Notes: Oliva reacts to Vets ballot results
Ponson's visa problems continue; Ford's knee acts up
FORT MYERS, Fla. -- Tony Oliva's been through so many Hall of Fame elections that have ended in disappointing results that he chose not to be around when this year's Veterans Committee vote was announced Tuesday.Oliva, who is in camp as the club's Minor League hitting instructor, left the Twins' Spring Training complex nearly 30 minutes before the announcement came at 2 p.m. ET. Oliva said that unlike previous years, he wasn't going to wait around any particular place to hear the results of the vote. And it seems he was right to do so. The biannual announcement of the veterans ballot was made Tuesday afternoon and for the third consecutive election, no candidate earned enough votes to get in. Oliva received 47 of 84 votes (57 percent). To gain election, a player must get 75 percent of the votes. Ron Santo came the closest with 57 votes (70 percent), followed by Jim Kaat (52, 63 percent), Gil Hodges (50, 61 percent), Oliva, Maury Wills (33, 40 percent) and Joe Torre (26, 32 percent). This was Oliva's third appearance on the veterans ballot and he's received similar vote totals in the previous two elections. Oliva has taken the news hard in previous years, but this time seemed different. Oliva spoke about his chances before he left Hammond Stadium and he had pretty much resigned himself to the fact that this would be another year without an induction to Cooperstown. "The way it's set up now, it's very hard," Oliva said of the process. "It's out of my hands, so this year I'm not going to really pay attention." Rod Carew has been one of Oliva's biggest supporters, and the Hall of Famer told everyone on Tuesday that he voted for his former teammate. But votes haven't meant much since the veterans ballot was restructured in 2001, as no player has been elected. Oliva hoped at least one player would get elected but in the end, the results remained the same "It's too bad that they haven't elected anyone," Oliva said. "But hopefully that will change." The pitching game: The Twins' already-heated race for the starting rotation could be delayed due to the fact that pitcher Sidney Ponson won't pitch in a Grapefruit League game for at least two weeks.
Twins general manager Terry Ryan said that Ponson's meeting to obtain his visa is not scheduled until March 9 in Santo Domingo, Dominican Republic. There has been an attempt to speed up the meeting, but there is no guarantee that might occur.Instead, Ponson is only allowed to pitch in the "B" games against mostly Minor Leaguers. The first scheduled "B" game will not take place until March 5, leaving Ponson a bit behind schedule. The entire process has been a bit frustrating for the club, but it hasn't changed Twins manager Ron Gardenhire's outlook on whether Ponson will be able to compete for a spot in the rotation. "If we really go into a bind where we really need him to throw, we could set up an intrasquad game, which is old school baseball, but if we really need him to pitch, that's what we'll do," Gardenhire said. "We'll put two teams out there and play in the morning, that is until we get the situation straightened out to try to get him on some kind of a program. We'll take care of it, one way or another." Sidelined: It's still uncertain exactly when outfielder Lew Ford will be back out on the field after missing the past few days due to soreness in his right knee. An MRI on Ford's knee showed some inflammation in the IT band in his right knee, as well as an oversized meniscus with a slight tear. Gardenhire said that doctors couldn't tell if it was a new tear or old tear, but that they gave Ford a cortisone shot to try to calm down the inflammation in the band before concerning themselves with the tear. Ford was told he will know within the next two to three days if the inflammation is the cause of the problem by the results of the shot. "They said it would be completely cleared up or it's still going to hurt," Ford said. "And if it still hurts, then they likely will have to do a scope on it." This past offseason, Ford underwent an arthroscopic scope on his left knee to fix a tear in the meniscus. As for the team's other two injury concerns, both Jeff Cirillo and Matt Garza checked out fine in terms of their neck pain. Cirillo was able to participate in all the drills Tuesday and Garza is still penciled in to start Wednesday's Grapefruit League opener against the Red Sox. Twins tidbits: The starting lineup for the Twins' game vs. the Red Sox on Wednesday will be:
2B Luis Castillo
RF Jason Tyner
C Joe Mauer
LF Rondell White
CF Torii Hunter
DH Matthew LeCroy
1B Ken Harvey
3B Luis Rodriguez
SS Jason Bartlett
Garrett Jones has been impressing the coaches with his improvement at the plate and did so in the team's 7-2 victory in a scrimmage against the Concordia-St. Paul Golden Bears on Tuesday. After playing winter ball in Venezuela, Jones has cut down his swing and put the ball into play more, which the club was hoping to see along with reducing his strikeout numbers.Quotable: "One beat out their guy for the batting title. One beat him out for the MVP. So which do you want to take up there? Somebody's going to get yelled at up there, right? Somebody is going to take some heat, so we decided it was going to be [Justin] Morneau this time." -- Gardenhire, on the decision to play Morneau and not Joe Mauer in the team's game at Tampa against the Yankees on Thursday
Kelly Thesier is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.