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Updated: January 27th, 2013 4:03pm
Reusse's Reality Script: Episode 8 (Twins)

Reusse's Reality Script: Episode 8 (Twins)

by Patrick Reusse
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The Star Tribune gave me an early shift for spring training coverage in 2001. The Twins were sitting on a streak of eight losing seasons entering that Florida stay.

The only time there was a decent feeling around camp in the eight previous years was 1996, when Paul Molitor had been added to the mix. Then, Kirby Puckett lost the vision in his right eye as the Twins were getting ready to leave Florida.

The Twins managed a 78-84 record due to the greatness of Chuck Knoblauch and Molitor at the top of the order. That was the best record in those eight seasons of misery.

I was around for seven, eight days of workouts and a few games in 2001, so it was more a feeling than hard evidence that there was something different about that club.

There was more enthusiasm to be heard in manager Tom Kelly's monologue on the practice fields. The expressions of confidence by the key players weren't said because that was expected, but something more genuine.

The 2001 Twins went 85-77 and set up the very successful first decade of the new century.

Let me add this: As I made the rounds of the Lee County Sports Complex in 2011, fans would ask eight, 10 times a day, "Hey, Roos-eee, do you think we can beat the Yankees in the playoffs this year?''

I could have taped the response: "I wouldn't worry about what happens in the playoffs. I'd worry about getting there with this club.''

It felt like a team in decline that spring, although I felt more like a decline to 83-79 than 63-99. And last season _ there was never a moment before spring training or in Florida, that you sensed any genuine hope for a turnaround from the players, the manager, coaches, front office or the customers.

Today, the fans are howling over a payroll that now stands at $80 million, a sizable cut from the $108 million (counting Tsuyoshi Nishioka's posting fee) when Target Field opened in 2010.

I know "reality'' is part of the headline on these Website offerings. And I know what will be offered here isn't even a sample size ... just a vibe from being around General Manager Terry Ryan and players in two days at Target Field and at TwinsFest.

And that vibe _ from Joe Mauer and Glen Perkins, from Mike Pelfrey and Kyle Gibson (the Tommy John twins), and from Ron Gardenhire _ is that there's genuine hope for a return to competitiveness in 2013.

We keep hearing the Twins did nothing about that woeful shortage of starting pitching, but here's the deal:

There's no reason to expect a setback for Pelfrey more than any pitcher. He said repeatedly during this weekend visit to Minnesota that he will be participate in spring training and will open the season ready to work as a starter.

The Twins also traded for a big-league starter in Vance Worley ... as well as Trevor May and Alex Meyer, both likely for 2014.

We screamed as the offseason started that the Twins had to bring in a minimum of two starters. They did that with Pelfrey and Worley.

Gibson is also healthy. He hasn't discussed an innings limit with the Twins.

"I think we'll just start the season, see how it goes, and I'm confident it will go fine,'' he said. "If the Twins tell me to shut it down later in the summer, we will.''

This is my anticipated Opening Day rotation: Pelfrey, Worley, Gibson, holdover Scott Diamond and journeyman Kevin Correia. As journeymen go, I'd take Correia over last year's trial horse and error, Jason Marquis.

That five would be far better than anything the Twins offered up as a rotation the past two seasons.

What about center field, with both Denard Span and Ben Revere traded?

This is my feeling: Gardenhire knew that Span would be traded. And fhis initial reaction to the trade of Revere _ "Terry (Ryan), who the hell is going to play center field?'' _ has been transformed into a fair degree of excitement over the chance to audition Aaron Hicks this spring.

It might be a rush job to have Hicks skip Triple-A, but there's also a sense from the Twins that Hicks has more upside than Revere, and maybe Span, so why not get started on that?

Most folks are also worried about the infield, but:

I like Trevor Plouffe's chances to get the job done better than Danny Valencia's a year ago at this time. Pedro Florimon is going to be the shortstop because of his glove, Brian Dozier will show that he's a player at second base, and Jamey Carroll will back up both.

Maybe it was all those towering pitchers walking around, but my early vibration from the Twins is that they will win 10-to-15 more games this season, and even the fans will be looking ahead to 2014 with some optimism.

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