Twins General Manager Bill Smith has taken a lot of criticism in the past year for making the trade that sent pitcher Matt Garza and shortstop Jason Bartlett to Tampa Bay for outfielder Delmon Young and other players.

While Bartlett had a great season and Garza was solid with Tampa Bay, Young, until the past month, never showed the power expected of him.

There were rumors that appeared pretty substantial that Smith was trying to unload Young last year because the Twins had five starting-quality outfielders. But Smith says he never has talked trade regarding Young since the day he acquired him.

Well, one reason the Twins are getting the opportunity to face the Tigers on Tuesday for the right to advance to the American League playoffs is that Young has 11 hits in his past 21 at-bats (five games) with three home runs and 10 RBI in his past three games. Since Aug. 8, the Twins left fielder has 10 doubles, one triple, nine home runs, 31 RBI and a .315 batting average.

The Twins are 28-13 during that period, and Young has 20 extra-base hits.

Until Aug. 9, Young was in a pretty bad slump and wasn't playing much, as the odd man out in a group of outfielders that included Carlos Gomez, Denard Span, Michael Cuddyer and occasionally Jason Kubel. Young had only six doubles, one triple, three home runs and 29 RBI and he was hitting a poor .263 in 66 games.

Smith is pleased that the deal so often criticized is paying off, especially because of the timing of Young's surge.

"I'm really happy to see him step up; these are big games," Smith said. "Joe Vavra, our hitting coach, has also worked very hard with him, and let's hope that he continues, but he's had a great month and a phenomenal weekend.

"He's got talent, he's got raw power, he's a tremendous athlete, and I'm happy to see him have this success."

Young has helped carry the Twins since the loss of Justin Morneau, but he hasn't done it alone. Kubel and Cuddyer have supplied the power. And shortstop Orlando Cabrera, who got three hits in the 13-4 victory over the Royals on Sunday, has a 15-game hitting streak and is hitting .418 with 19 runs, five doubles, a triple, a home run and 14 RBI since Morneau was declared out for the season Sept. 14 because of a stress fracture in his back.

"I know Gardy [manager Ron Gardenhire] was very high on him, and our scouting reports were very good on him, and he's been a winner," Smith said about the shortstop. "He's been in the playoffs, I think, four times in the last five years, and he's brought some new energy to us, and he's really swung the bat well here in the last two months that we've had him."

Smith was asked whether he wants to bring back Cabrera, a free agent, for next season, but he didn't want to worry about that now.

"We'll work on that afterwards," he said.

Knows the Packers

Brett Favre was asked whether his knowledge of the Packers -- remember, he played 16 seasons for Green Bay -- will help in tonight's game against his former team.

"Maybe a little bit, but we still have to play," the veteran quarterback said.

"I'm sure they are saying the same thing. I've played so long that, for example, Mike Singletary [49ers coach] last week -- 98 percent of the guys on this team don't know that I played against him. I've played against him as a player, and now he is a coach. Is that much of an advantage for him against me because he played against me or coached against me?

"You still have to play. We lost to him [Singletary] last year. We were fortunate enough to beat him this year. I don't think it had anything to do with the outcomes.

"I think knowing a team or being familiar with a team, it's more off schemes than any individual player. I can tell you a little bit about most of their [Packers] players, what type of player and what to expect, but you still have to play. We have to play at a high level to beat them. They're a good football team. I know that."

The Vikings defense will be the key to the game. The Packers offensive line is nowhere near as good as it has been in the past. For the Vikings to win they need to be tough on Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers. And I think they will be.


Scott Baker, who will start against the Tigers on Tuesday in the one-game playoff, said there's no reason to expect anything but his best.

"I'm healthy," he said. "I'm healthy and ready, on my normal rest, and I feel as good as I've felt all season."

About his last start against the Tigers, on Thursday, when he gave up no earned runs in five innings, he said: "I felt pretty good. I made some pitches when I needed to. I'd have liked to have been more efficient, but you do what you can sometimes."

Rick Porcello, a 20-year-old righthander who will face the Twins on Tuesday, has started four times against the Twins and has a 1-2 record and has pitched 231/3 innings, giving up eight earned runs and 26 hits for a 3.09 ERA. ...The Twins are fifth in the American League in total attendance with 2,362,149.

There were 12 scouts at Sunday's game, representing the Diamondbacks, the Phillies, the Angels, the Red Sox, the Padres and the Rangers.

Vikings offensive coordinator Darrell Bevell said that the two Packers cornerbacks the Vikings will face tonight, Charles Woodson and Al Harris, are probably the best duo in the league. Bevell said Woodson, obviously, is a Pro Bowler who has great technique, great skills and understands route combinations.

Former Wisconsin football coach and current athletic director Barry Alvarez said he was impressed with the Gophers in their 31-28 loss to the Badgers on Saturday. Alvarez pointed out that even though the Badgers have won 13 of their past 15 games against the Gophers, most of the games could have gone either way. Alvarez praised the Gophers' Eric Decker, whom he called the best wide receiver in the Big Ten.

Cretin-Derham Hall offensive lineman Seantrel Henderson is No. 3 on The Sporting News' list of the top 25 recruits in the nation. Two running backs are listed ahead of Henderson -- Marcus Lattimore of Duncan, S.C., and Lache Seastrunk of Temple, Texas.

An equipment drive headed up by the Wild, Minnesota Hockey and Let's Play Hockey has accumulated more than 1,000 pieces of equipment to be distributed Saturday at Xcel Energy Center, between 10 a.m. and 2 p.m.

Sid Hartman can be heard weekdays on WCCO AM-830 at 6:40, 7:40 and 8:40 a.m. •