The sudden death of Twins great Kirby Puckett at age 45 has left a pall over the Twins' spring training camp that has overshadowed and disrupted camp activity.
The Twins' spring already had been disrupted more than most by the World Baseball Classic, which claimed nine players from big-league camp, including All-Star pitchers Johan Santana and Joe Nathan.
Most of the players in camp never knew Puckett, and many are too young to have seen much of his playing career. But the lingering shock and cloudy emotions are clear in the faces and demeanors of almost everyone around them, from the manager, the coaching staff, all the special instructors and the team's star player to the clubhouse guys.
Center fielder Torii Hunter, in fact, said he hasn't felt a drive to play for much of the week, even after coming back from two personal days Sunday and Monday to deal with his emotions.
"I just didn't have no edge for baseball," said Hunter, who played Friday and had a run-scoring double. "Once (special coach) Tony Oliva and (former Twins coach) Al Newman told me what happened, I couldn't function."
Hunter, who was constantly called "Little Puck" over the years by Puckett, said he hoped to rediscover his edge after the memorial service on Sunday, possibly using Puckett's enthusiasm for the game as inspiration.
Manager Ron Gardenhire echoed that sentiment.
"We're going to play it because of him," Gardenhire said. "Understand, we're going to go out and get it done. That's going to be our motto for the year, out of respect. He's going to be a bright light for us, I hope."
For now, it might just be a matter of when the light is turned on.
"I'm not a prophet. I can't see the future," Hunter said. "All I know is maybe -- maybe -- we get past this memorial ceremony, which is pretty much a celebration of him, and maybe we can kind of relax, think about him every once in awhile and not really dwell on it. Because we know he wants us to go out there and take care of business on the field and always have fun and smile.
"But we're human. We can talk about that all day, but we're human."
NOTES, QUOTESLHP Johan Santana was allowed to throw 61 pitches in his World Baseball Classic opener Tuesday, 11 more than the limit the Twins agreed to allow. Team officials were not pleased. "Don't get me started," said Twins manager Ron Gardenhire, who has had other issues with the WBC as well. "Don't even go there."LF Shannon Stewart, who has been bothered by injuries all three seasons he's been with the Twins, has developed a sore left heel that kept him out of Friday's game. Manager Ron Gardenhire said he'll be cautious the rest of the spring with Stewart, who was expected to return to the lineup Saturday.2B Luis Castillo, the three-time All-Star acquired in an offseason trade from the Marlins, hasn't shaken the soreness in his left quadriceps that hampered him at the end of last season. It kept him out of Friday's game, and he wasn't expected to return to the lineup until at least Tuesday. Castillo has expressed concern about playing every day on the Metrodome's artificial surface.3B Tony Batista had two hits Friday to improve to 3 for 16 this spring (.188), but the former 40-home run man has nothing but singles, and his slow start has shined a spotlight on young 3B Terry Tiffee (9 for 21, .429). But manager Ron Gardenhire stressed it's early in camp and downplayed the possibility of a serious position battle brewing at this point.Former Twins pitcher RHP LaTroy Hawkins made a quick impression on his old mates when he saw them for the first time this spring before his Baltimore Orioles played the Twins in an exhibition. Hawkins snuck into the Twins clubhouse and cut the seat out of Twins coach Steve Liddle's underwear and the toes off his socks. With most of the team filing to the bus to get ready to depart, Liddle was heard saying from the back room, "This is war!"
BY THE NUMBERS: .083 -- 3B Tony Batista's spring batting average (1 for 12) through nine games.
QUOTE TO NOTE: "It's hard to believe that it's happened. I think I'm dreaming. I don't think it could be possible, but I know it's a reality." -- Former Twins great Tony Oliva, the Twins' former hitting coach, on the passing of Kirby Puckett. Oliva was his hitting coach.
In this edition of Quick Hits, Shannon Stewart continues to be bothered by a sore heel, Tony Batista finally finds his lumber, Johan Santana is getting a workout in the WBC, and much more.
An inside look at Spring Training.
Stewart should return on Saturday.