After a stretch of gray days in the Twin Cities, it might be hard to believe that Opening Day for the Twins — which, in a rarity, is at Target Field this year — is only one week away. Whether you view that as a threat or a reason to be excited, it will be here before you know it. As such, here are five facts you should know as we count down to the start of the 2017 Twins season:
1 The Twins open the season on Monday, April 3, with a 3:10 p.m. game against the Royals. They will open the season at home for only the second time since they moved into Target Field in 2010. The extended forecast — a tricky thing this far out — calls for a high in the low 50s with overcast skies. That might not be perfect baseball weather, but I think the Twins and fans could live with it as long as baseball is back.
2 Even more rare than opening at home for the Twins? Winning the season opener. Owing perhaps to a combination of often starting on the road, where it is generally tougher to win, and having some poor teams of late, the Twins have not won their opener since 2008. In three of those seasons (2011, 2012, 2016) the Twins were never above .500 the entire year. In the 2008 victory, Livan Hernandez was the opening day starter and got the victory, tossing seven innings and allowing two runs to outduel the Angels' Jered Weaver at the Metrodome. Yes, that seems like forever ago.
3Twins opening day starters since their last opening day win: Francisco Liriano (2009), Scott Baker (2010), Carl Pavano (2011 and 2012), Vance Worley (2013), Ricky Nolasco (2014), Phil Hughes (2015) and Ervin Santana (2016). That's an eclectic mix, to be sure, but it wasn't all the fault of the pitchers. In losing eight consecutive openers, the Twins have been outscored 45-16 — scoring an average of two runs per game and never more than three in any of the eight.
4Hey, the Twins have been pretty good this spring. They have a winning record (14-12) in these tune-up games have been among the American League's best teams for much of the spring. Of course, we can't read too much into spring training results. Last year's Twins, after all, went 19-11 in the spring and felt good about themselves heading into the season. They then proceeded to lose 103 games, the most ever since moving to Minnesota.
5All that said, let's leave here with a little optimism. Baseball Prospectus projects the Twins will win 78 games in 2017. While that wouldn't put Minnesota in playoff contention, it would be a 19-game improvement over last year and restore some hope that the team could contend in the future. Getting off to a good start would help that become a reality. With 19 consecutive games at the start of the season against AL Central foes, we will know where the Twins stand pretty quickly.