Minnesota Twins Opening Day Countdown: 8, Nick Punto

DETROIT - JULY 11: Nick Punto
DETROIT - JULY 11: Nick Punto /

The Minnesota Twins are just 8 days away from Opening Day in Baltimore. As we near that day, here is more Twins history related to that number.

The Minnesota Twins are preparing for a 2018 season with expectation after making the playoffs in 2017 as a Wild Card team. We will highlight numbers from team history that represent the number of days until Opening Day on March 29th in Baltimore.

Today as we reach 8 on the countdown, the player we are highlighting was a core part of the successful Twins of the 2000’s. He was far from the star of the team but always found himself in a significant role. As a fan, you either loved or hated his patented head-first slide into first base. If that didn’t give it away, today we are remembering number 8, Nick Punto.

Punto was drafted in the 21st round of the 1998 draft by the Philadelphia Phillies. He would make his debut with the club in September of 2001 and play pretty sparingly with the Phillies. In 2004, Punto would play in 64 games slashing .217/.273/.272 which clearly isn’t much offensive output. It was enough to catch the eye of the Twins. Punto would be included in a trade for Eric Milton which brought Punto, Carlos Silva, and Bobby Korecky to Minnesota.

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Punto wouldn’t see a lot of action that first season with the Twins, but in 2005 he played 112 innings. Punto’s best asset was his defensive versatility and that was already on display. Punto played five different positions including second base, shortstop, third base, center field and right field. He also hit .239/.301/.335 on the season.

The Piranhas are born

The next season (2006), Punto would play a majority of his games as the Twins starting third baseman. It was also his best season as a member of the Twins. He went on to hit .290/.352/.373 and added 21 doubles and 7 triples. That was the season that he became one of the leaders of the Ozzie Guillen proclaimed “Piranhas.” That 2006 team was on quite the roll until they ran into Oakland in the playoffs and lost the series 3-0.

Punto would continue to play with the Twins through the 2010 season. Injuries would begin to limit his playing time more and more. The Twins would also look to try to replace their light-hitting defensive guru with someone with more pop to their bat. The Twins may not have ever been fully successful at doing so, but still declined his option allowing Punto to sign with the St. Louis Cardinals.

Next: Twins Opening Day roster begins to take shape

That season with the 2011 Cardinals netted Punto a World Series ring. Punto would continue to bounce around the league until retiring after the 2014 season. While Punto was never the leader of the Twins as an offensive force. He still had quite the section of the Twins fanbase that adored the speedy fielder. That is why we today remember the Piranha, Nick Punto.