Jim Souhan analyzes the local sports scene and advises you to never take his betting advice. He likes old guitars and old music, never eats press box hot dogs, and can be heard on 1500ESPN at 2:05 p.m. weekdays, and Sundays from 10 a.m.-noon.
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The Twins reached the All-Star break at 44-50 after beating Colorado on Sunday.
Here's how that compares to their record at the three previous All-Star breaks:
Slightly better starting pitching, due mostly to Phil Hughes and Kyle Gibson, has made the Twins a little better this season despite vital injuries to key hitters, like Joe Mauer and Josh Willingham, and the failure of Aaron Hicks to become a useful big-league hitter.
But the Twins' chances to finish strong could be handicapped by the innings limit on AAA pitcher Alex Meyer, and the expectation that the Twins will trade away a few valuable players as the trade deadline approaches.
Spent a few days in Fort Myers with the Class A Miracle last week. The Miracle is the Twins' high-Class A affiliate.
Wrote about ace Jose Berrios, one of the most promising players in the farm system.
The position players who jumped out at me were shortstop Jorge Polanco, and infielder/outfielder Eddie Rosario.
Polanco played mostly second base last year at low-A Cedar Rapids, but with Brian Dozier looking like a long-term keeper in the majors at second, the Twins are trying out players at other positions. Polanco has made too many errors at short, but when I was in town he made spectacular plays, displaying great range and plenty of arm. He can hit, too.
But the best player on the field was Rosario, recently reinstated after a 50-game drug violation.
Rosario looks smooth at second, and the Miracle also played him in left and center. Again, this is due to Dozier's presence.
Rosario might be a wonderful big-league second baseman. He also looks comfortable in the outfield, and can throw well enough to play out there.
But what really jumps out at you is his bat. He has an unconventional swing. He looks like he's throwing the bat-head at the ball. He has an uncanny knack for hitting the ball hard to all fields, and for serving tough pitches on a line to centerfield.
Rosario could be the Twins' future leftfielder. He's insurance in case Dozier doesn't hold up. But with his talent and the trouble he's caused, he also might be a prime candidate to be traded if the Twins can drum up a market.
Personally, I'd keep him.
Again, here's my future Twins dream lineup: Buxton CF, Mauer 1b (if he regains his form and usual on-base percentage), Sano 3b, Arcia RF, Pinto C, Vargys DH, Rosario LF, Dozier 2b, Santana SS.
That's 7 guys who could hit 20 homers, three or four guys who could steal 30 bases, and three or four guys who could win Gold Gloves.
Still reeling with a hockey hangover, I'm at the Twins' game today at Target Field.
The season will be close to one-quarter finished by the end of the day, so it's getting to the time of year where statistical standards are more than just flukish.
The Twins rank fifth in the American League in runs scored. That's pretty good for a rebuilding team with a patchwork lineup. The concern is that the Twins may have already gotten the best offensive performances they're going to get from Chris Colabello, Jason Kubel, Kurt Suzuki and Trevor Plouffe.
The bullpen ERA of 3.59 ranks sixth in the American League, consistent with the belief that this is a strong bullpen when given a reasonable workload.
Here's what's worrisome: After spending all that money on two free-agent pitchers, and getting a few dominant outings out of Kyle Gibson, the best young pitcher in the current rotation, the Twins still entered Thursday's game with a league-worst 5.45 starting pitching ERA.
So in the Twins' pursuit of competence, they need to find a way to sustain their offensive performance (not likely) while improving the performance of their starting pitching. The latter is a necessity if the Twins are going to avoid losing 90 games again this year.
Did we learn anything during the Twins' Opening Day loss in Chicago?
Let's kick it around anyway.
Maybe my first and foremost takeaway from Opening Day is that it didn't feel like Opening Day. Two bad teams opening in one of baseball's worst ballparks on what promised to be (but wasn't) a cold day - that's a really bad idea.
Major League Baseball has flourished in a lot of ways under Bud Selig, but starting the season in Australia has robbed the openers in the continental US of their specialness.
Let's start this with a Top 15 list of places the Twins should open each season:
1. Miami. The Marlins' ballpark is funky, the weather is almost bound to be good (even if there is a little of the customary southern Florida light rain), and it's a two-hour drive from Fort Myers. A Twins fan could watch the final spring training games, then attend the season opener. Perfect.
2. Tampa Bay. See: Marlins. The Rays play in a terrible ballpark, but it is indoors, so Opening Day will at least occur on time.
3. Houston. Warm weather, easy flight, and a team the Twins might even have a chance to beat on Opening Day.
4. Texas: See: Houston. Except for the part about winning.
6. Cincinnati: Risk of colder weather, but Opening Day in Cincinnati should be the real opening day every season.
7. Yankee Stadium. Risk of colder weather, but what's better than Opening Day at Yankee Stadium?
8. Boston. Unless it's Opening Day at Fenway.
9. San Diego. Long flght to the coast, but perfect weather and a pretty good ballpark.
10. Los Angeles: See San Diego.
11. Anaheim: See Los Angeles.
12. Queens: A watered-down version on Opening Day in Yankee Stadium.
13. Baltimore. It's become a great baseball town again, with a great ballpark.
14. D.C.: Not a great ballpark, but an interesting team.
15. Pittsburgh. Perhaps the only ballpark in America that is remindful of Target Field, and better than Target Field. (Although part of the reason it's better is that it's bordered by two rivers.)
Back to the Twins' opener, and the hints that may have appeared within:
1. Joe Mauer did not look natural at first base. I think he can win a Gold Glove there, but he whiffed on one tough grounder and bobbled an easy one.
2. Josh Willingham's bat looked slow all spring, and he looked overmatched in his first at-bat against the exceptional Chris Sale, but he drove three balls to the outfield, and hit a couple of them pretty well. That's actually an encouraging sign.
3. Aaron Hicks, the subject of my Tuesday column, got two hits, but still has to prove he can hit big-league pitching from the left side.
4. Ricky Nolasco was disappointing. He should be a solid pitcher for the long run, but he didn't show great stuff or presence on Monday.
5. The Twins have to be really glad they didn't dump Anthony Swarzak last spring.
6. Brian Dozier has developed into a nice player, a quality defender who can drive the ball. He is not a leadoff hitter. He doesn't get on base enough.
7. The Twins have better prospects than the White Sox, but the Sox look like they're better prepared to make a jump in the victory column this season. Abreu could be a force, and the Sox have a real ace in Sale. The Sox might have the best combination of speed and power they've had in a long time, after years of looking like a slow-pitch softball team.
I hope Mike Zimmer isn't going to let Johnny Manziel's flamboyance dissuade him from drafting the kid. I don't think the Vikings will have a shot at Manziel, anyway, but writing off Manziel because of his personality may be like the Falcons trading Brett Favre because he partied too much.
I'll be on 1500ESPN at 12:15 with Judd & Mackey.
The Twins didn't play a horrible ballgame on Monday in the season opener, but they did lose, and the losing has become all too familiar.
Ricky Nolasco allowed 10 hits and five earned runs in six innings, and the Twins struck out 10 times.
Kurt Suzuki produced all three Twins' RBI after I ripped his placement in the No. 2 slot in the batting order. I'll stick with my stance - light-hitting players with low on-base percentages should not bat second in a big-league lineup.
Aaron Hicks went 2-for-3, and Chris Colabello went 2-for-4, but the Twins were no match for White Sox ace Chris Sale.
Phil Miller and myself will have full coverage later and in tomorrow's Star Tribune.
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