April 9, 2016

Same as it ever was: Twins off to yet another slow start

Just when you thought it was safe to identify encouraging signs about the Twins during Spring Training, the regular season gets under way and nothing goes as it appears it should.

That’s because the Twins, who won 19 games in March, are once again off to a slow start. They haven’t won on Opening Day since 2008 and continued that streak by getting swept on the road by the Orioles. They also have dropped the first game against the Kansas City Royals, the defending champs.

The result is four losses in four games and last place in the American League Central.

No need to panic, right?

Easy for you non-Twins fans to say, but yes, that’s correct. It’s April, it’s the first week of the season and after a slow start last year, the Twins reeled off a 30-19 record.

So, what gives?

Well, the temperature fell about 30 degrees between Florida and Maryland, which might explain the alarming number of team strikeouts to start the year, including 13 on Wednesday. And when you’re striking out so much you’re not getting many hits, other than Joe Mauer, who also has hit his first home run. Korean slugger, Byung Ho Park, hit his first on Friday night to help the Twins take a 3-2 lead late in the game against the Royals, but the bullpen gave it right back and the Twins lost, 4-3.

The bullpen didn’t have a great spring and that has continued into the first week of the season. Setup man Kevin Jepsen already has two losses.

Starting pitching has been OK, with Phil Hughes and Ervin Santana pitching well enough to have won. But Kyle Gibson’s start was not good, and once again was disappointing after he appeared to pitch well in March. Gibson walked five in five innings and gave up four earned runs and exited the game with a 7.20 ERA.

Silver lining: So far all of the games have been low-scoring, close affairs, with no blowouts. The pitching staff, for the most part, has done its job — they just need to be backed by a few more runs.

And nobody’s hitting all that well. But they will hit. In time.

But, for the moment, the Twins are 0-4.

COMMENTS

Hi, I’m Rolf Boone and I love the Twins.

I became a fan of the Minnesota Twins after a friendly wager in the early 1980s. I survived Ron Davis, the meltdown in Cleveland, Phil Bradley at the Kingdome and then marveled at a rising generation of stars and two World Series wins in 1987 and 1991. Brad Radke made the 1990s bearable, while Kirby Puckett’s eye injury, exit from the game and eventual death made it almost too much to bear. The new century ushered in more talent — Joe Mauer, Johan Santana, Joe Nathan, Torii Hunter, Justin Morneau — and consecutive seasons of playoff baseball, followed by consecutive seasons of losing baseball. A winning season returned in 2015. So here we are. Go Twins.