Tuesday, February 20, 2007

Afternoon news notes

Cleaning out my notebook from Day 2 here in Fort Trafficjamburg/Misery, Fla.

  • Veteran pitcher Ramon Ortiz missed his second day of camp because of visa issues in the Dominican Republic. GM Terry Ryan said Ortiz should arrive in camp Thursday or Friday.

  • One-time hot pitching prospect J.D. Durbin will be given the opportunity to win the long relief job vacated when the Twins non-tendered Willie Eyre this winter. Durbin, 24, is out of contract options and still is having a nerve problem in his right biceps, an injury he incurred in the minors last year. He said he still has tingling in his forearm, but the Twins hope he will be ready to throw off a mound by the weekend.

  • Gardy has been impressed with Sidney Ponson through the first two workouts. Ponson’s locker is close to the stalls of Santana and Silva, and Gardy is pleased that Ponson has formed a bond with the veteran pitchers.“We like the way he is working,” Gardy said of Ponson. “He fits in nicely here. He’s got a good smile on his face. That’s fun to see. He’s doing it the right way.”

  • After 13 consecutive offseasons, reliever Dennys Reyes didn't pitch in winter ball in order to rest after being the only lefty in the bullpen most of last season and facing that same possibility in 2007.

  • Reyes has been with nine teams in his big-league career. He paid a nice compliment to Twins fans today: “The fans in Minnesota are crazy about baseball. Best fans of anywhere I’ve played. And if you do bad, they don’t boo you like they do everywhere else. It makes you want to do good for them.”

  • Apparently, some people in the front office “misread” one of my recent stories and went to Terry and told him I called him a “failure” for only locking up one of the three players in the middle of the batting order (Mauer, Cuddyer, Morneau) to multiyear contracts this winter. That's just not true. I went back and checked the story. I have the utmost respect for Terry. He is honest, trustworthy and a man of integrity, and I know Twins fans appreciate what he’s done for the organization and community.

  • With Torii's arrival in camp today, the only key position players still not here are Luis Castillo and Jeff Cirillo.

  • Earlier this month, Gardy had a street named after him in his hometown, Okmulgee, Okla. "Gardenhire Lane" was dedicated during a ceremony. Gardy showed the writers pictures of the ceremony today. He said the street is about a half-mile long and it leads up to the ballfield at the local high school. “There it is, right across from the Super Wal-Mart. Eventually, they’ll name the ballpark after me. But you have to die first.”

Torii arrives, talks about his future

FORT TRAFFICJAMBURG, Fla. -- It’s become an annual rite of spring that when Torii Hunter arrives, the scribes bombard him with questions about his future with the Twins. Well, Torii arrived and I fired away.

He’s realistic about the fact that this probably will be his last season in Minnesota. I thought it was interesting that he said the Twins’ focus should be on locking up Morneau and Cuddyer to multiyear deals and extending Santana’s contract. Torii said his agent and Terry Ryan have not discussed a contract extension.

Torii said he’s getting tired of talking about his contract situation with the media, because he doesn’t want to be a distraction to the team and he doesn’t want fans to view him as the spoiled, money-grubbing athlete. Torii shouldn’t worry about that. Fans and media know he’s a man of integrity and unselfish.

Twins fans should savor their Torii memories and enjoy watching him this year. With all the other big contracts looming, I just don’t see any way Torii is a Twin after this season.

By the way, Torii gave me a possible new name for the dateline. He calls this place "Fort Misery." He started coming here in the early '90s, and he says the traffic gets worse every year. Honestly, I think I'd trade this traffic for February Minnesota weather. Well, OK, maybe not.