Twins “will likely decline” $5 million option on Nick Punto

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Kelly Thesier of MLB.com writes that the Twins “will likely decline” their $5 million team option on Nick Punto for 2011.

Under normal circumstances not paying $5 million for a 33-year-old utility man who hit .238/.313/.302 this season and .247/.321/.322 for his career would be a no-brainer, but these circumstances aren’t normal.

After all, Minnesota has paid him $4 million in each of the past two years and … well, I just can’t see Ron Gardenhire letting his favorite diminutive, banjo-hitting, false-hustling infielder leave the organization without a fight.

Punto’s deal includes a $500,000 buyout of the option and my guess is the Twins will try to negotiate a new deal for around $2 million or so.

Michael Pineda throws off mound for first time since Tommy John surgery

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According to MLB.com associate reporter Jarrid Denney, right-hander Michael Pineda threw off a mound Wednesday morning at Target Field for the first time since undergoing Tommy John surgery.

Pineda was signed to a two-year, $10 million free agent contract this winter by the Twins, who are probably more focused on what he might be able to do in 2019 rather than 2018.

He had the reconstructive elbow surgery last July 18, so he won’t be an option for the Minnesota rotation until probably late August or September of this year. Still, that deal seems like a nice gamble given the price point and the possibility that he will regain his form as a No. 2 or No. 3 starter. That he’s making steady progress in his rehab makes the situation all the more encouraging.

Pineda, 29, holds a 4.05 ERA, 1.19 WHIP, and 687 strikeouts in 680 career major league innings.