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Minnesota Twins: Spring Training Information
[ April 5, 2009 at 12:50 PM ] [ ] [ Full Story ]  [ Filed under: Top | Twins ]
[ Tagged: , , ]
By Tyler
Location: Fort Myers, FLA
Pitchers and Catchers Report: Feb. 15th
First Game:  Feb. 25th
Schedule

Projected Lineup
  1. Denard Span LF
  2. Alexi Casilla 2B
  3. Joe Mauer C
  4. Justin Morneau 1B
  5. Michael Cuddyer RF
  6. Jason Kubel DH
  7. Brian Buscher/Brendan Harris 3B
  8. Nick Punto SS
  9. Carlos Gomez CF

Projected Rotation

  1. Francisco Liriano LHP
  2. Scott Baker, RHP
  3. Kevin Slowey, RHP
  4. Nick Blackburn, RHP
  5. Glen Perkins, LHP

Projected Bullpen 

Long Relief: Boof Bonser RHP, Phil Humber RHP 
Situational: Matt Guerrier RHP, Craig Breslow LHP, and Jose Mijares LHP 
Set-Up Men: Jesse Crain RHP, Luis Ayala RHP 
Closer: Joe Nathan RHP


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Key Battles: Outfield.  Denard Span, Carlos Gomez, Delmon Young, and Michael Cuddyer all lay legitimate claim to three outfield spots.  Cuddyer, a fan favorite, ran into health problems last season.  This allowed the Twins' three young stars to get serious face time in the Major Leagues, and they outperformed expectations.  Denard Span should be a lock to play LF after last year.  As for CF and RF: expect Ron Gardenhire's love affair with Michael Cuddyer and Carlos Gomez to land them spots on opening day.  The organization doesn't seem to be too high on former #1 overall pick Delmon Young.  Ron Gardenhire publicly stated in the winter that he would be out of the Twins' opening day lineup and trade rumors subsequently swirled.   However, Young has more potential than anyone currently wearing a Twins uniform and should see plenty of action this year.  If the raw Carlos Gomez doesn't learn the strike zone early in the season or Michael Cuddyer can't return to previous form, I would expect to see Delmon Young's face in the everyday lineup. 

Pitching Battles: 8th Inning Set-Up Man.  Recent addition Luis Ayala comes into camp to battle for the 8th inning setup role with Jesse Crain.  Ayala, who underwent Tommy John Surgery in 2006, seemingly had returned to previous form in 2007.  2008 was a different story as he posted a 5.71 ERA for the Nationals and Mets.  Crain had a good season last year posting a 3.59 ERA and has been a lifelong Twin.  It should be a dead heat deep into spring training.  Regardless, both will see plenty of action in 2009.

Also, keep an eye on the 5th spot in the rotation.  Glen Perkins is a fine 5th starter, but the team's pitching prospect depth is solid.  Don't be surprised to see one of the following names creep into the starting rotation this year: Anthony Swarzak, Kevin Mulvey, Phil Humber or Brian Duensing.

Breakout:

Jason Kubel - Jason Kubel just signed a two year deal with the Twins and for good reason.  This DH is entering the prime of his career and his stats have consistently improved  Look for Kubel to knock 20-25 out of the park this season.

Delmon Young - And he's not even in the opening day lineup? Yes.  Expect either Gomez or Cuddyer to falter early and Young to fill in itching to prove something.  The former #1 overall pick has more upside than any player in the Twins organization; he just needs some time to develop at 23 years of age.  He's already gotten one full season under his belt, given the opportunity; his second season may be one to remember.

Scott Baker - He's already broken out, it's just that no one in baseball really seems to know his name.  They should after 2009.

Nick Blackburn - His performance late last season in pressure situations was phenomenal.  He's the type of guy you want on the mound to start in a big time game, and you don't find that out of your 4th pitcher quite often.  He should be a guy that outperforms expectations this year.

Underperfomers:

Carlos Gomez - This flashy young outfielder's potential is sky high, he's just not MLB ready.  His zone is 10 feet wide and will strike out just about once a game.  It would be good for him to get some time in AAA to develop his strike zone, but I wouldn't expect it.  It's rumored that he was pretty bad in Winter Ball so it seems like there hasn't been much improvement. 
 

2009 Outlook: It's tough not to be excited about the 2009 Minnesota Twins.  After a surpising 2008 campaign led by youngsters Alexi Casilla, Denard Span, Carlos Gomez, and Delmon Young, the hope is to see more of the same in 2009.  With the core of the team's outfield averaging 23 years of age, the future looks bright in Minnesota.

A few questions about the team's star performers still lingers.  Joe Mauer is coming off offseason kidney surgery and is said to be ready on opening day, the question is: will he be 100%?  Also, Justin Morneau's performance down the stretch essentially lost us the AL Central crown in 2008, can he return to his previous MVP form?

As for Minnesota's unheralded pitching rotation: Liriano, Baker, Slowey are studs, while Blackburn showed flashes of brilliance in 2008.  Glen Perkins was shakey last season at times, but is still a fine option at the 5 spot.  No one is going to blow you away like a C.C. Sabathia (save for maybe Liriano when he's hot), but they are very well rounded and an all-in-all  'solid' major league rotation top to bottom.

The Minnesota Twins, behind youthful energy, a solid rotation, and the M+M boys should fly under the radar and fight for the AL Central crown.  Here are the keys to the Twins' 2009 season.

Keys to 2009: 

1) Liriano's health - Liriano stayed healthy in 2009 after having major surgery a few years back.  It seems like most guys who undergo surgery like Liriano battle health problems on and off throughout the remainder of their career.  Let's knock on wood in hopes that the Twins ace has plenty of good years left.

2) Young players continuing to play well - This will be critical.  Can guys like Casilla, Span, Gomez, and Young pull repeat performances? Can the get even better with a year under their belt? Or was last year just an anomaly?  2009 will be a telling year for these guys' careers.

3) Mauer's health - Joe Mauer had minor kidney surgery during the offseason and stated that he would be ready for opening day.  Being the leader of this young team, his health is vital the most vital to the team's success.  Any surgery news coming from Joe Mauer is worth a worry to Minnesotans.

4) Morneau return to MVP form - Morneau had a sloppy finish to 2008.  Can he return to MVP form or will last seasons slump linger into 2009?

5) One Breakout Player between Young, Kubel, or even Cuddyer - If one of these guys breaks out, it would be a huge help during Morneau's slumps and certainly could push the Twins over the hump.

6) 5th starter stability - This is always key for any ball club.  Glen Perkins should be a fine option, but don't expect greatness by any means.  Will any of the teams' prospects step up?

7) Underworked Bullpen Arms - Last season guys like Matt Guerrier were used far too often and their arms suffered from it.  Starting pitchers going deeper into the game and having a few more options in the bullpen would help. 


Tyler is an editor of Midwest Sports Fans and a die-hard Twins fan.

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