The weather didn’t break any records on Monday. Just some bats.
The temperature at Target Field when Vance Worley threw the first pitch of the 2013 season was 35 degrees, only slightly higher than the 33 degrees that the 1962 Twins faced at Metropolitan Stadium 51 years ago. Not that those 2 degrees meant much on the field.
“In the sun, it wasn’t bad,” said Detroit star Justin Verlander, who earned the victory with five shutout innings as the Tigers beat the Twins 4-2. “As soon as the shade set in, it was a different ballgame. It was miserable.”
The Twins certainly agreed, and said that, while the 15 miles-per-hour wind wasn’t too much of a factor, thanks to the stadium’s below-street-level playing field, the contrast with six weeks of spring training definitely was.
“You can’t prepare your body for that. We’ve been where it’s warm,” Twins designated hitter Ryan Doumit said. “You can kind of run around out there as best you can, but you can’t simulate that [ahead of time]. There were 18 cold guys on the field today.”
So naturally, the game lasted nearly 3½ hours.
“I couldn’t feel my hands” by the end, Tigers right fielder Torii Hunter said. “I was closing my eyes and swinging.”
Showing how it’s done
It didn’t take Hunter long to victimize his former team for a new team. One at-bat, actually.
The former Twins center fielder, who received a brief ovation from fans during introductions, executed a perfect hit-and-run in his first trip to the plate with the Tigers, setting up a two-run first inning off Worley. With Austin Jackson, who had singled, sprinting toward second base, Hunter spotted Twins second baseman Brian Dozier moving toward second base, and he guided a Worley fastball into the hole.
Dozier reversed course and dove, but the ball barely eluded his glove.
“I’d like to take credit for it, but Torii just shot it over there on his own. It was a hell of a play,” Tigers manager Jim Leyland said. “I’d like to say I was smart and put [the hit-and-run] on, but I didn’t. He just saw the pitch, saw Jackson go, saw the hole open up, and just fisted it over there.”
Bullpen still impressive
The Twins bullpen had a strong first day, with Casey Fien, Brian Duensing and Josh Roenicke combining for only one run and one hit over three innings.
The run was a big one, though, giving the Tigers a two-run cushion in the eighth inning. Duensing allowed a single and a walk, then loaded the bases intentionally after a sacrifice bunt. Duensing struck out Alex Avila for the second out, but when Roenicke relieved him to face righthander Omar Infante, the first pitch bounced well in front of the plate and eluded catcher Joe Mauer’s glove.
“Roenicke [threw] some nice sinkers. The one that went through Joe’s legs, that was a 50-foot fastball that he overthrew. That’s the best way I can put that,” Twins manager Ron Gardenhire said. “After that, he made some nice pitches. All those guys did.”