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Updated: April 21st, 2011 11:10pm
Mackey: Twins' list of problems almost reason enough to panic

Mackey: Twins' list of problems almost reason enough to panic

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by Phil Mackey
1500ESPN.com

Thursday night's 3-1 win over the Baltimore Orioles -- aided by a lights-out performance from Scott Baker -- was actually pretty big for the Minnesota Twins.

Not necessarily because random mid-April contests in a 162-game season are make-or-break. They aren't, even for last-place teams that are underachieving and physically beat-up on nearly every level.

It was a big win because the Twins showed that they do, indeed, still have a pulse.

Or a murmur, of some sort.

The win doesn't, however, erase the absurd level of calamity that has enveloped this ball club since it left Atlanta at the end of March -- a departure that saw the Twins board a flight to Toronto with a healthy roster and an (admittedly meaningless) Grapefruit League title in hand.

And while this particular columnist is usually the first person to advise taking two steps back from the panic button -- the voice of reason, or maybe the voice of delusion -- let's face it.

Thursday's win was sort of like using a stick of Trident to mask what has turned into a massive case of halitosis:

Two former MVPs with flu-like symptoms -- one stuck in bed at the team hotel with fluid IVs, the other suffering through bilateral leg weakness. Indefinitely.

A left fielder with flu-like symptoms as well, awaiting MRI results on his sore ribs.

A second baseman with a broken leg.

A starting pitching staff with a collective ERA of 5.00 heading into Thursday's game (fifth-highest in MLB), 40 walks issued (fifth-most in MLB) and 17 home runs allowed (most in MLB).

Two relievers demoted to Triple-A Rochester. Two called up, with the expectation of helping provide depth for a bullpen diluted by a former closer whose uphill climb from Tommy John surgery looks steeper than most thought last month.

Said closer's ERA has risen above 11.00, and his slider has less bite -- this after posting a spring ERA over 9.00. With a similar slider.

Another reliever on the disabled list since April 9 (retroactive to April 4) with shoulder bursitis.

An offense that, heading into Thursday, ranked last in runs (54), home runs (6), on-base percentage (.284) and slugging percentage (.314), and second to last in line drives (15.8%).

Not to mention, an offense that still has yet to score more than five runs in a game.

A complete mess.

And it's not even May yet.

Even with a flicker of offense on Thursday night -- home runs by Michael Cuddyer and Jim Thome, and nine hits overall -- the Twins, swinging wet newspapers since April 1, still have only two players hitting over .300 (Denard Span and Jason Kubel), two players slugging over .400 (Span, Kubel), and four players reaching base at a .300 clip or higher (Span, Kubel, Cuddyer and Danny Valencia).

The fact that Cleveland and Kansas City currently occupy the top two spots in the American League Central is a saving grace for the Twins, who trail the real contenders, Chicago and Detroit -- if "contenders" is a word that can even be applied in a division where 85 wins might triumph -- by only one and two games respectively.

But the aforementioned problems are a lot to overcome, even in a potentially weak division.

In other words, when the gum supply is gone, it's probably OK to start panicking.

Phil Mackey is a columnist for 1500ESPN.com. He co-hosts "Mackey & Judd" from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. weekdays on 1500 ESPN Twin Cities.
Email Phil | @PhilMackey | Mackey & Judd
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