Twins celebrate past success of 2002 team

  • Article by: LA VELLE E. NEAL IIIAND JOE CHRISTENSENSTAR TRIBUNE STAFF WRITERS
  • Updated: April 9, 2012 - 11:08 PM

The 2002 AL Central champs were honored before the game.

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Former Twins pitcher LaTroy Hawkins was part of the celebration.

Photo: Jeff Wheeler, Star Tribune

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The Twins honored their 2002 AL Central championship team before Monday's game, giving current Angels Torii Hunter and LaTroy Hawkins a chance to see their old teammates. Those two went to breakfast with Eddie Guardado, Jacque Jones, Brad Radke and Joe Mays.

"Ten years ago? Can you believe that? I'm only 28," Hunter quipped.

Hunter is actually 36 now. Asked where that season ranks among his best memories, he said, "Right now, No. 1. Because all those guys on the team were like family. We came up together, we knew what we could and couldn't do on and off the field, so we were like brothers."

A couple of the players, such as Eric Milton, never had been in Target Field and didn't think outdoor baseball in Minnesota was possible in 2002.

"Especially when they were talking about contracting us,'' said Milton, now an assistant baseball coach at Maryland, referring to baseball's ill-fated plan to eliminate two teams before the 2002 season.

Al Newman, Corey Koskie, Denny Hocking, Doug Mientkiewicz, Jones, Guardado, Mays, Milton and Radke were on hand, along with Hunter and Hawkins.

In the swing

On the bright side, Josh Willingham is on pace to hit 81 homers, which would be a record.

OK, that's unlikely to happen. But the Twins at least are getting an early return from Willingham who, at three years and $21 million, represents the most they have spent on a free agent.

He led off the fourth inning by clubbing a 0-1 pitch from Angels starter C.J. Wilson into the left-field seats.

Willingham almost had another in the sixth, when he launched one down the left field line that was foul by about 15 feet.

"He's got a nice, short, compact swing," Twins manager Ron Gardenhire said. "As we said, he can put the ball it the seats.

He just missed a second one. We're seeing exactly what we thought we would, a guy who can hook a baseball and drive it."

Willingham has driven in four of the six runs the Twins have scored so far.

Marquis update

Righthander Jason Marquis is scheduled to make a second start at Class AA New Britain on Thursday -- which is good and bad news for the Twins.

Marquis threw 75 pitches in his last outing on Saturday and should be able to throw 90 pitches Thursday.

"His first start was really good down there," Gardenhire said.

The problem is that throwing 90 pitches Thursday would take him out of the running to start Sunday, when the Twins need a fifth pitcher.

That increases the chance that righthander Liam Hendriks, if he's recovered sufficiently from food poisoning over the weekend, would start Sunday against Texas. That also suggests that Anthony Swarzak will get another start.

"We'll figure that out," Gardenhire said. "That's the least of our worries..''

Hendriks, who spent three nights in a Baltimore-area hospital, said he didn't lose any weight because of the ordeal and will see what the club will allow him to do over the next couple of days.

Etc.

• Twins General Manager Terry Ryan said that he's trying to move up Scott Baker's appointment with specialist Dr. David Altchek to as soon as possible. "I'm sure after he has this second opinion -- if it's the same results as the MRI we gave him in Fort Myers [last week] it will give him peace of mind," Ryan said.

Ryan Doumit started behind the plate on Monday because he's never played right field in Target Field. Joe Mauer started at first, and Chris Parmelee was on the bench.

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