Posted at 6:23 AM on March 30, 2009
by David Zingler
Hope is supposed to spring eternal in March but I don't feel very optimistic about the Twins prospects this season. It's not just Joe Mauer's injury or Scott Baker's bloated spring ERA that have gotten me down (actually Baker is the least of my worries).
The majority of my consternation centers on the bullpen. Jose Mijares has been horrible after wowing us last September, Matt Guerrier 2008 struggles have carried into 2009 so far and Phillip Humber will likely make the team simply because he's out of options.
Jesse Crain has been a bright spot, he rebounded well last season after shoulder surgery cost him most of 2007. He should be even stronger this year and has to be the 8th inning guy if the Twins have any shot of contending. Rookie Brian Duensing is the pleasant surprise of spring, but you just never know how rookies will respond when the games start to count.
Luis Ayala, Craig Breslow and Joe Nathan meanwhile, round out the 'pen. I have no confidence in Ayala, Breslow is intriguing, but unproven while Nathan, of course, is stellar. Will the rest of the relievers be good enough to make him a factor?
The Twins enter this season with their most concrete rotation in recent memory and for some reason that scares me. Can we expect Nick Blackburn, Kevin Slowey and Glen Perkins to all duplicate or improve on their solid 2008 campaigns? It usually doesn't happen that way, it seems like the Twins fare better when they piece their rotation together on the fly - think 2006 and 2008.
Which brings me to my next point; entering the 2006 season, the Twins were thought to be rebuilding, same deal in 2008. They went on to win the division in '06 and play a one game playoff in '08. In 2007, they were considered World Series contenders; instead they finished 79-83, the franchise's first losing season since 2000.
The squad enters this season as the favorite to win the AL Central, but for a team that does best when expectations are worst, this isn't a good sign.