MINNEAPOLIS -- First baseman Justin Morneau declared himself healthy for Opening Day, and he was in the lineup against the Tigers on Monday despite missing the last three games of Spring Training with stiffness in his back.
Morneau, who injured his back swinging at a pitch in a Grapefruit League game last week, only missed time as a precaution and feels fine. He played in a Minor League game on Saturday to get ready for the opener, in which he went 1-for-4.
"Everything's good," Morneau said. "I swung the day before we left Florida. Everything went good. The success wasn't very good, but I felt good swinging. So it was a good sign. I feel good. Everything's ready to go. I'm excited for hopefully a healthy season that continues into the playoffs for us."
Morneau, 31, knows it's an important season for him, as he's in the final year of his contract. But he fared well in Spring Training and in the World Baseball Classic, and he heads into this season much healthier than in recent years.
"The only thing that matters to me is being in the race in September," he said. "If I'm healthy, I think I can help us have a lot better chance of making the playoffs or being in that playoff run, battling for those spots, either the division or those Wild Card spots, whatever they are. Anything's possible. I'm still young enough. I think I proved it myself last year that when I'm healthy, I feel can contribute."
He's number ... 2? Mauer bats second on Opening Day
MINNEAPOLIS -- When manager Ron Gardenhire unveiled his Opening Day lineup on Monday, there was a surprise, with catcher Joe Mauer getting the start as the No. 2 hitter for just the 74th time in his career.
Mauer, who hit second only 10 times over the previous three seasons, got the nod in the two-hole, with second baseman Brian Dozier sliding from second to bat eighth against Tigers ace Justin Verlander.
He went 2-for-4 with a run scored in the 4-2 loss.
"I want [Mauer] to bat first, second and third, but I can only bat him in one place, so we chose second," Gardenhire joked. "As [hitting coach Tom] Brunansky and I talked, we talked about 'ambush.' So we're going to ambush at the top with all these hitters and go from there."
Mauer, who led the American League with a .416 on-base percentage in 2012, is fine with the move, behind rookie Aaron Hicks and in front of sluggers Josh Willingham, Justin Morneau and Ryan Doumit.
"I told Gardy that I don't have a problem wherever he puts me in the lineup, as long as I'm in the lineup," Mauer said. "And [I'll do] what gives us our best chance to score runs, so hopefully we can get some runs."
Gardenhire, though, said the move isn't permanent and that Mauer can move to his usual third spot if someone like Dozier proves capable of batting second.
"It's for today, and we can always adjust as we go along," Gardenhire said.
The future begins now for prospect Hicks
MINNEAPOLIS -- Top prospect Aaron Hicks made his Twins debut on Monday, starting in center field and batting leadoff against the Tigers. He went 0-for-4 in the 4-2 loss.
Hicks, the No. 98 overall prospect according to MLB.com, made the team after an impressive Spring Training. Hicks, who went to camp without having ever played above Double-A, hit .370 with four homers, six doubles, 18 runs and 18 RBIs in 22 Grapefruit League games.
"I feel good," Hicks said. "I just want to go out there and help my team win and just enjoy the moment. Of course, you're kind of nervous. But I'm just trying to overcome it and relax and do what I know I can do."
Hicks got some advice from catcher Joe Mauer, who made a similar jump when he played in his first Opening Day for the Twins in 2004 after skipping Triple-A.
"It's an exciting time," Mauer said. "You can't really do anything to prepare for it. You just have to go out there and play but keep reminding yourself [that] it's the same game, you earned it. This is the first of many, so get the first one under your belt and go from there."
Chilly beginning to campaign for boys of summer
MINNEAPOLIS -- The Twins hosted one of the coldest season openers in team history on Monday, with a game-time temperature of 34.
The opening-game record was set in 1962, with a temperature of 33 at Metropolitan Stadium. The record for the coldest game ever played by the Twins is 32 degrees, set against the Yankees at Metropolitan Stadium on May 2, 1967.
The Twins were able to avoid the cold in recent years, as they played in the Metrodome from 1982 to 2009 before moving to Target Field. The previous three openers at Target Field were much warmer, as it was 65 degrees in 2010, 63 degrees in 2011 and 45 degrees in 2012.
"We've got to stay positive," first baseman Justin Morneau said. "There's nothing you can do to change the weather, control the weather. Both teams have to play in it. We both came from Florida. There's no advantage. It's not like we've been up here playing in cold weather for a month or anything like that."
Catcher Joe Mauer, who grew up in St. Paul, doesn't remember playing in such cold temperatures in Minnesota. His coldest game came in 2002, when he was with Class A Quad Cities.
"It was opening night, and we ended up going 17 innings into the night," Mauer said. "So it'll be cold out there. But as Justin said, both teams have to go out there and play. There's nothing we change about it. We just have to go out there and play the game."
Pregame ceremony features moment of silence, Twins alumni
MINNEAPOLIS -- The Twins began their fourth season at Target Field on Monday with a pregame ceremony before their contest against the Tigers.
It started with a video and moment of silence honoring those who lost their lives in Newtown, Conn. Hall of Famer Rod Carew, who joined the Marine Corps in 1965 and served active duty as a combat engineer before serving as a reserve from 1966-71, raised the U.S. flag on Target Plaza in right field.
Nathan Perttula, 11, and Cole Harms, 12, of Crystal Little League raised the Hennepin County flag, and the Twins Territory flag was raised by Minneapolis Mayor R.T. Rybak.
Nicolas David, a native of St. Paul who appeared on Season 3 of NBC's "The Voice," sang the national anthem while a large American flag waved behind him on the infield.
The ceremonial first pitch was thrown out by a family member of Cold Spring police officer Tom Decker, who was killed in the line of duty while responding to an emergency call in his community on Nov. 29, 2012.
The day started with Twins alumni opening the gates; Bert Blyleven at Gate 3, Tony Oliva at Gate 6, Kent Hrbek at Gate 14, Carew at Gate 29 and Tom Kelly at Gate 34.