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The crazy thing about the whole Miguel Sano Tommy John surgery situation - other than that, well, an infield prospect is having Tommy John - is the fact that if there were an infielder on the roster that would be likely to have the procedure, it would be Trevor Plouffe..

It's easy to forget that Plouffe was once considered to be a pitching prospect before he signed with the Twins in 2004. He went 13-1 with a 0.71 ERA during his senior year at Crespi Carmelite high school in Encino, Calif. and had he gone to the University of Southern California, Plouffe would have pitched and played an everyday position in college. "(USC coach) Mike Gillespie and I talked about me playing shortstop and then coming in to close games," Plouffe told Seth Stohs, now a blogger at Twins Daily, in 2006.

There was a legitimate question as to whether or not Plouffe would pitch in the majors. In an article about whether or not Plouffe would decide to play at USC, a school he had grown up rooting for, or go pro, Eric Sondheimertold readers to take a step back and ponder what position Plouffe would play: "First, everyone must solve a pressing question: Is Plouffe a pitcher or a shortstop?" he wrote in 2004. "That provokes sharp debate and genuine disagreement among well-respected scouts."

Sondheimer was not writing for The Onion; he was writing for the Los Angeles Times. "The pro guys are really split because he is a prospect as a shortstop and pitcher," Gillespie told the Times. "I’m a shortstop who pitches," Plouffe said at the time. "Ultimately, it’s up to whomever lets you play."

Well, the Twins drafted him at No. 20 overall that year, offered him $1.5 million to sign and Plouffe went pro. "The decision to sign was very easy," he told Stohs. "You can’t pass up a chance to play pro ball with an organization like the Twins."

But Plouffe became neither a shortstop nor a pitcher. When he got called up as a 24-year-oldin 2010, he split time between short and second and as a designated hitter. By 2011 the team had tried him as a corner outfielder and at first base. The next year he beat out Danny Valencia at third base while hitting .235/.301/.455 with 24 home runs.

On Opening Day, Plouffe will have played every position except center field, catcher and... pitcher.

The point of writing this is not to suggest that Plouffe should have been developed as a pitcher. The point is that it wasn't Tommy John that forced Plouffe from the mound to the field a la Rick Ankiel. Rather, it's a blue-chip third base product that is having the procedure and Plouffe is the one that is going to benefit from another year at the hot corner.

There has been plenty of moaning and groaning among Twins fans hoping to see Sano who, along with Byron Buxton, is supposed to turn Minnesota around after three straight 90-loss seasons: Out with the old, in with the new. Except that Plouffe really isn't that old and should be capable of having a big season this year. He is in the middle of his prime and showed signs of progression last year before a calf injury and concussion slowed him down.

He was beginning to hit home runs to opposite field and with runners on base - something he did not do during his breakout 2012 campaign - and raised his batting average to .254.

If Plouffe can hit .260 to .280 with 25-plus homers, it's hard not to see him as an asset, even if his fielding is decidedly middle-of-the-pack compared to the rest of the league. He hit for power against righties (12 home runs) and average against lefties (.300), but hit only two home runs against lefties and .240 against righties while also continuing to show power to opposite field and produce with runners on base.

This really shouldn't be too far-fetched. Plouffe hit .244/.300/.430 in Triple-A in 2010, right before he got called up for his major league debut, then hit .313/.384/.635 in 2011, essentially forcing the Twins to bring him up again and find a spot for him on the field. The improvement was astronomical: Plouffe had never hit above .262, save for his first season in rookie ball, and suddenly was crushing the ball.

Babe Plouffe, as baseball nuts around the Twin Cities jokingly called him, had adjusted his batting stance and his swing and changed him from a ground-ball hitter to a fly-ball hitter. Still, the increase in production befuddled some of baseball's brightest minds. "Could anyone have predicted this?" asked SB Nation’s Rob Neyer. "Well, the Twins must have predicted something. Otherwise they wouldn't have drafted Plouffe in the first place, or stuck with him through all those seasons of minor-league mediocrity."

Aaron Gleeman of NBC Sports was even more critical about the Twins' development of Plouffe. "By promoting him so aggressively in the face of mediocre performances the Twins put Plouffe in an odd situation developmentally. He was a former first-round pick one step from the big leagues at age 22, yet he'd never actually shown anything to suggest that he was a top prospect," he wrote. "In short, he looked like a bust."

It's the Twins who chose to select him in the first round and give him $1.5 million to sign with them. It's the Twins who decided to promote him to Triple-A at age 22 despite the fact that he had never hit above .280 or 20 home runs at any level except in his rookie season. It's the Twins who turned him into a fly ball hitter and moved him all over the field.

Some of these moves have worked out and some haven't.

Look at Plouffe now: He's got the undistinguished honor of not being Miguel Sano. Some have written him off as a placeholder that they have no desire seeing once the Dominican blue-chipper arrives along and other big-name prospects hit their stride, but the Twins are making difficult decisions with all of their prospects right now. Players like Alex Meyer (No. 23, 2011), Kyle Gibson (No. 22, 2009)and Aaron Hicks (No. 14, 2008) are all supposed to develop into stars and supplement Buxton and Sano and bring a contending team back to the Twin Cities.

But if Trevor Plouffe does not pan out, what's to say that the others will?

Tom Schreier can be heard on The Michael Knight Show from 2-3:00 on weekdays. He has written for Bleacher Report and the Yahoo Contributor Network. Follow him on Twitter @tschreier3.
Before Shabazz Muhammad's 20-point outburst against the upstart Phoenix Suns, it would not have been crazy to think that the Minnesota Timberwolves forward would have spent most of his rookie season on the bench. The No. 14 pick out of UCLA had only played more than 20 minutes in one other game and only scored in double-digits once before Tuesday..

Before the draft, Doug Gottleib had warned GMs against taking him, saying that he was a "very average athlete" who was kind of small for a forwardand did not defend, rebound or pass the ball. There were off the court issues as well: The Los Angeles Times report that Muhammad's father, Ron Holmes, had fudged his age, he was caught sulking when a teammate of his hit a game-winning shot. On top of that, Rick Adelman tends not to give rookies playing time right away.

But there Muhammad was, scoring at will against Phoenix, a Western Conference team that the Wolves need to pass in order to make the playoffs this year: 24:20 minutes played, 8-13 from the field and 20 points. All were career highs.

Adelman's hand was forced, of course, just as it had been with Derrick Williams a year ago. Last season, when a rash of injuries transformed the Wolves became basketball's version of The Walking Dead, Williams suddenly got a lot of playing time. Similarly, while Kevin Love and Ricky Rubio have dodged the injury bug this season, Kevin Martin, Nikola Pekovic and now Ronny Turiaf are sitting courtside in a suit and tie and Muhammad is getting more minutes.

Williams never found a role with Minnesota. He was too small to be a 4 in Adelman's system and didn't look natural at the 3 so hewas eventually shipped to the Sacramento Kings for Luc Richard Mbah a Moute. It's easy to dismiss Williams as another failed draft pick, but he appears to be a fit in Sacramento where he's getting regular playing time and scoring with some regularity. Yes, it's easy to laugh at him when he misses a wide-open NBA Street-style off-the-backboard dunk, but it's harder to acknowledge that he scored 16 points when the Kings came to town and beat the Wolves in mid-January.

