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Patrick Reusse has been covering sports in the Twin Cities since 1968.

Patrick Plus: Longevity reigns among '02 Twins

The Twins last won a playoff series with a five-game upset of Oakland in a division round in 2002. They received a degree of ridicule when they brought back available members of that team for Opening Day festivities on April 9, 2012, at Target Field.

It was framed as a 10-year reunion for accomplishing little by the cynics, although the Twins labeled it as a chance to remember a unique group.

There is no doubt about the uniqueness when it comes to the durability with that group:

• Center fielder Torii Hunter was 26 and an All-Star for the first of five times in 2002. He also won his second of nine Gold Gloves. Hunter hit 29 home runs with 94 RBI and finished sixth in the MVP voting.

Hunter has played 13 seasons since then — six in Minnesota, five in Anaheim and two in Detroit — with 283 home runs and 1,124 RBI. He’s 40 and probably will play next season.

• LaTroy Hawkins was 29 and put exclusively in a setup role in 2002. He was 6-0 with a 2.13 ERA in 65 games. A year later, the Twins let him leave as a free agent. He’s now 42 and winding up his career in the bullpen of playoff-bound Toronto.

LaTroy has pitched in 749 games since 2002 and with 10 more teams since leaving the Twins after 2003.

• A.J. Pierzynski is the ironman catcher of this new century of baseball. He was 25 and made the All-Star team for the Twins in 2002. He was traded after 2003.

Pierzynski, 38, has been Atlanta’s catcher this season, catching over 900 innings. Earlier, A.J. caught more than 1,000 innings in 12 consecutive seasons.

• David Ortiz was 26 and very popular with teammates. They looked at him as a needed clutch hitter with power for the middle of the lineup.

The Twins released “Big Papi’’ on Dec. 17, 2002, to create roster space for Rule 5 draftee Jose Morban in the dumbest move in franchise history. (Note: We’re including the 60 years in Washington in rating this idiocy as No. 1.)


More on the 2002 Twins and durability:

• Big Papi in 13 years in Boston: 445 home runs, 1,402 RBI, now 27th member of 500-homer club. Also: three World Series titles, 17 HRs, 56 RBI in 15 postseason series.

• Michael Cuddyer played in 41 games for the ’02 Twins. He’s still playing and headed to the postseason with the Mets.

• Kyle Lohse had 31 starts in 2002; 13-8, 4.23 ERA. He’s pitching in Milwaukee, where he had an extra-bad 2015 season.

Reusse: After season behind the 8-ball, Twins return home with a chance

The Twins had been behind the eight-ball since April 3, when the announcement was made that pitcher Ervin Santana had tested positive for steroid use and would be suspended for the first 80 games of the season.

This was 24 hours before the Twins would play a final exhibition game in Florida and then head to Detroit to open the schedule.

They were swept in three games by the Tigers, once again a potent-looking bunch, and then lost two of three in Chicago to a White Sox team that had been aggressive in bringing in reinforcements over the winter.

The Twins came home on April 10 and were embarrassed 10-3 by the Kansas City Royals, the defending American League champions.

There was a day off for the Twins and their already-depressed followers to contemplate the predicament faced by Paul Molitor, a managerial rookie at age 58.

The Tigers had Miguel Cabrera to lead the hitting, and Dave Price to lead the pitching, and there seemed no chance they were going away as an AL Central heavyweight. The White Sox had put together a potent lineup and added Jeff Samardzija to join Chris Sale in leading the rotation.

The Royals had spent years landing prime talent high in the draft and now those players were in their prime. And the Cleveland Indians had found themselves on the cover of Sports Illustrated’s Baseball Preview as the team to watch in 2015.

The Twins were 1-6, and facing 69 more games against an AL Central that seemed to be more potent than it ever had appeared in the two decades since baseball went to three divisions per league.

One week in, that eight ball facing the Twins seemed roughly the size of Minnesota Fats' head. And you could hear the rest of the Central saying:

“Fast Paulie … let’s play some pool.’’


On that day off, April 11, newcomers to the roster found apartments, while Molitor studied such decisions as to whether play Jordan Schafer or Shane Robinson in center field, and where to put designated hitter Kennys Vargas and left fielder Oswaldo Arcia in the batting order.

The sporting public didn’t much care. The Wild was two days from the start of the playoffs against St. Louis. The heroic lads from St. Paul had played so well once goalie Devan Dubnyk showed up there were visions of a long playoff run.

The Twins? The official attendance went from the traditional Opening Day sellout (40,123) to 21,362 for the second home game.

It was April 11, there were 155 games remaining and Minnesota’s disillusioned baseball fans were already looking at a fifth straight long summer.


One hundred and 73 days later, the Twins were in Cleveland for the final road game of the season on Thursday night. There was the usual late-season smattering of customers in Cleveland, which has become home to the lousiest fan base in America.

On this cool night, the Twins – Molitor’s astounding, pitching-short collection of survivors – were down to their final chance to escape from behind that eight ball.

Tyler Duffey, the out-of-nowhere, rookie savior of the rotation, had again dealt wonderfully for six shutout innings. And then in the seventh, he grooved a fastball to Roberto Perez, Cleveland’s hard-swinging catcher, and the result was a two-run home run to center field.

So, the Twins trailed 2-1 into the eighth, and a loss would put them two games out of the second wild-card position with three to play, and realistically put an end to the improbable postseason push.

And then Molitor made a move, sending up Danny Santana to pinch-hit for Kurt Suzuki.  Santana walked, something he had done five times in 271 previous plate appearances in the big leagues this season.

So, there was Santana at first with all that speed, and there was Eduardo Escobar – Danny’s mid-season replacement at shortstop – slapping a double that bounced to the left-field corner to score him.

Slump-ridden Brian Dozier followed with an infield single. Tie game, first-and-third, one out, and here was Joe Mauer.

All Twins’ followers had the same thought – 4-6-3 – but Joe couldn’t do that again, not here, not with the run needed to keep the Twins breathing into the final weekend in Target Field standing at third.

Could he?

Oh, yeah. Hard bouncer to second, 4-6-3, and it stays 2-2.

Depression isn’t often visible on Mauer when he fails, but it was here. This was a low moment for everyone with a stake in the Twins.

For 173 days, they had been rallying from low moments.

Could they do it again?

Oh, yeah. They scored twice in the ninth, on Cleveland mistakes and the dash of the excellent extra player, Eduardo Nunez, and then they got another save from Kevin Jepsen.

They headed back home for three with Kansas City -- with Santana on the mound for the series opener and managerial dart-throwing for starters for the rest of the weekend.

The Royals are the runaway champs of the Central and still playing for the home-field edge in the playoffs.

It was never going to be easy for the Twins, not after six months behind the eight ball, but there’s still a chance, so what do you say:

“Fast Paulie … let’s play some pool.’’

TV Listings

Local Schedule

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  • Indiana at Lynx

    7pm on ESPN2, 106.1-FM

  • Oklahoma City at Timberwolves (preseason)

    7pm on 830-AM

  • Wild at Colorado

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  • St. Cloud State at Gophers women's hockey


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    6:30pm on 830-AM

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