TwinsTakes Game Recap – Twins at Oakland – June 1st, 2016

TwinsTakes Game Recap - Minnesota Twins at Oakland Athletics - June 1st, 2016

Can the Twins win today and earn their first winning road trip of the season?

The Minnesota Twins closed out a 6-game road trip Wednesday afternoon. Pat Dean started for the Twins while Sean Manaea started for the Oakland Athletics. Pat Dean has been pitching very well since getting the opportunity to start. He was pretty good in his relief but allowed more hits in those appearances. He’s also been striking out more batters than expected as he’s not been a high strikeout pitcher since he was in the rookie leagues in 2010 and that’s mostly because he was a 21-year-old getting his feet wet as a professional pitcher in the short season leagues.

LHP Sean Manaea is a former 1st round pick of the Kansas City Royals. He helped them win the World Series by being the main piece in the Ben Zobrist trade. He was called up to the major leagues on April 29th when RHP Chris Bassitt went down with a strained right elbow. He took that spot in the starting rotation and has kept it. His first few starts were kind of rough but he’s righted the ship somewhat, going past the 6th inning in each of his last three starts. He’s been a strikeout pitcher in the minors but hasn’t developed into that kind of pitcher yet with the big club.

Minnesota Twins 1, Oakland Athletics 5
W-Manaea (2-3)L-Dean (1-2)
2B-Dozier (8)

Pat Dean wasn’t the same pitcher he’s been in his last two appearances but some plays maybe should’ve been made to help him get out of a couple jams. Sean Manaea’s final line of 6IP, 5 H, 1 ER, 4 BB and 8 strikeouts looks better than it was because the Twins can’t get a big hit to save their lives. They were 0-for-9 with runners in scoring position (RISP) for the game and are now 83-for-380 for the season or a sparkling .218. They had the bases loaded with no outs in the 6th and all they got was their one run on a sacrifice fly.

Should we be frustrated about that? Well, it’s hard not to but, at least the Twins are putting themselves in those situations. Now, they just need to figure out how to actually start getting hits with runners on so they can capitalize in those spots. They are trying to do too much and wind up with nothing from those key at-bats.

Oakland is hot right now and the Twins did nothing to put out that fire. It’s somewhat crazy to see former Twin, 3B Danny Valencia, hitting the ball like he is right now. He’s locked in at the plate and it isn’t just against the Twins. They are just the latest victim. He’s now hitting .346/.380/.579 with 5 doubles 1 triple, 8 HRs and 21 RBIs with 8 walks and 24 strikeouts.

Up Next

The Twins have 10 straight games at home starting with 4 against the Tampa Bay Rays starting on Thursday night with:

Phil Hughes (1-7) vs Matt Moore (2-3) – Thursday at 7:10pm
Ricky Nolasco (2-3) vs Jake Odorizzi (2-3) – Friday, June 3rd at 7:10pm
Ervin Santana (1-4) vs Matt Andriese (3-0) – Saturday at 3:10pm
Tyler Duffey (2-4) vs Drew Smyly (2-7) – Sunday at 1:10pm

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TwinsTakes Game Recap – Twins at Oakland – May 31st, 2016

TwinsTakes Game Recap - Minnesota Twins at Oakland Athletics - May 31st, 2016

Can the Twins get back in the win column and start a new winning streak?

Winning 4 out of their last 5 games, the Minnesota Twins look to get back in the win column with Tyler Duffey on the mound. The majority of the Athletics have never faced the Twins young pitcher so will Tyler get them off-balance with the combination of his fastball and his curveball?

Eric Surkamp starts for the Oakland A’s. He’s made 5 starts this season and has only pitched past the 5th inning once and in his last two starts, he’s given up 10 runs including 3 HRs and raised his ERA from 3.68 to 6.55. This is actually his 3rd call-up to the A’s this season with 4 of his starts coming at the beginning of the season, one coming on May 11 and he was recalled today for tonight’s start.

Of course, the big news for this game is the Return of Byron Buxton, who was recalled by the Minnesota Twins last night after the Twins found out Danny Santana injured his left hamstring in yesterday’s game.

What Should We Expect This Time?

