The Scoops: Desperate for pitching, Twins made a run at Ervin Santana
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If you're curious about how desperate the Minnesota Twins front office is to acquire starting pitching, know that they made a push for a 29-year-old starter coming off a 5.16 earned-run average and a major league-worst 39 home runs allowed.
According to a league source, the Twins were in heavily on the Ervin Santana sweepstakes. The source indicated the Twins tried to get the Los Angeles Angels to eat more than the $1 million they sent to Kansas City, which will pay Santana $12 million in 2013.
For taking on that hefty salary, the Royals gave up a low-level prospect. The Twins were probably willing to offer a slightly better talent for a bit more money.
A Twins source reached on Thursday afternoon would only say, "We have had conversations (about pitching) with multiple teams."
The source went silent when asked if, while talking to the Angels about Santana, pitcher Dan Haren's name has come up.
In an email to Los Angeles reporters on Thursday night, Haren wrote that he expects to be moved somewhere. The Angels must decide by Friday night whether to exercise Haren's $15.5 million option for 2013 or decline it for a $3.5-million buyout.
Haren, 32, has thrown at least 200 innings in seven of the last eight seasons.
Another name to monitor: Tampa Bay's James Shields. While having his $10.25 million option exercised for 2013, he's available. The Twins seem like a good match with the Rays because of their outfield depth. Tampa Bay is expected to lose outfielder B.J. Upton, who's a free agent.
Talking with Teague
A 25-minute interview with University of Minnesota athletic director Norwood Teague will air Sunday morning at 7:40 a.m. on "This Week in Golden Gopher Sports." Among the highlights:
• The Populous people in charge of developing a master plan for facility upgrades have presented the department with some feedback already. Teague said he got a plan for a $50 million to $60 million football facility that could also include renovations to the Bierman Building. That cost would include underground parking even in addition to a new weight room, indoor practice field, offices for the coaches and more. The three main goals: a new football building, a basketball practice facility and a new academic center. The new football building would go in the existing place, not at TCF Bank Stadium.
• Teague will hire a senior women's administrator in the next two months. According to Teague, the hire will be a woman who among her duties will be in charge of overseeing all women's sports.
• On the miniscule crowd for last Saturday's home football game against Purdue, Teague said: "We're still scratching our head. I'd like to use the 11 a.m. excuse, but I can't. ... We will get to the bottom of that in the offseason. ... We have some reseach to do. ... We have to put a strong effort in." Among many gameday changes he wants to implement next year are turning the block in front of Mariucci Arena into more of a party atmosphere with a band, more food options, more individualized tailgates and large TVs. "We need to make it more of an event, an all day deal," Teague said. „... We need to activate our Greek system more."
• Teague said a deal is close on a football home-and-home with New Mexico State, but the contract isn't signed yet. The Gophers would play at New Mexico State next September.
• Teague is worked up about the lack of attendance, but still is a big-time believer in coach Jerry Kill: "Things are going great internally," Teague said. "I'm very, very upbeat with how the football program is progressing."
• I pressed Teague on basketball player Trevor Mbakwe's punishment for his July DUI or lack there of. He wouldn't cite specifics but said Mbakwe faced mental, physical, and counseling challenges and "he still has to do more."
Strength in numbers
We'll feature new Gophers men's basketball strength coach Steve Felde in next week's column, but for now a couple notes:
• Redshirt sophomore center Mo Walker remains down 20 pounds from the summer. Felde said the weight loss was as simple as educating Walker about what to eat.
• Freshman guard/forward Wally Ellenson will have a cast on his broken left hand for the next two weeks. During that time, Felde is making Ellenson do a lot of lunges on the Williams Arena stairs, lots of lower-body exercises.
• Sophomore guard Joe Coleman has increased his maximum bench press to 260 pounds. His previous high before working with Felde was 210 pounds.
• The Gophers have eight players who can maxium squat 315 pounds three times (Felde's threshold). Before working with Felde starting in mid-June, the guys were squating between 250 and 270 pounds.
• Twins second baseman Alexi Casilla's agent was expected to talk with assistant general manager Rob Antony on Thursday afternoon. The expectation is the Twins will decide to non-tender Casilla as opposed to keeping him for approximately $1.8 million in 2013.
• The Twins have inquired about pitcher Randy Messenger. Tied to the Hanshin Tigers in Japan through next season, there could be some wiggle room. Messenger went 10-11 in 196.2 IP in 2012 with 166 strikeouts, 65 walks and a 2.52 ERA.
• While in Los Angeles last week, Wolves All-Star Kevin Love worked out with famous trainer Gunnar Peterson. By the way, Peterson, with a biased opinion, does believe Love broke the bones in his right hand by doing knuckle push-ups, not by delivering a knuckle sandwich.
• Wolves forward Chase Budinger, an unrestricted free agent next summer, on the prospect of staying in Minnesota long-term: "I can definitely see myself here (long-term). It's a great city. You can already see how good the fans are here. ... I'm excited for the season.
• The Wolves checked in on former first round pick JaJuan Johnson. The forward was released by Houston earlier in the week. The Wolves, along with every other NBA team, are passing on Johnson. He'll be a top pick in Friday's Developmental League draft.
• Apple Valley High School point guard Tyus Jones -- the No. 1 recruit in the class of 2014, according to ESPN -- is expected to narrow his college list in the next month. He can start taking official visits in January.
• Maryland is the latest school to emerge in the sweepstakes for Cooper junior guard Rashad Vaughn. The connection there is that Vaughn plays for Net Gain, an Under Armour-sponsored AAU team. Maryland is an Under Armour school.
• Ex-Gophers interim coach and current San Diego State running backs coach Jeff Horton checks in via email: "We play Boise for 1st place this saturday. All good here in San Diego... 75 everyday and cold at night... about 60-65!!!!!! I watch for the Gophers score every week and watch them on TV as we usually play at night. I hope they get bowl eligible -- those kids deserve something good to happen to them. We live downtown, one block off the water. This is a great city, but I really enjoyed Minnesota and the people there. They were really good to my wife, Teri, and I. I hope to get back sometime, maybe during a bye-week."
• The Gophers had Andover junior quarterback Connor Wilkie as a visitor at practice this week. Said his dad, Rich, also his coach: "No offer yet. To this point it's just unofficial gameday visits. I'm sure things will pick up after the season. I'm sure they are still working on this years seniors. Since he is only a junior, he might not be a priority."