A year ago on May 12 the Twins were 9-24, compared to 17-17 this year on the same date after being shut out 6-0 by Baltimore on Sunday.
Twins manager Ron Gardenhire was asked to offer his opinion for the great improvement, even though most analysts didn’t have any idea how the team would do coming out of spring training.
“We’re better in a lot of areas,” Gardenhire said. “We catch the ball better, and we’ve got some offense that can do some things.”
Apparently the poor chemistry in the clubhouse last season had something to do with the team’s bad record.
“The atmosphere in the clubhouse is good,” Gardenhire said. “Guys are competing, and they know we can compete. You’re going to have a day like today every once in a while. We’re better, definitely better.”
The Twins have come up with some surprise newcomers who had contributed to the improved record. One of them is Oswaldo Arcia, who hit .328 in 69 games for Class AA New Britain last year.
“I think you look at guys like Arcia coming up here and swinging the bat right out of the chute, he’s come up and done very well,” Gardenhire said. “One of the guys that really hasn’t been swinging great yet is Chris Parmelee and guys like that we think are going to hit pretty well. [Joe] Mauer and [Justin] Morneau have been swinging really good. [Josh] Willingham has not clicked yet. He’s been fighting some injuries and things like that. We’ve still got some guys not swinging great, and [Ryan] Doumit is just now starting to swing, so once we get them all clicking at the same time, we should put up a lot of run consistently.
“We’ve got to get a little bit of a set lineup here, we need to get our leadoff man getting on base a little more. We’ve got some things to iron out, and we don’t want to be just a .500 baseball team. We’ve got people who can do it. We have to pitch better at the start of the games and then we’ll go from there.”
One of the disappointments has been the struggles of rookie center fielder Aaron Hicks, who hit well in spring training and now is hitting .137.
“Yeah, [we’ll stick with Hicks] until somebody figures out something different. But the kid’s got to play. He’s got a little hurt right now, he’s got a bad elbow, but the kid needs to play,” Gardenhire said.
One positive is there will be plenty of competition for places on the staff once a number of pitchers get healthy.
“If guys are pushing each other, that means your staff’s going to get better,” Gardenhire said. “If guys in the minor leagues start throwing the ball really well and pushing the guys that are up here, then you know what? You’re going to get better as a team if guys are outpitching the guys that are here. You know, that’s competition. That’s what we want, competition.”
The infield was a big question mark when the team broke spring training, but Gardenhire doesn’t have any complaint about their performance.
“I think they are playing just fine,” he said. “We’ve been catching the ball, especially up the middle, turning the double plays we’re supposed to. Everything’s a little bit better. We’re actually making some plays, and we went through a stretch of 10 games without an error. That says a lot about the way they’re concentrating on defense.
“We can compete [in the AL Central], but we have to wait and see how our pitching goes. It all goes down to your pitching staff. We can score runs with [opponents], but it all goes down to our starting staff.”
No retractable roof
The Vikings will show off designs for their new stadium Monday night at the Guthrie Theater, and one thing you are unlikely to see on the rendering is a retractable roof.
Cost will be the reason given for not including the retractable roof, but people connected with the decision-making process don’t believe a retractable roof is necessary. Vikings vice president Lester Bagley claims the retractable roof of Lucas Oil Stadium, the Colts’ home field, has been used “only two or three times in a year.”
Ted Mondale, as executive director of the Minnesota Sports Facilities Authority, has repeated the same quote as Bagley to many people.
Cost is also a factor, so forget about a retractable roof. It’s not going to happen unless Mortenson Construction, the builders of the stadium, find the money someplace.
• The Twins’ portion of MLB’s revenue sharing plan for 2012 was $13 million. They paid about the same amount for 2011.
• The Twins drew 31,360, 32,221 and 34,320 for the three games just concluded with Baltimore. Twins President Dave St. Peter, encouraged by the good crowds for the Orioles, expects Target Field crowds to average at least 33,000 for the three games against the White Sox on Monday through Wednesday, then average 35,000 for the weekend series against the Red Sox.
• One Twin who is in a real slump, compared to last year from April 1 to May 12, is Willingham. A year ago during the same period, the left fielder was hitting .304 with seven home runs and 19 RBI. This season during the same period, Willingham is hitting .210 with five home runs and 15 RBI. … Doumit also has been having a tough time, hitting .250 a year ago from April 1-May 12 compared to only .214 this year. A year ago during the same period, Doumit had four homers and 21 RBI, compared to three homers and 15 RBI this year.
• J.J. Hardy, the shortstop who was traded to Baltimore by the Twins following the 2010 season, has hit .292 against the Twins in the six games he played against his old teammate this year, with one home runs and four RBI.
• The Howard Pulley Panthers, a team that included Tyus Jones of Apple Valley and Reid Travis of DeLaSalle, went 1-3 in the NIK Elite Youth Basketball League series played in Dallas. Jones played well in Dallas, averaging 25.3 points in the four games. He went 11-for-11 from the field in the first game. Travis averaged 17.3 points and seven rebounds for the Panthers. The Panthers are 7-6 in the EYBL circuit, with their next stop being Memorial Day weekend at home.
• Flip Saunders, new Timberwolves president of basketball operations, said: “I have talked to a lot of the players and the players seem very upbeat and excited. I had a long conversation today with [forward] Derrick Williams. He’s really optimistic about next year and ready, when he gets this thing [jaw surgery]taken care of and his rest time, to get to work and everything. I’ve talked to [point guard] Ricky Rubio [and] had a lot of conversations with [forward] Kevin Love.”
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. firstname.lastname@example.org