1/24/2014 11:37 P.M. ET
TwinsFest has successful Target Field debut
By Rhett Bollinger / MLB.com
MINNEAPOLIS -- TwinsFest officially moved to Target Field on Friday, as thousands of fans filed into the ballpark on a snowy first day of the three-day event, which was formerly held at the Metrodome.
More than 70 current, former and future Twins players were on hand for TwinsFest, which allowed for far more fan interaction with the players at the new venue.
"We're excited, but at the same time we were apprehensive because TwinsFest at the Metrodome worked so well for so many years," Twins president Dave St. Peter said. "We tried to communicate it's a different event. But so far, so good. We've seen a few things we might want to tweak, but at the end of the day, it's been a lot of fun and fans are getting a chance to interact with players and get autographs and bid on memorabilia and raise money for the Twins Community Fund."
Many new features were added to TwinsFest this year, such as clubhouse tours, a chance to hit in the batting cages, interactive games with Twins players, the inaugural Twins Yard Sale and a "White Glove" tour hosted by team curator Clyde Doepner.
TwinsFest still includes autograph and photo sessions with players, as well as the region's largest sports memorabilia and collector's show, while adding increased player involvement. By Friday, tickets for Saturday sold out, but tickets were still available for Sunday.
"I think the best part of TwinsFest is that fans are accessing areas of Target Field they've never seen," St. Peter said. "That's a pretty cool thing. To see the look on a kid's face when he walks into the clubhouse, or for fans to be able to access the Metropolitan or Champions Club is a good experience."
Buxton, Sano are big hits at TwinsFest
MINNEAPOLIS -- While nearly every player on the Twins' 40-man roster was in attendance at TwinsFest on Friday, it was top prospects Byron Buxton and Miguel Sano who drew some of the biggest autograph lines from fans at Target Field.
It marked the first TwinsFest for Buxton, who was named the No. 1 overall prospect by MLB.com on Thursday, and the second for Sano, who was ranked No. 4.
"It's remarkable how much interest there is in two guys who haven't even gotten to Triple-A yet," Twins president Dave St. Peter said. "We've seen our biggest prospects come to TwinsFest every year since 1989. I'll never forget Torii Hunter when he came, and we saw it with Joe Mauer. So that's been one of the great things about this event is those future Twins. So I think it's a great way for us to immerse them in the culture and show them what it means to be a Twin."
Buxton, 20, said he's been keeping busy this offseason as he prepares for his first big league Spring Training. He's put on about five pounds of muscle and thinks it will help him develop even more power.
"I can tell I'm a little bit stronger by the way I hit in the cage," Buxton said. "My swing is a little more balanced and I'll have a lot more durability."
Sano, 20, is also set to begin Spring Training in Major League camp for the first time and has set lofty goals. The promising slugger said he's no longer bothered by the strained ligament in his right elbow after rehabbing for the last month.
"I'd like to be here on Opening Day," Sano said. "I'm working hard. I've got to play hard every day. This opportunity with Minnesota, they opened the door for me."
Pelfrey eager to improve on last season
MINNEAPOLIS -- Mike Pelfrey made it clear at the end of the season that he wanted to return to the Twins in 2014, and it became a reality in December when he signed a two-year, $11 million deal.
Pelfrey, appearing at TwinsFest for a second straight year on Friday, said he feels comfortable with the Twins and with pitching coach Rick Anderson, and he's excited to be back with the organization.
"This is where I wanted to be," Pelfrey said. "I'm happy that I had that chance. I'm glad to be back. TwinsFest is a little different this year. I actually know somebody. It should be a lot better."
Pelfrey, 30, posted a 5.19 ERA in 29 starts last year in his first season back from Tommy John surgery. But Pelfrey believes he's much better than what he showed, especially now that he's not worried about his elbow.
"I need to get back to doing what I've done before," Pelfrey said. "Someone asked me about last year, and I said, 'Hey, that wasn't me.' It was like a shell. So hopefully I can get back to having a normal year and eat up innings and throw up quality innings to give our team a chance. I take pride in taking the ball every fifth day and eating innings. Obviously, last year was nowhere close to my expectations or standards."
Twins still working on deal sending Albers to Korea
MINNEAPOLIS -- Twins general manager Terry Ryan confirmed Friday that he's trying to facilitate a move for left-hander Andrew Albers to the Korean Baseball Organization.
The Twins have yet to reach an official agreement with the Hanwha Eagles, but it could come as soon as this weekend. SportsNet Canada reported the left-hander would make roughly $1 million to pitch in Korea next year and would be a free agent after the season.
Albers, 28, was the club's Minor League Pitcher of the Year in 2013 after posting a 2.86 ERA in 22 starts with Triple-A Rochester. He also posted a 4.05 ERA in 10 starts with Minnesota. But with the Twins signing right-handers Ricky Nolasco, Phil Hughes and Mike Pelfrey this offseason, Albers was a long shot to make the rotation out of Spring Training.
So Albers has been weighing his options and believes a move to South Korea could be good for him. But he said it's not an easy decision because the Twins were the organization that took a chance on him in 2012, when they signed him to a Minor League deal after he pitched for a year in the independent Can-Am League.
"It's an awfully tough decision because the Twins have been so great to me and have given me so many opportunities," Albers said. "They took a chance on me when nobody else would, so it makes it tough on me. But on the other hand, this would be a great opportunity for me."
Albers, who attended the Diamond Awards on Thursday and is at TwinsFest this weekend, added some paperwork still has to be completed before the move is official.
"Right now, it's in the process of possibly happening," Albers said. "Nothing has been finalized yet. There's a Korean team that has expressed some interest. They're talking to the Twins, but I'm not sure where they're at at this point. But we'll find out in the near future."