MINNEAPOLIS -- Up to now, Torii Hunter will readily admit that the 2002 season with the Twins -- when, ironically enough, they lost to the Angels in the American League Championship Series -- is his career highlight. It's his hope that this season changes that.
"The 2002 season was No. 1 to me," Hunter said. "All those guys on the team were like family. We came up together, we knew each other, knew what we can and can't do, on and off the field. We were like brothers, man. We had a lot of fun."
Hunter and new teammate LaTroy Hawkins returned to Minnesota on Monday, when the Twins commemorated the 10th anniversary of the '02 team that not only had success on the field, but -- because of the threat of contraction prior to the season -- might have saved baseball in the city.
Hunter and Hawkins had breakfast with former Twins Eddie Guardado and Jacque Jones, watched intently as the JumboTron showed highlights of the '02 season and took part in the ceremonial first pitch.
"It just brings back memories," said Hunter, who made two All-Star teams and won seven Gold Glove Awards while spending his first 11 seasons with the Twins. "This is home. This is where it all started for me. This is where I learned how to play baseball, this is where I grew as a young boy to become a man and this is something I'll never forget. It's always stuck to my heart, the Twins organization. They've done a lot for me."
Kohn to get second opinion on forearm strain
MINNEAPOLIS -- Angels reliever Michael Kohn has hit a wall with his throwing program and will now seek a second opinion on his right forearm strain from noted surgeon Dr. James Andrews in Alabama on Wednesday.
Kohn, who began the season on the 15-day disabled list, hurled five scoreless innings in Spring Training but was shut down once the nerve in his right forearm -- a sensitive area for a pitcher -- began to flare up. The 25-year-old felt good the first time he got back to throwing, but a little over a week ago, when he tried to stretch it out to more distance, the pain ensued and he hasn't picked up a baseball since.
Kohn posted a 2.11 ERA in 24 games for the Angels as a rookie in 2010, but he struggled through a 7.30 ERA in 14 appearances last season and wasn't called back up from Triple-A when rosters expanded in September.
Reliever Bobby Cassevah (shoulder inflammation) hurled a scoreless inning for Class A Inland Empire on Friday and is eligible to come off the DL on Wednesday, but manager Mike Scioscia said he'll "probably need a little bit more time."
Jerome Williams (strained left hamstring) will be in the six-inning, 90-pitch range for Inland Empire on Tuesday, in what is expected to be his final rehab start. Williams is in competition with Garrett Richards for the fifth spot in the rotation, which the Angels won't need until Sunday's game at Yankee Stadium.
Protecting Pujols in lineup a priority for Angels
MINNEAPOLIS -- Sure, protecting your No. 3 hitter is always important. But this year, considering the Angels' new No. 3 hitter sports a career .421 on-base percentage, it could have a major impact on how this season of great expectations plays out.
Through the season's first series against the Royals, protecting Albert Pujols was something the Angels struggled with. And that was especially the case in Sunday's 7-3 loss, when the Nos. 4-5-6 hitters -- Torii Hunter, Vernon Wells and Kendrys Morales, respectively -- combined to go 1-for-14 with seven strikeouts.
As a result, Pujols reached base four times but never scored.
"When you have a guy in your lineup who's getting on base 40 percent of the time, you want guys behind him that are going to take advantage of that," Angels manager Mike Scioscia said. "Hopefully, we will. I mean, it's three games. Some guys are still trying to find their comfort level in the batter's box. ... Those guys that are hitting behind Albert, you're going to see the opportunity for them to put up some numbers, and hopefully, they will."
With right-hander Nick Blackburn toeing the rubber for the Twins on Monday, Morales, Hunter and Bobby Abreu, respectively, hit behind Pujols.
Wells, who had just two hits in 13 at-bats to start the season -- though one of those hits went out for a solo home run -- got the day off, partly so that Abreu could start against a righty and partly because Scioscia believes Wells may be putting too much pressure on himself to bounce back from a bad 2011 season.
"There's no doubt about his passion," Scioscia said. "He understands how much we need him. There could be some things players do from time to time that are going to overcompensate for some things they're trying to correct. Vernon needs to get simple, and he understands that."
Adenhart always in Weaver's thoughts
MINNEAPOLIS -- On the morning of Dec. 8, when his team signed free agents Albert Pujols and C.J. Wilson, Angels ace Jered Weaver woke up to an overflow of missed calls, voicemails and texts.
His initial thought: fear.
Still in his mind was the morning of April 9, 2009, when he woke up to a similar array of messages, only to find out his teammate, Nick Adenhart, had died in a car accident a few hours earlier. On Monday, as the Angels got set to take on the Twins at Target Field, that was a thought still prevalent in Weaver's mind.
"I wish he was here," Weaver said of Adenhart on the three-year anniversary of his death. "He was a great kid. I don't think there's just one day where you remember him. There's a lot of days that go by where you think about him and wish he was still here."
In the 103 starts Weaver has made since April 9, 2009, the 29-year-old right-hander has kept the same routine: He'll say a prayer for Adenhart, then write his initials on the back of the mound just before toeing the rubber to deliver his first pitch.
"It's still tough," said Weaver, who took the mound in the first game the Angels played after Adenhart's death. "It's hard to talk about it to this day. We try to remember him as much as possible."
A product of Maryland who overcame major elbow surgery, Adenhart was taken by the Angels in the 14th round of the 2004 First-Year Player Draft. After four years in the Minors, and a three-start big league stint in '08, Adenhart finally put it all together at Angel Stadium on April 8, 2009, hurling six shutout innings against the Athletics with his father in the stands.
Shortly after midnight, though, the 22-year-old Adenhart and two other passengers -- Courtney Stewart and Henry Pearson -- were killed by a drunk driver in Fullerton, Calif. The Angels suspended their game against the A's the following day and have held several tributes since, most notably on Sept. 28, 2009 -- when players sprayed beer and champagne on an Adenhart jersey after clinching the American League West title.
Weaver's most vivid memory of Adenhart?
"He was happy-go-lucky, funny, loved to imitate people," Weaver said. "He loved coming to the field, he loved being a part of the clubhouse, a part of the guys, and not only that, he was very talented on the field, too. It was definitely a tragedy, and it's still tough to talk about to this day."
Despite spending more than $315 million on Albert Pujols and C.J. Wilson this offseason, the Angels only had a 4.1 percent ticket increase for this season. The Fan Cost Index, which calculates the total price to take a family of four to a game, is $159.82 for the Angels, who "remain one of the best bargains in sports," according to the report.
Bobby Abreu's first-inning double on Monday gave him 556 for his career, passing Rockies first baseman Todd Helton for first place on the active list.
Albert Pujols, playing his first game at Target Field, scored his first run as a member of the Angels in the 5-1 win, while catcher Chris Iannetta had his first RBIs with his new team on a two-run double.
Alden Gonzalez is a reporter for MLB.com. Read his columns and his blog, Gonzo and "The Show", and follow him on Twitter @Alden_Gonzalez. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.