MINNEAPOLIS (AP) -- Minnesota Twins fans don't have a say in contraction, so they'll do the only thing they can: Show up.
Friday night, fans poured into the Metrodome for the annual TwinsFest promoting the 2002 season -- which still may or may not happen for the Twins.
Pam Alexander waited in a long line to buy tickets for Opening Day and said she plans to go to a lot more games this season to show her support for the team targeted for elimination.
Many of the fans said they would have come out and shown the same enthusiasm even without the threat of contraction. After a surprising second-place finish in the AL Central last season, the buzz among Minnesotans this year is a push for the postseason.
"I think they have their best shot this year," Dennis Brown said as he stood in line for player autographs. Brown bought tickets for 18 games this season.
The fans aren't the only ones who think the Twins have a shot at the pennant race.
Handcuffed by baseball's contraction plan for much of the offseason, Minnesota didn't make any significant player moves. But the team thinks it has a chance to win the AL Central for the first time since 1991 because division-winner Cleveland downsized.
Cleveland traded All-Star second baseman Roberto Alomar to the New York Mets and lost Juan Gonzalez, Kenny Lofton, Dave Burba and Marty Cordova to free agency.
"With the moves Cleveland made, I think we've got to be the favorites in the division," pitcher Eric Milton said.
"I think there's a lot of frustration with the guys. We're anxious to just get out there and show we're not a team to go and just get rid of. We're too good of a team."
The Twins return all the key parts of the team that finished 85-77 and just six games behind the Indians.
"We aren't going to ambush anybody this year," general manager Terry Ryan said. "The expectation this year is much higher."
The team's top three pitchers -- Milton, Brad Radke and Joe Mays -- will shoulder a large burden because the bullpen remains a weakness with no established closer and few reliable setup men.
Also back are Gold Glove winners Torii Hunter (center field) and Doug Mientkiewicz (first base).
"If we're going to have an awkward winter, this was the winter to have it because we don't have many holes," Ryan said.
Pitcher Rick Reed, who filed a trade demand in November, is the only question mark. Reed, acquired last July, would be an experienced fourth starter.
"I'm very optimistic about this ballclub," Ryan said. "I think with all the positive things that happened last year, there's reason to believe this team can take the next step forward."
Which makes the thought of contraction even more grotesque to Twins fans.
"It's a real big shame," Craig Rupp, 54, said as he looked at team memorabilia at TwinsFest. "There's a great number of people in the Midwest who are in an outrage."
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