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Updated: March 17th, 2011 8:49am
Prognosis still undetermined, but Killebrew 'really feeling good'

Prognosis still undetermined, but Killebrew 'really feeling good'

by Phil Mackey
1500ESPN.com
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FORT MYERS, Fla. -- Seeing former Minnesota Twins greats walk around the clubhouse at Hammond Stadium is no rare occurrence during spring training, but Hall of Fame slugger Harmon Killebrew's presence on Thursday had some special significance.

Killebrew, 74, was diagnosed with esophageal cancer this past winter, and he has undergone weekly treatments since December.

A prognosis is unknown, Killebrew said, until he finishes treatment in May, but the slugger's attitude is immensely positive, and he has regained some of the weight and strength he previously lost.

"I'm really feeling good, and it's great to be down here at spring training," said Killebrew, who spoke to reporters at the Twins' practice facility early Thursday morning.

"It took me a little while to get down here, but Gardy said it was OK if I reported a little bit late."

Killebrew, who hit 573 home runs in 22 seasons, plans to be in Fort Myers until Sunday, to "talk to some of the hitters, maybe, and just kind of observe."

"I think it's going to help me a lot," Killebrew said about being around the team this week. "In fact, the doctors encouraged me to come. I think that's a lot of it -- take your mind off of immediate problems and focus on something else. That's a good thing."

"To see the smiles on the faces of the guys when I shake hands with them and came into the clubhouse was a great feeling."

Killebrew said he has been overwhelmed by the outpouring of cards, emails, letters, prayers and other forms of well-wishes over the past two months, saying, "When you go through something like this, you're not really sure what to expect.

"I think the thing that's really been an impact on me is how many people have reached out to me."

As of right now, Killebrew's goal is to attend opening day at Target Field on April 8 when the Twins host the Oakland Athletics.

"Right now, of course, we don't know, until I finish all the treatments, exactly where we are, and they take another look at it and we go from there, I guess. I'm not sure what's going to happen when I finish my treatments. But I'm doing well on those I think."

Killebrew has kept in contact with manager Ron Gardenhire, swapping text messages with the skipper this offseason, and he responded "Oh, you bet. I have thought a lot about it," when asked whether he had been keeping up with the team's progress.

"I think now that we've got (Justin) Morneau in the lineup, that's going to be a big thing. Get Joe Mauer back in there. When you take Morneau out of the lineup, this ball club has a very different look to it. You get him back in there swinging right, it's a whole different team."

As for a light at the end of the tunnel, Killebrew said he's hoping to be finished with treatments at the end of May, but acknowledged, "I'm not sure what's going to happen."

"They haven't really got into that yet, and I just think that I'm getting through this, take one day at a time, don't look too far down the road, and try to be optimistic. I think that's a big part of it."

"I guess the message is I'm here and I'm doing well. I've got a great team of doctors, and I couldn't be happier right now the way things have progressed."

Phil Mackey is a columnist for 1500ESPN.com. He co-hosts "Mackey & Judd" from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. weekdays on 1500 ESPN Twin Cities.
Email Phil | @PhilMackey | Mackey & Judd
In this story: Ron Gardenhire, Joe Mauer
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