Byron Buxton was sent down to AAA Rochester on April 25th after hitting just .156/.208/.289 (AVG/OBP/SLG) with 5 runs, 7 hits, 4 doubles, 1 triple, 2 RBIs, 2 stolen bases and 2 walks with 24 strikeouts in 45 at-bats during 17 games at the beginning of the season. Since he’s been down at AAA, he’s changed his swing mechanics and he started hitting right from the 1st game down there and he never stopped. In 29 games at AAA, Byron Buxton hit .336/.403/.603 with 39 hits, 9 doubles, 2 triples, 6 home runs, 14 RBIs, 4-for-4 in stolen base attempts with 11 walks and 26 strikeouts while scoring 26 runs. BOOM! WOW! Will he be able to do that up with the big boys now?

The Twins opened the scoring with back-to-back doubles from Robbie Grossman and Byung Ho Park in the top of the 2nd inning but Oakland would tie it up in the bottom of the 2nd on a Billy Burns triple that got past Miguel Sano and as he turned to his left to chase the ball, he started limping a little. He would take his next at-bat and be safe running out a double play ball but come up lame and be replaced by Oswaldo Arcia. It turned out to be a left hamstring strain. Sano was put on the 15-Day DL and the Minnesota Twins recalled OF Max Kepler from AAA Rochester. That’s the same injury that forced Danny Santana to be placed on the 15-Day DL after Monday’s game.

Danny Valencia has been on a bit of a tear lately and he was none too shy to show his former team how he’s been hitting. Danny had a couple big hits for the A’s in this game. He hit a 2-run HR (8) to right field in the 3rd that gave his team at 3-2 lead and then he hit a double (3) in the 5th that gave his team the lead again at 4-3. He’s now hitting .333/.370/.558 for the season.

Robbie Grossman did all he could do to keep the Twins in the game, doubling in the 2nd (then scoring the 1st run), 5th (knocking in the tying run) and 8th innings (later scoring to bring the game within 1 run.) Unfortunately, the Twins couldn’t come up with a big hit and couldn’t hold a lead. You can’t win that way.

Tyler Duffey had a rough night tonight to go along with his last two starts. He gave up 10 hits tonight in 4.2 innings. That means, in his last 3 starts, he has an 8.47 ERA and a 1.88 WHIP. Phil Hughes might not be in the bullpen long in that keeps up.

Minnesota Twins 4, Oakland Athletics 7
W-Dull (1-0) L-Duffey (2-4) S-Axford (1)
2B-Grossman (4,5,6), Park (7), Nunez (10), Buxton (5)

The Good

Eduardo Nunez, Joe Mauer, Robbie Grossman and Kurt Suzuki had multiple hits in tonight’s game. Byung Ho Park had a an RBI double to put the Twins in the lead in the 2nd inning. Byron Buxton looked better at the plate and hit a double but still struck out twice. We’ll see how he does tomorrow afternoon.

The Bad

Trevor Plouffe finished the month of May hitting .213/.231/.280 with 2 doubles, 1 HR, 5 RBIs and 2 walks with 14 strikeouts. Is it injury related? It could be. He may deserve some slack on the injury front. On that note, he was starting to get on a roll in April when he went down with a right intercostal strain. He even had it going a little bit in May about 4 games after being activated but he’s in the midst of a 4-for-32 slump with those 4 hits all being singles. He also has zero walks and 8 strikeouts over that 9 game span.

The Milestone, The Trivia, The Interesting?
With his hit in the top of the 9th inning,

Up Next:
MN-Pat Dean (1-1, 3.43 ERA) vs OAK-Sean Manaea (1-3, 7.03 ERA)

Can Pat Dean keep up the good/great pitching and get the Twins a winning road trip before they go home for 10 games?

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TwinsTakes Series Recap – Twins at Mariners – May 27th thru May 29th, 2016

at Seattle

Did the Twins get their 1st Road Sweep of the Season?

Coming into this road series with the Seattle Mariners, the Minnesota Twins were 4-19 away from Target Field. The Seattle Mariners just came off a 7-2 stretch that put them into 1st place in the American League West with a 28-18 record but 5 of those 7 wins came on the road. Their home record was 10-11 and they’ve been swept at home in 2 of their 7 series already this season.

