Inbox: How can fans wish Killebrew well?
Beat reporter Kelly Thesier answers questions from Twins fans
Happy New Year everyone! With the turn of the calendar comes the excitement that the 2011 season is inching closer.While the snow continues to pile up here in Minnesota, following a record December snowfall in the Twin Cities, thoughts already are turning to Spring Training. There are only 45 days until pitchers and catchers report in Fort Myers, Fla., but while it's been a relatively quiet winter so far, the Twins' roster still could see some changes before then. Now that the holidays are over, the Hot Stove should start to heat up again. Carl Pavano and Jim Thome are still both on the free-agent market, and the Twins have been known for making many of their moves after the new year. So with plenty on the minds of Twins fans, let's dig into this week's edition of the Inbox. I'm sure that, like me, all of Twins Territory was sad to hear the news about Harmon Killebrew recently being diagnosed with esophageal cancer. How can Twins fans send their well wishes to Killebrew?
-- Sally B., Duluth, Minn. When Killebrew released a statement through the Twins last Thursday that he was battling esophageal cancer, it was certainly a sad day throughout baseball. The Hall of Fame slugger is beloved, not only for being a tremendous baseball player, but for being an even better human being. I think anyone would be hard-pressed to find a nicer man than Killebrew, and he has endeared generations of fans with his kindness, generosity and approachable nature throughout the years. For those fans who want to send along their well wishes as Killebrew embarks upon what he calls "perhaps the most difficult battle of my life," the Twins are gathering messages to pass along to him. Here is the address where fans can send their notes: 1 Twins Way, Minneapolis, MN 55403. The Twins have also set up a Get well, Harmon blog where fans can leave notes for Killebrew. I know that Killebrew sincerely appreciates all of the prayers and words of encouragement that many have already sent his way.
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Do Glen Perkins and Pat Neshek have options remaining in case they do not make the 25-man roster after Spring Training ends?
-- Jeff B., Lancaster, Ohio
-- Jeremy B., Hermitage, Tenn. So far I have not heard anything on the Twins having interest in bringing Reyes back to Minnesota. Less than a month ago, it seemed that Reyes had a one-year, $1.1 million deal in place with the Phillies, but it was never made official after the two sides hit what Reyes' agent called "a snag." Since then, there hasn't been much in terms of news regarding Reyes. Although there hasn't been much talk about which relievers the Twins might be targeting, Ken Rosenthal of FOXSports.com said recently that the team has been in contact with free-agent lefty Brian Fuentes, whom the Twins acquired from the Angels in late August last season. Fuentes could provide the Twins with another lefty for their bullpen. But earlier in the offseason, Fuentes indicated that he'd like to close again, so he could likely be seeking other options. Still, it's a sign that the Twins are exploring the free-agent market for relief help, and they could be waiting until prices come down to see if they can find the right fits to help their bullpen. Would the Twins be better served by adding a right-handed bat such as free agent Vladimir Guerrero instead of bringing back the left-handed-hitting Jim Thome?
-- Kevin W., White Bear Lake, Minn. The Twins were seeking a right-handed bat for their bench last year before they ended up signing Thome to a one-year, incentive-laden deal that wound up being worth $1.7 million. So it's always possible that the club could be looking for a cheap right-handed bat this year if it can't re-sign Thome. But Guerrero wouldn't seem to fit that bill, and the Twins have continued to say they are interested in bringing back Thome. Of course, they have to see if they can come to an agreement with Thome, who will likely not come as cheaply since he outperformed his contract in 2010. With the Twins looking for Thome to fill a part-time role once again, they will have to decide how much they are willing to pay for that, and if they can afford to have Thome if they are also able to re-sign pitcher Carl Pavano. I heard that Bert Blyleven had hip replacement surgery this offseason. How is his hip doing? Thanks!
-- Cathy K., Coon Rapids, Minn. I spoke to Blyleven in late November, a little over a month after he underwent hip replacement surgery, and he said that he was doing well. An avid golfer, Blyleven was focused on returning to the golf course in December, and to no surprise to those who know him, he reached that goal. Now, of course, the focus is back on Blyleven this week as we prepare for the Hall of Fame announcement on Wednesday. The expectation of many within baseball is that this will be year that Blyleven's long wait to get into Cooperstown finally ends. The pitcher himself has joked that "Blyleven in 2011" might have been what the writers have been waiting for all along to vote him into the Hall of Fame, and there are many around baseball that are hoping this will be Blyleven's year. Considering Ichiro Suzuki's economic impact on the Mariners, is it likely the Twins could benefit the same way now with Tsuyoshi Nishioka? And if so, how would that impact affect payroll?
-- Dave P., Woodbury, Minn. The Twins knew that by signing Nishioka, their first player from the Japanese leagues, they would be tapping into a new market as well. Twins president Dave St. Peter said recently that the team has already started to communicate with Japanese companies in the hopes of building relationships with them. With the possibility of many fans in Japan watching more Twins games now that Nishioka is playing in Minnesota, there are likely many Japanese companies who are interested in advertising opportunities at Target Field. As for how it could affect payroll, my guess is that it wouldn't have a significant impact. Still, for any team that's looking to bring in additional revenue, it can't hurt to now have a new international market to tap into, and the Mariners have certainly benefited from Japanese companies advertising in their ballpark.