As Santana trade rumors swirl, Twins players try to stay in tune
MINNEAPOLIS -- Spring training is still months away, but the Minnesota Twins are already wondering who will show up.
It's not only Johan Santana who could wind up playing elsewhere. This winter, several Twins might find themselves included in a trade -- and two already have. Starting pitcher Matt Garza and shortstop Jason Bartlett were dealt to Tampa Bay on Wednesday in a six-player swap that brought outfielder Delmon Young and shortstop Brendan Harris to Minnesota.
"It's always a difficult time with teammates leaving, but you know that's how it's been ever since Day 1 in pro ball," Twins reliever Pat Neshek said in an e-mail. "Guys get released, signed, offered contracts. The offseason is a crazy time and hard to understand. It's also nice, because you get fresh faces in the clubhouse and that keeps guys on their feet and make them want to work harder so they have a spot on the team."
A two-time Cy Young Award winner, Santana has been the obvious focal point of the Twins and their offseason plans. They're trying to improve on their 79-83 finish, as well as field a contending team for the 2010 opening of their new ballpark.
"What the front office does, they're doing it for the benefit of the team," Garza said from his home in Fresno, Calif., before the deal with Tampa Bay was completed. "It's not like they're going to let the team be bad for two years."
With All-Star center fielder Torii Hunter already lost to the Los Angeles Angels in free agency, the departure of Santana would deplete this team's star power much further. Even with young left-hander Francisco Liriano coming back from elbow surgery and Joe Mauer and Justin Morneau anchoring the lineup, it would be tough for the Twins to keep up in the loaded AL Central.
Infielder Nick Punto acknowledged the anxiety of such a time for a player, not knowing who might be sent packing next. But it's part of that business-of-baseball stuff that everyone who gets paid to play this game is accustomed to by now.
Including the chance that an ace such as Santana could be dealt.
"I would hate to see him go. I love him as a teammate and as a player, but that's not my job to sit back and worry and be an armchair quarterback and say what should happen with this team," Punto said from his home in Scottsdale, Ariz.
The Twins also made a handful of minor moves Wednesday, signing right-hander Brian Bass -- who spent last season at Triple-A Rochester -- and placing him on the 40-man roster.
In addition, they signed a pair of pitchers to minor league contracts with invitations to spring training, right-hander R.A. Dickey and left-hander Mariano Gomez.
Dickey spent parts of five seasons with Texas, compiling a 5.72 ERA in 266 innings, including 33 starts. Last year, he was in Triple-A with Milwaukee's affiliate in Nashville. Gomez spent last season in Cleveland's organization.
Also, left-handers Ricky Barrett and Errol Simonitch were removed from the 40-man roster. They cleared waivers and were assigned to Triple-A.
Copyright 2007 by The Associated Press
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