Joe Christensen: Twins on the march this April

  • Article by: JOE CHRISTENSEN , Star Tribune
  • Updated: April 30, 2007 - 11:11 PM

After a horrible April in 2006, the Twins tore through the season and rallied for a division title. How will they fare with a stronger start?

If you thought the Twins had a rough April, think back to where they were last year at this time. Their record was 9-15. They trailed the White Sox by eight games and the upstart Tigers by 6½. Three of their pitchers looked like slugs. Carlos Silva had a 10.31 ERA, Kyle Lohse 8.77 and Brad Radke 8.89.

Manager Ron Gardenhire and pitching coach Rick Anderson remember the sleepless nights. That's why they feel pretty good right now at 14-11.

Silva has a 3.10 ERA. Ramon Ortiz is 5-for-5 in quality starts after delivering just one quality start in his first eight tries last season for Washington.

"That probably was my biggest concern this year coming in, just getting off to a good start," Anderson said. "This gives them confidence, and that can carry them. Then, if they hit a bump along the way, at least they've got this to fall back on."

Silva never really overcame his slow start last year, finishing with a 5.94 ERA.

"Silva would be the first to admit he pressed every game he pitched last year, thinking, 'This is going to be the game I do it,' " Anderson said. "This shuts them up and gives them the confidence to move on."

May will be significantly tougher. At least that's how the schedule looks. After a three-game series at Tampa Bay, beginning tonight, the Twins come home for their most challenging homestand of the year: nine games with the Red Sox, White Sox and Tigers. Then it's on to Cleveland and Milwaukee, both first-place teams.

Sidney Ponson, who starts tonight against the Devil Rays, is the pitching staff's biggest concern with his 8.44 ERA.

But this time, the Twins have four starters knocking on the door if Ponson or Boof Bonser (5.26 ERA) falter. Glen Perkins is in the bullpen. Matt Garza, Scott Baker and Kevin Slowey are dominating at Class AAA Rochester.

Last May, the Twins turned to Francisco Liriano, who provided the kind of jolt teams can expect about once a generation. No matter how good the Twins' current Fab Four might be, there's no way they will make the impact Liriano did with his 12-3 record and 2.16 ERA.

Without a Liriano-like complement to Johan Santana, the Twins can't expect a run of 19 victories in 20 games, like they had last June.

But after a stronger April, the Twins won't have as far to climb. They're in better shape than the Yankees, who started 9-14 and must chase down the 16-8 Red Sox.

As tough as the American League Central looks, no team is running away from the pack. The top four teams are separated by 2½ games.

It's a far cry from 2005, when the White Sox were 17-7 at the end of April and 35-17 at the end of May.

The Twins were 15-8 and 29-21 that year but simply couldn't keep up.

This April, the Twins played one series against all four AL Central opponents, finishing 5-7. They have been most impressed by Cleveland's bullpen and the overall improvement of the Royals.

But one month in, the Twins are exactly where most people thought they would be, embroiled in what figures to be a six-month dogfight. Before it's over, these teams will face each other 18 times.

"I definitely think it's the best division in baseball, from what I've seen," Twins catcher Mike Redmond said.

  • related content

  • Stepping up

    Monday April 30, 2007

    The Twins' schedule is considerably tougher in May than it was in the season's opening month. Here's a look, based...

  • Analyzing the AL Central at the one-month mark

    Monday April 30, 2007

    FIVE SURPRISES1. CLEVELAND'S BULLPENThis was the Achilles' heel for the Indians last year, but now the leads generated by Cleveland's...

  • Twins vs. Tampa Bay series preview

    Monday April 30, 2007

    THREE-GAME SERIES AT TROPICANA FIELDToday, 6:10 p.m. • FSN, 1500-AMRHP Sidney Ponson (1-3, 8.44 ERA) vs. RHP Edwin Jackson (0-3,...

