Brian Murphy / St. Paul Pioneer Press
PORT CHARLOTTE, Fla. — With three pending starts and two more weeks of spring training, Twins right-hander Phil Hughes had ample time to hone his split-finger change-up and sand down the 7.00 earned-run average he carried into Friday's start against Tampa Bay. Still, getting knocked around is unpleasant no matter the stakes. The results he chased during three uneven outings finally came to fruition as Hughes produced his best start of the 2017 Grapefruit League.
FORT MYERS, Fla. — Humbling is the kindest way to describe the failed ByungHo Park experiment, for the slugging South Korean superstar and the Minnesota Twins. Park's injury-plagued, half-baked debut in 2016 yielded 12 home runs, 80 strikeouts and 215 erratic at-bats before the designated hitter/first baseman was demoted July 1, never to be seen or heard from again in the major leagues. Cynical Twins fans had seen this flop before.
FORT MYERS, Fla. — Left-hander Adalberto Mejia stands 6-foot-3, 210 pounds, making him hard to overlook as he stakes an unlikely claim in the battle for the Twins' No. 5 starter's job. Mejia is making his presence known after spending the majority of 2016 in the minors after being acquired from the San Francisco Giants in a deadline deal for all-star shortstop Eduardo Nunez.
FORT MYERS, Fla. — Asked this week about rehabbing pitcher Glen Perkins, Twins manager Paul Molitor reached into a back desk drawer in his office at Hammond Stadium and pulled out a single sheet of paper. It was the left-hander's throwing schedule, and Molitor was looking for answers. There aren't many. Nine months after shoulder surgery, and 11 since he appeared in a game, Perkins is throwing pain free every four days, but there is no timetable for when he can face hitters and little indication he will ever close games again for the Twins.
FORT MYERS, Fla. — It was an offer Ervin Santana couldn't refuse. Not this time. The Twins wished their ace right-hander well Monday, March 13, as he dashed to Miami to join the Dominican Republic national team before it flew to San Diego for the second round of the World Baseball Classic. But Santana's decision was muddled later Monday when it was learned he would not start against Puerto Rico on Tuesday, the same day he was scheduled to pitch five innings against minor-league hitters during his normal throwing slot.
ST. PAUL — All Day is All Done in Minnesota after the Vikings turned superstar running back Adrian Peterson loose on the NFL on Tuesday with an accounting click that resonated like a divorce decree. Ignore the footsy that Peterson and general manager Rick Spielman are playing under the conference table to stoke false hopes that a renegotiated contract will keep Adrian in purple. Mutual affection is futile against market forces directing the latest episode of L'Affaire Peterson.
ST. PAUL — Quitting hockey at 14 was not the hardest decision Chris Stewart had to make. It was the only decision he could make. Older brother, spiritual lighthouse and professional trailblazer Anthony was gone. Billeted with a wealthy family 2½ hours away, the 16-year-old was chasing his NHL dream as a promising junior in the Ontario Hockey League. Their parents, handyman Norman and homemaker Susan, still had to feed half-a-dozen children in their hardscrabble Toronto household, including Chris' five younger sisters — then ages 12, 11, 10, plus 9-year-old twins.
MINNEAPOLIS — The Vikings' offensive line purge has begun. Minnesota released guards Brandon Fusco and Mike Harris on Friday, clearing roster spots and cap space to rebuild an injury-ravaged and underperforming unit that precipitated the team's second-half collapse in 2016. Harris did not play all season because of an undisclosed illness, while Fusco struggled at right guard two years after signing a $24 million contract extension.
ST. PAUL — "Slap Shot" turns 40 this month. No presents, please, unless they are wrapped in foil and reflect the enduring lessons of a counterculture classic. Capturing the spirit of the thing is easier than scoring a tap-in goal. Appreciating the raunchy parody's takedown of carnival violence is more subtle yet no less prescient while the NHL digs in against a concussion crisis that exposes fighting as caveman smearing of an otherwise progressive sport.
MINNEAPOLIS — Roger Goodell presenting the Vince Lombardi Trophy to Robert Kraft and Tom Brady on Sunday would be the photo-op of the millennium if the New England Patriots owner and quarterback win Super Bowl LI a year after the NFL commissioner punished both for a ball-deflating scandal. Unless the upstart Atlanta Falcons upset the dynasty and let the air out of that bloated narrative once and for all.