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Minnesota Twins Opening Day Primer

2011 Record: 63-99 Manager: Ron Gardenhire

Name it, if it could have gone wrong in Minneapolis, it went wrong during the 2011 season. Gone are some old mainstays in the outfield, Mike Cuddyer and Jason Kubel, and also Joe Nathan. Unfortunately, they left in free agency instead of getting some decent prospects in a trade deadline deal. So now Terry Ryan is back at GM to straighten things out.

Player in the spotlight: Joe Mauer C

Great hair and a great swing. But pneumonia and other assorted issues have sidelined or affected Mauer for the past two seasons. He’s at the beginning of his megadeal that will net him over $180M and the Twins can’t afford any more seasons like last year. They need 150 games and his typical top 5 hitting season to give this team any kind of hope for this season.

Biggest question mark in the lineup: Justin Morneau 1B/DH

It’s been a season and a half since Morneau suffered that concussion in July of 2010. Since then Morneau hasn’t been the same with problems from post-concussion syndrome and other physical issues. If he can climb his way back to being an average middle of the order hitter to go along with a healthy Mauer, the Twins could climb back over .500. That’s a lot of ifs, and only with two players.

Pitcher in the spotlight: Francisco Liriano

Most potential contenders would have already given up on the enigmatic, yet extremely talented LIriano. But the Twins are still hoping against hope and they need a season like 2010 out of Liriano if they have any chance to compete this year. If he doesn’t start showing the kind of consistency they are looking for, expect Liriano to be wearing a new uniform by the end of July.

Biggest pitching question mark: Scott Baker

The oft-injured Twins best pitcher from 2011 was Baker. Now he’s on the shelf with some elbow problems and he’ll be getting a second opinion next week. The Twins need a healthy Baker to contribute if they hold any hope of returning to the postseason.

Prospect with a chance to make an impact this year: Joe Benson OF

It’s just a matter of time for Benson, who will start the year at AAA. Denard Span has been rumored to be traded for a little while now and he’ll probably get dealt for some pitching health when Benson is ready.

Prediction: 5th in AL Central

Ron Gardenhire is one heck of a manager. That’s the only real reason for optimism for this edition of the Twins. He’s been able to stabilize some of the most challenging situations over the years and he’s a primary reason for hope this season. Of course, it helps if Mauer and Morneau are able to bounce back and if the pitchers can stay healthy and pitch well enough. They should be better than last year, of course. But how much better? If everything goes right, they could surprise and win 85-88 games and compete for the wildcard. But that’s a HUGE if. More likely is a season with less injuries than last year but where there’s a lot of turnover on the pitching staff and a season spent looking for the right mix in the lineup. It feels like a 75-78 win team that will compete with Kansas City more than Detroit in the standings over the season.

MLB Daily Balk Morning Rundown 5/11

Last Night’s Games  
American  
Seattle 6 Baltimore 7 F/13
Kansas City 1 New York 3
Boston 6 Toronto 7 F/10
Oakland 2 Texas 7
Detroit 10 Minnesota 2
Tampa Bay 4 Cleveland 5
Chicago 2 Los Angeles 6
National  
Los Angeles 10 Pittsburgh 3
Washington 7 Atlanta 6
Philadelphia 1 Florida 2
St. Louis 6 Chicago 4
Cincinnati 7 Houston 3
San Diego 6 Milwaukee 8
New York 4 Colorado 3
Arizona 0 San Francisco 1

 

The Freak dominated again

Best of Yesterday May 10

Top Aces    
Player Team Stats
Tim Lincecum SFG 8 IP, 0 ER, 9 K, 2 BB
Ian Kennedy ARI 8 IP, 0 ER, 8 K, 3 BB
Roy Halladay PHI 8 IP, 2 R/1 ER, 9 K, 2 BB
Homer Bailey CIN 7 IP, 0 ER, 5 K, W (2-0)
Joel Pineiro LAA 7 2/3 IP, 2 ER, 5 K, 1 BB, W (2-0)

 

Hitting Heroes    
Player Team Stats
Adrian Gonzalez BOS 3-6, 2 HR, 3 RBI, 2 R
Andrew McCutchen PIT 3-4, 2 HR, 2 RBI, 2 R
Matt Kemp LAD 2-4, HR, 3 RBI, 2 R
JJ Hardy BAL 4-5, HR, RBI, R
Victor Martinez DET 3-4, 4 RBI, 2 R

   

What Happened (!!)Yesterday?

