Welcome to the debut of "The 3-2 Pitch" column. Every Sunday in this space, I'll provide insights on three topics and offer two predictions. This format was once used for my Baseball Insider pieces. I'm ripping myself off, starting now.
Mike Radcliff has spent a baseball lifetime jotting down numbers about the prospects he was scouting. When the tables were turned and he was being evaluated, the longtime Twins scout and executive had no trouble compiling stats about himself.
Like 618 days since he's seen his last baseball game in person.
Like 312 shots he's been injected with since June 2019.
Like 149 pounds, his lowest weight.
Like 11 months of chemotherapy.
Radcliff, the Twins vice president in charge of player personnel, is a comeback story in progress. After being diagnosed with pancreatic cancer in the weeks following the 2019 MLB draft, Radcliff spent the next 14 months undergoing various treatments while tabulating each procedure as it occurred. Radcliff, 64, eventually had surgery to remove a tumor from his pancreas on Sept. 22 and has been cancer-free ever since.
"You wouldn't recognize me right now because I weigh 159 pounds," said Radcliffe, who has gained 10 pounds since being given the go-ahead to eat as much as he can to regain some of his weight back. "Other than that, everything is good.
"I've got a whole closet of Tommy Bahama shirts that drape on me like blankets now."
Radcliff wasn't feeling well following the 2019 draft and went for an exam. He was sent to a second doctor, who arranged for an MRI. That doctor immediately sent him to Mayo Clinic, where the diagnosis was made and the rounds of injections and chemotherapy sessions began. Radcliff remained active on team conference calls and Zoom discussions throughout the 2019 and 2020 seasons while getting to the point where he could have surgery.
The surgery, called the Whipple procedure, gives patients a 20-25% five-year survival rate. Doctors told Radcliff's wife, Sherry, they were able to remove the entire tumor.
Now Radcliff, highly respected throughout the game, is walking daily and plotting a return to the stands to scout for the Twins, when it's safe to return. The organization supported him throughout his ordeal and he's ready to find them more talented players.
"I've got my next challenge now," Radcliff said. "I'm cancer-free. I'm fully vaccinated. I'm in the best shape I've ever been in my adult life. I'm ready to work. I'm ready to go, man. Everyone still thinks of me as the cancer guy. I'm ready to roll."
One of the signs that you have arrived in spring training is when you pull into the CenturyLink Sports Complex in Fort Myers and notice the gargantuan picture of Kirby Puckett on one side of minor league headquarters, leaping to rob an extra-base hit in the 1991 World Series. It's accompanied by the phrase "and we'll see you tomorrow night," in reference to Jack Buck's call of Puckett's walk-off home run in Game 6.
Puckett was part of World Series-winning teams in 1987 and 1991 and went on to be elected to the Baseball Hall of Fame in his first year of eligibility in 2001. His career was cut short when he was diagnosed with glaucoma in 1996, leading him to join the front office as an executive.
It was on this date in 2006 — 15 years ago Saturday — that Puckett passed away one day after suffering a brain hemorrhage in Scottsdale, Ariz. In retirement, Puckett found controversy with accusations of domestic violence and extramarital affairs. Fans will remember him in different ways. For many, he will be remembered for his part in two World Series titles.
It's great that new Wolves coach Chris Finch has the offensive chops for the game. But anyone who has paid attention to Woofies hoops knows that this has been one of the most defensively bankrupt teams in the NBA.
This season is no different, as the Wolves entered the weekend third from the bottom in the league in points allowed at 117 per game. In the five games since Finch has taken over, the Wolves are allowing 130.6 points a game. Devin Booker burned them for 43 points. Giannis Antetokounmpo torched them for 37. Zach Lavine housed them for 35. Bradley Beal spanked them for 34. Terry Rozier got into them for 31.
Some defensive standards need to be installed here. Stop the ball. Get the ball. Then let Finch work his offensive magic. This team should be embarrassed about how it doesn't play defense.
Calling it: Kirilloff to the bigs
Prediction No. 1: Outfielder Alex Kirilloff will break camp on the major league roster. While the Twins did refuse to call up Byron Buxton at the end of 2018 partly because of service time considerations, they will set any contract considerations aside and bring Kirilloff north for the start of the season (opener is April 1 in Milwaukee). Why? Because the 23-year-old can hit major league pitching and his lefthanded bat is needed.
Home sweet home for Wild
The Wild is fun to watch again, and rookie Kirill Kaprizov is not the only reason why. Mats Zuccarello and Kevin Fiala have changed this team's personality on the ice. Jordan Greenway is developing nicely. The team has a five-game homestand starting Monday, with two against Vegas and three vs. Arizona. Look for the Wild to grab at least six points in this stretch. We'll see if Kaprizov can lead in scoring all season, but the Wild is evolving.