Twins dig Canadians

BOB ELLIOTT -- Toronto Sun

, Last Updated: 7:32 AM ET

Terry Ryan was in the third-base dugout at Yankee Stadium sipping a cup of coffee last night.

The Minnesota Twins general manager spotted a Canadian before the opener of the best-of-five, American League division series.

"I hope Toronto and Canada has anointed the Twins as their favourite team in the post-season," Ryan said.

The Twins start two Canadians: Corey Koskie of Anola, Man., and first baseman Justin Morneau, from New Westminster, B.C.

They hit back-to-back in the lineup, Morneau, then Koskie. It's not like the customs lineup at Pearson Airport where Americans are in one line and Canadians in another.

They are the meat of the Twins lineup because they resemble prime Alberta beef.

Koskie, a 26th-round choice in 1994 from Des Moines Area Community College, hit .251, with 25 homers and 71 RBIs this season.

Morneau, a third-rounder in the 1999 draft, belted 22 homers at triple-A Rochester and 19 more with the Twins.

When Morneau was promoted to the bigs, he had an unusual night in Chicago at U.S. Cellular Field. In his first at-bat, he hit a ball to left centre, which appeared to get out. However, it hit padding, bounced back and he wound up with a double.

Two at-bats later he lined a ball down the right field line which was initially ruled a homer. The White Sox complained. The umpires got together. Foul ball.

"The ball was foul, but I thought the first one was out," Morneau said.

Ryan observed "a hitter might lose a homer once a year, he lost two in three at-bats. He didn't crack."

Morneau was with the Twins from May 21 to June 1 and was recalled July 16 when first baseman Doug Mentkiewicz sprained his ankle.

There was talk of setting up an electrical fence, the kind that keeps dogs from straying off property, so Morneau wouldn't range too far to his right on grounders in the early days. Ryan says he has improved.

On July 20 Mentkiewicz was activated and Ryan said "things became a little dicey when it came to spreading playing time." Morneau admitted it was uncomfortable. At the trade deadline Mentkiewicz was sent to the Boston Red Sox.

"I don't think once since the trade anyone has said 'Doug would have had that,' " Ryan said.

Next to Hall of Fame inductees Paul Molitor and Dennis Eckersley, Ryan might have been one of the most in-demand people at the July ceremonies in Cooperstown, N.Y.

Former Jays GMs Pat Gillick and then Gord Ash lobbied Ryan to allow Morneau to play for Team Canada at the Olympics in Athens. Then, former Jays president Paul Beeston approached Ryan, who waved him off saying "the point has been made."

The decision was made not to let Morneau go to Athens.

The Twins also have relievers Jesse Crain, born in Toronto and Terry Mulholland, who spends half the off-season in Vancouver.

"Not too many teams can say they have a Canadian at third and a Canadian at first," manager Ron Gardenhire said. "I talked to (Morneau) and he said 'just another game.' I said 'we'll see.' "

Is there a special name for a routine ground ball to Koskie, who throws to Morneau, which goes into the scorebook as 5-3.

Canadian Club?

Maybe Canadian hot corner to the other Canadian corner.

"Naw," said Morneau, "It's just a case of one bad goalie throwing it across the diamond to another bad goalie."

Told of Morneau's analogy, Koskie shook his head.

"He might have been a bad goalie," Koskie said, "I was a good goalie."


Videos

Photos