La Velle E. Neal III
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La Velle's 3-2 Pitch: Three observations and two predictions on Sundays.

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LaTroy Hawkins is listed as a special assistant in the Twins media guide. His role is to assist "in the development of the organizational pitching philosophy used in the selection and development of all players." Hawk also helps with draft preparations and is an occasional television analyst for BSN.

How about an additional title? Fireman.

The Twins are shuffling roles after pitching coach Wes Johnson left the organization on Thursday to run LSU's pitching staff. Pete Maki has been named his replacement, and Colby Suggs has taken over for Maki as bullpen coach after impressing as run prevention coordinator.

Another adjustment should be for Hawkins, who pitched for the Twins from 1995 to 2003, to lend his expertise in putting out the fire in a Twins bullpen that has led to countless late-game meltdowns — before the team falls out of first place in the AL Central.

He should have a larger presence in the clubhouse and work more closely with Twins pitchers. Maybe it requires him to be in uniform before games or contribute during pitchers' meetings more frequently. In the wake of Johnson's departure, more doses of one of the more popular players in Twins history are needed.

I know some of you are reading this and thinking, "Good, Emilio Pagan can have his own personal coach." Pagan can't do anything right these days, and Hawk could help him through his struggles. Pagan has a good arm; he's just doing bad things with it at the moment. But there's an entire staff that can benefit from Hawk's wisdom.

Johnson will be very hard to replace. When I first interviewed him three years ago and learned from him that it takes roughly 600 muscles to throw a baseball, I knew then that Johnson was cut from a different cloth. He has a degree in marketing, a master's in kinesiology and dives deep into biomechanics. It's difficult to find a package like that.

Johnson also is an eternal optimist and stresses positives with his pitchers. That's where Hawkins could lend a hand as well. He experienced everything as a pitcher. He was knocked out of games as a starter. He blew leads as a reliever. He also learned enough to craft a successful 20-year career in the majors. He knows what pitchers go through and can commiserate with them while lifting their spirits. He knows mechanics from the trial-and-error phases of his 1,042-game career.

As the Twins recalibrate their pitching department following the departure of the man who was the fulcrum of the operation, it would be wise for them tap into Hawkins' experience even more and see how it can inspire their pitchers. This special situation requires special assistance.

Big Ten, coast-to-coast

Put aside the massive money grab the Big Ten seeks through expansion and consider what programming for the first coast-to-coast Power Five conference in college sports could be once USC and UCLA join for the 2024-25 seasons.

Media markets in New York, Chicago and Los Angeles will be linked by the conference. The Big Ten Network, conceivably, could broadcast four football games on Saturdays, at 11 a.m., 2:30 p.m., 6 and 9:30. In hoops, you will see bluebloods like Michigan State and UCLA battle. Ohio State would face USC in football. Gophers volleyball would play a strong UCLA program. Schools like Illinois, Purdue and the Gophers, who aren't playing in a Rose Bowl berth any time soon, at least will have a chance to travel to Pasadena for a road game.

So ... what should we name the trophy for the Gophers-Trojans rivalry game?

Minnesota kids welcome

Brock Faber can become a homegrown talent who debuts in the NHL with his hometown team. The Wild made this possible on Wednesday when Kevin Fiala, the team's second-leading scorer last season, was dealt to the Kings for Faber and a first-round pick in this week's draft.

Faber, a defenseman from Maple Grove, currently stars for the Gophers and is a step away from playing in the pros in front of friends and family, which can add pressure to a young player. But Wild General Manager Bill Guerin has no problem bringing Faber into the organization.

"I used to be a little more timid about actually bringing a Minnesota kid back to Minnesota," he said, "but from what I've really found that, if I do that and I eliminate Minnesota kids because of that fear, I'm really eliminating the biggest player pool in the United States, so we're happy to have Minnesota kids here."


Twins have two All-Stars

Expect Luis Arraez and Jhoan Duran to represent the Twins at the All-Star Game. The Twins will be near the top of the AL Central, if not leading, when teams are announced and deserve to have more than one representative.

Lynx turn things around

Starting with Sunday's game against Las Vegas, look for a healthier Lynx team to go 7-3 over 10 games of July and hit the final stretch of the season with momentum.