MINNEAPOLIS — The Minnesota Twins fired Triple-A Rochester manager Tom Nieto and hitting coach Floyd Rayford on Friday, the first collateral damage from the big club’s massively disappointing season.
Nieto, a former Twins catcher, lost at least 90 games in both of his seasons at the helm. He finished with a record of 102-186, including 53-91 in 2011.
“The Minnesota Twins organization would like to thank both Tom and Floyd for their contributions,” Twins director of minor league operations Jim Rantz said. “These changes in Rochester are just part of an overall directional change that is being implemented throughout the minor league system this offseason.”
With the big club ravaged by injuries this season, the Twins had to dip into the talent at Triple-A early and often just to field a healthy team at Target Field.
Youngsters like infielders Luke Hughes and Trevor Plouffe have logged heavy time in the majors, making it difficult for Nieto to come up with a competitive lineup in Triple-A.
“We haven’t given them many opportunities because we’ve taken all their players,” Twins manager Ron Gardenhire said before Friday’s game in Detroit.
The Twins have been disturbed by the amount of mental mistakes and careless errors they have seen from their young players, leading Gardenhire to request three more days of spring training be added next year to help the team get back to the fundamentals, their calling card for so many years.
The Twins, who started the season expecting to contend for a third straight AL Central title, started Friday 22 games behind the Tigers and in last place in the division.
“That’s what seasons like this do,” Gardenhire said. “They end up costing people jobs … so we all feel responsible.”
The team said the rest of the Red Wings staff is expected to return for 2012.
PUJOLS: NO COMMENT ON TWEET
ST. LOUIS — Albert Pujols had no comment about a derogatory tweet the Brewers’ Nyjer Morgan posted after getting ejected from a game against the Cardinals. Pitcher Chris Carpenter said he wasn’t totally blameless in the incident, but said Morgan’s reaction was over the top.
“I don’t want to say anything,” Pujols said Friday before the Cardinals played the Atlanta Braves.
Pujols also reiterated that he wouldn’t discuss a contract extension until the season was over.
“I don’t want to talk about that right now,” Pujols said. “Talk to me after the season, but not right now.”
Morgan, whose handle is TheRealTPlush, referred to Pujols as Alberta and criticized Pujols for running to the mound and making sure Morgan’s confrontation with Carpenter didn’t escalate in the ninth inning of a shutout over Milwaukee on Wednesday night.
“Alberta couldn’t see Plush if she had her gloves on!!” Morgan tweeted, and added, “Wat was she thinking running afta Plush!!! She nver been n tha ring!!!” Earlier he reveled in the Brewers’ big lead in the NL Central, tweeting “Where still n 1st and I hope those crying birds injoy watching tha Crew in tha Playoffs!!! Aaaaahhhhh!!!”
Cardinals manager Tony La Russa said after the game that Morgan was a good player but that he needed to “get a clue.” La Russa pointed out earlier incidents when Morgan clipped catcher Bryan Anderson and then denied it.
“I’m aware of him,” La Russa said. “The less you talk about him, the better off you are.”
La Russa said he doesn’t want to see any players tweeting immediately before and after games.
“We allow players a lot of freedom, as long as it’s not abused,” he said.
Morgan yelled at Carpenter and pulled his chew out of his mouth and flung it toward the mound after striking out, with TV catching all of antics. Carpenter’s immediate reaction after the strikeout wasn’t televised but he said Friday that he yelled a few choice words at Morgan.
“He can say whatever he wants. I can say whatever I want, but it’s the way you react to it,” Carpenter said. “He’s swearing at me, I’m not throwing at him.
“I say one thing to him and he turns around and he makes it a bench-clearing brawl,” Carpenter added.
Carpenter said it was his competitive side, plus his history with Morgan, that came out.
Carpenter said cameras didn’t catch Morgan swearing at him after doubling earlier in the game, and said Morgan had to be dragged out of the dugout during his previous start against Milwaukee.
“I did say something to him, yes,” Carpenter said. “It’s the reaction to everything that was going on from games before.”
GIANTS LOSE AFFELDT
SAN FRANCISCO — Giants lefty reliever Jeremy Affeldt is done for the season after sustaining a deep cut in his right hand while using a knife to separate frozen burger patties during Thursday’s off day.
He needed surgery and suffered nerve damage in his pinkie. As if things couldn’t get much worse for the reeling Giants, now this bizarre injury.
Manager Bruce Bochy on Friday called it an “unfortunate accident.” Affeldt went 3-2 with a 2.63 ERA and three saves in 67 outings this season. He is now in a cast.
“He was outside in the backyard barbecuing. He lacerated himself pretty good,” Bochy said before the Giants opened a weekend series with the rival Los Angeles Dodgers. “It was a paring knife. He was trying to separate some frozen burgers and it slipped. It went pretty deep in his hand. … It went to the bone. He lost feeling in his pinkie.”
“Crazy,” outfielder Cody Ross said.
Affeldt had given up only three earned runs over his last 22 1-3 innings and his 1.21 ERA since the All-Star break was seventh-lowest among NL relievers with a minimum of 20 innings. The pitcher wasn’t at the ballpark and didn’t immediately return a phone message or text.
Injured lefty Barry Zito, meanwhile, could be activated from the disabled list soon to “help out anywhere” for the struggling World Series champions, Bochy said. Zito, who was away from the team Friday for personal reasons, has been sidelined with a recurring foot and ankle injury.
Another injured left-hander, Jonathan Sanchez, will not throw at all this weekend as he continues to experience swelling in his sprained left ankle after his sessions. Bochy wasn’t clear on when Sanchez might play catch or get off a mound again.
Injured closer Brian Wilson, last year’s majors saves leader, threw 25 pitches in a bullpen. He is scheduled to rest for a couple of days and likely throw again from the mound Monday.
“He threw fairly well and was letting it go,” Bochy said.
It could be that Wilson only returns this season if San Francisco is in the division chase and “if we think he’s fully recovered,” Bochy said. The Giants began Friday trailing the first-place Diamondbacks by 7½ games in the NL West.
Bochy also noted that the All-Star closer wants to pitch and might want to get in at least one game before the offseason.
Outfielder Nate Schierholtz, nursing a fracture in his right foot, traveled to Denver to see foot specialist, Dr. Tom Clanton. Bochy said he would continue to wear a walking boot for at least another week and might not play again in 2011.
“That’s up in the air,” Bochy said. “If it’s going to be two weeks, it’s going to be real close.”