The difference between Williams and Muhammad is that Williams was drafted at No. 14 and Williams was selected No. 2 overall. It's easy to look back now and ask why the Wolves didn’t nab Klay Thompson, a Morris brother or Kawhi Leonard that year, but all four of those players were selected outside of the top 10. Williams was the consensus No. 2 pick and the only player to make it to an All-Star Game is Kyrie Irving, who went first overall.

Looking at the pick in context, there was no other viable option other than Williams unless the Wolves wanted to trade down. That's not the case with Muhammad: The Wolves chose to trade down in this case, dealing Trey Burke, the No. 9 pick, for picks No. 14 and No. 21. When a team selects a player later in the draft, they are looking for a fit and, according to Chris Mannix of Sports Illustrated, they were looking at Muhammad and Gonzaga’s Kelly Olynyk. When the Boston Celtics moved up to take Olynyk, Flip Saunders chose Muhammad.

That's the other key here: Saunders chose Muhammad. This wasn't David Kahn; this was Saunders, the beloved former coach, and should be judged accordingly. Saunders may not have known that Martin, Pekovic and Turiaf were going to go down, but Muhammad was the guy he selected, Burke was the guy he traded, and this isn't going to look good if the Wolves trade away Muhammad for cents on the dollar as they did with Williams.

Tom Schreier can be heard on The Michael Knight Show from 2-3:00 on weekdays. He has written for Bleacher Report and the Yahoo Contributor Network. Follow him on Twitter @tschreier3.
Following an Opening Day loss to the Oakland Athletics where Minnesota Twins starter Kevin Correia gave up six runs in 5.2 innings, the Twins' revamped rotation only had one quality start in their last seven tries..

Sportswriter John Lowe coined the term quality start while writing for the Philadelphia Inquirer in 1985. He described it as a situation where a pitcher completes at least six innings and gives up only three runs. While it is not an all-encompassing statistic by any means, and it is not rooted in advanced metrics, when a rotation only produces one quality start in seven tries, it is enough to indicate that a team is having issues with its starting pitching.

Minnesota spent $49 million on Ricky Nolasco, $24 million on Phil Hughes and $11 million on Mike Pelfrey in the off-season. Through two starts, Nolasco is 0-1 with a 9.00 ERA. Hughes and Pelfrey have only made one start, but the former owns a 7.20 ERA and the latter is sitting at 5.06 with a loss.

So the $84 million question becomes: How much stock do you place on what has happened this season?

Correia, the lone man with a quality start, which came in a 7-6 loss to the Chicago White Sox on April 2, feels that people should not be quick to judge. "The starters were supposed to be a big improvement and hopefully get off to a good start," he says. "We haven't been bad, we haven't pitched great, but it's so early. At this point in the year there's no trends, there's no way you can look ahead and see what's going to happen. It's just early."

Kyle Gibson, a second-year player who is a year removed from Tommy John surgery, owns a 1.80 ERA and got the win in Cleveland on April 5, but did not get a quality start because he only pitched 5.0 innings against the Indians.

Pelfrey, who is also a year removed from Tommy John, coasted through five innings against the Indians the day before, retiring 15 of the 16 batters he faced, but got hammered in the sixth inning and was removed after only getting one out.

"[We're] thinking [he can go] seven, eight, nine innings here, maybe save our bullpen,' manager Ron Gardenhire told Phil Miller of the Minneapolis Star Tribune. "But once the next inning started, he wasn't the same pitcher."

"I was efficient. But the way it unraveled, who cares?" Pelfrey told Miller. "It kind of ruined the whole day."

"Gibby had a great start when he pitched and Pelfrey was really close and I think my last start was a good one and this one wasn't," said Correia. "We're not going out there and getting beat up, I don't think, but we're just a few pitches away here and there from getting deep into games. It's so early. It's hard to judge. We're not even through the rotation twice so it's impossible to predict what's going to happen."

Correia got hit around early in his start, giving up two runs in the second and three in the third, but then appeared to settle in. He retired eight straight batters before giving up a solo shot in the sixth that kept him from completing the inning.

"I started pitching in a little more," he said. "They got almost all their hits on off-speed pitches that were down and away so I made the adjustment and I just threw a hanging breaking ball on the first pitch."

Admittedly, the adjustment came too late, but the Twins scored a run in the second and two in the third, so they were only down 5-3 when Correia got the first two outs in the second inning. Derek Norris' homer in the sixth didn't help Minnesota's cause, but it was the two runs in the seventh, given up by reliever Samuel Deduno, that put the game out of reach.

"I would have liked to get that guy out. There were two outs, nobody on, and the first pitch he just jumped on it," says Correia of Norris. "You learn every time you face a guy like that you've never faced before and you see what his tendencies are. They had a different sort of game plan against me the last time I faced them."

While he says that it is too early to judge the pitching staff, Correia's underlying message is that things will get better. "You've got to get a couple starts under your belt and what I've noticed about a pitching staff is that they kind of get on a roll together," says Correia. "Once you start going, everyone feeds off each other and hopefully that's going to happen here real soon."
Tom Schreier can be heard on The Michael Knight Show from 2-3:00 on weekdays. He has written for Bleacher Report and the Yahoo Contributor Network. Follow him on Twitter @tschreier3.
Paul Cantiani, the man that brought independent baseball to the city of Worcester, Mass., believes that Minnesota Twins first baseman Chris Colabello should wind up and hit a tree. Evergreen, birch, hickory or willow - it doesn't matter: He should just let loose and wail on some arbor. "I just want to punch him once in a while and say, why don't you get pissed off? Punch a tree or something," says Cantiani in an East Coast accent so thick he could be mistaken for a Family Guy character. "He just smiles back.".

Cantiani is kidding of course. Colabello broke his hand while playing in his penultimate season for the Worcester Tornadoes, the Canadian-American independent league team that Cantiani brought to central Massachusetts. Even if he hadn't done that, it isn't smart for a person that wants to hit a ball 400 feet or throw a runner out at home to run around punching trees.

Colabello would be justified if he let loose, however. He played his first MLB game at age 29 last year. He is also primarily a first baseman, a fungible defensive position where Joe Mauer will play next season, and a right fielder, where first round pick Chris Parmelee and blue-chipper Oswaldo Arcia play, and he hit below the Mendoza Line in 181 plate appearances as a rookie. That means that if he cannot get the bat going, he probably will not find a spot on a major league roster. He cannot play for the Tornadoes if he gets cut because they folded shortly after he entered the Twins system and he does not have much more to accomplish in the minor leagues after being named International League MVP and Rookie of the Year last season.

None of that bothers Colabello, though, because he is just taking it one step at a time. "Every day my focus is on the task at hand and when I say that I mean it," he says. "If you get too caught up in where I'm going to be in a week or where I'm going to be in two weeks or what's going to happen in my next at-bat or all that stuff, it has a tendency to really detract from what you're trying to do as a player."

"He doesn't feel pressure," says Cantiani. "He's acting no different in the major leagues than he did when he was [with] the Tornadoes. I'm not kidding you; the kid's wacky. You can tell him I said that too. If you talk to him about me, he'll tell you how much he loves me."

