Justin Morneau is back from his post-concussion symptoms. Joe Nathan is fully recovered from his ailments that he suffered last season. In the UFC, Joe Rogan and other commentators often speak of “ring rust” when describing fighters who are returning to competition after long layoffs. The Twins brass hope this ring rust was remedied with spring training.
The American League Central may be the only division in baseball with three truly viable contenders for the division crown. The Cleveland Indians and Kansas City Royals still remain afterthoughts-much to the chagrin to their respective fan bases. The latter is trying to create a buzz that they will be contenders in a couple of years simply to placate the masses. The cases of Mark Prior and Todd Van Poppel are proof positive that prospects don’t always come to fruition. Even if they do pan out, the players will inevitably bolt to bigger markets that are willing to open their wallets for long term deals. Their payroll is only slightly higher than Alex Rodriguez’s salary for the upcoming season.
The Twins are one of the few franchises that have a solid starting rotation from start to finish. Carl Pavano is not a true ace of the staff, but he does follow the mantra of the organization by keeping the ball down and consistently hitting the strike zone with efficiency.
There have been rumblings that Francisco Liriano may not be a long term fit with the club. This seems to be a question more of chemistry than talent, because giving up a quality lefthander in the prime of his career does not seem very logical on the surface. Nick Blackburn, Scott Baker, Brian Duensing, and Kevin Slowey round out the starting five. This will be a definite strength to the team that has two elite closers on the back end-with the addition of Matt Capps. The question will be whether the starters can be workhorses because the middle relief with the departure of Matt Guerrier.
The shortstop and second base positions are the weakness of the starting line-up. The club attempted to address the situation in the offseason by adding Tsuyoshi Nishioka. He will be placed along side of light hitting Alexi Casilla. The old baseball cliché is that teams must be strong up the middle. While this is certainly the case at catcher, pitcher, and center field, it does not ring true in the infield.
Depending on how many pitchers that Rick Anderson and Ron Gardenhire decide to keep, they may add a third catcher to the roster so Joe Mauer can be placed at DH. This would allow a backup option for Drew Butera in that scenario. If a team is going to shell out close to one hundred and ninety million dollars, it would seem to follow suit that the club has him in the line-up as much as possible. The other side of the coin is that it is the most taxing position on the field, but the games do count as much in April as they do in September.
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