Now, that shows Seattle may have been vulnerable at home but the Twins were hardly a team playing well so, anyone predicting the Twins would get their 1st road sweep of the season should’ve been promptly put in a straight-jacket and placed in a padded room. They did win their most recent game at home against KC for their 12th win of the season but they’ve been a very inconsistent team all season long. They’ve been a team other teams have feasted off of and used to get better for most of the season. Here we go…

Game 1-MN-Pat Dean(0-1) vs SEA-Felix Hernandez(4-3)

Pat Dean, 27 years old, in his 1st season in the major leagues with 3 appearances and 1 start on his major league resume facing “King” Felix Hernandez, 30 years old, in his 12th major league season with 343 starts(& appearances), a 6-time All-Star and a Cy Young Award winner* with a career ERA of 3.11 who almost certainly going to the Hall of Fame. So….who you got?

*How ‘bout this? Felix Hernandez won the American League Cy Young Award in 2010 and he wasn’t even an All-Star that season. I wonder how unusual that is. Arguably, he should’ve won the award in 2014 over Corey Kluber, too.

This 1st game would start with an Eduardo Nunez single to right field but Brian Dozier would ground into a double play and Mauer would strikeout to end that happiness. Then, on the 7th pitch in the bottom of the 1st, Franklin Gutierrez would give the Mariners a lead with a HR to right field and most Twins fans were probably thinking, “Here we go again.”

But…Pat Dean would respond and so would his team’s offense. Miguel Sano, seeing King Felix for the 1st time ever, would take the 4th pitch he saw and hit it where it can’t be caught over the left center field wall to tie the game at 1 in the 2nd inning.

The Twins would add 4 more in the 3rd inning on 5 hits (3 doubles, 2 singles & a walk) to take a 5-1 lead and Pat Dean would settle down into a rhythm getting the next 7 Mariners before allowing a leadoff triple to Robinson Cano in the 4th. He would later score on a single by Dae Ho Lee and then The Dean would respond once again by sitting down the next 11 batters before turning the ballgame over to the bullpen after the 7th inning. He would end up with 8 strikeouts on the day, 7 of them being swinging strikeouts and earn the 1st Win of his Major League career.

Minnesota Twins 7, Seattle Mariners 2
W-Dean (1-1) L-Hernandez (4-4)
2B-Santana (6), Dozier (7), Grossman (3)
HR-Sano (9), Mauer (4)

Game 2-Phil Hughes(1-7)  vs Wade Miley(5-2)

Phil Hughes had a 1-7 record going into Saturday’s game. That record would make you think he’s pitched bad most of this season but, of his 9 starts, 6 of them are quality starts (6+ innings pitched, allowing 3 or less earned runs.) The problem lately is he’s been giving up too many hits, especially HRs, early in the game, putting his team down right away. A struggling team will crack at the first sign of trouble or, at least, that’s how this team has been playing for the majority of this season.

Wade Miley struggled out of the gate this season but figured something out after his 3rd start and has wins in 5 of his last 6 starts , including a complete game shutout of the reigning champion Kansas City Royals.

The Twins would get an early lead from a Miguel Sano 2-R HR in the 1st inning, his 3rd consecutive game with a home run. That lead would be cut in half on the 3rd pitch of the bottom of the 1st when Nori Aoki took Phil Hughes deep to put the Mariners within 1 without using up an out. They would tie the game at 2 in the 2nd inning after loading the bases on a single, a walk and another single before scoring a run on a double play.

Hughes loaded the bases once again in the 3rd. This time with no outs but he was able to get out of it with no damage by inducing 3 pop flies. In the 4th, a single started the inning followed by a passed ball then another single, by Clevenger, that scored Gutierrez on an error from Danny Santana, who bobbled the ball in center field. That also allowed Clevenger to go to 2nd base. A sac bunt moved him to 3rd and he was then singled in by Aoki to make the score 4-2.

The Twins would once again respond right away. This time, Eduardo Nunez would homer to left field and he swung hard on that pitch. Brian Dozier would follow with a walk and then Joe Mauer would launch another HR to left center field just like he did the night before and the Twins led again at 5-4.

