Today the Twins officially opened training camp. Lots of people have big questions for this season - we lost the entire left side of our infield, Joe Mays and Joe Mauer are trying to come back from injuries, can Luis Rivas pick up his production, etc. Personally, I think people need to move beyond the doubts, and really be excited for this season.
Last season we had the best pitching staff in the league. That staff has returned in almost complete form, and many of the pieces look to be improved. We don't have the questions about Joe Nathan or Juan Rincon. Santana will start the season healthy and happy with a big contract. Joe Mays should finally come back from his injury, and hopefully Kyle Lohse will avoid the one-inning-meltdowns he became known for last season.
But it isn't just our pitching that looks dominant - we also have a solid lineup that should keep runners crossing the plate. Stewart, Hunter, and Jones all have plenty of experience, and adding Joe Mauer and Justin Morneau - two incredibly strong bats - should only help. I recently got an e-mail from a reader suggesting that the Twins could still use a big stick to knock runs in. I have to disagree with the reader, because a healthy Morneau should easily hit 30 home runs, and might have potential for 40. Moreover, two of the bats we lost - Koskie and Guzman - didn't have terrific years last season, and so should be relatively replaceable. Factor in consistent at bats for Lew Ford and Michael Cuddyer, and the Twins have the ability to increase their scoring from years past.
The one question that seems worth asking is how our defense will play out. Can Cuddy at third and whomever at short give us the sort of defensive integrity we've become so accustomed to? Especially given that Dougie isn't over at first to scoop up any bad throws? The answer, I think, is yes. The Twins stress defense, and it doesn't matter who they bring in, the players will be expected to perform. They practice consistently and are always fixing their little problems. The defense might not be the all-golden-glove teams of the last 3 years, but it will still be a strength.
It should be a good season. Finally, we're the favorites in the Central. We've earned it. We've got a solid staff, good fielding, and offensive potential. This is, of course, all subject to everyone remaining healthy. But every team faces that caveat, and the Twins have a minor league system rivaled by few. If an injury sets them back the Twins have the depth to deal with it. I know it isn't in our nature as Minnesotans, but this spring we have reason to be optimistic.