A year ago on May 12 the Twins were 9-24, compared to 17-17 this year on the same date after being shut out 6-0 by Baltimore on Sunday.
Twins manager Ron Gardenhire was asked to offer his opinion for the great improvement, even though most analysts didn’t have any idea how the team would do coming out of spring training.
“We’re better in a lot of areas,” Gardenhire said. “We catch the ball better, and we’ve got some offense that can do some things.”
Apparently the poor chemistry in the clubhouse last season had something to do with the team’s bad record.
“The atmosphere in the clubhouse is good,” Gardenhire said. “Guys are competing, and they know we can compete. You’re going to have a day like today every once in a while. We’re better, definitely better.”
The Twins have come up with some surprise newcomers who had contributed to the improved record. One of them is Oswaldo Arcia, who hit .328 in 69 games for Class AA New Britain last year.
“I think you look at guys like Arcia coming up here and swinging the bat right out of the chute, he’s come up and done very well,” Gardenhire said. “One of the guys that really hasn’t been swinging great yet is Chris Parmelee and guys like that we think are going to hit pretty well. [Joe] Mauer and [Justin] Morneau have been swinging really good. [Josh] Willingham has not clicked yet. He’s been fighting some injuries and things like that. We’ve still got some guys not swinging great, and [Ryan] Doumit is just now starting to swing, so once we get them all clicking at the same time, we should put up a lot of run consistently.
“We’ve got to get a little bit of a set lineup here, we need to get our leadoff man getting on base a little more. We’ve got some things to iron out, and we don’t want to be just a .500 baseball team. We’ve got people who can do it. We have to pitch better at the start of the games and then we’ll go from there.”
One of the disappointments has been the struggles of rookie center fielder Aaron Hicks, who hit well in spring training and now is hitting .137.
“Yeah, [we’ll stick with Hicks] until somebody figures out something different. But the kid’s got to play. He’s got a little hurt right now, he’s got a bad elbow, but the kid needs to play,” Gardenhire said.
One positive is there will be plenty of competition for places on the staff once a number of pitchers get healthy.
“If guys are pushing each other, that means your staff’s going to get better,” Gardenhire said. “If guys in the minor leagues start throwing the ball really well and pushing the guys that are up here, then you know what? You’re going to get better as a team if guys are outpitching the guys that are here. You know, that’s competition. That’s what we want, competition.”
The infield was a big question mark when the team broke spring training, but Gardenhire doesn’t have any complaint about their performance.
“I think they are playing just fine,” he said. “We’ve been catching the ball, especially up the middle, turning the double plays we’re supposed to. Everything’s a little bit better. We’re actually making some plays, and we went through a stretch of 10 games without an error. That says a lot about the way they’re concentrating on defense.
“We can compete [in the AL Central], but we have to wait and see how our pitching goes. It all goes down to your pitching staff. We can score runs with [opponents], but it all goes down to our starting staff.”
No retractable roof
The Vikings will show off designs for their new stadium Monday night at the Guthrie Theater, and one thing you are unlikely to see on the rendering is a retractable roof.