The Minnesota Twins, somewhat surprisingly, finished with a winning record last year (83-79) – their first since 2010. Unfortunately, they didn’t do much in the offseason to add to last season’s success.
“I think historically the Twins haven’t really been a club that’s going to go out and do what, say, Detroit has done this year or (what) other clubs that are able to go out and spend a lot of money (have done),” Hall of Famer and Twins analyst Bert Blyleven said on CBS Sports Radio’s Tiki and Tierney. “The Twins have a budget that they try to maintain and they try to build within. I think we’ll see a lot of that building within this year.”
Interestingly, the Twins were just one of two teams last year to finish with a winning record despite having a negative run differential. The Angels were the other.
“It all comes down to good pitching,” Blyleven said. “The Twins need to win the 2-1 ballgame, the 3-2 ballgame. Starters need to go deeper into ballgames (so that) Glen Perkins or Kevin Jepsen or Casey Fien don’t get worn out by the middle of August. The Twins are looking for a full season by Ervin Santana. Phil Hughes had some back issues. Hopefully that’s behind him. And Kyle Gibson is a young kid that I think is getting better and better. The Twins have a nice problem this year: They’re looking for that fourth and fifth starter, and they got some names to look at.”
Those names include Tyler Duffey, Jose Berrios and Ricky Nolasco.
Offensively, the Twins, as usual, need a big year from Joe Mauer. The former AL MVP hit just .265 with 10 homers and 66 RBIs last season. He also turns 33 in April.
What can we expect from Mauer this season?
“Well, Joe has come out publicly and said since the concussion he had a couple years ago that the eye sight has not been where good hitters like a Mauer (wants it),” Blyleven said. “(Good hitters) have that capability of picking that baseball out of that pitcher’s hand as soon as they release it. He’s had a tough time over the last couple years adjusting to that.”
In his 2009 MVP season, Mauer hit .365 with a .444 OBP, 28 homers and 96 RBIs. He has just 47 homers in the six years since.
Worth nothing: Target Field opened in 2010.
“(The Metrodome) was more of a homer dome,” Blyleven said. “I think Target Field is a little bit too big for him, but Joe hopefully will get back to what he is: a career .300 hitter, a guy that can hopefully drive in 70 or 80 runs, and maybe hit in the teens as far as home runs. I don’t think the Twins are looking for 20 home runs out of Joe. They’re just looking for his consistency and getting on base.”
And his availability. Mauer, to his credit, played a career-high 158 games last season. It was his first time breaking the 150-game barrier.
“(The Twins are) looking for a healthy Joe Mauer to just go about that No. 3 spot, get on base and create havoc,” Blyleven said.