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Resto says it's time

FORT MYERS, Fla.

Twins General Manager Terry Ryan sits at a high-stakes poker table. Next to Ryan is manager Ron Gardenhire. Across from them is Michael Restovich and his agent, Ron Simon.

As those four sport their best poker faces, Michael Cuddyer, Lew Ford, Mike Ryan and Jose Offerman are all on their feet, circling the table like a group of anxious turkey vultures, impatiently awaiting as the cards are dealt, the hands played.

Can you hear Kenny Rogers in the background singin' "The Gambler.''?

None of the players will tip their hands. Cards still wait to be drawn. But this poker game has a deadline. And it's coming soon.

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Ryan and Restovich need to know when to hold 'em, know when to fold 'em, and know when to walk away or run.

The Twins could hold 'em, if by Opening Day (April 4), Restovich keeps his average well above .300 with a mix of power and precision, forcing the Twins to keep him up on the major league roster.

The Twins could fold 'em, and send him down to triple-A Rochester (N.Y.), figuring an overcrowded outfield of Torii Hunter, Shannon Stewart, Jacque Jones, Cuddyer, and maybe even Mike Ryan or Ford, leaves no at-bats for Restovich.

Or the Twins could walk away and deal Restovich to more than a dozen major league teams that could give the 1997 Rochester Mayo graduate 500 major league at-bats this season.

Restovich has spent the majority of the past two seasons at triple-A. While he is far from being a player without a weakness, there is little to be gained spending another season in the minor leagues.

"I still have things to work on, but I really feel like I belong at this level and I can compete at this level," Restovich said.

So far, he is proving that in spring training. The Twins have played 12 exhibition games. Restovich is hitting .370 (10-for-27).

He is one of two Twins (Offerman is the other) who have hit two home runs. He leads the team in total bases (19), doubles (three) and is second with seven RBIs.

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"In the past, I've always had doubts. This year, I really thought this is my time, this is my year," Restovich said. "Whether that happens, I can't control that but I can control how I feel at the clubhouse and at the plate. I came in this year with the idea that I belong here and that I need to show it on the field."

Two weeks ago, Restovich's agent met with Terry Ryan here in Fort Myers. Neither side will reveal the specifics, but it wouldn't be surprising if Restovich's representation explored the possibility of a trade, if he doesn't make the major league team out of spring training.

"It seems every agent in the game is down here," Ryan said. "We're not in a very good position to be able to move these types of younger guys because from a management standpoint, they're going to play a huge role in our future."

Restovich hopes the future is now.

"It basically comes down to a lot of, 'It's up to me' kinda thing," Restovich said of his agent's meeting with Ryan. "They say I have to come out here and show I'm ready for the team. That's the outlook I've had here, anyway.

"I don't think a lot was learned that I didn't already know. They can't say that if I hit .300 I'm going to be on the team. As much as those conversations can be good, there are a lot of questions that can't necessarily be answered."

For a couple of weeks, anyway.

Troy Young is a sports writer for the Post-Bulletin. He can be reached at tyoung@postbulletin.com

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