Inside Information: Twins Preview from Twinkie Town

It would make me happy if Justin Morneau had a good year.

Jesse Lund from the SBN Twins blog, Twinkie Town, was kind enough to write up a season/series preview of the Twins for us. I've also written one for them, so go check it out if you desire. Thanks for the info, Jesse!

*****
The Twins had to deal with a few big names walking out the door this winter, as Joe Nathan, Jason Kubel, and Michael Cuddyer all had little interest in returning to Minnesota. Nathan was lured away by a perennial World Series team, Kubel wanted to go to a ballpark where his power would be stunted, and Cuddyer wanted to play for a team that he felt he could help be a contender. Combine those losses with the departures of Delmon Young and Jim Thome last summer, and this year's Opening Day roster is going to look significantly different than last year's.

Key Free Agent Additions


When it became clear that Cuddyer had little interest in returning to the Twins, the front office moved on Willingham. In Willingham the franchise handed out their largest free agent contract in team history (three years, $21 million), and acquired a hitter who was more balanced than the bat he replaced. But, like Cuddyer, Willingham is a pull-happy, right-handed power hitter. Which is exactly what the Twins need for Target Field, where power dies in the gaps.

Doumit's role was initially going to be as a backup for Joe Mauer and Justin Morneau, but as Mauer is healthy and the first base situation has drastically changed, Doumit's role has also changed. Instead of backing up the catcher and first base positions, while being the team's primary designated hitter (which Gardenhire feels would have forced him into carrying three catchers), his role will be much more simple. Doumit will be the backup catcher, while being available to play first base or right field if necessary.
Carroll's on-base skills are certainly appealing, but the Twins have handed him an everday job which may be a mistake. Brought in as a stop-gap solution, the evolution and development of The Next Big Shortstop means that Carroll's future with the team has changed since he was signed.

Finally, when it became clear to the front office that Brian Duensing had a difficult time retiring right-handed hitters, they realized they needed to put him back in the bullpen. Wanting to keep Liam Hendriks in triple-A to start the season in order to pace his development, the team signed Marquis to a one-year contract.

Mauer & Morneau

Both are healthy, which is the good news. But while Mauer will remain a catcher, and while he should return to form as one of the best (if not the best) American League catchers, Morneau's role has changed drastically. Doctors have told him that if his body wears down, his post-concussion symptoms are more likely to return. Moving him into the role of the team's primary designated hitter mitigates his issue somewhat, keeping Morneau fresh while keeping his still potentially dangerous bat in the lineup.

Names to Watch: Chris Parmelee, Liam Hendriks, Trevor Plouffe, Brian Dozier

Starting Pitchers

Carl Pavano - At 36, Pavano is who Pavano is. He's going to try and keep the ball down, he's not going to challenge hitters on the inner half of the plate, and he'll need to locate his sinking fastball. All of his success comes not from getting batters to swing and miss, but to swing and make contact on his kind of pitches. Pavano has been one of the better pitchers in the American League over the last couple years in getting hitters to chase balls out of the zone, which can lead to some weak contact. The Orioles will have their opportunities, but they'll need to swing at their pitches. Not Pavano's.

Francisco Liriano - Liriano's brilliant spring matches what he did in 2010, before his renaissance season. You can only talk of Liriano's potential, of his electric stuff, so much before you remember how implosive he can be. If his mechanics are tight, if he's confident, he can go toe-to-toe with the best pitchers in baseball on their best days. When he flies open and can't locate his fastball, he can still get the strikeouts but his game becomes capable of falling to pieces at any moment. Who do the Orioles get? Cy Young Liriano, or replacement level Liriano?

Liam Hendriks - Hendriks was supposed to start the season in triple-A, but with Scott Baker starting the season on the disabled list and Jason Marquis dealing with a family issue, he's been pressed into service. He had his moments down the stretch last season with the Twins, but the front office would clearly prefer for him to start the year in Rochester. He's a confident pitcher who relies a lot on location, but he has the ability to induce a few swings and misses, too. His challenge is to improve his command over where it was last September, because if he doesn't he'll remain very hittable.
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