Reusse's Reality from Florida: Not a rerun of 1993-2000
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FORT MYERS-The difference between spending time around the Twins at the Lee County Sports Complex in March 2013 as compared to March 2012 is not in the prognosis for the season ahead.
A year ago, there was little reason to expect significant improvement over the 63-99 disaster of 2011, but even more so, there was this strong suspicion: The Twins were entering a era of long-term futility that could rival what took place shortly after the second World Series in 1991.
As you will recall, there were eight straight losing seasons from 1993 through 2000, with the peak performance occurring at 78-84 in 1996.
If you injected General Manager Terry Ryan and his fellow baseball executives with sodium pentothal, the truthful responses would figure to be that all would settle for 78-84 in 2013.
It really doesn't matter as long as the victory total is somewhere in the 70s, because the fear that the Twins had entered a calamitous period to rival 1993-2000 has been lessened greatly in recent months.
The hints that the future might not be as awful as many of us thought started last summer in the minor leagues, when neutral parties started offering big reviews on the futures of right fielder Oswaldo Arcia at Class AA New Britain, and third baseman Miguel Sano and second baseman Eddie Rosario at Class A Beloit.
There were others, but what was being said about Arcia, Sano and Rosario was that they were difference-making hitters. Arcia, who will turn 22 this May, was advertised as a hitter with such a tremendous swing that he could be in Minnesota before the end of the 2013 season.
He has been set back in spring training with a side pull and is supposed to make his exhibition Sunday at Hammond Stadium. The No. 1 thing I wanted to see here was Arcia hit, which makes getting on a plane for Minnesota early Sunday morning an unhappy coincidence.
Sano, 20 this May, and Rosario, 22 in the same month, will be seen some time in 2014. Sano is known to all as one of baseball's top power prospects. And Rosario - with the raves you're hearing about him as a hitter - could make his debut very early in 2014 as the every-day second baseman.
The next important hints that this is no longer a likely return to the suffocating futility of the '90s came this winter, when Ryan made two important trades:
*Secondly, he traded Ben Revere to the Phillies for a pair of starting pitchers with a chance to be competent in Vance Worley and Trevor May. Competence would be a big improvement over the 2011-12 Twins, of course.
*Firstly, he traded Denard Span to Washington one-for-one for 6-9 Alex Meyer, 23, a starter who should become an ace. Meyer showed some of that terrific potential with three scoreless innings on Saturday vs. Pittsburgh in Bradenton.
Again, as with Rosario from his early days in big-league camp, you hear off-the-charts praise for Meyer ... the type of buildup not heard by coaches for young players in spring training in several years with the Twins.
There's also a genuine spring training "phenom'' for right now in center fielder Aaron Hicks, 23. There's a 6-foot-7 reliever in Michael Tonkin, also 23, that manager Ron Gardenhire would like to keep, even if he knows that's not likely to be approved by GM Ryan.
Tonkin seems to have harnessed his outstanding stuff. He could be in the bullpen this summer, a set-up man for Glen Perkins in 2014, and a closer eventually.
Oh, yeah, there's a shortstop the Twins love, too, in 21-year-old Danny Santana. The Santana-Rosario middle of the infield will be in place in 2014, if not sooner.
The Twins will be outclassed in an improved AL Central in 2013. Fifth place looks very probable once again.
What's different this time around is that first Hicks, then Tonkin, Meyer, Arcia, Rosario, Santana and Sano (the No. 1 prize of all) say it's not going to stay that way long-term.