Hughes started the 5th with a flyball to center, the first inning he’d get the first batter out. Unfortunately, he allowed 2 singles to the next 2 batters and manager Paul Molitor would make a call for reliever Taylor Rogers to get the Twins out of the 5th inning. Rogers would come out to pitch the 6th and  immediately give up the tying run on a Luis Sardenas HR. A key play would be made by center fielder Danny Santana with Seth Smith on 3rd and 1 out. Nelson Cruz hit a high fly ball to left center. Danny Santana got under it but then have to adjust to his left to catch the ball and quickly make a throw home but he was still able to gun down Seth Smith at home with a perfect throw and keep the game tied at 5.

This Twins team, whoever they are, would once again respond in the next half inning. Nunez got his 3rd hit of the day to leadoff the top of the 7th. Mauer walked w/1 out, moving Nunez to 2nd and Miguel Sano would get a seeing-eye single between the SS & the 3B to score Nunez. There was no throw as Seth Smith had trouble with the ball in left field and the Twins led once again at 6-5.

The game came down to the bottom of the 9th and it would end on one of the craziest double plays you will ever see, the old 2-4-5-6 double play! The pitch from Kevin Jepsen was in the dirt. Juan Centeno blocked it well but it bounced in front of him a little so Kyle Seager broke for 2nd base. Centeno quickly picked up the ball and threw to 2B Brian Dozier. The throw beat Seager so he turned back and, knowing pinch runner Shawn O’Malley was on 3rd, Dozier chased Seager but kept an eye on O’Malley and once he got far enough away from 3rd, Dozier threw to 3B Eduardo Nunez, who tagged out O’Malley. Seager tried to get to 2nd once the throw went to 3rd. Nunez alertly threw over to SS Eduardo Escobar who tagged out Seager to end the game! WOW!

Here, see the play for yourself:

Minnesota Twins 6, Seattle Mariners 5
W-Pressly (2-3) L-Vincent (2-2) H-Boshers (1), May (4), Abad (3), S-Jepsen (5)
HR-Sano (10), Nunez (5), Mauer (5)

Game 3-Ricky Nolasco (1-3) vs Taijuan Walker (2-4)

Both starters for Game 3 have had up and down seasons. Both started pretty well, pitching alright in their first 3-4 starts but have not pitched well of late. Ricky Nolasco has been getting hit very hard for the last month or so. He has a 1.89 WHIP (Walks+Hits per Innings Pitched) in his last 24.1 innings and he just hasn’t looked sharp at all. He keeps missing with his breaking ball and his fastball and he’s missing to the batter’s advantage so it was really up in the air how he’d pitch in this game. Will the somewhat good pitching bug of the last 3 games find it’s way to Mr. Nolasco?

Taijuan Walker was 2-0 in April with an ERA of 1.44 and a WHIP of 0.960 in 25 innings. In 25 innings in May, he has an ERA of 3.96 and a WHIP of 1.16. Now that’s not that bad but in April, every one of his 4 starts were quality starts while in May, only 1 of his 5 starts were quality starts. His strike to ball ratio is right where you want it to be at 2-to-1 He’s just needed too many pitches to get through innings so he’s not able to last past the 5th.

Amazingly, the Twins would give up a run in the 1st inning again and this time it was a rocket that left the yard off the bat of Robinson Cano to make it 1-0 in the 1st pitch of his at bat. The good news is Robbie Grossman would tie the game with a HR of his own to leadoff the 2nd inning. It’s great to see the Twins respond to these early deficits but allowing early leads is not a recipe for success.

Ricky Nolasco gave up a leadoff double in the bottom of the 2nd to Kyle Seager. He’d get moved to 3rd on a groundout and then score on a wild pitch to give Seattle another lead at 2-1. Ricky would get in a groove after that wild pitch and end up pitching 6 innings and allow only 3 hits, 1 walk and those 2 runs while striking out 7.

The Twins flashed more power in the 4th inning when Joe Mauer and Miguel Sano hit back-to-back HRs to left field to leadoff the inning and give the Twins a 3-2 lead. Byung Ho Park would also score that inning off a Juan Centeno double to the left center field wall to make it 4-2. The Twin loaded the bases in the 5th inning off a Nunez single. Dozier was hit in the head by a pitch, Nunez and Dozier would then pull off a double steal moving them to 2nd and 3rd and Miguel Sano would wind up being intentionally walked. The Twins would score only 1 run off a groundout for a 5-2 lead.

