<
>

Twins sorting 3B candidates

Is this (25-year-old) kid really a viable answer for the Twins at third base? La Velle Neal:

    Danny Valencia batted .224 for Mayaguez in the Puerto Rican winter league and .217 in six games in the Caribbean Series. But neither Valencia nor the Twins look at his offseason as a failure.

    "It was a great time," he said. "It was a great experience. I learned a lot. I had some great at-bats. Obviously, my stats don't show that, but I was happy with it."

    Now Valencia, 25, can focus on proving he's ready for a major league call-up in camp. Nick Punto and Brendan Harris are expected to split the time at third base this season, but all it takes is an injury or a severe slump for the Twins to look at other options.

    --snip--

    The Twins could have called up Valencia last September for a taste of the majors, but they allowed him to return home to Miami because they didn't believe he was ready. Twins manager Ron Gardenhire praised Valencia for realizing what he needed to do during the offseason.

    "You can tell him and explain it to him, but the guy has to take it and understand it," Gardenhire said. "We're not making this up. This is good for him, to go down and get experience and get some swings in.

Valencia was a 19th-round draft pick and will eventually play in the majors, which in itself is a surprise. On the other hand, by all accounts he's a subpar third baseman and at 25 isn't going to get much better. His on-base percentage was .305 in Triple-A last year. He bats right-handed, so you can't platoon him with Brendan Harris (Punto's a switch-hitter, equally ineffective against all sorts of pitchers).

Mike Lowell's looking better every day.