A Quick Look at the TwinsPublished 6:49pm Thursday, March 31, 2011
The Twins start their regular season on Friday night and it can’t come too soon for this Minnesota fan. This fall and winter haven’t been all that good for Minnesota sports fans so we hold out hope that the Twins can bring our Minnesota Mojo back.
I think the Central Division which the Twins are in will be a three team race to the end. The winner is the team who has the best pitching, which it always comes down too, and who can fend off any major injuries. The three teams are our Twins, the White Sox and Tigers. I think these teams are so close that it will come down to the pitching and injuries.
I will now look at how the Twins will win and then I will look at how the Twins could lose.
How they will win.
Starting Pitching-The Twins have a veteran with Carl Pavano and like I said last year, the other starters on the staff should follow this guy around a lot and take notes. Is he a dominating pitcher? No, but he is a pitcher and how he goes about his business is something the other guys should be replicating. Francisco Liriano, as we all know, has the potential to be a big time number one in the rotation pitcher. He has shown some signs of that this spring so if that can carry over he will have a big year. Blackburn, Duensing, and Baker are good 3, 4 and 5 rotation pitchers. Blackburn seems healthy and has pitched some big games for the Twins. Baker also seems healthy and when he is he has won a lot of big games. Duensing has pitched well whether from the bullpen or a starter. He does deserve to be in the rotation from the start.
Bullpen-Joe Nathan will be the big key to the pen and except for a couple of outings he looked like he usually looks in spring training, which isn’t all that great. So from that if he can keep the closer job that makes the whole pen better. Matt Capps has been a very dependable reliever and made the All Star team in the National League last year so he will be the crutch in the bullpen. Jose Mijares has kept his weight down and seems to have matured so that will be a good thing. If Dusty Hughes can do to the rest of the league what he has done to the Twins we have a winner hear. Glen Perkins has also seemed to have matured and has proven to be a Duensing type pitcher who can relieve and start. Jeff Manship has had some good games and is good filler. The other key will be Kevin Slowey. I talked about his potential in my last blog so he could anchor a good bullpen.
Defense-I think Denard Span will have a good year. He seems to have to have a chip on his shoulder to play well and after last years disappointing season I think he has it. Casilla and Nishioka bring speed to the infield and Nishi has Gold Glove experience. Valencia was more than adequate at third and Morneau should be winning a Gold Glove.
Offense-Everyone appears healthy so that is a good thing. Span will have a better year; Kubel seems to have rededicated himself and could have a big year. Cuddyer also seems reading to go and this is a contract year I believe so I look for good things from him. A healthy Morneau and Mauer are very key to this team’s success and so far they seem ready to go. Delmon Young had a great year last year and I see an even better year for him this season.
Bench-You couldn’t have gotten much better than Jim Thome last year and if he gets at bats I see no reason he can’t do it again. Buetera is a very good defensive catcher and Repko a good defensive outfielder. Tolbert is a fill in.
Intangible-Scott Ullger is not the 3rd base coach. That has to help. Kyle Gibson may be called up.
How they could lose.
Starting pitching-The staff seems to have talent but sometimes they can be head cases. I said they should watch Pavano pitch but they don’t. Pavano himself is getting older and has had injury problems in the past so if he goes down yikes. Liriano has the potential to be outstanding but he also has the potential to implode. Baker and Blackburn are coming off arm injuries, can they make through the season? Duensing is still an unknown for a full season in the rotation. If Slowey needs to come out of the pen to replace these guys it hurts the pen.
Bullpen-I’m not sure what to make of Nathan. He is a hard man to listen too because he is so positive but he has been hit hard here in the spring. Maybe he shouldn’t be put into tough situations right away just to see how he does. If he can’t pitch that changes the whole look of the pen. Capps could close but then he isn’t the setup guy anymore and then everyone will have to change and that isn’t always good. If Slowey has to leave the pen, like I said, that may not be good either.
Defense-If Casilla can’t hit his weight, which has done before, how long to you keep him in the lineup and who do you replace him with, Tolbert? Will Nishioka’s lack of communication skills hurt the Twins in games? I have seen and heard of a couple of times with him converging on a ball with someone else and had it messed up.
Offense-Can the Twins stay healthy. If either Mauer or Morneau are out for any extended periods of time they will not be able to beat the Sox or Tigers. Can Valencia hit enough or will he succumb to the old sophomore jinx? The Twins have very little backup here. If last year was the real Span and Kubel the Twins will not win either.
Bench-Jim Thome is 40 years old and will he be able to produce with fewer at bats? Tolbert will be the new whipping boy now that Punto is gone. Buetera in the lineup usually means 4 outs. Repko can’t hit. Not much in the minors that can help especially in the infield. Luke Hughes did have a great spring early on but faded and he is the best down on the farm right now.
Gardy-I am not sure Gardy is capable of getting enough at bats necessary for the Twins hitters to stay sharp, for example, Jim Thome. Gardy is also so loyal, which should be commended, but will he stay too loyal to Nathan if he isn’t pitching all that well.
It’s hard to go out on a limb and predict whether the Twins will win or not. There are just too many intangibles like the injury thing. But if they stay healthy I am confident that they will win, whether it is enough to beat the Sox and Tigers I don’t know. They have to stay healthy and all that too so we will see. The one thing I will guarantee is that the Twins will be competitive and be very entertaining to watch and that is saying a lot, just ask a Pittsburgh fan.