New arms are here. Phenoms are waiting. But victories are what the Twins need most.
Fort Myers, Fla. – The Twins’ spring training complex is filled with construction trucks.
That’s not a tortured metaphor. The place is crawling with workers. What has always been a quaint and friendly place to watch workouts and games is being transformed into a one-stop spring baseball mecca.
There’s a new grass berm beyond the left field fence, outfield seating and a couple of bars that may be related to the adjective “Tiki.’’ They’re building a dorm for minor league players near the minor league complex. The place is on its way to looking great.
OK, let’s try one tortured metaphor: Everybody wants to see green grass; few want to watch guys in hard hats laying down sod.
The Twins will hold their first official workout of the spring on Monday. Even for a franchise that has gone from last place to a World Series title, this is a unique juncture in Twins history. Perhaps never before have they been so wretched and so promising at the same time.
The last three seasons, while enjoying the benefits of playing in Target Field, the Twins have lost 99, 96 and 96 games. Never before has a Twins team lost 96 or more games three seasons in a row. Even the previous version of the franchise, the oft-ridiculed Washington Senators, never accomplished that.
When they expected to be at their best, they have been at their worst; a frequently unwatchable team in a beautiful new park.
They have also never before built a farm system with so much exceptional talent.
This spring, Byron Buxton, the consensus top prospect in baseball, and Miguel Sano, who is somewhere near the top, will be in big-league camp for the first time, along with top pitching prospect Alex Meyer.
Sano and Meyer should debut in the big leagues this year. Buxton, who has never played above Class A, could make it by the end of this season or early in 2015. With a franchise desperate to win before its fan base goes in search of other summer entertainment options, 2014 feels like the transition season that 2013 was supposed to be.
The overriding question this spring is: Can the Twins become more competitive while they wait on their kids?
The key will be the rebuilt rotation.
Last year, the Twins used 11 starting pitchers. Ten of them started eight or more games. In retrospect, Kevin Correia, who finished 9-13 with a 4.18 ERA and 185 innings pitched, was easily their de facto ace.
Their five top starters in terms of workload combined for 637 innings and 350 strikeouts. Those are horrific numbers. The team the Twins are chasing, the Detroit Tigers, saw their top five starters produce 1,000⅓ innings and 960 strikeouts.
The Twins have won before without exceptional pitching depth (like in ’87) and without exceptional front-of-the-rotation talent (the 2002 team won 94 games without having a full-time starter produce more than 188 innings or 124 strikeouts, and while calling soft-throwing Brad Radke its ace).
The Twins are hoping to upgrade their rotation from amateurish to competent. Two seasons ago, Phil Hughes produced 191⅓ innings and 165 strikeouts. Last year, Ricky Nolasco produced 199⅓ innings and 165 strikeouts.
Last year, on the strength of four strong months in 2012, Scott Diamond entered spring training as the Twins’ ace. This year, if everyone stays healthy, Diamond will have to pitch well in March just to have a chance to compete for the fifth starter’s job.
The projected rotation is Nolasco, Hughes, Correia and Mike Pelfrey, with Diamond, Sam Deduno, Kyle Gibson and Meyer competing for the fifth spot.