Beloved in Worcester

Everybody in this city took to him because he's just so personable. He'd stay after games and sign autographs for an hour or two hours and it was all for nothing. He's just a nice kid.
- Paul Cantiani, Cantiani Insurance Agency

"The one thing I can say about Paul for sure is that he has a huge heart and he's a very straight shooter," says Colabello. "Until you get to know him, it's hard to see how big his heart is and what kind of guy he is." He calls Cantiani the Godfather of Worcester. "He's a guy that cared very deeply for a lot of players who played for the Worcester Tornadoes those years when I was playing and became like a surrogate dad to me."

It was not as though Colabello needed a surrogate father, though: Both of his parents, Lou and Silvana, were supportive of his choice to pursue professional baseball despite his long odds and allowed him to live at home while he was playing for the Tornadoes. Lou, a high school physical education teacher and former pitcher, met Lou while he was playing professionally in Italy. "My mom and dad have the same passion for the game that I do," Colabello told Sports On Earth's Pat Borzi. "A day on a baseball field is better than a day somewhere else. That's the way I looked at it."

So while his parents were comfortable with him living at home until age 27, it was Cantiani that got in his ear about his pursuit of a career as a professional baseball player. "I was like, 'you're outta your goddamn mind!'" yelled Cantiani, adding that Colabello made enough money to live independently during that time. "Would you goddamn move out? He loves his mother and father."

"They were more than happy to have me there," says Colabello, smiling. "I was an only child in an Italian family."

"The problem I was having, personally at the end, I was saying, 'Chris, you're 27, you're 27 years old, stop bullshitting yourself. You've got to get out and get into the real world and find some kind of career,'" says Cantiani. "I used to think he was playing baseball because he was too lazy to get a job."

The two used to get together every for lunch when Colabello was playing for the Tornadoes, but Cantiani would not allow Colabello to talk about baseball. "He knows I don't want to hear it," Cantiani says. "I want to talk about your life, I want to talk about your girlfriend: I want to make sure you don't knock her up."

In the offseason Colabello taught baseball lessons and worked camps and clinics while also substitute teaching at local schools. Not only was it additional income for Colabello, who made between $800 and $2000 a month playing Indy ball, but it also allowed him to integrate with a community that he cared for greatly.

He even went so far as to participate in an event called Dancing with the City, Worcester's play on the popular television show Dancing with the Stars. Colabello, who admittedly is a poor dancer, took Beth O'Brien, the wife of former City Manager Mike O'Brien, to the event. He had to do countless lessons, in addition to playing baseball, in order to be competent enough to dance in front of other people. In three weeks he learned how to do the Cha Cha and the Limbo. "Why would a guy do that? He just respects the City Manager," says Cantiani. "And then he calls me up one time and says, 'We're going out with the City Manager's daughters for lunch.' So he takes me because he knows I'll pay - so he's not stupid."

Leaving Worcester
In terms of Worcester, it couldn't have come at a better time, but you could have said that four or five years ago when he got traded or anything like that.
- Keith Beauregard, assistant coach at Santa Clara University

While the daughters of the City Manager were not typical guests of Colabello and Cantiani when they sat down for lunch, Keith Beauregard was. Currently an assistant baseball coach at Santa Clara University in Northern California, Beauregard competed against Colabello in college and then was his teammate for three years with the Tornadoes. "He's one of my closest friends," Beauregard says of Colabello. "That's my boy right there."

They both grew up near Massachusetts - Beauregard is from Leominster and Colabello is from Milford - and chose to play Division II baseball locally in the Northeast-10 Conference: Beauregard played for St. Anselm in Manchester, N.H. and Colabello played for Assumption College in Worcester. Because the baseball community in Massachusetts is smaller than it is in hardball hotbeds like California, Texas, and Florida, the two knew each other from playing summer ball and in high school. "We played against each other in the same conference, so it was one of those things: I wanted to beat him every time and he wanted to beat me," says Beauregard, "but when we got to Worcester we had mutual respect for one another."

The two had lockers next to one another while playing for the Tornadoes and established a daily routine. They went to the cages with manager Rich Gedman, a major leaguer who played from 1980 to 1992 and spent 11 years with the Boston Red Sox, and hitting coach Barry Glinski, who coached at Assumption from 1981 to 1988. Both players say that it was the close bond they had with their team - a ragtag collection of players that had played all levels of the game ("You had guys from South America, guys from Australia, and then you had your Canadians," says Beauregard. "It was an extremely diverse culture.") - that allowed Worcester to win a Can-Am championship in 2005.

But two years later Worcester was slumping and Colabello, hitting .300 in the heart of the order, was traded to the Nashua Pride in the middle of the season. Suddenly, Worcester's native son was hitting cleanup for a team in New Hampshire. The decision to deal Colabello took a toll on Gedman, who like Cantiani and Beauregard had become incredibly fond of him. "I was very, very close to him and we spent an awful lot of time together and maybe it was a fault of my own that I was so close," says Gedman, "but my thing was I felt he was better served by being traded than he would have by playing and going through what we were going through at the time."

Colabello went on to win a championship with the Pride that year and returned to the Tornadoes in 2008. By that time, however, Beauregard had moved on. At age 25, he wanted to try his hand at real estate. He moved to New York, worked for Prudential Douglas from 2008-10, came back to the game in 2011 and played 11 games for Pittsfield and then went to work on Dan O'Brien's staff at Santa Clara two years later.

Colabello was playing for Worcester in 2011, but the ground was falling beneath him. The team had trouble competing against all the baseball in the area - the Red Sox, Paw Sox, Lowell Spinners, legion, and high school - and found itself in financial trouble. The end was near when, after the 2011 season, the Minnesota Twins reached out to Colabello. In the Can-Am league, each team is only allowed five veteran players and was looking at signing Jose Conseco in order to draw a larger crowd and try to stay solvent. Colabello signed with the Twins that February and saw the team that he and Cantiani build go bankrupt and fold.

"In terms of Worcester, it couldn't have come at a better time, but you could have said that four or five years ago when he got traded or anything like that," says Beauregard. "It came at the right time. It came at the right time for him. His maturity as a hitter has increased greatly and his ability to generate power not only to his pull side, but to the opposite field side, his understanding of pitch selection, pitch sequences is unbelievable right now."

So Colabello dodged a bullet in some sense by signing with the Twins, but there was still the matter of going from Mickey Mouse baseball, as Cantiani called the Can-Am league, to Associated ball.

Hitting Like Pujols and Cabrera

The thing that made him ultimately give it a chance was I was showing him clips of Miguel Cabrera, Albert Pujols, and Hanley Ramirez and when I showed him a clip of himself and it was the farthest hit ball that he's ever hit up to that point and he looked at it and the things that happened in that swing were completely different than his intent.
- Bobby Tewksbary, A.B. Athletic Development
"Chris always had this thing in his head, if he doesn't hit .300, he's a failure," says Cantiani. "That's why when is average goes down, he panics a little."

Colabello hit .300 every year when he was with Worcester, including his rookie year in 2005 as a 21 year old, but this was different. With the Twins Double-A affiliate in New Britain, Conn. he was going to be playing 134 games; in the Can-Am league he played around 90. In New Britain he was affiliated with a major league team; in Worcester he did not. He was playing with major league prospects, Bonus Babies, in New Britain; in Worcester he was not.

