Philadelphia, PA (Sports Network) - There aren't many teams more ready to move on to the 2013 season than the Minnesota Twins.
The Twins endured another nightmare season, as they went 66-96, stumbling their way to another last place finish in the American League Central.
It wasn't all bad in the Twin Cities, though.
The team actually improved three games from its 2011 finish and scored 80 more runs than it did that year, with outstanding offensive seasons from free agent left fielder Josh Willingham (.260, 35 HR, 110 RBI) and Joe Mauer (.319, 85 RBI, 90 Walks) plus an encouraging return to action from 2010 MVP Justin Morneau (.267, 19 HR, 77 RBI).
But, the successful Twins teams of the past decade were built on pitching and defense. Last year's club posted a team ERA of 4.77, the third worst in the league. They allowed 832 runs, the third most. And they committed 107 errors, 10th most in the majors.
This year's club may have the same problems, as lefty Scott Diamond is expected to headline a makeshift rotation, but is also likely to start the year on the disabled list. That rotation may also include castoffs Rich Harden, Mike Pelfrey and Vance Worley, who was acquired in a deal for speedy outfielder Ben Revere.
Also gone from last year's club is outfielder Denard Span, who was shipped to Washington for a bevy of prospects.
Make no mistake the Twins are in a full-on rebuilding mode and are probably headed for another long season.
Below we take a capsule look at the 2013 edition of the Twins, with a personnel evaluation and prognosis included therein:
2012 FINISH (66-96) - Fifth Place (AL Central)
KEY OFFSEASON ADDITIONS: Vance Worley (RHP), Rich Harden (RHP), Mike Pelfrey (RHP), Kevin Correia (RHP), Rafael Perez (LHP)
KEY OFFSEASON SUBTRACTIONS: Denard Span (OF), Ben Revere (OF), Carl Pavano (RHP), Matt Capps (RHP), Alexi Casilla (INF)
PROJECTED LINEUP: Aaron Hicks (CF); Brian Dozier (2B); Joe Mauer (C); Josh Willingham (LF); Justin Morneau (1B); Ryan Doumit (DH); Chris Parmelee (RF); Trevor Plouffe (3B); Pedro Florimon Jr. (SS)
PROJECTED ROTATION: Vance Worley (RHP); Kevin Correia (RHP); Mike Pelfrey (RHP); Liam Hendriks (RHP); Cole De Vries (RHP)
PROJECTED CLOSER: Glen Perkins
MANAGER: Ron Gardenhire
CAN MAUER AND MORNEAU BE A DOMINANT FORCE AGAIN?
Lost in all the losing last season were a pair of bounce-back seasons from a pair of former MVPs in Mauer and Morneau.
Mauer played in a career-high 147 games in 2012, but roughly half of those were played at first base or catcher to keep him fresh.
The strategy worked to an extent, as he contended for a fourth batting title and hit double-digit home runs for the first time since 2009.
Morneau's resurgence was more of a surprise. After an awful first half of last season that saw him just .246 with 11 home runs and 38 RBI, Morneau resembled the player he once was and batted .289 after the break with eight homers and 39 RBI.
More importantly, though, he appeared in 134 games after playing in only 150 combined the previous two seasons.
WHO'S IN THE OUTFIELD?
With Span and Revere gone, the Twins were really stuck in the outfield.
Josh Willingham was already pegged to be the starting left fielder after a career year last season that saw him hit .260 with 35 homers and 110 RBI. Perhaps most importantly, though, was the fact that he played at least 140 games since 2007, and only the second time in his career in which he played in at least 130 in back-to-back seasons.
While Chris Parmalee will likely land in right field, the Twins needed top center field prospect Aaron Hicks to stand out this spring and the former first round pick has responded.
Hicks, who has been compared to former Twins great Torii Hunter, has been so good that it appears he is going to win the starting center field job from Darin Mastroianni.
The Twins love Mastroianni's energy. It appears as if he'll still make the team as the fourth outfielder, a role he's probably more suited for anyway.
IS THIS IT FOR GARDENHIRE?
Ron Gardenhire is in the final year of his contract. General manager Terry Ryan approached the former AL Manager of the Year this offseason about working out an extension and Gardenhire responded by telling he wasn't deserving after what had transpired.
Gardenhire has won six division titles in Minnesota, but the last two years have really taken a toll. And barring a miracle, the Twins are likely headed toward another down season, meaning this might be it for Gardenhire in Minnesota.
Don't feel bad for him, though, should he leave he will be out of work for about five minutes.
X-FACTOR: GLEN PERKINS: While the starting staff may not be anything special, the bullpen has a chance to be solid. Well at least part of it does anyway. Closer Glen Perkins is the best pitcher on the team. If the Twins moved him back to the rotation, he'd be the best starter. But, he's a reliever now since making the move in 2011 he has thrown 132 innings with a 2.52 earned run average and 1.12 WHIP. Unlike most of the Twins staff, he also can strike batters out with a 9.8 K/9 rate in that same time span. If given a chance Perkins could be a 40-save guy for the Twins this season. That is a very big if, though.
Minnesota's lineup isn't going to be as bad as some people think. While it's unlikely that Willingham matches his numbers from last year, Mauer and Morneau seem to have gotten back close to where they once were. And who knows what the rookie Hicks will bring? Perhaps he'll emerge as this year's Mike Trout. Minnesota's problem is going to be in the pitching department. Ryan did a terrific job stockpiling young arms this winter, but they are not major league ready yet, meaning he'll have to patch it together for a while. But should guys like Pelfrey and Harden pan out it may not be all that bad in Minnesota. Don't count on it, though.
The Sports Network