Acquisitions: INF Tsuyoshi Nishioka, RP Jim Hoey, RP Paul Bargas, RP Brett Jacobson, C Steve Holm, C Rene Rivera
Losses: SS J.J. Hardy (Trade), C Jose Morales (Trade), RHP Jesse Crain (FA), RHP Matt Guerrier (FA), RHP Jon Rauch (FA), LHP Brian Fuentes (FA), Nick Punto (FA), Orlando Hudosn (FA), Matt Guerrier (FA), Jesse Crain (FA), Jon Rauch (FA), Ron Mahay (FA), Brian Fuentes (FA).
CF Denard Span
2B Tsuyoshi Nishioka
C Joe Mauer
1B Justin Morneau
LF Delmon Young
RF Michael Cuddyer
DH Jason Kubel
3B Danny Valencia
SS Alexi Casilla
RHP Carl Pavano
LHP Francisco Liriano
RHP Kevin Slowley
RHP Nick Blackburn
LHP Brian Duensing
RHP Scott Baker
CL RHP Joe Nathan/ RHP Matt Caps
After suffering season-ending injuries to several of their star players, the Twins had to scramble in the second half of 2010. That they did, earning Ron Gardenhire a well-deserved manager of the year honor, and securing their sixth division title in the last nine years.
The absence of Justin Morneau (missed all second half), and Joe Mauer (out towards the latter part of the season), didn’t significantly diminish the team’s offensive production as players like Delmon Young and Danny Valencia had breakout seasons, while Jim Thome showed that he still has plenty left in the tank. Last year, the Twins were second to last in stolen bases and third to last in times caught stealing, which tells you they didn’t run much at all. This year, Gardenhire wants his offense to feature a stronger running game to try and counteract a drop in home runs due to hitter-unfriendly Target Field. The addition of Japanese infielder Tsuyoshi Nishioka will provide a boost of speed in the infield and on the bases, and from the looks of it so far, a solid bat as well.
Waiting for players to come back from injury might slow down the Twins out of the gates. Morneau, for instance, is still recovering from a concussion suffered last July. He experienced symptoms related to the injury all through the second half of last season and only recently has been cleared for spring training games. Twins manager Ron Gardenhire doesn’t want stud catcher Joe Mauer “catching in the games right away” (a tidbit that wasn’t really supposed to be shared with the world) as he continues to recover from last year’s knee injury.
Closer Joe Nathan’s job is his to lose, says Gardenhire, since the hurler is coming off Tommy John surgery and an 11-month layoff. On a more positive note, although Francisco Liriano arrived at camp with tightness in his throwing shoulder, he has been able to throw in the bullpen without a problem. The return of a revitalized Carl Pavano will ensure the pitching depth of the Twins rotation, but a depleted bullpen with the departures of Guerrier, Crain, Rauch, and Fuentes presents a few holes to fill this spring.
Lest you think the Twinkies are scrapping 2011 and focusing on next year, if healthy the Twins ball club still remains the team to beat on paper and on the field (no matter what an overconfident AL Central Outfielder thinks).