Blog Entry

The Twins, Game 163 and 2009

Posted on: February 24, 2009 10:13 am

FORT MYERS, Fla. -- But for one pitch last September, it could have been the Minnesota Twins moving into the playoffs instead of the Chicago White Sox.

Yes, that one pitch techinically came in the dramatic one-game playoff last Sept. 30, when Jim Thome drove a Nick Blackburn pitch over the center-field wall in U.S. Cellular Field to clinch the AL Central title with a 1-0 victory.

But it could have been any number of one other pitches during the month of September as the Twins made their unlikely charge.

"I had a tough stretch during that long road trip," says closer Joe Nathan, referring to the late September swing through Baltimore, Cleveland and Tampa Bay, a trip during which the Twins went 4-6. "We kicked the ball around a little emore than usual. I threw one away."

Nathan cited those as moments that gnaw at him, moments that continue to motivate him.

Generally speaking in professional sports, teams drawing motivation from the previous season and carrying it forward is overblown. Players change teams, they move on. Other things in life come up.

In the Twins' case, however, they may take a bit of motivation from the sudden-death ending to their 2008 season.

"For me, that's over with," manager Ron Gardenhire says. "It's a whole new year in front of us. You can't relieve the past.

"You can use it as a learning experience. It was one pitch. One big hit could have made the difference for us."

Especially for younger players such as outfielders Carlos Gomez and Denard Span, and Blackburn, who is expected to be a mainstay in this year's rotation, the highs and lows of last September can't hurt in 2009.

"It was a good experience for them," Gardenhire says. "That was a big stage. Everyone was watching us. We were it. We were watched. It was fun."

Likes: Minnesota skipper Ron Gardenhire when asked whether last year's one-game playoff with the White Sox will intensify the Sox-Twins rivalry. "Only with us and A.J.," the manager quipped, referring to former Twin and current Sox catcher A.J. Pierzynski. "Him showing the ball to our dugout (after holding onto it when Ken Griffey Jr. threw out Michael Cuddyer at the plate to end the fifth inning). Guys were saying, 'Boy, he really pisses us off.' That's what he does best. We know it. He knows it. That's why we love him."

Dislikes: The Philadelphia Inquirer and Daily News filing for bankruptcy the other day. Several other newspapers having filed for bankruptcy. The bad news in the auto industry. The banking situation. Foreclosures. Thank goodness for spring training. Can we start getting some good news sometime soon?

Sunblock day? Eventually. It's really cool in the mornings this week -- like, wear-a-jacket cool -- but toward late morning the warm sun takes over.

Rock 'N' Roll Lyric of the Day

"City girls seem to find out early
How to open doors with just a smile"

-- The Eagles, Lyin' Eyes

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