"It's tough," Hunter said of all the speculation. "It's kind of cool to think that a lot of people want you, but, at the same time, I'm with the Twins. It's too early to even think about [a trade]. It doesn't even make sense for me to go anywhere right now. We still have a chance."
No stranger to such rumors, Hunter knew that such speculation could come this season, due to the fact that the Twins have a $10 million option for him next season. Hearing such speculation this soon, though, was not expected.
"Maybe before July 31 or in July you understand why, but not in May," Hunter said. "I wake up in the morning and I see my name and Shannon Stewart's, too. It's tough."
In all the media attention, three different Twins outfielders were listed as options for the Yankees, including Hunter, Stewart and Lew Ford. Hearing his own name was difficult enough, but, for Hunter, thinking about losing Stewart as well would be a big blow to the team's offense.
"For him to go, that's taking a lot from us," Hunter said of the team's leadoff man. "Stew's been in this lineup for three years. He just helped us out tremendously."
Trade talk is inevitable throughout the season, but, for Twins manager Ron Gardenhire, this recent speculation couldn't seem to come at a worse time.
"The last thing we wanted to hear was people bringing up that our players, the Yankees want them," Gardenhire said. "Around here we just started playing well and you start hearing it. But you can't do anything about it."
One of the biggest objections to all the rumors from Stewart and Hunter is the fact that most have brought up their names by writing off the Twins as a club. Even though the team has struggled to start the year, it's still the middle of May and the players believe that is way too soon to write a ballclub off.
"That's cold, I think," Stewart said. "It's so early in the season. Around the All-Star break is when you have these types of talks, but all of a sudden this guy gets hurt and they are already throwing names out there. It's kind of like they're saying [the Twins] are out of it, so we can get those guys."
For Hunter and Stewart, the goal is to try to ignore the rumors and just focus on the task at hand and that is to take an important series against the White Sox. While that's an easy thing to say, it's not something that is easily done.
"You just don't want to hear that every day up until July," Hunter said. "That's the worst feeling in the world. When you get on the field and start playing, you don't even think about it. But when you sleep at night, lay in bed at night, that's when you really think about it."
Back to normal:
The Twins lineup was back to its usual look on Friday with Stewart slotted in left field and Luis Castillo back at second base.
Stewart missed Wednesday's game in Texas due to suffering from flu-like symptoms for much of the past weekend. Castillo was also absent from the final game of the series against the Rangers after re-aggravating the tendinitis in his left knee.
Gardenhire felt that both players were ready to go after getting two days off, thanks to the team's off-day on Thursday. After missing both of his table-setters for the club's first series against the White Sox in Chicago, Gardenhire was very pleased to have them as they start this weekend's key four-game matchup with the division rivals.
"Everybody is ready to go, so that's a positive start," Gardenhire said of the series.
A little pink shy?
Major League Baseball is usually very strict about the color of the bats players use, but there was a big exception made as the league tries to help raise awareness for breast cancer on Mother's Day.
Players have been given the option of using a pink bat for Sunday's games only, along with ribbons and pink wristbands that are available for the cause. But the question remains as to whether any of the Twins that ordered the pink bats will actually use them in the game.
Hunter took his bat out of the box on Friday and gasped a little at the sight. Not a true fan of the color pink, Hunter was unsure whether the bat would be coming out on Sunday, but made sure that he would celebrate the day in some way.
"It would be tough for me to swing a pink bat," Hunter said. "I know it's for a good cause, and I'll donate a bat or anything. But I don't know if I can swing it for a good cause. I'm going to wear something pink, though."
Though he knows it will be difficult for most of his players to use the colored bats, Gardenhire believes that it's a good effort in general and he would gladly take part if he could.
"I'd go up there with it, but I don't get to hit," Gardenhire said. "Maybe I'll get one to hit fungos with one (laughs)."
To prepare for the team's first Interleague series next weekend with the Brewers, Twins pitchers will begin taking batting practice on Saturday afternoon. Gardenhire expects them to take two sessions at the Metrodome before they head to Detroit and hit in the cages there. As for the team's alleged best hitting pitcher, Johan Santana, missing the first series, it didn't sit too badly with the skipper. "Good, it means he won't be on the base paths," Gardenhire said with a smile. ... As for the possibility that the Twins will go back to 11 pitchers, Gardenhire said that wouldn't happen until at least the series at Milwaukee. With the amount of switches that are required in National League games, there could be a need for another left-handed bat off the bench or a speed player. Much of that will be decided on how the starting pitching does over the next seven games, Gardenhire said.
The Twins will face off against the White Sox in Game 2 of the four-game set on Saturday at 6:10 p.m. CT. Brad Radke will get the start for Minnesota opposite Javier Vazquez.