Whatever Happened to: The 2002 Minnesota Twins
The 2002 Minnesota Twins, revamped with young players, won their first division title in over a decade.
The Twins gave their fans many reasons to cheer, including an appearance in the 2002 ALCS.
Although most fans know what happened to a few of these players (Torii Hunter, Johan Santana, Michael Cuddyer, Brad Radke, David Ortiz), there are the select few that seem to have disappeared.
Once beloved icons in Minnesota, it seems that many of the core players from that team have disappeared completely.
Here is a look back at what happened to some of Minnesota's most electrifying players from earlier in the decade.
1B Doug Mientkiewicz
Doug Mientkiewicz came up with the Twins in 1998 and appeared in eight games. He was the full-time first baseman in 1999, where he hit .229 with two home runs and 32 RBI in 329 PA.
Doug spent most of the 2000 season at AAA-Salt Lake, where he hit .334 with 18 home runs and 96 RBI.
Doug returned to the Twins lineup in 2001, where he finished 14th in MVP voting, as well as won his only Gold Glove at first base. Doug hit .306 and helped the Twins to their first winning record since 1992.
Doug remained with the Twins until 2004, when he was dealt to the Boston Red Sox in a four-team trade. Doug's departure opened the door for future MVP Justin Morneau.
Mientkiewicz won the 2004 World Series with the Red Sox. Since then, he has played for the Mets, Royals, Yankees, Pirates, and currently for the LA Dodgers and has never played for one team for more than one season.
Catcher A.J. Pierzynski
There are probably an isolated few Twins fans that don't know what happened to A.J. Pierzynksi.
A.J. was part of the homegrown nucleus of the Twins that came up together in the minor leagues. But when veteran catcher Terry Steinbach retired in 1999, A.J. thought he was a shoo-in for the starting job.
To bring him back down to earth, the Twins sent him down to AA while the rest of the nucleus went to AAA. A.J. quickly tore through AA to join his buddies in AAA, and was named the starting catcher in 2001.
A.J. was an All-Star for the Twins in 2002 when he hit .300 with six HR and 49 RBI.
After the 2003 season, A.J. was dealt to the San Francisco Giants for P Joe Nathan, P Francisco Liriano, and P Boof Bonser. Pierzynski's departure opened the door for three-time batting champion Joe Mauer.
After a disappointing season with the Giants, Pierzynksi signed as a free agent with the Chicago White Sox in 2005 and helped the ChiSox win the World Series that year. Pierzynksi still remains with the Sox.
2B Luis Rivas
Luis Rivas was once thought of as the Twins' second baseman of the future.
In 2002, it was easy to see why.
Despite a .259 average, 23 of Luis' 81 hits were doubles. He had blazing speed and formed one of the best double-play combos in Twins history.
Rivas only had only five errors in 205 attempts.
But Rivas never developed the way the Twins hoped he would. He spent the second half of the 2005 season in the minors and was released at the end of the season.
He would play for the Durham Bulls (AAA affiliate of the Tampa Bay Rays), Cleveland Indians, and the Pittsburgh Pirates.
SS Cristian Guzman
Cristian Guzman was acquired in a 1998 trade from the New York Yankees in exchange for disgruntled 2B Chuck Knoblauch.
As a member of the Twins, Guzie led the league in triples three times (2000, 2001, and 2003) and was an All-Star in 2001.
He was part of a deadly combo along with 2B Luis Rivas, not only for their speed on the bases but also for their defense up the middle.
The Twins opted not to re-sign Guzman after the 2004 season, and he signed with the Washington Nationals. In 2005, Guzman had the worst batting average (.219) among starting players. He has bounced back, however, and was an All-Star for the Nats in 2008.
2B/RF/3B/SS/LF/1B/CF Denny Hocking
During Denny Hocking's tenure with the Minnesota Twins, he played at least 100 games at four different positions.
Although he never had a set position while with the Twins, he quickly became one of the hardest-working and most beloved players on the team.
Hocking came up from the minors in 1993 but didn't see any regular game time until 1997. Hocking's best season was in 2000, when he hit .298 with four home runs and 47 RBI.
After the Twins beat Oakland in the 2002 ALDS, Hocking's finger was stepped on during the on-field celebration. After Hocking caught the final out in Game Five, he was swarmed by his teammates. He split the nail in two places, and the injury caused him to miss the ALCS, which the Twins lost to the Anaheim Angels.
In 2000, Hocking became the first Twins player to become the father of a set of twins.
Hocking left the Twins via free agency after the 2004 season and signed with the Colorado Rockies. The next season, he played for the Kansas City Royals before retiring.
Hocking is now an analyst and reporter for MLB.com and has a Saturday radio show on Fox Sports Radio.
It is also rumored that he is being considered for a manager position in the Baltimore Orioles minor league system.
