The Twins were shut out eight times in 162 games last season.
After being blanked 3-0 by Seattle on Wednesday, the Twins have been held scoreless five times in only 48 games, an indication of the problems this team has in hitting and scoring runs.
Ron Gardenhire, who has led the team to six American League Central titles in the past nine seasons and last season was named AL manager of this year, said having the worst record in baseball so far has been a big surprise to him.
"The funny thing about it, we left spring training actually healthy," Gardenhire said. "We were one of the only teams in baseball with nobody on the [disabled list]. You can never see anything like this coming. I thought we had gotten through spring training with some question marks, [but] nothing like this. Nobody can anticipate something like this."
Gardenhire was asked if he could remember the team suffering as many injuries while he was a Twins coach under Tom Kelly, or on any other team he'd managed.
"This has been one after another, some of the strangest ones like the obliques and muscle pulls in the back," Gardenhire said. "It's not like these guys aren't getting loose. They are hurting themselves late in the games. I've seen it throughout baseball. There have been a lot of injuries. Everybody is trying to figure out what is going on, and what is happening."
Besides not scoring runs, the team's fielding has been its worst in years.
"That's probably due to the change of personnel," Gardenhire said. "We have a lot of different people. But I'm disappointed, because a lot of these guys have been in spring training with us and know how important and how hard we work on the fundamentals of the game. We're still making silly mistakes, and that's the disappointing thing for me because we work so hard at it."
Once Tsuyoshi Nishioka recovers from his broken fibula, Gardenhire is expecting the Japanese infielder to play shortstop in a lineup that will include Michael Cuddyer at second base, Jason Kubel in right field and Jim Thome as the everyday designated hitter.
"[Nishioka's] getting ready, and getting closer to playing games. Once we get him back in the middle, we'll get a little more settled. That's what we're looking at right now," Gardenhire said. "I'm trying to see where he is most comfortable. We're going to make sure he is healthy first. I want him to be available at either short or second. We'll see what happens."
Gardenhire said Nishioka's return would help give him his strongest lineup, especially when catcher Joe Mauer comes back from his various ailments.
"We have to score runs," Gardenhire said. "Our bullpen is having its battles. We have to take pressure off them. We have to figure out a way to score more runs. That's what we're going to try and do."
Morneau playing hurt
The word is that first baseman Justin Morneau no longer has concussion problems but that he has a neck injury that might need postseason surgery.
"He's trying to play through it," Gardenhire said. "He's had this neck thing that has been nagging him. He knows how much we need him on the field, and he's trying to swing through it. He's given it everything he has. He's a little beat up."
Gardenhire also continues to get the question of why he doesn't play Mauer at a position other than catcher, but he said Mauer wants to remain at the position.
"If Mauer could play shortstop, I would play him there," Gardenhire said.
The Twins manager thought he might have the solution at shortstop in Trevor Plouffe until the callup from Class AAA Rochester made two costly mistakes Monday in an 8-7 loss to the Mariners.
"No, I haven't given up on him," Gardenhire said about Plouffe. "The kid is here, and we need to see if he can do it on an everyday basis. He's had some scuffles. He can swing the bat. We've seen him hit a couple of homers, but we need consistency and we need him to speed up the game. It's a fast game, and he's kind of laid back on a few balls. We need him to be more aggressive. He's been talked to, and we'll go from there."
No doubt, the bullpen has been as big a problem as anything else.
"We have a bunch of guys that haven't proven themselves at this level very much," Gardenhire said. "We're trying to find roles for them. Right now, they're just getting the heck beat out of them. It's interesting to say the least. We'll just have to keep trying to figure it out and get it right. That's all we can do."
Gardenhire is the same manager he was last year, but it's obvious he doesn't have the horses this season.
Improve Target Center
Tim Leiweke -- president and CEO of Anschutz Entertainment Group, which has a contract to manage Target Center -- was in town to work on improving the building at the same time St. Paul Mayor Chris Coleman announced a Vikings stadium plan that would include shutting down Target Center and moving the Wolves and Lynx to Xcel Energy Center.
That's not going to happen because the Wolves and Lynx have long leases with Taget Center.
Leiweke, who started his managing career at Target Center and has built AEG into one of the biggest companies of its type in the country, said: "We are working with the Timberwolves and the city on a long-term vision to renovate Target Center. And we're also working to make sure that the building is working at fitting into the long-term vision for downtown Minneapolis."
Leiweke, Minneapolis Mayor R.T. Rybak, members of the Minneapolis city council and business community and Wolves, Twins and Vikings officials got together to talk about how to improve Target Center. Built in 1990, it's now one of the oldest arenas in the NBA.
Leiweke and AEG also are in the process of building a football stadium in downtown Los Angeles and hope to land an NFL franchise, but Leiweke said he was here to help the Vikings with their stadium problem and not to try to steal their franchise.
"We met with the Vikings to understand their vision," Leiweke said. "We were supportive of them to try and find a solution. We'll stay in touch with them and see what we can do to help them long-term."
Leiweke, who has proved to be a super-genius in helping various cities work out their sports arena problems, has a feeling for this area and he no doubt can contribute a lot in trying to solve those issues. He can be a big help to this community.
Sid Hartman can be heard weekdays on WCCO AM-830 at 6:40, 7:40 and 8:40 a.m. and on Sundays at 9:30 a.m.