Brian Murphy / St. Paul Pioneer Press
Frank Quilici, the second baseman who played five seasons for the Twins in the 1960s and later served as coach, manager and broadcaster for the organization, died Monday after a lengthy illness, the team announced. He was 79. Quilici spent his entire baseball career with Minnesota after being signed as an amateur free agent in 1961. He made his big-league debut in 1965 and was part of the Twins’ American League championship team that lost to the Los Angeles Dodgers in a seven-game World Series.
MINNEAPOLIS—Twins catcher Jason Castro was eligible to come off the 10-day disabled list Tuesday. Scratch that and add at least another month of recovery. Castro will have surgery on his right knee in Vail, Colo., and is expected to miss four-to-six weeks, manager Paul Molitor said Monday. The third operation on Castro's troublesome knee is scheduled for Tuesday morning. "It's disappointing," Molitor said. "Hopefully we'll get a better feel on length of rehab once the procedure is completed."
ST. PAUL — It is halftime at Allianz Field. After an unnaturally wet summer and brutally long winter, construction on the Minnesota United's soccer stadium in St. Paul reached the 50-percent completion milestone this week. Workers are pivoting from steel and concrete design to mechanical and electrical systems, with the canopy roof almost finished, videoboard and seats on the way, and the translucent windbreaker hugging a large portion of the building taking shape.
MINNEAPOLIS — The waiting continues for Byron Buxton. An MRI revealed the Twins center fielder suffered a hairline fracture in his left big toe, with no firm timetable for his return, manager Paul Molitor said Saturday, April 28. Buxton has been on the disabled list since April 18 because of migraines. Those subsided enough for him to travel to Class A Fort Myers April 22 for a rehab assignment. He promptly fouled a ball off his toe, taking two more at bats before the pain became too much.
ST. PAUL — Wild owner Craig Leipold performed the politically convenient task of nudging general manager Chuck Fletcher out the door Monday, April 23, after another short-circuited postseason. That was easy, almost too easy, with Fletcher's contract expiring and no need for a public execution. The rock-breaking has just begun. Six consecutive playoff appearances has been good enough to keep Xcel Energy Center filled, but only two first-round series wins and 16 losses in Minnesota's last 20 postseason games ultimately cost Fletcher his job.
MINNEAPOLIS—Fourteen years is an eternity for catharsis, way too long for any professional fan base, let alone the forsaken Timberwolves faithful. Minnesota recently ended the NBA's longest-running playoff drought with a Game 82 overtime victory, but all that did was buy the Wolves entry to the annual postseason party. After one disheartening loss and another lopsided defeat to the relentless Rockets in Houston, their return to Target Center on Saturday night, April 21, foreshadowed more of an Irish wake than a franchise awakening.
ST. PAUL — The Wild broke the tension with their Game 3 blowout of the Winnipeg Jets, but simply staying relevant in the first round is no way to advance in the Stanley Cup playoffs. The pressure for Minnesota to win Game 4 at home Tuesday night is palpable. Returning to Manitoba down three games to one is courting disaster. The Wild know it. Their fans know it. And so do the Jets, who would relish the opportunity to snuff their border rivals at raucous MTS Bell Centre.
ST. PAUL—The knives were out for Devan Dubnyk, and they were long, sharp and righteous. The Wild goaltender took a brief nap guarding his left post during a Winnipeg power play early in the first period Sunday night, April 15. Blake Wheeler flipped a one-hopper past him as if leading infield practice with a fungo. The groans were audible as turbocharged fans plunged faces into hands. Throughout the Xcel Energy Center, there was a palpable sense of dread, like watching the latest weather forecast.
MINNEAPOLIS—Tom Thibodeau came to Minnesota in part to solve the Timberwolves' defensive woes, but the second-year coach has so much more to prove heading to Houston for a first-round playoff series as a decided underdog against the turbocharged Rockets. Headline writers already are measuring "How Sweep It Is" for bold type and automated insert to bury the Wolves, who must corral one of the greatest offenses in NBA history if they want to survive their toughest possible matchup.
ST. PAUL—Stanley Cup or bust did not work in 2017, so it is time for the Minnesota Wild to just wag the dog, for they have nothing left to lose in a championship-starved market of high anxiety and low expectations. The underdog role certainly has its privileges, so embrace it, folks. Revel in its simplicity. Demand little in return. You just might be rewarded.