP Carmen Cali have signed minor league contracts with the Twins that include invitations to spring training. The Twins are hoping to find left-handed relief help to ease the load on their only lefty in the bullpen last year, Dennys Reyes. Minnesota also gave a minor league deal to 1B Ken Harvey, who made the AL All-Star team with the Royals in 2004. Back problems have kept him off the field for all but 12 games since his big season.

  • Rob Antony, a former media relations man who has worked his way up to director of baseball operations, earned another promotion, the team announced, to director of baseball operations and contracts. Part of his new role will be to help GM Terry Ryan and assistant GM Bill Smith negotiate big-league contracts, a job previously handled by Wayne Krivsky, who left the front office in February to become the Cincinnati general manager.

  • 3B Jeff Cirillo, who hit .319 in 112 games for Milwaukee last season, is closing in on a possible one-year deal with the Twins that would be worth about $1 million. Cirillo would give the Twins insurance at third base, where INF Nick Punto started the final four months of the season. He could also see time at first base and DH.

    BY THE NUMBERS: 0 -- Steps the Twins took during the winter meetings toward filling substantial holes in the starting rotation.

    QUOTE TO NOTE: "When you hear that, I don't know what people are drinking. I don't think Barry fits good with the piranhas. Barry is a shark. He's not a piranha. I don't see Barry there." -- White Sox manager Ozzie Guillen, who nicknamed several of the pesky Twins hitters "piranhas," on the speculation by the New York Times that OF Barry Bonds might be a good fit in Minnesota.

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