Startribune.com digital sports editor Howard Sinker used to cover the Twins and now shares season tickets with friends in Section 219 of Target Field. He blogs about baseball from the perspective of a long-time fan who loves the game, doesn’t always believe the hype and likes hearing what others think. Howard sometimes talks about sports with Cathy Wurzer on MPR's Morning Edition.

Camp opens: A day without pessimism

Posted by: Howard Sinker under Twins fans, Twins offense, Twins pitching, Vikings trade talk Updated: February 18, 2011 - 12:24 PM

The first day of spring training is one of the best days on the baseball calendar.

For a baseball fan, it marks resumption of the rituals that will take us from now until October. There will be things to complain about in due time -- that will be true in every training camp from Boston to Pittsburgh, and the Twins will be no exception. But everybody and everything looks good today. There are no warts, except for the one La Velle is blogging about on the bottom of Michael Cuddyer's left foot.

I remember from my writing days how players who would barely offer recognition for most of the season would almost seem happy to see their media interrogators for those first few days in February. It was almost always a false positive, but I think it was acknowledgment that we all knew we were lucky to be where we were.

For players, one of the treats of Florida baseball is a six-week stretch in which they go to work and are home in time for dinner. That's different from the regular-season ritual and the self-scheduling of the winter. And until the games start, the workday for players isn't an eight-hour thing.

Today, Gardy and Rick Anderson look at the pitchers and assume they'll certainly be able to find 11 or 12 of them to make the trip back to Minnesota. No problem. These guys look good. The problems will begin when the exhibition games start next weekend, of course. But the first day is hope.

Here's what's on my hope list:

*Francisco Liriano shuts down trade talk and makes the Twins front office look silly for their current take on his future. I'm thinking 18-8 and becoming the guy you want to see on the mound in a big game. Like Detroit's JustinJason Verlander.

*Numbers from Joe Mauer that are closer to 2009 than 2010. Maybe 20  home runs and his 2009-10 OPS. I don't know what constitutes $23 million statistics, but I'd settle for those and a season of good health.

*Justin Morneau's 100 percent return. I want to believe, I want to believe, you want to believe.

*Cuddyer playing well enough to make it difficult for the Twins not the re-sign him.

*Rick Anderson putting together a bullpen that makes it easy to forget Crain/Guerrier/Rauch. La Velle blogged this already today and it make me laugh and shudder at the same time: "Chuck James, who hasn't pitched in the majors since 2008, looks a lot like Jesse Crain."

*Joe Nathan anchors that bullpen the way he did he did in the six seasons before his Tommy John surgery.

*One of the right-handed starters (Blackburn, Slowey, Baker) having a breakout season.

*Alexi Casilla and Tsuyoshi Nishioka making us not lament the loss of Hardy and Hudson.

*Danny Valencia is the real deal at third base.

*Jim Thome puts up numbers at age 40 that were as good as his numbers at age 39.

Having hope implies doubt, and there are levels of doubt in everything listed above. And going 10-for-10 on my list would be a bit like having a winning Powerball ticket. I know there are disappointments ahead, but I'm also going to trust there will be sweet surprises that are beyond what you and I are currently anticipating.

Enjoy today, OK?

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