FOUR KEYS TO A FAST START
New everyday players: Nelson Cruz, who will be 39 on July 1, lends a veteran presence to the clubhouse. C.J. Cron has been impressive picking out errant throws at first base. Marwin Gonzalez has filled in for the injured Miguel Sano at third base. Second baseman Jonathan Schoop has rebounded from a miserable 2017. Combined, those four newcomers have 20 home runs and 60 RBI.
Tablesetters: Max Kepler has embraced the leadoff spot and has seven home runs. No. 2 hitter Jorge Polanco has 18 extra-base hits and is among the major league leaders in slugging percentage. And Byron Buxton, hitting ninth, has 16 extra-base hits and seven steals.
Are they for real? Pitching surprises have popped up. Martin Perez, signed to be the fifth starter, threw eight shutout innings Wednesday against Houston and is 4-0. Blake Parker, another offseason addition, has six saves, a 1.69 ERA and the early claim to the closer role.
Power packed: The Twins are second in the American League with 56 home runs and on pace for 292 this season (the big-league record is the Yankees’ 267 last year). Overall, baseball is on a record home run pace; teams averaged 2.62 home runs per game in March and April.