MINNEAPOLIS (AP) – After averaging 97 losses over the past three seasons, Minnesota could be in for another tough year – though Chris Colabello and the Twins’ offense have made a convincing early argument to the contrary.
Target Field is no longer a novelty, with the gates set to open for a fifth season. Twins manager Ron Gardenhire already secured his 1,000th career victory, crossing another potential item of intrigue off the list with a win at Cleveland on Saturday.
Don’t discount the draw of opening day, though. That first pitch at the home ballpark is always special, a rite of spring enhanced by the weather to match it.
The forecast for Monday in Minneapolis is a high of 57 degrees, a downright tropical temperature for Twins fans coming off a historically cold winter and a 10-inch dump of snow on Target Field over Thursday and Friday.
”In front of our fans at home is always the coolest, when you stand out on that line,” Gardenhire said.
Particularly for a player such as Colabello, who will experience his first home opener on Monday when the Twins host Oakland. The 30-year-old Colabello made his major league debut last May and he’s been one of baseball’s biggest surprises early on. He’s batting .391, has hit safely in every game and leads the AL in RBIs with 11 after driving home four in Sunday’s 10-7 win.
”It’s awesome,” Colabello said of his fast start, which has helped Minnesota average 6.3 runs. ”Every day I get to spend in the big leagues is awesome, regardless of how many hits I get or production. Obviously, it’s nice to help the team and contribute. It’s been exciting. It’s fun to wake up every morning and do my job.”
The Twins, who will send right-hander Kevin Correia (0-0, 3.00 ERA) to the mound to face Athletics lefty Scott Kazmir (1-0, 0.00), have been overeager to settle in after six weeks of spring training in Florida and another seven days on the road to start the season.
”Seems like we’ve been gone a long, long time. It will be refreshing to get home, get in front of our fans, in our ballpark. That’s going to be kind of cool,” Gardenhire said.
As of Sunday, the Twins (3-3) had sold about 36,000 tickets for the game, more than 3,000 under official capacity, but the promising forecast raised the potential for strong walk-up sales to reach the sellout.
This is why opening on the road was welcomed. The weather was wintry last week, and sitting outside to watch a game would’ve been a lot less desirable for most fans.
”That extra week is appreciated by everybody. I’m not sure we can count on that every year. We’ve opened on the road for four of the first five years at Target Field and I’ll probably take that percentage if we can maintain that going forward,” Twins President Dave St. Peter said.
The team has a standing request with Major League Baseball to start on the road, but so do most teams in the north.
Oakland’s Coliseum is one of the last remaining venues in baseball that is not either one of the charmed classics or part of the modern building boom of the past 20-plus years, and the team has been pushing for a new place to play.
Last summer, the dated stadium even suffered a sewage backup and bottom-floor flooding caused by a clogged pipe.
The Athletics (3-3) haven’t let that bother them. They won at least 50 games at home in each of the past two seasons. Here, in Minnesota, they’ll have another look at one of the game’s newest facilities.
”Minnesota’s one of my favorite parks to play in, so it will be nice,” third baseman Josh Donaldson said.
Donaldson might just be looking forward to getting out of Oakland. After finishing fourth in the AL MVP voting in his breakout 2013, Donaldson is 3 for 26 at the plate with seven strikeouts through six games.
The A’s might not need much offense in this one. Kazmir went 3-0 with a 1.45 ERA in five starts against the Twins while with Cleveland last season, striking out 36 in 31 innings.
Oakland has won six straight and 11 of 13 against Minnesota.