"I don't care what you play: Little League, Babe Ruth, high school, college -- not many people hit .300 six years in a row," says Gedman. "There's an art to it, an understanding of it. Knowing how to do it, regardless of what level you're playing at, you're doing something that some people can do and other people can't do and he's one of those kids."

"Richey Gedman loves him," says Cantiani, adding that the two do regular hitting lessons together and also put on clinics for underprivileged children in Worcester. Colabello fell short of .300 for the first time in his professional career, however, when he hit .284/.358/.478 for in 134 games with the Rock Cats in 2012. He still was promoted to Triple-A last year and it was there that Colabello, at age 29, had perhaps one of the best single season turnarounds for a minor league veteran in baseball history.

In 89 games with the Rochester Red Wings, Colabello hit .352/.427/.639 with 24 home runs. Never before in his professional baseball career had he hit above .350. Never before in his baseball career had he hit more than 20 home runs. Only in his final year with the Tornadoes did he have an OPS above 1.000 and yet, in his first year at Triple-A, Colabello's on-base plus slugging percentage totaled 1.066.

How did that happen? It was a combination of instruction from the Twins, Gedman, and a friend named Bobby Tewksbary.

Colabello met Tewksbary during the 2004 New England Collegiate Baseball All-Star Game during the summer between their junior and senior years of college and then played a year and a half together on the Tornadoes. Unlike Colabello and Beauregard, however, Tewksbary was never a .300 hitter in the Can-Am league. In fact, the Hudson, N.H. native never cracked .250 in the 72 games he split between Worcester and the North Shore Spirit in Lynn, Mass. But it was getting away from the game that allowed him to instruct hitters to do what he himself never could on a baseball diamond.

"I went to New York City for a couple years, got away form baseball, and I started looking a the swing again, looking at video again," he says. He went out and bought a high-speed camera and went to the 2008 Home Run Derby at Yankee Stadium and took footage of Josh Hamilton as the former Texas Rangers slugger hit 35 home runs at New York's old park. "The time away from the game allowed me to look at things in a different light," he says. "When you transition from playing to coaching, you teach what everyone taught you. I got away from it for a couple years and started seeing some things differently that what I always thought was happening."

Colabello broke his left hand late in the 2010 season in a game against Les Capitales de Quebec. It was raining out at the time, but because the Can-Am league did not have a budget for makeup games, so the teams played on. Colabello caught a fastball in the left hand when the pitcher fell off the mound and missed the rest of the season with a non-displaced fracture. "At that point I was really starting to feel good about myself," says Colabello. "When I got hurt, I was still hungry. Going into the offseason, I decided that I was going to start hitting right away. I was going to do everything I could to be the best hitter that I could be that offseason. That was when I first really made that commitment to being the guy I am today."

It was during the 2010 offseason that he began to work with Tewksbary. The mechanics Tewksbary teaches do not fall in line with conventional wisdom, which preaches short swings and few moving parts -- something the Twins preach to their hitters from the minors on up. Tewksbary, who studies film of great hitters so often he says its like he's conducting a C.S.I. investigation ("People talk about the 10-year, 10,000-hour rule," he says, "I've blown past 10,000 hours a long time ago."), has found that the best hitters in the game today, guys like Hamilton, Albert Pujols, and Miguel Cabrera, have large swings with multiple movable parts that all serve a purpose in the swing.

Twins general manager Terry Ryan has openly expressed his concern regarding the moving parts in Colabello's swing, but Tewksbary insists that his method is the reason why Colabello went from being a .284 hitter in New Britain, to a .352 hitter with 24 home runs in Rochester. Asked about the moving parts in Colabello's swing, Tewksbary replied that "I want to be careful answering this question because I don't want to piss off Terry Ryan or get Chris in trouble, but I'll say that the movement of Chris' swing is not random.

"We've spent a lot of time studying video, we've spent a lot of time adding and removing different components of his swing and the movement that exists in his swing has purpose," he continues. "It's in sync with what the pitcher is doing, it's in sync with his plan with how he is trying to be successful, there's nothing random about what he's doing in the batter's box."

Twins hitting coordinator Bill Springman acknowledged via email that Tewksbary and Colabello have a relationship and said it is not an "instructional type of relationship," but offered no further comment. "I would definitely consider Chris a friend before I consider him to be a client just because of our history," says Tewksbary, "but he's a smart kid, he's very smart, he's very critical and objective and has very good questions." Colabello actively works with Twins hitting coach Tom Brunansky during the season and hits in Tewksbary's Nashua, N.H. facility in the offseason.

Two of the Twins best hitting prospects, Oswaldo Arcia and Josmil Pinto, have large swings and both players had success at the plate as rookies last season: Arcia hit .251/.304/.430 with 14 home runs in 97 games and Pinto hit .342/.398/.566 with 4 home runs in 21 games. During the past two seasons, Tewksbary has traveled to Ft. Myers, Fla. for Spring Training with Colabello and was impressed by both players.

The first year he traveled down to Florida, he did not know many of the Twins prospects, so he walked around the complex and a left-handed hitter caught his eye. "I went over to the cage underneath the stadium and there was this lefty hitter just raking, mashing balls off of the iron mike and I took video and this guy has the best swing that I've seen here today," says Tewksbary, who had no idea who that player was, but had been informed by Colabello that there were two players that could hit: Arcia and Pinto. "So I'm going back to my video at the end of the year, looking up the big league camp roster and the lefty I saw was Arcia."

Tewksbary got a chance to see Pinto when he was called up to Double-A. He was at home and he and Chris decided to see New Britain play when they visited the Blue Jays' Double-A affiliate in New Hampshire. "I was there watching batting practice and I see Pinto swing, I have no idea who he is, and as soon as I see him take one swing, I look at Chris and I'm like, 'Who's that?' and he slapped himself on the leg like 'I knew it, that's the guy I was telling you about.'

"When you see the guys with these mechanics, it jumps out at you because it's different," Tewksbary continues. "The more you understand it, the more obvious it becomes. As far as I'm concerned, it's not really debatable that it exists because you can look at the video and it's pretty obvious once you know what to look for."

Colabello initially rejected Tewksbary's advice, challenging repeatedly in verbal disagreements that often grew very loud, very quickly. "It was pretty funny, he would question me about specific hitters, he would question me about certain wording, and he was very adamant about emergency swings and how am I supposed to protect the plate? How am I supposed to hit the inside pitch or the outside pitch?" says Tewksbary. "He needed to understand the concept to understand there might be more to what he is capable of."

"More than a player, he's a student of the game," says Beauregard, who acts as the hitting coach at Santa Clara. "He understands the game extremely well at one of the highest levels I've ever seen."

Early on in the training process, Tewksbary would have Colabello try "something crazy" with three swings and then the two would yell for three hours. Then they would try something different, only to have another shouting match ensue. "It was hilarious because we're good friends and he's got some Italian in him." Eventually, though, Colabello gave in and began to see results, culminating in his Triple-A performance last season.

"He showed up and he didn't have to show up," acknowledges Tewksbary, who says that Colabello is a friend first and a client second. "He could have been like, 'You know what? You're crazy, I don't need this. I'm as successful as I need right now, I'm comfortable with what I'm doing and I don't need it.'

