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.

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Toronto - LP: D. Hutchison 2 FINAL
NY Yankees - WP: M. Tanaka 5
Washington - WP: S. Strasburg 2 FINAL
Miami - LP: N. Eovaldi 1
NY Mets - WP: J. deGrom 10 FINAL
Atlanta - LP: E. Santana 2
Boston - WP: J. Kelly 3 FINAL
Baltimore - LP: M. Gonzalez 2
Milwaukee - LP: W. Peralta 0 FINAL
Pittsburgh - WP: V. Worley 1
Chicago WSox - WP: J. Danks 10 FINAL
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Cleveland - WP: C. Kluber 7 FINAL
Minnesota - LP: A. Swarzak 2
Detroit - LP: R. Porcello 2 FINAL
Kansas City - WP: J. Guthrie 5
Seattle - LP: H. Iwakuma 3 FINAL
Houston - WP: C. McHugh 8
Los Angeles - WP: C. Perez 8 FINAL
Chicago Cubs - LP: J. Turner 5
Texas - WP: S. Tolleson 2 FINAL
LA Angels - LP: H. Street 1
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Oakland - WP: S. Doolittle 8
San Francisco - LP: R. Vogelsong 2 FINAL
San Diego - WP: I. Kennedy 8
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Colorado - WP: C. Bergman 8
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San Diego 22 FINAL
Buffalo 10
Dallas 34 FINAL
St. Louis 31
Washington 34 FINAL
Philadelphia 37
Houston 17 FINAL
NY Giants 30
Minnesota 9 FINAL
New Orleans 20
Tennessee 7 FINAL
Cincinnati 33
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Cleveland 21
Green Bay 7 FINAL
Detroit 19
Indianapolis 44 FINAL
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Oakland 9 FINAL
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Miami 15
Pittsburgh 37 FINAL
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Carolina 3
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Rice 42
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Georgia Tech 27 FINAL
Virginia Tech 24
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(9) Michigan State 73
Iowa 24 FINAL
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(19) Wisconsin 68
Maryland 34 FINAL
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Akron 17
North Carolina 41 FINAL
(23) East Carolina 70
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(20) BYU 41
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Missouri 27
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Minnesota 24
Texas State 35 FINAL
Illinois 42
Massachusetts 7 FINAL
Penn State 48
Georgia State 14 FINAL
Washington 45
Appalachian St 20 FINAL
Southern Miss 21
(14) Miss State 34 FINAL
(17) LSU 29
Northern Ill 14 FINAL
Arkansas 52
Middle Tennessee 17 FINAL
Memphis 36
Utah State 14 FINAL
Arkansas State 21
Miami-Ohio 24 FINAL
Cincinnati 31
Idaho 24 FINAL
Ohio U 36
Ball State 23 FINAL
Toledo 34
(13) So Carolina 48 FINAL
Vanderbilt 34
(4) Oklahoma 45 FINAL
West Virginia 33
Ga Southern 28 FINAL
South Alabama 6
UNLV 14 FINAL
Houston 47
Miami-Florida 31 FINAL
(21) Nebraska 41
New Mexico 38 FINAL
New Mexico St 35
Clemson 17 FINAL
(1) Florida State 23
California 45 FINAL
Arizona 49
San Diego St 7 FINAL
Oregon State 28
(2) Oregon 38 FINAL
Washington St 31
Louisiana 9 FINAL
Boise State 34
Texas Tech 9/25/14 6:30 PM
(24) Oklahoma State
Appalachian St 9/25/14 6:30 PM
Ga Southern
(11) UCLA 9/25/14 9:00 PM
(15) Arizona State
Middle Tennessee 9/26/14 7:00 PM
Old Dominion
Fresno State 9/26/14 7:00 PM
New Mexico
Texas-El Paso 9/27/14 11:00 AM
(25) Kansas State
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(12) Georgia
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Kentucky
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(9) Michigan State
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Penn State
TCU 9/27/14 11:00 AM
SMU
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Rutgers
So Florida 9/27/14 11:00 AM
(19) Wisconsin
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Boston College
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Virginia Tech
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Indiana
Akron 9/27/14 12:30 PM
Pittsburgh
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Massachusetts
Arkansas 9/27/14 2:30 PM
(6) Texas A&M
Kent State 9/27/14 2:30 PM
Virginia
Western Ky 9/27/14 2:30 PM
Navy
Minnesota 9/27/14 2:30 PM
Michigan
Wake Forest 9/27/14 2:30 PM
Louisville
FIU 9/27/14 2:30 PM
UAB
(1) Florida State 9/27/14 2:30 PM
NC State
Miami-Ohio 9/27/14 2:30 PM
Buffalo
Colorado 9/27/14 3:00 PM
California
Louisiana Tech 9/27/14 3:00 PM
(5) Auburn
Texas 9/27/14 3:00 PM
Kansas
Temple 9/27/14 3:00 PM
Connecticut
(16) Stanford 9/27/14 3:15 PM
Washington
TX-San Antonio 9/27/14 4:00 PM
Fla Atlantic
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(22) Ohio State
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Clemson
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ULM
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(17) LSU
Memphis 9/27/14 6:30 PM
(10) Ole Miss
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Miami-Florida
Texas State 9/27/14 7:00 PM
Tulsa
Washington St 9/27/14 7:00 PM
Utah
(8) Notre Dame 9/27/14 7:00 PM
Syracuse
(7) Baylor 9/27/14 7:00 PM
Iowa State
UNLV 9/27/14 7:00 PM
San Diego St
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(21) Nebraska
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(18) USC
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Chivas USA 0 FINAL
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Hamilton 25
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