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Twins replace Hunter with Gomez

March 25, 2008 at 9:05 PM

FORT MYERS, Fla., March 25 (UPI) -- The Minnesota Twins say they will start the 2008 season with exciting-but-untested Carlos Gomez in center field, replacing longtime Twin Torii Hunter.

Gomez, 22, who was obtained from the New York Mets in the Carlos Santana trade and beat out more polished fellow minor leaguers Denard Spann and Jason Pridie, also will bat lead-off, the St. Paul Pioneer Press reported Tuesday. Gomez has impressed the Twins with his speed -- 10 stolen bases in spring training -- and his aggressive swing that has produced a .278 batting average in Grapefruit League play.

"He can ignite a baseball team; that's what we're looking for," said Manager Ron Gardenhire, who picked Gomez to fill the void left by Hunter, who left for Anaheim via free-agency. "If he does get on, he's going to steal a lot of bases. We know we're going to see some good and we're going to see some bad, but this young man is very, very talented."

"Each year, I try to make this team to the World Series," said Gomez, who hails from the Dominican Republic.

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