"A New York Treasure" --Village Voice

Minnesota Twins

Minnesota Twins

2007 Record: 79-83 (.488)
2008 Pythagorean Record: 80-82 (.495)

2008 Record: 28-25 (.528)
2008 Pythagorean Record: 25-28 (.480)

Manager: Ron Gardenhire
General Manager: Bill Smith

Home Ballpark (multi-year Park Factors): Hubert H. Humphrey Metrodome (96/96)

Who’s Replacing Whom:

Carlos Gomez replaces Torii Hunter
Delman Young replaces Jason Tyner and Lew Ford
Brendan Harris replaces Luis Castillo
Adam Everett replaces Jason Bartlett
Alexi Casilli is filling in for Everett (DL) in the infield, while Howie Clark is filling in for Everett on the roster
Mike Lamb replaces Nick Punto at third base
Matt Macri is filling in for Punto (DL) on the bench
Craig Monroe replaces Jeff Cirillo
Nick Blackburn inherits Johan Santana’s starts
Kevin Slowey inherits Matt Garza’s starts
Livan Hernandez replaces Carlos Silva
Glen Perkins is taking the place of Scott Baker (DL) in the rotation
Baker inherited Sidney Ponson’s starts
Jesse Crain inherits the relief innings of Pat Neshek (DL)
Brian Bass replaces Ramon Ortiz
Craig Breslow replaces the relief innings of Perkins, Blackburn, and Julio DePaula

25-man Roster:

1B – Justin Morneau (L)
2B – Alexi Casilla (S)
SS – Brendan Harris (R)
3B – Mike Lamb (L)
C – Joe Mauer (L)
RF – Michael Cuddyer (R)
CF – Carlos Gomez (R)
LF – Delmon Young (R)


R – Craig Monroe (OF)
R – Mike Redmond (C)
L – Howie Clark (IF)
R – Matt Macri (IF)


R – Nick Blackburn
R – Livan Hernandez
R – Kevin Slowey
L – Glen Perkins
R – Boof Bonser


R – Joe Nathan
R – Matt Guerrier
L – Dennys Reyes
R – Juan Rincon
R – Jesse Crain
R – Brian Bass
L – Craig Breslow

15-day DL: R – Adam Everett (SS), S – Nick Punto (IF), S – Matt Tolbert (IF), R – Scott Baker
60-day DL: R – Pat Neshek

Typical Lineup:

R – Carlos Gomez (CF)
S – Alexi Casilla (2B)
L – Joe Mauer (C)
L – Justin Morneau (1B)
R – Michael Cuddyer (RF)
L – Jason Kubel (DH)
R – Delmon Young (LF)
L – Mike Lamb (3B)
R – Brendan Harris (SS)

The Twins have turned over five spots in their lineup and two spots in their starting rotation from the end of last season. Building around the young core of Justin Morneau (27), Joe Mauer (25), Michael Cuddyer (29), and Jason Kubel (26), the three-through-six hitters in their order, the Twins brought in the top outfield prospects from the Devil Rays and Mets (22-year-olds Delmon Young and Carlos Gomez), but traded their top two pitchers for the privilege.

A year ago, Twins fans were hoping to see Francisco Liriano return from Tommy John surgery this year to join Johan Santana and the team’s top pitching prospect Matt Garza in an unbeatable rotation. Instead, Santana was shipped to Queens for Gomez and three pitching prospects, Garza was shipped to Tampa with shortstop Jason Bartlett for Young, middle-infielder Brendan Harris, and minor league outfielder Jason Pridie, and Liriano is in triple-A struggling to rediscover his old magic after posting a 11.32 ERA in three big league starts in April. As Aaron Gleeman reported on Wednesday:

Francisco Liriano served up a grand slam to Brad Eldred while allowing six runs in his latest start at Triple-A, giving him a 4.38 ERA and 23-to-14 strikeout-to-walk ratio in six starts since being sent back to Rochester. The good news is that Liriano has improved his control recently, walking a total of just five batters over his last four outings. The bad news is that he’s still throwing 88-91 miles per hour, has yet to strike out more than five batters in any start, and isn’t inducing a high percentage of ground balls.

As for the three pitching prospects received from the Mets, Phil Humber and Kevin Mulvey have 5.19 and 4.07 ERAs for triple-A Rochester, and Deolis Guerra has a 4.23 mark for high-A Fort Myers.

Gomez has been more encouraging. Most analysts and scouts believed he needed another year of seasoning at triple-A after being forced up to the majors last year by the injuries to Moises Alou and Endy Chavez, but Gomez has added 61 points to his batting average and shown the power that was absent during his big league debut last year. His walk and strikeout rates are both heading in the wrong direction, but he’s shown he can grow at the major league level, and he’s posting a 111 OPS+ and using his speed to great effect in the field and on the bases (17 steals in 22 attempts thus far). None of that holds true for Young, who is walking more and striking out less, but otherwise a drain on the offense with an 83 OPS+ and no homers heading into the final days of May.

In the other three spots, the Twins have replaced placeholders with stop-gaps, going from punchless Nick Punto to veteran platoon slugger Mike Lamb at third only to find themselves still waiting for Lamb to hit his second home run of the year. They replaced the good-field, no-hit Bartlett with the similarly skilled Adam Everett only to watch Everett bounce on and off the disabled list. Brendan Harris can neither field, nor hit, but with both Everett and Punto hurt, he’s been their one reliably available middle infielder and thus has logged significant time at both second base and shortstop, starting all but nine of the Twins 53 games thus far.

Beyond the financial considerations that went into trading Johan Santana, the Twins felt free to trade two of their three best pitchers because they’ve had something of a bumper crop of starting prospects in recent years. Indeed, if you look past the innings-eating mass that is Livan Hernandez, you find a young rotation of emerging arms who, while they don’t hold the promise of a Liriano or a Garza, could do for the Twins what Shawn Marcum and Jesse Litsch have done for the Blue Jays. That is, make starting pitching the least of their problems.

As the Yankees are discovering, these things work in strange ways. A year ago, the Twins were looking at Garza, Kevin Slowey, and Scott Baker, hoping for a 2008 return from Liriano, and hoping Boof Bonser would shape up. They then traded Garza, Bonser hasn’t shaped up, Liriano’s return hasn’t gone as planned, and Baker is hurt. Still, Nick Blackburn (26) came out of nowhere in April to emerge as the staff’s early season ace. Slowey (24) has made good on his command-and-control prospects thus far and is moving to take that underwhelming title from Blackburn, and Baker’s injury replacement Glen Perkins (25), who starts tonight against Mike Mussina, has bounced back from a season spent languishing in the bullpen to reclaim his own prospect status by turning in four straight quality starts in Baker’s stead with a sharp 4:1 K/BB ratio.

With the Twins still holding out hope for Liriano and expecting Baker to bounce Bonser when he returns next week, the organization’s hopes for a strong post-Santana rotation persist. Meanwhile, even with Pat Neshek out for the year, their bullpen remains strong, behind ace closer Joe Nathan (1.66 ERA, 4.4 K/BB). Of course, as with the Blue Jays, this only ads up to a .500 team, but unlike in Toronto, there’s some reason for Twins fans to be hopeful. Heck, they’re only two games out of first place entering this weekend’s four-game series with the Yankees. With Cleveland and Detroit continuing to scuffle, there’s no reason the Twins couldn’t surprise in the central if their rotation plans pan out and a couple of their struggling young hitters pull a second-half Cano.

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--Earl Weaver