Startribune.com digital sports editor Howard Sinker used to cover the Twins and now shares season tickets with friends in Section 219 of Target Field. He blogs about baseball from the perspective of a long-time fan who loves the game, doesn’t always believe the hype and likes hearing what others think. Howard sometimes talks about sports with Cathy Wurzer on MPR's Morning Edition.

Section 219: Getting interested in the Twins while confronting reality

Posted by: Howard Sinker under Ron Gardenhire, Twins fans, Twins offense, Twins pitching Updated: March 28, 2013 - 9:16 AM

So the Twins named their Opening Day starter and he was a six-game winner in an injury-curtailed 2012 season. That's Vance Worley. And the Twins top pitcher from last season, Scott Diamond, will start 2013 on the disabled list in his comeback from arm issues that surfaced during the off-season.

And come Monday morning, the Twins will be tied for first place in the American League Central. We'll see if that lasts until sundown.

I've learned over the years to cut down on my blogging during spring training, which is one of the reasons Section 219 has taken a break during the Twins stay in Florida. There's little I can add from up here that can't be told better from reading the reports from our crew on the scene in Fort Myers and from our TwinsCentric crew.

That Jared Burton seemed to get lit up every time I listened for a few innings adds little to the discussion -- except nervousness, maybe. (On closer inspection, most of those were unearned runs.) I've learned over the years not to look at exhibition ERAs. Joe Nathan getting knocked around was Exhibit A; Dusty Hughes getting people out was Exhibit B.

Besides, February and March are kind of a busy time in my A-job of keeping this web site together. This last month or so, I've been living with Tubby, Percy, Gophers of many sports and all of the related excitement that comes with this time of year. One beauty of baseball is that it hits you smack in the face right when you emerge from the weeks when so many  winter sports finish up in their haze of tournaments.

Plus, you can only be grumpy about stuff so many times and -- having reached my grumpy limit -- it's time to look ahead and try to get excited, or at least intrigued, about the flawed Twins.

I am prepared to look for the best, and I hope that feeling lasts. My list includes:

*Aaron Hicks. God bless Darin Mastroianni and the Puntonian hustle (without the head-first slides into first base) that he brings to the Twins. But if he had been the Opening Day starter in center field, it would have symbolized all that is wrong with the team's decline. I know that spring training can be filled with illusions, but I hope that Hicks isn't one of them.

*Tom Brunansky. Is it a problem when No. 2 on your hope list is a coach? I'm intrigued about whether Brunansky's approach to hitting leads to some improvement. We're not talking about helping Joe Mauer and Justin Morneau as much as lessening the feeling from the last couple of seasons that, on many days, the Twins were fielding a lineup in which several spots were being filled by players for whom a hit would be a happy accident.

*Joe Mauer. If felt like every time I watched or listened to part of a Twins or World Baseball Classic game, Mauer was on base or in the process of getting on base. That he has a combined .558 on-base percentage with the Twins and for Team USA this spring confirms that it almost wasn't an illusion. I am beyond the "how many home runs should Mauer hit" issue. I want Mauer to play every day -- somewhere in the lineup -- and have the kind of year in which we won't leave our seats or the TV when we know he's coming to bat.

*The middle infield. I want to believe that what Brian Dozier learned as a failed major league shortstop will help him become a successful major league second baseman. I will make no other comparison between Dozier and Torii Hunter except to cite that it took a couple of extra trips to the minors for Hunter to get it right. I want to believe that we won't cringe when Pedro Florimon comes to bat, although his spring training numbers do not fill me with hope. I do like that Dozier and Florimon are Nos. 1 and 2 in innings played in Florida. That statistic speaks to a commitment that I hope isn't being made in vain.

*Gardy. Toward the end of his managing years, Tom Kelly's frustration with his players was pretty evident. If you'd gone from managing two World Series winners to relying on Chad Allen, Scott Stahoviak and some of the others, you'd be miffed, too. So far, Ron Gardenhire hasn't gone that route. His spring training desire for Jim Thome was odd, but -- reading between the lines -- I hope it was his way of saying that he needed more offense on his bench. Demoting Drew Butera was a step in that direction. Now, if he can resist the temptation to carry 13 pitchers ... If he goes, I don't want him to go beaten down.

I'm starting the 2013 season prepared to have more hope than expectations. If you've read this blog, it hasn't always been a pretty journey to reach that place and, yes, it may make me a sucker. I promise not to turn aluminum foil into silver linings. I promise to try having fun while being realistic about what we're going to be asked to support at Target Field this season. I got my Section 219 tickets this week and I'm looking forward to using them.

