- Blog Post by: Seth Stohs
- September 7, 2010 - 1:29 AM
Has everyone played the childhood game, 20 Questions? One person would pick an item, and the other person would be able to asked up to 20 questions. The goal was to use those questions to determine what item the first person was thinking.
With 24 games to play this season, there are still several questions revolving around the Twins. Are there answers? As we all know, the ultimate goal is to win the American League Central and advance in the playoffs. So today, here are 20 questions for you to consider:
- Will Justin Morneau return to the Minnesota Twins lineup in 2010?
- Is there an answer to this question? For awhile, the Twins and Morneau gave timelines. Wisely, both sides realized that there are no answers. There are no certainties, and as he will soon become a father for the first time, he is wise to be certain he is ready for a return.
- If Morneau comes back, who sits on the bench?
- This is tough too. Does Morneau return to 1B or DH? If DH, then Jim Thome sits more. If Morneau plays 1B, does Michael Cuddyer sit? No. Does he move to right, with Jason Kubel sitting or moving to DH (which again moves Thome to the bench)? Or does he move back to 3B again and push Danny Valencia to the bench? Or, does Morneau come back as a role player for the final games?
- Can Michael Cuddyer repeat his final three weeks of the 2010 season?
- After September 12th last year, Michael Cuddyer hit .325/.398/.675 with eight home runs, a remarkable run that really carried the Twins through the final three weeks of the season. Can we expect that again this year? That's probably not fair, but it's proof that over a three week period, anyone can put a team-carrying run together. Who will it be this year?
- When Jose Mijares comes back, will the Twins release Randy Flores?
- Assuming Brian Fuentes is able to pitch again, Flores would be the third left-handed reliever, and the one that is most limited. In five appearances with the Twins, he has given up five hits and a walk, and recorded just four outs.
- Is the Twins bullpen strong and deep enough?
- In the late innings, the Twins can go to Matt Capps, Brian Fuentes, Jesse Crain, Jon Rauch, Jose Mijares and Matt Guerrier. That is a lot of options. We shouldn't underestimate the role that Pat Neshek could fill in the season's final weeks as well. If a starter is unable to go three innings, Jeff Manship and Glen Perkins are there to eat innings.
- Can Matt Capps be the closer down the stretch?
- I believe that anyone who is mentally strong and has enough stuff can be an effective closer. I think that in a pennant race is when you really test that mental strength. Capps has shown he can be a good closer with the Pirates and Nationals. He is hittable, but he has on occasion shown a toughness at times too, so it will be interesting to see how he does. Outside of Mariano Rivera and Joakim Soria, there are few closers that shut the door with consistency.
- Can Delmon Young return to his early season form?
- From May through July, Young hit a robust .360 with 27 doubles, 12 homers and 72 RBI. Since the calendar turned to August, he has hit .199 with six doubles, two homers and 12 RBI. It woudl be nice to get his bat going again.
- How much more can Jim Thome do?
- When the Twins signed Thome to a one year, $1.5 million contract, no one could have hoped for Thome to produce the way he has this year. He is hitting .275 and getting on base 40% of the time. His 21 home runs lead the team, and his presence in the middle of the Twins lineup helps the lineup. He can't play every day, but Ron Gardenhire has found a good mix between playing time and days off.
- Is Ron Gardenhire the 2010 AL Manager of the Year?
- After finishing runner-up for the award five previous times, could this be the year? With the incredible number of injuries to key contributors, after the struggles the team faced in June, the Twins are 25 games over .500 and have won big series. Ron Washington appears to be the favorite, but Gardenhire deserves a ton of credit for where the Twins are this season.
- Can Carl Pavano win 20 games?
- Pavano is standing now with 16 wins. He will make four or five starts yet this year, so the odds are against him but it is possible. He should have a start at Cleveland, in Chicago against the White Sox, at Target Field against Cleveland and at Kansas City. He would also be in line to make a start in the season's final series against the Blue Jays, but depending upon where the Twins are in the pennant race, his start may be moved, or shortened.
- Will Francisco Liriano be recognized among the league's top starters?
- ...because he should be. For the things that he can control, Liriano is among the best. His FIP is among the best in baseball. His walk rate is terrific. He gets more than a strikeout per inning, and he gets a ton of ground balls.
- Can Denard Span reclaim his 2008 and 2009 form down the stretch?
- In his first two big league seasons, Denard Span was among baseball's best leadoff hitters. The walks have been down this year, as is the on-base percentage. Span's ability to get on base and be an instigator in the offense will help the offense to become even more potent.
- What role will Ben Revere have over the season's final weeks?
- Gardenhire has said that Revere can be a fifth outfielder, pinch runner and defensive replacement the rest of the season. However, if Young continues to struggle, could Revere get an occasional start in left field, or even in centerfield?
- Do the Twins have a right-handed hitting pinch hitter?
- The reason that I wanted the Twins to promote Brock Peterson was because he would be a right-handed bat off the bench with some extra base power. Right now, the Twins right-handed bench bats are Jason Repko, Trevor Plouffe and Jose Morales, a switch hitter.
- Can JJ Hardy and Orlando Hudson get through the season?
- Hardy's wrist has been an issue since May. Hudson has had wrist and leg injuries. Neither is at 100% Both are important to the team's success. Can Alexi Casilla, Nick Punto or Matt Tolbert provide enough time off for these two veteran middle infielders to be in the lineup most of the rest of the season?
- Can Brian Duensing pitch as well down the stretch this year as he did last September?
- In nine starts last year, Duensing went 5-1 with a 2.73 ERA. He still began this season in the bullpen, but since being put back into the rotation, Duensing is 4-1 with a 2.33 ERA in eight starts this year.
- After Liriano, Pavano and Duensing, who will step up?
- Scott Baker had been pitching better, but then he went just two innings in his last start and got a cortisone shot, so there remains a question mark with him. Kevin Slowey just came off of the Disabled List. Nick Blackburn has been good since his return from Rochester, but that is just three starts.
- Will there be another Game 163?
- I hope not!! Two years in a row? That was more than enough for me. That's way too much stress! That said, it is still a distinct possibility.
- Can the White Sox catch the Twins?
- The White Sox are 3.5 games back of the Twins with 24-25 games yet to play. Last year, the Twins were three games behind the Tigers with four games to go. Baseball is a funny game and you never know what can happen. So until the Magic Number is zero, it's hard to say it is over.
- Is this team capable of not only winning the AL Central but also winning another World Series title?
- I am one who believes that the playoffs are a crapshoot and any team that makes the playoffs, has a chance. We all know that isn't completely true. Winning in the playoffs is about which team is playing at its best at that time, which team is healthy and good luck in a small sample size. The Twins have been playing as well as any team in the second half of the season, so they have a chance. They have the offensive talent. They have three good starting pitchers and good depth in the bullpen.
So there you go, 20 questions about the Minnesota Twins. Do you have other questions? Do you have any of the answers? With school starting around Minnesota today, we can call this a pop quiz.
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