"Nita [his wife] and I were truly looking forward to coming home to Minnesota to be part of the home-opening festivities at Target Field," Killebrew said in a statement. "But it turns out our trip to Minnesota would unduly disrupt my treatment schedule, so we have reluctantly decided to remain in Arizona with a resolve to defeat this disease."
Killebrew, who was diagnosed with esophageal cancer last December, is continuing his treatment in Arizona and remains "optimistic and hopeful for a full recovery."
The home opener is slated for Friday at 3:10 p.m. CT against the Athletics.
In place of Killebrew, Twins legend Tony Oliva will throw out the first pitch to Casey Killebrew, Harmon's grandson. The first pitch will follow the unveiling of a statue in Oliva's likeness, in Target Field's Gate 6 at 11:30 a.m.
"Thanks to my doctors, tremendous progress has been made as we remain optimistic and hopeful for a full recovery," Killebrew said. "We will miss the pageantry of Opening Day and want to wish [manager] Ron Gardenhire and his team the best of luck during the 2011 season. We look forward to seeing everyone at Target Field again real soon."
Alden Gonzalez is a reporter for MLB.com. Read his columns and his blog, listen to his podcast and follow him on Twitter. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.