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‘He’s one of my favorites.’ Twins happy to see Polanco back at Target Field

After a two-minute tribute video featuring Jorge Polanco's highlights played on the Target Field video boards Monday night, the former longtime Twins infielder raised his cap as he received an ovation.

Many of Polanco's new teammates with the Seattle Mariners stopped to watch the tribute, which included video of his major league debut, walk-off hits, community events and off-the-field moments with players such as Max Kepler and Eduardo Escobar.

This trip to Target Field, Polanco admitted, carried a lot of emotions. It was his first time back at Target Field since he was traded in January. Twins catcher Christian Vázquez walked to the mound when Polanco was introduced for his first at-bat, prolonging the ovation as Polanco tipped his helmet to the crowd and Twins dugout. Vázquez hugged his friend when he returned to his spot behind the plate.

"It is a little bit strange coming to the visitors' side," said Polanco, who spent 14 years in the Twins organization, including 10 big league seasons. "It does feel good to be back."

Polanco, wearing No. 7 with the Mariners after wearing No. 11 with the Twins, tried not to think too much about his first game back at Target Field, but he did wonder how the crowd would respond. The Twins played his walk-up music for his first at-bat, and he broke into a smile during the 26-second ovation that brought some fans to their feet.

"He's one of my favorites," Twins manager Rocco Baldelli said. "The organization here owes him a lot."

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Polanco, a starting shortstop in the 2019 All-Star Game, ranks 17th in Twins history in RBI (447), 18th in homers (112) and 19th in hits (849). He was a trade candidate all winter because of his $10.5 million contract and the Twins' infield depth.

In the trade, the Twins received pitchers Anthony DeSclafani and Justin Topa and Class High-A prospects Gabriel Gonzalez and Darren Bowen.

"It was a little surprising, but you know this is a business," Polanco said. "It doesn't matter what part of the offseason [it is], we always think about that."

Back in Minnesota for the first time since helping end the Twins' postseason losing streak, Polanco planned to visit Fogo de Chão Brazilian Steakhouse. He ate there often with the Twins, becoming familiar with the staff. The restaurant has another location near Seattle, which Polanco already visited, but it isn't quite the same.

"Not the same staff, obviously," he said. "I got to know these guys, but I'll probably get to know them [in Seattle] because I love Fogo."

World Series wisdom

Mitch Garver, who won a World Series last year with the Texas Rangers, never played in the major leagues with Royce Lewis, but the two players chatted before Monday's game.

"You get in those [playoff] situations, and you see who can rise to the occasion," said Garver, who had three homers and 14 RBI in 14 postseason games last fall. "I was like, 'Dude, Royce, I loved watching you play in the playoffs last year. That was so much fun. You were made for the playoffs.' He did it. I was just like, 'You are worth more on the field than you are off, so run at like 85%.' "

Garver, who signed a two-year, $24 million contract with the Mariners in December, played in four playoff games with the Twins, registering two hits in 13 at-bats.

"I think it was a little overwhelming the first time we made playoffs," Garver said. "I didn't play in ′17, but I got to play in ′19. I just could not break out of the shell or the pressure of playing in those situations. I told myself, if I ever get another chance to play in the playoffs, I'm just going to go. You just have to go for it. Whatever you're going to do, just commit fully and embrace it."

Etc.

* The Twins stacked the top of their lineup Monday with four straight lefthanded hitters — Edouard Julien, Trevor Larnach, Alex Kirilloff and Kepler — against Mariners righty Luis Castillo. "It's something that I was thinking about doing last week, but we didn't lose," Baldelli said. "So, I wasn't going to be the one to do that."

* Zebby Matthews, the Twins' minor league pitcher of the month for April, was promoted to Class AA Wichita on Monday. Matthews, an eighth-round pick in 2022 whose fastball sat at 96 mph in his last outing, had a 1.59 ERA in four starts with 28 strikeouts and zero walks in 22⅔ innings.