Familiar faces: Jason Pridie feeling right at home back with the Minnesota Twins

This is Pridie’s second stint with Minnesota in just more than two years.

>FORT MYERS, Fla. (AP) – Forgive Jason Pridie if he has a little deja vu these days.

The center fielder was acquired from the Tampa Bay Rays in the offseason, his second time coming to Minnesota in just over two years.

The Twins selected him in the Rule 5 draft in December of 2005, but he was let go and rejoined the Rays for 2006.

In his brief first stint here, Pridie got to know many of the Twins coaches, and some of the players, most of whom are still here this season.

“It’s been an easy transition for me since I was here two years ago,” Pridie said. “It was coming to a new team, but not really. I knew people. I knew the manager, the coaching staff and stuff. So it’s been a smooth transition back, just like I’ve been playing here all along. It’s been nice.”

Circumstances, however, have changed a great deal since Pridie was last in Fort Myers. He is competing with Denard Span and Carlos Gomez to replace Torii Hunter in center field.

On his first time through, Pridie knew he had no chance to make the team with Hunter a mainstay in the middle.

“When you come in with a guy like Hunter here, you know you’re not taking that spot,” Pridie said. “He’s off to do what he’s doing. Somebody’s going to step in and hopefully it can be me if I play well.

“It’s nice to try to fill some shoes like that. It’s tough to do because not a lot of people can play at the caliber of him. But just to have a shot of taking over where he was is a good thing.”

Manager Ron Gardenhire has said all along that it’s a wide open competition and thinks Pridie’s previous experience here can only help him.

“He had the opportunity to at least get a chance to know the staff, the clubhouse staff and the major league coaching staff and a lot of the minor league coaches,” Gardenhire said. “He’s not coming in not knowing anybody and I’m sure he’s a lot more comfortable this time.

“I think he understands what he has to do and what his chances are of making this team and I think he’s probably pretty excited about it.”

But not too excited to let the situation sour his relationship with Span and Gomez.

“I like them both,” Pridie said. “There’s no bad blood just because we’re competing for the same spot.”

Liriano update

Pitcher Francisco Liriano said Monday he received his U.S. visa and was preparing to travel from the Dominican Republic to spring training in Florida.

The Dominican left-hander had a delay in obtaining the visa because of a Florida drunken-driving plea and missed the team’s Feb. 18 voluntary reporting date for pitchers and catchers in Fort Myers, Fla.

“I obtained the visa, and I will go away tomorrow for training,” Liriano said in a telephone interview with The Associated Press.

He said he successfully completed a required alcohol assessment before getting the U.S. visa to enter the country.

Liriano was among baseball’s top rookies in 2006, going 12-3 with a 2.16 ERA before an elbow injury ended his season and required surgery. The former All-Star said his throwing arm feels strong and he has been regularly working out in the Twins academy in the Dominican Republic.