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La Velle E. Neal III and Phil Miller report on the Twins from wherever they make news

Twins arrive in KC just in time to see the defending champs eliminated

    KANSAS CITY, Mo. — Paul Molitor has been trying to keep his team motivated for about five months now. This week, he’ll finally watch opposing managers do the same.

    The Royals, World Series champions 11 months ago, are on the brink of elimination from the postseason chase, and it could come tonight, if Baltimore wins or Kansas City loses. And this weekend, the Twins will close the season in Chicago, facing a White Sox team that was also eliminated long ago.

    It’s quite a change for the Twins, who have been facing a steady diet of teams in must-win situations for more than a month. In fact, since their visit to last-place Atlanta in mid-August, the Twins have played 36 games — and 32 of them were against teams within five games of a playoff spot.

    So it will be interesting to see how these playing-out-the-string games look this week, when neither team feels the urgency of postseason play. Molitor said he’s been trying to keep complacency away as best as he can.

     “It’s my job to try to keep these guys [in the] present as much as we can. It’s easy to let your mind start drifting to what you’ll be doing a week from today, instead of [on] today,” the Twins’ manager said. “It’s our our job to try to prevent that. We’ll be watching to see who comes out and gives us a good effort the rest of the week.”

    He gave Brian Dozier the option of sitting out a few games if he likes, but the Twins’ second baseman said he wants to play. He’s in the lineup tonight, with the now-usual jumble of players behind him. Tonight’s lineup is the 143rd different batting order Molitor has used this season, and the first one with Logan Schafer in the fifth spot. Molitor has used a unique lineup every day since early June, and while his shuffling won’t set a franchise record — Ron Gardenhire needed 150 lineups in 2011, and Tom Kelly used 152 in 1999 — it’s still a lot of daily fluctuation.

    Here are the lineups for the first game of three in Kansas City, all of which start at 6:15 p.m.:

 

TWINS

 

Dozier 2B

Grossman DH

Kepler RF

Sano 3B

Schafer LF

E. Escobar SS

Centeno C

Buxton CF

Beresford 1B

 

Berrios RHP

 

ROYALS

 

Dyson CF

Merrifield 2B

Hosmer 1B

Morales DH

Perez C

Gordon LF

Orlando RF

A. Escobar SS

Cuthbert 3B

 

Kennedy RHP

Observations on a Twins team done at home for the season


This ends my 19th year on the beat. Before that, I covered the Royals for three years. Until today, I had never covered a team that had lost 100 games before.

That means this is the worst baseball team I have ever covered.

They can't sustain offense. They make baserunning mistakes. The pitching staff is a shambles. And they need serious upgrades defensively.

Here are some observations:

The Twins can't have a left side of the infield with Jorge Polanco and Migue Sano. There will be too many mistakes between the both of them.

Polanco doesn't have the arm to play shortstop.

Robbie Grossman's defense makes him, at best, a fourth outfielder or a DH candidate. But the fourth outfielder usually is a defensive player. So I don't know of there's a role for Grossman.

The Twins need a catcher who is defense first. It's too vital of a position not to have someone who can call games, frame pitches and prevent stolen bases. If the guy hits .235 but can run a staff, go for him.

Byron Buxton could become a Gold Glove center fielder who hits 30-plus home runs a year. 

Turning around a franchise takes as much time as it does to fix a pitching staff. As soon as the Twins can sort their pitching out, they can compete.

After Ervin Santana, I'm not sure how capable the rest of the rotation is right now. Tyler Duffey and Jose Berrios need to be fixed. Kyle Gibson's career is at a crossroads, to me. Which Phil Hughes are they getting next year?

Stephen Gonsalves will be the next starting prospect to get a shot.

Kohl Stewart and Tyler Jay both were top ten overall picks. If they don't come through, the Twins have to look at how they are developing pitchers.

What did I just write? They need to do that anyway. Matt Garza and Brad Radke are their last two homegrown starters. Wow.

It's painful to watch No. 7 these days. He's not running well. He doesn't have his legs under him when he swings. He should shut it down the rest of the season.

I don't expect a few coaches to return next season. I'm guessing at least three new faces.

The Twins need to cut the cord with Kennys Vargas, Byung Ho Park or both. The DH spot needs to be available for Mauer and Sano.

The free agent pitching market is not expected to be strong this offseason. Teams will be looking to trade for pitching. That means it will be a seller's market. Keep this in mind as some of you wonder about trading Brian Dozier for pitching.

I'm on the fence about trading Dozier. Guess it depends on the deal. That's a lot of production to take out of a lineup.

I do think Sano is sincere about wanting to lose weight and stay on the field. His challenge is to keep the big picture in focus.

Enjoy the last week of the season.

6:15 PM (FSN)
Minnesota 56-100
Kansas City 79-77