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Jeff Thompson of Rochester got Joe Mauer to autograph “Blaze the wonder horse’’ during TwinsFest on Sunday. Thompson was given the horse in 1961 when he was 4 years old. Standing next to Thompson was his friend Alan Batzel.

JERRY HOLT • jerry.holt@startribune.com,

TwinsFest works on smaller scale

  • Article by: PHIL MILLER
  • Star Tribune
  • January 27, 2014 - 1:09 PM

Moving TwinsFest to Target Field this year cut attendance by almost half, Twins President Dave St. Peter said, but that may be the only measure by which the team’s annual fan carnival was not a success.

“The feedback we’ve gotten was very positive,” St. Peter said as the three-day event wrapped up. “The event has kind of been reinvented. ... I would say it’s pretty likely that it will return here again next year.”

Roughly 13,000 fans attended the 26th annual event, one of the smallest totals in the event’s history; more than 25,000 attended the 2013 version at the Metrodome, and the team drew more than 35,000 in 2007.

“On a big day at the Metrodome, we would have 13,000 on one day,” St. Peter said.

The drop was due in small part to the cold, snowy weather, which kept the event from selling out on Friday and Sunday. But mostly, it was by design, given Target Field’s much smaller indoor space.

“It was important for us to get off to a good start here, and try to avoid a level of congestion that isn’t conducive to a good experience,” St. Peter said. “As we get better on the field and interest in our team builds, we’re going to need to be disciplined about how many tickets we sell.”

Still, the team raised an estimated $200,000 for the Twins Community Fund, which spends more than $1.2 million on charitable work in the community, St. Peter said. And the new interactive games with Twins players, from bingo to bowling to “Fan Feud,” were popular with fans.

Vendors and collectible dealers were stationed on the ballpark’s basement level hallway, and some said the lack of adequate lighting and the corridor’s chilliness were a problem. So was the relative lack of customers.

“I did about 75 percent of the business I did in the Dome last year, so it wasn’t too bad for me,” said Duane DeBower, owner of Dui’s Sportscards, who had a table in a high-traffic area. “But some vendors are hurting. Some might not even make their table fee.”

Twins still talking to Santana

Johan Santana lives just a few miles from the Twins’ Florida headquarters in Fort Myers, so it would be easy for the two-time Cy Young Award winner to rehab from shoulder surgery and prepare for a comeback attempt at his former team’s complex. The Twins have interest in making that happen, General Manager Terry Ryan said Sunday.

For now, though, “we’re monitoring his situation,” Ryan said. “He’s not ready yet to start that process. He’s only just started playing catch.”

The Twins, who traded Santana to the Mets before the 2008 season, have discussed a reunion with Santana’s agent, but the lefthander, who missed both the 2011 and 2013 seasons after undergoing shoulder surgery, is not ready yet to begin a throwing program.

“He’s going to take his time,” Ryan said. “It’s going to be into the summer before he’s ready to pitch.”

Still, the Twins had a similar let-us-know-when-you’re-ready arrangement with Rich Harden last spring. Setbacks in his own recovery from shoulder surgery derailed Harden’s comeback, but “I don’t regret that at all,” Ryan said. “That was a gamble that made a lot of sense. We’re willing to be patient.”

Sano puts on the pounds

His sore elbow kept him from doing his normal workout for six weeks, so Miguel Sano put on a few extra pounds.

“I weighed myself today and I was 250,” the 20-year-old Dominican slugger said. “When spring training starts, I’ll weigh like 245, I think.”

But if his body has gotten bigger this offseason, so have his expectations. Sano may have only 67 games of experience above Class A, but he made it clear this weekend that he intends to play here this season — and right away.

“I have a fairly [large] amount of expectation to make the team” this spring, said the minor leagues’ top power-hitting prospect.

His expectations are higher than that, actually. When it was pointed out that his home run totals have jumped from 20 in 2011 to 28 in 2012, and to 35 last year, Sano didn’t need an interpreter to explain what’s next.

“I hit 45 this year. More games,” he said. “Maybe 55, you never know.”

Such is the exuberance of a power hitter who just received a clean bill of health. Sano was examined by Twins doctors Saturday, the fourth such exam he’s undergone since he began feeling pain in his elbow shortly after the season ended, and no structural damage was found. The pain has ceased after his six-week break from training, too, so it appears he will avoid surgery.

Hicks learns painful lessons

Aaron Hicks figures he learned more in the major leagues last year than he would have at Clas AAA, even though he didn’t like what he learned: that he wasn’t ready.

“I’ve had the worst of it all,” Hicks said of his .192 batting average in 81 games last summer. “I understand failure. I’d rather go through that, the fact that I’ve actually dealt with it. Now I know what I have to do to prepare.”

He knows he’s projected to spend this summer in Rochester, as the Twins try to draw out the talent that earned him his major league job last spring. But “I’m expecting to try to win a job here, just like last year,” Hicks said. “Hopefully it’s in the big leagues. If I do go to Triple-A, I’ll do what I can to get back here.”

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