The Twins were crisp on Saturday afternoon and, thankfully, we're not talking about Coco Crisp.
If the Boston Red Sox had their way, Coco would be the Twins center fielder, lefthander Jon Lester would be in the starting rotation, and Johan Santana would be getting adulation in Fenway Park rather than boos in Shea Stadium.
We're only three weeks into the post-Johan era, but you would rather take your chances on the potential of center fielder Carlos Gomez and pitchers Kevin Mulvey and Deolis Guerra than to have a deal featuring a mediocre veteran (Crisp) and a capable lefty (Lester).
The crispness that a Cap Day audience announced at 34,210 witnessed Saturday in the Metrodome came in the field. This was a trademark of the Twins -- making plays -- during the franchise's Great Turnaround early in this decade.
The Twins were nothing special in this area last season, with the exception of Torii Hunter's ongoing excellence in center field. They finished in the American League's middle -- seventh -- in fielding percentage.
That was more an irritant than a primary reason for the Twins' finish below .500 for the first time since 2000.
The '07 Twins were so feeble with the bats that they were willing to sacrifice making plays for getting a few hits this season. The evidence of this was bringing in Mike Lamb to play third base and Brendan Harris to play second.
To counter this, the Twins also added Adam Everett, the very solid Houston shortstop who missed much of last season because of a broken leg.
That hasn't worked out so well. Everett has three errors in nine games, including a throwing error that triggered Monday's collapse in Detroit.
He had not played since because of a sore right shoulder. Manager Ron Gardenhire had been campaigning to get Everett on the disabled list. That finally happened Saturday, with infielder Brian Buscher being recalled.
Nick Punto made his second start at shortstop and contributed mightily to what Gardenhire said was his team's best fielding game of the season.
"We haven't been getting two [outs] on those balls in the middle of the diamond,'' Gardenhire said. "Today, Nick was all over the field. Brendan Harris made an outstanding play at second. And [Justin] Morneau was fantastic at first base.''
Nick Blackburn kept throwing sinkers and cutters over the plate, giving his infielders a chance to turn ground balls into outs. When the rookie needed some help to keep Cleveland off the scoreboard, left fielder Delmon Young threw a bullet, and catcher Joe Mauer blocked the plate, and Asdrubal Cabrera was the second out in the third rather than the first run.
Blackburn went 7 2/3 innings for a 3-0 victory that was his first in the big leagues. He proved again Saturday that if a pitcher with a live arm throws strikes, he's going to get outs anywhere, including the American League.
There were four double plays --and three received a hard-to-earn circle for fielding excellence on the official Reusse scoresheet. Only the double play to end the top of the first inning was routine.
Cleveland's second ended with a double play that started with Harris' diving stop to his right. Morneau finished it by stretching down the line to corral Punto's relay while keeping contact with the bag.
In the fifth, Blackburn fielded Cabrera's hopper, Punto took the throw and made a terrific turn. And then in the seventh, David Dellucci hit a hopper to Morneau, the first baseman unloaded his throw, Punto went high to get the ball, came down on the bag and relayed to a retreating Morneau.
The Canadian strongman was a hacker at first base when he replaced Doug Mientkiewicz in 2004. Four years later, he's turning into the second coming of Kent Hrbek -- big and nifty.
"He reminds me of Corey Koskie and the transition he made as a third baseman,'' Gardenhire said. "Corey attacked the ball with a hockey mentality. Way back, I talked to Justin about that -- going after the ball like he did pucks as a hockey goalie.
"Justin has a great program to work on his fielding every day, and he sticks with it faithfully. And he's turned himself into a Gold Glove first baseman.
"That was a Gold Glove first baseman out there today.''
Patrick Reusse can be heard weekdays on AM-1500 KSTP at 6:45 and 7:45 a.m. and 4:40 p.m. • firstname.lastname@example.org