Monday, April 9, 2012

Rough Opening Weekend has silver lining

The Twins struggled mightily in their first series of the year against a team that is not projected to do very well this season, the Baltimore Orioles. The three starting pitchers for the Orioles looked like Cy Young winners even though each of them came into the contest with ERAs of well over 4.00 for last season. The offense struggled to push runs across the plate in all three contests and the pitching for the Twins looked very similar to last year with starters not lasting very long and relief pitchers coming in to allow more runs to score.

This sounds like a miserable first three games of the season for any team but for the Twins and their fans it was tough to watch their team flounder in Baltimore with the organization coming off of one of the worst year's in franchise history. Now the team hits a devastating part of their schedule that includes some of the best team's in the American League. The projected pitchers for the Angels and Rangers during the next couple of series will look even more daunting than the crew sent out by the Orioles. Overall, this doesn't seem like a good start but there has to be a silver lining from all of this mess.

1. Baseball's long regular season: One of the best things about the baseball season is the length of the schedule. Even though the Twins lost their first three games, there are still 159 more contests for the team to prove they are worth a darn in 2012. It's way too early to panic for many of the clubs in baseball. Projected playoff teams like the Yankees and the Red Sox are off to slow starts themselves and their expectations of making a long October run have not changed in the past couple of days. There isn't anything that says the Twins can't turn it around in the middle of this slow start and make something out of this year.

2. JJ Hardy curse: This might not be a real thing but the Orioles have owned the Twins during this year and last year. Since JJ Hardy was traded away, the Twins are now a combined 2-9 versus Baltimore. In those contests the Twins have been outscored 59 to 21 so most of the games have not been very close. This might not seem like a very positive thing but it is good to remember that the Twins have struggled with team's from the AL East in previous years. Fans of the Twins expected them to do well on Opening Weekend but maybe those expectations should have been tempered a little bit.

3. Morneau's swing looked good: There weren't many positives from the offensive side of the ball but in the middle of this mess there was one bright spot. Justin Morneau is off to a hot start with four hits in his first ten at-bats of the year. Half of his hits have been doubles and Josh Willingham is the only other player who has managed an extra base hit so far in 2012. Mornea's good start is wonderful news for a player who is coming off of missing huge chunks of the last two years. He is also adjusting to being a full-time designated hitter and there can be some struggles with this switch. With much of the season still to come, the Twins will have to continue to watch Morneau's health and hope that his offensive output stays at a high level.

4. Carroll's upgraded defense: The Twins had a few goals during the offseason after Terry Ryan took back the role of general manager of the club. One of the biggest goals was to solidify the defense up the middle for a team that has a lot of pitch to contact starters in their rotation. Even with Carroll's struggles at the plate, there have been plenty of defensive gems for him at this early point in the year. After each of the plays made by Carroll, there were many comments flying around on Twitter about that play being something that Tsuyoshi Nishioka would never have been able to do. In all seriousness, it was just nice to see someone make the plays he needed to make at the shortstop position.

5. Duensing and Perkins have strong appearances: One of the biggest bright spots for the Twins last year was Glen Perkins but the 2011 season was really his breakout year. The Twins were hoping he would be just as strong in 2012 and his first appearance of the year did little to disappoint. He face four batters, struck out two of them, and allowed one hit in an innings worth of work. The other arm to watch out of the bullpen for the Twins was Brian Deunsing and his transition back to the bullpen. After the Twins saw Duensing struggle as a starter for most of last year, his move back to the bullpen was expected for 2012. His first appearance out of the bullpen was very good as he faced three batters and struck out two of them.

The Twins will be happy to get back to Minnesota and play in front of their fans at Target Field. There are plenty of games left in the year for the Twins to show what they are made of in 2012.

They haven't pressed the panic button yet and neither should you.

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