Jimmy Rollins for the Phillies: 1-5, 11 pitches seen, E-6 in 8th

Facing one of the best pitchers in the National League, Rollins refused to work the count against Josh Johnson and only saw 11 pitches in 5 mediocre at-bats. In addition, Rollins committed the error in the 8th inning that led to the game winning run for the Marlins. Overall, it wasn’t one of J-Roll’s best games.

 

AL News/Notes

Francisco Liriano followed up his no-hitter by being ineffective and leaving the Twins game against the Tigers after only 3 innings. The official word is that Liriano was ill, but it could just as much been that manager Ron Gardenhire was sick of watching him struggle again.

Tommy Hunter’s rehab took a setback as the Rangers‘ pitcher suffered a Grade 1 groin strain and will be unavailable to restart his rehab for 3 more weeks.

  

NL News/Notes

Ike Davis left Tuesday’s game for Mets and was diagnosed with a strained left calf.

Geovany Soto left the game for the Cubs on Tuesday with a left groin strain. He’s going to have a MRI today.

Andres Torres and Mark DeRosa returned to the Giants’ lineup on Tuesday night. Miguel Tejeda sat for the returning DeRosa.

Tony LaRussa will miss the remaining 5 games of the Cardinals‘ roadtrip as he recovers from shingles.

Jason Heyward left the Braves game with numbness in his right hand. He was already scheduled for a MRI on Thursday for his shoulder.

 

Streaks of the Day

  • Red Sox Jacoby Ellsbury extended his hitting streak to 19 games
  • Astros Hunter Pence extended his hitting streak to 14 games

 

Top Wednesday Matchups

2:05 EDT Athletics (Gonzalez 4-2, 2.68) at Rangers (Harrison 3-4, 4.35)

7:05 EDT Rays (Price 4-3, 3.26) at Indians (Carrasco 1-1, 4.97)

7:10 EDT Phillies (Lee 2-3, 3.69) at Marlins (Nolasco 3-0, 3.23)

10:05 EDT White Sox (Peavy 2011 Debut) at Angels (Chatwood 2-1, 4.08)

 

Yesterday’s Balks: 0

MLB Daily Balk Morning Rundown 5/4

Last Night’s Games  
American  
Toronto 2 Tampa Bay 3
New York 2 Detroit 4
Los Angeles 3 Boston 7
Minnesota 1 Chicago 0
Baltimore 5 Kansas City 6
Cleveland 4 Oakland 1
Texas 3 Seattle 4
National  
Washington 1 Philadelphia 4
Milwaukee Atlanta (Post)
Houston 10 Cincinnati 4
San Francisco 7 New York 6
Florida 5 St. Louis 7
Colorado 3 Arizona 4
Pittsburgh 5 San Diego 6
Chicago 4 Los Angeles 1

 

Liriano got the season's first no-no

Best of Yesterday May 3

Francisco Liriano put aside his season-long struggles as he no-hit the White Sox and broke the Twins into double digits for wins this season. Liriano benefitted from a phantom tag at first base on a double play to end the 8th inning and then walked Juan Pierre in the 9th before getting Adam Dunn to line to short to end the game. Liriano walked 6 batters and only struck out 2, but completed his first start of his career and gave the Twins their first no-hitter since Eric Milton on September 11, 1999 against the Angels. Jason Kubel provided the only run of the game with a homer in the 4th inning.

BJ Upton hit a 2-run walkoff homer for the Rays off the Blue JaysJon Rauch. Evan Longoria returned to the Rays lineup and went 1 for 4 with 2 strikeouts.

Brad Penny scattered 6 hits and gave up an unearned run to the Yankees in 6 innings to earn his 2nd win of the season for the Tigers, who ended their 7-game losing streak. Scott Sizemore was called up to replace Will Rhymes and went 3 for 4 with a double. Mark Teixeira hit his 8th homer in the 8th inning of the loss.

Cole Hamels gave up a homer to Michael Morse in the 7th inning and that’s all he gave up in his complete game win for the Phillies. Hamels is now 4-1 with a 2.66 ERA and went 2 for 4 at the plate with a triple. Raul Ibanez ended his epic 0 for 35 skid with a 2 for 4 performance.

Jon Lester was dominating as he struck out 11 in 7 innings, giving up only a solo homer to Mike Trumbo to get his 4th win of the season for the Red Sox. The Sox hit 3 homers (Adrian Gonzalez, David Ortiz, and Marco Scutaro) in the 8th inning to seal the win.

