Nelson Cruz looks at his new Twins teammates and it reminds him of the teams he played for in Texas.
“I was young back then with the Rangers,” Cruz said. “We had a similar team with a lot of young guys with a lot of talent. Just put the pieces together and make the playoffs.”
Cruz broke out in 2009 with 33 home runs. The next two seasons, Cruz played key roles as the Rangers reached the World Series.
It’s OK to dream big as spring training nears, which Cruz is doing as he sees potential in several young Twins players like he did during his time with Texas.
“As a team we just need to stay healthy, and we should be there,” he said.
Cruz made it to TwinsFest on Sunday, the third and final day of the event. He met his new teammates and coaches, pretended it wasn’t cold outside and announced himself as a Timberwolves fan.
He knows the Twins need him to mentor some of the developing players, and he’s ready for the role. During the courtship, the Twins and Cruz talked specifically about helping Miguel Sano, who’s trying to shake off a rough 2018 season and turn the corner. Cruz said he’s more of a leader by example but is not afraid to put an arm around a player and give advice.
“Even before I was a free agent, when we came to play here, I thought this was a good fit for me,” Cruz said. “So the choice was not easy, but it was already on my mind. We have a lot of young guys with a lot of talent. It’s a great organization with a lot of history, and fans love the Twins. And I’m really excited.”
He will turn 39 on July 1, but it didn’t stop the Twins from giving the six-time All-Star a $14 million contract for 2019. Cruz leads the majors in home runs hit over the past five seasons, including 37 last season with Seattle.
He feels he knows how to keep his swing sharp.
When asked why his production has not fallen off a cliff as he approaches 40, he quickly shot back, “Stay off the cliff.”
Staying at Target Field
The club announced Sunday that about 11,500 fans attended TwinsFest over the weekend. It was more than the 10,000 the team had projected earlier in the week, but it’s not like the years at the Metrodome, when more than 30,000 fans would show up to get their winter baseball fix.
If the Twins want to grow the event, they would have to move it to a larger facility where they would have more room for activities and possibly attract more memorabilia vendors who were turned off by the smaller crowds and less space to operate in the lower concourse at Target Field.
But President Dave St. Peter said on Sunday that the plan is to hold TwinsFest 2020 at Target Field again.
“We looked at a lot of different options for TwinsFest 2020,” St. Peter said. “Those options included the Minneapolis Convention Center, they included U.S. Bank Stadium, they included the Armory. We went through a fairly in-depth analysis and ultimately came to the conclusion, along with ownership, that, one, fans are comfortable coming to Target Field. They know this building and they are familiar with it.
“Two, we challenged ourselves how we can continue to reimagine this event going forward. To that end, I think you should expect some ongoing evolution of the event. Some changes for 2020 and beyond.”
Series in jeopardy
Officials continue to discuss the fate of the Caribbean Series as the Twins consider allowing Sano to play for his hometown team Estrellas. Estrellas won the Dominican winter league title to advance to the Caribbean Series, but officials decided not to play the games in Venezuela because of political unrest there. There is an attempt to find another country to hold the games, but it is possible that the series will be canceled.