So it was up to the Twins bullpen to hold the lead. Trevor May got through the 7th with no damage after hitting a batter but inducing a double play ball to end the inning. Fernando Abad allowed a hit but got through the 8th and Kevin Jepsen came in to close out the game with a 3-run lead. He allowed a hit to Nelson Cruz to begin the inning. Strangely, on a wild pitch, Nelson Cruz did not try to advance to 2nd base and that would turn out to be a big play because Kyle Seager hit into double play to give the Mariners one last out to stay alive.

The Mariners got within one run after Adam Lind singled and advanced to 2nd on a wild pitch and Franklin Gutierrez homered to center field to make Twins fans a little nervous. Dae Ho Lee would pinch hit but Jepsen got him to strike out on a breaking ball to end the game and the Twins did get their 1st road sweep of the season.

Minnesota Twins 5, Seattle Mariners 4
W-Nolasco (2-3) L-Walker (2-5) H-May (5), Abad (4), S-Jepsen (6)
2B-Centeno (3)
HR-Grossman (2), Mauer (6), Sano (11)

The Twins get their 1st Road Sweep of the season and it’s against a 1st place team. Who would’ve thought that? Let those people out of the padded room and take off the straight-jackets! Now they head to Oakland for a 3-game series against the Athletics on Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday before coming home for a 10-game homestand against Tampa Bay, Miami and the Boston Red Sox.

The Good

Lots of good things happened for the Minnesota Twins this weekend, a power surge from Sano and Mauer, Eduardo Nunez keeps on hitting, a lot of good pitching from the starters and the bullpen but the best part of the sweep was the Twins looked like a different team this weekend.

They competed, battled back, responded from early deficits, made big plays at critical times and just looked like they finally believed they can win and who they were playing against didn’t matter. They had confidence in their abilities as baseball players. That’s the biggest part of winning, having that confidence that you can get it done in any situation.  The key will be continuing to play that way.

The Bad

There’s always something a team can learn from in any game or series. The Twins still struggle in bases loaded situations. It feels like we can count on one hand how many big hits this team has had with the bases loaded. The defense wasn’t always sharp so that can be improved. The pitching needs to be better right from the start of the game. Giving up the lead in the 1st inning is going to hurt you more often than not.

The Ugly

Byung Ho Park is 3-for-36(40 PA) in his last 10 games with 2 runs, 3 hits, 0 extra base hits, 2 RBIs and 2 walks with 14 strikeouts. He’s been hit by a pitch twice and has grounded into 2 double plays. That comes out to a .083/.175/.083 (AVG/OBP/SLG) triple slash. Park Bang is the sound of him hitting the bench for a break as he’s been struggling for the last couple weeks. 

Up Next:
Minnesota Twins at Oakland Athletics
Monday-Ervin Santana (1-3) vs Kendall Graveman (1-6)-3pm-ESPN
Tuesday-Tyler Duffey (2-3) vs Eric Surkamp (0-3)-9:05pm-FSN
Wednesday-Pat Dean (1-1) vs Sean Manaea (1-3)-2:30pm-FSN

Later, TwinsTakers! Have a GREAT Memorial Day!
Remember those who sacrificed everything for our freedom every day!

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TwinsTakes Game Recap – Royals vs Twins – 5-23-2016

TwinsTakes Game Recap - Roayls vs Twins - 5-23-2016

The Kansas City Royals visit the Twins for a 3-game series.

It’s Game #44 for the Minnesota Twins as they begin a 3-game series at home against the reigning World Champs with Ricky Nolasco starting for the Twins and Ian Kennedy starting for the Royals.

Nolasco vs Kennedy - May 23rd, 2016

Ricky Nolasco for the Twins against Ian Kennedy for the Royals

Lineups from

Batting lineups for KC vs MIN - 5-23-2016

Picture from after the game so stats are current.

The few ups and many downs of the 2016 Minnesota Twins season continued last night and the downs got going right away in the first inning….again. Royals SS Alcides Escobar doubled to left field to lead off the game. CF Lorenzo Cain then doubled him in to take a 1-0 lead in the first inning. Ricky Nolasco held the damage to only the one run.

