Notes: Twins honor '87 champions
Kubel penciled in as DH; Punto starts at shortstop again
MINNEAPOLIS -- The Metrodome flashed back to 1987 on Saturday night. The crowd waved a sea of homer hankies, a banner for Gary "G-Man" Gaetti hung off the upper deck in left field, and '80s music filled the air. It was all a part of the weekend celebration of the 20th anniversary of the World Series champion 1987 Twins.
Pregame festivities on Saturday included photo opportunities with members of the team, a reenactment of the 1987 victory parade inside the Metrodome and speeches from several former players.
Twins fan Lori Neeb, who attended all four of the Twins' World Series victories at the Metrodome in '87, came Saturday to celebrate with her family. She even wore the same red sequined sweatshirt that she wore 20 years ago as she stood in line to get her picture taken with the players.
"Everyone was just so happy," she recalled of the atmosphere in the Dome. "You knew they were going to win. You just knew it because they just kept winning at the Dome. We just knew at Game 7 they were going to win."
While it's fun for the fans to relive the memories, the members of the '87 team seem to relish the opportunity as well.
Frank Viola, who was named the World Series MVP, reminisced about the electric feeling inside the Dome and the support of the fans.
"To be able to get that first championship with the crowd support behind us all the way made it really special. I don't think we could have done it without the support of our fan base," Viola said. "Early in the season, there were no believers. All of the sudden you look in the paper and we're hanging on and the fans start coming out, and before you know it ... We talk in other sports about the 10th man, this was a true 10th man. They really did make a difference, as far as we were concerned."
Neeb said she was happy to be part of that support, sitting in the upper deck and adding K's to a sign to signify Viola's strikeouts.
"It was so loud, they said it was like a jet plane," Neeb said. "In Minnesota, we lost forever and forever. Finally, someone won, and it was such great fun. Twenty years ago, it was such great fun."
Back in the lineup: Jason Kubel was penciled back into the lineup on Saturday night as the designated hitter. Kubel strained his right oblique during an at-bat on Aug. 11 and had not played since then.
"He says he feels good swinging, the whole package. So let's put him in," manager Ron Gardenhire said. "We'll see what happens. The plan was after the off-day to get him back in there. Well, we're getting him back in there. We'll see how it goes."
Gardenhire decided to give Kubel the nod partly because lefties were hitting .328 off Rangers starter Kameron Loe.
Staying put: Gardenhire decided to stick with Nick Punto at shortstop, batting second, for Saturday's game. Punto scored the winning run in the 10th inning of Friday night's game, but is struggling with a .204 average.
"It's kind of a situation where we'd like to see him get going and bunt more and all those things," Gardenhire said. "Maybe last night was a good thing for him. We'll see what happens."
Punto spoke after Friday's win about his appreciation of the confidence Gardenhire has shown in him by keeping him in the lineup. Gardenhire said that the veteran infielder has earned his confidence because of his defensive prowess and ability to keep it up despite his offensive woes.
"Look at what he does out on the field. He never lets one affect the other. Those are the kind of players you like," Gardenhire said. "He's obviously had some trouble swinging the bat, but it never affects him out there on the other side of the ball. That means everything in the world to you. He goes out and really plays defense, and saves us all kinds of runs playing defense. I have a lot of respect for a guy who goes through troubles like he's had offensively and still never carries it over out there."
Bartlett update: Ailing shortstop Jason Bartlett took part in agility drills before Saturday's game to test out his strained left hamstring, and was disappointed with his performance.
Bartlett did some change-of-direction drills, backward running and some sprinting but felt some tightness and grabbing in the hamstring that prevented him from going all out.
"I was hoping it would be close," Bartlett said. "I was hoping to get to about 80 percent running without discomfort. It was probably about 50 to 60 percent today and you know it was grabbing."
Bartlett left Wednesday's game in the sixth inning when he injured the hamstring beating out an infield hit against the Mariners.
"[Saturday] was the first day I tried to really run with it. [Friday] I jogged and did a little bit of that kind of stuff. I thought it would be all right, but we'll see. Hopefully tomorrow it will be better."
On the mend: Rehabbing pitcher Glen Perkins made his first start at Double-A New Britain on Saturday night.
Perkins, who has been on the disabled list with a mild muscle strain in his left shoulder since May 22, went 2 1/3 innings and allowed one earned run on two hits. Perkins threw 40 pitches and fanned three while allowing two walks.
Quotable: "We can look there and see him on that big poster in right field. He's with us spiritually and he helped build the legacy of the Minnesota Twins, especially the '87 club. He's not too far from us." -- 1987 team member Dan Gladden, on teammate Kirby Puckett, who passed away last year
Down on the farm: Rochester lost, 7-2, to Buffalo on Friday. Catcher Chris Heintz was the only Red Wing to tally two hits and he also drove in a run. Jerome Williams pitched three innings of relief, giving up one earned run on three hits. ... Trevor Plouffe drove in Double-A New Britain's only run on Friday when it lost to Portland, 5-1. ... Class A Ft. Myers tallied 15 hits in its 9-4 win over Lakeland on Saturday. Edward Ovalle went 3-for-3 with a double and three runs scored. Danny Powers and J.P. Martinez combined to pitch three scoreless innings of relief. ... Class A Beloit beat Burlington, 6-1, on Friday. Starter Tyler Robertson pitched five innings and gave up just one earned run on five hits while fanning eight. Designated hitter Eli Tintor went 3-for-4 to raise his average to .311.
Up next: The Twins finish their series with the Rangers on Sunday afternoon at 1:10 p.m. CT at the Metrodome. Ace Johan Santana (12-9, 3.02) takes the mound for the Twins and Kevin Millwood (8-9, 5.63) gets the start for the Rangers.
Leslie Parker is an associate reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.