Twins embrace 'little piranhas' moniker
Club has fun with complimetary nickname by rival Guillen
MINNEAPOLIS -- Twins backup catcher Mike Redmond has long been known as one of the most colorful guys on his team.From his infamous lines like "Smell 'em" referring to driving in runs and "Shoot it" to talk about hitting balls to the opposite field, Redmond has become the man full of one-liners in the Twins' clubhouse. But even he had to admit that the nickname "the little piranhas" that White Sox manager Ozzie Guillen came up with to describe the Twins' pesky nature seemed to take the cake for team monikers. "It's funny, man," Redmond said with a laugh. "It has some truth to it. We are sort of relentless. The fact is that we take advantage of mistakes and we just keep coming after you no matter what. [The nickname] is good. I like it." It's a nickname that almost everyone has been quick to embrace. Guillen first unleashed his endearment of the "piranhas" just a week prior, during a series between the two teams at the Metrodome. And the piranha buzz was in full force this weekend in Chicago as the two clubs met up once again. It's clear that the Sox skipper has long respected the Twins and how they play, but it's been just recently that he has lauded the club for what it has been able to do during its remarkable turnaround this season. "That's special stuff over there," Guillen said of the Twins club. "All those guys, they don't have big money or big stars, but the way they go about their business is awesome. That's why I call them the little piranhas, because they beat you to death. I would rather someone hit a home run with the bases loaded in the ninth rather then get murdered little by little. Those guys bite you little by little and, all of a sudden, you wake up and you are dead." The nickname started as a reference to three of the Twins' speed players -- outfielder Jason Tyner, shortstop Jason Bartlett and third baseman Nick Punto -- or in Guillen's case Nick "Pete" Rose and Nick "Ty Cobb" Punto. But as the week progressed and the Twins came up with more wins in the series against the Sox, so too did the number of players grouped into that statement. By Sunday, it appeared that for Guillen the entire team fit under the category. "The pitchers, too, they're all a bunch of piranhas," Guillen said. "A shark eats you with one bite, but the piranhas, they do it as a group." That pack mentality has been a key to the team's success and having the entire team embrace the piranhas title so freely is a sign that something special really is going on in their clubhouse this season. "Certain things come up over a season, especially a magical season like we're having, and that stuff like that just takes on life of its own," Redmond said. "I think your team kind of grows into that. When people say you guys are like piranhas, you start to be like, 'Yeah, maybe we are like piranhas.' Now it's become huge." Certainly the attention paid to the players first mentioned as "piranhas" has grown ten-fold. Tyner has since seen his share of time in the spotlight, doing spots for ESPNews as well as being the focus of plenty of news articles. His increased time in the spotlight thanks to the praise heaped on him by Guillen, a former teammate in Tampa Bay, has Tyner thinking of a career change for the Sox manager. "I should hire him as my agent," Tyner said with a laugh. Punto was so amused by the differing nicknames each day that it became a daily question to reporters about what Guillen may have used that day to discuss the club. It's something that Redmond feels has created even more confidence in the club that has already soared to a 51-20 record in their last 71 games. "If you've got Ozzie talking about you like that, then you are obviously doing something right," Redmond said of his former third-base coach during his time with the Marlins. "Because he doesn't throw around a lot of compliments like he has for our team. That's pretty big compliment for our guys. [Many Twins] being younger players, that motivates them a lot. They are getting that pump up from someone that doesn't see them all the time." Hearing praise from Guillen isn't something new to manager Ron Gardenhire, who has had a close relationship with the rival skipper. But for the amount of talk that Guillen has generated, Gardenhire believes that he should really cement the nickname for good. "I just want Ozzie to send us little piranha T-shirts, we like T-shirts for all the nicknames we get," Gardenhire chuckled. Gardenhire said that for all the talk he should come up with nicknames for the Sox as well, but he acknowledged that his wouldn't be as original as Guillen's piranha title. Nicknames may not be Gardenhire's specialty, but Torii Hunter has his own idea of what these pesky Twins should be called. Sure, "little piranhas" seems to be a fitting title, but Hunter believes that another one might be just as appropriate. "I've always called this team a group of hyenas," Hunter said. "We're always trying to take advantage of the weak link. You mess up one time and make one mistake and we'll pounce on it. Piranhas kind of means the same thing. You can call us piranhas, but I prefer hyenas." Piranhas or hyenas, no matter what you call them one thing is for certain about these Twins -- they don't appear to be disappearing anytime soon.
Kelly Thesier is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.