Though ending Cuba's streak of nine straight titles was a highlight of the trip, Duensing said it was the unique environment of Taiwan that made the trip quite memorable."The hotels we stayed in were very Americanized," Duensing said. "But if you left our hotel and headed to the left, there was a restaurant where they were butchering a goat on a table outside. Then, if you headed to the right of the hotel, there was a McDonald's and a 7-11. It was very surreal." Early arrivals: Twins Minor League camp is not set to begin until March 6, but there have been plenty of familiar faces working out on the back fields this past week. Among the Minor Leaguers who arrived early to work out are Trevor Plouffe, Toby Gardenhire, Korey Feiner, Dustin Martin, Doug Deeds, Garrett Olson, Erik Lis, Joe Benson and Drew Thompson. Martin and Thompson are currently rehabbing back injuries. An outfielder obtained from the Mets in the Luis Castillo trade along with catcher Drew Butera, Martin is trying to recover from a herniated disk. Thompson is in the middle of a longer comeback road. The infielder fractured his back in 2006 and missed the entire '07 season. Now he's attempting to regain his form in the field. Gardenhire happy for Cuddyer: It took Michael Cuddyer nearly five years to solidify his spot within the Twins lineup. But following two successful seasons in right field, Cuddyer cemented his place as a cornerstone player for the franchise this winter. The Twins 1997 first-round Draft pick signed a three-year, $24 million deal in late January that included an option for a fourth season. Manager Ron Gardenhire admitted that seeing success for a guy like Cuddyer, who as recently as the start of the 2006 season was riding the bench, is somewhat sweeter than it is for most. "We moved him a lot and tried a lot of different things with him until we found out where he was most comfortable and where he fit in," Gardenhire said. "He understands a little bit about himself and what he needs to do now that he is in one place. "I'm absolutely happy for him. I love it when these guys are able to sign and stay here. That makes it easier on the manager when you've got guys who get deals [that mean] they are staying here. We're trying to do that a lot more." What they're saying: "As far as making a statement, I don't think he came out like Muhammad Ali and was like 'You! You!' I think he just says, 'Hey, I'm here to win this job. I'm on a mission.' And there's nothing wrong with that. ... It's pretty impressive, to tell you the truth. That's what I expected." -- Gardenhire, in response to Denard Span's comments that he "was ready for war" in regard to the battle for center field
Kelly Thesier is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.