Aubrey Huff hit a 10th inning homer for the Giants and Brian Wilson shut the door for his 9th save of the season against the Mets. Jose Reyes reached safely in all 6 plate appearances for the Mets with a 3 for 3 performance and he walked 3 more times. Carlos Beltran added a 3-run homer and Ike Davis hit his 6th homer in the loss.  

Jeff Francoeur homered to tie the game in the 6th inning and drove in the winning run in the bottom of the 10th with a sacrifice fly as the Royals win and go to 13-5 at home on the season. Luke Scott had a 3-run homer for the Orioles in the loss.

Daniel Descalso hit a 3-run homer in the 7th inning to give the Cardinals the lead and eventual win over the Marlins. Eduardo Sanchez appears to be Tony LaRussa‘s closer of choice as the 22-year old rookie saved his 2nd game of the season. Matt Holliday hit a 2-run homer in the 1st inning for the Cards and Gaby Sanchez went 4 for 5 in the loss for the Marlins.

Justin Upton countered his brother BJ’s walk off homer with a solo homer in the 8th inning to cap a 3 for 4 night and give the Diamondbacks the win over the Rockies. Xavier Nady drove in two runs and JJ Putz is now 7 for 7 in save opportunities for the D’backs. Carlos Gonzalez hit his 2nd homer for the Rockies in the loss.

Fausto Carmona shutdown the Athletics for 8 innings, giving up one run, and the Cabrera’s knocked in 3 runs in the 9th to give the Indians the win. The Tribe is the first team to reach 20 wins in the majors this season and have won 7 straight, again.

Justin Smoak tied the game in the 8th and Jack Cust drove in the go-ahead run as the Mariners won their 6th out of 7 to pull to 2 games back of the Rangers. Smoak went 3 for 4 with 2 RBI and Brandon League saved his 8th game in as many opportunities.

Carlos Pena tied the game at 1 for the Cubs in the 7th inning with his first homer and Jonathan Broxton threw only 3 strikes in 11 pitches as he only retired one batter and walked two before the Dodgers pulled him in the 9th inning. After Broxton departed, Geovany Soto doubled home two runs to give the Cubs the lead and eventual win. The good news for the Dodgers is that Andre Ethier extended his hitting streak to 29 games.

 

What Happened (!!)Yesterday?

Mike Leake got hit hard again in the 10-4 loss to the Astros. Leake gave up 7 runs in only 3 2/3 innings and his ERA has risen to 5.77 on the season. With Leake’s much publicized legal issues and Homer Bailey‘s return to the Reds rotation on Thursday, it doesn’t take an active imagination to speculate that Leake could be headed to the minors for the first time in his career if he has some more bad starts. The Reds probably wouldn’t consider it until Johnny Cueto returns from the DL.

 

AL News/Notes

The Rays have designated Felipe Lopez for assignment to make room for Evan Longoria on the roster. Manager Joe Maddon has also rearranged the starting rotation to setup David Price to start on Thursday.

Twins manager Ron Gardenhire has shifted shortstop Alexi Casilla to second base and would like to see prospect Trevor Plouffe come up to play shortstop. After Tuesday night’s game, the Twins placed Jim Thome on the DL and called up Plouffe.

JJ Hardy is expected to begin his rehab assignment on Friday and could be back with the Orioles early next week.

Magglio Ordonez is having problems with his right leg and it’s causing him to hit off of his front leg, eliminating his power. The Tigers can’t really afford to have Ordonez’ production, or lack of, in the lineup much longer.

 

NL News/Notes

Phillies manager Charlie Manuel thinks that Chase Utley should go to Florida to continue his rehab for his knee.

Tony LaRussa has no plans to move shortstop Ryan Theriot to second base despite Theriot’s early season struggles in the field. Allen Craig started at third base for the injured David Freese and was hitting second on Tuesday night.

The Nationals Ryan Zimmerman had successful surgery on his abdomen and will be out until June.

The Giants have discussed recalling first baseman Brandon Belt from AAA amidst their anemic offensive production. Andres Torres and Mark DeRosa are progressing in their recovery from injuries and Torres could be back on Friday.

The AstrosCarlos Lee was unable to play against the Reds on Tuesday night due to bruised ribs suffered in a collision on Sunday with teammate Angel Sanchez. With Lee’s diminishing production, sitting him for a few days might not be that bad, especially if Jason Bourgeois continues to hit in Lee’s absence.