RF Dustan Mohr
The Twins signed Dustan Mohr as a minor league free agent in 2000, and 2002 saw him platooned in RF with teammate Bobby Kielty. The two were used so often that the duo was soon called "Dusty Kielmohr."
Mohr had his best season in 2002, when he hit .269 with 12 home runs and 45 RBI and finished eighth in Rookie of the Year voting.
Mohr was traded to the San Francisco Giants in 2004, where he became loved by fans for his aggressive defense and clutch hitting. He was granted free agency after the season.
After the Giants, Mohr played for the Colorado Rockies, Boston Red Sox, Detroit Tigers, and Tampa Bay Devil Rays.
Mohr now plays with the American Association Wichita Wingnuts.
RF Bobby Kielty
The other half of the "Dusty Kielmohr" duo in RF for the Twins, Kielty also saw most of his playing time for the Twins in 2002.
Kielty hit .291 with 12 home runs and 46 RBI for the Twins in 2002, which helped him finish fourth in Rookie of the Year voting.
Kielty was traded to the Toronto Blue Jays in 2003 for Shannon Stewart and Dave Gassner. Four months later, he was traded to Oakland for Ted Lily.
After his release in July 2007 by the A's, Kielty signed with the Boston Red Sox and played for the BoSox until he was released in July 2008 after helping them win the World Series in 2007.
Kielty was re-signed by the Twins that August but was cut 19 days later.
He tried out for the New York Mets in 2009 but didn't make the team.
He is currently a free agent.
C Matt LeCroy
One of the jolliest players in Twins franchise history, Matt LeCroy has the dubious distinction as the player with the most career at-bats without a stolen base.
Used as a part-time C/DH/1B, it was always a treat to see LeCroy in the game, as he only played in 100 games twice during his career.
LeCroy's best year as a Twin was 2003, when he hit .287 with 17 home runs and 64 RBI.
LeCroy signed with the Washington Nationals in 2006. His most memorable moment as a Nat came in a game against the Houston Astros with LeCroy as the starting catcher. Houston stole six bases, and LeCroy had two catching errors.
Manager Frank Robinson, who shed tears for LeCroy while talking about him at the press conference, pulled LeCroy in the middle of the seventh inning. The Nats won the game 8-5.
The Nats sent LeCroy to the minors and after the season offered him a minor league manager position. LeCroy declined, citing he could still play.
He re-signed with the Twins in 2007 and spent most of the year at AAA-Rochester.
LeCroy signed with Oakland in 2008, but when he was sent to the minors, he asked for his release. He spent 2008 with the Lancaster Barnstormers of the Atlantic League.
He now manages the Hagerstown Suns, a class-A affiliate of the Washington Nationals.
P Eric Milton
Eric Milton was acquired by the Twins from the New York Yankees along with Cristian Guzman, Brian Buchanan, and Danny Mota for 2B Chuck Knoblauch.
Milton made his debut in 1998 for the Twins, going 8-14 with a 5.56 ERA in his rookie season.
Milton pitched the fifth no-hitter in Twins history against the Anaheim Angels on Sept. 11, 1999.
Milt's best season as a Twin was 2001, when he was 15-7 with a 4.32 ERA. He was an All-Star that season.
Milton was traded to the Philadelphia Phillies after the 2003 season in exchange for Carlos Silva and Nicky Punto. Milton had pitched only three games in 2003 due to an elbow injury.
Milton was 14-6 with a 4.75 ERA for the Phillies in 2004, but he led the league with 40 homers hit off of him.
He signed as a free agent with the Cincinnati Reds in 2005 and went 8-15 with a 6.47 ERA—one of the worst ERAs for a starter in NL history. He was named to ESPN's All-Overpaid team and Sports Illustrated's All-Bust team.
Milt missed most of the 2007 season with an elbow injury.
Milton signed with the New York Yankees in 2008 but never made any minor league starts and was shortly released.
He was a non-roster invitee to the LA Dodgers spring training in 2009 and made the team. Before being sidelined due to injuries, he was 2-1 with a 3.30 ERA.
P Tony Fiore
Palm-ball expert Tony Fiore signed as a free agent with the Twins in 2001 and quickly became an anchor in their bullpen.
Going 10-3 with a 3.16 ERA as a reliever in 2002, Tony finished eighth in Rookie of the Year voting.
He was sent to the minors in June of 2003 and never made it back to the major leagues. After being released in 2003 by the Twins, he had short stints for the minor league systems of the Houston Astros, Baltimore Orioles, and Detroit Tigers.
He pitched for Italy in the 2006 World Baseball Classic.
Fiore signed with the Atlantic League Long Island Ducks in 2006.
Fiore last pitched for the La New Bears, a Taiwanese team in the Chinese Professional Baseball League.
