Time to shape up, baseball fans: Spring training is underway

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Sure, it's still February. But the mercury touched 40 this week. Snow is melting and fish houses are coming off the lakes. It's that time of year when hope springs eternal and every team is tied for first: spring training.

Pitchers and catchers have arrived at the Twins' camp in Fort Myers. Workouts for the new season will start in earnest Monday but fans had a chance to rub elbows with the players during an open house at Hammond Stadium on Sunday.

The News Press of Fort Myers has irresistible video of the mutual admiration between pitcher Cam Booser and 5-year-old Molly McCarthy, who got some pointers from the Twins prospect ("Nothing but potential for her," Booser says).

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The Pioneer Press reports there are already crowds forming around the Twins' big off-season acquisition, Byung Ho Park. The 29-year-old has slugged 105 home runs over the past two seasons in Korea and how quickly he can adjust to major league pitching is one of the Pioneer Press' five key questions about the Twins heading into the season.

The Star Tribune wonders if the Twins will finally have a pitcher throw 200 innings this year. Not since 2011 has anyone on the Twins' staff shown that kind of durability. Reaching that milestone would be a good sign of starters going deeper into games. Kyle Gibson, who was only six innings shy of it last year, tells the paper: “The 200-inning mark is kind of a mystical number for a starting pitcher.”

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Manager Paul Molitor tells the Associated Press he's looking forward to the season, now that he has a year of experience as a big league skipper under his belt. He led the Twins to a much-improved 83-79 record last year but says missing the playoffs by three games left a bad taste in his mouth.

If you're thinking of taking a spring vacation to Fort Myers, the Twins have details about attending games here and here. (Travel packages they offered have sold out.)

Their first grapefruit league game is on March 3 against the Red Sox – who also train in Fort Myers – and games continue through March 31.

They'll start the regular season on April 4 in Baltimore with their home opener on April 11 against the White Sox.

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