Twin fond farewells

Twin fond farewells

BOSTON -- The Twins' 3-2 victory over the Red Sox on Sunday afternoon marked the end to what was a difficult 2007 season in Minnesota.

But it was also, perhaps, the end of an era.

After being taken out of the game in the seventh inning, Torii Hunter came inside the visiting clubhouse at Fenway Park and sat at his locker, staring down at the dark blue Minnesota jersey he donned.

Hunter's 1-for-3 performance in the club's final regular-season game may have been his last outing in a Twins uniform. And the fact certainly didn't escape him.

"I looked around and tried to soak it all in," Hunter said. "I can't believe it's real. Anything can happen this offseason, but you just have to look at the negative side and that I might not be back with the Twins. So I just took time to reminisce about it."

Sunday was a day of goodbyes for the Twins. A farewell to a disappointing season and a send-off for their general manager Terry Ryan, who is stepping down after 13 seasons at the helm.

It was also a goodbye to some of the other faces that might be missing from this close-knit group.

Hunter wasn't the only player who possibly saw his last game with Minnesota. Rondell White's outing on Sunday marked what appears to be the final game of his career. White has stated that he's 99 percent sure he will retire this offseason.

Twins manager Ron Gardenhire took the opportunity to take both Hunter and White out after the top of the seventh inning. A gesture that was emotional for the skipper and his coaches, as well as all the players.

"It was tough with all of them -- Torii, Rondell," Gardenhire said of seeing them step off the field. "For Rondell, it was probably the last time in his career from what he's been saying. Yeah, that's touching to say the least. Classy people, classy players and great careers.

"I'm proud to say I managed a guy like Rondell. With Torii, I hope it's not the last time I get a chance to."

If it was the final game as a Twin for both players, they made it quite a sendoff by helping to give their manager one final win for 2007.

The Twins tagged Red Sox starter Julian Tavarez for three runs in the first inning. Hunter drove in his 107th run of the season with a double off the center-field wall to make it a 1-0 game.

Tavarez (7-11) loaded the bases with a one-out walk to Michael Cuddyer before Garrett Jones drove in another run on a sacrifice fly to center. White then finished off the scoring by driving in Hunter from second on a single up the middle for the game-winning RBI.

"It was a nice way to finish it," White said of his at-bat. "I'll leave that one percent open, but I pretty much have my mind made up."

The Twins' offense would stall following White's single. Six Red Sox pitchers combined to retire 23 straight Twins batters. Pinch-hitter Jason Kubel ended the streak in the ninth inning with a ground-rule double to right field off Jonathan Papelbon.

Still, the Twins were able to hold on due to their pitching. Matt Garza (5-7) allowed just one unearned run over his five innings. Scott Baker pitched three innings in relief, giving up just one run on a solo homer by Jason Varitek in the sixth. It was Baker's first action on the mound since Sept. 22, when his start was shortened to just two innings after he was struck by a line drive on his right pitching hand.

Joe Nathan came in for the ninth and made things interesting, loading the bases with one out before he recorded his 37th save of the season.

In the end, the Twins were able to say they finished the year on a positive note. It wasn't the end-of-season victory they had hoped for back in spring. That win would have taken place much later in October, and it's something that their opponents Sunday are still seeking.

"We'd like to be in that locker room with that team on the other side," Gardenhire said, referring to the Red Sox, who now prepare to face the Angels in the American League Division Series. "Those are fun times, getting ready for the playoffs. But, hopefully, this will make us hungrier to get back in it next year."

The question now remains if Hunter will be amongst those Twins hungry to rebound in '08.

It was just a week ago that Hunter endured an emotional day at the Metrodome, taking a chance to bid farewell to the fans who loved him there just in case he would not be back there next season.

Sunday wasn't quite as tearful for Hunter, yet it seemed to encompass more finality for the center fielder.

"Today was a rough one," Hunter said. "It wasn't like when I left Minnesota, but it was still pretty tough. I'm still hopeful that I can come back and play with the team I grew up with. But whatever happens, it's going to be in the best interest of my family and me."

Hunter's hat from the game was still sitting in his locker. One last memento he will keep from his time in Minnesota. If indeed, it truly is now over.

"There a lot of things that I'm going to keep -- bats, my glove, different things like that," Hunter said. "But it's all the stuff in my heart and my mind that I'll remember the most."

Kelly Thesier is a reporter for This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.