The Diamondbacks are continuing their revolving door at first base as Juan Miranda, Russell Branyan, Xavier Nady have all gotten time at first. Manager Kirk Gibson is obviously not convinced that any of them are a potential long term solution. Branyan and Nady have to be potential trade pieces in the coming months if teams, especially American League teams, experience injuries or need platoon production at DH.

 

 

Streaks of the Day

  • Dodgers Andre Ethier extended his hitting streak to 29 games

 

Top Wednesday Matchups

3:10 EDT Cubs (Zambrano 3-1, 4.91) at Dodgers (Lilly 2-2, 4.45)

7:05 EDT Yankees (Garcia 1-1, 2.00) at Tigers (Scherzer 4-0, 3.82)

Game 2 (DH) Brewers (Greinke 0-0, 0.00) at Braves (Hudson 3-2, 3.48)

10:05 EDT Indians (Tomlin 4-0, 2.45) at Athletics (Cahill 4-0, 1.88)

10:10 EDT Rangers (Wilson 3-1, 3.35) at Mariners (Pineda 4-1, 2.01)

 

Yesterday’s Balks: 0

MLB Daily Balk Morning Rundown 4/28

April 28, 2011 1 comment

Uh-oh. If Colon's weight continues to exceed his ERA, the AL is in trouble this year.

Best of Yesterday April 27

The Dodgers’ Andre Ethier extended his April best hitting streak to 24 games on Wednesday afternoon and then homered in the 10th inning in the Dodgers 5-4 win over the Marlins. Vicente Padilla got his first save since 2000 and left people wondering about Jonathan Broxton‘s status as closer.

The RedsDrew Stubbs also hit a 10th inning homer to give the Reds a 7-6 win over the Brewers. Joey Votto hit his 5th homer in the 1st inning off of Yovani Gallardo. The reigning NL MVP had 4 RBI on the day and Aroldis Chapman got his 2nd win.

Tommy Hanson was dominating as he struck out 10 and gave up no runs in 7 innings as the Braves beat the Padres 7-0 on Wednesday afternoon. The score might have been closer had the Padres’ Brad Hawpe not committed a key error in the 2nd inning. That error led to five unearned runs for Mat Latos.

Chris Young homered twice for the Diamondbacks but they lost the series finale to the Phillies 8-4. Ryan Howard, Shane Victorino, and Jimmy Rollins all homered for the Phils. Cole Hamels had a solid outing as well, winning his 3rd game as he struck out 8 and gave up 3 runs in 7 innings. The Phillies are back in first place with the Marlins loss.

A third inning error by Howard Kendrick led to the Athletics only run before extra innings and a misplay in the outfield led to their second and winning run in the 10th inning as the A’s beat the Angels 2-1. The game went to extra innings after Kevin Kouzmanoff‘s error in the bottom of the 9th let the tying run reach base. Starters Dan Haren and Tyson Ross each went 7 innings and didn’t give up an earned run.

Vladimir Guerrero came through with a RBI single in the 8th inning after Jason Varitek had allowed a passed ball to give the Orioles the lead and eventual win over the Red Sox 5-4 on Wednesday night. Josh Beckett had his worst start of the season, giving up 4 runs in 6 innings, including homers to Adam Jones and Luke Scott.

Josh Tomlin won his fourth game as the Indians beat the Royals 7-2. Tomlin’s ERA is now 2.45 on the season. Alex Gordon‘s hit streak ended at 19 games for the Royals.

Justin Smoak went 2 for 4 with a 3-run homer and 5 RBI on the night for the Mariners in their 10-1 win over Justin Verlander and the Tigers. Eric Bedard went a solid 7 innings, giving up 1 run to earn his 1st win of the season.

Hello, Bartolo Colon. The 2005 AL Cy Young winner went 8 innings and only gave up 1 run as the Yankees beat the White Sox 3-1. Robinson Cano provided the offense with a 3-run homer in the first inning.

The Mets, led by David Murphy, came back with a run in the 8th inning and then four in the 9th to beat the Nationals 6-3. Murphy went 2 for 2 in his late game at bats with a homer and double to drive home 3 runs. Francisco Rodriguez got his 6th save of the season and the Mets have now won 6 straight games.

