Diamonds and Ice

K.J. won’t be coming back to the Kernels
January 24, 2009, 3:48 am
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The parent Anaheim Angels announced Friday that Keith Johnson won’t be returning to manage the Cedar Rapids Kernels this season after all. He has been re-assigned to skipper the Rancho Cucamonga Quakes of the high-Class A California League. That’s a nice promotion for a good guy. I’m sure, being a resident of Utah who very much missed his family last season, this is welcomed news for K.J., who is taking over at Rancho for former Kernels hitting coach Eric Owens, who has been re-assigned to a roving instructor in the Angels system.

All this upheavel comes about because longtime field coordinator Bruce Hines recently left the Angels to become third-base coach for the Seattle Mariners.

The Angels say they are going to take their time in picking a Cedar Rapids replacement for Johnson. It’ll be interesting if they choose someone already in the organization as a coach. Could Damon Mashore, last season’s hitting coach, be the new manager? Mashore has managing experience in the Rookie leagues for the Diamondbacks.

Minnesota Twins a classy act
January 24, 2009, 3:41 am
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They’re paid to do it, so you’ve got to keep that in mind. It’s a PR event, so you’ve got to keep that in mind, too.

I’m a fan of the Minnesota Twins, so you’ve got to keep that in mind, three.

But the way pitchers Scott Baker and Nick Blackburn, pitching coach Rick Anderson and radio announcer and 1987 and 1991 World Series outfielder Dan Gladden interacted with the public Thursday at Luther College as part of the Minnesota Twins Winter Caravan was impressive. They were nothing like the big-league egomaniac stereotypes.

Gladden emceed the 45-minute program, graciously thanking the crowd of about 100 for their support and soliciting questions – of which there were plenty. Gladden also threw in a few questions to the other three. He reminded members of the Luther baseball team in attendance to make sure they get their educations, as did Anderson, Baker and Blackburn, all of whom went to college.

An autograph session with the public followed. Gladden was amazed to find out that one young man in line to get his signature never played baseball or basketball in high school. The young man appeared to be at least 6-foot-8.

After the autographing, the four Twins made themselves available for any media interviews that may have been requested. Then they were on their way to the second of three stops they were making Thursday. This was the 49th Twins Winter Caravan, with groups of players, coaches and other team personnel making stops in 60 communities throughout the Upper Midwest.

One more thing of note to you Twins fans. Relief pitcher Pat Neshek is officially gone for the 2009 season after undergoing Tommy John elbow surgery.

Anderson said the team is contemplating working on Neshek’s unorthodox delivery when he is healthy because they think is was the cause of his ligament tear.

“That might be something we’ll attack when he comes back,” Anderson said. “We’ll see if maybe we can get that arm slot up a little bit.”