  • get related content delivered to your inbox

  • manage my email subscriptions


New England 2/1/15 5:30 PM
Detroit 6:00 PM
Portland 6:00 PM
Sacramento 6:30 PM
Boston 7:00 PM
Dallas 7:00 PM
Denver 7:00 PM
New Orleans
Brooklyn 7:00 PM
Oklahoma City 7:00 PM
New York
Charlotte 7:30 PM
San Antonio
LA Clippers 8:00 PM
Washington 9:30 PM
Toronto 6:30 PM
New Jersey
Pittsburgh 7:00 PM
Chicago 9:30 PM
Los Angeles
Temple 6:00 PM
Winthrop 6:00 PM
Coastal Carolina
Lafayette 6:00 PM
Northeastern 6:00 PM
Wake Forest 6:00 PM
Florida State
Rhode Island 6:00 PM
Delaware 6:00 PM
James Madison
South Carolina 6:00 PM
New Hampshire 6:00 PM
Seton Hall 6:00 PM
Binghamton 6:00 PM
American Univ 6:00 PM
Elon 6:00 PM
Wright State 6:00 PM
Minnesota 6:00 PM
Penn State
Duquesne 6:00 PM
SMU 6:00 PM
South Florida
Hartford 6:00 PM
Stony Brook
Albany 6:00 PM
Hofstra 6:00 PM
William & Mary
UNC-Asheville 6:00 PM
Radford 6:30 PM
Char Southern
Holy Cross 0 Postponed
Loyola-Maryland 0
Duke 6:30 PM
Notre Dame
Texas Tech 6:30 PM
Oregon State 7:00 PM
Arizona State
Morehead State 7:00 PM
Austin Peay
Drake 7:00 PM
Lehigh 7:00 PM
Rice 7:00 PM
Missouri State 7:00 PM
Illinois State
Loyola-Chicago 7:00 PM
Wichita State
Nebraska Omaha 7:00 PM
South Dakota St
Northern Iowa 7:05 PM
Southern Ill
Louisville 8:00 PM
Boston College
St Johns 8:00 PM
East Carolina 8:00 PM
Georgia Tech 8:00 PM
Miss State 8:00 PM
Ole Miss
Clemson 8:00 PM
NC State
Indiana 8:00 PM
Kansas 8:00 PM
Oregon 9:00 PM
Air Force 9:00 PM
San Jose St
Stanford 10:00 PM
Rider 56 FINAL
Siena 49
Dayton 76 FINAL
Richmond 62
Eastern Kentucky 53 FINAL
Jacksonville St 73
Saint Josephs 0 Postponed
Saint Louis 0
UMBC 6:00 PM
Akron 6:00 PM
Ohio U
Ball State 6:00 PM
Memphis 6:00 PM
East Carolina 6:00 PM
(2) Connecticut
Murray State 6:00 PM
Eastern Illinois
Kent State 6:00 PM
Central Michigan
UT Martin 6:00 PM
Tennessee St
Eastern Michigan 6:00 PM
Western Mich
Bucknell 6:00 PM
Indiana 6:00 PM
Michigan State
Colgate 6:00 PM
Fordham 6:00 PM
Duquesne 6:00 PM
St Bonaventure
George Mason 6:00 PM
VA Commonwealth
Detroit 6:00 PM
Youngstown St
Army 0 Postponed
Boston U 0
Loyola-Maryland 0 Postponed
Holy Cross 0
SMU 7:00 PM
Oklahoma St 7:00 PM
Kansas State
West Virginia 7:00 PM
Texas Tech
Denver 7:00 PM
South Dakota
Northwestern St 7:00 PM
Central Arkansas
Austin Peay 7:00 PM
Kansas 7:00 PM
Iowa State
Bowling Green 7:00 PM
Northern Ill
Penn State 7:00 PM
San Jose St 8:00 PM
Air Force
Boise State 8:00 PM
Colorado State
Utah State 8:00 PM
San Diego State 9:00 PM
Fresno State
Nevada 9:00 PM
Connect with twitterConnect with facebookConnect with Google+Connect with PinterestConnect with PinterestConnect with RssfeedConnect with email newsletters





question of the day

Poll: How optimistic are you about the 2015 Twins?

Weekly Question