Mitch Moreland hit the deciding home run in the bottom of the 7th to give the Rangers a 7-6 win over the Blue Jays. The Jays starter, Jo Jo Reyes, was victimized by Edwin Encarnacion‘s 3rd inning error that led to all six unearned runs allowed. Despite the bad luck, don’t be surprised if Reyes is designated sometime in the next few days or weeks.

The Cardinals tried to blow Kyle Lohse‘s very good start in which he shutout the Astros for 7 innings. The Cards bullpen ended up holding on to win 6-5 and preserving Lohse’s 4th win. The Cardinals lead the majors in GIDP and hit into another five in this game.

 

What Happened (!!)Yesterday?

Yovani Gallardo got lit up again on Wednesday afternoon by Joey Votto and the Reds. This was the fourth consecutive start that Gallardo gave up at least 4 runs and his ERA now stands at 5.70. It could just be an early season funk, or Gallardo might have something wrong that he’s not disclosing. Either way, the Brewers need to find out what’s wrong and either get him straightened out or get him healthy. Nobody is running away with the NL Central race yet.

The Rays and Twins played their game with snow flurries in the air and temperatures in the 30’s. While the Twins have played more on the road this season, many other cold weather teams have played more home games. The Yankees (14 to 7), Mets (13 to 11) and Cubs (14 to 9) have all played more home games and the Cubs seem to play in miserable weather conditions daily. In fact, Wednesday’s Cubs game was postponed due to bad weather. The Rockies have played more road games, but they’ve played road games in Pittsburgh, Chicago, and New York. Why aren’t they making a tour of their NL West rivals during April? That’s four moderate to warm cities and no rain/snow postponements. This needs to change next season.

In the Arctic conditions of the Twin Cities, the TwinsFrancisco Liriano got lit up again. Liriano gave up 7 runs in only 3 innings and he’s now given up 24 earned runs in 23 2/3 innings on the season. That’s a 9.13 ERA, not K’s per 9 innings. 18 walks and 4 homers allowed appear to be a major part of the problem. He’s only put together one solid start all season and you have to wonder how much longer the Twins can afford to give up once every five days?

 

AL News/Notes

If you’re a Sam Fuld fan, and who isn’t? Then you can vote for the Rays surprising outfielder for the all star game this year. Evidently, Manny Ramirez retired in time to be stricken from the ballot and replaced by Fuld.

Angels‘ rookie Mike Trumbo is going through his first big league slump right now. He’s trying to adjust to the pitchers, but he could find himself back in AAA if Alexi Amarista hits enough to move Howard Kendrick to first base.

Despite being eligible to come off the DL on Thursday, the TwinsJoe Mauer doesn’t look like he’s even close to returning. Also for the Twins, Delmon Young was placed on the DL because of a strained oblique. The move is retroactive to April 19.

 

NL News/Notes

The Dodgers are without Casey Blake, who is probably heading to the DL with a swollen left elbow. Aaron Miles has been playing third base with Blake and Juan Uribe out of the lineup.

The Marlins have a hole at third base as top prospect Matt Dominguez is recovering from a elbow injury just before opening day. With the Fish in first place, they could be looking to upgrade their current situation with the GiantsMark DeRosa.

Carlos Gonzalez wasn’t in the lineup for the Rockies on Tuesday, instead he spent a lot of time in the batting cage trying to work his way out of his 0 for 22 slump. It’s got to be scary for the rest of the NL that the Rockies have the best record in baseball and CarGo is off to such a slow start.

The Nationals have to be concerned about Livan Hernandezconnection with a drug kingpin in Puerto Rico. This might be the only way that Hernandez ends his 13 year streak of 180+ innings pitched.

Former big league pitcher and current Braves pitching coach, Roger McDowell, directed a few derogatory epithets towards the fans in San Francisco last weekend. The comments were over the line and need to be addressed through a suspension of a least a week.

Diamondbacks rookie pitcher Josh Collmenter developed his unique pitching style in an interesting way. With that story, he’s destined to become a Brave someday.

Pirates‘ manager Clint Hurdle benched shortstop Ronny Cedeno for the second night in a row in favor of Brandon Wood. Hurdle called it a “manager’s decision.”

Clint Barmes played in his 3rd rehab game on Wednesday and is expected to be called up to the Astros for Friday. With Angel Sanchez hitting over .300, Barmes will probably see some time at third base to keep Sanchez in the lineup while he remains productive.

