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Bethany and Richard Anderson and 12-week-old daughter Layney get autographs from Minnesota Twins pitchers Brian Duensing, left, and Matt Capps during the Twins Winter Caravan visit Wednesday night at Bemidji High School. Pioneer Photo/Laurie Swenson

Twins Winter Caravan visits Bemidji: Capps says he's ready to help Twins

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Relief pitcher Matt Capps says he's ready to focus on helping the Minnesota Twins move closer toward a World Series championship after signing a contract with the team for 2011.

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Capps was in Bemidji Wednesday night as part of the Twins' Winter Caravan. He and starting pitcher Brian Duensing appeared at Bemidji High School along with TV broadcaster Dick Bremer and the team's mascot, T.C. Bear.

The Caravan is a three-week long event in which select members of the Twins travel around the state and even surrounding states to greet their fans.

Capps, an all-star who was acquired from the Washington Nationals last July, signed a one-year, $7.15 million dollar contract with the Twins on Tuesday.

"It feels awesome," said Capps, "just to get the business side of it out of the way before spring training starts. Now I get to focus all on baseball things before we head down to Florida."

Capps experienced his first postseason last October with the Twins after spending five years on losing ball clubs in the National League.

"It was a great experience for me," said Capps. "I came into a great situation. The guys, the city and the organization all welcomed me with such a great fashion. We played great baseball up until the end of last season and just ran into that chainsaw known as the New York Yankees in the first round of the playoffs."

Capps was not the only Twins pitcher to re-sign with the team this week. Carl Pavano agreed to a two-year deal worth $16.5 million on Wednesday.

"Carl Pavano has meant an awful lot to the team in the last year and a half," said Bremer. "They probably do not get to the playoffs in 2009 without him, they probably do not get to the playoffs in 2010 without him, either. Beyond the 17 wins he got last year, he meant an awful lot to this team as well as the other pitchers. It is just a great signing for the Twins."

Bremer was not the only one who applauded the move to bring back Pavano. Fellow starter Duensing agreed.

"He brings a huge veteran presence to the rotation," Duensing said with a smile. "He is great in the film room, always learning more about other teams. He is a really great teacher as well. He is willing to relay all of that information to us with ease. If it ever gets a little too serious, he is always the first to crack a joke about himself or someone else. He teaches us to keep it light."

The pitching staff was not the only part of the team that has seen key members brought back this week. Designated hitter Jim Thome re-signed with the Twins last weekend.

"It is tremendous for the players," said Bremer, "because of the production that he was able to provide in the lineup. He has become a very popular player for the Twins fans. They really enjoyed having his presence in the lineup or even on the bench, pinch-hitting late in the ballgame."

Although the Twins were able to bring back Capps, Pavano, and Thome; they were unable to retain key members of its bullpen. They have seen Jesse Crain, Matt Guerriere, Jon Rauch and Brian Fuentes all go to other teams in free agency.

"One thing about the Twins is that they always find a way to go out and get somebody or someone comes up from the minors and steps up," said Capps. "This year is kind of unique, we have a guy named Joe Nathan coming back. That in itself is like a big signing or a big blockbuster trade. I think we will be just fine down in the bullpen this year."

Duensing was a former member in that bullpen last season, until being promoted into the starting rotation.

"I was a starter my whole life growing up, in high school and college," said Duensing. "I liked getting back into my routine as a starter. It is a lot easier for me mentally to prepare for a game that way."

The two pitchers and the broadcaster spoke to and even took some questions from the large crowd of fans at the high school.

"We can just sense an eagerness that the Twins are very popular in this region, now maybe more popular than they've ever been," said Bremer. "We are closer now to the next season than we are to the end of the last one. We are over the hump and baseball is right around the corner."

Baseball is right around the corner, the Twins will begin their season on April 1 when they travel to Toronto to play the Blue Jays.

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