Spring training games never count in the standings, but just playing Tuesday's game had special meaning for the Twins.
The team pressed on with its Grapefruit League schedule the day after learning of the death of Minnesota legend Kirby Puckett. Not surprisingly, the mourning Twins were blanked, falling 5-0 to the Yankees in Tampa.
"It has been a tough couple of days and all we can do is go out and try to play baseball," Twins manager Ron Gardenhire told MLB.com. "We know that the Puck-man would want us to go out and do this for him. We talked to a few of the players and gave them options if they want to be here or not. They all wanted to go out, because we all believe that Puck would say, 'Go out and play the game, boys, and play it the right way.' And that's what we're going to try to do."
Center fielder Torii Hunter spoke of having the locker next to Puckett in spring training when Hunter was a 17-year-old in his first spring training. Hunter debated skipping the trip from Ft. Myers to Tampa but decided to play. He went 1-for-2 with a triple.
"I kept thinking, this guy will want me to play," Hunter told Newsday. "He would want me out there having fun."
NOTES, QUOTESRHP Brad Radke, who was a teammate of Kirby Puckett, pitched for the Twins the day after Puckett's death. Making his second appearance of the spring, Radke went three innings and gave up two runs on two hits and a walk against the Yankees in the Twins' 5-0 loss at Tampa. The flags were at half-staff at Legends Field and there was a moment of silence before the game in Puckett's honor.RHP Matt Garza, one of the Twins' top pitching prospects, followed RHP Brad Radke to the mound Tuesday and gave up one run in two innings against the Yankees. He has a 2.70 ERA this spring. Garza, 22, is ticketed for Class A this season.DH Ruben Sierra, expected to see most of his action as a pinch hitter this year, started Tuesday's game in left field. He went 0-for-3.The Twins will hold a public memorial for Puckett on Sunday night at the Metrodome.
BY THE NUMBERS: 14 Members of the Twins' organization who have departed, or are scheduled to depart, to participate in the World Baseball Classic, including nine from big-league camp: LHP Johan Santana (Venezuela), RHP Carlos Silva (Venezuela), IF Juan Castro (Mexico), LHP Dennys Reyes (Mexico), RHP Jesse Crain (Canada), 1B Justin Morneau (Canada), LHP Francisco Liriano (Dominican Republic), RHP Joe Nathan (United States) and INF Glenn Williams (Australia).
QUOTE TO NOTE: "He's getting to the clubhouse before a lot of guys wake up. He's definitely on a mission. You can tell just by the way he's working that it's going to be a special year for him." -- SS Jason Bartlett on 1B Justin Morneau, the top slugging prospect who disappointed last year in his first full season in the big leagues.