Most fans are already down as the Twins already trail in the game. Joe Mauer tried to pick up their moods by hitting his 3rd HR of the season. He hit the first pitch he saw just over the left field wall to tie the game at 1. Then Sano lined out sharply to center field. Plouffe singled and advanced to 2nd on an Alcides Escobar throwing error. Byung Ho Park was hit in the head when Ian Kennedy lost control of a curveball. It clearly wasn’t intentional. Then Robbie Grossman singled on a line drive to right field scoring Plouffe, who ran through the stop sign at 3rd base. Luckily the throw was offline so the Twins got a break and now lead the game 2-1. The Twins got a break. Were things going the right way for the Twins for a change?

Nope. Salvador Perez doubled to lead off the 2nd inning followed by a Paulo Orlando single moving Perez to 3rd. Perez only got to 3rd because the ball was smoked just by Eduardo Escobar so he had to retreat back to 2nd so he wouldn’t be doubled off in case of a line out. A sacrifice fly from Omar Infante would score Perez to tie the game again at 2. Nolasco once again held the damage to one run, striking out the last two batters.

Unfortunately, Ricky Nolasco wouldn’t make it through the 3rd inning. He wasn’t fooling anyone, wasn’t sharp and threw 71 pitches (42 strikes) in only 2.2 innings. His 3rd inning went single, line out, single, walk, coaching visit from Neil Allen, RBI single, sacrifice fly, walk, 2-run single, pitching change for a 6-2 deficit when he was replaced by Trevor May. A 41-minute rain delay would see both teams stay with the pitchers that were in the game before the rain and neither of them responded well.

May would start the 4th by allowing a leadoff double. He’d strikeout the next two batters but would allow a single to Morales that would score the 7th Royals run. Perez would then single on a short fly ball that was called an out on the field but it would be overturned because it was clearly trapped by a diving Danny Santana. The overturned call would result in the 8th Royals run.

Ian Kennedy would get pulled from the game during the 4th inning after a Suzuki line out to left field. He had never pitched after a long delay before and he wasn’t sharp afterwards so that got him pulled. Apparently that ‘Zuki liner was enough for Royals manager Ned Yost to say that’s enough.

The Twins would start the 5th, 6th and 8th innings well, getting two on with no outs only to get 1 or no runs out of it due to 3 double plays. They’d go 3-for-12 w/RISP and leave 9 on base.

In the end, Salvador Perez would go 5-for-5 and help the Royals hand the Twins their 33rd loss of the season by a score of 10-4.

The Good: The Twins had 12 hits. Joe Mauer and Trevor Plouffe went 3-for-5. Is this the start of them getting it going with the bat? Eduardo Escobar was 2-for-4 in his 1st game back from the DL. Grossman continues to hit. The Twins need to start scoring more though.

Taylor Rogers(2IP), Brandon Kinzler(1IP) and Fernando Abad(1IP) pitched 4 scoreless innings allowing only 2 hits while striking out 4.

The Bad: Ricky Nolasco isn’t sharp after starting the season well. In April, he was getting strikeouts and not allowing a lot of hits. In April, he allowed .214/.236/.363 (AVG/OBP/SLG). In May, it’s a very different story at .346/.390/.600. He’s still getting strikeouts but he’s allowing more hits and those hits are usually hit very hard. Is it a focus thing? Is he hurt again? Is it the losing?

The Twins had to use Kevin Jepsen to finish a game they were losing 8-4. He’d allow 3 hits and 2 runs, all after 2 outs. Trevor May is struggling and keeps relying on his fastball, trying to throw it as hard as he can. Mix in more of that curveball and see if that works. The old bread & butter fastball isn’t going to fool them if they know it’s coming more often than not.

Every relief pitcher has pitched the last two days. That’s not good. This bullpen has been overworked and needs someone to step up and go at least 6 innings and preferably more.

Up Next: Can Ervin Santana continue pitching well and pitching well against the Royals? He looked good in KC in April. The Twins need a good start from someone. Be a stopper, Erv! He’ll face Edinson Volquez tonight at 7:10pm!

Let’s Go, Twins!

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2016 Minnesota Twins Season Preview – Going Deep 2016 Minnesota Twins Season Preview

Will the Minnesota Twins contend in 2016?

