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In the News
3/2/05 Interview with Star Tribune Twins beat writer Lavelle E Neal III
Lavelle E Neal is the Star Tribune Twins beat writer, which means that he is possibly the most informed guy (on the Twins of course) in all of the media. He agreed for an interview, so here it is.
Q: What is your outlook on the 2005 season?
The Twins have a few things going for them. Good rotation. Improved offense. Very good bullpen. But the question is if the left side of the infield will be stable. Cuddyer should be O.K. at third. He's no Koskie, but his reaction time should improve as he plays there every day and doesn't have to worry about playing in the outfield. Shorstop will be tougher to figure out. Guzman never was the same after 2001 and didn't deserve the money Washington signed him for. But it's too bad the Twins don't have a known commodity to replace him. I would like to see Jason Bartlett win the job, but he's got to improve his throwing. I still think the Twins can win the division, especially with Mauer and Morneau in the lineup all season.

Q: What the best/funniest moment you have been a part of while covering the Twins?
Hands down, no contest. It was a few spring trainings ago when David Ortiz discovered that Corey Koskie put ice in his jeans. He was so mad that he didn't realize that Koskie had put peanut butter in his shorts. Ortiz really hit the roof and threatened Koskie, his family and even his dog. Koskie and Oritz are very close, so Ortiz wasn't THAT mad. We were in tears. Especially when Rick Reed handed Ortiz a loaf of bread to go with the peanut butter.... [Interviewers note: Jim Souhan cited the same even for his answer]

Q: Who (past and/or present) is your favorite clubhouse personality?
Jay Bell when I covered the K.C. Royals. Great guy. Honest. Good quotes. Right now, I'll say Torii Hunter. Good person. About as real as a human being can be.

Q: What is the best piece of Twins trivia you know?
What umber did Tom Kelly wear when he played for the Twins in 1975?

Q: How do you feel about the departures of Christian Guzman and Corey Koskie?
Guzman's on base percentage was terrible, he stopped diviing for balls, wasn't hitting triples and didn't seem to care. Not a big loss. Koskie is a good clubhouse guy who could hit for power when he was healthy and in the lineup. That's a bigger loss. But the Twins felt that Koskie could not stay healthy.

Q: Who are, in your opinion, the BEST candidate to play SS and 3B?
Jason Bartlett should be the SS, but he has to improve his throwing and get rid of the ball quicker. Cuddyer is a lock at 3B and should be fine there, just watch the accuracy of his throws.

Q: What surprises do you forsee in the AL Central this season?
Look for Cleveland to be the Twins' main challenger for the division title. The Tribe can hit. Coco Crisp kills the Twins, and they have Aaron Boone. Pitching will be the key. Kevin Millwood could be a good pickup. The White Sox could have a decent roation, but that's only if Contreras and Hernandez pitch all season. I'm not impressed with their offensive moves. Scott Posednik is not a great addition, and Frank Thomas will have injury issues all year. Detroit can hit the ball, but their rotation is short. And I don't have to comment on the Royals. They are the 1999 Twins.

Q: What do you think of Fort Myers?
Cool town. Great places to eat. Lots of golf courses. But sprawl is killing them. Roads are packed. And the combination of the elderly, spring breakers and baseball people creates a strange vibe.

Q: What are the best and worst part of your job?
I get to see the country and sit in great parks. But it's tough when you miss your friends and family. And it stinks when people are out having a good time on glorious Saturday afternoons while I'm driving to the !$*$#@! Dome to watch indoor baseball. [Interviewers note: You're not alone]
You can read Lavelle E Neal everyday in the Star Tribune Sports Page.

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