Notebook: Free agents' fates uncertain; surgery for Blackburn, Revere
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MINNEAPOLIS -- After breathing a slight sigh of relief by avoiding a 100th loss in Wednesday's season finale, the Minnesota Twins must now put together an offseason game plan to fix a squad that lost 99.
And judging by how many things went wrong in 2011, that game plan will probably look a lot like Brad Childress' old Denny's-style play menu. Maybe larger.
"Every team's always looking for shakeups, and first you have to see what you have, and I know the biggest thing for us is health, we have to be healthy," manager Ron Gardenhire said Wednesday. "We have players who are really good baseball players that weren't able to get on the baseball field consistently this year. If you have those guys back, that's a good start.
"But there's issues we have to address, and there's things we're going to have to fix."
The first order of business is figuring out who's staying and who's leaving.
Michael Cuddyer, Jason Kubel and Matt Capps are set to become free agents, and Joe Nathan's $12.5 million team option is likely to be bought out for $2 million -- a move that would make him a free agent as well.
Capps, who earned $7.15 million this season, is likely gone. After coming over from Washington last year in a deal for Wilson Ramos, Capps was bumped from the closer role midway through this season and never fully got on track.
The fate of the other three potential free agents is more difficult to predict.
"To say one guy is more important than another, that's kind of impossible to do as a manager, but as far as a relationship with a player, (Cuddyer) has been here longer than pretty much everybody here, so there's a little bit involved in that," Gardenhire said. "He's like the only player left from my first year, so I'd like to have him back. I think he's a pretty good guy, good organizational player, plays the game the right way, a good baseball player and very good in the community. So there's not too many knocks on him."
Kubel, who missed more than two months with a sprained foot, hit .273/.332/.434 with 12 home runs and 21 doubles in 401 plate appearances. Cuddyer posted a .284/.346/.459 batting line with a team-leading 20 home runs in 584 plate appearances.
Kubel, 29, has been in the Twins' organization for 11 years and Cuddyer, 32, has been around for 14 years.
And according to the latest projections, Kubel is expected to be a Type-B free agent and Cuddyer Type-A.
"Every year, since Day 1, I've at least been under (the Twins') control," Cuddyer said. "There have been times I wondered whether I'd be released or non-tendered, but I at least had an idea I was going to be with the Twins. But it will be a lot different walking out of here tonight, tomorrow, with that uncertainty, no question.
"Everything I've known as a baseball player has been Twins. Every front office staffer I've ever met has been a Twins front office staffer. Every writer I've had extensive conversations with has been a Twins writer. Every teammate I've had has worn a Twins jersey. It'll be different, but it is what it is."
Nathan struggled in his first two months back from Tommy John surgery, but after spending a month on the disabled list he returned to post a 3.18 ERA with 28 strikeouts and only five walks in 28 1/3 innings from June 28 on. Nathan also showed an increase in velocity and better movement on his breaking pitches as the season progressed.
"I like him, I'll put it that way," Gardenhire said. "I don't try to put my feelings on too many people, other than ownership. I'd like to have him back. He's been around here quite a long time and he's been a good closer. he has all the makings for it. He's got courage, a short memory all that good stuff."
Nathan, 36, said the season went, for the most part, about how he expected from a personal standpoint. His second-half resurgence likely proved that he has another couple years left if he chooses to stick around.
"That's what my ultimate goal was coming into the season," Nathan said. "Just to get back to form and show this organization or other clubs, if I'm not back here, that I am back to form and as close now as I can be to being back to form without getting some rest that I need. In that sense I feel good about where I am at. ...
"I've always said the luxury I've had of being a closer lets me know if a club is interested in me and is interested in signing me back they have to have the intention that the team is going to win and they are going to put a team out there that is going to be competitive. I feel like I'm in kind of a good position with that. If the Twins do show some interest I know they are going to do their best to field a team that has a chance to win."
Under the knife
• Right-hander Nick Blackburn hasn't pitched since Aug. 21 due to discomfort in his upper-right forearm area, and the pain hasn't subsided with rest.
As a result, Blackburn will go under the knife on Friday for an operation that will take six to eight weeks to rehab. After that, the sinkerballer should be able to resume throwing.
Blackburn was initially told if the pain didn't subside within 10 days of sitting out that surgery to repair a nerve would be likely, so the procedure comes as no surprise.
Blackburn underwent cleanup surgery on his right elbow last offseason -- a procedure he says made a drastic difference in how his arm felt heading into the 2011 season.
Even so, Blackburn posted a 4.49 ERA while allowing 183 hits in 148 1/3 innings this season. And although he did induce a career-best 54% groundballs, Blackburn walked a career-high 3.3 batters per nine innings.
• Outfielder Ben Revere tweeted Thursday that he will undergo knee surgery this week. The operation is assumed to be a minor one. Revere mentioned some body discomfort over the last couple weeks, but he managed to play every day while recording a few spectacular catches in the outfield.