"Despite the confrontation that we used to have back and forth, he kept showing up, kept giving it a chance."

Don't Label Him Quad-A

More than anything else, what makes Chris special is the type of person that he is. He's a good teammate, a good person, and that's what makes him special. It's his perseverance, his desire to want to be one of the best, to overcome obstacles where most people would have given up - that's what makes him special.
- Rich Gedman, former major leaguer and manager of the Tornadoes
"Baseball likes to label people and create definitions of people and a lot of times its accurate,but people are really quick to throw that Quad-A label on players," says Tewksbary, "To know where he came from and to know where he's at, he's gonna battle, he's the type of kid that's going to do everything he can and challenge himself harder than anybody could challenge him to be a better player and to succeed."

"His dream would be to die on the ball field," says Cantiani. "I ain't shittin' ya: Kid's wacky."

"He played seven years of Independent ball and I bet you 99.9 percent of the population in America that knew him was like 'When is he going to hang it up?'" says Beauregard. "[He's] going to do all he can to make the Minnesota Twins the best possible team that they can be or whatever team he is a part of for the remainder of his career."

Colabello himself says that he never once considered quitting because baseball meant so much to him. He said that he promised himself he would play as long as three things held up: 1) Physically he could do it, meaning he was capable physically, financially, and emotionally, 2) That he was still having fun playing the game, and 3) That he felt like he was getting better. "I felt that was the most important one and over the course of time, that just kept happening," he says. "More than anything, my hunger to get better grew."

Colabello says the fraternity of players that have gone from Independent ball to the majors has welcomed him.

"It's funny, when you're in Independent ball, you have a tendency to really keep an eye on the guys out there," he says. "You keep close tabs on those guys because you know what it took to endure over there and kind of get through it." Colabello speaks highly of players like John Lindsey and Steve Delabar, who made it to the Show after playing Indy ball and says he looks up to Daniel Nava, who has had success with the Red Sox.

Gedman feels that Colabello has made a major impact on the Canadian-American league and the players playing in it. "New anybody who plays in Independent ball can go, 'If Chris Colabello can do it, why can't I?'" he says. "For whatever the reason or for however it happens, it gives that league a valid reason to be there. Yeah, you can get there from here. It might be a hard road, but if somebody gives you an opportunity, you never know. "That's what makes his story so special."

For Colabello's part, he's just focused on the moment. His long-term goal, of course, is to play into his 40s, but right now it's about making the team and producing at age 30. "Hitting .300 has always meant the world to me, for whatever reason. From when I was a little kid, I understood what it meant to hit .300 and we have the epitome of that guy in this clubhouse every day," he says. "To watch Joe Mauer go about his business and be as steady as he is every day, he's so poised." Colabello says that he is at his best when he breaks down an at-bat into its most basic form form: a battle between a hitter and the pitch that is thrown. He knows he'll stay as long as he can produce at the plate, and he has proven he can hit at every level except the game's highest. In order to take his game to the next level, he will focus on each individual moment rather than the big picture.

"A lot of times we catch ourselves focusing too much on the future instead of staying in the present," he says. "Aspirations of what you want to be down the road have to come from the individual moments."

Tom Schreier can be heard on The Michael Knight Show from 2-3:00 on weekdays. He has written for Bleacher Report and the Yahoo Contributor Network. Follow him on Twitter @tschreier3.
It's easy to hate the Mike Pelfrey signing right now. He started the season 0-3 with a 7.99 ERA, has lost velocity on his fastball, has been placed in the 15-day disabled list, doesn't know what is wrong with his arm and the Minnesota Twins offered him a two-year, $11 million contract last summer.

Many Twins fans did not like the contract to begin with, expressing shock and disappointment when he signed because of his low strikeout rate, control issues and slow pace of play. Team management likes him because Pelfrey is a former first round pick that had two good seasons with the New York Mets in 2008 and 2010, has a positive presence in the clubhouse and is always accountable after his poor outings. That has done little to appease Twins fans that are fed up with poor pitching, however, especially when they were against the signing from the beginning..

"That was weird," tweeted Parker Hageman, a blogger at Twins Daily, in response to the signing, which was initially reported by Jon Heyman of CBS Sports. "The tweet by Heyman made it sound like the Twins made a 2-year deal to Mike Pelfrey. That can't be right." While Hageman appeared to be dumbfounded, Aaron Gleeman, who hosts the popular podcast Gleeman and the Geek with John Bonnes of TwinsDaily.com, expressed frustration upon hearing the news. "If the Twins sign Mike Pelfrey to a two-year contract," he tweeted, "I quit."

Although he had a 5-13 record with a 5.19 ERA last season, pitchers have traditionally thrown better a year removed from Tommy John surgery. By re-signing Pelfrey, they were hoping the 30-year-old veteran would have a Kyle Gibson like leap in production once the pitch count was removed and his mechanics returned to form.

It should be noted that super agent Scott Boras, who also represents big-name players like Stephen Strasburg and Barry Zito, negotiated Pelfrey's contract. Strasburg famously received a record-breaking four-year, $15.1 million deal with the Washington Nationals as a rookie and Zito is much-maligned in San Francisco for signing a seven-year, $126 million contract, the highest for any pitcher at the time, and falling to the back end of the rotation and failing to live up to the money.

Pelfrey got two years and now the Twins have a puzzle to figure out. Pelfrey went on the DL with a groin injury, but he says that that is not what is causing his velocity to drop. "My arm physically is fine," he said the morning it was announced he would be going on the disabled list, "if there was something wrong, at least it would give me an understanding of, 'Maybe this doesn't feel right. Maybe this is it.'"

Pelfrey has insisted that he has been healthy since returning from Tommy John surgery earlier than expected last season, but the results have said otherwise. He is being hit hard on a regular basis and is hardly reminiscent of the player that was drafted No. 9 overall in 2005.

It's also hard to tell when he is actually hurting. He's a 6'7", 250-pound man from the heartland that is willing to play through injury. When asked if he was going to go on the disabled list following his last outing, which came on May 1, he said that he hadn't even thought about going on the DL. This has led to speculation that his groin injury is simply a cover-up that will allow him to take time off and play in the minors while he tries to figure out what is wrong with him.

The story has been consistent, however. While pitching to Dee Gordon, the first batter he faced against the Los Angeles Dodgers on May 1, he went back to fix the mound by rubbing his cleats against the sand, slipped and pulled his groin. Both manager Ron Gardenhire and assistant general manager Rob Antony offered the same story to the media before Pelfrey spoke and Pelfrey said that he has pulled his groin before and experienced pain there during Spring Training.

"It's been there," he said. "I've strained my groin a lot, but I'm fine. It's more sore today, a lot more tender today then it is usually is."

Antony said that he was told the injury did not affect Pelfrey's performance, but just became more irritating over time and then stiffened up after he came out of the game. He also said that Pelfrey mentioned the injury to team trainer Dave Pruemer before throwing a bullpen session, indicating that the team was not initially going to put him on the DL.

Even if you choose not to believe his story, it makes little sense for him to pitch through a groin injury while trying to figure out while his fastball has dropped to the high 80s and lower 90s when it is supposed to be around 93-95 MPH. He also said that it does not affect his stride or otherwise influence his pitching.

