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Twins open up annual Winter Caravan

Questions about Dozier, Sano and pitchers' health lead Day 1
MLB.com @RhettBollinger

MANKATO, Minn. -- The first day of the annual Twins Winter Caravan kicked off on Monday, and while he's not scheduled to appear on any of the caravan's four legs over the next two weeks, the biggest topic of conversation revolved around second baseman Brian Dozier.

Two different routes left the Twin Cities on Monday, including a route featuring manager Paul Molitor, relievers Brandon Kintzler and Ryan Pressly, and broadcaster Dick Bremer. Fans at stops in cities such as Hutchison, New Ulm and Mankato all had similar questions for Molitor about next season, especially regarding a potential Dozier trade.

MANKATO, Minn. -- The first day of the annual Twins Winter Caravan kicked off on Monday, and while he's not scheduled to appear on any of the caravan's four legs over the next two weeks, the biggest topic of conversation revolved around second baseman Brian Dozier.

Two different routes left the Twin Cities on Monday, including a route featuring manager Paul Molitor, relievers Brandon Kintzler and Ryan Pressly, and broadcaster Dick Bremer. Fans at stops in cities such as Hutchison, New Ulm and Mankato all had similar questions for Molitor about next season, especially regarding a potential Dozier trade.

Molitor took it in stride, and said that while things can change, he's heading to Spring Training assuming Dozier will still be with the club in 2017.

"Brian has been through the wringer this winter," Molitor said. "But right now, I plan on him being part our team."

Video: Top 10 Right Now: Dozier ranks eighth at second

Other questions mostly revolved around the health of pitchers such as Glen Perkins (torn labrum) and Phil Hughes (thoracic outlet syndrome) -- they've both started throwing programs without any issues -- and whether Miguel Sano will be able to handle third base defensively.

Fans also wanted to know if the Twins will make any last-minute signings before Spring Training, and Molitor said they're still monitoring the free-agent market looking for pitching help. The bullpen is an area where Molitor said he could see the Twins making an upgrade.

Hot Stove Tracker

It made for lively question-and-answer sessions with the fans at the three public events, which all drew large crowds, impressing Molitor with the Twins coming off such a rough year.

Tweet from @TwinsPics: Packed house in one of the best baseball towns in the state. Thanks for having us, New Ulm! #TwinsWinterCaravan pic.twitter.com/z7ADCgroGW

"You understand there was a fairly high level of frustration with the way the year unfolded last year," Molitor said. "I think the Twins understand the importance of connecting with fans and at least try to deliver a message that will resonate and get people back on board a little bit. It's not hard for me to do that because that's what I do each and every winter, trying to envision the way this thing can go."

Molitor's caravan leg did at least feature two bright spots from last year in Kintzler and Pressly. Kintzler filled in capably as closer last year with Perkins lost to labrum surgery, while Pressly had a breakout year as a setup reliever.

It's the second caravan for Pressly and the first for Kintzler, and both were excited about meeting the fans throughout the Upper Midwest over the next four days.

"It's fun," Pressly said. "I love coming to do this. It's great to meet all the fans you don't get to see every day. I really like coming up here. Just gotta stay warm."

Kintzler and Pressly are two of several Twins players on caravan over the next two weeks, along with Eduardo Escobar, Hector Santiago, Trevor May, Byron Buxton, Taylor Rogers, Jose Berrios and John Ryan Murphy. Escobar and Santiago also left Monday, while the other two legs start on Jan. 23.

"This is my first time on caravan and I've always heard it was fun," Kintzler said. "It's just a good experience any time you can hang out with fans."

Rhett Bollinger is a reporter for MLB.com. Read his blog, Bollinger Beat, follow him on Twitter @RhettBollinger and listen to his podcast.

This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

Minnesota Twins