J.C. Romero was drafted by the Twins in 1997 and was part of a nucleus of players that came up together through the Twins' minor league system.
Romero's best season as a Twin was 2002, when he went 9-2 with a 1.89 ERA.
Romero was traded in 2005 to the Los Angeles Angels for IF Alexi Casilla.
After one season in LA, Romero signed with the Boston Red Sox but was released in June 2007.
He was signed by the Philadelphia Phillies and helped lead them to a World Series championship in 2008. He also became the first Puerto Rican player to record two wins in a World Series. He was the winning pitcher in Game Three and Game Five.
Prior to the 2009 season, Romero received a 50-game suspension for androstenedione, a performance-enhancing drug banned by MLB. He is suing GNC and Vitamin Shoppe for lost salary and damages.
Romero is still in Philadelphia and will face the Yankees in his second consecutive World Series.
OF Michael Restovich
Once a heralded Twins prospect and home state boy, Michael Restovich was drafted by the Twins in 1997.
Restovich was part of the September call-up squad in 2002 and appeared in eight games for the Twins. During his next two seasons in Minnesota, he never appeared in more than 53 games and was placed on waivers in March 2005.
Since being waived by the Twins, Restovich has landed with the Tampa Bay Devil Rays, Colorado Rockies, Pittsburgh Pirates, Chicago Cubs, and the Fukuoka SoftBank Hawks.
Restovich currently plays for the Charlotte Knights, a AAA affiliate of the Chicago White Sox.
P LaTroy Hawkins
LaTroy Hawkins was drafted by the Minnesota Twins in 1991. He spent four years in the minors before making his first major league start in 1995.
After several terrible years as a Twins starter, Hawkins slowly moved to the bullpen and by 2002 was part of one of the best bullpens in baseball.
He was 6-0 with a 2.13 ERA in 2002 and was 9-3 with a 1.89 ERA in 2003.
Hawkins was acquired by the Chicago Cubs via free agency in 2004. Since he left Minnesota, Hawkins is 16-24 with a 3.34 ERA while playing for the Cubs, San Francisco Giants, Colorado Rockies (he appeared in the World Series with the Rockies), Baltimore Orioles, New York Yankees, and Houston Astros.
He was 1-4 with a 2.13 ERA for Houston in 2009. Hawkins will be a free agent in the offseason.
Coach Al Newman
A utility player on Minnesota's 1987 and 1991 championship teams, Al Newman, it seems, has always been a part of Twins baseball.
When longtime manager Tom Kelly retired following the 2001 season, the Twins hired 3B coach Ron Gardenhire to manage the club. Newman was hired as the new 3B coach. He wanted to wear his old No. 26, but it was being worn by C A.J. Pierzynksi, so Newman elected to wear No. 62.
With Newman on the coaching staff, the Twins won three of four division titles from 2002-2005.
During the September pennant race in Chicago in 2003, Newman collapsed on the field shortly after leading a hitting session. He was hospitalized with a brain hemorrhage. Newman was unconscious for 16 days. Although he did not return to coach in 2003, he threw out the first pitch in Game Three of the ALDS vs. the Yankees.
Newman resumed his coaching duties in 2004. However, high blood pressure and the need for relaxation forced him to resign in 2005. He took a scouting position for the Arizona Diamondbacks in 2006.
Newman now resides in Elko, MN and is an assistant coach for the Dakota County Technical College Blue Knights.
P Kyle Lohse
Kyle Lohse was acquired by the Twins in a deal in 1999 that sent Rick Aguilera to the Chicago Cubs.
Lohse had his best Minnesota season in 2002, going 13-8 with a 4.23 ERA.
Lohse was traded to the Cincinnati Reds in 2006 after starting the season 2-5 with a 7.07 ERA. Lohse was traded to Philadelphia the next season and then signed with the Cardinals in the offseason.
2008 was a career year for Lohse, when he went 15-6 with a 3.78 in his first season with St. Louis.
3B Corey Koskie
Corey Koskie was drafted by the Minnesota Twins in 1994. He made his major league debut in 1998 and was an everyday player in 1999.
Koskie's best season was 2001, when he hit .276 with 26 HR and 103 RBI—the first time the Twins had a 100 RBI man since Paul Molitor (113) and Marty Cordova (111) in 1996.
Koskie signed with his native Toronto Blue Jays in 2005 and was traded to the Milwaukee Brewers in 2006.
He missed the entire 2007 season dealing with post-concussion syndrome. Koskie slipped while tracking a fly ball in 2006.
In 2009, Koskie worked out for the Twins, played with Canada during the WBC, and signed a minor league deal with the Chicago Cubs. Koskie was 1-for-5 during spring training but retired on March 21, citing that he didn't want to risk further injury.