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Updated: November 30th, 2011 11:57pm
Twins making a 'mad effort' to sign Cuddyer; Capps on radar too

Twins making a 'mad effort' to sign Cuddyer; Capps on radar too

by Phil Mackey
1500ESPN.com
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With the winter meetings just a few days away, the Minnesota Twins' priority list includes finding a new closer and filling a void in right field, although the possibility remains that those positions could still be filled by the incumbents.

In an interview with 1500 ESPN's "Talkin' Twins" show on Wednesday night, manager Ron Gardenhire reiterated the team's interest in bringing back free agents Michael Cuddyer and Matt Capps.

"There's been offers out there," Gardenhire said about the Twins' current crop of free agents, which also includes outfielder Jason Kubel. "Both sides are talking, especially with Cuddyer. I know we're making a mad effort to sign him. We'd love to have Kubel back too. Whether we can get them both back or not, I'm not real sure on the budget right now."

Regarding Capps, Gardenhire said, "We're still trying to work on (signing) him. I know a lot of people were frustrated with him, but he's just a great teammate and good pitcher. He pitched through pain last year and pitched hurt, and we think the guy can get people out."

Cuddyer was thought to be a high priority for the Phillies earlier this offseason, as the 32-year-old outfielder visited Philadelphia in early-November to meet with manager Charlie Manuel and other team officials. But things have been quiet on the Cuddyer front ever since.

Capps was recently demoted from a Type-A to a Type-B free agent, along with a handful of other relievers, as part of a system alteration that coincided with Major League Baseball's new collective bargaining agreement. As a result, the team that signs him will no longer be forced to give up a draft pick. And if he were to sign with a team other than the Twins, the Twins would then receive a sandwich pick between the first and second rounds.

In essence, if the Twins feel like they can find a closer -- or another late-inning reliever -- of similar or better value to Capps, they could let Capps sign elsewhere and collect a draft pick.

Instead, all signs point toward the Twins having legitimate interest in bringing back Capps, who sputtered to a 4.25 ERA last season with only 34 strikeouts in 65 2/3 innings.

Gardenhire said forearm and wrist soreness played a role in Capps' performance all season.

"He was getting treatment," Gardenhire said. "But he's also a guy that never complains and says, 'I'm fine, I'll do the best I can, I'll give you what I need.' And he did that. And you could see it. He was down underneath the ball an awful lot and his slider was flat across the top, and that was because he couldn't stay on top, because he had that pain and he had to get to a slot to where he could throw the ball with as little pain as possible. ...

"He scuffled, and no one was more frustrated than him, but I'm telling you, the guy's a class act, and he's the kind of player you like to have around. I know he didn't do well, and I know people got frustrated with him, but he's a class act."

Pitch F/X data indicates Capps' fastball velocity dipped slightly from 2010 to the end of 2011, and his fastball didn't have as much horizontal movement either. Pitch F/X also showed Capps' slider movement was a bit more sporadic near the end of 2011 than it was two seasons ago.

"I don't know what's going to happen," Gardenhire added. "I don't know if we're going to be able to sign him, but he takes the ball, he'll give you everything he has, and those are the types of people you like to have around."

Twins still looking at starters

When asked if all five of his 2012 starting pitchers were on the current roster, Gardenhire said, "no, not necessarily."

"We're searching. You saw what happened. You lose 99 games, nothing's a given. That's what we did last year. Injuries, it doesn't matter. We lost 99 games, and that's not acceptable. It's not acceptable to the fans, not acceptable to me and my coaching staff, and not acceptable to players I would hope... We're going into spring training, and people are going to have to fight for their jobs. And the more starting pitching we can bring in the better it's going to make our club."

Mauer and Morneau as bonus additions?

Gardenhire said he's kept tabs on Joe Mauer's offseason from afar, but that he keeps in touch more frequently with Justin Morneau, who underwent surgeries in September on his left wrist, right foot and left knee. Not to mention the neck surgery he underwent in June and the concussion -- another one -- he sustained in late-August.

"He's going back and forth with the doctors trying to get clearance," Gardenhire said.

"And that's one of the things that Terry (Ryan) and I talked about, making sure before we get too deep into this (offseason), what we're going to do with Morneau, where he's going to play, if it's DH or first base. Morneau has to eventually tell us what's right for him, or I'll make the decision for him and we'll go from there. If he can't decide, I'm going to put -- and we talk to the doctors, and they give me some information that I think the best thing for him to do is DH and protect him as much as we can, then that's what we would do. ...

"One of the things that was said early in the winter was, you know what? Let's act like going into winter that we don't have Morneau and we don't have Mauer, and let's build a baseball team so we can win. I think that's a pretty good idea. If we have those guys back on the field, which I believe we will... we'll have a heck of a baseball team."

Of course, winning 90 games even with a healthy Mauer and Morneau could be a difficult task in 2012.

If there's a way to win 90 without them, the Twins will have to add a lot more than Jamey Carroll and Ryan Doumit.

Phil Mackey is a columnist for 1500ESPN.com. He co-hosts "Mackey & Judd" from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. weekdays on 1500 ESPN Twin Cities.
Email Phil | @PhilMackey | Mackey & Judd
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