The Twins of 2012, who finished the season 66-96, started the season 2-4, having been swept at Baltimore to open the season before winning two out of three against the Los Angeles Angels at home.
This year the Twins are off to a 4-2 start, having won series against Detroit and Baltimore, both playoff teams last year.
A big reason has been improved pitching from a completely revamped staff.
Last year, Twins pitchers posted an ERA of 5.65 over their first six games, with 16 walks and 28 strikeouts over 51 innings. The starters over those first two series were Carl Pavano (twice), Francisco Liriano (twice), Anthony Swarzak and Nick Blackburn.
This year the staff has posted a 3.74 ERA over those first six games, with 19 walks and 33 strikeouts over 53 innings. None of the starters from the first six games last year has started this season. Vance Worley (twice), Kevin Correia, Mike Pelfrey, Liam Hendriks and Pedro Hernandez have taken the hill for the Twins.
The only pitchers from last season who have appeared in games this season are Swarzak (as a reliever) and relievers Jared Burton, Brian Duensing and Glen Perkins. Those three pitchers have combined to allow one earned run over nine innings in 2013.
Didn’t spend big bucks
Even though the Twins didn’t spend big money on free agents like they did when they signed Josh Willingham last year to a three-year deal worth $21 million, they are off to a much better start.
For some strange reason, the new pitchers are performing much better at the start of the season than they did in spring training.
“It has been a good look here,” said General Manager Terry Ryan, especially after taking two out of three in Baltimore, where they hadn’t won a series since 2010.
On Sunday, Hernandez made a spot start and allowed three runs and four hits in five innings. Then the bullpen blanked the Orioles on three hits the rest of the way.
“We’ve got some decent outings [this year],” Ryan said. “Even though Worley only went five [innings on Saturday], there was some indication that maybe that thing was going to get away from us, and he kept it in check long enough for us to get back in that and stay in that game. Unlike last year, we had a guy who stepped up and at least had some damage control.
“Worley has enough stuff and he certainly is competitive. I like the fact that he doesn’t back down at all. Pelfrey threw a pretty good game the other day up in Minnesota and he is probably going to get better as the season goes on because he’s coming off a year of Tommy John [surgery recovery]. Correia had a good outing. He’s going to pitch again [Monday] at Kansas City, but he did a nice job. Hendriks was the one bump here that didn’t give us much of a chance. He has to do a better job of damage control.”
Another big surprise Saturday was Josh Roenicke, who helped out the bullpen by shutting out the Orioles for three innings, allowing the Twins to get back into a game they would eventually win.
The one disappointment to date has been center fielder Aaron Hicks, who hit .370 in spring training and, even though he got a big hit Sunday by driving in the go-ahead run with a single in the seventh inning to help the Twins win 4-3, he is hitting .077 for the first six games.
“I’m not so sure that should be unexpected,” Ryan said. “But I was hoping he would get off to a better start for his confidence. But he’s doing a decent job in center field and he’s certainly got the skills to play up here. Now it’s just a matter of whether or not he’s going to put those at-bats together and give himself a chance. He got a little out of the zone, which will happen with any young hitter, and we’re facing some good pitching. I think in time he’s going to be all right, but he’s off to a pretty good start.”
Ryan said second baseman Brian Dozier has gotten off to a decent start and the general manager was happy to see first baseman Justin Morneau get his first RBI Saturday and then add two more RBI on Sunday on a double that Orioles center fielder Adam Jones lost in the sun.
• The Vikings are still negotiating with cornerback Antoine Winfield, who was released because of his high salary. After Winfield visited the Redskins in Washington, the word is he will visit the Seattle Seahawks this week. However, Seattle has two great cornerbacks and you wonder if they will pay him what he wants. Vikings coach Leslie Frazier said Sunday that the team is still trying to bring Winfield back. “In this business, nothing is done until it’s done,” Frazier said. “We’ll see what happens.”
• The word is that Jeff Jones, the great Minneapolis Washburn running back who committed to the Gophers, is still committed but might look at some other schools in the near future.
• New Gophers basketball coach Richard Pitino and his Florida International team played his father, Rick, and his Louisville team this season. FIU lost 79-55 to the Cardinals, who are in Monday’s NCAA championship game. There is a chance there will be a father vs. son game at Williams Arena during the 2013-14 season.
• Wilson Ramos, the catcher the Twins sent to Washington in 2010 in the trade for closer Matt Capps, is off to a great start. He is hitting .444 with two home runs in three games after missing most of last year because of a knee injury.
• In his debut with the Florida Panthers in a 4-3 loss to Washington on Saturday, former Gopher Nick Bjugstad had one shot on goal in 19 shifts and had 13 minutes, 4 seconds of ice time.
• Twins pitching prospect Alex Meyer made his first start for Class AA New Britain, allowing one run on six hits over five innings with eight strikeouts in a no-decision against Richmond. … Twins 2012 first-round draft pick Byron Buxton is off to a torrid start at Class A Cedar Rapids, hitting .563 with a home run, three RBI and four runs scored in four games. … Oswaldo Arcia and Chris Colabello continue to show why they are two of the most likely prospects to see action with the Twins this season. Through four games at Class AAA Rochester, Arcia is hitting .400 with six RBI, five runs scored and two homers; Colabello is batting .600 with three RBI, six runs scored and two home runs.
• Scott Diamond pitched five innings for the Fort Myers Miracle on Sunday as he works his way back to the Twins rotation. Diamond allowed four runs on six hits with three strikeouts.
Sid Hartman can be heard weekdays on 830-AM at 6:40, 7:40 and 8:40 a.m. and on Sundays at 9:30 a.m. email@example.com