State of the Twins: Week 1
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Sunday's 5-4 loss to the Chicago White Sox snapped the Minnesota Twins' winning streak at five games -- all on the road, as they now return for Monday's home opener against Boston at Target Field.
Here's where the team stands after one week:
* The rotation: During the winning streak, the Twins' five starting pitchers combined for 32 innings, allowing nine runs (2.53 ERA) with a 1.31 WHIP. Only RHP Kevin Slowey failed to go six innings; RHP Carl Pavano, Slowey and RHP Scott Baker each allowed just one run. On Sunday, RHP Nick Blackburn went 7 2/3 innings opposite White Sox ace Mark Buehrle before leaving with the game tied and the go-ahead run on second. The Twins don't have a Buehrle-like ace on their staff, but they also don't think they have a true No. 5 starter. Baker has the pitches, mound presence and mental makeup to be the best of the three young righties, while Liriano probably has the highest potential if he can show better command. The team would be thrilled if the group competes as it did in the first week.
* 1B Justin Morneau: Several players are off to hot starts, but Morneau sticks out because of how badly he struggled this spring. He's hitting .360, slugging .640, has two home runs and increased his total to six RBIs with a two-run single in the first inning Sunday. He's also drawn six walks. In spite of the back injury that ended Morneau's 2009 season, those spring struggles didn't raise much concern within the organization because Morneau swung well in early March and never dealt with more than minor soreness. He's snapped out of it at the right time.
* Top of the order: CF Denard Span and 2B Orlando Hudson haven't done much to create opportunities for the meat of the order. Span doubled and scored on Sunday but still is hitting .143. Hudson went 2-for-4 on Sunday to improve his average to .233. Perhaps most concerning, the pair has combined to strike out seven times and walk just once. The Twins had no qualms about giving Span a five-year, $16.5 million contract extension because of his drive to be an elite leadoff hitter. Hudson was brought in not because the Twins needed a second baseman - they actually spent most of the offseason looking at third basemen, but the price wasn't right - but because they didn't feel there was a true No. 2 hitter. So, both will get opportunities to hit their way out of it at the top of the order.
* LHP Jose Mijares: He's appeared in four games and flopped in two of them. He surrendered back-to-back homers in the opener and, on Sunday, left a 2-2 fastball belt high to pinch hitter Andruw Jones, who grounded it through the left side to drive in the winning run. Mijares is a competitor and has good stuff, but his weight issues and immaturity have been a constant concern.
It's tough to argue with RHP Jon Rauch's first week as the Twins' closer. He was 4-for-4 in save opportunities, allowed only one run (in a game the Twins led by three) and didn't walk anyone. The team wasn't fully sold on Rauch when manager Ron Gardenhire named him closer - they spent a lot of time following San Diego's Heath Bell late in spring training - but unless/until there's a major hiccup, there's no reason to think they'll revisit outside options.
HOW THEY STAND
1. Detroit (5-1)
2. Twins (5-2)
3. Kansas City (2-4)
4. Chicago (2-4)
5. Cleveland (2-4)
THE WEEK AHEAD
Monday: vs. Boston, 3:10 p.m. Pavano (1-0, 1.29 ERA) vs. LHP Jon Lester (0-0, 7.20).
Wednesday: vs. Boston, 12:10 p.m. Slowey (1-0, 1.69) vs. RHP John Lackey (0-0, 0.00).
Thursday: vs. Boston, 12:10 p.m. Liriano (0-0, 4.50) vs. RHP Tim Wakefield (0-0, 2.57).
Friday: vs. Kansas City, 7:10 p.m. Baker (1-1, 3.86) vs. RHP Zack Greinke (0-1, 3.55).
Saturday: vs. Kansas City, 12:10 p.m. Blackburn (1-1, 5.02) vs. RHP Luke Hochevar (0-0, 0.00).
Sunday: vs. Kansas City, 1:10 p.m. Pavano vs. RHP Brian Bannister (0-0, 1.50).