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Twins Winter Caravan resonates with faithful

Team president says 'players and fans have enjoyed it'
MLB.com @RhettBollinger

ALEXANDRIA, Minn. -- With the Twins coming off a surprise run to the American League Wild Card Game last year, the optimism from fans was palpable during the annual Twins Winter Caravan, which came to a close on Thursday after two weeks with stops in more than 40 communities in the Upper Midwest.

As Twins president Dave St. Peter noted, there are fewer question marks about the roster than in past years, but it's clear from the questions asked from fans at the various stops that they're curious if Minnesota will sign a frontline starter such as Yu Darvish. St. Peter acknowledged the Twins remain engaged with multiple free-agent starters, including Darvish, and a move could come soon.

ALEXANDRIA, Minn. -- With the Twins coming off a surprise run to the American League Wild Card Game last year, the optimism from fans was palpable during the annual Twins Winter Caravan, which came to a close on Thursday after two weeks with stops in more than 40 communities in the Upper Midwest.

As Twins president Dave St. Peter noted, there are fewer question marks about the roster than in past years, but it's clear from the questions asked from fans at the various stops that they're curious if Minnesota will sign a frontline starter such as Yu Darvish. St. Peter acknowledged the Twins remain engaged with multiple free-agent starters, including Darvish, and a move could come soon.

"We're working on it and we remain in discussions with multiple agents trying to solidify our pitching staff," said St. Peter, who joined the Caravan for a stop in Fargo, N.D., on Wednesday. "We feel like we've done a good job with what we've done with the bullpen, but ultimately we all believe adding an additional starter or two would be beneficial. I'm optimistic we're going to get something done in the near future."

Tweet from @Twins: Eddie. Money! 🏀@EddieRosario09 put on a show in Grand Rapids! #TwinsWinterCaravan pic.twitter.com/N4yfFToYrc

Of course, the Caravan featured much more than questions about starting pitching, as it featured the usual question-and-answer segment at events as well as more interactive activities with fans, such as the ice fishing tournament outside Mankato, Minn., on Jan. 15.

"We're trying some new things," St. Peter said. "We're trying to evolve. [The] Caravan has been around since 1961. It doesn't mean it has to operate like 1961. We're trying to create more interactives with fans and kids, whether it's been through the ice fishing tournament or things we've done with kids at school visits. I think the players and fans have enjoyed it."

The second week of caravan had two different legs leaving from the Twin Cities starting on Monday. Relievers Trevor Hildenberger and Taylor Rogers joined Hall of Famer Bert Blyleven and broadcaster Kris Atteberry on a trip that headed west and then north into North Dakota, while outfielder Eddie Rosario, reliever John Curtiss and broadcaster Dick Bremer also went north, but stayed within Minnesota.

The two legs featured events in cities such as Marshall, Minn.; Fargo; Alexandria, Minn.; St. Cloud, Minn.; Bemidji, Minn.; Duluth, Minn.; and the Special Olympics Torch Lighting Parade on Thursday night in Ely, Minn.

Tweet from @Twins: .@TC_00 left a #TwinsWinterCaravan prize pack at the otter in Adams Park in Fergus Falls. First fan to find it gets to keep it! pic.twitter.com/IK8jOLhAGy

"It's so cool just to get a feel for the people rooting for you during the season," Rogers said. "They don't have an opportunity to get to Target Field too much. So to be able to come out here and meet fans that have been cheering for you is really cool."

The enthusiasm from fans was noticeable compared to recent years, and the Twins are hoping it will carry over into the regular season with more than 90 percent of season-ticket holders renewing, and the Twins expecting more than 2.2 million fans this year.

"There's no question that interest in Twins baseball is on the rise," St. Peter said. "There's a positive vibe about what our team accomplished in 2017. I think more importantly, our fans see a sustained path to success in the future."

Rhett Bollinger has covered the Twins for MLB.com since 2011. Follow him on Twitter @RhettBollinger and Facebook.

Minnesota Twins