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Opinion

Columnist thinks Twins might actually compete with NY

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February 24, 2011

Up until this past weekend, spring was in the air.  But as the world of Major League Baseball descends south, the countdown has begun for the boys of summer to return.

The Minnesota Twins head into Spring Training on a quest for their third straight American League Central Division crown.  The pieces of the championship puzzle are there, but they key question surrounding the Twins is: how will these pieces fit together? 

The first unknown surrounds All-Star and 2006 MVP Justin Morneau.  Morneau has not seen action in the field since July 7 when he suffered a concussion against Toronto.  While Michael Cuddyer did an admiral job filling in Morneau’s absence, the Twins suffered from lack of power and run production. Twins’ General Manager Bill Smith has high expectations that Morneau will be ready to play come Opening Day. 

The second unknown encompasses second base.  With the departure of veteran Orlando Hudson, the Twins will turn to Alexi Casilla or the new arrival of Tsuyoshi Nishioka from Japan.  Nishioka comes to the Twins after a successful career in Japan where he won Gold Gloves at both second base and shortstop.  He is also being compared to Japan’s version of Joe Mauer, as Nishioka was Japan’s batting champion in 2010.  While American baseball is a whole other ballgame than Japan’s, (no pun intended) the Twins scouting department is known to be one of the best in the business- they don’t just throw money at players unlike the Yankees. Look for Nishioka to be a demon on the base paths and a run-scoring machine with Mauer and Morneau hitting behind him in the line-up.

The pitching staff has always been a strength for the Twins, especially the bull pen.  The departure of Matt Guerrier and Jesse Crain will certainly be missed, but the Twins have every reason to be excited with the return of All-Star closer Joe Nathan from Tommy John surgery as well as key set-up man Pat Neshek.

While there may be many unknowns surrounding the Twins season, I firmly believe that the Twins have every reason to be the favorite for the AL Central.  But what may excite me the most, is that the Yankees are in shambles with the loss of starting pitchers and an aging team.  And as play-off history has shown, the Twins do fairly well when they are at home or playing a team other than the Yankees. And with the Twins, you can never count them out- and it sure would be fun to see baseball played at Target Field during the middle of October.

I may just be opptomistic when trying to convince myself that the Yankees will have a down year, but the Twins have put together a mighty impressive effort in years past, and may have solved the Yankee problem by either experience through Mauer and Morneau, speed in Denard Span and Nishioka, a solid bull pen, an ever stronger closer, and a pitching staff that continues to keep the Twins in contention.

Ashley Goettl is an alumna of UW-River Falls. She was editor of the Student Voice from fall semester 2011 to spring semester 2013.