Saturday, March 10, 2007

Ortiz loves it here

FORT TRAFFICJAMBURG, Fla. -- Emptying the notebook from good 'ole Fort Misery one last time.

  • New Twin Ramon Ortiz continues to praise pitching coach Rick Anderson for the things he's doing to help the veteran right-hander. And after playing for a big-money team (Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim, Calif.) and two lousy teams (Cincinnati and Washington), Ortiz is loving life in the Twins' feel-good, championship clubhouse. “It’s unbelievable this team here," Ortiz said. "I’ve never seen a team like Minnesota. Everyone is together, and everyone is happy. There are no superstars here. Everybody is the same. They make me feel very good.”

  • "The, ahem, Real Deal" did a nice job today, bouncing back from Wednesday's horrible outing to strike out two batters in a scoreless inning of relief in the extra-innings win over Tampa Bay. With Lew Ford out for at least a month, thus leaving the Twins with essentially two vacant Opening Day roster spots, Minnesota could end up keeping 12 pitchers. So, Durbin, who is out of contract options, now has a fighting chance to remain with the Twins. Gardy called Durbin's latest outing a "confidence booster."

  • I'm predicting second baseman of the future Alexi Casilla makes the Opening Day roster now. In a perfect world, Casilla would start the season in the minors to further develop. But with Rule 5er Alejandro Machado out indefinitely with a bum shoulder and the Twins' desires to have a capable backup shortstop, I don't see how Casilla doesn't start the season with the big club. Gardy on Alexi: “Our preference is to let him play more. But you know what? He’s out there playing now. He’s hitting the ball all over the place, and he has a lot of tools. So he absolutely is an option.”

  • And, finally, I am leaving the Pioneer Press for another opportunity. You, the readers, made this job worthwhile. I appreciated every e-mail, blog comment and call I received from readers, whether you loved or loathed what I wrote. My personal rule has always been: It's not about me, it's about the people that I cover. For those of you who are loyal Twins fans, I can't say enough about the class and integrity of the organization you follow. I'm about as cynical and critical as they come, and let me tell you, the people in the Twins organization are, to borrow a phrase from J.D. Durbin, the real deal -- from Dave St. Peter, Terry Ryan and Jim Rantz to Gardy, Rick Anderson, Joe Vavra, Jerry White and the other coaches to Torii, Rondell, Cuddyer, Mauer, MVP, Big Sweat, Bartlett, Silva, Rincon, Kubel, Guerrier, Crain, Redmond, Punto, Santana, Nathan and most of the other players. And I must mention the four people who you probably don't know but help make the Twins the fan/media friendly organization that it is: traveling secretary Remzi Kiratli and media relations officials Mike Herman, Dustin Morse and Molly Gallatin. And while I'm at it, I gotta give some love to my fellow baseball-writing buddies for all of their help along the way: Gordon Wittenmyer, Tony Jackson, Marc Lancaster, Mark Sheldon, Jeff Horrigan, Joe Cowley, Troy Renck, John Donovan, III, Joe-Joe and KT. I will always love the comraderie among baseball scribes.

Ford to undergo surgery

FORT TRAFFICJAMBURG, Fla. -- Outfielder Lew Ford is scheduled to undergo surgery to repair torn meniscus in his right knee next week, Gardy said this afternoon.

Ford is expected to be sidelined four to six weeks, meaning there will be an Opening Day roster spot up for grabs.

"People ought to take notice out there in the clubhouse," Gardy said. "They ought to see that and try two times as hard."

With Jason Kubel showing his knees are back to full strength, the Twins still have outfield depth. The Twins still have Jason-squared -- Kubel and Tyner. So, the club could go several different directions. Will they go with an extra pitcher? Will they go with an extra infielder? Does that mean Alexi Casilla makes the team? Or Luis Rodriguez? Should be interesting.