Torii Hunter wasn’t certain when he returned to Minnesota last winter whether 2015 would be his final lap around the American League. With two months to go, the Twins right fielder says he has made up his mind: He’s not done yet.
“I would love to come back,” Hunter said. “I still feel good. I still feel young. Winning makes you feel young. Who wants to retire when you’re winning?”
Hunter has played a big part in the Twins’ turnaround season, both at the plate and in the clubhouse. He’s on pace to hit around 24 home runs, which would be the most since he left Minnesota in 2007, and he’s third on the team in RBI, having batted .287 with runners in scoring position. Even his defense has improved this season, though it’s still subpar, according to fangraphs.com’s calculations.
And his manager testifies to the effect he has had on his teammates. “You need guys who can lend a veil of experience, a veteran’s wisdom to your clubhouse, and Torii does all that,” manager Paul Molitor said recently. “At the same time, he’s been able to lighten the mood when it’s necessary. … Guys respect him.”
Hunter is the second-oldest position player in the majors, behind only Ichiro Suzuki in Miami. That’s why Hunter says he would never ask for a two-year contract — “I’m year-to-year now, that’s it,” he said — and he said it’s too early to approach the Twins about committing to 2016.
“It doesn’t matter what I want. The ‘yes’ has to come from the top,” said Hunter, an 18-year veteran who signed a $10.5 million contract last December.
His agent, Larry Reynolds, has chatted informally with Twins officials, Hunter said, “but I think everybody just wants to wait for the season to end. Who knows how I’ll feel then?”
Besides, he said, now is not the time to think about next year. “That would be selfish. We’re here to win, that’s it,” Hunter said. “They know what I can do. I’m not worried about it. I’ve had a lot of free agency, now I just want to play.”
Molitor remembers ’65
The 1965 Twins, AL champs who lost the World Series to the Dodgers, will be honored before Saturday’s game. Molitor had a chance to visit with several members of the team, including Twins Hall of Famer Jim Kaat on Friday, and said it brought back fond memories.
“You felt kind of an attachment to the team,” said Molitor, who was an 8-year-old in St. Paul for much of that season. “For a kid who was impassioned by the game, [it was great] to be able to connect to a team and watch them go to the World Series. We got a chance to watch some of those game on television at school, which was a special thing. I don’t have too many remembrances of the series, other than I was heartbroken when they lost.”
• The Mariners executed an intentional walk Thursday that was more than an interesting strategic move — it was a first. Never before had a team walked a batter in order to pitch to Joe Mauer instead. “It’s not so much the name on the uniform as who’s swinging the bat particularly well,” Molitor said. “They just went with percentages.” Mauer made Seattle pay, however, by hitting a run-scoring single after Seattle intentionally walked Aaron Hicks.
• It’s been a tough few days for former Twins. Vance Worley was designated for assignment on Thursday by the Pirates, and on Friday the Orioles did the same with Chris Parmelee while the Yankees designated Garrett Jones. Deolis Guerra, who spent seven years in the Twins’ system, was also let go by the Pirates.