Welcome back: Twins bats resurface in "opener"

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Today I had a voicemail message on my cell phone that was intended to inspire envy more than anything--but instead, it riled me out of my late-winter stupor.


It was my father calling from Surprise, Arizona, where he noted more than once it was 78 degrees and a perfectly clear day. But he was really calling to let me know that Doug Mienkewitcz--the former Twins first baseman, once and forever known as Dougie Baseball--was batting for the Royals against the Rangers.

Dougie managed to work a 1-2 count full, and with the 3-2 pitch, according to the live broadcast my dad was offering on my mailbox, he pulled a weak grounder to the Rangers' first baseman for an unassisted out.

"He still can't drive in a run when it counts," my personal play-by-play man concluded before clicking off.

Sure, I was envious on the surface, but also grateful deep down that the Twins don't have Mienkewitcz to kick around anymore.

With that sense of small triumph, I turned my attention to the FSN broadcast of the Twins' exhibition opener against the BoSox.

Aside from the weird time-warp that comes with watching a televised night game this early in the year--and I'm still stinging from the disappointment all around last season--I felt a small sense of elation too. Embarrassing, since the game was meaningless in pretty much every regard.

Still, some things worth noting:

* Torii Hunter, Joe Mauer and Lew Ford all homered, and with as much authority as can be mustered the first week in March. If that happens more than once during the regular season, I'll be happy.

* The Twins have an interesting team, with enough off-the-radar acquisitions to finally keep Michael Cuddyer out of the infield.

* That said, Tony Batista looks too overweight--even in spring training--to seriously play third base every day, if at all. A routine grounder early in the game made him look like he had just come down with a bad case of the gout.

(Prediction: Terry Tiffee will find his late-2004 bat and end up at the hot corner; he started at first tonight in the absence of WBC-bound Justin Morneau.)

* Nick Punto still makes good bat contact, and needs to stay healthy. Carlos Silva still throws low strikes, and needs to stay healthy and get some run production from his teammates early in the season.

* Rondell White is a funny, amiable dude--if the mid-game interview with him is any indication--who seems content to only DH. He might want to hold up, though: I'm still not convinced Lew Ford is comfortable enough in right to play there every day, and his bat suffers if he sits.

* Johan Santana's arm didn't come flying clean out of its socket in the time he pitched.

The rest was, well, the first real spring training game of the season, and to say much more would be to look foolish.

But one more note: Making Ruben Sierra a "non-roster invitee" to camp may have been the whole league's stealth-cheap move of the off-season. Sure, he's ancient, but I'll tell you this: Seems like I've been watching him hit home runs in the Dome for more than half my life.

(I'm officially transferring my membership from the Bret Boone Fanclub! Okay, I know, talk to me in a month.)

And, oh yeah, Twins win.


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