Gomez, Hernandez drive Twins' Opening Day win

MINNEAPOLIS (AP) -- Torii Hunter put on his Angels uniform, watched the new kid take over in center field for the Twins, and finished this strange, 0-for-4 night by striking out on a high slider from former teammate Joe Nathan in the ninth.

"It felt like the whole day was in reverse," Hunter said.

His replacement, Carlos Gomez, raced around the bases to give Livan Hernandez and Minnesota enough offense for a 3-2 victory over Los Angeles on Monday.

"Man, I can't even explain what was going through my mind," Hunter said. "I'm glad that day is over. I was so pumped up and so excited to come back here. Now, hopefully, I can relax a little."

The Twins wondered whether the ultra-confident, super-speedy Gomez would relax after winning Hunter's old job with an exciting yet erratic spring training. In one exhibition game, he swung so hard he fell to one knee.

The only one of four prospects fetched from the New York Mets in the Johan Santana trade who made the Opening Day roster, Gomez went 2-for-3, stole two bases and scored two runs.

He trotted home to break the tie in the fifth on a single by Michael Cuddyer against Jered Weaver.

"When he's on first base," Hernandez said, "he drives a pitcher crazy."

For Gomez, it was a "perfect" start. The 22-year-old was so happy for the opportunity, he said he was moved to tears. With dirt covering his pants from a third-inning headfirst dive into the base to beat out a bunt single, Gomez sat in front of his cubicle in the clubhouse and flashed a smile as wide as Hunter's.

They chatted briefly before the game.

"I get a big hug," Gomez said, "and he say, 'Hey kid, go get it. It's your position. You have to play every day here and show everybody what you got.'"

Hernandez scattered seven hits, six of them singles, without a walk while giving up two runs in his first appearance as an American Leaguer. The 12-year veteran struck out one and, craftily mixing in a few of his 59 mph curveballs to supplement a fastball in the mid-80s, was only in trouble once.

The Twins didn't know what to expect, only confident he could handle the pressure of Opening Day. But he put his infielders to the right spots, changed speeds against a savvy lineup and worked faster than advertised -- needing only 84 pitches to finish seven innings.

"Man, he stepped up," manager Ron Gardenhire said, "and that was a real pleasure to watch him pitch."

The Angels, trailing 2-0, began the fifth with three straight singles. Maicer Izturis grounded into a double play, though, which got one run in but squelched the momentum. Chone Figgins followed with the tying single, but Hernandez bounced back and retired the last seven batters he faced.

"We had the makings of something there, but you have to give Hernandez credit," Los Angeles manager Mike Scioscia said. "He got Izzy to roll over on it and that went a long way to minimizing the damage."

Sidearmer Pat Neshek blew a high fastball by Vladimir Guerrero to strike out the side in the eighth, stranding Gary Matthews Jr.. on second and setting up the save for Nathan.

Weaver, thrust into the Opening Day assignment with last year's AL ERA leader John Lackey and Kelvim Escobar on the disabled list, was decent but not great. He was removed after striking out Gomez to start the seventh, finishing with eight hits, three runs, two walks and five strikeouts.

"It's my first opening day," said Weaver, whose career record dropped to 24-10. "I told myself not to be nervous, but when you get put out there it's a little different."

Hunter popped in the Twins clubhouse upon arrival at the stadium and shared a half-dozen hugs with former teammates. The crowd cheered loudly during pregame introductions, while a brief thanks-for-the-memories video of his best catches was shown.

In the first inning, Hunter -- the sixth opening day center fielder for the Angels in the last six years -- was playfully booed after running down a couple of fly balls.

Matthews recovered in time from a sprained ankle to serve as the designated hitter. When Hunter signed the richest contract in franchise history, a $90 million, five-year deal, Matthews became a talented, expensive fourth outfielder.

Hopes are high for Los Angeles, but injuries are currently a concern. Right-handed relievers Scot Shields and Chris Bootcheck joined Lackey and Escobar on the DL to start the season. Shields, one of baseball's best setup men, was scheduled to throw a simulated game on Tuesday to test his tight forearm.

Game notes
Casey Kotchman went 3-for-4 and scored the first run for the Angels. ... The Twins were the only major league team to start the season without a player on the disabled list.