Maybe Max Kepler can have that baseball turned into a key chain or something useful. After all, "that ball is going to travel with me for a long time."

That's because the baseball, which the German rifled into right field Sunday, is now his most precious souvenir, his erste Treffer — first hit.

"This whole time I've been kind of suffocating. It's hard to breathe when you're trying to get that first hit," said Kepler, who had struck out in both of his previous major league at-bats during his two weeks with the Twins. "Once I got that first hit in, I could breathe again."

And he can start preparing for 2016 with renewed enthusiasm after making his first start, going 1-for-5 against All-Star-caliber pitchers such as Johnny Cueto and Edinson Volquez. His manager, who presented Kepler with the ball in a postgame ceremony, already understands the 22-year-old will be getting many more starts someday soon.

"Today he showed, even in at-bats that didn't end up with a hit, he grinded pretty good, fouled off some tough pitches off some really good pitchers," Paul Molitor said. "He looks like he belongs. He's just got that presence. He wasn't overwhelmed by the opportunity to play today. … We'll see what he brings next spring and see if he can get himself into the mix."

Staff expected to return

The Twins coaching staff is expected to return intact next season, Molitor said. He and General Manager Terry Ryan "have talked a lot about the coaching staff, training staff, medical staff, clubhouse staff, and I think we are on the same page as far as our desire to have these people come back. I know he has to work out contracts and logistics, but I expect that to happen."

Molitor was mostly unfamiliar with pitching coach Neil Allen when he was hired, but said it turned out to be a great hire.

"From the very beginning, I was affirmed by that decision, by how we connected. The personality fit was great," he said. "We taught each other a little bit — he taught me a lot about pitching. Communication, there's been no loopholes there, it's been a really solid relationship."


• The illness that kept Phil Hughes from making his start Monday at Cleveland grew much worse as the week went on. Hughes was diagnosed with pneumonia, the Twins said, and was not with the team this weekend. He's the second pitcher, along with Logan Darnell, to develop pneumonia this month.

Mike Pelfrey packed his corner locker knowing that as a free agent, he might not be back next season.

"I don't think so," he said about whether he expects the Twins to sign him again this winter. "They haven't said anything, and I can count. I know they've got a lot of guys for the rotation."

Pelfrey said he would like to return, because Minnesota is so convenient to his Wichita, Kan., home; he spent three or four off days this season at home, he said.

• The Twins drew 2,220,054 to Target Field this season, the fifth consecutive year that attendance has dropped. The average of 27,408 tickets sold per game is down 377 from the 2014 average of 27,785.

• None of his players has a weight clause, but Molitor said he has some concerns about conditioning.

"I think there are some people who need to make sure they give themselves the best chance to be successful," he said, "by making sure they take care of their bodies."