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Twins will dedicate Target Field statue to Tom Kelly

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The Twins have commissioned a bronze statue in honor of former manager Tom Kelly, per a team announcement during TwinsFest on Friday. The statue will be unveiled and officially dedicated sometime during the 2017 season, and will join other notable Twins figures outside Target Field, including Rod Carew, Kirby Puckett, Carl Pohlad, Eloise Pohlad, Calvin Griffith, Tony Oliva, Harmon Killebrew and Kent Hrbek. It’s the latest of several ways the Twins have honored Kelly over the last 15 years, from his induction into the Twins’ Hall of Fame in 2002 to the retirement of his #10 jersey number in 2012.

Twins president Dave St. Peter convinced Kelly to accept the statue in recognition of his integral role on the team in the 1980s and 90s. From MLB.com’s Rhett Bollinger:

The Minnesota Twins are excited to have this opportunity to further celebrate and recognize the incredible career of the one and only Tom Kelly,” St. Peter said. “Tom’s contributions to the Twins organization and the Upper Midwest baseball community are quite significant. This statue will help memorialize Tom’s greatness and ensure future generations are aware of the T.K. story.

The statue will be cast in bronze and designed by artist Bill Mack. The uniform design will stand out from the other seven statues, at Kelly’s request.

They picked one out, and I think I’m standing with my fungo,” Kelly said. “The big discussion is about the uniform. The rest of the statues have ‘Twins’ [across the jersey], but I kind of like the pinstriped uniforms with the ‘M’ hat and Minnesota.

Kelly was the last Twins manager to lead the club to a World Series championship. Over 16 years, he established a 1,140-1,244 record and guided the team through two postseason runs, both of which ended with World Series rings. His first title in 1987 made him the youngest manager to reach the ALCS and the fifth rookie manager to win a championship title. After leading the Twins through another championship run in 1991, the follow-up to a 95-67 regular season, Kelly was honored with his first and only AL Manager of the Year award. He remains the winningest and longest-tenured manager in Twins’ history.

James Paxton will “nerd out big-time” to stay healthy next year

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To the surprise of, well, very few, the Mariners didn’t make the cut for the postseason this year. While they threw their hats in the ring for a wild card berth, their pitching staff just couldn’t stay healthy, from the handful of pitchers who contracted season-ending injuries in spring training to Felix Hernandez‘s shoulder bursitis to structural damage in Hisashi Iwakuma‘s right shoulder. Left-hander James Paxton missed 79 days with a lingering head cold, strained left forearm and pectoral strain. Heading into the 2018 season, the lefty told MLB.com’s Greg Johns that he plans to “nerd out big-time” in order to prepare for a healthy, consistent run with the club.

So far, Johns reports, that entails a new diet and workout program, hot yoga sessions and blood testing. “I just think there’s more I can do,” Paxton said. “I haven’t done the blood testing before. Finding out if there’s something I don’t know about myself. It’s just about learning and trying to find what works for me.”

When healthy, the 28-year-old southpaw was lights-out for the Mariners. He helped stabilize the front end of the rotation with a 12-5 record in 24 starts and supplemented his efforts with a 2.98 ERA, 2.4 BB/9 and 10.3 SO/9 through 136 innings. Despite taking multiple trips to the disabled list, he built up 4.6 fWAR — the most wins above replacement he’s compiled in any season of his career to date. Had he not been felled by a pectoral injury in mid-August — one that came with a five-week trip to the disabled list — the club might have been been able to make a bigger push for the playoffs.

Of course, even if Paxton manages to stay healthy next season, the Mariners still have the rest of the rotation to worry about. They cycled through 17 starters in 2017 and tied the 2014 Rangers with 40 total pitchers over the course of the season. Per GM Jerry Dipoto, their top four starters (Paxton, Hernandez, Iwakuma, and Tommy John candidate Drew Smyly) only contributed 17% of total innings pitched, just a tad below the 40% average. Finding adequate big league arms and compensating for injured aces (both current and former) will be tough. Still, getting a healthy, dominant Paxton back on the mound for 30+ starts would be a huge get for the team — whether or not the postseason is in their future next year.