Twins will take time

Lucas Smith


If you’re having MLB problems I feel bad for you son, my team had 99 losses when last season was done. Hit me. Literally.

The Minnesota Twins finished last season with a record of 63-99 ,landing them their most losses since 1982 and a last-place finish in the AL Central division. It was a painfully bleak year (not even renowned Yankee fan Jay-Z could help them) with plenty of fans wondering what went wrong and would the Twins ever return to form?

This leaves the question: what can Twins fans expect this season? As much as it pains me to say, not a whole lot.

Minnesota begins the season with a few fan favorites missing from the roster. Longtime Twins Michael Cuddyer, Jason Kubel and Joe Nathan were all dealt in the offseason.

Losing Cuddyer to the Colorado Rockies is a painful blow to the Twins lineup and team chemistry. Cuddyer spent his entire career with the Twins organization and last season he led the team in batting average, home runs and runs scored. Thanks for the memories Cuddyer…

Fast forward to the 2012 roster.

Minnesota still has the sideburn sporting Joe Mauer batting third and calling games behind the plate.

Last season, Mauer signed the richest contract in Twins history, locking up the 2008 American League MVP for eight years and $184 million, giving Minnesota the ninth highest payroll in baseball. Time to win right? Wrong. Mauer only played 82 games in ’11 and saw his batting average drop to a career low .287 with only three homers. Should we be worried?

The All-Star catcher was plagued with an array of injuries that kept him sidelined and unable to get his bat going. If he can stay in the lineup, the Twins can expect to see him regain his batting title form and hopefully see his home run total dramatically increase.

I, for one, vote they shorten the fence at Target Field so Joe can actually hit some homers. Mauer only has one home run at Target Field since the team started playing home games there at the start of 2010. Yikes. Why build a ballpark where your star player cannot hit home runs? Good call on the field dimensions, Twins.

Let’s move on to someone who can hit dingers at any field in the majors: Justin Morneau. The Twins first baseman missed the majority of last season with concussion problems and is one headshot away from retiring. Morneau is having a decent spring training and fans can only hope he can regain his 2006 form when he took home MVP honors and played in 157 games.

The smart move is to move Morneau to the designated hitter position and play Mauer at first base to conserve his knees and ensure a long, healthy career. Mauer showed signs of promise last season when asked to fill in at first, and the truth is that the Twins’ most popular won’t be able to catch forever.

That being said, they still need other players to step up.

The team is counting on Denard Span to lead off and play center field. Span is a career .285 hitter and will need to bat around .300 if he hopes to hold down his spot with young speedster Ben Revere competing for it. Revere showed signs of greatness in the outfield and lighting quick speed on the bases in the absence of Span last year. The team did add outfielder Josh Willingham, who spent time with Oakland last year and hit 29 home runs. He provides one of the few power threats for the Twins, but infielder Luke Hughes will get a spot if he continues his hot spring training where he batted .317 and hit a team leading six home runs.

The offense will improve with Mauer and Morneau back in action. The pitching staff, however, looks sketchy at best.

Even with starting pitcher Francisco Liriano having an amazing spring training, the future is dim. Minnesota pitchers finished last season 29th overall in earned run average at an abysmal 4.58 and last in the league in strikeouts. Veteran Carl Pavano led the starting rotation with a mere nine wins ,and leaving Ron Gardenhire wondering who was going to give him solid innings from day-to-day. The same was the case with the bullpen, which beyond Glen Perkins and a hit-or-miss Matt Capps, was terrible and found itself leaning on the likes of Jim Hoey and Chuck James.

On a brighter note, the Twins will not lose 100 games this year. They won’t win the World Series by any means, but they also won’t finish last in the American League again either. Gardenhire is one of the best managers in the league and Joe Mauer can still win a batting title.

People always count the Twins out and somehow they end up surprising everyone. The boys are back in town and the season is upon us. All we can do now it sit back and enjoy the action.