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La Velle E. Neal III and Phil Miller report on the Twins from wherever they make news

Take it from someone who's been there: Zimmer needs to take time off

Vikings coach Mike Zimmer had surgery to reattach the retina in his right eye and is unable to lead his team tonight against the Cowboys.

It's unknown when Zimmer will be able to return to the sideline. As a fellow member of the retinal detachment club, take all the time you need, Zim, and then some.

Each case is different. Each tear is different. Each procedure is different. Each outcome is different. We might never learn everything that Zimmer has experienced with his vision issues. I can go only on my experience -- when the retina in my right eye detached four times between 2005 and 2006.

I'll never forget the first surgery. Three microscopic holes were made in my eye -- one for light, one for irrigation and one for the tool the doctor is using. The retina was repaired, and a buckle was placed on the back of my eyeball. I will spare you the details about how my doctor got the buckle on, but it's used to prevent any pulling on the retina in the future. A gas bubble was placed in my eye to hold the retina in place while it heals, like a splint for a broken finger. The bubble slowly disappears over a few weeks.

I was supposed to take it easy for a few weeks, but I was stubborn and was back in the office less than two weeks after surgery. Two weeks after that, the retina detached again. My baseball editor, Dennis Brackin, was mad at me for coming back to work too soon to stare at computer screens. It was nice that he cared. The truth is that my eyes are a special case. I had to wear glasses when I was 3. My eyeballs, apparently, are longer than normal. "You have the Shaquille of eyeballs," one doctor told me. I've had cataract surgery. The risks of a detachment were higher for me than most.

So I needed surgery No. 2. Now the doctor began to mention problems with the macula, the part of the retina that provides central vision. If that part becomes detached, then loss of vision is a strong possibility.

I ended up having four surgeries, and my vision has suffered because of it.

Zimmer has now had three procedures on his eye in less than one month. That beats me. Being able to return to the sideline for the Dec. 11 game at Jacksonville appears to be unrealistic. His eye needs to heal following surgery. Retinas can be reattached without a gas bubble, or silicone oil, required to assist in the healing process. Even if he doesn't need that, traveling under those conditions seems risky.

Coaching is a full-contact sport. Zimmer's mood swings on the sidelines have been seen live and in color. Unless technology has improved in 10 years to make it easier to rejoin such a chaotic scene, it doesn't appear to be the right environment to recover from such an extensive surgery.

The Vikings are fighting for the playoffs. But Zimmer is fighting to save his vision, and that should take precedent here.

Twins officially add Hunter, Cuddyer, Hawkins as special assistants

The Twins officially announced Torii Hunter, Michael Cuddyer and LaTroy Hawkins were named special assistants.

Hunter talked last week about "putting the band together."

The duties for the three former players were laid out in a Monday press release.

The responsibilities for Cuddyer, 37, will "include, but not are limited to, helping position player development by focusing on transition programs and teaching an understanding of major league expectations, environment, and culture.  He will also be involved in the amateur draft process and throughout the year as a resource for player acquisitions."

Hawkins, 44, will be "contributing to the development of our organizational pitching philosophies used in the selection and development of all players. Additionally, he will contribute to the amateur scouting process and trade deadline preparation meetings."

Hunter, 41, will have duties "emphasizing heavy focus on organizational culture and major league environment, and spending time with the major league team and baseball operations decision making staff. He will also be involved with the amateur draft process, scouting, minor leagues and trade deadline preparation."

The release said all three will "be responsible for serving as a resource for players and coaches in the mental and fundamental aspects of the game. In their role as Special Assistants, Cuddyer, Hunter and Hawkins will participate in Spring Training, instructional programs, and visit all minor league affiliates throughout the season. They will work alongside the Baseball Operations staff and uniform personnel to ensure development in player understanding of culture, talent evaluation and organizational vision. In addition, all three will play a part in supporting the Twins community efforts, being involved in charities and community work throughout Twins Territory."