For the 2016 Minnesota Twins, that’s the big question. Will they contend in 2016? After winning 83 games in 2015 and surprising pretty much everyone, except maybe themselves, by being in the hunt for the playoffs until the final series of the season, can the Minnesota Twins build off of that and make it to the postseason dance in 2016? We do know they enjoy dancing!

The Twins competed in 2015. First year Manager Paul Molitor was a big part of that. He got his players to believe they could compete with and beat any team in the league. They appeared to have that never say die attitude in every game and kept playing hard no matter what. That compete level might be the biggest thing for any team or player. When the Twins were losing 90+ games a season not so long ago, they didn’t look like a team that believed they could win. Once they got down a few runs, their heads would lower and the confidence to come back was not there.

Mike Zimmer, head coach of the Minnesota Vikings, has talked about every team going through 4 Stages of Success or 4 “learns”, Learning How to Compete, How to Win, How to Handle Winning and How to be a Champion. At the time, early November of 2015, Coach Zimmer said the Vikings were between stages 2 & 3, learning how to win and how to handle winning. He also said his team wasn’t “tight or a nervous kind of team. They’re confident but focused on the job.” The Twins might be in exactly the same position as the Vikings were about 5 months ago and we saw how that turned out, a division championship and pushing the reigning champs to the edge of defeat. This Twins team doesn’t just want to win, they expect to win.

Going Deep*

The biggest reason this team is ready to contend is they have more and better depth in all areas. Some of that depth might be younger players who are still learning the game at this level but they are ready. They have nothing to prove in the minors anymore. When injuries hit like they always do, that depth will come in handy. They still have plenty of prospects too. Some good players were sent down to the minors. The AAA Rochester Red Wings could have a very good season in the young Twins prospects keep developing like they have up to this point.
*Going Deep has multiple meanings. Of course there’s Going Deep as in hitting the ball out of the park. There’s Going Deep as in the Twins having more depth this season than they’ve had in a long time. Then there’s Going Deep as in Deep as getting down and dirty on how this Twins team will do in 2016!

Better Starting Rotation

We’ll get a full season of Ervin Santana, a rebound year from a lighter Phil Hughes, another year of Kyle Gibson improving, a full year of Tommy Milone and maybe a year of Ricky Nolasco actually earning his money. That means the Twins had to send Tyler Duffey, who was probably the Twins best pitcher down the stretch last season, to AAA. They still have Jose Berrios waiting in the wings and he is very close to being ready if or when the rotation falters or injuries hit.

The Bullpen Will be Better

I said will, not is! It might not happen immediately. They are better than what the Twins had at the beginning of last season and they can be good. That bullpen last season overachieved in a lot of ways, especially early in the season. You still can’t believe how good Blaine Boyer was pitching. Aaron Thompson was pitching great too. The bullpen was a reason for a lot of losses last season. Those losses loom large knowing the Twins missed the playoffs by 3 games.

The Twins will start 2016 with Glen Perkins as the closer once again but they now have Kevin Jepson as a setup man along with a healthy Casey Fien and Trevor May as options from the right side. Ryan Pressly is also healthy again and an out of options Michael Tonkin is in a long relief role motivated to stay on the club. From the left side there’s Fernando Abad, who had a great 2014 then struggled in 2015. Can he get back to how he pitched in 2014? Or was that an outlier season? Is he a LOOGY (Lefty One Out Guy)? A 7th inning guy? Is he better than Brian Duensing as a lefty out of the pen? If he can get back to something resembling what he did in 2014, the Twins got themselves a nice lefty option in their bullpen.

That bullpen could get better as the season goes on as well. There’s some heat down on the farm very close to being ready. Those flamethrowers are the reason the Twins didn’t sign a free agent reliever to a long term deal. The amount of money those relievers were getting was a little bit crazy. You can probably thank the Kansas City Royals for that. KC’s bullpen has changed how teams view relievers. The Royals didn’t have great starting pitching but if those guys could get them through 6 innings, they would almost always close the door, saving the game or giving the Royals bats a chance to come back.

The Infield is Set

For the first time in a long time, the Minnesota Twins infield is set with four players that should be the starters for the whole season. There wasn’t any battles for 1st, 2nd, 3rd or SS in Spring Training. We can only hope that 1B Joe Mauer, 2B Brian Dozier, 3B Trevor Plouffe and SS Eduardo Escobar will be able to stay healthy all season long.

