John Shipley / St. Paul Pioneer Press
After the Minnesota Twins traded closer Fernando Rodney to Oakland in an Aug. 9 waiver-wire deal, manager Paul Molitor spent the next two months auditioning replacements. Molitor is gone, but three top internal candidates for closer remain. Trevor Hildenberger, Taylor Rogers and Trevor May earned saves as the season wound down, seven by side-armer Hildenberger, two by left-hander Rogers and three by power-arm May.
MINNEAPOLIS — Most of us have by now figured out the 2018 Vikings are not the team we thought they’d be. On Sunday, Dec. 16, we’ll find out if the Vikings are the team they thought they’d be, because despite all evidence to the contrary, the Vikings insist there is life left in them. We’ll know shortly. The Vikings have three games to fix their offense, nail down a playoff spot and convince the rest of us to keep paying attention.
ST. PAUL -- Byron Buxton was representing the Twins on Tuesday, Dec. 11, at Gillette Children’s Specialty Healthcare, but he wasn’t there for the team. “This is for the kids, for the fans,” he said. “It’s worth it.” The Twins’ erstwhile center fielder flew with his family all the way from Georgia for a four-hour holiday event sponsored by the Twins and Target at Gillette’s St. Paul campus. He was happy to join teammate Trevor Hildenberger, as well as former Twins Joe Mauer and Justin Morneau, and spend time with the young patients.
When P.J. Fleck first became a head football coach, a colleague pulled him aside. “He said, ‘I’ve got great advice for you,’ ” Fleck recalled Wednesday, Dec. 5. ” ‘You never, ever play Georgia Southern, or that Paul Johnson guy.’ And here I am.” Fleck was sitting beside Johnson at Ford Field in Detroit on Wednesday as the first official business of the Quick Lane Bowl, which will pit Fleck’s Gophers (6-6) against Johnson’s Georgia Tech (7-5) in a 3:15 p.m. kickoff Dec. 26.
MINNEAPOLIS -- Joe Mauer had a standing offer to return to the Twins as a player in 2019; now he has a standing offer to return to the organization in a different capacity, whatever that might be. He seems willing to accept it — at some point. “No matter what happens, I’ll be here and be ready to help this team win in the future,” Mauer said during his retirement news conference Monday, Nov. 12, at Target Field.
MINNEAPOLIS — How have the Vikings rallied to pull themselves back into relevance after a 1-2-1 start? With defense, mostly, but also a slightly improved running game.
MINNEAPOLIS — The Twins had their choice of any player available in the 2001 amateur draft, including dominant Southern Cal right-hander Mark Prior and Mark Teixeira, the slugging switch-hitter from Georgia Tech just named college player of the year. The Twins used their No. 1 pick on a high school catcher from Cretin-Derham Hall named Joe Mauer, who turned down a football scholarship from Florida State to sign with the hometown team.
EAGAN, Minn. - Rick Spielman was as surprised by that game against the Buffalo Bills as you were. After rallying the week before for what should have been a victory at Green Bay, the Minnesota Vikings stumbled out of the gate against then-winless Buffalo on Sept. 23 at U.S. Bank Stadium and never recovered, turning the ball over three times and failing to get into Bills territory for the entire first half in a 27-6 loss. “To be honest, the Buffalo game,” Spielman said Tuesday, “that’s not the Minnesota Vikings that played that game.”
The Twins on Tuesday declined team options on righthander Ervin Santana and designated hitter/first baseman Logan Morrison. Each was paid a $1 million buyout, but the Twins cleared a potential $22 million from the 2019 payroll. The Twins also told pitching coach Garvin Alston he will not be joining the staff of new manager Rocco Baldelli, a source said, but hitting coach James Rowson will return for his third season.
EAGAN, Minn. -- The Minnesota Vikings have scored a lot of long touchdowns this season, passing and rushing, but few short ones. Because the Vikings sit atop the NFC North as they prepare for their game against New Orleans on SUnday night, Oct. 28, the bottom line there remains unclear. But Minnesota’s red zone offense has been erratic enough, and comparatively inadequate enough, to address.