Souhan: Twins offense has been downright offensive

  • Article by: JIM SOUHAN , Star Tribune
  • Updated: April 9, 2012 - 10:59 PM

Minnesota was supposed to be able to hit, but it hasn't happened so far.

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Danny Valencia struck out in the second inning.

Photo: Renee Jones Schneider, Star Tribune

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The 2002 Twins returned to Minnesota on Monday, a handful of them convening for breakfast at Manny's.

You already can envision the 10-year anniversary of the 2012 Twins: Danny Valencia and Alexi Casilla meeting at a Subway in Boca Raton to share a footlong sandwich and reminisce about that time they almost won a game in April.

The Twins lost their home opener on Monday at Target Field 5-1 to the Angels. The Twins are 0-4, and while four-game losing streaks are not uncommon in baseball, this one left the Opening Day crowd almost as silent as their team's bats.

It was said that one player contracted food poisoning this weekend, but that might have been a typo. What the Twins seem to suffer from is wood poisoning.

"We've got to score more runs for our pitchers,'' manager Ron Gardenhire said.

Followers of the Twins this spring foresaw challenges for the pitching staff and holes in the fielding alignment. They did not anticipate the lineup challenging the Wild as the local team least likely to post a crooked number on the scoreboard.

The Twins have scored six runs in four games. They have scored one run in the first seven innings of those games. They have failed to hit a ball out of the infield in 20 of their 36 innings.

They are batting .165 as a team. Josh Willingham has both of their home runs. Justin Morneau has two of their three doubles. They do not have a triple. Their on-base percentage of .252 and slugging percentage of .240 would shame Nick Punto.

Every few innings, the Twins seem to get a hit, whether they need one or not.

"We've seen some pretty good pitching, but we've got to come up with some hits,'' Gardenhire said. "We've got hitters we think can score some runs, and we've got to do that.''

Gardenhire wondered if his players are pressing, but the newcomer burdened with the most pressure is Willingham, and he has been the Twins' best hitter.

Whatever their ailment, the cure might not be found soon. Having been shut down by a trio of Orioles and the estimable C.J. Wilson, the Twins will face Jered Weaver and Dan Haren on Wednesday and Thursday, before the pitching-rich Rangers come to town.

The Twins will follow this homestand with a trip to face the Yankees and Rays, then play host to Boston and Kansas City before facing the Angels to finish the month. Scoring runs is going to become more difficult before it becomes any easier.

"And let me tell you, the Royals are nasty,'' said Angels outfielder Torii Hunter, whose team opened against Kansas City. "They've got some arms in that bullpen."

Gardenhire summoned his team to spring training three days early to spend extra time working on fielding and fundamentals. Turns out he might have wanted to adopt the managerial style of the great Ted Williams.

One spring when Williams was running the Senators, his coaches engaged in a long discussion on the field as to whether they should be working on cutoff plays, or fielding, or double plays. Williams considered the advice and finally said, "Ah ... let's hit.''

What's most alarming about the Twins' four-game slump is that they have so few sure things left among the position players.

Willingham should be reliable. Joe Mauer, the three-time batting champ, is 2-for-14 and has not pulled a ball with authority. Denard Span admitted this spring he is occasionally still bothered by concussion symptoms. Jamey Carroll is 0-for-13, and Gardenhire believes he's pressing. "The kid wants to do well," Gardenhire said.

Morneau has swung the bat with authority but has to prove he can play every day without suffering a relapse. Ryan Doumit's performances have varied greatly from year to year. Valencia, Trevor Plouffe, Ben Revere, Casilla and Luke Hughes remain works in progress.

Perhaps, as Gardenhire suggests, his hitters merely need to relax, but it's hard to relax when the weight of a slumping franchise curls around your bat like a weighted donut.

Jim Souhan can be heard Sundays from 10 a.m. to noon and weekdays at 2 p.m. on 1500-AM. His Twitter name is SouhanStrib. • jsouhan@startribune.com

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