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David Brown

Hard to believe, but these guys like the Twins in the AL Central

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A thought fluttered around my brain as I toured the crowded concourse at Hammond Stadium in Fort Myers, Fla.

Where could I find a couple of Twins fans to handicap the AL Central?

Thankfully, the ballpark is full of Twins fans; it's where their team trains in the spring.

Settling down on the right field berm (there's a seating concept that should be transferred to the regular season) a search began for Homer Hankies. They're usually a dead giveaway that Twins fans are nearby.

No such twirling, so I looked over and saw these guys with the caps. Sure enough, Adam Kimbler (left) and Nick Tranh were pro-Piranha and had opinions. They also needed windbreakers; both shivered in wet 'n' windy 63-degree conditions.

Here's how they both see the AL Central, won a season ago by the White Sox on the last day, plus one, of the regular season:

1. Twins

2. Whomever

3. Not really sure

4. What was the question?

5. Royals

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Kimbler of Bloomington, Minn. loves the addition of Joe Crede to play third base for $2.5 million plus incentives (Scott Boras: "Curses!"). Crede goes well with Justin Morneau (right), Joe Mauer's sideburns and Kimbler's favorite Twin of the moment, Denard Span. Led by Scott Baker and Kevin Slowey, the starting rotation is a year wiser, and the back of the bullpen is almost as good as it gets with Joe Nathan.

"I think Crede will make all the difference in the world," said Kimbler, who's hoping for at least 100 RBIs and 120 games in the field. Plus, he expects the defending champions to fail.

"I don’t think they’re going to be that good this year," said Kimbler, who used a politically incorrect term that rhymes with "mutt bob" to describe Ozzie Guillen's mental state.

"I think they’re the worst-managed team in all of baseball," Kimbler said. "It’s just a matter of time before everybody tunes him out and turns on him. I’ve been waiting for it. It hasn’t happened yet."

We'll see, but why should we believe a man who left his 18-month-old, Oliver, and wife, Lisa, in the parking lot of the stadium while he watched the Red Sox and Twins?

Hmm? Wha?

"They’re back in the car in the parking lot. It’s just a little too cold," said Kimbler, who wore a short-sleeve T-shirt commemorating the '06 Central champs. "This morning, I told them it might be a little cold and it might rain, so they should stay back. But [the wife] wanted to go. I feel a little guilty but I can’t feel too bad."

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Rugged Minnesotans, eh?

Trinh, who is Kimbler's brother-in-law, doesn't feel guilty at all about living a block from the Twins new outdoor stadium, scheduled to open in 2010.

"From my roof, I can throw a ball into the stadium," said Trinh, who hasn't actually done it.

Paul Bunyanesque boasting aside, if these guys can't handle 60 degrees and drizzle, what are they going to do in the coming Aprils when the Twins open the home season on an ice shelf?

"Hope they start the season in May," Kimbler said.

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