It also makes little sense to put him in the bullpen. While Pelfrey's absence gives Samuel Deduno an opportunity to prove himself as a starter once again, it makes little sense to add another former starter to a bullpen that already carries Anthony Swarzak and Brian Duensing -- converted starters who now serve as relievers.

The Twins do have the option of cutting Pelfrey and eating the $11 million he is owed, but that too creates a predicament. While there are myriad reasons why he struggled last year, which Gleeman sums up in this post, and Twins fans would like to believe that Alex Meyer and Trevor May are going to come in and dominate immediately after being called up, most rookie pitchers have a steep learning curve before they can become part of the regular rotation. Even recent stars like Johan Santana, Matt Garza and Kyle Gibson struggled in their rookie seasons and took a year or two to find consistency at the major league level.

By cutting Pelfrey right now, the Twins have essentially limited themselves to five starters: Ricky Nolasco, Phil Hughes, Kevin Correia, Sam Deduno and Gibson. Nolasco and Hughes signed long term contracts in the offseason, so they are not going anywhere, but Correia is on the final year of his deal and Deduno has control issues. Keeping Pelfrey around is wise, so long as he does not have serious issues that will prevent him from pitching in the future.

There are a lot of consistencies here. Pelfrey has always been accountable and honest about his situation and people are not piling on -- those who were against the deal were against it from the very beginning. The Twins want players that take ownership of their play and are good influences in the clubhouse, and Pelfrey offers both, but they also know that he needs to produce in order to keep him on the big league roster.

"Everyone roots for him," said Gardenhire, referring to the players in the locker room. "He's a great guy, a great guy in the clubhouse, but the big leagues is all about results. You have to get people out and you’ve got to give your team a chance."

For Pelfrey to do that he’s got to figure out what is wrong with his arm and his pace of play needs to improve, especially with men on base. If he can do that, the Twins will look smart because they got a first-round pick with a first-class attitude at a value price. If not, there will be a lot of people tweeting "I told you so."

Tom Schreier can be heard on The Michael Knight Show from 2-3:00 on weekdays. He has written for Bleacher Report and the Yahoo Contributor Network. Follow him on Twitter @tschreier3.
The Minnesota Twins would have liked to have replay back in 2009. It's a while ago now, but most baseball fans in the Twin Cities remember Game 2 of the AL Division Series that year against the New York Yankees when Joe Mauer hit a ball that was clearly fair and would have scored two runners with the bases loaded, only to have it called foul. ESPN's Dave Schoenfield called it one of the five worst umpiring calls in baseball history. Yes, they were wearing different uniforms, playing in a different stadium and, well, winning more games than they lost back then, but this memory is still fresh in the minds of many Twins fans..

The fact that left field ump Phil Cuzzi, who was only standing a couple feet away from where the ball landed, blew the call was instantly visible to anyone watching the game that night. The ball was obviously fair and although it was at the top of the inning, it was unlikely that the Yankees would have won the game in the bottom frame.

Although the ball was fair, it's difficult to whole-heartedly blame Cuzzi in this situation -- he's human. He may have been standing close to the action, but the ball dropped in an instant and Melky Cabrera may have blocked some of his vision. The bottom line is that it shouldn't have mattered: An instant replay would have shown the umpiring crew that the ball was foul almost immediately and he would have been overruled.

Replay, at its core, is a necessity. If a fan sitting at home can tell that a ruling is incorrect, it should be overturned, preventing a blown call from ruining a perfect game or a team's chance of winning a playoff series. The problem is that replay can become cumbersome and start to affect the game in ways that should be prevented.

While the Twins would have liked to have Mauer's opposite field hit replayed in 2009, the same review system has gotten in their way five years later. Starting pitcher Kevin Correia was pulled from a quality start against the Chicago White Sox because of instant replay in his first start this season. Manager Ron Gardenhire used his first challenge of the year to overturn a ruling on a catch by White Sox outfielder Adam Eaton and won it, but by the time the umpires were looking at the play, Correia was already cold and Gardenhire decided to remove him from the game.

In his second start of the season, Correia was once again victim of instant replay when a ball originally called foul was replayed to see if it was a home run. It turned out it wasn't, and Correia and other Twins players, including Chris Colabello who was in right field that day, thought it was clearly foul. Biased? Maybe, but it looked foul all the way on television. It wasn't like the Mauer call where the announcers instantly knew the call was wrong. Correia was having a rough day anyway, but the replay didn't help his cause at all. "It would have been nice if it was a little quicker," says Correia, "but that wasn't even a new replay rule, that was one we had last year so it's just something we'll have to get used to." Gardenhire echoed his pitcher's sentiment, saying that while it's important to get things right, the whole process needs to speed up.

"I don't like it stopping the game: That's two times we've been involved with it so I don't like that part of it," he says, "but the ultimate goal is to get it right. It's not working yet, as far as the quick part of it goes, but we're supposed to get it right."

The most difficult part of it, at least for the manager, is figuring out which calls can be challenged and when he can just ask the umpires to take another look. After the sixth inning, managers are no longer able to challenge calls and the umpiring crew will initiate all replays. But managers are allowed to ask umpires to give a play a second look, just to be sure. This, of course, creates a difficult situation: managers want to reduce the amount of times they have to officially challenge a play because if they are wrong, they lose it, but at the same time they want to ensure that they are not victim of a bad call.

It also creates confusion on plays that cannot be challenged, but are reviewable. For example, a foul-tip cannot be challenged, even if a catch in the field can. "It's not a reviewable play, [but] they can look at it," says Gardenhire of the foul-tip. "They can look at it. It's not challengeable, I don't think, but you can ask them to look at it and get help." So how is a catcher dropping a ball and a fielder dropping a ball any different? Well, managers find themselves confused there too.

"Well, that's our argument," he says referring to a specific foul-tip on Wednesday. "He caught the ball, there was no play being made anywhere. He caught it in his glove, turned it back and then dropped it. He caught the ball. There was no play being made anywhere." He went on to explain that there are multiple plays that can and can't be challenged and there is a laminated sheet that he keeps at his desk in his office explaining the official rules, but there are many grey areas.

Why, for example, can he not challenge a warning given by the umpires? When closer Glen Perkins got into it with Josh Donaldson of the Oakland Athletics and each bench was given a warning after each dugout cleared and entered the field, nobody actually got in a fight, everyone just danced around. Why was an official warning issued then? "Can I challenge that?" Gardenhire said of the incident, which took place Wednesday. "That's what I asked [the umpires], and I'm serious. Why would you throw a warning on that? Nothing happened." He couldn't use a challenge because the incident took place after the sixth inning and it wasn't a challengeable play anyways.

That may seem trivial, but what about a situation with the new rules about collisions at the plate. When can he use a challenge? Can he avoid using a challenge by just asking the umpires to look at the replay? Does it matter if it takes place in the first inning or the ninth? "Plays at the plate, can you ask them, 'I think he blocked the plate?' Or do you ask them, 'I think he was safe, you called him out?'" pondered Gardenhire. If you ask one way, the umpires may think you are inquiring about subjectivity (Was the catcher blocking the plate?); asked another way, it may be interpreted as a question of where the tag was applied (Was the runner safe?). It's all semantics, but when a run is on the line, this becomes very important.

