MINNEAPOLIS (FOX 9) - The Minnesota Twins hosted TwinsFest this weekend at Target Field, the annual reminder in late January that baseball season is near.
The festivities started with the team’s Diamond Awards Thursday night. The Twins held a media luncheon Friday, before events got in full swing with TwinsFest at the Fillmore Hotel and throughout the weekend at Target Field. More than 50 current and former players were in town, including newest Hall of Famer Joe Mauer.
The Twins start Spring Training in Fort Myers, Fla., with pitchers and catchers reporting on Feb. 14. The team’s first full squad workout is Feb. 18, and they’ll host John Anderson and the Gophers as the long-time coach enters his final season before retiring.
Coming off winning their third American League Central Division title in five seasons and winning a playoff series, expectations are high for the Twins in 2024. Here is what we learned at TwinsFest.
TV DEAL STILL LOOMING FOR TWINS
The Twins open the regular season March 28 at Kansas City. The 2024 home opener is April 4 against the Cleveland Guardians. We don’t yet know how Twins’ fans will be able to watch the team on TV this season.
Their contract with Diamond Sports, which owned the Bally regional networks, expired after the 2023 season. The Twins’ deal with Bally got them $54 million last season. Now Diamond Sports is going through bankruptcy court. There’s interest in having a partnership for one more year before a long-term partner is finalized. It was reported last week that Amazon is investing about $115 million into Diamond Sports, which could bring broadcasts to Amazon Prime Video, like Thursday Night Football.
Nobody wants it resolved more than Twins President Dave St. Peter.
"It remains a fluid situation. The reality is nobody wants clarity sooner or more defined than the Minnesota Twins. We have multiple options to consider," St. Peter said.
What we do know is that business for season tickets at Target Field is the highest its been in nearly 10 years. The season-ticket renewals are also just under 97 percent, the highest that’s been in five years. The easiest way to watch is to get to Target Field.
CARLOS CORREA SAYS HE’S HEALTHY
It wasn’t the season Carlos Correa wanted after contracts with the New York Mets and San Francisco Giants didn’t work out due to concerns over an ankle injury. He returned to the Twins on a six-year, $200 million deal. Dealing with plantar fasciitis most of the season, Correa hit just .230 with 18 homers and 65 RBI in 135 games. His .230 average was the lowest of his career. He did hit .409 with three doubles and four RBI in the playoffs.
He told reporters this weekend his foot is now fully healthy, but doesn’t blame his 2023 struggles on the injury.
BYRON BUXTON PLANS TO BE BACK IN CENTER FIELD
Another big storyline from last season was Byron Buxton’s inability to stay healthy yet again. Dealing with a lingering knee issue, Buxton hit .207 with 17 homers in just 85 games, all at designated hitter. His only time in center field came during a rehab stint with the St. Paul Saints.
He had an announcement for Twins’ fans over the weekend after having an offseason procedure.
"I'm going back to center, simple as that. What makes me so sure? My body tells me that. I wouldn't have said it if I wasn't sure," Buxton said.
You’ll have to forgive Twins fans if they’ll wait until March 28 at Kansas City to believe Buxton. Michael A. Taylor was one of Minnesota’s biggest offseason signings last year to fill in for Buxton in center, but he’s now a free agent. The position belongs to Buxton, and he needs to stay healthy.
ROYCE LEWIS: ‘THE STANDARD IS THE WORLD SERIES’
The Twins won 87 regular season games in 2023. They won the AL Central for the third time in five seasons. They won their first playoff game in 19 tries. They won their first playoff series in 21 years. The hunger to survive and advance is greater than ever after tasting playoff success despite losing to the Houston Astros. So what’s the standard for 2024?
"The standard is easy, you’ve got to win a World Series. Otherwise a successful season, it wasn’t successful. To me, I think we’re looking forward to accomplishing that in the future and I hope it’s in the near future," shortstop Royce Lewis said. "I think we have the guys to do it, we have the pieces. I’m looking forward to getting after it this year."
Lewis hit .309 in 58 regular season games last year with 15 homers, seven doubles and 52 RBI. Four of his five postseason hits were home runs. He’s ready to help the Twins take the next step this season.