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Updated: March 17th, 2014 9:44am
P.J.R.: Bruno's Breezers have less promise than in 2013

P.J.R.: Bruno's Breezers have less promise than in 2013

by Patrick Reusse
1500ESPN.com
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FORT MYERS, FLA. - Charlie Lau could have come back from the grave and probably not done much to help the 2013 when it came to hitting. The only thing that overshadowed the Twins' lousy hitting was the horrendous starting pitching.

The Twins took some action to boost the starting staff, signing Ricky Nolasco to a four-year contract that guarantees him $49 million, and Phil Hughes to a three-year deal for $24 million.

There's also hope that Mike Pelfrey will be better in his second season removed from Tommy John surgery, that Sammy Deduno will be healthy, and that Kevin Correia can do exactly what he did as the sole fixture in the rotation last season.

Hitting? The Twins haven't done a thing of significance to improve the chance that hitting coach Tom Brunansky will have more of a chance to succeed in his second season on the job than in his first.

The lineup that manager Ron Gardenhire presented against Detroit's Justin Verlander on April 1, 2013 at Target Field offered this: Aaron Hicks-cf; Joe Mauer-c; Josh Willingham-lf; Justin Morneau-1b; Ryan Doumit-dh; Trevor Plouffe-3b; Chris Parmelee-rf; Brian Dozier-2b; Pedro Florimon-ss.

The bottom third of that nine looked futile, with Parmelee and Dozier coming off bad efforts in the big leagues and Florimon as basically an automatic out. There was hope elsewhere, with Hicks having been a rookie standout in spring training, with Mauer being what he was as a hitter, with Morneau presumed to be healthy, with Willingham coming off a big season and Doumit a productive one, and with the possibility of Plouffe showing off his power more consistently.

Hicks was an immediate disaster. Mauer didn't have many RBI situations, and didn't produce when he did. Willingham and Doumit went in the tank. Morneau was OK vs. right-handers and futile vs. left-handers. Plouffe hit 14 home runs, not 24, and was still a liability in the third. Parmelee was terrible at the plate and quickly went back to Class AAA Rochester. Florimon was terrible at the plate and played every day.

The only Opening Day starter to top expectations was Dozier. One out of nine isn't even good enough for government work.

The Twins scored 616 runs, the second lowest full-season total in the franchise's Minnesota history. The only worse total was 562 runs in 1968, which was modern baseball's famous dead-ball season.

Brunansky's gents were a collection of whiff monsters. The 2013 Twins batters surpassed the previous franchise record of 1,221 strikeouts (1997) in a season on Aug. 28.

There were 31 games remaining and these guys already had history on their side. They would finish with 1,430 strikeouts. To put it another way, the 2013 Minnesota Twins stepped into a batter's box 5,564 times, and on 23 percent of those, they walked back to the dugout with the bat on a shoulder.

This summer, the 75th anniversary of Lou Gehrig's Fourth of July speech --"I'm the luckiest man on the face of the Earth'' -- will be marked with the Yankees playing at Target Field.

As one of baseball's great all-around hitters, power and average, the Iron Horse struck out in 8.0 percent of his plate appearances with the Yankees.

Who scheduled a monumental Gehrig to take place in front of Bruno's Breezers? It will be a disgrace to Lou's memory.

And here's the problem: Going into the 2013 season, it appeared Brunansky had better possibilities to work with than it does two weeks before the March 31 opener vs. the White Sox in Chicago.

The best guess as to Gardenhire's lineup is that:

Hicks-cf; Dozier-2b; Mauer-1b; Willingham-lf; Oswaldo Arcia-rf; Plouffe-3b; Jason Kubel-dh; Kurt Suzuki-c; Florimon-ss.

In that scenario, the backups would appear to be Chris Herrmann at catcher, Eduardo Escobar in the infield, and Alex Presley and Chris Parmelee in the outfield.

Gardenhire might prefer Josmil Pinto as the other catcher, but I'm guessing that we'll hear the "we want Josmil to play every day at Rochester'' mantra from the front office.

The Hicks' situation is iffy, but again the guess is that the Twins will decide they need a player with range in center field if he's going to be flanked by Willingham and Arcia.

To me, Parmelee being on the club would be a pathetic case. He went into the offseason knowing this was his last shot with the Twins. He was out of minor league options. And yet he showed up in unimpressive physical condition.

Chris Colabello has looked good at the plate and he's a right-handed hitter, a greater need for the Twins. But Parmelee can play in the outfield as well as first base, and with the options in his favor, he'll probably make it.

Whatever the decision on the 25th player, it's going to be close to miraculous for Brunansky to put together a respectable attack.

It's going to take a rebound from Willingham, and he's been poor this spring. It's going to take Kubel having something left after last year's disaster in the National League, and that's an ultra-long shot. It's going to take Hicks being competent, and Arcia controlling his wild hacks.

As of today, this could be among the three or four worst lineups in the Twins' 54-year history in Minnesota.

Acting GM Rob Antony could help a bit by making a trade for an outfielder, maybe one of Boston's extras and put him in left, use Willingham at his best position (DH) and keep Kubel or Parmelee, but certainly not both.

--PATRICK JAMES REUSSE.

Patrick Reusse has been covering sports in the Twin Cities since 1968. He co-hosts SportsTalk from 3 p.m. to 4 p.m. and hosts The Ride with Reusse from 4 p.m. to 6 p.m. weekdays. He also co-hosts "Saturday Morning SportsTalk" from 10 a.m. to noon on 1500 ESPN Twin Cities.
Email Patrick | @1500ESPN_reusse | The Ride with Reusse
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