The Twins misfired last offseason with their one major league starting pitching acquisition, as free agent Jason Marquis signed a one-year, $3 million deal and went 2-4 with an 8.47 ERA before getting released.
Marquis has fared considerably better since joining San Diego; Saturday night, he threw a two-hit shutout at Pittsburgh, improving to 6-6 with a 3.66 ERA with the Padres. But it was clear that he wasn't a great fit for the American League.
The rest of Minnesota's offseason additions -- including Josh Willingham, Ryan Doumit, Jamey Carroll and Jared Burton -- look pretty good.
And as they work to improve their rotation for 2013, it's worth noting that they did pursue two other free-agent pitchers who have had more success.
They tried landing Chris Capuano before he signed his two-year, $10 million deal with the Dodgers, and he is 10-8 with a 3.29 ERA. And they had interest in Paul Maholm before he signed his one-year, $4.75 million deal with the Cubs.
He has since been traded to the Braves, but overall, Maholm is 10-7 with a 3.50 ERA.
Who knows how well those two National League lefthanders would have handled the AL? But they were on the Twins' radar and pretty close to their price range. The lesson for this fall is to trust their instincts, and maybe dig a little deeper into their pockets to close the deal.
The Twins likely will decline next year's $9.25 million option for righthander Scott Baker, making him a free agent, but it's possible the sides will agree to an incentive-laden deal.
Baker had Tommy John reconstructive elbow surgery on April 18. He started throwing again this past week and expects to be pitching off a mound by late October, with no limitations by spring training.
"I truly believe I'm going to come back 100 percent, if not better, after what I've had to put up with the last two years," he said.
He turns 31 on Sept. 19 and is 63-48 with a 4.15 ERA in seven seasons with the Twins.
"I like it here," Baker said. "I'm not saying there aren't other great organizations because I'm sure there are, but this is all I know. My family likes it here. I'm comfortable."
With Saturday's 4-2 loss to Tampa Bay, the Twins are 23-34 at home and 26-30 on the road.
"You hope you play better at home," manager Ron Gardenhire said. "We set ourselves up early by not playing very well anywhere. I don't care if it would have been in a parking lot, we wouldn't have won games."
In 2010, the Twins opened Target Field and went an American League best 53-28 at home and 41-40 on the road. They were only slightly better at home last year (33-48) than they were on the road (30-51).
This year's team does seem better built for Target Field than last year's, even if the record doesn't show it.
"We've got speed and we've got some righthanded pop," Gardenhire said. "When [Trevor] Plouffe was in there, we had a couple guys bombing it that way. [Joe] Mauer shoots the ball around the field. This is probably not a prototype place for [Justin] Morneau to hit, but he's been doing pretty good."
• With four plate appearances Saturday, Ben Revere qualified to be listed with the American League batting leaders. He went 0-for-4, leaving his average at .319, two points ahead of Mauer.
• Plouffe (bruised right thumb) began his rehab stint with Class AAA Rochester by going 0-for-4 with two strikeouts, playing third base and batting fourth.