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Twins sign Torii Hunter

Jan. 17, 2003 at 4:30 PM

MINNEAPOLIS, Jan. 17 (UPI) -- Torii Hunter, arguably the most important player on the defending American League Central Division champion Minnesota Twins, Friday signed a four-year, $32 million contract with the club.

The deal, which enables the Twins to avoid arbitration with their All-Star center fielder, also contains a club option for the 2007 season. Hunter made $2.4 million in 2002.

The 27-year-old Hunter was a starter in last year's All-Star Game and is a two-time Gold Glove Award winner. He hits in the heart of the Twins lineup and last season batted .289 with 29 homers, 94 RBI and 23 stolen bases.

Hunter is part of a core of young players that made Minnesota one of the biggest surprises of 2002. The Twins reached the AL Championship Series but Hunter hit just .167 in the five games.

A Twin his entire six-year career, Hunter was the club's first-round pick in 1993. He is a career .271 hitter with 70 homers and 267 RBI in 537 games.

The signing of Hunter leaves Minnesota with just outfielder Jacque Jones and first baseman Doug Mientkiewicz eligible for arbitration.

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