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February Storylines and Important Dates

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As February dawns cold and snowy here in Minnesota, we take a look at what's likely to happen this month.

February 2-8: Caribbean Series

Several Twins with chances to make the big club this year played on Winter League-winning teams - Francisco Liriano with Escogido in the Dominican Republic, Danny Valencia with Mayaguez in Puerto Rico, and catching prospect Wilson Ramos with Caracas in Venezuela.  Liriano has been perhaps of most interest to Twins fans, especially considering his dominant start in the deciding game of the Dominican League championship series. It remains to be seen whether he will pitch this week, or shut it down until Spring Training.

Pitchers and catchers first workout: Monday, February 22

First, the obvious: if Joe Mauer isn't signed by this date, the entire state will be in an uproar. Mauer has said that he doesn't want his contract status to be a distraction to the team, but truthfully, the only way he can keep it from being an issue is by signing in the next three weeks. If he doesn't sign, it may be a major issue in the gubernatorial election this fall.  If he doesn't sign, it could derail the Central Corridor plan, Tim Pawlenty's looming Presidential bid, and possibly the rotation of the earth.  If he doesn't sign, you will hear about nothing else for the entire year.

Other issues loom, however. Jose Morales, the presumed replacement for Mike Redmond at backup catcher, had surgery on his right wrist last week and will be out until mid-March. This means that Ramos or Drew Butera - or, knowing Ron Gardenhire, possibly both - may begin the season backing up Mauer.

First full squad workout: Saturday, February 27

The Twins and Milwaukee are the last teams in baseball to get going on their spring slate. By then, we'll probably know answers to both Nick Punto-related questions: is he recovered from wrist surgery, and where will he play? As of this writing, Punto looks to be the starting second baseman, with Brendan Harris at third base - but there's still the chance the Twins could sign a player at either position. If the team does sign another player, Punto would likely fill the hole opposite.

With Liriano possibly regaining form, it increasingly appears that Glen Perkins may be the odd man out on the Twins pitching staff. The team will likely try to trade him, but many have speculated that other teams would like to see the lefthander throw in the spring before making any deal, following Perkins's injury problems last season.

The rest, I suspect, we'll hear about in March; the Twins are scheduled to play the Red Sox on March 4. But those are issues for another month.