Monday, April 12, 2010

Twins Roundup: Week One

The Twins opened the season with two challenging road series, a four game set against defending AL West Champion Anaheim, and another against the rival White Sox and their upgraded pitching. All things considered, they did quite well by going 5-2.

The biggest question heading into the 2010 season for the Twins was how they'd hold up without closer Joe Nathan who was lost to season ending, and perhaps career threatening Tommy John Surgery. Into his vacated slid setup man Jon Rauch, and by all accounts, Rauch performed admirably. While he'll never be mistaken for Nathan with his 89-91 mph fastball, Rauch does what the Twins coaching staff wants all their pitchers to do - he pounds the zone. In doing just that he pitched four innings of relief, allowed just one run, and nailed down all four opportunities he was given.

Offensively the Twins battered the Angels pitching staff for 9 home runs in the first four games. In Chicago the much heralded pitching staff largely snuffed out the power, but the Twins continued to find ways to win, eeking out a 2-1 win behind ace Scott Baker on Saturday. The two most surprising, and promising, performances were by left fielder Delmon Young and shortstop J.J. Hardy, both of whom had things to prove for various reasons. Neither could've started much better than they did.

On the mound the Twins pitching certainly wasn't lights out, posting a 1.21 WHIP, but striking out less than 5 batters per inning. That's not a formula that can hold up over the long term, but thing should improve in that category. The most encouraging thing to see was Francisco Liriano, one more season removed from Tommy John Surgery throwing consistently at 94-95mph with the old bite back on his slider. He was a bit wild on opening day, walking five batters, but the old skill set seems to be back. If he can find a way to control it, the Twins could have the true ace they'll need to make a deep push.

Heading into week two, the Twins are going to be opening up brand new Target Field with a three game set against the Boston Red Sox and they'll have tough pitching matchups against Jon Lester and John Lackey to contend with. The Twins are a team that is going to hit, and if Jon Rauch can stabilize the back end of the bullpen enough to protect most leads, and the starting staff can hold up, the Twins will certainly be there at the end of 2010.

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