After all, it's baseball.

 

 

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Washington 99
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Miami 91
Toronto 98 FINAL
New York 103
Memphis 101 FINAL
Minnesota 97
Brooklyn 89 4th Qtr 7:33
Dallas 80
Milwaukee 54 3rd Qtr 1:36
Utah 54
San Antonio 65 3rd Qtr 4:36
Phoenix 35
Buffalo 3 FINAL
Florida 5
Detroit 4 FINAL
Nashville 3
Carolina 5 FINAL
NY Islanders 3
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Columbus 0
Arizona 1 FINAL
Boston 4
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Montreal 4
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Columbia 70
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Davidson 77
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Duke 73
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TX A&M-CC 77
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Utah 34
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BYU 27 1st Half 6:58
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Pacific 17 1st Half 4:50
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Idaho State 21 1st Half 3:44
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Portland State 17
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CS-Northridge 0
Washington 9:30 PM
USC
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Seattle 0
UC Irvine 10:59 PM
UC Santa Barbara
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Illinois 72
Lipscomb 57 FINAL
Kennesaw St 75
North Florida 45 FINAL
Stetson 77
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Old Dominion 70
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Bryant 52
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Robert Morris 73
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Sam Houston St 52 FINAL
TX A&M-CC 60
Kent State 59 FINAL
Miami-Ohio 66
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Ohio U 67
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Toledo 62
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Morgan State 73
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NC Central 33
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Fairleigh Dickinson 56
Memphis 24 FINAL
(1) Connecticut 87
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TCU 67
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Washington 74
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Iowa State 76
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UMKC 42 FINAL
Grand Canyon 56
Seattle 61 FINAL
CS-Bakersfield 73
Texas Southern 64 FINAL
Alabama State 52
Santa Clara 71 FINAL
St Marys-CA 74
UNLV 68 FINAL
Wyoming 99
Savannah State 55 FINAL
SC State 52
Alcorn State 55 FINAL
Southern U 76
Miss Valley St 54 FINAL
Jackson State 58
Bucknell 55 FINAL
American Univ 65
Radford 63 FINAL
High Point 83
Eastern Washington 59 FINAL
Montana 69
Idaho 62 FINAL
Montana State 71
Weber State 56 FINAL
Idaho State 63
Green Bay 73 FINAL
Youngstown St 27
Oakland 54 FINAL
Illinois-Chicago 64
Austin Peay 72 FINAL
SE Missouri St 67
Wagner 65 FINAL
Mount St Marys 68
Portland 72 FINAL
San Diego 80
Nevada 72 FINAL
San Jose St 81
Stephen F Austin 69 FINAL
Houston Baptist 57
Incarnate Word 64 FINAL
Lamar 81
Abilene Christian 50 FINAL
New Orleans 71
Pepperdine 57 FINAL
Loyola Marymount 74
San Francisco 91 FINAL
Pacific 79
Prairie View 81 FINAL
Alabama A&M 71
Hampton 106 FINAL
Howard 57
Chicago State 53 FINAL
Utah Valley U 68
Cal Poly 75 FINAL
Cal-Irvine 84
UC Santa Barbara 57 FINAL
UC Davis 52
Marshall 73 FINAL
Florida Atlantic 83
Portland State 77 FINAL
Sacramento St 123
Western Ky 88 FINAL
FIU 47
UAB 62 FINAL
Middle Tennessee 57
Georgia Southern 35 FINAL
Louisiana 62
Grambling 59 FINAL
Ark-Pine Bluff 45
Ark-Little Rock 48 FINAL
TX-Arlington 38
Cornell 33 FINAL
Dartmouth 54
Columbia 81 FINAL
Harvard 82
Brown 67 FINAL
(14) Princeton 79
USC 62 FINAL
Washington St 68
(24) California 55 FINAL
(7) Oregon State 73
Yale 33 FINAL
Penn 59
Murray State 74 FINAL
UT Martin 87
Loyola-Maryland 50 FINAL
Navy 59
Jacksonville 47 FINAL
(21) Fla Gulf Coast 78
Long Beach St 69 FINAL
Cal State Fullerton 62
Rice 59 FINAL
Charlotte 78
Colgate 61 FINAL
Lehigh 60
CS-Northridge 88 FINAL
UC-Riverside 70
Kansas 65 FINAL
Oklahoma 58
Oklahoma St 47 FINAL
Texas Tech 44
TX-Pan American 46 2nd Half 7:56
New Mexico St 65
North Dakota 55 2nd Half 4:50
Southern Utah 67
Northern Colorado 28 1st Half 3:53
Northern Ariz 24
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