Four thoughts about a few of the converging sports seasons:
• The Twins’ best starting pitcher in 2017 and their $12 million free-agent starting pitcher haven’t even taken the ball yet, making what Minnesota’s three starters combined to do in the opening series against Baltimore that much more impressive.
Jake Odorizzi, Kyle Gibson and Jose Berrios threw 21 shutout innings over three games against the Orioles, allowing just five hits combined while striking out 19.
It’s hard to say which outing was most impressive, though Berrios’ three-hit shutout Sunday might get the nod even over Gibson’s six hitless innings Saturday or Odorizzi’s dazzling debut Thursday.
It’s not enough to make you say, “Who needs Ervin Santana and Lance Lynn?” but it’s evidence of what we knew coming into the year: The Twins’ starting pitching should be better this year than it has been in a long time.
• It’s tempting to blame baseball’s schedule-makers for what figures to be a rough first homestand weather-wise for the Twins. Really, it’s just an extraordinarily cold week ahead.
Per usclimatedata.com, the average high temperature in Minneapolis on April 5 is 52.3 degrees — plenty warm for baseball. The projected high for the Twins home opener Thursday, though, is 35 — and that looks like it might be the nicest day of the week.
If it feels like the MLB season started early — March 29 for the Twins, to be exact — you are correct. That said, the first Twins home game was actually two days earlier last year because they opened the season at home April 3 against the Royals.
This will all be a distant memory soon enough, but it’s hard to really blame MLB for squeezing in a few more games early in the year — when they can be played during the day, by the way — instead of risking the most meaningful games of the year extending into chilly November nights.
• Wild defenseman Ryan Suter had been so durable before his injury Saturday against Dallas that it was easy to take his presence in the lineup for granted.
Suter missed just five games in his first five seasons with the Wild — all of them coming in 2014-15 — and has suited up in all 78 for Minnesota this season. In all his seasons here, he has ranked among the top three players in the NHL in average ice time per game. This year, he sits at No. 2.
That will all change with Suter out indefinitely, of course. It’s hard to overstate his impact or what Suter’s absence will mean for the Wild’s postseason aspirations. Suffice to say, this is their biggest challenge in an already trying season.
• The NBA’s Western Conference is brutal, and there will still be plenty of reshuffling of the standings even after Sunday’s game between the Timberwolves and Utah.
That said, here is my minimum expectation for the Timberwolves this season in order to say they made a significant step forward: Make the playoffs, get a seed that allows them to play a competitive first-round series and win at least two playoff games.
Winning a playoff series would of course mean even more significant progress. Barely getting into the playoffs and bowing out quickly or missing the postseason altogether? This roster has too much talent for that to be an acceptable outcome, even if this is already the franchise’s best season in more than a decade.