For the Twins and their loyal fans, the postseason has been bittersweet, not being able to get past the ALDS or more specifically the New York Yankees. The Evil Empire has the Twins number, sweeping the series both in 2009 and 2010.
So, the Twins enter this season with a monkey on their backs, in a division that got a lot tougher during the off-season.
Can the Twins defy odds, win another AL best 94 games and not get hung out to dry in the playoffs…again?
Is three times really a charm?
Let’s take a look at the Minnesota Twins heading into the 2011 season.
Catcher Joe Mauer and 1B Justin Morneau, Minnesota’s M & M boys are two of the best players in baseball, that is when they are not on the DL. If these two can stay healthy that will be a big step forward in Minnesota.
Morneau, the 2006 MVP just has to be able to play, as this guy has produce, as he hit 18 home-runs and 56 RBIs in 2010 playing in just 81 games. So, imagine double those numbers as Morneau’s career full season norm. Concussions have not allowed for Morneau to even touch a field until about two weeks ago when he got cleared to go.
Getting closer Joe Nathan back, after losing him for the entire 2010 season to Tommy John surgery is something the whole city of Minneapolis is happy about. Nathan has not looked like his normal ace-like self in Spring Training, but this is expected with any pitcher just coming off Tommy John.
Even though the Twins lost key bullpen guys in Joe Rauch and Jesse Crain, they still have Matt Capps who is a solid set-up man. Capps can close if need be, but with the rest of the bullpen being young and inexperienced; Nathan’s return will be the difference maker.
The Twins skipper has proven he can tweak a team to win. Ron Gardenhire took a severely damaged 2010 Twins team, led them to the playoffs with the most wins in the AL. Gardenhire was without question the 2010 Manager of the Year, for making the impossible, possible.
The Twins rotation is not without questions, but is good enough to have a winning year, as the bats have been the problem. The starters are not going to make or break the team, as they will just go with the flow.
Led by ace Francisco Liriano and a solid #2 Carl Pavano provide a solid punch atop the rotation and three reliable youngsters to finish out the back-end follow them. This is a nice group that can eat innings. The starters posted the fourth best ERA in the AL last season with a 3.95, throwing nine complete games and three shout-outs.
Are Nathan, Mauer and Morneau going to be able to stay off the DL in 2011? If history dictates anything this would be a miracle.
Nathan is coming back from Tommy John surgery, so expect some road bumps. That means everyone in the bullpen is bumped up a spot to adjust and makes the team’s strength a lot weaker.
Morneau’s concussion caused dizziness and blurred vision for that last eight months. He was rumored to be able to play last October and only just got cleared. This is a life-impacting situation for Morneau, as he was out for so long with no activity allowed. This is a reason for concern and mainly that you don’t want to see the slugger do any more damage to his brain. Continue reading ‘2011 MLB Team Preview: Minnesota Twins’ »