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Perhaps I spoke too soon

By Josh Newman
“The Minnesota Twins boast a young, enthusiastic roster that is sure to turn some heads in 2009.”

I remember saying just that in my first article of the baseball season. While the team is not to be shunned yet, they have yet to make good on my bold prediction.

Actually, the team has turned some heads. In the other direction, that is.

They won three of the last four series they played in April to pull their record to 11-11. They dropped two of three games against Kansas City in the first three days of May to close last week with a record of 12-13. The season may be young, but with people expecting results yesterday, that kind of record will either send fans scrambling early to the exit, or – gulp – scrambling to the ticket office for refunds.

What did I say a month ago? I went on record of saying that Scott Baker would be the staff ace this year. Unless he turns things around right now, this may prove to be one of the most moronic things I have ever said in sports. Four starts into the season and we are still waiting for that first win. He is currently 0-4 with an ERA high enough to make anyone either laugh or croak. Any pitcher with a 9.15 ERA through 20.2 innings has a lot of work to do. What’s more, opposing batters hit .295 against the youngster and tagged him for eight home runs. Mr. Baker, Minnesotans are some of the most impatient people on the planet, and if you don’t turn your season around right now, you may not be around to celebrate another year.

Another caller from Underachievers Anonymous is Francisco Liriano. Like Baker, he went 0-4 through the early portion of the season, but a .248 opponents batting average is not intolerable. But if he is going to have a career year, what must be done? He must do anything he can to lower his ERA below 5 at the very least (I have this thing against a starting pitcher allowing more than 5 earned runs in a nine-inning stretch). Oh yeah, and the team just may have to score some runs for him.

The plus for the pitching staff has been the performance of Kevin Slowey, Nick Blackburn, and Glen Perkins. Without these three guys, the team would not even be close to .500. Together, they are a combined 7-3 with an unspectacular-but-not-craptacular ERA of 4.15. We would love to see that come down, of course. As long as these three keep doing what they’re doing, the team will have a chance.

Offense has been the team’s main liability. Except for a select few – including Jose Morales, whom I relentlessly doubted at the beginning of the season – the team has been inconsistent at best. Justin Morneau is the highlight. He is currently hitting .327 with six homers and 21 RBI. Morales is batting an outstanding .340 through 19 games and may be the biggest surprise of the season thus far.

The return of Joe Mauer will certainly help. Against Kansas City, he was 7-for-10 with three RBI and a home run. He needs to be at his best at all times for the team to win. Why? Because the pitching staff can’t seem to throw the ball over the plate with any kind of consistency. It will also be a welcome addition to a team that had trouble making contact during April – right now, the team is batting only .268 overall.

Denard Span, Jason Kubel, and Delmon Young have all helped to offset a disappointing offense. All three are hitting over .270 and have combined for 41 RBI over just one month.
The team just needs to hit more consistently, and the pitching staff – especially Baker and Liriano – needs to throw the ball over the plate and move it around a bit. If they can do these things, they might finally start to win more consistently.

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