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St. Peter: Health will be big for Twins

FARGO -- Dave St. Peter is hoping addition by health proves to be the best offseason move for the Minnesota Twins.

The Twins are banking that All-Star closer Joe Nathan and MVP first baseman Justin Morneau can return to form. Nathan missed all of last season with an arm injury, while Morneau missed most of the second half with a concussion.

"We have a high level of confidence that they're going to be significant contributors to our club," said St. Peter, the Twins club president. "We believe that, and frankly, we have based our offseason around it. ... Getting those guys back, even if they're at 90 percent, those are huge additions for our club."

St. Peter joined pitcher Jeff Manship, catcher Drew Butera, hitting coach Joe Vavra and manager Ron Gardenhire on Tuesday's stop in Fargo as part of the Twins winter caravan.

Gardenhire said based on the reports he's heard from doctors, both those players will have a chance to come back full force.

"We are going to get an opportunity to get those guys back out on the field," Gardenhire said. "If they are healthy, that can be huge, just huge for this baseball team."

The Twins went halfway around the globe to make the biggest external move of the offseason, signing middle infielder Tsuyoshi Nishioka, who has won two Gold Gloves and a batting title playing in Japan. He batted .346 last season in Japan and is expected to pair with Alexi Casilla in the Twins middle infield.

"We wanted to get some athleticism and some speed in the middle infield," Gardenhire said. "We brought in him and we got Lexi and these guys can fly, and we want to be able to do all those little things. ... I've haven't seen Nishi play. I honestly haven't seen him other than on YouTube. Our scouts love him."

The Twins have re-signed veteran designated hitter Jim Thome this offseason and also agreed to terms with closer Matt Capps on Tuesday. Thome hit a team-high 25 home runs for the Twins last season and has 589 for his career.

"Having a guy play for the Twins reach that milestone of 600 home runs is baseball history and that is going to play out in front of us night after night," St. Peters said.

The Twins are nearing a deal with another critical piece from last season. Right-handed starter Carl Pavano, who led the team with 17 wins a season ago, is expect to re-sign soon.

"We are really, really close," Gardenhire said. "I'm kind of hoping it's dotting the Is and crossing the Ts and all those things and we'll have it done. I look for that to happen within the week."


St. Peter said the team capped season tickets last season at 25,000. "We expect to be right back at that cap sometime in the next two weeks. And then there will be an internal discussion about what we do with that cap. Do we raise it or do we leave it at 25?" St. Peter said. ... St. Peter said fans will see upgrades to Target Field in Year 2, including a second video board, additional points of sale for concessions and free Wi-Fi in the stadium. ... Gardenhire said it was tough to see relief pitchers Jon Rauch, Brian Fuentes, Matt Guerrier and Jesse Crain sign elsewhere in the offseason. Guerrier and Crain have been key bullpen members for the Twins for a number of seasons. "It's hard," Gardenhire said. "They're like our kids. I've been with them so long, it's hard losing those guys. You're losing good people. Not just baseball players, but good people. That's not easy."

Peterson is a sports reporter for The Forum of Fargo-Moorhead, which is owned by Forum Communications Co.