Tuesday, April 2, 2013

Can Ron Gardenhire survive a slow start?

The last two Aprils have been rough for Twins Territory. Slow starts out of the gate meant the club would only accumulate single digit wins in 2011 and 2012. As fans know, the team never recovered from those slow starts and Minnesota finished at the bottom of the American League for two consecutive years.

It's a new year and the Twins are hoping not to repeat the slow starts of the last two season. For some people, there is plenty riding on the start by the Twins. Ron Gardenhire is in the last year of his contract and the team might need to get off to a decent start for him to keep his job.

Since 1987, there have been only two men to be at the helm of the Minnesota Twins. Tom Kelly took the team to two World Series titles before stepping down after the 2001 season. Gardenhire was named as his replacement and there have been plenty of good things during his tenure.

The team won the AL Central in his first three years as manager. There was a surprise run to the ALCS in his first year. He also led the team to six division titles in his first nine years. Gardenhire had multiple runner-up finishes for the AL Manager of the Year before winning the award in 2010.

Those were the good times.

2011 and 2012 have been dark days in Minnesota. Injuries plagued the 2011 team and the club would finish with the second worst record in baseball. Things didn't get much better in 2012 as the organization waffled to another last place finish. The future looked bleak and something needed to be done.

During this offseason, the front office decided to overhaul the coaching staff around Gardenhire. Steve Liddle, Rick Stelmaszek, and Jerry White were all replaced. Scott Ullger and Joe Vavra were reassigned to new positions. Only Rick Anderson and Gardenhire would survive to stay in their same positions.

It was a surprising set of moves for an organization that had only one coaching change in the last 11 seasons. There was a stability that stemmed from the ownership throughout the organization. Voices in the locker-room can get stale and sometimes change is needed.

There are some fresh voices on Gardenhire's staff and he has to hope there will be a new energy in the clubhouse. New faces will fill-in multiple positions on the Opening Day line-up. The only starting pitcher back in the rotation from the beginning of last year is Liam Henriks. Changes were made and Gardenhire has to work with the roster he was given.

This Twins team isn't destined to bring home a World Series crown but it could be a team to surprise at the start of the year. There are plenty of players with something to prove.
  • Justin Morneau wants to put his injury plagued past behind him. 
  • Aaron Hicks wants to prove he belongs at the major leagues. 
  • Joe Mauer wants to prove he can spend more time behind the plate. 
  • Vance Worley, Mike Pelfrey, and Kevin Correia want to prove they can handle the switch from the NL to the AL. 
  • Trevor Plouffe and Chris Parmelee want to prove they can be everyday players. 
  • Pedro Florimon and Brian Dozier want to prove they belong in the middle infield.
  • Josh Willingham wants to prove that last year's numbers weren't a fluke.
  • Jamey Carroll wants to prove that he has something left in the tank.
Gardenhire hopes the drive behind these ambitions will get the team off to a better start in 2013.

His job might be counting on it.

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