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A Fan's View

Twins baseball from the perspective of a long-time fan

Section 219: Hey, Twins fans. A moratorium on whining for now, OK?

I'm going to keep this short because it's a holiday weekend and we have a lot to do, including relearning the words to Lee Greenwood's "Proud to be an American" for when we go watch fireworks and deciding what to wear to watch the women's World Cup final..

The Twins are five games above .500 and entered Friday's game at Kansas City 3 1.2 games out of first place in the American League Central.

They would have been a better bet right now to be fourth or fifth and 13 1/2 games out, or more, when most of us were figuring out stuff at the start of the season.

The Twins have more starting pitching than they need and have managed to work around and battle through the assortment of flaws that separate them from being  taken more seriously. ESPN, which got a bit carried away earlier this season when ranking them fifth, have the Twins at No. 13 in its current power rankings.

Drug-suspended Ervin Santana will pitch against the Royals on Sunday afternoon. His presence is like picking up a veteran at midseason, even if it's happening this way for the wrong reason. The Twins have made the futurists happy by bringing up four of their top minor-leaguers and sending a fifth, the pitcher Jose Berrios, to Rochester, where he is one step away from the majors.

Meanwhile, the Royals have lost four in a row and scored only six runs -- five of them in one game. So maybe the Twins are catching Kansas City at the right time, the same way that Milwaukee (a genuinely bad team) chewed on the Twins last month when they were struggling.

Things are going better than expected. Much better, I'd say, even with June's tumble.

Yes, things could still fall apart for all of the reasons we've talked about on the blog.

But for now, I'd suggest having fun with it. A wary eye on the future doesn't mean we can't have fun right now.

Section 219: A reminder for Twins fans, courtesy of the Brewers

This isn't about how the Brewers, who have the second-worst record in baseball, managed to win four of their six games with the Twins this season. And this isn't meant to be gloom-and-doom either.

A year ago right year, the Brewers were 18 games over .500, led their division by 6 1/2 games and all was great. Then everything fell apart to such an extent that Milwaukee barely finished over .500 and has continued that plummet in 2015.

Right now, in the big picture, I think most people are feeling good about the Twins being five games over .500 -- even if their play has been inconsistent for a few weeks. Also, after the current series in Cincinnati, the Twins will be playing division leaders (Kansas City and Baltimore) and nemesis Detroit to bring them to the All-Star break.

The wheels haven't come off, but there are issues out there:

The bullpen is getting messier: Right-hander Blaine Boyer can't get right-handed batters out (.310 batting average against and .536 slugging percentage) vs. .160 and .220 against batters from the left. Aaron Thompson hasn't been able to get anyone out in June.(OK, I'm exaggerating. He's faced 30 batters this month and gotten 17 of them out.) Even if you pretend Casey Fien didn't give up two home runs to four batters in Sunday's loss, there's isn't any reliability beyond Fien and the All-Star closer Glen Perkins, whom we've seen only three times in the last two weeks. The Twins bullpen has slipped into the bottom third of the American League by most measurements. Fans can hope Alex Meyer's debut was an aberration and that management is keeping an eye out for upgrades.

The outfield is again unsettled, but...: Don't expected to see Byron Buxton before August, when his learning curve will again commence. If Eddie Rosario becomes the main center fielder, the early-season issue of defensive weakness in left and right will resurface. If Danny Santana gets a chance in center, then shortstop will be shared by the Eduardos and their limited range. The return of a healthy Aaron Hicks is probably the best-case scenario for the short term. In case you're wondering about the exile of Oswaldo Arcia, I'm assuming it can be explained by a slash line of .202/.235/.287 at Rochester, including one home run and 27 strikeouts in 94 at-bats.

And at shortstop: La Velle E. Neal III brought up the issue with Terry Ryan, who thinks the Twins have depth at the position.All of the options have flaws. I'd like to think the Twins can roll with Santana for a while with the Eduardos in reserve roles. When needed, i think I'm more comfortable for now with Santana at short and an Eduardo in left until the return of Hicks (and then Buxton).

Joe Mauer: There are enough other problems right now that Mauer's season has slipped out of the bullseye. For the record, he's last among the 12 qualifying first basemen in the American League in slugging percentage and 11th in OPS. He has four home runs; Chris Parmelee has four home runs for Baltimore. Mauer has 273 at-bats, Parmelee has 43. In other words, by any standard, Mauer is still being miscast as the No. 3 batter in the Twins' lineup. Almost as big an issue is the lack of options that manager Paul Molitor has for that spot.

The starting rotation: Ervin Santana is scheduled to join the Twins in Kansas City next weekend after his drug suspension. That will give the Twins six healthy starters who deserve to be in the rotation -- an unanticipated surplus. There are a lot of options and I don't have a favorite. If the Twins stay with a five-man rotation, someone will get an unfair break. Given the other issues that need more immediate tending (and the history of starting pitching in recent years), however, I'm not seeing that as a problem. The bullpen does need help.

Right now, I'm still thinking of the glass as more than half full, given what we were expecting at the start of the year. And I think the Twins should still frame their decisions with the idea that they are a postseason contender. But the buyer/seller and now/future debates will be moving targets throughout July, so it'll be fair for all of us to change our minds of that one.

Some things need to get better for the Twins to be taken as seriously as we wanted to take them at the end of last month. Or as seriously as Brewers fans were taking their team at this time last year.

7:10 PM (FSN)
Baltimore 43-39
Minnesota 43-39

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