Twins Survive 0-9, Code Red Over
I had a lot of optimism for the Minnesota Twins heading into manager Paul Molitor's second season. This despite the fact that general manager Terry Ryan chose to stand pat with the bullpen and starting pitchers, and that the lineup additions amounted to a flier on a Korean player and the hope that young prospects would flourish as Big League starters.
I still figured they could improve upon their 83-79 record in 2015 and actually make the playoffs this year. I do have faith in Molitor and his staff.
Then 0-9 happened.
The first nine games of the season were cause for Code Red Panic Mode for Twins fans even as the starting pitching was steady. The reason was simple -- many of those expected to contribute in the lineup without a significant MLB track record looked as though they were youth baseball players trying to hit Northwoods League pitching.
Also, you had three regulars -- Trevor Plouffe, Brian Dozier and Kurt Suzuki -- who did nothing to lead by example for their younger counterparts who struggled at the plate. In the case of Plouffe and Suzuki, I personally had serious doubts about whether they would be able to perform to the level that Molitor would be comfortable leaving them in as everyday starters.
Enter the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim to save the day. The Angels came to Target Field last Friday with a 5-4 record and a roster that on paper looked like they would continue the drubbing of the Twins that Baltimore, Kansas City and the White Sox enjoyed. The Twins lineup on Friday night featured seven starters with a sub-.200 average.
Oh, and let's not forget the fact that during that 0-9 stretch the Twins lost their All-Star closer Glen Perkins (who has been anything but an All-Star since last July) to the disabled list.
So what happened? The starters continued to give pitching coach Neil Allen quality outings and suddenly Plouffe and Suzuki remembered how to hit. Korean slugger Byung Ho Park had two long homers in the series. Plouffe's average jumped nearly 200 points in three games (although unfortunately he, too, was lost to injury on Sunday). Miguel Sano showed up as well.
The Twins swept the Angels and followed that up with a rain-shortened 7-4 win over the Milwaukee Brewers on Monday and suddenly 0-9 became 4-9. A loss yesterday dropped them to 4-10 heading into the Milwaukee half of the home-and-home border battle, but even in that game the bats showed up.
So to summarize -- I'm no longer in Code Red Panic Mode. Code Red was eliminated by Solid Red (The uniform top of choice during much of the Twins' resurgence -- they insisted on it even when the Angels had the same idea on Friday). I'm relaxed by the prospect of a 162-game season, whereas a week ago that fact had me depressed.
Also, don't look now, but Joe Mauer just may be back. Maybe.
Jason Iacovino can be heard Tuesdays and Fridays on KRFO-AM 1390 and RadioPup at 3:50PM. Leave a comment below and follow him on Twitter @JasonIacovino.