FORT MYERS, Fla. (AP) -- Two players in the Minnesota Twins' minor-league system on their way to spring training were seriously injured in a one-car rollover crash early Monday in Tennessee, the team said.
Josh Johnson, a catcher with the Twins' rookie level team in the Gulf Coast League last season, and Jeff Randazzo, a left-handed pitcher for Class A Quad City last year, were being treated in the intensive care unit of Erlanger Medical Center in Chattanooga.
The accident occurred around 2 a.m. just north of Chattanooga.
Randazzo suffered several injuries, including a fractured sternum, a ruptured aorta and a collapsed lung, which was repaired through surgery. Johnson was driving, no alcohol was involved and both players were wearing seat belts, said Lanning Tucker, a trainer for Gulf Coast League Twins, who was relaying information provided to him by Randazzo's parents at the hospital.
Johnson was driving Randazzo's sport-utility vehicle when he apparently either swerved to avoid something in the road or fell asleep at the wheel. The SUV then rolled over and crossed the median, Tucker said, noting that the extent of Johnson's injuries wasn't known but were less serious than Randazzo's.
"It tears me up," Tucker said. "They're awesome people."
Johnson, 19, was a 25th-round draft choice of the Twins last summer out of Ridgway High School in Pennsylvania. He hit .141 in 24 games last season for the Fort Myers-based Gulf Coast League team under manager Al Newman, who is now Minnesota's third base coach.
Randazzo, 20, a native of Broomall, Pa., was selected in the fourth round by the Twins in 1999. He went 9-3 with a 4.62 ERA for the River Bandits in 18 starts last season.
The Twins' major league pitchers and catchers had their first official workout Monday. Minor leaguers aren't scheduled to report until March 8, but there are many early arrivals each year.
Three days ago, San Diego Padres outfielder Mike Darr and another passenger were killed in a one-car accident in Arizona near the team's spring-training camp.
GOOD CROWD: About 200 or so people either watched from the bleachers or wandered between the Twins' practice fields to check out the team's first official workout, a noticeably larger gathering than in years past for the first few days of spring training. Most surmised that Minnesota's surprising second-place finish last season was more responsible for the turnout than the contraction issue that left players and fans wondering whether there would even be a spring training for the Twins.
Noticing that many didn't arrive until well after workouts began, Gardenhire joked that the team should have promoted its first practice a little better.
"Maybe they were still on Minnesota time or something," Gardenhire said. "Honestly, though, it was fun. That's the good thing about spring training, getting to walk through the people a little bit and mingle with them. I've been here a long time, so it's a lot of familiar faces for me. I had at least three people say, 'Keep the team in Minnesota.' I don't really know what I can do about that, but I said, 'OK."'
Dave Campbell may be reached at dcampbell(at)ap.org
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