 

Streaks of the Day

  • Dodgers Andre Ethier extended his hitting streak to a MLB record for April 24 games
  • Royals Jeff Francouer extended his hitting streak to 16 games

 

Top Thursday Matchups

1:05 EDT Mariners (Pineda 3-1, 1.78) at Tigers (Penny 1-2, 6.35)

2:05 EDT Blue Jays (Morrow 0-1, 5.06) at Rangers (Ogando 3-0, 2.13)

7:05 EDT White Sox (Jackson 2-2, 4.88) at Yankees (Sabathia 1-1, 2.73)

8:10 EDT Rays (Hellickson 1-2, 4.32) at Twins (Baker 1-2, 3.24)

 

Yesterday’s Balks: 2

  • Ryan Webb of the Marlins against the Dodgers
  • Chris Resop of the Pirates against the Giants

Minnesota Twins Opening Day Overview

Minnesota Twins Opening Day Overview

Manager: Ron Gardenhire           GM: Bill Smith

  Lineup:
1 CF Denard Span
2 2B Tsuyoshi Nishioka
3 C Joe Mauer
4 1B Justin Morneau
5 LF Delmon Young
6 RF Mike Cuddyer
7 DH Jim Thome/Jason Kubel
8 3B Danny Valencia
9 SS Alexi Casilla

 

Span took a step back in his development last season as his averages dropped across the board. His overall OPS dropped from .807 in 2009 to .679 last season. It’s amazing that the Twins offense was so good despite Span’s performance. If Span can revert to his 2009 numbers as a 27 year old this season, the Twins could have the best offense in the AL.  

Nishioka comes over from Japan after winning their Pacific League batting title last season. He’s got a good glove and if he can provide above average production out of the #2 hole, the Twins offense will be lethal. The Twins would definitely be happy with a .350 OBP and a modest .400 or so slugging while playing a high quality second base.

Mauer’s homer numbers dropped in his first year at Target Field. But the 9 HRs matched what he did in 2008. His 53 extra base hits were the second best total of his career to his 2009 season. Assuming that the 2009 season was somewhat of an anomaly, the Twins should expect another typical Mauer season with at least a .325 AVG, .400 OBP, and .480 SLG. Would anybody have a problem with that?

Morneau was on his way to a ridiculous season statistically last year when the concussion ended his season. Assuming that Morneau is fully recovered from the injury, he should have a huge season. There’s no reason by he can’t get over 30 HRs and get on base at a .360 or better average and drive in over 100 runs.

Young moves up in the order after a huge breakout season last year. At 25, Young should only get better. A key component in his continued improvement will come from increasing his walks to over 50 this season. If improves his pitch selection, all of his averages will increase and Young might join Mauer and Morneau in the AL MVP race.

Cuddyer is a pretty steady contributor whose biggest contribution is his versatility. He played over 10 games at 1B, RF, and 3B last year. That kind of flexibility gives Gardenhire a lot of options when filling out his lineup card. Last year, Cuddyer took a step back due to the big dropoff in HRs both at home and on the road. Assuming that he’s recovered from offseason knee surgery, Cuddyer should return to an OPS of over .800 this season.

Thome slugged over .600 last season for the first time since his final year in Cleveland in 2002. The Twins can’t count on that again but if Thome can contribute what he had in the few seasons before last year, the Twins can count on a .830 OPS or so from their lefty DH. Kubel will spot start in RF and DH against lefties. Kubel hit over 20 HRs for the third consecutive season but his average dipped below .250 and his other averages suffered as a result. The Twins could really use Kubel to return to his .800 or so career level OPS this season.

Valencia had a really good rookie season as he hit over .300 and posted an OPS close to .800. If he maintains or improves his production, Gardenhire might consider moving Valencia to the #2 spot in the order if Nishioka or Span struggles.

Casilla had a decent comeback season in limited playing time after an awful 2009. If Casilla doesn’t maintain an OPS of at least .700, the Twins could make a trade to upgrade here or give AAA Trevor Plouffe another shot.

  Starting Pitching
1 RHP Carl Pavano
2 LHP Francisco Liriano
3 RHP Nick Blackburn
4 RHP Scott Baker
5 LHP Brian Duensing

 

Pavano had his second best season last year for the Twins. At 35, it’s difficult to forecast another near career best season, but if Pavano can keep his ERA under 4.00 and start another 32 games, then the Twins should expect about 15 wins.