|Detroit||7||3rd Qtr 13:11|
|Cleveland||3||3rd Qtr 13:33|
|Atlanta||13||3rd Qtr 14:02|
|Green Bay||10||3rd Qtr 13:05|
|Kansas City||6||3rd Qtr 12:04|
|New England||7||3rd Qtr 10:54|
|NY Giants||3:05 PM|
|Denver||12/22/14 7:30 PM|
|New York||2:30 PM|
|LA Lakers||5:00 PM|
|New Orleans||6:00 PM|
|Maine||50||2nd Half 7:21|
|Ferris State||68||2nd Half 6:55|
|San Francisco||57||2nd Half 4:56|
|Oregon State||50||2nd Half 0:27|
|Coastal Carolina||40||2nd Half 13:10|
|Holy Cross||18||1st Half 2:34|
|Southern Miss||29||2nd Half|
|Western Carolina||23||1st Half 4:52|
|Creighton||16||1st Half 1:27|
|Maryland||29||1st Half 2:02|
|Cornell||32||1st Half 3:41|
|Vermont||17||1st Half 2:47|
|Loyola-Maryland||22||1st Half 2:11|
|Reinhardt||26||1st Half 3:50|
|Ark-Little Rock||29||2nd Half|
|TX-Pan American||30||1st Half 3:09|
|Alabama State||33||1st Half 3:51|
|FIU||13||1st Half 11:27|
|Goshen||0||1st Half 15:11|
|Austin Peay||2:00 PM|
|Tennessee St||2:00 PM|
|South Dakota||2:00 PM|
|Northern Ariz||3:00 PM|
|SD Christian||3:00 PM|
|UC Irvine||3:30 PM|
|Seton Hall||5:00 PM|
|Appalachian St||5:30 PM|
|North Dakota St||6:00 PM|
|San Jose St||6:00 PM|
|Alcorn State||8:00 PM|
|Sacramento St||9:00 PM|
|BYU||12/22/14 1:00 PM|
|Marshall||12/23/14 5:00 PM|
|Navy||12/23/14 8:30 PM|
|San Diego St|
|Central Mich||12/24/14 11:00 AM|
|Fresno State||12/24/14 7:00 PM|
|Illinois||12/26/14 12:00 PM|
|Rutgers||12/26/14 3:30 PM|
|NC State||12/26/14 7:00 PM|
|Cincinnati||12/27/14 12:00 PM|
|Duke||12/27/14 1:10 PM|
|(15) Arizona State|
|Miami-Florida||12/27/14 3:00 PM|
|Boston College||12/27/14 3:30 PM|
|(25) Nebraska||12/27/14 7:00 PM|
|(1) South Carolina||84|
|(5) Notre Dame||64|
|Fairleigh Dickinson||63||2nd Half 0:24|
|Buffalo||60||2nd Half 5:31|
|Bucknell||64||2nd Half 3:54|
|Mount St Marys||44|
|Stony Brook||65||2nd Half 1:31|
|FIU||72||2nd Half 3:28|
|Duquesne||35||2nd Half 5:51|
|Maine||54||2nd Half 0:02|
|William & Mary||51|
|Alabama State||38||2nd Half 2:46|
|TX-Pan American||38||2nd Half 3:40|
|South Dakota St||62||2nd Half 0:31|
|Radford||49||2nd Half 4:24|
|(3) Texas||34||2nd Half 17:12|
|(4) Texas A&M||41|
|Rhode Island||42||2nd Half 12:53|
|South Florida||25||1st Half 5:07|
|Sam Houston St||25||1st Half 1:51|
|Evansville||17||1st Half 3:12|
|(14) Maryland||53||1st Half 1:58|
|Coll of Charleston||34|
|NC A&T||10||1st Half 7:13|
|Princeton||38||1st Half 2:32|
|Eastern Illinois||37||2nd Half|
|Rider||31||1st Half 0:44|
|SC State||13||1st Half 2:23|
|Fairfield||27||1st Half 2:45|
|Cleveland State||42||2nd Half|
|Kent State||29||1st Half 1:07|
|South Alabama||9||2nd Half|
|Saint Peters||13||1st Half 1:02|
|Youngstown St||21||2nd Half|
|NJIT||23||1st Half 3:51|
|Davidson||10||1st Half 1:41|
|Indiana State||4||1st Half 17:16|
|Southern U||5||1st Half 15:59|
|Wright State||6||1st Half 12:06|
|(19) Oklahoma St||2:00 PM|
|Ark-Little Rock||2:00 PM|
|Northern Ariz||2:00 PM|
|North Dakota||2:00 PM|
|Western Ill||2:00 PM|
|(6) North Carolina|
|Ball State||2:00 PM|
|(8) Kentucky||2:00 PM|
|New Orleans||2:00 PM|
|Chicago State||2:00 PM|
|Bowling Green||2:00 PM|
|SE Missouri St|
|Northern Ill||2:00 PM|
|(23) Iowa||2:05 PM|
|Central Michigan||2:30 PM|
|Western Carolina||2:30 PM|
|Cal Poly||3:00 PM|
|No Dakota State||3:00 PM|
|Cal State Fullerton|
|Idaho State||3:00 PM|
|(18) Michigan State||3:00 PM|
|Fresno State||4:00 PM|
|St Francis-PA||4:00 PM|
|(10) Louisville||4:00 PM|
|(21) Miss State|