Hartman: Ryan not in panic after Twins swept

  • Article by: SID HARTMAN , Star Tribune
  • Updated: April 8, 2012 - 9:29 PM

 There are obvious concerns with the pitching and other issues, but it's too soon for broad judgments.

The Twins got swept at Baltimore, but naturally, General Manager Terry Ryan said he doesn't think anybody can predict how good the team is going to be or what kind of struggles they are going to have based only on the first series.

"I think if you gauge what our club looked like in spring training the last two weeks or so, things started to come together," Ryan said. "Obviously, we've got some concerns about the rotation because [pitchers] Liam Hendriks is laid up some and [Jason] Marquis is still not with us.

"We'll be all right. We've got some offense, we think, and we certainly feel decent about the defensive side of the game. We still feel good about this club, it's just a matter of now we need to put the bat on the ball on occasion."

It's no mystery that Ryan believes that pitching is the biggest question on the ball club.

"You look at this thing, and if we get this rotation back in the order that we anticipated, with Liam Hendriks in here and bringing in Jason Marquis, it certainly will help the cause," Ryan said. "But that will be a work in progress as well, because the pitching is probably the biggest question mark."

Ryan said that newcomers such as catcher-outfielder Ryan Doumit, infielder Jamey Carroll and outfielder Josh Willingham, all signed as free agents, all fit in here quite well.

"Carroll, he is the type of guy that is not going to exactly show you a wealth of skills, but he certainly knows how to play, and he makes the plays at shortstop, and he can run," Ryan said.

"Willingham's got power and is a good person in this clubhouse. Doumit's got some power in his bat as well. Yeah, they've all fit in here, and certainly we had a need for every one of these guys that we went out and got."

Blackburn ready

Ryan said he was impressed the way Nick Blackburn, who pitches the home opener Monday, performed in spring training.

"He had a good spring," said Ryan. "I was very impressed with him this spring. He did a good job. He used all of his pitches, there's no health concerns for him. I think he's going to do a good job for us. He really was good this spring training."

Justin Morneau also is healthy, according to Ryan, and he led the team in hitting against the Orioles, going 4-for-10 with two doubles.

"Morneau is fine. In fact, he's swung the bat quite well the last couple of days," Ryan said. "He ended up spring training the last 10 or 12 games, I thought he was making steady progress. He's starting to sting the ball and looking quite comfortable at the plate.

"[Joe] Mauer is fine, too. There's not many questions about our health here. Our health is fine. We've got Hendriks, who has some food poisoning, but other than him, we're in decent shape here, health-wise."

After losing the first three games, it was amazing the negative reaction of the callers on the radio talk shows. You would think the fans would give the team a chance to come home and see what they can do. But the early part of the season for sure is going to be tough, with the Twins facing the Angels, Rangers and Yankees in the next two weeks.

Jottings

• Gophers athletic director Joel Maturi said he will pay for all the expenses for the mother, father and grandmother to attend the memorial service of linebacker Gary Tinsley, who died Friday and was expected to graduate this spring. Plans for the service are pending.

• On another subject, Maturi said that it should be no surprise that Gophers basketball player Chip Armelin is going to transfer to be closer to his home in Sulphur, La., because the NCAA reports that 23 percent of all college basketball players transfer. And once Armelin is given his release, the Gophers will be able to sign another player who will be eligible for the 2012-2013 season. If the NCAA gives a waiver to Trevor Mbakwe so that his sixth year won't count among the 13 scholarships allowed, then the Gophers could add another player, even if he decided to return.

• Gophers basketball coach Tubby Smith, who coached some great teams at Kentucky, said the 2012 champion team is as good or even better than any recent Wildcats team.

• Gophers basketball player Ralph Sampson III is one of 64 seniors who will take part in the annual Portsmouth Invitational tournament in Virginia starting Wednesday before a number of NBA general managers and scouts.

• Gophers hockey coach Don Lucia said he would be surprised if Nick Bjugstad, who was drafted in the first round by Florida in 2010, doesn't come back for his junior year. Lucia said he gets the impression that Bjugstad's family is in favor of their son staying in school another year.

• Even though outstanding Cretin-Derham Hall football player James Onwualu has announced he will enroll at Notre Dame, look for the Gophers to continue to recruit him, and if they are having a winning season, it's possible Onwualu could change his mind.

• Tom Ward has done another great job coaching the Shattuck-St.Mary's hockey team to the championship of the USA Hockey Tier I Boys 18 and under national tournament held in Buffalo, N.Y., on April 1. They defeated the L.A. Jr. Kings 2-1 in the final game and concluded their season with a 50-5-2 record. This was the seventh national title in the past 13 years for the school and Ward.

• The Gophers athletic program had 67 students receive spots on academic All-Big Ten teams this winter. Gymnast Nathan Fortunato was one of three athletes in the Big Ten to maintain a perfect 4.0 GPA. The men's basketball team had one player make the list, Elliott Elliason. The men's wrestling team had five athletes on the team: Chris and Nick Dardanes, Zach Sanders, Scott Schiller and Kevin Steinhaus. Also the women's basketball team had the highest percentage of players recognized -- with 10, which is 70 percent of the team.

• Former Minneapolis North standout Khalid El-Amin is averaging 5.3 points, 2.8 assists and 1.8 rebounds in 20.9 minutes per game for Cibona VIP Zagreb in Croatia. ... Former Gopher Rick Rickert has played 40 games for Kyoto Hannaryz in Japan averaging 14.4 points and 10.9 rebounds per game -- both team highs. ... Dusty Rychart is in his third season with Cairns Taipans in Australia, the former Gopher is averaging 6.3 points and five rebounds per game.

• If you attend Gophers spring football practice and see players wearing brown shirts, it doesn't have anything to do with performance on the field, but it is because of academic problems or players not listening. Coach Jerry Kill runs a tight ship.

• The Twins will unveil a bronze statue of ex-first baseman Kent Hrbek on April 14 before the game with the Rangers.

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. • shartman@startribune.com

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