Hartman: Solid pitching helps Twins make strides

  • Article by: SID HARTMAN , Star Tribune
  • Updated: April 29, 2013 - 1:42 AM

Both starters and relievers have been healthier and throwing better than at the start of the 2012 season.

Twins starter Kevin Correia pitched eight shutout innings against Texas on Sunday, leading the Twins to a 5-0 victory.

Photo: Kyndell Harkness, Star Tribune

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A year ago, the Twins were 6-15 in their first 21 games compared with a 11-10 mark this year after shutting out the Rangers 5-0 on Sunday at Target Field.

Asked the reason for the better start, manager Ron Gardenhire said the pitching staff is healthy compared with a year ago, when the entire pitching staff had one physical problem after another only two weeks into the season.

“We came out of spring training healthy,” he said. “We’re healthy right now and have a bunch of healthy players. That makes a big difference.”

Gardenhire pointed to how well the pitching held up in the recent four-game series against a good-hitting Rangers team that had beaten the Twins in 10 of their past 13 meetings. The starters had a 1.85 ERA over 24 ⅓ innings, and the bullpen posted a 2.31 ERA over 11 ⅔ innings.

“A nice win for us today, another well-pitched game by Kevin Correia,” said Gardenhire, after the righthander blanked the Rangers for eight innings and allowed only six hits Sunday. “His success is all about throwing it over and working ahead in the count, and I think we saw him do that pretty much all day. He was getting ground balls, pop flies, we made some nice defensive plays out there again. A big home run by Justin [Morneau, who hit a two-run shot in the sixth inning] kind of added on there. A good comeback in this series against a very good team and some really good pitching.”

The Twins now go on a 10-game road trip, with their first game in Detroit on Monday.

Did the Twins gain any confidence from winning two out of three against the Tigers to open the season?

“Well, I think you know just knowing we can compete with them, we pitched very well,” Gardenhire said. “They have a heck of a lineup. When they get going and swinging they’re like the Rangers, they can really tear you up and put up big innings. We have to continue to pitch well and catch the ball well.”

Pitching turns corner

Through 21 games last season, Twins starters had posted a 6.87 ERA while allowing 24 home runs in 111 ⅓ innings. Through 21 games this year, Twins starters have a 4.51 ERA and have allowed only seven home runs in 113 ⅔ innings. The Twins starters this year have a combined 7-9 record, compared with 3-11 last year.

The relievers also have shown quite a bit of overall improvement. Last year the team’s bullpen posted a 3.82 ERA through 21 games and had a 3-4 record. The Twins had given up 30 earned runs in 70 ⅔ innings while striking out 46. This year the bullpen has a 2.49 ERA, a 4-1 record and has struck out 64 batters in 72 ⅓ innings.

Coming into the season, most people in the organization thought the Twins would score runs, but the improved pitching has stood out.

Big meeting

Vikings owners Zygi and Mark Wilf were in town to watch General Manager Rick Spielman and his staff conduct the 2013 NFL draft last weekend, but there also was an important meeting at Winter Park discussing progress on the new football stadium.

In addition to the Wilfs, also at the meeting were team Vice President Lester Bagley; Ted Mondale, the executive director of the Minnesota Sports Facilities Authority; and Michele Kelm-Helgen, chairwoman of the authority.

The unveiling of the preliminary design of the new stadium is scheduled to be at 7 p.m. May 13 at the Guthrie Theater.

Still to be decided is whether the budget will be large enough to include a retractable roof. One person who doesn’t believe the stadium needs a retractable roof is Mondale, who believes the roof would have limited use and is not worth the cost.

Some $6 million was spent to make the stadium playable for baseball and this was an unexpected cost.

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