The lights are on in Hammond Stadium and Twins players, both familiar and new, have donned their uniforms to compete for a place on the 40-man roster. Just like every spring before, the players have reported to camp ‘in the shape of their lives,’ and there is a high level of hope floating in the Florida breeze.
That hope isn’t as prevalent in the Minnesota cold, however, as fans brace themselves for what could be another disappointing season. The front office and Manager Ron Gardenhire are aware of the growing dissatisfaction in the home team’s less-than-stellar performance the past two seasons, and have made dramatic changes this off-season to try and reverse the team’s downward spiral.
The beginning of the off-season brought changes to the coaching staff, with only Gardenhire and Pitching Coach Rick Anderson keeping their jobs.
The changes kept on coming as Outfielders Denard Span and Ben Revere were traded to the Washington Nationals and the Philadelphia Phillies, respectively, for prospects and pitchers.
For the past two seasons the Twins have struggled with pitching, as the starting pitchers and the bullpen have been riddled with injuries. This season will be a rebuilding season since many of the strong arms the Twins have acquired during the off-season were sent to the Twins minor league affiliates. This spring is the first time these pitchers will practice with Twins veterans and have a chance to learn from the coaches.
“They’ve all been with different organizations, so we’ll get them working on their fundamentals and on learning our way of playing. It will be a lot of fun,” Gardenhire told fans at TwinsFest in January.
Despite being young and inexperienced, Gardenhire told fans at TwinsFest that he is confident these new pitchers will develop quickly.
“These kids have major league stuff and the ability to get guys out, so now it’s a matter of being patient and making sure we do the right things to protect their arms. We’ve got a little bit of depth among our starters—we’ve got guys who know how to pitch,” Gardenhire said.
Last season, despite having a weak and oft-injured pitching corps, the Twins were able to piece together 66 wins thanks to their offensive strength. With power hitters Morneau, Willingham, and Doumit, the Twins are confident in their ability to score runs.
“We just need our starters to eat up innings so that we can protect our bullpen and give our offense a chance later in the games, and we’ll be fine. We can score runs when we have Mauer and Morneau and Willingham and Doumit and Plouffe—guys who can get a ball out of the ballpark. We just need to figure out a way to stop the other team from scoring,” Gardenhire said.
Keeping the other team from scoring will be critical if the Twins want to increase the number in their wins column this season. One way to do this will be to strengthen the infield, where there are some question marks after last season. Brian Dozier, Pedro Florimon, Jamey Carroll, and Eduardo Escobar are all vying for infield positions during spring training. All four had playing time at the major league level last year, and all but Carroll spent time in the minor leagues as well. Gardenhire has expressed interest in using Florimon and Dozier as the starters with Carroll and Escobar serving in utility roles.
The other big question mark is center field. With the loss of both Span and Revere, Aaron Hicks, Darin Mastroianni and Joe Benson will compete for the position. Chris Parmelee appears to be locked in at right field after having several successful seasons bouncing between Triple-A and the major leagues.
Despite the almost unlimited supply of hope surrounding the team in Fort Myers, Twins fans shouldn’t expect a drastic turnaround by their favorite team this season. It’s likely that this season will be another disappointing one statistically, but if everything goes according to plan, it should be a stepping block towards a winning team in the near future.