Jim Souhan
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It's time to say something premature, presumptuous and sacrilegious about Royce Lewis.

Take it from someone who covered Kirby Puckett on a daily basis for years: Lewis, the wunderkind rookie, is the best combination of talent and charisma the Twins have had in one body since Puckett was building his Hall of Fame career.

It would be easy to compare Lewis to Torii Hunter, his friend and mentor, who, like Lewis, played with a competitive fire more often found in football than baseball. Puckett is the more apt parallel.

Both played, and talked about the game and their teammates, with apparent joy. Both lifted their clubhouses with their enthusiasm. Both craved big moments.

That's why, by the end of the Twins' comeback 7-6 victory over Cleveland on Thursday night at Target Field, the game's operative word was "ice.''

Byron Buxton was icing his ribs, after a pitch hit him hard enough to cause the Twins to remove him from the game.

Carlos Correa was icing his aggravated plantar fasciitis and, possibly, Max Kepler was using ice on the migraine headache that caused him to join Buxton and Correa on the bench and in the clubhouse.

Not long after that, Lewis was rounding the bases, pointing to his forearm in a gesture that, in the NBA, signifies "Ice in your veins '' — a way of describing clutch play.

Lewis is working on a glacier.

Monday, in his first big-league game of the season, having overcome two major knee surgeries, he hit a three-run home run and tied the score late with a clutch RBI single in a victory over Houston. On Tuesday, his double helped produce the only run in a loss.

After resting Wednesday, Lewis produced his third big hit in three starts this season with his long home run, after checking on Buxton and exchanging private handshakes and gestures with just about everybody in the dugout.

"He's special,'' Correa said. "I'm glad he's on our side.''

"There's nobody else you want up in that situation,'' Buxton said.

These are star players praising a guy who has barely played in the majors. That rarely happens. They were so impressed by Lewis' talent during his stint with the Twins last year, and his optimism and work ethic during his recovery, that he has earned a special status among athletes who are discerning critics of the game.

"He takes a good, adult hack when he's in the box,'' Twins manager Rocco Baldelli said. "He's also able to make some adjustments in the box … and as the game goes on. When he does put that adult swing on the ball and he catches it flush, the ball comes off very, very live.''

Puckett was the embodiment of a baseball cliché that "the ball sounds different when he hits it.'' Lewis is deejaying his own array of sound effects.

Like Puckett, he smashes the ball to all fields. Like Puckett, he hunts and punishes fastballs. Like Puckett, he is able to put tough pitches in play. And like Puckett, he is a magnet for the kind of loose jocularity that makes big-league clubhouses hum.

No one can predict that Lewis is going to be in the Hall of Fame or be the best player on a World Series champ, but of all the good and great players the Twins have produced since Puckett, none have come as close to replicating Puck's magic as Lewis has in his two short major league stints.

Justin Morneau was brilliant but reserved. Joe Mauer was quiet. Hunter was a good-not-great hitter. Paul Molitor was more regal than effusive.

Now we know that the most important development of the night might have been the second-inning bloop double that eked over Lewis' head into left field. Lewis dove, bounced awkwardly off of his knees and took a divot the size of a Kent Hrbek jersey.

This would have been an apt moment to hold your breath, but Lewis gathered himself, helped repair the divot, walked back to third and prepared to do the improbable, with a smile.