The first article, which a part of the ESPN baseball page's "Hot Stove Heater" series, highlights Hunter as the best in the league at making the over-the-wall catch. It is written by Sean McAdam and I highly recommend it.
The other article available exclusively to ESPN Insider suscribers, but in yet another Twins Chatter exclusive, I have decided to save you all the $5 monthly subscription and post the part of the article that pertains to the Twins below. I think Jerry Cransick is an excellent writer and I thoroughly enjoy reading him at ESPN and in Baseball America. Enjoy today's little tidbit, and check back tomorrow when we'll have something new and original up.
By Jerry Crasnick
Twins general manager Terry Ryan was on his way to a winter caravan stop in Rochester, Minnesota, on Thursday, and the sun was shining and the temperature was approaching 38 degrees. Or as they refer to it in the Gopher State, "swimsuit weather.''
"I wouldn't be surprised if I see people out golfing today," Ryan said from his mobile phone.
With two weeks left until pitchers and catchers report, the forecast for Ryan's team is partly cloudy with a chance of finishing first. After the Twins' third straight 90-win season and American League Central title, Ryan embarked on the standard offseason task of stretching his small-market dollars. The Twins signed Brad Radke to a two-year, $18 million deal a contract generally regarded as a good investment given the inflated market for starters and brought back outfielder Jacque Jones for one year and $5 million.
But the offseason also produced some new causes for concern in Minnesota. Elite outfield prospect Jason Kubel blew out his knee while playing in the Arizona Fall League and probably will miss the entire 2005 season. Ryan also had to revamp the left side of his infield when Corey Koskie left for Toronto and Cristian Guzman signed a four-year deal with Washington.
As Ryan prepares to stow the parka and haul his short-sleeve shirts out of his closet, here are four items he'll be monitoring closely in Fort Myers:
In reality, the Twins want Bartlett to assert himself and win the job outright. They like Punto as a utility guy, and a Castro-Luis Rivas double-play combination would be an offensive black hole. Bartlett, acquired from San Diego for Brian Buchanan in a steal of a trade three years ago, is capable defensively and had a .415 on-base percentage with Triple-A Rochester last season. The Twins think he can handle the position. They just don't want to put extra pressure on him by anointing him the starter in early February.
"I'm not thrilled with doing it that way, just like everybody else isn't thrilled with it,'' Ryan said. "It can become a distraction. But I'm always flexible. If it makes sense for all parties, I'll give it consideration. If it doesn't, we'll shut it down.''
Can the Twins' pitchers match their performance of 2004, when they led the league with a 4.03 ERA? That'll be difficult. But the bullpen is good, they always catch the ball, and they might improve on their status as the 10th best scoring team in the league if Mauer and Justin Morneau have breakout years. The Twins are even taking a change-of-scenery flyer on former first-round draft pick Eric Munson, who washed out in Detroit.
"We've got work to do, but I think we're going to be OK,'' Ryan said.
They usually are.