Joe Mauer is looking, with sunglasses on, for a rebound from his worst season in 2015 when he had career lows in batting average (.265), on-base % (.338) & OPS (on-base plus slugging %) (.718). He did play in a career high 158 games though. He’s still working his way back from his concussions that forced a move to first base. Did playing more and lingering concussion symptoms play a role in having a bad season? That’s incredibly hard to answer as concussions affect everyone differently depending on the severity of the concussion and how many they’ve had previously.

Brian Dozier is developing into a leader and could improve on his outstanding 2015 season. Could he top 30 HRs? We know he’s going to score runs as he is the most valuable baserunner in the American League. He plays gold glove caliber defense and he’ll keep dancing after Twins wins! Dancing! Dancing! DANCING!

Eduardo Escobar, after taking over the shortstop position the last two seasons, is finally getting the chance to be the starting shortstop for the Minnesota Twins right from the start of the season. He’s been a doubles machine and has shown unexpected power while playing above average defense. Can he do it for a full season now?

Trevor Plouffe will be the same solid 3rd baseman he’s made himself into through plain hard work. You’ll get some power and some clutch hits out of his bat as he will be in the cleanup spot most of the time. Will he have to deal with trade talk during the season? Paul Molitor & Terry Ryan believe Trevor is an important piece to this Twins teams. The obvious question is if there will ever be some Sano at 3rd base? It will depend on how Miguel does in right field.

Outfield of Dreams?

The Twins will start the 2016 season with an outfield of young prospects that could make for the most exciting outfield in the league. Eddie Rosario will be in left, Byron Buxton in center and Miguel Sano will take over right field. That young outfield should definitely bring some excitement at the plate, especially if Byron Buxton starts to show signs of how he’s performed offensively in the minors.

It didn’t take long for the league to see how legit the bat of Miguel Sano was as he pummeled pitches again and again to the tune of a .530 slugging percentage that included 18 HRs, 17 doubles and 1 triple! He hit .269 for average, .385 OBP and a .916 OPS in just 78 games or roughly half a season. He did have 119 strikeouts in those 78 games but he also had 53 walks. Will he be better in a full season? Will the switch to the outfield affect his at-bats? Will he be able to stay healthy playing the outfield?

Eddie Rosario lead the league in triples with 15 last season and was tied for 2nd in the league with 16 outfield assists. A low OBP and a high number of strikeouts is worrisome but Ed can flat out hit. This young outfield could make or break the Twins season.

Catching Up

In November, the Twins traded former 1st round pick Aaron Hicks to the New York Yankees for backup catcher John Ryan Murphy. They needed an upgrade at the catching position as Kurt Suzuki struggled in his 2nd year with the Twins and the backups were…well…backup catchers, meaning they provided very little offense and decent defense. The Twins got a catcher for the future in the 24-year-old Murphy, an everyday catcher according to the Yankees GM. Their bullpen coach, Gary Tuck said this about him:

“He’s different, he’s special. He’s as good as anybody I’ve ever had—and that’s 40 years of some of the greatest catchers who have ever been behind the plate,” said bullpen coach Gary Tuck, an ex-big league catcher and longtime catching instructor, to Dan Barbarisi back in May. “A championship player. And I don’t say that about many people. He’s right there—Joe Girardi, Jason Varitek, John Ryan Murphy. A championship player.”

That’s pretty good, huh?

Going Deep in Korean

The Twins went out and got Korean slugger Byung Ho Park as a right-handed bat with some power. He looked good in Spring Training adapting to a new country and a new league but, of course, it’s always difficult judging what a player does in Spring Training.

Byung Ho Park is a big reason why the Twins had to move Miguel Sano to the outfield but he could also be a big reason why the Twins can give Joe Mauer a break from playing in the field more often to see if that helps him come back from a career worst season.


The bottom line is it always comes down to pitching and the Twins have had trouble with pitching for a long time! If the rotation struggles early and the bullpen gets overworked, it could mean trouble. The offense looks good but there’s still some young pieces that could struggle in their second season in the Major Leagues.

I believe this team will compete. Brian Dozier will be the team leader on & off the field and they could take another step this season. It will be a fun season and this is just the start of something big for the Minnesota Twins!

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