"I thought the best part about [instant replay] was they were showing the replays on the big board," he says, referring to a rule that allows controversial calls to be replayed on the jumbotron while the umpires are communicating with New York. "The fans were all involved and they were oohing and aahing."

In time this will work itself out. With a fan's ability to watch just about every game in high-definition and see replays over and over again, it makes no sense to allow an umpire's error to influence the outcome of a big situation. Everyone will have to be patient and allow this to work itself out, but in the mean time, confusion around replay can be frustrating. "Why do you think I've been thrown out of 67 games?" Gardenhire asked rhetorically. "There's a reason."

Tom Schreier can be heard on The Michael Knight Show from 2-3:00 on weekdays. He has written for Bleacher Report and the Yahoo Contributor Network. Follow him on Twitter @tschreier3.
Kyle Gibson is aware of the long list of pitchers this season that have undergone Tommy John surgery. The Minnesota Twins pitcher is happy that he is pitching well now that he is two years removed from the procedure, but he still laments that it is becoming routine for hurlers to have go under the knife.

"As a pitcher, I wouldn't call it scary," he said. "Everybody knows it's part of the game. Unfortunately I see it become more and more part of the game. I have no idea why.".

SB Nation has compiled a Tommy John "Kill Sheet," and with names like Matt Harvey, Josh Johnson and Jose Fernandez recently joining that list, teams are left wondering what is at the root of this epidemic. "I don't know the reasons why all of a sudden now this elbow thing's coming up where I don't think anybody’s treating pitchers any differently," said Twins manager Ron Gardenhire. "I don't think they are doing anything different in college or high school, I think it's just the violent motion of throwing a baseball."

Gibson, who had the procedure done in November of 2011, has no solution to Tommy John surgery. Instead, he sees it as a learning experience. The rehabilitation he went through taught him new techniques he could use to strengthen and preserve his arm, and the year away reminded him of how much he loved baseball.

He understands the importance of good mechanics and preserving the arm at a young age, but says that sometimes pitchers who were instructed by wise coaches still get injured. Gibson does not want to fundamentally change the game of baseball by having pitchers throw four innings or toss the ball from a lower mound, nor does he want to see young pitchers to see the surgery as a magical procedure that will help them reach the big leagues. Instead, he sees it as an opportunity to learn techniques to stay healthy and throw harder following the surgery.

It can happen to anyone

When Joba Chamberlain and Stephen Strasburg underwent Tommy John, experts blamed the "Inverted W," a pitching technique both players implemented where they picked up both elbows above the shoulder during the cocking phase of the pitch. But Harvey, the Mets ace, had sound mechanics and also was sidelined due to a UCL tear.

"You've got guys that are talking about mechanics and the inverted W, you've got guys that had Tommy John that don't do that so it could just be something where you throw for a long time, and you throw hard for long enough, and your arm just wears down," said Gibson. "You just try and stay on top of it as much as possible and keep your conditioning up, but some of it is luck," he continued. "I mean, who knows? Like Matt Harvey, who thought Matt Harvey, who has really good mechanics, is going to get hurt?"

Tommy John himself came out and said that he feels that the reason so many players are having the surgery named after him is because they specialize so young and play year round. Others blame high school and college coaches that emphasize winning over player health, often letting pitchers throw over 100 pitches if they continue to get players out in latter innings.

Twins assistant general manager Rob Antony says that he looks into a player's history before drafting him, but will not be dissuaded from drafting a player that is considered Tommy John prone. "You look for arm action probably as much as anything. Some guys just have a little more risky arm action, but you gotta be careful," he said. "A lot of it major leagues clubs can't control because of what a player has done coming up in high school or if you went to college, how he was used, pitches that he threw, when he started throwing the ball, if he pitched year round.

"There's so many factors you can't control. You get the pitcher at that stage of his career, and go from there."

The Twins knew that Gibson may be injury prone coming out of the University of Missouri, but took him at No. 22 overall in 2009 and gave him a $1.8 million signing bonus. "When we drafted Gibson out of college, he had a stress fracture in his forearm, and a lot of people said that was a precursor to Tommy John, and we all knew that was a possibility," he said. "He ended up having Tommy John, but if that's behind him now, and he goes on and pitches the next seven years, we'll know the issues were well worth it."

Gibson understands Tommy John's argument and does not discourage kids from playing other sports, but he also says that the only way to improve arm strength and pitching motion is to actually do it. He says it's like a runner: The only way to get better at sprinting is to go out and sprint. Yes, it may be a more natural motion, but it's the same basic concept in his mind.

"The only way to throw harder is to break those muscles down and build them back up," he said. "It's kind of a double-edged sword: If you want to throw hard and you want to make your arm stronger, you've got to go out and throw. There is no magic exercise that's going to do that for you."

Don't change the game

As the number of pitchers undergoing Tommy John increases, baseball writers have begun mulling ways to reduce the amount of UCL injuries among starting pitchers. Esteemed Sports Illustrated scribe Tom Verducci wants to see the league lower the mound while Anthony Murray of The Atlantic suggested that teams limit MLB starters to four innings. Both options have gained some traction, but neither is appealing to Gibson.

"In general, it doesn't matter what athletic profession you're in. Your career is a short career," he said. "To take somebody that is just getting into the league and limiting them to four innings, maybe not ever seeing what they can do late in the game probably doesn't make a whole lot of sense."

Besides being energized by their competitive nature, pitchers become accustomed to the mound being a certain height and pitching a certain amount of pitches. They develop habits early on that allow them to pitch accurately at a high velocity, and dramatic changes to the game could be detrimental both to their performance and to their health.

He praises pitchers like Anthony Swarzak, a Twins reliever that is able to throw any amount of pitches in just about any setting. The former starter is used both in long relief and spot duty and has traditionally handled an inconsistent workload well since being moved to the bullpen (Swarzak only had 5 starts in 2012 against 39 relief appearances. In 2011, he had 11 starts and 16 relief appearances. You could probably say he's been close to full-time relief for at least two years prior to this; arguably three. That's why I nixed "last year.")

"You've got to have the right mindset, and if you ask these guys, they're comfortable knowing their role and to do as good as they can in that inning or with one batter," he said. "To expect all of these guys to go out there and have their mindset open and say, 'I'm going to throw three innings today,' that’s going to be difficult for a lot of guys."

It's not a magical procedure

In May, Gregg Doyle, a national columnist for CBSSports.com, wrote that Tommy John is becoming a growing addiction among young pitchers. Dr. James Andrews, a preeminent sports surgeon who has operated on Stephen Strasburg, Adam Wainwright and Joe Nathan, said that he has to turn away many adolescent players that want to get on the operating table before they enter college thinking it will help them improve their game.

"The ones we have the most trouble with are high school players, sophomores and juniors," he told Doyle. "They're worried about their career and going to college, or worried about getting drafted out of high school, and their parents are pushing."

Andrews said that he could have a player like that ready for surgery in 15 to 20 minutes, but refuses to do so because the surgery is not foolproof. The procedure entails holes being drilled into the bones of a pitcher's upper and lower arm and a tendon from the pitcher's arm or leg getting snaked through those holes in a figure-eight pattern to stabilize the elbow. It isn't a simple operation.

