Twins’ Cruz, Berrios on Top 100 List
Enjoy a Friday notes column with a focus on the Minnesota Twins and Target Field.
Sports Illustrated ranks two Twins players among its top 100 players in Major League Baseball. The February 25 issue of the magazine lists the game’s best, and the publication has newly acquired outfielder and designated hitter Nelson Cruz at No. 65 and starting pitcher Jose Berrios at 95.
The Twins could come out of spring training as a consensus choice among oddsmakers and media to finish second in the American League Central Division behind the Cleveland Indians. Despite some offseason payroll trimming, the Indians may win a fourth consecutive division championship because their talent is still impressive.
Three Indians made the magazine’s top 10—shortstop Francisco Lindor at No. 4, third baseman Jose Ramirez, No. 5, and starting pitcher Corey Kluber, No. 9. The club’s starting staff also includes Trevor Bauer, No. 35, and Mike Clevinger, No. 73.
The Twins can’t match that pitching but if their staff produces some pleasant surprises, Minnesota looks like a run-scoring club. Bleacherreport.com said in an article this week that the Twins averaged a solid 4.6 runs per game last season, and additions like Cruz figure to make the offense even better.
Bleacherreport’s story focused on the playoff chances of all 30 MLB teams. The Indians came in at 70 percent, while the Twins were next among Central Division clubs with a 40 percent chance of qualifying for the postseason.
Sports Illlustrated’s rankings had Los Angeles Angels’ outfielder Mike Trout as the best player in the game. Aaron Hicks, the center fielder Twins GM Terry Ryan traded to the New York Yankees in 2015 for catcher John Ryan Murphy, is the No. 78 player in the game, per S.I.
The Twins have been trying to fill their center field void for years. Murphy has become an obscure player, most recently signing a reported one-year, $900,000 deal with the Arizona Diamondbacks. Hicks reportedly has a new seven year, $70 million contract with the Yankees.
In a telephone interview yesterday from spring training in Florida, Twins president Dave St. Peter predicted Cruz will become a “fan favorite,” perhaps similar to former Minnesota slugger Jim Thome. “He (Cruz) has been great,” St. Peter said about the six-time MLB All-Star who is known for his hitting and clubhouse leadership.
Berrios, 24, is a potential staff ace for the Twins who St. Peter admires for his talent and work ethic. “He works harder than any player on our team,” St. Peter said.
Regarding the Sports Illustrated article, St. Peter said Marwin Gonzalez “should be on the list.” The Twins signed the multi-positional free agent earlier this week after the switch-hitter hit 16 home runs and drove in 68 runs last season for the Astros while playing 76 games in the outfield, 39 at shortstop, 32 at second base, 24 at first base and three at third.
The Twins’ regular season opener, March 28 at Target Field, is close to a sellout, with a few thousand tickets remaining. The early opener was prompted by the presence of the April 6-8 Final Four in Minneapolis. Extensive field preparation begins in a couple weeks. “I will take 50 (degrees) and sunshine (for opening day),” St. Peter said.
About 28,000 tickets have been sold for the August 31 North Dakota State-Butler football game at Target Field, with capacity at over 38,000. NDSU is the defending Division I FCS national champion.
Target Field hosted a record Division III crowd of 37,355 in 2017 for the St. Thomas-Saint John’s football game. St. Peter said there are discussions about playing the November of 2021 Tommies-Johnnies football game at Target Field. Talks are ongoing, too, with the Minnesota Wild regarding an NHL Winter Classic at the downtown Minneapolis stadium.
Construction on the Minnesota United’s Allianz Field is complete, with a ribbon cutting scheduled for March 18 at the St. Paul stadium. The club reports the project generated more than 650,000 work hours, totaling over $46 million in wages, and that $167 million was awarded to companies located within 150 miles of Allianz Field.
Minnesota’s MLS team opens its regular season on Saturday (5 p.m. Twin Cities time) on the road against the Vancouver Whitecaps. The club has five new starters counting Slovakian Jan Gregus, 2017 MLS Defender of the Year Ike Opara, 2016 MLS Cup Champion Ozzie Alonso, Premier League goalie Vito Mannone and the only player from Madagascar in the league, Romain Metanire.
Amir Coffey is one of the Big Ten’s most versatile and skilled players. He will need to produce like he did last night (31 points, 12 rebounds in a must-win over lowly Northwestern) if the Gophers are to earn an NCAA Tournament invite. Minnesota entered the game as a projected last team entry in the tourney field of ESPN bracketologist Joe Lunardi.
Men’s regular season MIAC basketball champion St. Thomas is in the Division III NCAA Tournament and so, too, is the conference’s playoff title winner, Saint John’s. The Tommies (22-4) have a tourney opening game tonight in Lincoln, Nebraska versus Wisconsin-La Crosse (17-9). The Johnnies (23-3) are at home tonight against Northwestern-St. Paul (21-6).
Pat McKenzie, only the 15th head men’s basketball coach in 113 years at Saint John’s, speaks to the CORES lunch group Thursday, March 14 at the Bloomington Event Center (formerly the Knights of Columbus building), 1114 American Blvd. For reservations and other information, contact Jim Dotseth by Monday, March 11, firstname.lastname@example.org. CORES is an acronym for coaches, officials, reporters, educators and sports fans.
Maybe Timberwolves starting point guard Jeff Teague has some Jimmy Butler in him. That was the view expressed yesterday by Mike Max on WCCO Radio who said it appears Teague plays in games when he wants to.
Butler, traded to the 76ers after his infamous start to the season with the Timberwolves, is one of the NBA’s better closers when his team creates isolation situations for him to score. The 76ers are among the NBA’s best clubs, partly because of Butler who will be a free agent after this season. He reportedly has given no assurances he will return to his new club.
New to major college hockey and ranked No. 12 nationally in the latest USCHO poll, Arizona State is in Minneapolis to play the Golden Gophers tonight and tomorrow evening at 3M Arena at Mariucci. The Gophers aren’t ranked in the 20-team poll but three schools from the state of Minnesota occupy top spots—St. Cloud State, No. 1; UMD, No. 3; and Minnesota State, No. 4.
Condolences to family and friends of “Bucky” Zimmerman, the former Gophers tennis player and Minneapolis attorney who died late last month. I knew “Bucky” and enjoyed his intellect, curiosity and easy-going manner. He was married to former WCCO TV anchor Pat Miles.