Liriano is the best starter the Twins have in the majors. He’s fully recovered from his Tommy John surgery of a few years back and whatever problems he seemed to have appeared corrected. The key for Liriano is to continue to keep the HRs down and get his IP over 200. If he can continue to pitch like last season and add some innings, Liriano could improve his win total to 16-18 this year.

Blackburn struggled last season and his numbers didn’t reflect a more pitcher friendly home field. The Twins need Blackburn to return to his 2008-2009 form when his ERA was just over 4.00 and he won 11 games each season. With this offense, he might be able to increase the win total by a few wins with a similar performance this year.

Baker has been a steady performer over the years and an offseason surgical cleaning of his pitching elbow might help him improve this season. The biggest challenge for Baker is keeping the ball in the park as his HR rate is above average. If he can improve that, then he could provide 200 IP and 13-15 wins.

Duensing pitched very well after entering the rotation in the middle of last season. While he’s not expected to be a top of the rotation guy, he could be a solid #3 starter if he makes 30+ starts and keeps his ERA under 3.50. If he does this, he could win 15 games and the Twins will most likely play important games in October again..

  Bullpen
CL RHP Joe Nathan
SET RHP Matt Capps
  LHP Jose Mijares
  RHP Jeff Manship
  LHP Glen Perkins
  LHP Dusty Hughes
  RHP Kevin Slowey

 

Nathan returns after undergoing Tommy John surgery in spring training last year. The Twins are hopeful that Nathan is ready to return to his dominating form, but history tells us that TJ surgery patients typically need about 18 months to return to normal. Nathan has a chance to defy those odds, but the Twins shouldn’t count on it.

Capps is the backup closer in the event that Nathan isn’t fully recovered. He’ll probably fill in for Nathan on back-to-back save opportunities as the Twins shouldn’t press their luck with Nathan’s new elbow. Capps was very good last year after coming over from the Nationals and as long as he doesn’t revert to his uncharacteristic 2009 form with the Pirates, the Twins have a very good alternative to Nathan.

Mijares has served as a lefty specialist and might be called on to face more righties this season. If he’s able to produce at the same levels given the additional work, the Twins should be solid in the 7th and 8th innings.

Manship hasn’t proven to be capable in his parts of two seasons with the Twins. Perkins is a former starter moved to the pen but it’s difficult to see what value he has right now. Hughes had modest success last season with the Royals and could be a viable lefty specialist. Slowey competed for the 5th starter role and will be the first to replace an ineffective or injured starter and provide long relief.

  Farm Prospects who could help in 2011
1 RHP Kyle Gibson
2 OF Ben Revere
3 SS Trevor Plouffe

 

Gibson is the top prospect and could be called up if there are problems with their starters and Slowey isn’t the answer. Revere is the Twins top OF prospect and could replace Span in CF if Span doesn’t return to his previous production levels. Plouffe will get a call up if Casilla doesn’t hit at SS.

Three Questions:

1. Will Justin Morneau make a full comeback from his concussion issues and stay healthy?

  • The Twins excelled last year without the former AL MVP but it’s difficult to imagine that they would continue to be better without Morneau returning to his highly productive ways. The key last year in Morneau’s absence was the resurgence of 40 year old Jim Thome. It will be difficult for Thome to repeat that performance again.

2. How long will it take before the Twins address their glaring bullpen holes?

  • Joe Nathan is a major question mark because of last year’s TJ surgery. Capps would be a really solid 8th inning setup guy if he isn’t needed to replace or fill-in for Nathan. After these two, Mijares has some talent and could be solid in the 7th and 8th, but he’s the last known proven commodity. Everybody else in the bullpen is a major question mark and the bullpen would be paper thin if Nathan isn’t ready to pitch well.

3. Can the Twins rotation help the Twins win a postseason series?

  • The Twins starting staff is filled with #2, #3, and #4 starters with nobody that’s great or really bad. That’s a solid formula for regular season success as long as the lineup hits at a high level. But when the calendar turns to October, you typically need a great pitcher to lead the way and the Twins don’t appear to have that guy. Could top prospect Kyle Gibson step in an provide that or does Bill Smith need to work the phones to find a top of the rotation guy by July?

 

Projection

The Twins are well built for another AL Central winning season. With a top ranked offense and solid starting pitching, the Twins should be near or at the top of the AL Central all season long. They are going to need to address their bullpen, probably sooner than later and unearthing a top flight starter could be the difference in going from another Division Series loss to a trip to the ALCS.