FORT MYERS, Fla. (AP) -- The Minnesota Twins paid tribute to
Kirby Puckett when they played Wednesday at their spring training
home for the first time since the Hall of Famer's death.
The grounds crew stenciled Puckett's retired uniform No. 34 in
red in front of the third and first-base lines. Flags flew at
half-staff, and players and fans observed a moment of silence
before the Twins' 3-2 loss to the Cincinnati Reds.A Reds player touched the "34" just as he hopped out of the
dugout."It was an emotional moment," Twins manager Ron Gardenhire
said. "That kind of choked me up a bit when I saw that."Puckett died Monday, a day after a stroke. The popular
outfielder, who led the Twins to World Series titles in 1987 and
1991, was 45.Center fielder Torii Hunter, who served as an apprentice to
Puckett while Hunter was in the minor leagues, hung a Puckett
jersey next to his locker and said he will bring it with him when
the team breaks camp and heads back to Minneapolis.Some of the Twins players and coaches will make the trip to
Minneapolis on Sunday to attend a memorial service for Puckett at
the Metrodome."It will be a tough day for everybody," said Gardenhire, who
plans on attending along with other Twins coaches.Right-hander Brad Radke is the only player left on the Twins who
was a regular-season teammate of Puckett's and will likely attend
the ceremony.Reds manager Jerry Narron was the catcher for the California
Angels when Puckett made his major league debut on May 8, 1984.
Puckett had four hits that day."He dogged me forever after that first game," Narron said.
"I'm telling you, the last time I saw him, he said, `I'm thankful
somebody as dumb as me was behind the plate his first night."As for the game, Edwin Encarnacion and Dewayne Wise homered for
the Reds. Encarnacion is hitting .500 (8-for-16) with four homers,
seven extra-base hits and 10 RBI during spring training.Twins right-hander Scott Baker, competing with Francisco Liriano
to be the fifth starter in the rotation, got out of a first-inning
jam when Chris Denorfia grounded out and left the bases loaded."That's probably the biggest confidence builder you can have,"
Baker said. "You want to be efficient in these games, but at the
same time, it's not bad to see some adversity and get yourself out
of it."Hunter scored for the Twins on an error in the fourth inning,
and Rondell White hit an RBI single that scored Jason Kubel in the