A packed house for new-look Hammond
FORT MYERS, FLA. – Twins fans got their first look at what $48.5 million will buy on Saturday, when Lee County and its springtime tenant opened the renovated outfield concourse at Hammond Stadium.
The boardwalk, complete with a new grandstand, drink rails, a left-field berm and two new bars, allows fans to walk all the way around the stadium during Twins spring training games. Lee County, which over the next year will renovate the clubhouses, add a souvenir stand and overhaul the main concourse, held a ribbon-cutting before Saturday’s home opener to celebrate the fixed-up park.
The Twins contributed $6 million to the project, with Lee County and the state of Florida picking up the rest.
The expanded stadium allowed the Twins to set a new attendance record, too, though the game was not a sellout. The crowd of 8,547 for Saturday’s 6-2 victory over the Red Sox bettered the previous high mark of 8,366, set last season.
Bartlett tries second
Jason Bartlett has exactly one inning of major league experience at second base. He got another chance at the position Saturday.
The 34-year-old shortstop, hoping to earn a utility job with his former team this year, replaced Brian Dozier at second base in the fourth inning, and cleanly fielded the two grounders hit his way.
“I’ve been doing a lot of extra work, especially on footwork around the bag on double plays, so it’s pretty smooth,” said Bartlett, who started at shortstop against the Red Sox on Friday. “It’s a different angle, but it’s not going to be a problem.”
Heck, it’s not even the most unusual position he will play this spring.
“He came by and asked me today, ‘What glove?’ I said, bring them all,” Twins manager Ron Gardenhire said. “I told [coach Scott Ullger] he moves around good in the outfield, so let’s get him out there, too.”
Said Bartlett: “I’m going to be all over the place. Whatever he wants me to do.”
Two pitches enough
Twins fans might still boo A.J. Pierzynski. But Glen Perkins was appreciative Saturday.
As the former Twins catcher dug in during the fifth inning, Perkins shouted at him, “Let’s make this quick!”
That’s because Pierzynski, who chose the Red Sox over the Twins as a free agent last winter, has a habit of drawn-out at-bats against the All-Star closer, seeing 25 pitches in his last four regular-season at-bats.
“He sees fewer pitching than just about anyone in baseball — except against me. He fouls them off and makes me work and work,” Perkins said.
Not this time. After Perkins made his request, Pierzynski took a fastball for a strike, then swung at a slider and grounded it to second. “A.J. was nice enough to oblige,” Perkins said.
The most expensive free-agent investment in Twins history makes his spring debut on Sunday, when righthander Ricky Nolasco starts against the Tampa Bay Rays in Port Charlotte, Fla.