"I wouldn't ever tell somebody to go get Tommy John just to throw harder," said Gibson, who has had two elbow surgeries. "I don't think you can really appreciate what the sport does for you until you're actually aware of it. You take a year off and you don't get to enjoy the fun and excitement of being on a team."

Gibson says it is all about the rehabilitation. Growing up, he threw long toss as long as he could during the offseason to build up arm strength and made that part of his rehab, but he also learned new techniques to build up his arm and shoulder while staying on a strict regimen. It was the rehab, he says, more than the surgery that allowed him to have success after the operation.

"Once you get to pro ball, it's a lot on yourself, and it's a lot of self-discipline," he said. "Even me this year, there's times when I don't really have my shoulder working, and when you're rehabbing you've guy a guy standing right next to you [giving instructions]. They keep on top of you because they understand how important that rehab process is.3

"If I probably took that same diligence that I had for that 12 months and applied it to every day after Tommy John, I'd probably have a lot better chance of staying healthy. That's kind of the goal, is to take what you learned in the process and use it as part of your routine."

Tom Schreier can be heard on The Michael Knight Show from 2-3:00 on weekdays. He has written for Bleacher Report and the Yahoo Contributor Network. Follow him on Twitter @tschreier3.
Much has been made of the Minnesota Twins' outfield situation this year. A pair of infielders, Eduardo Escobar and Eduardo Nunez, has seen time in the corners, centerfielders Aaron Hicks and Sam Fuld have suffered concussions and two power hitters Josh Willingham and Oswaldo Arcia have been out for most of the season. With Hicks struggling at the plate, some are asking why the team let Alex Presley and Darin Mastroianni pass through waivers and get claimed.

"Whenever you make decisions, everyone can look back in hindsight and say, 'We should have held on to Presley,'" said assistant general manager Rob Antony. "We ran Presley through [waivers], we ran Parmelee through, we ran Diamond through -- Presley got claimed.".

Antony also does not want to give the impression that because the team likes Hicks, they are averse to providing competition for the second-year player. They still feel he has upside, but they understand the importance of depth at that position, especially if Hicks continues to hit below the Mendoza Line and has to be sent down. "I don't want to say, 'We've got Hicks, we don't need anyone else.' We looked at Mastroianni as an option, we brought him up when we needed a spot and we claimed Fuld."

On the injury front, Antony says that Minnesota is looking into changing the padding on the centerfield wall. It could potentially be a difficult thing to do in-season, especially with the All-Star game coming up because he does not know how much time it would take, but when both Hicks and Fuld went down with injury, Antony says he got a call from ownership asking if there was anything that could be done about the outfield wall.

"We're looking to see if there's any options of outfield walls we could possibly install," he said, adding that he has spoken to Matt Hoy, the team's senior vice president of operations, seriously about the matter. "They said that they are aware of one other type of wall that is a little more cushiony and we’re going to take a look at that and see if that's something that we want to do."

The bottom line is that if the Twins are going to continue to play .500 baseball, or even try and have a winning record this year, they are going to have to shore up their outfield. Escobar, a utility infielder, made a critical error that led to a loss against the Cleveland Indians when he thought the outfield wall was closer to him than it was. Santana has speed, but the natural shortstop lacks experience at centerfield. And Jason Kubel, Chris Parmelee and Chris Colabello offer power at the plate, but are not known for their defense.

"I'm not sure you're ever properly prepared for Willingham, Arcia, Hicks, Fuld -- all those guys being on the DL at the same time," said Antony. "As long as they have 40-man rosters, it's going to be hard to have four or five guys go down at the same time."

Tom Schreier can be heard on The Michael Knight Show from 2-3:00 on weekdays. He has written for Bleacher Report and the Yahoo Contributor Network. Follow him on Twitter @tschreier3.
It's time for Kevin Love to go. He is a star player that has been put in a poor situation, was knocked around by management and deserves better. For the Wolves organization, it's time to turn the page, suck up the loss of another franchise player and move on..

Hanging on to Love is a losing cause at this point. Yes, there's new management; yes, the team is spending money; and yes, they did improve last year, but the damage has been done, and both Love and the Wolves could benefit from a breakup.

The best move for Minnesota right now is to trade Love to the Cleveland Cavaliers. They own the No. 1 pick (somehow), and Minnesota could use another star to latch onto. In the past, it was not the cold weather or the size of the Twin Cities that put off Love, it was the mismanagement of the team and his mistreatment that upset him.

Dec. 11, 2012 was the day that the handwriting was placed on the wall. Love told esteemed NBA writer Adrian Wojnarowski in a Yahoo! Sports Article that he was fed up with owner Glen Taylor, then-GM David Kahn and his less-than-max contract. While Taylor and Love seem to have made up, and Flip Saunders has replaced Kahn, the organization still put guys like Darko Milicic and Michael Beasley around Love and drafted Jonny Flynn and Wesley Johnson instead of Steph Curry and Paul George early in his career. That combined with the fact that he did not get a max contract seem to have caused irreversible harm to the organization's relationship with Love.

Like the Target Center itself, the Wolves need to be refurbished. It's time to send Love on his way, acquire the No. 1 overall pick Minnesota has somehow missed out on in 10 consecutive lottery appearances and build around a new superstar: Andrew Wiggins.
It is in Minnesota that Wiggins, a Canadian, can become Maple Jordan. Instead of putting him on a team with bare cupboards or where he is not a fit, he will be put into a situation where there is a need at small forward and veteran players around him that will take pressure off the 19-year-old Kansas University star.

Here is how this will work: Using a trade suggested by Rob Mahoney of SI.com, Minnesota will deal Kevin Love, J.J. Barea and Alexey Shved for Anderson Varejao, Dion Waiters, Anthony Bennett, Tristan Thompson and the No. 1 overall pick. This unloads Love, who could leave as a free agent for nothing, Barea, who became notorious for pouting at the end of the bench and drawing technical fouls at the end of games last year, and Shved, who is a talented player that probably could use a change of scenery after spending most of last year on the bench.

In turn, the Wolves get a franchise player in Wiggins when they draft him No. 1 overall, a veteran defender in Varejao who could be waived if it doesn't work out, former No. 1 overall pick Bennett for value, a rotation piece in Thompson and Waiters, who was a No. 4 overall selection in 2012.

For the Cavaliers, they get a great package to offer LeBron James should he choose to leave Miami. Instead of playing with the suddenly aging Dwyane Wade and sometimes disappearing Chris Bosh, he'll get to play with Wes and Uncle Drew. This will keep Kyrie Irving in Cleveland, woo LeBron back home and give another hapless franchise a chance to compete in the easier Eastern Conference.

It's a win-win for both teams and, more importantly for the Wolves; a chance to start over once their new arena is ready. It's a much better solution than hoping Love stays around and seeing him leave for nothing or less value, which would make the team to wonder why they didn't trade him for the No. 1 overall pick when they had the chance.

Tom Schreier can be heard on The Michael Knight Show from 2-3:00 on weekdays. He has written for Bleacher Report and the Yahoo Contributor Network. Follow him on Twitter @tschreier3.