Torii's focus solely on helping Twins in 2015
Veteran outfielder is looking forward to being a mentor, leader
MINNEAPOLIS -- Twins right fielder Torii Hunter appeared on MLB Network's Hot Stove on Thursday and he discussed a wide variety of topics, including his role as a clubhouse leader, his thoughts on top prospect Byron Buxton, his outfield defense and his future in baseball after the 2015 season.
Hunter, who rejoined the Twins on a one-year $10.5 million deal this offseason after playing with the club from 1997-2007, first joked about a commercial he filmed with teammate Kyle Gibson before getting into his thoughts on his interactions with the fans at TwinsFest from Jan. 23-25.
"I went back for TwinsFest and didn't know what to expect from all the fans there, but everybody was receptive," Hunter said. "I was happy about that. I didn't know how they were going to receive me. It's true love there. That's where I grew up and learned how to be a man off the field and on the field. So I've always had love for the fans in Minnesota and I'm excited to be back to help the Twins win."
Hunter was then asked to describe his role as a leader, as the 39-year-old is heading into his 19th season in the Majors. He named former teammate and new Twins manager Paul Molitor among the veterans that he learned from, along with Kirby Puckett and Matt Lawton.
"I've had some failures and I've learned from them and now I'm one of the veteran guys in the Major Leagues," Hunter said. "I have a chance to give back to these young guys and how to fight through things whether it's adversity or soreness or mental tiredness. I just want to help."
Hunter said he's hoping to take on that role as a mentor to Buxton, who is ranked as the No. 1 overall prospect by MLB.com and will be in Major League camp in Spring Training.
"My thing is to go out to dinner with him and hang out with him early in Spring Training," Hunter said. "Laugh a bit. And then I'll be able to watch him and see what he's doing right and wrong. And with the things he's doing wrong, I can kinda help him and guide him. So my goal is to just to get to know him, build a relationship and watch him a little bit before I give my opinion on anything."
Hunter also joked about his age, saying he's not turning 40, he's just 39, but then he got serious when asked about the defensive metrics that have shown his defense in right field decline the last two seasons.
"I can play a solid right field," Hunter said. "Don't get it twisted. I don't know where the numbers about me declining in right field come from. There's no way you measure outfield and say I'm declining. I can't play center field anymore, but I'm still solid in right field and get the job done."
Hunter also added he still hasn't decided if this will be his last season.
"I don't know," Hunter said. "Right now, I'm just taking it one year at a time."